On How I Research and Draft Posts
I recently realized I’ve spent more time collecting references than I have writing actual blog posts. I’m okay with that because I am still actively working on the blog even if posts aren’t going up every day (and I also decided I’m ok with that, every day seemed really tedious and overwhelming not just to me but also to readers). As I said in the last post, one of my goals with this blog is for it to be at least somewhat informative and to try to incorporate links/references whenever possible. Why informative? Primarily because I’d rather use this blog as a resource than a place to ramble about my life. Secondarily, because my personal life is pretty boring these days, and besides my desperate job hunt and recent relationship/subsequent breakup, I don’t really have much going on.
And so here I am, reading tons of articles on topics I’ve been meaning to look up for a long time, and some new subjects. This is proving to be both an arduous and interesting process. As of today I’ve logged ninety-one articles for referencing here. This process includes reading, highlighting, tagging, and making notes for each article before deciding which blog post or posts I’d like to use it in (or sometimes, an article will lead to a new blog post draft). While planning other posts (On Sleep Habits, On Productivity, On Breaking Up, On Self Betterment, On Morning Rituals, On The Miracle Morning, On Mental Illness, On Goal Setting, On Effective Personal Organization, and a bunch more), I decided it may be interesting and maybe useful to share how I am researching and drafting.
Some of the material I am posting has been found using Google and finding random resources. I also find a lot of ideas or quotes from books I’m reading or have read in the past. I take notes in my physical books so I can easily re-read the important parts again later, or find things I want to quote, and now that I have a Kindle, I highlight passages and add notes to them where necessary. Once I am done with a book in Kindle I use the Your Highlights web page from Kindle to copy them into Evernote. Besides books, I find a lot of articles on Twitter and Facebook. I’ve found that many of the websites I frequent have articles that have a habit of linking back to several other articles within those sites (Brain Pickings, Elephant Journal, Tiny Buddha, Lifehacker, etc), so a lot of articles come from the same sources. This is great because I find a lot of other interesting and inter-related articles, but sometimes frustrating because my Pocket queue will undoubtedly never be empty again (For example, this week I read 88 articles, but I also added 55 to the queue). Speaking of…
Organizing Reference Material
First of all, I am obsessed with the Pocket app. I discovered it at the tail end of 2014 and it has really changed the way I read and save material… AKA I actually read things now. Prior to finding Pocket, I’d email myself articles or open things I meant to read in tabs (often have 15-20 open at a time) and if I was lucky within a month or two I’d read an article or so. The way Pocket works is sort of like Pinterest for articles you want to read, so now I have everything I want to read in one place and can read at my own pace when I have chunks of time. This is awesome because if I have a few minutes in line at a store I can just open the app and read something from the queue. Adding things to the queue is super simple. They have a really handy Bookmarklet that you can add to your browser, this makes it so if you find something you want to read you just have to hit the button and it automatically saves it for you. You can also email yourself links, or if you’re using the Pocket app on a phone or other device, you can copy a URL and once you open the app it will automatically give you the option to add that URL to your Pocket queue. Super convenient. The past part is that Pocket is free. There is a Premium membership ($45/year or $4.99/month), which gives you some additional options (Ability to tag articles, permanent library, full-text search), but I haven’t found myself needing it just yet.
Once I have time to read an article and decide I want to use it in a blog post, I use the Evernote web clipper to save the article to Evernote (I am working on a Blog Post solely about Evernote that I am hoping will be up next and posted soon but if you’re antsy some basic information on the web clipper is here.). When I add it to Evernote I go back through and highlight any relevant or quote-worthy passages and make any notes I find necessary. I then add relevant tags to the article (“self improvement,” “daily routines,” etc) so I can find it later and either add it to a Notebook for a specific blog post, or if there isn’t one yet I put it in a general “Blog” notebook and mark it with the tag “potential blog post material.”
Tagging posts is absolutely essential to this process, but you also have to tag wisely. The idea is to use tags so you can pull up a resource or multiple resources quickly and effortlessly (IE I can look for all articles to be used for a blog post on “Daily Routines”). You want tags to be specific, because if you add a bunch of vague tags (“interesting,” “cool,” “useful”), you end up with tons of tags and it’s harder to look through them quickly. Detailed tags are fine, but think about ways to make it easier for yourself to find material later when you have a ton of notes spread out over multiple notebooks (the more you add to Evernote, the more useful it becomes). Also, try not to have multiple tags that mean similar things. For example: I recently noticed I had both a “Self Improvement” and a “Self Development” tag and merged them together.
Putting It All Together
After I feel like I’ve collected whatever references I want (or just get the itch to get something out of the way), I sit down and re-read the highlighted sections of the articles and books I’ve saved to Evernote for a specific topic. I decide which links or quotes I want to use and then dive into writing. As far as writing goes, I generally do this in small spurts between work and then edit and add more for a little while at night when I get home. I don’t have internet at home (I sync things to my laptop at work so I can work offline) so on weekends I’ve been hunkering down in coffee shops to organize references and try to draft future posts. I’m still getting used to writing again so once I’ve written bits of a post I re-read them over and over debating if this is stuff anyone in their right mind would be interested in or find helpful (so far the photo editing post was the most popular) and then I eventually talk myself into posting them.
References (for if you were too busy to click them above or missed them, someone just told me links are hard to see, sorry!):
- Pocket App
- How To Make the Most Out of Evernote Web Clipper.
- I’ve Been Using Evernote All Wrong. Here’s Why It’s Actually Amazing.