Tom Webster, writing and speaking


Added on by Tom Webster.

I've been blogging on and off (mostly off) since 2002, but 2010 is really the first year I've really challenged myself to make it a commitment, rather than an occasional dalliance. I recently hit a couple of humble milestones here at BrandSavant in subscribers and unique readers, and I'm thrilled to have so many of you along for what has to date been a personally very satisfying exploration of some decidedly non-mainstream topics. So, if you're reading this, thank you :) . After six months of really applying myself here, I've gotten a better sense of what works for me, which is not what is going to work for you, so I'm not going to share any kind of prescriptive list. I've gotten a lot of great individual advice from people like Chris Garrett and Amber Naslund, and had a lot of great models to study from in the form of your blogs as well. I'm really fired up about the future of this blog, and I'm continuing to learn from you to get just a little better every day.

I haven't followed a lot of the best practices in blogging here. I don't write short, 200-500 word posts. I don't write every day (and, consequently, have about 5% of Chris Brogan's traffic). I don't have an editorial calendar. My often too-cute titles (see above) would horrify Brian Clark. That's not to say I won't do any and all of these things in the future - I don't reject these "rules" at all. Whatever works for you, is whatever works for you, and so far these things haven't stuck yet, but I'm a work in progress. Next year, Inshallah.

I will, however, share the one thing that has had the biggest impact on my writing and this blog in 2010, and maybe you'll find it worth trying. I stopped hoarding ideas. Some weeks, I get 4-5 really great ideas. Other weeks...not so much. In the past, I would "sit" on an idea for a post if I had just written one, in the hopes of spacing out my posts to give the appearance of being "regular." If I'm being honest with myself, however, that's not the real reason I "sat" on posts. Whether consciously or subconsciously, I think I "hoarded" ideas because I was afraid deep down that my well was finite.

What ended up happening when I saved posts or held back ideas is that I got on a plane, spent a week in a hotel somewhere, and just never got to it. Or, instead of developing the idea in the course of writing it, I "slept on it" and ultimately decided to reject it, without really doing the work to explore it. In short, not only did I end up writing less, I ended up confronting my own thinking patterns less frequently, and getting out of the practice of creativity.

This year, I changed that habit. Now, when I get an idea for a post, it goes up within a few hours. I've written a lot of this blog on my phone, which as wordy as I am, is no mean feat. If I physically can not get a post up when inspiration strikes, notes go into Simplenote immediately, and I write the post at the absolute earliest possible moment. As I noted earlier, some weeks I have more ideas for posts than other weeks. What this means here is that some weeks there are 4-5 posts, and some weeks there might only be one. C'est la guerre. But I can tell you this - the ideas haven't run out. And the more I grapple with and try my ideas in print, the more ideas I get.

One other side benefit of this practice (and I am consciously calling this a practice) is that I write very quickly. Most of my posts - including this one - are done in 30 minutes, tops. That turned out to be a nice surprise. When you write things in your head for weeks, and never put your ideas to paper, that long gestation period sometimes allows you to talk yourself out of things. When that leads to stronger ideas, great - but when that leads to fear and self-doubt, not so great.

In closing, I don't know what my next post is going to be about, but I am no longer afraid of that. It will come. I think, when you aspire to write, that you have to be very careful about who you choose as role models. William Faulkner could lock himself in a hotel room for a weekend with a few bottles of booze and come out with Absalom, Absalom. That's not going to work for most of us, I'm afraid. Anthony Trollope, on the other hand, would get up insanely early every day, and meet a hard writing target every morning before leaving for his job as a Postal Inspector. If he hit his target in the middle of a page, or even a sentence, so be it. He dropped the pen, and picked it up again the next day, every day.

Trollope's lunch-bucket work ethic was admirable, and for many of us, it's perhaps a more realistic way to approach the craft of writing than to wait for the next feverish Faulkner-esque bout of inspiration.

Lemme tell you something, though: Trollope wrote some crappy books - I mean some of them were just hideous clunkers. Again, whatever works for you, works for you. By all means, acquaint yourself with the rules and best practices of blogging. If any of them hinder you from getting your ideas on the page, however, throw them out quickly. I think your head, like mine, is full of ideas, but those ideas are like lottery balls on the night of the big draw. That chute will only hold 6-7 balls. If you don't empty the chute, the ball-spinnerator won't spit out any more. No room. What has worked for me, then, is to empty that chute just as soon as I possibly can. Turns out, it fills right back up again, every time.

What works for you?