In this post, I would like to share my thoughts on creativity for bloggers and my 4-step strategy for writing great posts from my ten years of blogging experience.
Blogging is not different from other forms of creative work such as art and music. If you want to become a full-time professional blogger, understanding the creative process is very important. The ability to do creative work is the foundation on which your blogging career will be built.
Most of the creative professionals can make a full time living from their work within a few years of focusing on a specific field. To achieve mastery, it would take at least a decade.
When a creative artist achieves the level of mastery, fame and wealth would come back in such abundance that it would make him wonder where it was hiding all this time.
All of us wish to achieve mastery in our area of work. So let’s get started with understanding the concept of Creativity.
Bloggers, writers and authors in general feel a lot of pressure that they have to create something new, from scratch. Sometimes, the burden is so high that it prevents us from getting started.
As a general rule, creative work by an artist cannot be 100% original. The truth is: there is nothing new under the sun.
All creative work is done by drawing inspiration from others and building on top of what has been already built. Every artist stands on the shoulders of other artists.
When common people set out to do creative work, the originality in their work is very little. They are not artists yet. Creativity is a muscle that has to be trained over time. With time, creativity will flow with ease.
Creative work can be highly original or less original. Let’s say this scale is from 0 to 10. 0 being a replica of something and 10 being 100% original. The painting of Mona Lisa would score something like 9/10.
But even Leonardo da Vinci would have drawn the inspiration from something before painting the Mona Lisa. He was born in this world and he would have had a lot of inputs while he was growing up which eventually led to his creative work.
Here’s the originality scale that I’ve developed to explain this concept better. We all start out from the left corner and we might never be able to go all the way to the right corner. But we should go as far as possible.
Perhaps God can do 100% creative work! Eminem, in his song Rap God, says“Why be a King, when you can be a God.” He is referring to himself as a God, because he feels reached almost a saturation point in how much creativity you can have being a rapper. I believe he had the same line of thinking while writing the lyrics for his song.
As you start writing as a blogger, initially, you might be low on the scale of originality. As you start shipping and when you see that your work is accepted and appreciated by the world, you will start getting more confidence in your skills.
Positive feedback will motivate you to put more efforts into writing and you will slowly move up the scale of originality. You have to create a positive feedback loop with your writing career and the only way to do it is to get started. You can get started today. Now. (But finish reading this article first!)
Many artists do not get started at all because they are afraid that people will judge them. They are afraid that their work might not be good enough to actually ship it. This is the hardest obstacle to cross as a blogger.
You have to understand that no musician starts by making original music. He first starts learning the instruments and then he replicates other’s work.
People who start learning guitar do not try to compose new music. Painters try to copy other paintings and they draw what they see, before their creativity takes over.
Writing is not very different from music or painting. As a writer/blogger, you might feel the pressure to write something awesome and original to start with. And when you discover that you cannot be that great, you don’t get started in the first place.
There is a part of you that prevents from shipping creative work. That is your lizard brain. Your lizard brain is trying to keep you safe, inside your comfort zone. If you become a victim of it, you will never become a great blogger.
Treat blogging like learning guitar. Start a blog, publish a few blog posts. Share it on social media and invite your friends to comment on your posts. It might not be the greatest post ever written on the topic, but as long as it is useful to someone, you have created some value. This will help you get started with the positive feedback loop.
Once you have got started with a few blog posts, it is time to get serious. Let us now look at the 4-step creative process that I’ve come up with especially for bloggers and authors. Mastering this 4-step process will help you get to the next level. After you get started with a few posts, you need to become professional blogger.
The 4-Step Creative Process for Bloggers
This methodology is a result of my 10 years of experience in blogging. And this blog is not the first blog that I am managing. Every time I follow the same 4-step process if I want to publish great blog posts.
If you follow this method, you will be able to write great blog posts, no exceptions. And by the end of the article, you will also realize that this is the most natural and efficient way to write great blog posts consistently.
To become a professional blogger, follow these 4-steps:
- Gain Knowledge by Learning
- Add Experience from Past & Present
- Think Deeply
- Manifest Your Ideas into Writing
The above looks simple but they are not easy. We will look at each of them in detail.
