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Wednesday, July 19, 2017

How do you write a blog?

I get asked this question a lot.  The answer of late is that I haven't been, but I'm getting back into it. This is my fourth post in five days, back up to my previous rhythm when I was at top of form.

There are three big issues:

  1. Time
  2. Topics
  3. Trepidity (bordering on Terror)

Time

Where do you get time to write?  A lot of the topics I write about are things I'm already spending time on.  Taking what I'm working on and turning into a blog post is a lot easier than writing a post specifically for this blog.  It takes 10-15 minutes, and in the end, I have more clear thinking AND a blog post.  
Allocating time to write is critical.  It doesn't need to be at a fixed time each day (or week or whatever frequency) is important.  It takes discipline.  Make the commitment, and then execute. 

After you've been repeatedly writing a post on a regular rhythm, you will find it takes much less time. When I first started this blog, I might have spent an hour or even two on a post.  These days, it takes much less time.

In summary, use what you are already doing, make the commitment, and give it time to improve.

Topics

I get my topics a number of ways: Standards projects, mailing lists (a good e-mail response to a list group can also be a good starting point for a blog post), news articles, my Ask Me a Question page, and sometimes, just staring at a blank screen.  When a good topic comes to mind, I write it down for future use.  I don't have a big future pipeline, maybe one or two ideas at most.


Yesterday's post on Building Blocks was essentially me thinking out loud about my position on interop building blocks.  I took an item I was already working on for my own needs and repurposed it for something else.  The post on vocabulary started from an email on an HL7 list.  This post today started from a question someone asked me that I've had asked before (always a good sign that a blog post might be warranted).

That blank screen is is a challenge.  Some days you'll be in that time for writing a post, and have NO topics.  I just start writing and see where the flow takes me (those are usually tagged Rambling).

Trepidity

Not really a big issue for me, never was.  But I understand performance anxiety, and writing a blog is kind of like performing. The basic issue is that you need to finish strong. In any performance, the audience may notice a small bobble, but the reality is that if you finish well, few will remember your mistake, and most will remember your finish.  Don't be afraid to make a mistake. That's how you learn.  Fix it and move on. People will remember the good stuff.  If you write a terrible post, write a better one next time.  If you stop writing because of a terrible post, the first thing people will see is that post on your blog.  Write another one.

A blog doesn't need to be great, it just needs to consistently good. The best way to get there is to do it.


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