In January, I marked the end of my first year on Twitter so now I’m marking my first anniversary of blogging. My little secret is that it’s a bit of a fake anniversary. Why? Two reasons. Firstly, I really don’t “write” blog posts so I don’t feel I can call myself a blogger. Second, until November, I kept this blog a secret – so hardly anyone has actually read it. In this first part, I write about the secrets of my awesome writing technique (!) and how that might help you if you’re thinking you might want to start writing your own blog.
I wrote in my first blog post, “I joined Twitter in January 2012 [and] set up this blog account 6 weeks later because I thought that sometimes I’d want to say something that would take more than 140 characters.” So I just sort of saved the name, just in case, then left the blog alone and wrote nothing. The blog was dormant.
For a long time, I was happy tweeting and connecting with others using Twitter’s 140 character limit. If I had a lot to say, I’d send a series of tweets. Planning and writing seemed impossible, but tweeting as a stream of consciousness helped me to process and develop ideas. It still does. I had no need to use a blog.
In April, Nurse with Glasses (@Nurse_w_glasses) tweeted her awesome 20 commandments for mental health workers. I retweeted them then badgered her to start a blog and give her commandments a home of their own. So I blogged about that. Or rather, I listed her 20 commandments with a few words of my own added on. Then she set up her blog. So I blogged about that. Or rather, I wrote one sentence, with a link to her new blog. I’d started my blogging journey … just.
At the same time, I was invited by Ella Shaw (of what was then called the Diagnosis LOB blog now Trying My Patients) to contribute a mini guest blog to a piece she was writing. So I wrestled with writing the piece for two weeks and ended up with 17 pages! I wrote too much, rambled on and couldn’t seem to edit it down to a decent length. I eventually came up with 800 words I was pleased with and Ella promptly chopped it in half. But I was finally published online in her blog.
However, the struggle I’d had writing the post had shown me very clearly that writing was not for me! So I went back to tweeting.
Then in August I discovered Storify. This enabled me to save strings of tweets – mine and the responses of others – as Twitter conversations. To date, I’ve saved 101 stories in Storify. Very occasionally I’d tweet a link to one of my Storify stories and then, in September, I started to post some blog posts which consisted of a paragraph plus a link to a Storify story. And that’s how I started to blog more regularly – by posting Storify stories.
In November, Mark Brown of One in Four magazine saw a series tweets I’d sent and asked me to use them as the basis for an article for his magazine. Ed Miliband (leader of the opposition Labour party) had made a speech on Monday 29th October at the Royal College of Psychiatrists in which he announced the establishment of a new mental health task force. I’d started with this tweet:
“Dear @Ed_Miliband, good start, but remember there’s much more to good mental health than the NHS, drugs & treatment.“
After the difficulty I’d had writing the mini guest blog back in April, I was pretty sure I wouldn’t be able to write a whole magazine article. So Mark suggested I just put what I’d tweeted into an email. So that’s what I did. I saved the tweets into a Storify story, then copied and pasted the words into a document. It wasn’t quite as straightforward as that as the story did still take me quite a bit of effort to turn it into an article and I needed help from Mark with editing. However, it did make it into the winter edition of the magazine, which means I’m now a published (and paid) writer. Woo hoo!
Writing that article helped me to find the technique which forms the foundation of all my blog posts, ie:
- Tweet – if there’s a subject that grabs my attention, I write a series of tweets, just as they pop into my mind; there’s no planning or drafting; it’s just a stream of consciousness
- Storify – if the tweet rant turns out to make some sort of sense, I save it in a Storify story for later
- Copy and paste – I copy the text of the tweets and paste it into a Word document, so the words of the tweets are saved
- Edit – I try not to get too bogged down in editing as I find that difficult, but some refining is usually needed
- Blog – post it in a blog with a couple of cheerful pictures
And that’s it. The advantage for me in using this method to blog is that I am still tweeting – rather than having to try to concentrate on writing a long post. The blog post writes itself from my tweets.
A disadvantage I suppose is that there’s no plan about what goes in the blog. It just consists of whatever has grabbed my attention on any given day and what I’ve had time to put into a Storify story. If there’s a topic on the news or in my life that moves me to a stream of tweets (a Twitter rant) then, sure enough, it becomes a Storify story and, if I have time, a blog post. So far I’ve saved 101 Storify stories but have written only 42 blog posts.
Why am I sharing this? Because, simple as the technique seems, it has enabled me to collate my thoughts and share them with others in the form of a blog, despite not having much of an ability to plan, focus or concentrate. There are lots of blogs out there where people have clearly been working on drafts for a while and include literary, musical and historical references. But there is room for all sorts of blogs – even those by people who, like me, can’t really write. I suppose I’m saying that, if I can do it, anyone can.
I’ve gradually found a way to write, despite my restrictions. Over time, I’ve stumbled across things (like Storify) that have helped me. I’ve had the encouragement and assistance of other kind tweeps. And that’s helped me find my voice. So I’m also saying don’t think you need to write perfect 600 word posts from the outset. Over time, you too may find other ways to enable you to express yourself that work for you. Why not give it a go and set up your own blog?
- My blog posts referred to above: My one year Twitter anniversary and The politics of mental health: the new mental health task force
- Ella Shaw’s blog, Trying My Patients, and my mini guest post in her 3-parter, Pass The Donkey
- Nurse With Glasses’ blog, 20 Commandments
- One in Four magazine (editor Mark Brown – @MarkOneinFour)
- Storify and my Storify stories
- WordPress – free blogging tool