Today, I want to share how I write a blog post. Blogging is a big part of my early retirement life and I enjoy it. Frankly, I think all retirees should have at least one long term project that they can work on. Life would be too boring if it’s all about relaxing and doing chores. You need a reason to get out of bed. For me, that’s blogging and being a SAHD.
Blogging isn’t easy for me. I lived in the US for 32 years and my English isn’t bad, but it is my second language. I still occasionally misuse grammar in everyday conversations. In high school, English was always my weakest subject. STEM classes were my forte back then. Logical classes were easier for me. I used to hate writing essays because I wasn’t any good at it. I just wasn’t motivated to write better because could fall back on STEM.
After high school, I rarely composed an essay. I majored in engineering and students didn’t have to write much in those classes. We had to take some elective classes to round us out, but I elected to take them all pass/no pass. I did well enough to pass them. The professors probably were reluctant to fail any student that showed up.
After college, I became an engineer and rarely had to write a coherent essay. I had to give a presentation once in a while, but all the audiences were engineers. Most of them didn’t care much about grammar, sentence structure, or prose. We just need to write well enough to get the technical points across. It’s only after I started blogging that I picked up creative writing again. Blogging didn’t come naturally to me.
Stick to a schedule
When I first started blogging, I wrote 3 times per week. These posts were shorter and the quality wasn’t very high. I’m really glad I stuck with it because I’ve improved quite a bit since then. The only way to get better at something is to keep doing it. These days, I write 2 posts per week. I rarely write ahead and I don’t have blog posts queued up unless I’m going on a vacation. Two posts per week is just about perfect for now. I could spend more time on each topic and also try to become a better writer. Currently, blogging requires 20 to 30 hours per week. About half of that is writing and research. The other half is spent on site maintenance, networking, and goofing off. Okay, here is my process.
Come up with a topic
Coming up with a topic can be easy or difficult. It just really depends on the mood. I’ve been blogging for almost 8 years and there are over 1,200 posts on Retire by 40. Are there even that many topics in personal finance? However, it’s been pretty easy to come up with a topic this year. I have more time to read other blogs, listen to podcasts, and hang out on social media. These all help me come up with new topic ideas. If I’m really stuck, then I could go back to the archive and rewrite a post. Most of my older posts aren’t written that well. A lot of them could use a good refresh.
I don’t write ahead, but I have a schedule spreadsheet. It looks something like this.
|19||Generational wealth – education||Why saving on little things matters|
|20||pension Mrs. RB40..||What was your lowest point financially?|
|21||Housing affordability worse||Being a SAHD is easy|
|22||Best advice for new college grads||My blogging process|
|23||Monthly Goals and financial update||School is over update|
*WW is an inside joke for the Intel folks.
When I get an idea for a topic, I write it down on this spreadsheet. If I’m not at home, then I’d send myself a message with the topic written down. It’s unbelievable how easy it is to forget an idea. If I don’t note it down right away, the idea disappears into thin air. I’m getting more forgetful as I get older.
Stew for a few days
Once I have a topic, I research the topic on the internet and think about it. There is a good amount of thinking time when you’re a stay-at-home dad so that helps. I think about the topic while I go to the gym, run errands, do chores, and drive around. This isn’t intensive concentration. It’s just pondering about the story and how I’d structure the post.
Once I have an idea of what the post will be about, then I sit down and bang out a first draft on my computer. I just put the idea down in a word document without much regard to grammar or rules. The important thing is to write it down and make a structure at this point. Usually, I don’t finish this first draft in one sitting. The first draft is interspersed with the stewing process. It usually takes me about 2 days to finish the first draft.
Edit and work on prose
Once the first draft is done, I go back and fix the grammar and work on the prose. At this point, I also try to make the post friendlier and more interesting. Personal finance can be a pretty dry subject. I try to inject some life into the post so readers don’t fall asleep at their desks.
Second edit and add links
After the first edit, I go over it again to add internal and external links. These are links to relevant posts. It will help interested readers find more things to read. Google likes this too.
Send to chief editor
Once I’ve done my best with the post, I send it to Mrs. RB40 for editing. This serves two purposes. One, she is much better than me with grammar. She’d fix any mistakes I left in the post. Two, it keeps her involved on our finances. We don’t talk about finance that often at home. Being the chief editor forces her to keep updated on our investments. Finance isn’t an interesting subject for her so she tends to gloss over it.
Create an image
While Mrs. RB40 edits, I make an image to go with the post. If it’s a post about family or something personal, then I’d try to find something in our personal photos. Otherwise, I’d search for a good cc0 image from Pixabay, Pexels, or Unsplash. Once I find a suitable graphic, I use Canva to create an image for Pinterest and another image for Twitter/Facebook.
Last edit and formatting
Mrs. RB40 sends the post back after editing and I cut and paste it into WordPress. At this point, I review it one last time while I format the post to look good on a screen. I also insert images and other media at this time. Usually, this would be done around 10 pm the night before publishing.
Schedule blog Post for tomorrow!
The post is almost finished at this point. I just need to work on the SEO (Yoast SEO plugin.) This involves coming up with a snippet that summarizes the post for Google, Pinterest, Facebook, and Twitter. Sometime, I need to make minor changes to the post for the search engines. Lastly, I schedule the post to publish the next morning on Retire by 40 and all the social media channels.
Whew! That’s one down. I can relax a bit before starting the next blog post.
Okay, I hope this post wasn’t too boring for you. Blogging is the perfect medium for me because I can go back and reedit the post as needed. Podcasting or vlogging would be much more difficult for me. You have to be spot on with your first try on those.
Anyway, I just wanted to show you that writing isn’t easy for me. I improved some and there is still a long way to go. If I can do it, anybody can. So new bloggers, don’t give up and keep at it. You’ll get better and better.
Here is an inspirational talk from Ira Glass, the host of This American Life. It’s really good. After 8 years, he was still a pretty bad reporter. It took him a lot longer than that to become a legendary broadcaster.
Do you write? Is your process as time consuming as mine?
Starting a blog is a great way to build your brand and generate some extra income. See my tutorial on How to Start A Blog and Why You Should. Check it out if you want to join the club. 😉
For 2018, Joe plans to diversify his passive income by investing in US heartland real estate through RealtyShares. He has 3 rental units in Portland and he believes the local market is getting overpriced.
Joe highly recommends Personal Capital for DIY investors. He logs on to Personal Capital almost daily to check his cash flow and net worth. They have many useful tools that will help every investor analyze their portfolio and plan for retirement.
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