Glen has posted a nice post at LifeDev titled Let Your Blog Posts Marinate (4 Steps to Forming Great Ideas) which uses the great image of marinating your ideas for a while before posting them.
Below I’ll share 10 steps on how I let ideas marinate and become posts – but first….
I love the marinating image for two reasons:
Great Marinades Take Time
Firstly – the best marinades that I’ve ever made have been when I’ve thought ahead and begun the process of putting the meat into the marinade well ahead of the time that I cook it (even the day before). I like this image because it reminds me that often ideas need time to grow and mature.
In my opinion many bloggers post their thoughts too quickly and don’t allow their ideas to develop to a point where they are unique and useful enough to reach their potential
Great Marinades Combine Ingredients to Create New Flavors
Secondly – the image of marinating conjures up images of combining different sauces, spices, herbs and ingredients into one dish to allow them to mix and combine in a way that brings out the flavor in the meat you’re marinating. Another problem that I see some bloggers falling into is posting one dimensional (or shallow) posts that are good ideas but that could be GREAT ideas if they were worked on a little more.
It’s like putting your meat in a marinate of just one sauce – something that can improve it, but not as much as if you added some herbs and spices and perhaps a second complimentary sauce that would add an extra level of complexity and richness to the dish (I’ll explain below what I mean by this).
The process Glen outlines for marinating ideas into blog posts is:
- Jot it Down
- Review it
- Let it Develop
My Post Workflow (idea Marinating Process)
I really love the imagery of marinating ideas as I actually use a very similar process to what Glen outlines – although over the years have added a few of steps. Here’s my 10 Step Process (not that I work through it as neatly as it will look here):
note – this is not what I do for every post – just the larger ‘pillar posts‘.
1. Jot it Down
Similarly to Glen I tend to job down a lot of ideas in my ‘Dream Notes’. I use a Moleskine notebook and Text Files on my desktop (it’s a little chaotic). In my notes I have hundreds of post ideas, half finished thoughts, ideas for series of posts, possible case studies etc. A lot of it wouldn’t make sense to anyone else but it’s where many good ideas emerge from.
2. Review it
Periodically I get my musings and dream notes out to see what might emerge from them. Sometimes I directly take an idea and develop it from the notes I’ve taken (many of my list posts come almost directly from my dream notes which I’ve written down as a list of headings.
What I especially like about this chaotic little collection of ideas is the points of intersection between ideas. Often an idea by itself is weak but when I combine it with someone else I’ve dreamed up it takes shape and becomes a much stronger and more useable idea (like the herbs and sauces that come together to make a great marinade).
4. First Draft
This is where I begin to write. Sometimes it flows naturally and other times this first draft can be a real grind and the ideas in my notes need some serious work and development. I like to write a first draft in a single sitting if I can as I find I lose a lot of momentum and often don’t come back to it if I leave it half finished.
5. Look at What Others have Written
I know some people like to do research and see what others have said on a topic before they begin to write – but generally I like to get all my own ideas and thoughts out first as I find I can be limited by what others have written. Often we’ll come up with similar things but quite often the looking at what others have said reveals ideas I’d not considered before which I’ll incorporate (with acknowledgment). Once again – its in this process that the flavors of the idea that is marinating away become more tasty.
6. Bounce it Around
In a similar way on some posts I go out of my way to run my post (or at least the ideas behind it) by another blogger or two (or sometimes even my wife or a non blogging friend). Over the last three years of blogging I’ve met some wonderful bloggers who I resonate with strongly and whose opinion I respect a lot. If I’m writing a major post I’ll quite often given them a look at my draft and ask for their opinion and ideas. It’s quite often out of doing this that new depth is added or that I’m given helpful suggestions that can make the post a real hit.
7. Write Final Draft
Out of the above process I then write my final post. This can be as simple as tweaking the first draft or can at times mean major changes (and even a rewrite). At times in this process I sometimes realize that what I’ve been working on is actually not a single post but a series of posts and I’ll shape it into numerous posts that flow together.
This a moment which is often filled with a mixture of relief (if it’s a big post that I’ve been struggling with) and anticipation (if it’s a post that might get a reaction or that I’m particularly proud of). It’s also a moment when the marination ends on one level but begins on another.
When I hit ‘publish’ in the past I would see it as an end point in of the process of developing my idea. However over time I’ve come to see it as the idea entering into a new phase – one of collaboration with those who read it. This to me is where the marination of my idea really kicks into gear as readers taste what I’ve come up with and then add to it by leaving comments or even taking up the topic on their own blog. This is where blogging comes into it’s own and goes beyond most other forms of communication that I’ve come across. It’s in the comments and posts that others add to the marinade that the idea grows, dies, changes and finds it’s true potential.
Some blogging purists don’t like the idea of updating posts but I am coming to see the updating or refining process as essential in many of my posts. My reasoning for this is that as proud as I might be of my posts – they are never ‘complete’ or ‘perfect’. As a result of the feedback process and my own continued experiences the marinating continues in my mind and not updating the post with the new ideas I have would be doing a disservice to it. Updating can range from tweaks to extra paragraphs (I usually indicate any updates beyond a tweak with an ‘update’ heading) to even writing new posts that refer to the old one and take the ideas expressed in it in a new direction.
This pretty much sums up the workflow that I use on many of my posts (as I say it’s what I do on my longer non ‘newsy’ posts. I know it probably differs to what others do (and in fact over the years my own workflow has evolved as a result of circumstances). I’d love to hear about your own posting workflow.
Do you marinade your posts? How do you take ideas from the light bulb in your mind moment to the moment that you hit publish (and beyond)?