Reflect Before You Blog: What Is It I Really Want To Say?

Sometimes we want to simply jump into our writing. We get in front of the blank screen, and we want to dive into our topic with two feet. We have our tea ready, we’re at our desk, and we have one hour set aside. We are determined that we are going to “get this done.”

This is a great approach, even motivating and inspiring! Some people write best by writing on the spot, and diving in, and letting the writing process take over. Everything flows from brain, to fingers, to paper or screen. You find yourself in a wonderful flow that is working. Others write more clearly and succinctly when they’ve had time to reflect on their topic. For me, it depends on what I am writing about. For a how-to blog story like this one, I might write on the spot. If I was reflecting on a more personal journey or lifestyle topic, or a trip I took, I would likely reflect first, either on paper, in a journal, or even quietly in thought, giving myself time to process the story I am telling.

Imagine for example, that you are a travel blogger, writing a blog post about a trip to Cancun. I choose this place, because it’s a trip I took with a friend years ago, and we stayed at a resort for a week, and also visited some really fun night clubs and danced the night away every evening. It’s rare I go away to retreats, but that was a ray of sunshine in my bank of memories, both literally and figuratively.

I remember so many moments from that trip, that it’s hard to know where to begin. If I simply sat down and started writing about this topic, I would be all over the place, like a bag of marbles. I would want to write about the sky-blue water, the banana daiquiris with just enough sweetness to convince me I was dreaming, the daily dance parties they hosted beside the pool, the lush rooms with tiny gechos that clung to our balcony stucco, the indoor resort places (tall palms swaying indoors, smell of salty ocean warmth, fresh lemon pork and ribs cooking in the dining area … and so forth).

So much to write about, such a large part of my heart, where would I start?

Best steps to reflecting before blogging:

One way I love to deal with this dilemma (it’s a good dilemma to have by the way), is to reflect, reflect, reflect. Draw on that inner part of you. I would start by sitting down and closing my eyes, and remember all that I could remember.

1) Spend ten minutes just allowing yourself to go back in your mind, until you feel like you are right there, experiencing it all over again. See it, imagine it, zone in one something that stands out to you as memorable.

2) Another step is to reflect in your journal. Take a few minutes first to make a list. Writing down quickly (brainstorm) on one or two pages, everything that comes to mind about your blog topic, and every detail you would like to tell your audience.

3) Or write reflectively–ask yourself some questions, and answer them on the page: what was my favourite moment in the trip, what categories could I write under, what details or descriptions would bring this trip alive to my audience, what was one of my dearest moments from the trip that I will remember forever. And so forth. Write anything that comes to mind–you are not editing at this point, and instead, you are free writing.

If you get stuck, write in your journal: “what is it that I am really trying to say?” And keep answering that question. This will help you focus and narrow in on what is most important for you to tell your blog audience. Trust me, when you do this, your writing will be more authentic and connecting, and your audience will stay in your blog stories and on your website longer. They will, quite simply, be more engaged.

After reflecting, you might well find that you have not just one blog story, but many blog stories. You might be able to write a series on that one vacation. You might end up with posts fitting under multiple categories, such as the flight, the accommodations, the family experience, the social experience, the dining and food experience, the weather, the beaches, the day trips, the culture and islanders, and more.

When we write, we need to think about what it is we really want to say. Each of us has made inner connections with our blog topic that are going to be different from someone else’s. This is what makes you a unique blogger, with a unique voice and style of writing all your own. Trust your inner voice. Trust your heart to tell you what is most important for you to share. I might want to write about the palm trees and you might want to write about the maple salmon dinner you loved. Trust your intuition, and trust your answer to the question: What is it I really want to say?

When you reflect before you write, and find that one nugget of gold, that moment that resonates deeply with you still today, it will resonate with your reader as well. And they will keep coming back for more.

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Some stories from home, some from travel adventures (usually in autumn), some happening in community, friendship and faith, and some about the vulnerable, lonely and excluded. To honour them because they have changed me for the better and taught me how to love more fully and be loved more fully. Some days are great, some good, some not always good. But overall, it's been a beautiful journey so far, and I feel more like myself every day. -- Debra, writer / photographer / blogger / traveller

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