Goins, Writer

On Writing, Ideas, and Making a Difference

A Helpful Writing Exercise to Focus Your Blog Content

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Photo credit: Flickr (Creative Commons)

I’m getting a lot of questions about blogging these days.

Friends and strangers are all emailing me, asking the same thing:

Am I doing this right?

Most of the time, unfortunately, the answer is no. But not for the reasons you might think:

  • Not because they’re not good writers.
  • Not because they don’t have a good design.
  • Not because they aren’t promoting their work and getting their name out there.

The simple reason a lot of blogs struggle to succeed is because of lack of focus. Many bloggers haven’t taken the time to develop a unique purpose for their blog, and as a result they’re just writing — with little thought as to what they’re hoping to accomplish.

Hence, the frustration and insecurity. They’re moving in a direction, but not sure where they’re actually headed.

This a natural tendency (confession: I did this for four years). But eventually, it’s time to get serious. And every serious blogger eventually moves away from a lack of focus and starts to tackle blogging more intentionally.

So what do I tell these people?

I share with them one easy exercise that has helped thousands of people (I walk them through this lesson and others in my free blogging course).

Before getting started

My basic rule of thumb for writing (especially blogging) is this:

The more you narrow your focus, the more you broaden your audience.

Most bloggers think they have a focus for their blog. They don’t. Really, all they have is a subject.

It’s important to identify three core areas of focus for your blog to succeed. Here’s a nifty exercise I learned from a speaking seminar. It was intended to help us write a speech, but it works for writing, too.

Before you begin writing, consider your subject (what you want to write about), then boil it down to a theme (your specific angle and area of focus), then an objective (what you want to accomplish).

Subject

The subject is the broadest area of your writing. It can be stated in a word or two, probably, but most bloggers struggle to identify it. In order to find your subject, try asking yourself:

  • What am I passionate about?
  • In what topic do I have expertise or a desire to learn?
  • What could I write about for a year without running out of ideas or energy?

Exercise: Spend 10 minutes brainstorming one-word answers to the above questions. Don’t take too long. Let intuition guide you. Then, pick one (and only one).

Example: Writing

Theme

The theme is a narrower version of your subject. It’s like a subset of your main topic — a particular area of concentration. To find it, ask yourself:

  • How can I break this subject down into its various components?
  • What do I want to concentrate on?
  • Is there a specific manner in which I want to attack this issue? What will my writing “voice” be? (e.g. Humorous, sarcastic, practical, anecdotal, etc.)

Exercise: Spend 15-30 minutes mind-mapping or listing out key phrases that describe various angles of your topic. Then, pick the one that makes the most sense and immediately inspires 10 writing ideas.

Example:
How writers can use the Internet to build a platform for their writing.

Objective

The objective is the main takeaway; it’s the goal. If everything else fails, this is what you want your blog to do. If you’re not sure what yours might be, ask yourself these questions:

  • What do I want to accomplish with my writing?
  • What impression do I want to leave?
  • What’s my goal? How do I measure it?

Exercise: Spend 5-10 minutes answering the above questions. Think hard about what you really want to do. Wanting visitors is not enough. What do you want to do with the traffic once you get it?

Think about what would make the time you’re spending blogging worth it. It should be an action verb. Is it making money? Increasing your influence? Growing in authority? Write it down.

Example: To establish credibility as a writer and land freelance writing gigs.

As you begin to practice this exercise (if you’re not doing it already), you’ll find that it’s easier to come up with ideas for specific posts. While it seems very limiting, it’s actually quite freeing. It’ll also make it easier for you to connect with your readers and call them to action.

Ironically, the more you focus on a single objective, the more possibilities for writing emerge.

It’s counter-intuitive, but it works.

Does your blog or writing have a focus? I’d love any feedback you have. Share in the comments.

About Jeff Goins

I help people tell better stories and make a difference in the world. My family and I live outside of Nashville, TN. Follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or Google Plus. To get updates and free stuff, join my newsletter.

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  • http://JELindholm.com JELindholm

    Subject: Writing
    Theme: How folks who are not necessarily well-read or trained in writing can become authors of fiction.
    Objective: To chronical my journey as one of the folks described above, and inspire others to join me.

  • http://reflecteditorial.com/ Anaik Alcasas

    Subject: Story

    Theme: Celebrating the power and potential of true stories well told.

    Objective: A professional editor helping entrepreneurs, advocates and creatives to develop stories that reach new clients, new allies, and new fans.

  • Rick Thomas

    Subject: Succeeding in life

    Theme: That the true definition of succeeding in life is through living it authentically and helping each other get there. And by doing so, that is how we heal a broken world.

