Not sure what to write today? Consider a new format for your post: a shorter or longer word count, a letter or list, or a different approach to your content.
A few weeks ago, I led writing workshops at the Press Publish conference in Phoenix, an event for bloggers and WordPress users. In one of the sessions, I talked about the importance of building a regular writing habit and allowing yourself the time and space to write. We also talked about ways to get inspired and break free from our ruts, from free-writes to prompts to new formats.
The ideas in this post are from Writing 101 and 201, a blog I created for my workshops at the Press Publish conference.
Your blog posts can take many forms. Here, I’ll share some basic suggestions, which might be helpful to new Daily Post readers and writers who’d like to switch things up on their blogs.
Play with word count
If you feel stuck one day and aren’t sure how to write a post, it might well be that your topic and content are solid, but your approach needs tweaking. Have you tried experimenting with word count? If not, here are some ideas:
- Practice: Pick a previously published post you could improve by paring down. Keep it at 750 words or less, like the essays at Brevity, a site of concise creative nonfiction.
- Practice: Want to go long? Expand on an existing post. Search your drafts that are thematically similar and see if you can combine parts of each. Or, get more ideas in our Blogging U. course on longform writing called Writing 201: Beyond the Blog Post.
- Publish: Write a new post as a 50-word story, as Vincent Mars does at Boy in the Hat. (Read Vincent’s thoughts on how to tackle your own.)
- Publish: Take a look at some 100-word stories at 100 Word Story, or this recent piece on Claire Fuller’s blog, then take a stab at one of your own. Your first attempt at flash fiction? Your last vacation? A fleeting encounter at the grocery store?
Give the (open) letter a chance
Shaping your post as a letter might open your eyes to a different way to approach a subject that is important to you. Indeed, the open letter format can fall flat, and some say it’s overused and trite. But great open letters are focused, specific, and passionate.
For inspiration, here are examples of letters:
- Scientist Jacquelyn Gill’s open letter to the governor of Wisconsin.
- Dawn Quyle Landau’s letter to the man who killed her father.
- Deborah Bryan’s “Dear Mom,” which is a letter to someone who can’t respond.
- Chef Michael Twitty’s letter to Paula Deen.
- Susie Lindau’s “Open Letter From My Boobs,” which is a letter from a thing.
- The McSweeney’s archive of open letters to people or entities who are unlikely to respond.
Want to try your own? Here are questions to consider:
- Can you rewrite one of your previous posts as a letter?
- Could you pen a new letter to another blogger you admire?
- Have you read a recent article and wish to respond to the author?
Reinvent the list
One of the most personal posts on my own blog is an outline of my parallel universes, in which I write about my life timeline thus far. I could have approached it as a straightforward, chronological musing, but the numbered outline that lays out various paths of my life, depending on the choices I made, is more interesting.
Not interested in writing a letter? Consider, then, a list — and let’s think beyond the shallow listicles that offer little value or provoke no thought. You’ll find different kinds of lists out there: lists with numbers or bullet lists, outlines with Roman numerals, and more. Some of my favorite posts published on WordPress.com are presented as lists — and transcend the genres of personal essay and creative nonfiction.
- If I Had a Dollar (Why I Am a Feminist)
- Hole in My Heart
- Train of Thought
- How to Get There
- Teaching Snails to Fly
Maggie Messitt, an author and nonfiction storyteller, has contributed recent posts to Bending Genre that are formatted as lists, from “In What She Left Behind” to “North 20°54, West 156°14.” Take a look at Maggie’s pieces to get an idea for how to approach a numbered list as more of a personal narrative, or to segment an essay or series of musings.
Collaborate with others
In a post offering tips on creative storytelling, I suggested combining forces with someone else and mentioned the collaboration of blogger Shelley Sackier and cartoonist Robin Gott at Shelley’s blog, Peak Perspective. Other ways to collaborate with others:
- One theme, multiple perspectives: Stories From the Belly writer Diahann Reyes invited two of her favorite bloggers, KS of Kosher Adobo and Jennifer Berney of Goodnight Already, to contribute short pieces on a specific topic. She then published the trio’s takes in one post, “Baring the Female Breasts: Beyond Objectification.”
- Blogger interviews blogger: In her Introductions series on her blog, Australia-based photographer Leanne Cole chats with fellow photographers about their work. (If you’re interested in honing your interview skills, check out Mark Armstrong’s “The Art of the Interview” and Krista Stevens’ “Great Interviews Start with Great Questions.”)
- A site that takes submissions: Jessica Gross, writer for publications like the New York Times Magazine and the Paris Review, recently launched a fun site, Things We Like, which publishes submitted lists of things people like. From blogs like this that invite submissions (think Broken Light Collective) to recurring challenges (such as Jennifer Nichole Wells’ One Word Photo Challenge), there are different ways to work with others.
These tips are pulled from the blog I created for the Press Publish conference in Phoenix. Feel free to browse the site for additional resources.