I’ve been writing blog posts for a little over two years now, but I haven’t been blogging, exactly, for nearly as long. For my day job, I write and edit post copy, then upload the formatted text to WordPress. Beyond that, it’s out of my hands.
I spent all of 2019 learning how to do all the other stuff involved with running a blog. And there is a lot of other stuff; far more than I expected. I did a lot of screwing up, scrapping, and starting over, but now I feel like I’ve figured out, at the very least, how to develop and organize blog post ideas, flesh those ideas into proper posts, and upload them to my actual blog.
Today, I want to talk about the blogging tools I currently use. These tools aren’t necessarily designed with blogging in mind, but they’re the things I use to plan, design, write, and upload posts.
An Important Note About Tools
There’s a very common misconception in the creative world that, in order to create quality content, you need high-quality (i.e. expensive) tools. The artist requires photoshop, the writer requires Scrivener, and so on.
This simply isn’t true. The tool itself is not important; it is your relationship with that tool that matters. If working within a certain creative environment doesn’t feel natural to you, even with time and practice, then it doesn’t matter how powerful or expensive it is. In fact, more powerful tools can even inhibit productivity because of how complicated they are to use.
Most of the blogging tools I use are free. Any money I’ve spent on my blogging hobby has been 100% optional. I chose to buy a domain and hosting because I wanted it, but I could have just as easily used WordPress.com and been happy with it. In fact, sometimes I wish I had started there instead of… Blogger.
But that’s neither here nor there. Without further ado, here are the blogging tools I currently use.
Notion was what really changed my blogging game. In Notion, I can plan my blog posts in a table, which I can also view as a Kanban board (think Trello), and a calendar. I can plot when I want to upload things on my deadline calendar, scribble ideas down whenever I have them and organize them by priority (how soon I want to post them) and status (how far along I am in the writing/publishing process). I even write the first drafts directly in Notion, since I can copy and paste them into WordPress without losing any of my formatting.
Notion is, essentially, my back stage. It’s where the behind-the-scenes magic happens that keeps my blog running like a reasonably-well-oiled machine. I use Notion for a lot of things but, so far, it’s been most intuitive as a blogging tool.
If Notion is the back of the house, then WordPress is the front of the house. Once I have a complete, 80% ready draft, I paste it into WordPress to polish it up and make it all nice for publication.
Most of the final edits I do are less about the content itself—although I do proofread and tweak things as needed during this stage—and more about making sure my post is web-ready. This includes things like checking my SEO and readability, which I use the Yoast plugin to do. I also add any media I want to include, categorize and tag the post, add links (if I haven’t already), and write any excerpts for search engines or social media.
Pen and Paper
Call me old fashioned if you must but, yes, I still use good old-fashioned ink on paper for certain elements of my blog, particularly the early planning and drafting stages. Without the clarion call of the internet and all its distractions, I’m free to work unfettered. I can scribble ideas haphazardly on my wall calendar (or my actual wall: my bedroom has chalkboard paint on the walls) or doodle in the margins of my notebook and do all sorts of free-associative nonsense that I’ve struggled to translate to a digital medium.
My mind is a chaotic and frightening place; sometimes, it’s just easier to vomit some ink onto a sheet of paper and try to make sense of that than attempting to tidy up my thoughts neatly enough that I can put them on a text document.
Canva is my one blogging tool that doesn’t actually have a lot to do with the blogging process itself. It’s a graphic design app for web and mobile and it is, hands down, my favorite graphic design app. It’s free to use but I pay for the subscription to reap bonus features like the brand kit and the magic resize tool. The free version doesn’t feel functionally limited the way other freemium software can, though. In fact, some months, I’m perfectly happy with just the free version and cancel my subscription to save a couple of bucks. It’s flexible like that.
I use Canva to make all of my blog graphics, featured images, social media images, and any other visual elements I need. The sheer number of templates available for all kinds of projects is staggering. There’s even limited GIF functionality now.
I had a rocky start getting used to Canva when I first discovered it in college, but we’re best friends now. I can’t imagine using anything else; in fact, without Canva, this might just be a text-only blog.
Miscellaneous Blogging Tools
I use a few other supplementary tools, too.
- CoSchedule’s Headline Analyzer: To ensure my blog titles are appropriately interesting and SEO-friendly.
- Capitalize My Title: Because remembering how to capitalize things can be a pain in the ass.
- PHOTOMOSH: An edgy photo editor that can do glitch effects and other cool things.
- Grammarly: A good backup proofreader with a needlessly expensive premium version I do not use.
How I Actually Use These Blogging Tools
So, what does my actual blogging workflow look like? It can be a little all over the place, but it more or less goes like this:
- Get an idea and scribble it down somewhere, usually in Notion.
- Write the first draft of a post in Notion.
- Copy post to WordPress for clean-up.
- Design graphics in Canva and add them to the post.
- Schedule the finished post in WordPress (and immediately forget about it.)
- Get excited when I see it auto-post because TECHNOLOGY IS INCREDIBLE!!!
A few times a month, I also go through my calendar and idea log to see if any particular topics might be timely or appropriate and make a point to schedule them accordingly. For example, my last post was about cool robots, in honor of Isaac Asimov’s birthday and Science Fiction Day.
Let me state once more for the record that I am not a blogging expert. I’m not really an expert in anything! In fact, I’m still very much a blogging novice, or at least, I feel that way. I have a lot more to learn but I’m excited to do so and even more excited to share my adventures with you guys. Maybe you’ll learn something from me! Or, maybe I’ll learn something from you. 🙂
Bloggers out there: What blogging tools do you use? Let me know in the comments or hit me up on Twitter! I love hearing from readers.