Feed me, Seymour
Do you remember the wise-cracking, bloodthirsty plant from Little Shop of Horrors?
Audrey II is a giant Venus flytrap-like plant with a bad attitude and teeth to match.
It bullies, mocks, and cajoles it’s owner, Seymour, and is in constant need of human blood to survive.
Well, that’s everything that you need to know about writing online.Be that for your blog, your website, or any of the various publishing platforms that are out there.
Does that sound a little melodramatic? Well I’m sat here with a cup of tea, and in a giddy mood, so that may have something to do with it. So, please humour me.
Content Creation is a hungry beast
Feed me, Seymour
Feed me all night long
— Audrey II, The Little Shop of Horrors
Tell me if this sounds familiar to you.
You love to write, and you want to write, so you throw caution to the wind and start to write with delirious abandon.
But before you know it where you write has become a monster, hungry for blood, that you must feed.
Ok, so not actual blood, but the metaphorical blood, sweat, and tears of a writer.
Writing is a hungry beast, sometimes, isn’t it?
The question is how do we write every day when the publication beast rears its ugly head and needs feeding.
At first things are great. People may even start to take an interest in your work. But once the Honeymoon is over you’re faced with the daunting task of producing regular content.
For that’s what your beloved writing has become. Content. With an audience, that has the average attention span of a gnat, who may leave if you drop the ball in any way.
Or, God forbid, you take a break or stop publishing on a regular schedule. Your readership abandons you and you’re left bleeding by the side of the road. Again with the melodrama, we get it.
Gone is the magic of writing words. You’re a content provider. And don’t get me started on the constant need to promote your writing to get people to read it.
Do you have social media accounts? Do you have a newsletter? Well, those hungry monsters all need feeding too, you know?
How do you take a time out? Or write something that requires research? Is that even a thing?
All you want to do is write. But these days if you want to make it as a writer, at least online, that means that you have to write a lot.
You need to write at speed and with great consistency. All at the same time as producing things that are actually worth reading.
You can’t keep up with the demand for your content. Let alone the promoting, networking, or marketing that goes with it.
But what if you want to take time out to concentrate? To write and reasearch a much bigger piece? Is that ok?
Will the hungry monsters eat you alive? Will your readers get bored or shout at you? Is it ok to step away from the treadmill?
You need to create breathing room for yourself. You need to take time out to write the stuff that you love. And you need a way to keep track of it all.
The biggest challenge for a lot of us is to produce content every day.
How often should you publish? Daily? Weekly? Monthly. The jury is still out on that one. But it’s almost a given that you should at least write every day.
How can you keep going at that pace and still write decent stuff that people want to read? I ask for a friend.
Oh, right, you were hoping that I’d have all the answers?! Lucky for you, I do, as it happens. Well, some of them.
Okay, for what it’s worth, here are some of mine. Here are my strategies that will help you to feed your content hungry monsters.
Write 250 words in 15 minutes every single day
Set yourself a tiny daily writing goal. Commit to writing 250 words per day, in 15 minutes, as a daily practice.
Sit down with a cup of tea, or whatever, and see what you come up with in 15 minutes.
Even the busiest of us, with no time to write, can find 15 minutes.
It’s much easier to keep a tiny daily writing goal going than something lofty and ambitious.
Experiment. Give yourself short assignments. Write every day.
That doesn’t mean you should publish every day — but write something every day, okay?
Write for the year ahead
You need to carve out some time. Use writing challenges to keep you on track.
Take the month off to write nothing but new stuff. Whatever it takes.
I know not everyone can devote an entire month to writing.
But at the very least try to get out of the habit of writing and publishing on the same day.
Sleep on it. Write pieces ahead of time and work them up until they’re ready.
An unexpected benefit of trying to write content in bulk, much like batch cooking, is the delicious leftovers.
I’ve noticed that I tend to overwrite. I end up writing two or three pieces worth of content for every piece that I try to write.
Schedule what you publish online
It doesn’t matter what platform you use or how regularly you want to post.
Decide on a content schedule and stick to it.
Schedule your posts in advance.
That way you’re never writing down to the wire to get it out of the door when it’s due.
Keep a list of possible titles
Keep a running list of eveything that you’ve ever wanted to write.
Review it whenever you feel like the well has run dry. You can even cross-pollinate some of the ideas.
Some people call this idea sex but let’s not get too excited. The point is that you never run out of ideas.
Whenever you get an idea, write it down.
Then advance your ideas. Combine them with other things.
Develop them in your short daily writing sessions.
Keep an Editorial calendar
Keep an editorial calendar to track what you’ll publish and when.
All you need is a month to view calendar for the year ahead. One with empty squares for every day of the month.
It helps if you have a print out rather than try to do it online.
You can even print out a blank one using the calendar software on your computer. Remove all the events from the calendar and print it out with nothing on it.
Use it to track every time that you’ve scheduled a piece to get published.
Put a nice satisfying red cross on every day that you write 250 words.
The point is to plan ahead, track everything, and keep score of your achievements.
These strategies will help you to keep your content hungry monsters fed, fat, and happy.
- Writing challenges are your friend. Use whatever writing challenge tickles your fancy to keep you honest and on track.
- Write 250 words in 15 minutes every day as practice. Do this as a writing challenge for a month even if you’re not doing anything else.
- Set aside a week or a month in which you do nothing but write. Forget about getting things published. See what comes out.
- Write for the year ahead — write in batches and in bulk — and think and plan as far in advance as you can for your content.
- Schedule what you publish online, and when you publish it, to be consistent with your output.
- Keep a running list of possible titles — your very own Fantasy Football League of things you want to write.
- Keep an editorial calendar — print out a blank month to view calendar and stick it on your desk. Use it to track what you write and when you publish.
That’s it. Good luck. Please excuse me, my plants need feeding. Could you spare a little blood?