The benefits of having your own blog are myriad, and for all intents and purposes, there is an unlimited amount of information on why. However, the main obstacle isn't "why," but "how".
Most photographers will try to write a blog at some juncture of their career. Most will write some high-quality content too. But like with most things, consistency is the key, and the key is hard to attain, so inevitably, blogging falls by the wayside. Mitch Hedberg once said he sits in his hotel room, thinks of something funny, and then goes to get a pen to write it down. If the pen is too far away, he has to convince himself that what he thought of ain't funny. Well, that is in essence what happens to most photography blogs. The photographers start to write, then run out of ideas, and it becomes too time-consuming and difficult, so they convince themselves that writing ain't important.
I did something quite similar. I started a blog not long after I became a photographer. I started writing something — anything, really — every single day. It didn't have to be much, but it did have to be something. Then I decided that was difficult to maintain and perhaps every other day, or three times per week was more sustainable. This naturally became once per week, and then I missed a few weeks. James Clear, an author and speaker on habits and habit-forming, notes that breaking a good habit and missing your schedule is natural and happens to us all. As long as you make up for it, it really doesn't matter. The real danger is missing two in a row. Well, miss two in a row I did, and gradually, it became a sporadic task.
After some years of writing at my own leisure, I decided to join Fstoppers and write on a more rigorous schedule. I made a plan to write one original article (that is, not a news piece or a repost) every week. I did so for months, and then some originals were swapped out for reposts or news. Then, some time last year, I called myself out on the excuses. Did I have the time to write something every week? Absolutely. So what was the sticking point? Inspiration and content. So I made some effort and began researching potential articles and sticking to my schedule. Towards the end of January this year, I decided it was time to break the record for the most number of original articles written by one person in one month (we think it's about 7-10). But I didn't just want to beat the record and write 11, I wanted to crush it. I wanted to push myself so hard that it was a pain point for me, and I felt genuinely as if I couldn't possibly do almost any more. So I resolved to write at least one original article per day in February. Today is the 23rd consecutive day I have been doing this, and I am on 25 original articles written in February. I will maintain this pace for as long as I can, but I believe it will be at least 40-50 consecutive days.
Author Rob Moore in the book "Money" pointed something out that stuck with me. If you try and list 10 of something, let's say ideas for a movie, you'll do a few easily, and then you'll struggle. If you try to name 20, getting to the quota will be a grind and you'll really scrape the barrel. But if you try and write 50, you transcend the pain barrier and unlock some bizarre capacity to think more effectively. I tried it, and it worked, so I that's the exact approach I used for writing. I decided with 28 days in February, I wanted 60 article ideas written down before February 1. The first 20 were indeed the hardest, and then the last 10 were also difficult, but I had so much more in the way of material I wanted to write than I ever believed possible. What's more, I have been adding to that list every day and outrunning the original 60-day plan by about a third. So, with the importance of photographers writing established, I want to help others break through that barrier.
Turning Writing Into a Sustainable Habit
1. The Schedule
Firstly, you need to figure out a schedule you can stick to. Writing an original article per day is not suitable for most. Not only am I self-employed with reasonably diverse sources of income, I love writing and it's one of my strengths. I will have written around 30,000 words in February, which wouldn't be possible had my income been almost entirely tied up in my direct actions (like a full-time 9-5 job) or an aptitude for writing. I would suggest finding what you think you could reasonably achieve — perhaps one or two articles per week — and then double it. Your gut reaction will invariably be a lazy estimate that will opt for comfort over pushing yourself; that's not necessarily because you're a lazy person, it's just that we all value our own comfort.
2. Give Yourself a Good Lead
I would suggest creating a list of a minimum of 50 article ideas. It will seem insurmountable when you first grab your pen and paper, but grind through it; you have far more concepts in your head than you have immediate access to. There's one important thing to note about this list that I haven't mentioned yet: it's not your schedule, it's your failsafe. What I mean by that is every day you're scheduled to write, you need to sit down and try to think of an article to create. That list runs independently of your schedule; it is there for days when you're pressed for time or tapped on inspiration. You can dip into the emergency article idea fund and make a withdrawal.
3. How to Come Up With Ideas
In truth, I don't feel as if I have even discovered all the ways to develop ideas. I realize that's very meta, but it's a game within itself. Here are the tips I will offer.
- Cast the net wide: Do not try and narrow your writing down to one niche constantly, but instead go as obscure as you like. There are so many different valuable topics in photography like gear, technique, tips, genres, advice, mistakes, triumphs, humor. Be diverse.
- Ask questions: Questions are great not only for article titles and ideas, but for drawing out subjects to discuss. What's your favorite lens? What's your biggest regret? Which brand is overrated?
- Reviews: What equipment or software could you review that you use or even could use? Don't just think camera bodies, but anything involved in your workflow.
- Opinions: We've all got them, so start sharing yours. There's a real anxiety at first for getting negative feedback. I've had a ton of aggressive, critical, and sometimes plainly insulting comments. Expect them, get used to them, and then just keep plowing on.
- Interviews: Are there people doing something interesting? Are there companies doing something unique? If you find something a person or brand is doing to be compelling, reach out and interview them.
- Teach what you're good at: I know one fear around teaching people your techniques is that it'll cost you work. I'll save you some time and worry: it won't. Work out your strengths and then show people how you do them.
- Read, read, read (and listen): If you're not reading other people's writing regularly, following the news, watching YouTube channels in your field, and listening to podcasts, you're at a massive disadvantage.
My ultimate aim when writing articles and a principle I check my work against regularly is giving. The vast majority of people on this planet consume, but do not create and give. That's not a slight aimed at the population, it's how we're wired. But if you want your articles to receive the views they deserve, ask yourself what you can give. It might be small, it might be profound, but with everything you write, aim to give people something they can use. For all the negative comments I see, those little emails, Tweets, and messages that say "thank you, this really helped me" will be enough buoyancy to outlast hours of creative drought and negativity. Even now, when somebody emails me to say they enjoyed my article, it doesn't how many I've written, I'm as excited and gratified as the first note of appreciation I received.
As is with the case with damn near everything, most of writing regularly is just showing up. Set a day and meet that deadline come what may. If you're really struggling to write something good, write something terrible. I can't emphasize enough how much better a position sitting in front of a dreadful article is, when compared to sitting in front of a blank page. You can just go through your rubbish first draft and mold and polish it until it's good. Starting an article is by far the hardest part, so just push through. Whether you're doing it for SEO, social proof, reputation-building, fun, or just to stay plugged into the industry, it doesn't matter; it'll pay dividends if you're consistent.
What tips could you give people who want to write regularly? Conversely, what do you struggle with? I will answer any questions in the comments below.
Lead image courtesy of Stokpic via Pexels