- Gaining knowledge is relatively easy but not many people do it. Taking the time out to learn new things is something that seems impossible in today’s busy world. You have to gain deep knowledge from books and historical events. You cannot just catch up with the latest blogs and social media updates in your area of interest.
- Experience comes from doing new work and the memory of your past work. This takes discipline and a strong work ethic. You also needs some level of intelligence and IQ to execute new things.
- After learning and experiencing through application, you should think deeply about things. You should take time out in solitude to just think. Again, very difficult in today’s world, but those who can do it – can be great bloggers. But it doesn’t stop here.
- Learning + Experience + Deep Thought = New ideas and insights. But it is not enough to have new ideas within your mind. It doesn’t serve any purpose. You should have the discipline to convert your ideas into words in a format that is easy and pleasurable for others to consume.
This very blog post has gone through the above 4 steps before it has manifested itself into a form that you are able to read right now.
Now let’s do a deep dive into each of the points that we’ve discussed above.
1. Gain Knowledge by Learning
Knowledge comes from reading, listening to audio books, watching videos from various sources about a particular topic. Everyone has access to this knowledge. And this knowledge doesn’t come at a huge price. Most of the books in the market are priced reasonably and can be bought via electronic platforms like Kindle.
A Kindle device with a collection of my favourite books, Audible app where I can listen to audio books, a few blogs in my industry is the main source of my knowledge. I also watch a lot of videos, interviews, and learn from other’s courses from time to time. I keep feeding my brain with knowledge.
The information age has made it easy for bloggers and authors to get input. There is no subject under the sun for which the internet doesn’t have a solution. From Wikipedia, to forums to every historical knowledge under the sun – is just a few clicks away. This is a gift not just to all the internet users but content creators as well.
I recently wrote a lengthy article on Predictive Analytics and it is a result of hours of reading books, blog posts and doing research on the internet on this topic. It starts with the input.
With this knowledge, personal experience and deep thought, I am able to come up with new insights on the topic, which leads to new ideas being presented. This is the natural lifecycle of a creation of a blog post or a book by a writer.
Bloggers act as knowledge filters for their audience. I read a general book on Predictive Analytics, but since I am a writer in the digital marketing field, I was able to just write about Predictive analytics in the digital marketing context which is useful for my readers.
Most of my readers do not need to, and they are not interested in spending 15 hours in reading a book about the general topic of Predictive Analytics. This is where unique value is created.
A blogger is looking for inspiration and ideas like one looks for a diamond in a heap of stones. A core part of a blogger’s work is to read and learn a lot so that diamonds of wisdom can be identified among a heap of stones that are relevant for the blogger’s audience.
But is it just enough to learn? If one just learns and rewrites it, its not blogging, its just content curation. Content curation doesn’t add much value for the blogger’s audience.
That’s why experience and deep thought are necessary.
2. Add Experience from Past and Present
So, after gaining knowledge, the first order of business is to put it to experience. Run it through your own life and see if what you have read is true.
You can apply the knowledge and gain experience in real time. Or you can think about the experiences from the past and validate what you have learned. This is a natural process that occurs for everyone. A blogger cannot jump into writing as soon as he reads something interesting.
Everyone who learns perceives a piece of content in a different way according to his/her own life experience. Take this blog post as an example, 1000s of people might be reading this blog post right now. But YOU, specifically, will feel a certain way about this content.
You will see this content based on your own experience in life. May be a part of you is thinking that what I am saying is right. And your mind goes “Yeah, I agree with Deepak.”
This content + your unique experience (in the past or future) will give rise to new insights that you could publish in your blog.
On a side note: the evolution of living species through reproduction happens in the same way. Millions of years of evolution has led to what humans are today. This is a result of numerous iterations in the DNA through time.
Creative ideas go through iterations. My idea + your idea = a new idea. We combine the best of idea chromosomes to give rise to a new idea that is more powerful than the source idea. There is a positive mutation happening here with ideas.
In my previous blog post, you can see this in action. I wrote about Predictive Analytics and around 50% of the content is something that you can find somewhere else. But the other 50% is very original. I came up with the concepts of Law of Large Numbers and Regression to the mean based on my experience and knowledge from other sources.
Experience is very important to be a successful non-fiction blogger or author. But the problem is that most people who are active in a specific area of work do not find time to write.
