Beyond the distractions of the Internet, another barrier I find to hitting "Publish" (or even to getting text together) is a desire to have a "perfect" blog post. Well, perhaps "perfect" isn't right... but "close to perfect". I want a blog post to have:
- compelling writing that people will find interesting, educational, helpful, useful, etc.
- a catchy title that people will notice in the overwhelming mass of content and links coming through their various feeds
- a strong beginning ("the hook") and ending of the text
- at least one photo that somehow either illustrates the point or complements the text in some way
- links to other articles I have written on related topics that might help provide additional context and information
In truth, it is the latter two points that tie me up the most. Often I have the ideas and can put together the article text. Whether it is compelling or not is something you all will have to judge, but I think that often I can put a good piece together. Titles, too, are fairly easy to come up with. Given that I've been writing online since 2000 and using Twitter since 2006, my brain is pretty wired to think in terms of short phrases that can be tweeted out. The strong beginning and ending are aspects I'm always working on but don't deter me from writing.
It's the other two points that get me. As I start working on a post, I wonder what image I will use with it. I like to have at least one photo for several reasons:
- an image breaks up a wall of text
- an image can help you tell your story or illustrate a key point
- your posts look much nicer in sites that aggregate content (including my own aggregator) as those sites typically grab an image to use as a thumbnail
- when your posts go out in social networks like Facebook, Google+ or Twitter, they will all grab an image and show that. No image in the post, no image in the social network.
- people interact more with posts that include images (I think because they NOTICE those posts more easily)
- I just like the look of posts that include images!
But finding just the right image can take time. It also adds time to the process of creating the post. If I'm on my laptop, I have it down to a pretty fast process - once I find the image. I use the old version of Skitch Pro, and it works extremely well to let me rapidly re-size my image and drop it into MarsEdit, the tool I use for most of my writing. (And it is precisely because my system works so well that I was so outraged when Evernote ruined Skitch with their "upgrade".)
If I am mobile, though, it's harder. Sure, there are tools that let me write on my iPad or iPhone and include images. But then this goes back to me being a bit of a perfectionist about how my posts look. I want to easily resize the images and put them where I want them. And I want to resize the image file so that it is smaller, not just resize the image dimensions in HTML. I've not found a tool that makes it quite as fast. Blogsy on the iPad is getting close to what I want.
But having said all this, it is the desire for an image that sometimes holds me up. Sometimes it is thinking about the image... sometimes it is the process of getting an image.
Similarly, I like including links to other posts I write. See what I did in those paragraphs above?
Most of that desire to add links is a function of wanting to provide more context and background to the points I am making in a given post. If someone is intrigued by a point and wants to learn more, I want to help them along. In any given post, I want it to have a focus and so I don't want to include every single related point. An article would simple get too long. So instead I want to link out to pieces where people can learn more if they want to.
It's my natural teacher side, wanting to help provide the foundation for those who may be learning about something for the first time.
And yes, I could run any of the zillion plugins or other services that provide lists of related links at the bottom of a post... and I have considered that on several sites. But I also want the links within the text.
There's also the SEO-minded side of myself that says if someone has found my post through search or social networks, I would like them to check out some of the other pieces I've written. So purely for that factor I want to include links to my other content.
But, like adding images, adding links takes time. You have to find the link and then insert it into your current article. Now, this has gotten easier over the years. The WordPress web interface provides a nice way to search for the content in your blog. MarsEdit makes it easy to copy the URL for any post you've written in recent times on your blog.
But still... it takes time.
And that time can mean that I don't hit "Publish" because I'm still waiting to add in links.
As we know, though, courtesy of Voltaire:
The perfect is the enemy of the good.
In the pursuit of perfection we lose out on the publishing of what might be a perfectly "good" article. It may be "good enough" to get our point across, to stimulate discussion and/or to engage with our audiences.
To this end, I'm thinking that I will take two actions in the time ahead:
1. Try to embrace simplicity in blogging. You may see more "text-only" posts that do NOT have images or links. I may just publish ideas and thoughts... as I have them... from whatever platform I am on... wherever... whenever. Trying not to get hung up on adding all the trappings to the post, but more focusing on getting the text online.
2. Start to treat a blog post as a "work-in-progress". When I write and hit "Publish", I think of it as "shipping a finished product". The post it done. Finished. Out. Sure, I will go back in and update a post if I find out that something was wrong or if something needed more clarification. Sometimes I will edit a post and include points raised in a comment - or links to newer articles I've written that update the post.
But generally, once a post is up, it is "done".
What if, instead, the post was published in more of a draft form? Or to be more precise, what if the text were published first... and then an image and links, etc. were added later? (Quite similar to the way that many of the news sites operate like TechCrunch, GigaOm, Mashable, TheNextWeb, etc. - publish quickly, then update later.)
It's something I'm thinking about. I struggle a bit because I know that you only get people's attention for a moment... and when a post first goes out and through social networks, you have THAT moment to catch people's attention... and I don't want to lose it. But perhaps there, too, I change a bit... publish a post and do NOT auto-post it, but do that later... or do it again later after more content is added.
In the end, my goal is to get more of these stories that I want to write published. Some I may do in my regular longer style (like this post). Where I can, though, I may see what I can do to just get the post out.
What do you think? Do you struggle with this, too?
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