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Nov 7, 2008

How 2 Improve Your Blog When You don’t Have Computer Access

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Is your computer out of action? Use the time to improve your blog with these six activities as suggested by Ali from Alpha Student.

Even the most ardent bloggers will occasionally find themselves without computer access. If you’re just lacking an internet connection, you can at least write posts – but what can you do when all you’ve got is a notebook and a pen?

Whether you want to make use of your commute or lunch hour, whether you’d like to squirrel yourself into a corner at boring family events, or whether you’d just like to get a bit done towards your blog whilst standing in line at the post office, here are six computer-free activities that will help your blogging.

1. Generate Ideas

Have you been blogging for a while? If so, do you have times when you feel like there’s nothing new left to write about in your niche? That means you need to do some quality idea-generation. This method is incredibly easy – and it works:

  1. Write the numbers 1 – 50 down the side of your piece of paper (you may need several sheets).
  2. Set a timer for 20 minutes.
  3. Write an idea next to each number – before the time runs out!

Don’t worry if you have some ideas which are a bit similar, or some which don’t seem to be full posts. You might find that one idea will form a series – or that another can be a sub-point in a longer piece.

Once you’ve got your stock of ideas ready, you can…

2. Plan Next Month

Wouldn’t it be great to have a month of posts planned out in advance? If you normally write on whatever’s in your head and hit “publish” straight away, you may realise you’ve spent two weeks covering pretty much the same topic each day – and your readers are getting bored.

Sit down with a notebook, and work out how many posts you want to publish in the next month (e.g. about 13-14 total if you’re aiming for three a week). Now figure out a title or topic for each of those posts, using your list of ideas. You’ll want to consider:

  • Rotating between different categories to maintain reader interest
  • Planning a mini-series, or posts with follow-ups, to help make your blog sticky
  • Mixing up longer, in-depth and shorter, snappier posts
  • Trying slightly different tones; humorous posts, list posts, “open thread” posts…

The great thing about planning ahead is that you’ll start getting ideas churning away for some of those different posts. That means it’s time to…

3. Brainstorm A Post

Write the title of your post in the middle of a blank piece of paper, and start a spider diagram:

brainstorm.jpgAlign Center

image by -nathan

This is a very simple and effective way to help yourself think laterally about the topic of your post. Jot down the main points that come to mind which you want to address around the central circle, then start thinking which points you could link together. If any points spawn new ideas, add those on. (Warning: depending on how in-depth you want your post to be, you might need a large piece of paper!)

When you’re back at your computer, you’ll find that writing posts becomes almost effortless when you’ve already set the foundations by figuring out a solid structure for your post. You may want to add a few extras to your piece, though, so how about using some computer-free time to …

4. Take Photographs

I tend to get my images from and Flickr, using the excuse that I’m a rotten photographer – but with great blogs like Digital Photography School out there, I know I’ve only myself to blame for not taking the time to learn!

So why not try snapping some of your own images for your blog? You might even want to get someone to take a few shots of you for your “About” page. (Readers love to see what you look like!) If you’ve got cute kids – or cute pets – you could include them too.

If you feel your head-shot would frighten readers away, then how about going back to that list of posts and figuring out what images you might need? For example, if you’ve got a post titled “My two cents on the state of the blogosphere”, you could take a snapshot of … two cents. Think laterally too; how about someone stirring a pan as a metaphor in a post about the process of letting ideas simmer into life? Outdoor shots – flowers, trees, landscapes – can make great all-purpose images.

If you’re bored of photography by now, why not …

5. Read A Good Book

Have you ever noticed that most bloggers cite examples and give quotes from other bloggers? It’s rare to see a book quoted in a post – yet, in any field, there’s a huge amount of in-depth, thoughtful and well-researched content in books. If you’ve fallen into the habit of getting all of your news, views and facts from blogs alone, try picking up a book or journal in your field. Every time I do this, I find a new idea to blog about.

Not all niches have a host of magazines on the shelves: if you’re blogging about something obscure or very new, you might not be able to find any related publications. Reading is still valuable: you’ll find inspiration in unlikely places. Titles and headlines – from mainstream magazines, not just niches ones – just might spark off a train of thought that leads to your next brilliant article.

By this point, you might be getting tired of all the idea-generating, planning, brainstorming, photo-taking and reading. If so, it’s time for the last non-computer blogger-friendly activity…

6. Have A Break

However passionate you are about your blog, there’ll be times when you get stale, jaded or just plain worn out. Everyone needs to kick back and relax: and yes, you do have time. Of course you want your blog to make it to the Technorati Top 100 – but you need to be ready for the long haul in order to make it there.

Blogger burn-out is no fun. Don’t run yourself, and your blog, into the ground. If you find yourself with an enforced computer-free day, for whatever reason, use it as a great excuse to unplug. Go to a movie, head to the park, prowl the mall, or whatever it is you enjoy. By taking some time out, you’ll return to your blogging refreshed and enthused. You’ll be looking forward to hitting that keyboard again!

If you’ve got a great tip for blogging without a computer, why not add it in the comments?

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