Overcoming the Fear of Writing
Just as with anything in life, writing takes practice and dedication. Unless you’ve been in the swing of writing and publishing content in the past, the idea of writing blog posts on a regular schedule can seem like a foreign concept. Let’s look at some tips and best practices on how to overcome this fear.
Write down everything, even if it’s just a fleeting thought! I always make sure to jot down ideas that pop into my head at random times throughout the day. The Notes app on my iPhone is where I store all my ideas, ranging from a simple headline for a future post to a couple of sentences that I can revisit later to flesh out into a complete idea. I sometimes even delete the ideas I write because it doesn’t stretch beyond the couple of sentences I wrote down. However, I’m actually writing both Part 1 and Part 2 of this article on my phone because the idea came to me in bed late tonight! If you don’t have any ideas of your own, start by taking an article or court decision you recently read and talk about it with a friend. Jot down some notes or record the conversation and you can work that into a blog post.
Sometimes it’s daunting to hit that ‘Publish’ button on your own. Try reaching out to an established blogger you already follow and see if they take submissions for guest posts. It’s a great way to see if you enjoy the more casual approach to non-academic writing. Plus, it will open you up to receiving feedback and advice from someone already finding success with running a blog. This person can easily become a mentor to you as you progress forward.
Building a Brand & Finding Your Voice
One of the most important things you can do before you start writing is to develop a plan for your brand and voice. I highly encourage you to sit down and take about 30-45 minutes to decided on some goals you want to achieve from blogging. These will be vital in helping to steer the direction of your blog and help keep you motivated when you forget to post for a month or two and want to get back at it. For some inspiration, check out the ABA Journal’s Blawg Directory to see what others are doing in the legal blogging community. For the “best of the best,” also check out their annual listing of the Blawg 100.
Start with deciding the focus of your brand. Are you interested in healthcare law? Media and technology law? The future of the legal profession? Fashion for lawyers? Take a moment and decide what you’re passionate about and make that part of your brand and the topic you’ll predominantly cover through your blog. It can be one or more topics, too. Just don’t stretch yourself too thin and try to cover too much. Also, make sure you don’t focus too narrowly and have nothing to talk about. Try to spend some of this time to generate at least 10 to 15 articles you can publish. If you can’t come up with that many, then you should likely expand the scope of your brand or find something else.
Don’t be afraid to have a voice. As I recently discussed with Evan Brown, an attorney in Chicago, IL and founder of InternetCases.com, legal blogging can open doors and help establish your brand in a particular area of the legal profession. Some questions to consider include: Do you want to convey a casual or academic writing style? Do you want to have a strong opinion about certain topics that are relevant, timely or controversial? Do you want to provide case summaries that adhere to traditional journalistic, non-bias standards? For my blog, I decided to have a consistently casual voice and not push a political or controversial view point, but still lightly reporting on timely events or decisions. Decide what works best for you and will help push your career forward while not hurting or hindering your future opportunities.
Deciding on Content
What should you write about? There are an endless number of possibilities! The best part of self-publishing through your own blog is that the restrictions of traditional distribution methods are shattered. You don’t have to wait for an article to be peer-reviewed. You don’t have to wait months before publication. You don’t have to have permission or be accepted to law review or journal staff. You’re in control.
Still stuck on ideas for content? Here are some options to get you started:
- Recent case summaries
- Law student take on current events
- Life as a law student / voice of diversity
You have the flexibility to choose one or all of the above examples, or even create your own additional ideas. Once you’ve decided on the content you’ll produce, it’s important to deliver it in a creative manner.
Don’t just have paragraphs of text. Utilize bold and italics as a way to break up long paragraphs and highlight important points you’re trying to convey. It’s also easy to emphasize your own quotable lines or incorporate actual quotes from third parties since most blog platforms have special formatting for block quotes. I also recommend you utilize public domain or creative commons licensed photographs to enhance your blog posts and add some visuals to what is otherwise bland text. You can read more about that in my other blog post, Hey! That’s My Image!
Shameless Self-Promotion: Building An Audience
If you’ve made it this far… congratulations! You will likely have your first one or two articles ready to publish and send out across the interwebs in no time. As I mentioned in Part 1, it’s important to reach as many people with your writings as possible. This can be accomplished through posting the same article across multiple platforms, sharing on social media, or self-posting to communities like Reddit.
Create a checklist of actions you take after publishing your articles that includes sharing, asking others to share, or posting to specific online communities. This will help you stay organized and follow a routine that can be adapted as you find what methods of audience building work best for your content. Think of some influencers within the legal community that you can ask to share (either via a re-tweet or an e-mail blast). Don’t be afraid to put in the time for self-promotion. If you don’t shout your own praises from the rooftops, no one else will either.