Blogging isn't just writing some words and hitting "publish." It is like that for the first few days of blogging but every blogger grows out of it soon. We begin to organize our ideas and posting schedule, create graphics, and find ways to blog better.

Since I started blogging in January 2016, I have tried out several tools to aid my blogging and make my posts better. I kept things minimal sometimes and used everything at other times. Now, I'm in a healthy space where I use only the tools that help me with the exact things I want to do.

I often try new blogging tools but not all of them stick with me through different times. Only a few tools are versatile and provide structure while being flexible. It takes time to go through different types of tools and see what is comfortable and helps you do better.

In this post, I'm sharing all of the blogging tools that make a significant difference in my blogging and explaining why they work for me. Some of them are conventional and some of them are unconventional but their effect on my process is undeniable.

You will a lot of stories and random facts about me because I'm in a chatty mood today and I have things to say for every point. Get a drink and settle down!

1. laptop

I know, this is an obvious tool but I want to mention it because where you choose to write makes a difference.

Blogging does not have to be done on a laptop or PC. People blog on iPad or their phones too. Back when I started blogging and was posting almost every day, I often blogged on my phone because I would find time to write on the bus to college. I couldn't carry my laptop because it wasn't just mine.

A few months back when I published every day on my dump blog to get out of a blogging slump, I used my iPad to blog when I was travelling. It was actually fun to write on the iPad because it was removed from my main tool—my laptop—and hence my mood also changed. However, I went back to blogging on my laptop after the slump.

You must have heard of maintaining zones for specific activities. If we only sleep on the bed, our brain will associate it with sleep. If we eat and work on the bed too, the intention of the space isn't clear. Similarly, having rooms for sleeping and working helps.

I maintain my laptop as a "blogging zone." I text and use social media mostly on my phone and watch YouTube and TV shows/movies on my iPad. I try to use my laptop only for writing or other life admin things, not for leisure. There is some overlap here and there but I mostly keep the areas separate. Hence, whenever I open my laptop now, my brain is automatically like "okay, what work can we do?" Whenever I don't have life things, I default to blogging—writing, ideation, maintenance, promotion, etc.

I usually don't blog on my desk. During the pandemic, my desk was for work. Now, I work two days at home and I work at my desk. So, the desk is associated with working on my job and I don't easily go into the "writing zone" at the desk. I either change the layout of my bed and blog there or I blog on the couch.

Because I don't blog on the desk, I don't use an external keyboard. I did purchase one about a year and I tried using it. It was nice but it did allow me the flexibility to blog anywhere and it is now gathering dust. Even if I am at the desk, I prefer using the laptop's in-built keyboard because it doesn't make much sound. I'm also used to a Mac keyboard layout so switching to the keyboard I own is a hindrance because it has the Windows layout.

Blogging is about the words you type but to do that well, you have to be comfortable and in a specific state of mind. You have to think of your workspace as a tool because it makes a big difference.

an illustration drawing of a girl using her laptop

2. apple notes

Over the years, I've used a ton of note-taking to quickly jot down ideas. For the longest time, I used Evernote but its interface wasn't easy or appealing often. Once I started using Notion, it had become my go-to place to store notes. But I found the mobile to be pretty slow for quick notes. It took time to load the page and every second matters when an idea strikes. I ended up using Whatsapp group chats (with only me) or Telegram personal chats to save ideas.

I got an iPhone a few months back and the in-built Apple Notes app that came with it has been a godsend. It looks like a very simple app but has many features. It works for me because I can make quick notes using shortcuts and organize the notes into relevant folders later. So I jot down ideas and later move them into "blog" or "newsletter" sections depending on the idea. I actually use the app for all of my note-taking, not just for blog ideas. But yeah, nowadays the first place my new ideas go is into Apple Notes.

It's simple when I need to write notes quickly but it easily allows a ton of formatting and saving other media into the note. I really like that it syncs pretty quickly across my devices and allows me to keep working on a note seamlessly. I prefer the interface over Evernote and it's much faster than note-taking in Notion. The search function is also very handy. I like that I can search for something in the spotlight and the iPhone searches through notes to find any that match, I don't need to open the app to search. And of course, the organization into folders and sub-folders is super easy. It also allows tags to be attached to notes so I can search with tags.

