Sure, this sounds like a very boring and subjective topic. I assure you, it really is. But I’m writing this on the odd chance that someone out there might find it useful. I have been blogging now for several years, starting back in 2005. And during that time, I have tried out several methods and tools that have gotten me to the point where I am now. It is a process of continual refinement.
This article mainly talks about how I do my personal blog posts and not my work ones. There is an important difference here. The ones I do for work are done AT work during work hours and typically at the same computer. The ones I do for this blog typically span a few days, are done on various computers, and are done at different times of the day (including night and commute – offline – time). There are some similarities but for the most part, I follow a different workflow.
An Overview of My Blogging Process
Blogging is an extremely personal thing, so what works for me, might not won’t work for you. Some people will scrawl ideas on a napkin while others formulate the entire post in their head and write it directly into their blogging system. And these methods can evolve over time.
But for me, at least, the process for both my work and personal email revolves around a core set of tasks.
- Write a Draft
- Print the Draft out
- Let the Draft sit for at least an hour
- Do hand-written edits to the Draft
- Incorporate changes into the electronic version
- Save as Draft on my blogging system
- Read online Draft online in blog context
- Make last minute edits and then Publish
This is the method that I follow pretty religiously. Depending on the length of the article, I may do a couple of iterations of the printed draft but for the most part, my writing process follows this path.
There is something about seeing the text printed out and being able to draw lines on a paper, insert hand-written comments and scratch out portions by hand that makes the whole idea of writing electronically a bit more tangible. Having a physical piece of paper with your words on it, makes it more real, especially prior to converting the words back into electronic bits and bytes.
For the most part, for my work-related posts, I simply follow the steps listed above. But as I commute or work in multiple locations, while I follow the same basic steps, I also do it slightly differently using specific tools as well.
Blogging from Multiple Locations
When you move from computer to computer, it’s important to have your content available to you all of the time, regardless of where you are or if you are online or offline. So, following the same steps outlined above, I simply fold in a few of the Tools (listed in the section below this one) into my workflow. A typical blog post (on the road) would then consist of the following modifications:
- Write a Draft using a Text Editor
- Create a folder within my DropBox (see The Tools I Use below) folder specific to the article
- Save the draft (and other images) to that folder within my DropBox environment
- Continue to edit (from various computers) on the synced article
- Move the article into my Blog Writer for final edits & adding of images/media
- Print out and review the article with handwritten edits
- Incorporate changes
- Publish article to Blogging System as a draft
- Do final review online within your blog to ensure it looks correct
- Publish the article (typically during Business Hours for maximum exposure)
So, as you can see, much of the core process remains the same, it is just the tools that are used that vary. Obviously, the way that YOU do this may be different so my steps and tools should only be viewed as my personal preferences. Take them or leave them as you see fit.
The Tools I Use
As I said, blogging is very personal. For each writer, their process and toolsets that they use may differ dramatically. That being said, I wanted to list out some of the tools that I use with many of my posts.
- DropBox – as mentioned previously, DropBox (my review) is core to my blogging process. I save drafts to a named folder and that folder contains the text and also any media (e.g., photos, images, etc.) that I may use in my post. I have installed DropBox on a variety of my computers. This ensures that the content that I need is always available, even offline. And if I need to just review stuff, I can even look at the files on my iPhone using the DropBox application.
- Text Editor – I have found that writing should really be focused on the text and not the format. So, I simply use a text editor that supports RTF (Rich Text Format) to do the core of my writing. On a Mac, I use TextEdit. On a PC, I use Notepad++ or even Microsoft Word (in RTF format). That way, I can do basic formatting (bold, bulleting, etc.) but not include other formatting code. Alternatively, sometimes I will simply write to an IMAP email message and save it as a draft. That way, I can write an email to myself and have it available anywhere I have access to my IMAP email folders.
- Blog Writer – there are many options available. However, I have found that Microsoft Live Writer to be the best for my working. Frequently, I will start writing on my Mac, save as RTF and then do the final draft and edits within Live Writer. That is also where I add in the images and other HTML formatting, embedding of videos and other markups. On the Mac, there are a few options available. I have used (and reviewed) Blogo, which is pretty good.
- Screen Shots – for many of my posts, I have to do screenshots of products or logos. For this I use SnagIt. There has long been a version for Windows available which i have used for several years. And recently, it has been ported to the Mac as a beta version which I’m testing. Alternatively, I have been using InstantShot! on the Mac which works really well and is free.
- Blogging System – there are a lot of places where you can post your blog articles. I personally use a self-hosted version of WordPress, however, there are free and paid, online options available including Blogger, WordPress.com and SquareSpace. Some people choose to use Drupal or Joomla as their CMS (Content Management Solution). One way or another, your Blog Writer software should be able to interact with the service you choose as it makes posting much easier.
I’m truly curious how others do their blogging process. I know that some people integrate Google Docs in the process (which could be a way at replacing the DropBox functionality I mention). My method works for me but I would love to know other people’s tips and tricks for their writing methods. Are you a hand-writing person? Do you outline things ahead of time? Do you do all of your composition online only? Is it a mixture of processes?
For many including myself, blogging is a great way to get ideas out into the open. It’s important to share them, regardless of the process to get that written word out into the public world. You can learn a tremendous amount of things from others and sharing your ideas in blog posts is just one of many ways to do so. Please share your thoughts!
HTD says: How do you blog? What is your process? Let me know!