Tuesday, August 14, 2007

How do I find things to blog about?

Red Hot Pokers (1998 NFS)
Pastel, 12" x 9"
copyright Katherine Tyrrell

Somebody asked me recently how I manage to find things to blog about. It immediately struck me as a good subject to blog about - and therein lies the nub!

So - here are my suggestions for.....

6 great ways to find different subjects to blog about

1. Blog on a regular basis
If you blog on a regular basis, you'll find that it gets much, much easier to identify subjects for blog posts. The more you do it, the more you think about potential options - and the more often they just seem to turn up with no effort on your part. Like the subject of this post!

I find that having a routine and regular time of the day when you write your blog posts also helps. I try to get mine done before breakfast if possible.

You certainly don't need to blog every day, but blogging frequently makes it much easier to write the next blog post. Leaving long gaps between blog posts only seems to make it more difficult to post. And don't worry if you don't like blogging - not everybody does. The vast majority 'die' within the first 3 months. Reading blogs and commenting is good too!

2. Don't blog all you know in one go
People new to blogging often want to start downloading all their knowledge or thoughts in a few blog posts and then feel like they've got nothing left to say.

So - slow down! Think about what you know (or want to know more about) and what you're interested in and then how you might talk about your subjects. In particular, think about ways in which you can separate out your potential content into digestible chunks.

Here are some ways you can 'chunck up' your content:
  • do a work in progress - show people how you arrived at the end image from your initial thoughts and finding reference material,through selecting materials and the different stages of development all the way to the end product.
  • think about things you do on a routine basis which you can maybe teach to other people
  • think about things you use on a routine basis which maybe others don't know about
  • write a review of a book you have which have read or studied which helped you with your work. Then look at the rest of the books on your bookshelves and remember it's as helpful to know the ones which didn't help a lot as well as the ones which really helped your work rise to another level.
  • blog about all the different aspects of a project you are undertaking. For example, if entering work for an exhibition you might have the following as potential blog posts - spread out over time:
    • research - deciding whether to submit and what sort of work might be suitable
    • producing work - and maybe showing it as a work in progress
    • getting work framed and well presented
    • if a competitive entry getting the results
    • going to the Private View/Exhibition
  • maybe do a series or a project (see below 4 and 5 below).
3. Be Interested

Do you like taking the fastest route between two points or do you like the scenic route? Do you surf the internet or do you go straight to what you want to know about and then switch off?
Being curious, having an interest in various topics and wanting to learn more are all attributes which are enormously helpful to blogging.

I'm very curious and always very much enjoy learning more about the things which interest me - so I'm usually prepared to do the virtual equivalent of "look round the corner". I click that extra link - just to see what's there. In this way I've found some great material for blogging purposes.

If you find things interesting, you'll also find that this communicates itself easily to readers. If readers are also interested you'll find that this then tends to get them looking and they'll come back and offer you some great links for you to visit! I've really enjoyed doing my projects with Fine Line Artists and others who have joined in like Rose Welty (Rose's Art Lines) who always digs up great links!

4. Have a focus - try doing a project

Being interested in lots of things can make things very messy. It helps if you can also introduce a bit of structure and have some way of organising your thoughts.

Two ways of doing this are a project and a series. Both also mean that you have a way of sharing what you know or what you are learning about with others in a more accessible way.

A project is a great way of blogging for people who want to develop their skills or learn more about a topic. I've been doing a project each month since the beginning of this year and it's had a big impact on the way I blog. Mine are mostly art history related in one way or another but they don't have to be. I first got the idea from Laura Frankstone (Laurelines) who had a different topic for each month of the year last year (look down the left hand column to see the different subjects she tackled) - and it was fascinating to see how her work changed and developed as the projects progressed. I know that most of the projects I've been involved in have helped me enormously with my perspective on the art I produce and how thta might develop in the future.