I'll admit: I did quite a bit of research before deciding to switch completely to Apple Notes. As I mentioned above, I used a hodgepodge of different apps, and my ideas were scattered. It required effort to collate the ideas into one place regularly. That system was clearly not working for me but moving all of my data to an app and committing to it was daunting. So, I did research and I used Apple Notes for a month on a trial basis before committing to it.

Building a Second Brain by Tiago Forte gave me the information and guidance to understand what I need and choose the right app. You can read more about how I chose the app here.

3. Notion

Although blogging is a part of my life, I like having everything related to blogging in a separate space—especially as the amount of data grows. Organizing blogging things similar to life things does not work for me. I started using Notion a few years back and it has helped my blogging tremendously.

I use Notion to:

  • Keep track of my ideas for blogging and newsletter. Although I jot down the ideas in Apple Notes now, I regularly move them to Notion so that I have one growing database of creative ideas that are separate from everything else.
  • Draft my blog posts. After the initial notes dump, all of the other things are done on Notion. I have a Notion template that I use for drafting my posts which includes sections for references, SEO checklists, etc. I don't always make detailed drafts but I usually at least outline on Notion before I begin writing the post. If you want to know more, I have a post on writing blog posts using Notion.
  • Note down any blogging references like my colour palette or image sizes of my theme.
  • Keep track of maintenance tasks. I have checklists for weekly and monthly maintenance tasks on the main page and also note down any improvements I want to make to old posts.
  • Note SEO research things. If I do very in-depth SEO research (which happens rarely), I create Notion pages for each post and note things there. I like having them saved so that I can refer later for any related posts or if I'm improving those posts.
  • Maintain monthly reports. Every month, I make notes on the numbers along with insights or experiments that I tried. I am building a database of this so that I look at trends and patterns over time.
  • Maintain blog schedule/programme. I use a Kanban board to visually represent where I'm at with different posts (yet to write, writing, illustrating, etc.) and it helps me to not miss any step before I publish the post.

Notion has become one of my most important blogging tools. I have the Notion desktop app and I usually only use that. I don't like the mobile interface but it's fine since I usually use the app only when I'm on the laptop.

illustration of a person in a sweater typing on a laptop by the window which shows a tree

4. BlueHost

I self-host my blog and use BlueHost as my hosting provider. There are many factors to choosing a provider. I chose BlueHost because it is affordable for me and provides a ton of features. The support is very good too.

I've been using BlueHost for a couple of years now but haven't explored all that it offers. It does offer a lot, though, and there has always been a solution for any of my requirements. Recently, I used the staging environment feature that BlueHost and it was so easy to use. I revamped my blog completely behind the scenes and stabilized it without affecting the current live site.

BlueHost is also well-integrated with WordPress and provides many features and plugins out-of-the-box. Most of the features they provide don't require extra payment. Everything I needed was provided with my regular subscription. And I like that BlueHost has many solutions in case something goes wrong with the site.

It does have some cons but it works fine and I don't see the need to shell out a ton to use other providers.

5. WordPress

I've been on WordPress since the day I started blogging and it's great. I have never felt like switching to another platform. Sure, it has disadvantages like theme options while on the free plan but the interface is great.

I use WordPress for:

  • Managing my site, of course.
  • Writing posts. I draft on Notion but write the full post on the WordPress editor. I don't like using any other place to write the final post because I like to format little bits as I write. I also like to see the preview as I write sometimes.
  • Checking blog statistics. While I have Google Analytics, I much prefer the WordPress statistics dashboard. It's simpler and yet has all the information that I need.
  • Keeping up with comments. I have the Jetpack app on my phone to keep up with notifications and reply to comments.

Since I'm self-hosted, I have added a bunch of plugins to help manage my site better on WordPress. The plugins are updated pretty often. Because it's popular, most related services provide easy-to-use plugins to integrate their site with WordPress (like Convertkit, Buy Me a Coffee, etc.) and we don't have to do any setup.

I like that WordPress sends an email whenever plugins are updated or the WordPress version is updated (I have automatic updates on). So in case something breaks without me doing anything, I can backtrack and find the reason. In case the site is broken after a plugin is updated, WordPress notifies me and mentions the reason, and provides a "safe mode" to log into and fix the plugin and hence the site. Jetpack also monitors the site 24/7 so in case the site goes down, it immediately sends a notification on the app and an email.