    Objective: To motivate and inspire people in an original way. I’ve started by sharing my own stories of marriage, parenting, faith, business and life in general. My hope is to curate not only my own stories but those of others and their journey in life.

    Blog: succeedinginlife.com

  • http://www.pauljolicoeur.com/about/ Paul Jolicoeur

    I boiled everything down to this:

    I believe that every person is a leader, because they have influence on the world around them. I believe that everyone can grow their influence and have a greater impact on the world by continually growing as an individual.

    My goal in help young leaders understand their potential, grow their influence and lead well.

  • Kalei Stern

    Just joined the Intentional Blog Challenge, and feeling a little behind because I haven’t fully launched my blog yet…but this exercise really helps! Here goes:

    Subject: Leadership

    Theme: Leadership development for GenX and Millennial leaders

    Objective (external): To provide coaching and guidance rooted in Hawaii’s unique sense of place for the next generation of leaders.

    Objective (internal): To build upon my personal brand and reputation, and expand my skill sets around coaching and leadership development.

  • http://laughterisaleap.com/ JT Adamson

    Subject: Laughter. The world is both wondrous and stupid, and sometimes wondrously stupid.

    Theme: Funny stuff is all around us. We may as well laugh at it! Sometimes, we can even see God in it.

    Objective: Brighten the reader’s day…get them looking for funny stuff today, and keep them coming back for more.

  • Mali Korsten

    This is definitely something I struggle with – I want to write about so many things that I find it hard to stick with one area of focus. However, I’m choosing to narrow it down to this:

    Subject: Writing and Songwriting

    Theme: How to increase creative output by actively seeking (and harnessing) inspiration in every day life.

    Objective: To encourage writers/songwriters to take their craft seriously and be proactive in the pursuit of prolificness.

  • http://kwanannlim.wordpress.com Kwan-Ann

    Subject: LoveDreamDo

    Theme: A call to love deeply, dream loudly, do boldly

    I plan to split it into three sections:

    1. Work – How to find the intersection between passion, talent & cause and practically pursue that
    2. Home – How to do married life well
    3. Personal – How to be more creative

    Objective: Build a writing portfolio, increase influence through encouraging others and land other writing gigs.

    If anyone is interested, you can read more about me on kwanannlim.wordpress.com

    Thanks Jeff for starting this, it is only day 2 but I have already been impacted by this! Appreciate you.

  • Carol Swan

    I want to teach…

    About helping the poor/poverty

    About the study/application of scriptures

    About communication, both the spoken and written word and
    effective listening

    About leading in the ordinary

    About contributions to work and to relationships

    About creating and refining programs

  • Patti H

    I just want to entertain, to tell stories.
    Subject: Life’s everyday adventures.
    Theme: Living joyously, having fun
    Objective: To make the reader smile, maybe even laugh a little

  • Sarah

    Subject: Cosplay (Costumes)
    Theme: Cosplay on a Budget
    Objective: Saving people money on cosplay through budget-friendly tutorials and sharing sales/coupons.
    You can check it out here: http://www.cosplaycents.com

  • Heather Benn

    subject partnering with Christ
    Theme become an intercessor
    Objective seeing lives changed through prayer and practical help

  • Amanda

    Subject: Positive Thinking
    Theme: Positive thinking for those suffering from anxiety and depression.
    Objective: To use my optimism and experience with dealing with anxiety and depression to give hope to sufferers who have lost hope. I want to tell people that I am living proof that things can get better if we believe in ourselves.

  • http://www.equipyourlife.org/ Glenn Stewart

    Subject: Growth
    Theme: Life and Leadership Development
    Objective: To improve people’s lives by providing practical, useable, biblical strategies and steps for personal growth in multiple life dimensions.

    Like others I am having a hard time narrowing it down. My three areas of interest are spiritual, personal and leadership growth. I have been blogging for almost a year and am starting to wane in energy. This challenge is what I need.

  • Christelle Rojano

    Subject: A student’s life transitioning to becoming a professional (soon)
    Theme: Living a Christian life in this worldly generation
    Objective: To chronicle my growth with Him, and to inspire other youth that it’s worth it to live for Him

  • http://peachyalvarez.blogspot.com/ Peachy

    Subject: Crafts
    Theme: Living Life Inspired
    Objective: To inspire people with my journey in crafting, sharing ideas/tips n tricks of making ordinary things extraordinary, and to encourage people tap into their creative self.

    My blog: http://www.peachy.ph

    Jeff, thank you for doing this. I’m a little left behind but I’m really learning a lot! Thank you for helping me develop not just my blog, but my blogging skills as well. You are truly a great mentor!