People who take writing as their full time career cannot have the experience to write useful blog posts on their area of work. Only people who write fiction and biographies can take writing as their full time career. That’s why non-fiction writers and bloggers are very few in this world. It is almost impossible to manage both worlds together. But those who can, become best selling authors.
Rich Dad Poor Dad became a successful book because Robert Kiyosaki was able to take the time out to share his knowledge, while he was managing a multimillion dollar real estate empire. There are numerous examples like this in the field of business books.
Take my own case, I am a digital marketer by profession. I run a digital marketing agency and I teach people on digital marketing. This experience helps me write on digital marketing and blogging topics. That’s one of the reasons why my blog stands out. If I did nothing with my life and took up writing about digital marketing as my full time career, I would fail. I would be able to learn, but I wouldn’t be able to add the chemical X (the experience) to my knowledge.
But is learning and experience enough? No. If I am busy all the time I cannot be a writer. Because writing doesn’t just pop out from learning and experience. There is another secret ingredient: Thinking.
Let’s have a look at one of the most important and also the most difficult step…
3. Think Deeply
“Thinking is the hardest work there is, which is probably the reason why so few engage in it.” – Henry Ford
Thinking is not the same as having thoughts. Though this step may look simple, this will be the hardest part in your blogging journey. It is not just helpful but absolutely necessary to have deep thoughts if you want to stand out as a blogger in your industry.
Paradoxically, you cannot hard-work your way into thinking deep. Instead you need to work to create an environment where you can think deeply. Deep thought will automatically occur in such an environment.
What I am suggesting here might be counter intuitive and funny, but I have done enough research about it. To be able to think deep, you should submit yourself to boredom! Yes! Getting bored is part of the process. Let me explain how.
A Culture of Constant Snacking
We live in a world where we are never bored. This has removed the culture of thinking from our generation. If you are standing at a queue in a bank, or waiting for a friend at a restaurant, or waiting for a meeting to begin, you instantly have the habit filling that gap with email and social media updates.
Snacking small bits of content all the time gives a certain level of gratification to your brains and it eliminates boredom. When we constantly fill all our free time with posts from friends, shocking news, dark humour and inspiring quotes, we are removing the boredom from our lives.
And though boredom is somewhat painful, we have come to believe that boredom is a negative thing that has to be eliminated from our lives. But boredom is necessary to think. Boredom is the fertile ground where deep thoughts can take root.
Feeding your brain with small bits of information is very similar to snacking unhealthy foods all day. It might feel good in that instant while you are eating delicious snacks all the time, but end of the day you will not have the appetite for the delicious and healthy main course. I am pretty sure you can recall what it feels like. It doesn’t feel good. What junk food does to your body, social media does to your brain.
Boredom is Fasting for your Brain
Now imagine that you fast for an entire day and enjoy a delicious dinner in the evening. Isn’t it more satisfying for you and healthy for your body? But have you ever thought that your brain needs to fast from junk information?
When you let your mind to be bored, it cannot be blank for long. When there is no information snack available on a mobile screen that is within reach of your hand, your brain will start pulling in information from your recent learning and experience and it will chew on it.
You will start analyzing what you have recently learned and experienced. Deep thought will happen automatically. Just like a crop grows easily on a fertile ground once the seed is planted, deep thought will occur on the fertile grounds of boredom.
It takes a lot of will power and focus to put yourself in a situation where you get bored. If your mind is craving for distraction, don’t feed it with junk information. Don’t distract yourself.
If on a weekend, your family is not around, and you have nothing to do, DO NOT go to a friend’s place, DO NOT watch a movie, DO NOT for the love of God open your social media feed.
Just take a walk in the park or around your residential area. Or just sit at your couch and stare at the ceiling. And observe what happens inside your mind.
Practice Getting Bored
If you have had the habit of never getting bored in the past few years and if you have always distracted yourself with something, this practice of getting yourself bored might look like a impossible task.
With time, you will be able to embrace boredom and be comfortable in it. It is like being single after being in a relationship for a long time. It is going to be tough.
Just like breaking away from a toxic relationship needs drastic measures in the beginning, you might want to take some drastic measures to break away from your social media habit.