The bulk of my time on WordPress is spent writing blog posts. I switched to WordPress's Gutenberg/block editor when it was in beta and I haven't looked back since. It has many bugs in beta but the WP team worked to fix them soon and now it's stable with new features being added regularly. I love the way blocks work, the different blocks that are available, and the option to use the code editor if I want to customize anything. The team is working hard to make sure that we don't need to know HTML and CSS, though.

illustration of a typewriter with paper loaded in it.

6. spotify and youtube

Many bloggers use Spotify and YouTube while blogging but they generally don't get included in the list of blogging tools. They make a ton of difference to the blogging process, though.

I don't always listen to music while blogging. Sometimes, I like to talk out loud as I type. It helps me make sure that the sentences sound right together. But most of the time, I listen to music while blogging. Music helps me get into the blogging headspace and be focused on writing.

I generally listen to Lo-Fi or slow music. For some kinds of posts, I listen to music with words (on low volume) but most of the time, it's instrumentals and melody most of the time. I have a few saved playlists that I go for and I rarely try new music while blogging. I can't stay in the headspace if unfamiliar music is playing because a part of my mind is concentrating on the music and familiarising it.

Some of my playlists have been with me for years. Because I've listened to them many times while blogging, my brain has kind of associated them with blogging. So, if I'm struggling to get into the writing zone, I play a list that I've listened to the most and it helps. The longer I've known a playlist, the easier it is to get into the headspace.

Here are my playlists, feel free to save and use them for your blogging!

  • My lofi mixes playlist on YouTube. A collection of mixes that I've found randomly over the years that never fail to put me into the blogging mood.
  • Indie/Indie-Folk Compilation -Autumn/Fall (2020, 2021, 2022) by alexrainbirdmusic on Spotify. Clo introduced me to the 2020 playlist back when it was the latest playlist. I've waited every year for the next one and they're all amazing. I listened to the 2020 one so many times that it's my #1 blogging playlist.
  • sumedha's slow playlist. I maintain two playlists of all the songs that I have ever liked. This is the one with all the slow songs. Whenever I like new slow songs and become familiar enough with them, I move them into this playlist so it is ever-growing. When I'm writing long blog posts, I listen to this because it's 16 hours long and hence I will never run out of music haha.

7. discord

This is probably the most unconventional tool I use. This is pretty specific to my life but I can't not mention it because it genuinely helps my blogging.

Here's a little background: my friends from college are huge gamers and they've been actively playing League of Legends ever since I became friends with them. Not all of them played but enough did so the others picked it up too. In fact, I played it for a short while too, before quitting. They always play while on Discord and eventually, they started playing almost every day. Whether it was planned or not, even if 2 people who play the game are on the voice channel in our server, they start a game and others soon join. They switch games sometimes but it's almost always League of Legends.

It became the only way they spent time together online. If I wanted to spend time with them, I had to either play the game myself or just be in the voice channel and have random conversations in the middle of their games. Of course, they talk about other things and make jokes while playing so I can participate a little. I used to complain a lot about them playing all the time and not just hanging out, but I couldn't do anything about it.

So, in order to spend time with my friends, I would be on the voice channel and blog while they played video games. I was also the designated DJ so I played music for all of us. If their game talk got too annoying, I would increase the music's volume to drown them out. I would be able to hear them a little so that if they say my name loudly, I would realize and adjust the volume. It was basically music and them talking and those sounds drowned out everything else. It became a focused headspace for me.

Now, I'm so used to blogging while being on a Discord voice channel with them and almost drowning out their chatter with music, that I can almost instantly get into the blogging mood when I join them nowadays. (I'm on VC with them right now!) I stopped complaining about them playing so much when I realized that it helps me blog ?

I actively join them when they're playing now. I join Discord only on the laptop and my laptop is also associated with blogging so after I join them, I feel like blogging automatically. Otherwise, if I'm already blogging and they start playing, I join and set the music. I don't cue music for them anymore and instead just play on Spotify for myself while on the call with them. Whenever I'm stuck with writing, I make conversation. I don't mind them asking me something in the middle because they never pull my attention for long since they're playing and most of their focus is on the game. We're all also good with staying quiet on the VC if we have nothing to talk about so it works great.

