This week I'm doing a series of posts responding to reader questions. Today, I'm going to a question from Nancy Riffer who wants to know how I organize myself when I'm writing a blog post.
OK, not entirely true, but pretty close. There is some method to my madness, so I'm going to try to share. (Note--back in February I also touched on some of these things when I posted on my writing process.
My first issue is to gather ideas. Obviously my trusty Netvibes is a great source of information, but I also do a lot of reading (books and magazines, as well as online), listen to NPR, and try to just pay attention to what's going on around me. A lot of my blog posts have ended up being a meta-analysis of things that have happened to me that I wanted to process to make some sense out of them.
How I document these ideas depends on where I get them from.
- Online--If I find something online, 9 times out of 10 I bookmark it with del.icio.us and tag it with "blogthis" and/or "toread." I have an RSS feed set up in Netvibes to these tags in my account and they are located on my main tab, so whatever I bookmarked shows up as a new item in Netvibes to remind me that I wanted to look at it.
For longer articles or for posts where I want to highlight a particular quote or passage, I also use Diigo, which I've written about before. I can use it to bookmark pages, but I'm mostly interested in my ability to use a virtual yellow highlighter directly online and to add digital yellow sticky notes, too. So when I go back to the page, it's like the page in a book with my highlights (other people may have highlights, too), my comments and so on. It's really very cool and helps me to pull my thoughts together.
For both del.icio.us and Diigo, I try to add in some notes on what I want to say in a blog post so that I don't forget them, although I admit that I'm not always good about that.
- Off-line--I always carry some kind of journal with me so that whenever I hear something I think I want to write about, I have a place to write things down. Then when I get home, I'll pull out the page(s) and either write something immediately or put them in a folder I keep for the blog. Again, when I write down the information that caught my attention, I also try to record what I wanted to blog on it. Lately I've also been blogging in my sleep. (And you think I'm kidding!)
Processing and Writing
OK, this is where things get messy. I tend to start writing a post directly into Typepad. There will be a number of fitful starts and stops as I try to find my way into the topic. Then I'll realize that I'm missing some piece of information or want to find more resources or I have a question that I want answered. So I'll save the post in draft format and start doing some searching around, adding to my post as I find new things.
It's really not some kind of organized process with note cards and color coding, and information organized into folders. I've tried these things and I just can't keep up with them. I happen to be fortunate that I have the kind of brain that seems to remember articles I've seen and as I write, I'll make connections and go looking for that information to pull in. Usually I can find it because I can picture where I left it. If the information was online, I either go to my bookmarks or do a Google search. Frankly, Google is the best memory aide I have at this point.
So that's it--not very fancy and probably not very helpful. I'm the kind of person who needs things pretty loose. I'm less creative and energized when I'm too focused on being organized and productive. I need enough structure to find things, but no more than that. Besides, I get more serendipity when two disparate slips of paper are next to each other on my desk.
How do you organize yourself to write your blog posts?