May be, just may be, take a vacation, leave your laptop and mobile at home and go to a resort. Take a few books with you. Give the phone number of the resort or hotel to your family members and just spend a few days at the resort.
Once you get into a forced boredom situation, you will be able to alter your mind chemistry in a matter of a few days. You will start seeing the world with a new light and you will realize what a crap hole you have been in until now with constant distraction and mental snacking.
The depth of taste that hunger can create can never be matched with constant snacking. The depth of thought that boredom can give is nothing compared to constant social media updates that your mind craves for all the time. Get bored and then soak yourself in deep thoughts. Right now you might be afraid of going into boredom. But mark my words. Try boredom for a change, you will be surprised at what your mind can achieve.
How I Broke the Habit
I was a social media addict myself. And recently my capability to write long and deep blog posts went away. As a good percentage of my audience were hanging out on social media all the time, I started providing bits and pieces of information on digital marketing to this crowd.
I would post a 50-100 words and I would get a lot of likes and comments. I was active on my Facebook Group all the time instead of scheduling my engagement on it. This made me feel like I am producing a lot of content and felt satisfied. But I was not writing long deep posts like this. I was doing the opposite of snacking. I was the one making the snacks!
I was trying to write long and useful posts but my writing was poor. I forced myself to sit and write late in the night when I was tired and just wanted to sleep. I remember writing this article about email marketing in such a condition but it was not great. It was a useful post, but it is not a mind-blowing, life altering post. And I had huge difficulty to muster up energy to write that post.
Contrastingly, this post is now 4500+ words as of now and I am completely enjoying the process. I am not in a hurry to publish. I am making sure that I am shipping the best form of my work and I am investing 10+ hours into writing this post.
I am finally in touch with my original self as a deep blogger. And this happened because I recently had to wean away from social media due to a major life incident. For almost a month, I was down and didn’t even login into Facebook. This helped me disconnect and put myself in a situation where I was bored.
Slowly, as I started getting back to normal life, I started reading books. I started sleeping well again. I also repaid all my sleep debt from the past six months of running around to grow my startup. Then slowly, deep thoughts started occurring in my mind. It was like having a good meal after a few days of fasting. Finally, I started having brand new ideas for blogging which I was missing for a long time.
In the past two weeks, I have been able to write two great blog posts about ad copywriting and predictive analytics. Together they are more than 6,000 words. Such deep work has come as a result of deep thought and an itch to share what I know with my readers.
A Deep Life is a Good Life
Going deep is not just for blogging. If your brain is devoid of thoughts in an economy of boredom, every thought will be a valuable one. Scarcity creates value. Your mind will not be cluttered by low quality thoughts coming from social media.
These thoughts are original and your own creation inside the fortress of your mind. These thoughts will give your mind a new life. You will understand what it means to be excited about a thought.
Your passion for your work will come back. You will understand what it means to be truly passionate about something, like your field of work. You will be able to see your life from a new lens.
If you are an inventor, the thoughts would want to manifest itself into an invention. If you are a painter, the thoughts will want to manifest itself into a work of art. If you a musician, the thoughts will manifest itself into music. And if you are a blogger, your thoughts would want to manifest itself into articles and chapters of a book.
At this stage, you are just a channel through which your thoughts become things. You just need to let yourself be a conduit through which manifestation can occur. You do not need to force it. And you shouldn’t.
That’s why the 4th step is the most exciting in this process. It is much easier to write long, deep, useful blog posts after learning, experiencing and deep thought has occurred. You will have the fuel to write. You just need to direct your energies into manifestation process.
4. Manifest Your Ideas into Writing
After you have completed learning, experiencing and thinking, manifesting your ideas into written words happens naturally.
Though this is an exciting part, I wouldn’t say it is an easy one. Just like deep thought requires you to take some time out and be in a distraction free environment, writing also needs such a space.
By now, your hesitation and fear of shipping new things would have gone away. If you are at this level of blogging, I expect that you would have started a blog and published a few articles already.
Now being a professional blogger is serious business. In this section, let us look at some of the tactics used by professional writers.
Write Your First Draft like an Email to a Friend
When we learn new things and have insights, there is an itch to share it with others. Usually, we talk about new things to our friends and family and bore them to death even if they are not interested in the topic!