I'd say about a third and a half of the blog posts each month are related in some way to the project. It makes me very focused about:
  • identifying resources for the project
  • thinking about one or more artists I want to focus on
  • finding information about the artists or subject matter - how people have painted in the past
  • working out what sort of art I want to produce as a result
  • saying what I've noticed as I've studied the art and the artist(s).
All my projects have also been open to other people to join in. It's nice to do things with other people - and it doesn't need to be the same people all the time as we all naturally have different interests and subjects we like working on.

5. Have a focus - develop a series

You can do a series about absolutely anything which has the potential for a series - whether it's a weekly round-up post or maybe developing a batch of posts about all the art supplies you use. Whatever interests you and has sequential possibilities - consider a series. Once you've got a series, you'll be amazed about how you suddenly find you do have something to say about an item or subject which you previously might not have thought worth blogging about. If you do want to develop a series then do also develop a label for that series - which then helps people to easily find earlier posts in that series.

These are also posts which you can develop in advance and have ready for days when you want to goof off or are far too busy with other things. Although I do sit down almost every morning to write a blog post, I also have mornings when I need to be doing something else - and the series post is a great way of keeping up my frequency of posting.

6. Develop and maintain a list of draft blog posts.

Everytime you see something, and you think it might have some potential as a blog post create a draft. I've got a long, long list of draft blog posts - some are related to things I know I will blog about later in the year, some are just ideas - and not all will see the light of day on my blog.

Here's an example. If I know I want to visit a particular exhibition, I create a blog post with title and time it for when I expect to visit. Thus when I get to that time of the year it reminds me to go and already contains some of the basic details.

My "who's made a mark this week?" partly grew out of the fact that my list of draft posts was getting longer and longer and it looked like some of my ideas/information would never ever get posted - so I now use them in the weekly thread.

Don't forget to change the date of the draft thread (as I've just done!!!) to make it the date you are posting on rather than the date you started it!


A final comment - everybody's blog is different and what works for me might not suit you. The main thing is to work out some strategies and routines which make blogging enjoyable for you rather than hard work.

I hope you've enjoyed reading my suggestions for finding things to blog about. Do please use the comments function to add any thoughts you have or suggest any additional ways which you have personally found helpful.


Gardens in Art Project - Note:
"Red Hot Pokers" is a pastel painting of part of the garden of a favourite cottage in Dunwich in Suffolk where I used to stay a lot some 25 years ago. It has a fabulous view over the marshes and flood plain between Dunwich and Walberswick/Southwold. This is very definitely an example of portraying a garden because you want to remember the place - and this pastel painting hangs in my home and is not for sale.

14 comments:

Kay Cox said...

Love the pastel and your blog suggestions. Very nice and well-thought out. Thanks.

Maggie Stiefvater said...

I find having a schedule helps as well. Even if you deviate from it, you have a base plan to fall back on. I always do certain sorts of blog posts over the weekend, etc.

I also get ideas by writing about what I would like to read -- sounds obvious, but what are you googling these days?

And of course my job is made easy because my blog is like Seinfeld. It's about "nothing." :D

Katherine said...

Kay - thanks for the comment - I love the pastel too!

Another reason this post started was both maggie and I had noticed that being a bit more structured and organised - while also being very flexible - takes the pain out of thinking at times. (It's Sunday and therefore it must be...........blog post time again!)

I stick pretty much to the scope as indicated under the title of the blog - but that was left deliberately wide when I started so that I could see what I liked blogging about in practice.

Maggie on the other hand writes about 'everything' and the dog and the cat! ;)

Lin said...

GORGEOUS pokers and wonderful blog ideas!! I LOVE visiting your blog-- you've always got so much to share!! THANK YOU for that!

artything said...

i have only just started to blog so found your recent entry excellent as always.

Gesa said...

Katherine,
this is a great post - I've been coming back to your blog regularly since I startd my own in June - I particularly symphathised with your comments about breaking up all one knows rather than posting everything at once. Many thanks!
Gesa

Anna said...

Thanks for blogging about all this! Your writing is just as good as your artwork! Your blog is almost like an online magazine..

