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).
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).
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.
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.