I have shared my learnings with my family and friends several times. I would talk about predictive analytics to my dad and mom and they have to really work hard to look like they are interested. The only way to scratch my itch and feel satisfied would be to write about it on my blog and I’ve done that last week.
When you have new ideas and insights – just write the first draft of the article. Even for me after writing 100s of posts, there will be an invisible force that prevents us from getting started.
One of the reasons why it is so difficult to sit and write a blog post is because you are of the imagination that 1000s of people might read it and if it is not good enough, you will be criticized.
No, 1000s of people are not going to read it. That’s not the way to look at it. Every reader is going to read from his laptop or mobile, sitting at home or office, alone, in solitude. So you are basically writing to just one reader at a time.
To get the kind of writing flow that is best for bloggers, you should write to one person. So imagine a friend who might be interested in what you have to say about something that you learned about recently.
Write an email to that person. Open your email client, click compose and start writing to him. Forget grammar, flow, sentence formation and so on. You wouldn’t worry about all that when you are writing an email to a friend.
Just write what’s on your mind. In fact you can even put your friend’s email ID in the “To” field and address him by name. Then start writing down your thoughts as if you are writing to your friend.
Once you have written down a few paragraphs, you will see that your content is taking shape. You should be able to write 500-1000 words like this easily.
If you have noticed, the way I write always feels that I am speaking directly to you. I am not writing to 1000s of readers as if I am speaking on the stage in an auditorium of 1000s of people.
I am talking to YOU, just you. Through time, I have learned how to keep my target reader (YOU) in mind and write in a tone that makes you feel like I am having a friendly conversation with you.
Remember that writing for blogs is not like writing a research paper or a thesis. It is just a conversation. That’s why most of the blog have comments section.
If you say something to your friend, he is going to add his thoughts back. That’s what blogging also does. It is a two way conversation where readers can also comment.
With time, you will get the blogger’s writing tone without needing to write your first draft inside an email composer. It also helps to learn who your customer avatars are and keep them in mind while writing your blog posts.
Give Shape to Your Blog Post & Publish
Now that you have 500+ words in your hand, copy-paste this content into your blog, read through it and you will find a few places where you can edit the words. Then add a few images, write your social media & SEO meta descriptions and then hit publish.
You can learn a bit of SEO to understand what kind of titles would give you the most search traffic. Make sure you optimize images for the web. Keep the content “skimmable” with subheadings and sections.
People always scroll through a blog post first before sitting down to read the entire post. Having subheadings and sections gives the reader an idea about what they are going to get in return for the investment of their time.
Have a regular publishing schedule for your blog so that your readers can expect new content from time to time. If you have an irregular publishing schedule, it will disappoint your readers. I am publishing one article every Sunday in the recent weeks.
You can also design every blog post as a chapter of your book. A typical book would be around 20,000 to 30,000 words. That means if you can publish 30-40 blog posts, you can also repurpose that content into a book. (This blog post might also end up as a book chapter!)
Once you get into the habit of writing, writing long posts becomes easier over time. This blog post is now crossing 4,500 words and it has taken me not more than 10 hours to write it over a period of 3 days. And the number of iterations and editing I do to my articles has also come down because my positive feedback loop is very strong.
So learn, experience, think and just write. There is no complex way to do it!
“If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?” – Unknown
There is no point in having an idea but not writing about it. It is as good as that idea never existed. It is important that your unique ideas are expressed in this world. It is your moral obligation to get your ideas out. Do not let it die inside the fortress of your mind.
I hope this post gave you a clear framework and the motivation to become a professional blogger. And I would like to end this post with an analogy.
The learning that you do as the first process is the seed. You water this seed with your experience. Your deep thoughts are the roots that grow, in the fertile ground of boredom.
And then with your seed (knowledge), water nourishment (experience) and the roots (deep thought) are in place, the plant grows and eventually bears fruit (your manifestation in words).
So what are you waiting for?
Read, experience, think and write. And change the world!
All the best.
Further reading resources:
- [Book] Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World
- How to Get Article Topic Ideas for Your Blog Using Webmaster Tools
- 7 Awesome Things You’re Losing Because You Aren’t Blogging
- How to Choose a Topic for Your Blog?