Jo Castillo said...

Katherine, Thanks for sharing your habits. Now, to just apply some of them and get me some better habits.

I always say you are my personal art encyclopedia at work.

The Red Hot Pokers are great.

Jo

Wendy said...

I really relate to the bit about having a lot of draft posts waiting.

It really helps when you're short on idea's for what to post today, if you have plenty in the wings!

I also really like to be ahead on posts, have fully written up ones ready to go in advance. At the moment, I'm about 11 days ahead and I like it that way! It helps to be able to keep projects posted together as well. Even though at the moment I'm working on about 5 drawings at once, I'm only posting updates on one of them and drafting the rest to post in order. That way,it's not as confusing for the readers and they can see a project finished before the next one starts.

So my advice to new bloggers is to work up a good ten day's of posts ahead before you even post your first one, it makes a difference on those days you don't really feel like posting. Being regular is really important to keeping people interested.

Jana Bouc said...

Your palette of colors in this pastel painting strikes me as quite unique. It's soft and warm but still bright and exciting. I guess it's the complementary very soft orangey-reds and minty-greens together. The colors themselves are relaxing but together are invigorating at the same time. It's no wonder you want to keep this one!

My problem is more knowing when to shut up than finding things to blog about. Like you I'm very curious. I'm always excited to learn new things and share what I'm learning.

Rose Welty said...

Katherine, this is a very good post! You need to give it light of day elsewhere! I only started blogging in January because I wanted to do Sargent with you lot, thinking I probably wouldn't be able to keep it up. Now, as you state here, there seems to be an endless list of posts coming to mind (which incidentally has forced out the "I'm a slave, I hate my life" thoughts) and I've found ways to juggle the kids, the house, the garden, the blog and the art...I get far more done than I have in years! Well done, get it some publicity! (You have a link in tomorrow's post.:-)

Katherine said...

What a lot of very nice comments - thanks folks!

Lin and artything Thanks for your appreciation - I'm glad you like it so much.

Gesa Thanks for the link and comment on your blog - that was a really neat spin! Folks - everybody go visit Gesa's blog - the link is at the bottom after all the comments.

AnnaI've been used to having to write for publication before I started blogging and I think that's probably helped. One of the things which has really surprised me though is how much I enjoy writing. Every day. On all sorts of things. I have had quite a few people now ask me how I do it - to which the answer is because I can!

Jo I love the idea of being an art encyclopedia!

Wendy I think I have to disagree with you - building up a stock of posts is something you need to do from the beginning - but I think it's quite difficult to work up that many at the beginning. I think you have to practice writing first - and I'd agree that doing that out of sight is helpful.

I guess the main thing I'd recommend to people is write your first six posts with the setting which broadcasts your blog turned to 'off'. That way you get used to writing in peace and quiet and start to find a voice. I completely changed what I was doing in my first six posts - and no you won't find them easily because I buried that blog and started a new one! Building up to having 10-12 drafts in hand over time is a comfortable place to be.

Jana - I think I can tell the people who will keep blogging when I first read their blogs. One thing I forgot to mention is trying to make it as much as possible like a conversation you'd have with a friend in your kitchen or across your dining table - or maybe that's one for another post? I've always felt we get the real authentic Jana on your blog - and why would one ever want to stop talking to friends?

Rose - there's an old adage about "If you want something done, ask a busy person to do it"! I love when I looked up the quotation that different databases had both Lucille Ball and Margaret Thatcher as coming up with that one! However I do believe it goes way back........because there's a truth to it. If you get busy, you get organised. I love reading your blog and watching the journey you've been taking it on.

Patrick Burt said...

Great post, I usually use Wordpress's build in SaveDraft option to keep all my draft together, instead of say.. carrying a pice of paper around.

Katherine said...

With Blogger we also have a 'save' options which means you can keep a post in draft

And it's so much nicer now they save as we go and you don't lose a whole post because your computer or broadband lines starts misbehaving.

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