  • http://www.hellomygoddess.com/ Indre Hello My Goddess

    Great idea as I was feeling lost as a newbie blogger. This is tougher than I imagined.

    I still don’t have it narrowed down but here’s a start:

    Subject: Harmonious Living for Women
    Theme: How to live in tune with oneself, with others, with the planet
    (This is very vague! I would like to cover varied topics such as recycling, feminism, economy, education, crafting, volunteer work…)
    I will use a story-telling approach.
    Objective: To inspire women. To create dialogue. To make them think in novel ways. PLUS to sell artisan made products.

  • Teresa /Hollyhock Farm Alpacas

    Subject: Alpacas
    Theme: Raising alpacas and using their fiber in knitting, spinning, felting, dyeing
    Objective: To educate about alpacas, tutorials on using their fiber, make money selling fiber and products

    I’ve had my blog for several years, and I seem to have hit a wall. Seems like the same topics rotate and I’m finding it hard to keep the same old things fresh.

    • http://www.skipperhammond.wordpress.com Skipper Hammond

      Perhaps it’s time for a break. Or reduce the frequency of your posts. I can imagine hundreds of topics just on raising the animals, let alone on craft and marketing. Maybe you’ve been too intense and some space would increase your enthusiasm

  • Mollie

    This was quite difficult, but hopefully I can get some feedback on the direction this could take!
    Subject: Lifestyle for Young Millennials
    Theme: How to survive transitions, graduate school, and New York City.
    Objective: To encourage other young adults to find joy and peace with difficult transitional phases in our lives and encourage them to bloom where they have been planted. I would love to share lessons I have learned from my first year in New York City, graduate school, and of course, God.

    I’ve wanted to start a blog for a long time now, and my own recent transition has spurred me on to actually start. Looking for any and all help! Thank you, Jeff, for giving me the push I needed.

  • Charmaine Grace

    Subject: Evolution

    Theme: How can we design for evolution?

    Goal: to discuss ideas; to connect; to inspire; to have a meeting place for my business.

  • David I. Adeleke

    Subject: Self-improvement/development.
    Theme: How people can use everyday experiences and the stories of others to improve themselves daily.
    Objective: To establish myself as a people-builder and teach folks what they should do to be better every passing day.

  • Abby Hatch

    Subject: Growth
    Theme: Tools and strategies that help you grow (research-based and personal anecdotes)
    Objective: To inspire readers to courageously try something new and guide them to a breakthrough in their personal life.

  • Guest

    Subject: Writing
    Theme:

  • Anthony and Tracy Erler

    Subject: Writing
    Theme: How seemingly ordinary people can see the uniqueness in their lives to pursue their dreams. (personal anecdotes)
    Objective: By sharing stories about my transition into the writing life, I want to inspire and encourage others to break away from the stereotype of their dream and forge their own path in the life that is unique to them.

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      Excellent! Well done.

  • http://www.iamcorporatejunkie.com Ernalou Del Rosario

    Hi Jeff. This questions scared me. What is my blog’s focus?

    I have been struggling for this for a loooong time. Do I want to write about fashion because I sell accessories? Do I talk about food or travel? What do I do now that I do not have the liberty to move around that much? Do I talk about corporate life and all the politics behind it or probably, all the lessons I have learned? I couldn’t wrap around what I wanted to do… until this challenge. Until now.

    Subject: Homemaking
    Theme: The Before and After of a Corporate Junkie (Tales of a New Stay-at-Home Mom)
    Objective: To encourage, converse with, inspire and get inspired by the life of women who are transitioning from working in a corporate world to being a homemaker

    This is an excerpt from my blog: http://www.iamcorporatejunkie.com/2014/10/focus-focus-focus.html. Let me know what you think? Thanks!

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      Love it!

  • http://www.globalmediainsight.com Francis Kalarickal

    Subject: Entrepreneurship
    Theme: Enriching Lives through interesting perspectives.

    Objectives: Inspire people to live a life of fulness. Opportunities abound in this world for a willing mind. The only lack is a willing mind. All business is about satisfying or fulfilling need / want. I want to inspire people to look at their surroundings and identify opportunities for enriching their lives. Enriching the life of others consistently results in a successful entrepreneurship.

  • Eddie Paley

    eddiepaley.wordpress.com
    Subject: Free Thinking.
    Theme: To dig through the cloud that covers our life and find the truth.
    Objectives: To inspire people to free think everything. To help them get out of the crowd stream and find themselves. To help them live life in the best way that could be.

  • Patricia Mirasol

    Site: ideacrib.net
    Subject: Health
    Theme: Practical ideas on healthy living.
    Objective: To inspire people to lead healthy lives by sharing my personal journey in healthy living.