Stop me if this sounds familiar:

You were excited to dive into blogging. Maybe you were inexperienced, but you pushed ahead, spurred on by the prospect of boosting your brand’s visibility, reaching out to new readers, and maybe even inspiring people.

But now, your page views are running dry, and so are your ideas.

Or maybe you’re new to blogging, and want to start off on the right foot and maximize your blog’s impact and connect with your readers. In either case, quality content is key, and creating it consistently begins with cultivating the right habits and attitudes.

But before you can come up with content, you have to know how to communicate with your audience. With our three secrets for thinking like a professional blogger, you’ll be on your way to good content every time.

Step One: Read

If you are not a reader, you will never be a good writer. It’s that simple. You wouldn’t buy a painting from someone with no art in her home, or trust a slob to teach you dining etiquette, so why should anybody read your writing if you never bother to read anybody else’s?

Reading is the best writing instructor, but there’s no need to spend hours pouring over the classics if you’re out of practice,. Essays, blogs and articles can be mini-lessons on craft and technique, and adapt easily to your schedule. Seek out topics that interest you, and fit them into your downtime; on the subway, on your lunch break, or even before bed.

If a piece strikes you, bookmark it. Later, study it. Find passages that move you and examine how they fit into the piece as a whole. Look how they use rhetoric, sentence structure, If you’re up to it, try to translate them into your own writing.

Step Two: Keep Yourself Open to Inspiration

If your writing process takes place begins and ends at your desk (and if your “process” looks more like “staring at a blinking cursor until you think of something to write”) then you are doing it wrong.

Inspiration doesn’t come in packages, and it definitely doesn’t have a 24-hour hotline. It comes unexpectedly, in fits and starts. It can come from anywhere.

But one place it probably won’t come from is your computer, so turn off your phone, leave your desk and go exploring. Take in the sounds, the smells, the colors of the world. Watch people. Let your thoughts flow with the scenery.

Keep a notebook and pen handy, or come up with a reliable way to record your thoughts when inspiration strikes. Even if an idea is incomplete, even if it doesn’t quite make sense, have a way to get it out before it vanishes. You’ll be amazed how often one idea can lead to another if you stay open to the possibilities, and how much writing you can finish before you even get back to your desk.

Step Three: Find the Narrative

If your post was a bore for you to write, I guarantee it will be a chore for your audience to read.

Like it or not, your mood influences how your writing feels, and nothing kills a reader’s good mood faster than dull content. If you really, really don’t want to update that day and treat it like a slog, it will be one.  Not only can a bad attitude toward your content can not only hurt your blog; it can cripple your brand.

On the other hand, enthusiasm for a topic projects energy and movement into its presentation. If you approach a piece with passion, you are far more likely to stoke that passion in others.

Of course, if you’re writing for a company or organization blog, you can’t always control the subject matter, so how do you find the “wow” in all that “blah”? By finding the human element.

By telling a story.

Instead of letting a dull topic sap your strength, try stepping back to see the bigger narrative beyond it. What does this mean for your reader? What challenges are present, and how were they overcome? Why should we care?

Focus on human beings and how the topic relates to them. Describe them, quote them, show them reacting and feeling to your topic. Extracting the human narrative in the details is crucial for making a strong emotional connection with your audience. Once you can get it down to a science, you can make compelling content out of just about anything.

Check back next Thursday for tips on applying these habits to your blog, and how to use them to maximize your content’s potential!