12 steps for writing a kick-ass blog post


monkey-blogHi everyone, and valar dohaeris to all the Game of Thrones fans. A few people have been asking me, “Vu, what’s your process for writing your blog posts each week?” So today, we’re going to take a break from normal nonprofit topics, and I’m going to meta-blog, which is to blog about blogging—which is nearly as fun as meta-drinking, which is drinking about drinking (It makes more sense if you have a few drinks).

But first, why should you blog? Blogging may seem archaic to younger people, with your “Snapchat” and your “Instagram” and your “Myspace,” but blogs are totally awesome when they don’t suck. If you or your organization aspire to be a “thought leader,” a consistently-updated blog is a must. With society’s short attention span and constant barrage of information, having a platform you control to deliver your opinions is critical, and social media are great for sharing content, not hosting it.

To have a killer blog, though, you need these three things: One, topics people actually care about and that you actually know enough stuff about to actually write. Two, consistency (I always post every single Monday, come rain or shine, or stomach flu, except holidays, and that’s mainly because people are off work so no one will be reading); for blogging, I would argue that quantity/consistency is more important than quality. And three, blood, sweat, tears, your soul, and the occasional anguished silent scream on your balcony at 2 or 3am.

All right, so if you’re still interested in blogging, here are some steps that I take each week when I write my post. Follow them, and you are guarantee to have an awesome post. Do it each week, and you will have an awesome blog, or else go insane, or both. (Disclaimer: The author of Nonprofit With Balls is not an expert in blogging, or, for that matter, anything. Following the steps below does not in any way guarantee that your post will be awesome. It is recommended that you actually do your own research on Google and/or consult with your doctor).

How to write a kick-ass blog post, NWB-style

Step 1: Keep a running list of topics. You should have an app in your phone or a small notebook you keep with you at all times so that when inspiration for a topic strikes, you can record it. I use a note-taking app in my phone and use the voice-to-text feature to write down my thoughts. Hint: If you use voice-to-text, make sure to edit. Sometimes, I have no clue later what the topic was. To this day, I  stay up wondering what “In egg quit D-high ring backstab cess” means.

Step 2: Carve out a regular time to write. Depending on the topic, I need anywhere from 6 to 8 hours, on a Sunday. You may be a faster writer than I am. In any case, let your family and friends know so that they don’t bother or distract you at this time. If you have small children, negotiate with your partner to get them out of the house during that time.

Step 3: Choose a topic. Look at your running list of topics. Do any of those inspire you? Contrast the topic you want to write against topics you have been writing about. Your blog needs variety. Stagger different topics so as not to bore your readers.

Step 4: Prepare yourself mentally to write. I do this by watching several episodes of “This Week Tonight with John Oliver” on Youtube or a movie or two, maybe make some vegan kettle corn, followed by a walk, maybe a shower.

Step 5: Start feeling crappy that you wasted four hours procrastinating while your wife took your toddler to the park so that you could write. Good, this is good. Embrace it. Stress and guilt is part of the writing process.

Step 6: Do some research on your topic. Facts and figures make your post way more credible. And also, worse thing that would happen is if you wrote something that someone has already written. That would be very embarrassing, and people would spit when they see your unoriginal, hack-self walking down the sidewalk.

Step 7: Sit down and stare at your computer and the blank word document that is like a field of fresh-fallen snow, just waiting for the footsteps of your mind to frolic in its…in its…hm…

Step 8: Damn it! Your sentences are crap! Crap! You are a fraud! Why do people read your stuff! And this topic is horrible! You can’t think of anything clever to write! Argh, that metaphor you just put down is pathetic! Pathetic! Wait, that’s not a metaphor; that’s a simile, you fool! You don’t even know the basics you were taught in high school English!

Step 9: Read Google News for about ten minutes, then feel horrible and start tidying up your kitchen. Mid-way through loading the dishes, realize that you’re just procrastinating, and even though it’s a productive way to procrastinate, you’re no closer to finishing your post and that you’re just going to have to stay up late yet again and have baggy eyes and have people around you tell you “you look tired” all day, as if that’s helpful in some way.

Step 10: Decide to change your topic completely because this current one is just too difficult to write. Repeat steps 7 to 9, then go out onto your balcony and stare into the night sky and wonder why, why you do this to yourself each week? Why can’t you just be like the responsible writers who write a little bit every day? Ponder the vastness of the universe and your own insignificance. Dammit, are those fricken aphids on your blueberry plant?!

Step 11: Write continuously for 4 hours. Then edit everything, insert images, add keywords, mark categories, publish post, and slowly and silently sneak into bed, being careful not to disturb your partner and kid. Fumble with the phone charger until it drops on the floor and makes a very loud sound. The baby stirs. Hold your breath until his breathing is even, then continue to try to plug the phone in.

Step 12: After three hours of sleep, wake up freaking out about something you said that could, since you were delirious last night, possibly be offensive to some people. Turn on your phone, read your post to make sure you didn’t say anything too stupid, then try to go back to sleep for another hour before your kid gets up and you have to make him oatmeal and pretend to be a firetruck.

And that’s how you write a blog post, Nonprofit With Balls style. Hey, it works for me. I hope it works for you.

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  • Sue Bass

    It might also be useful to brush up on grammar. Take another look at “Stress and guilt is part of the writing process.” Sorry — stress and guilt are two different phenomena. They’re both part of the writing process, sure; but the phrase requires a plural verb.

    Sue Bass

  • Sophie Nimmannit

    “In egg quit D-high ring backstab cess” = “inadequate the hiring _____ access”?

  • Vu, I’m so glad to know that even someone as smart and funny as you struggles with this too. Thanks for the Monday chuckles, as always!

  • Lorraine Thomas

    Lady bugs eat aphids. Next time you are on the interwebs doing research for your next blog you can look up where to buy lady bugs. I think they can be shipped. And no. That wasn’t my only take away. Keeping a list of topics…an actual list rather than telling myself, “Ooh, good idea! Remember that!”…that is genius.

  • Paul Konigstein

    Keep a running list of topics is the best takeaway for me too. I spend way too much blogging time figuring out what to write about. Occasionally a reader will send me a topic idea, but not as often as I like to post.

  • corbin1994

    In egg quit D-high ring backstab cess = inequity [in] hiring; bad process. It’s a note to self; don’t expect verbs.

  • Since I’ve already procrastinated in writing my blog post, I feel absolved. Just what I needed. Now back to reading Google news!

  • Linda Bixby

    Gee, Vu, I loved your useful post and am sorry you were taken to task for not using a plural verb form in writing “stress and guilt.” I’ll trump that critique and say that you deserve kudos and a cookie for appropriately using a plural verb form for ‘social media.’

  • Hmmm. Definitely follow all the stages, although once I get the idea and write the first paragraph I do the rest in a flash and then edit over time.

    Used to do our blog every week and an e-newsletter (longer, more content) on occasion – then did a pro bono communications audit to look at how all the haphazard ways of communication we’d home-grown should actually fit together, and they recommended less often blog (biweekly) but stepping up to a monthly e-newsetter.

    Since I am our communications dept (oh the all-encompassing hat of the ED in a small nonprofit) – the workload really mounts up. So I loved the idea of cutting the blog frequency in half! But I am wondering if bi-weekly still counts as “regular.” What do you think?

  • I love the title of the blog post first of all! Secondly these are great tips for finding a “kick ass” blog topic. I usually stare at the computer for hours before I even get one idea!