This is a very specific blogging "tool" for me that will probably not apply to anybody else. But yeah, I'm so used to it now that it helps me blog.

illustration of a person using laptop and making notes

8. grammarly

Here's a bad habit of mine: I barely proofread what I write. Every post of mine takes at least 3 days to write and whenever I pick it up after a break, I skim what I've written so far before continuing. I also randomly scroll and read and edit what I wrote. By the time I'm done with my post, I don't want to look at it again for at least a week. And I don't plan my posts well in advance to have a week to proofread.

Hence, I rely completely on Grammarly. I have the plugin installed in my Safari browser to catch things as I type them. After I'm done with the entire post—when I'm skimming and formatting everything properly—I open the post on Chrome and I have Grammarly installed there as well to catch anything that might have gotten missed. Sometimes, it flags slags and specific terms so I have to be careful to not blindly accept the suggestions.

I also rely on Grammarly to correct my sentences. Although I read a ton of books and know English pretty well, my sentences can be formed weirdly when I'm writing. I try to write as I talk to keep my blogging voice consistent but my talking English is very different from actual English. Here in India, we use a ton of local slang and our sentences aren't formed as they should be. Because we frequently switch between languages and we speak our native languages at home, we bring those sentence-formation ways to English.

For example, instead of saying "is she there?", I say "there she is?" We place things differently. Bangalore slang is a whole different thing, too. We use a lot of "only" and "simply" and "no?" Although I try to write properly, some sentences are still clearly Indian/Bangalorean. It takes conscious effort to write an entire post properly. I often rewrite my sentences because of this.

So, Grammarly. It doesn't always catch my wrong sentences but it gets most of them. That's good enough. I can't be bothered to proofread, and I will never catch some things because I don't know that the way I speak isn't right.

9. rank math seo plugin

Although I knew quite a bit about SEO, optimizing my posts for search engines became easier after I started using the Rank Math SEO plugin. I initially tried the Yoast SEO plugin because it was recommended by other bloggers but I didn't like it. I didn't like that it pointed out many of my sentences as "very long" and the control freak in me couldn't ignore so many warnings. Long sentences are my writing style! This blog is literally named the "wordy" habitat. It also wasn't helpful in other ways and wasn't very simple to follow.

Rank Math SEO provides a neat little checklist in the WordPress editor with exact requirements and it doesn't make the points seem very important. I like that it shows "Basic SEO" and "Additional" to signify which is more important. It also focuses on the actual basics of SEO and not things like "long sentences." It does have a content readability section seeing the length of paragraphs but that point isn't given much importance (which is correct). I prefer the scoring system of Rank Math over Yoast as well.

I follow the checklist and move on. Rank Math helps me not spend too much time on SEO while getting the basics right. If I really want to, I do more optimization but I generally publish the post if Rank Math gives a green score.

If you want to know more about SEO strategy and optimization process, check out this post!

illustration of a person blogging in a cafe with an open book next to them and a cup of coffee

10. procreate

When I went self-hosted, I decided to draw all of my graphics and not use any stock images. So I draw all of the illustrations on this blog using Procreate on iPad. Since I draw all of my graphics, I'm able to maintain a cohesive theme and a colour palette as well.

I started out with a drawing tablet and Krita. But after seeing all the Procreate videos, I caved and got an iPad and Apple Pencil for it. It's great. It's convenient, fun, and easy, and there are a TON of tutorials. There are several brushes available for free and other random things. I usually listen to music or an audiobook while drawing.

I draw pretty often because I make a new illustration for every new blog post (except for Kdrama reviews). Hence, Procreate is a pretty important blogging tool for me.

11. social media

My blog is always the primary thing and all of the related social media are secondary. Although they have different content, I treat them as extensions of the blog.

I promote blog posts on Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest.

I used to schedule promotion tweets but after Twitter's algorithm changed to push down tweets with links, I stopped. I now post promote on Twitter rarely. I post links on Instagram stories whenever new blog posts go up. If I don't have a new post, I share a link to an old post. And on Pinterest, I try to pin whenever I can.

Out of all of them, Pinterest drives the most traffic to this blog right now. I think it's because it's a visual search engine and not exactly social media. Pinterest is all about Pinterest SEO and trying enough times so that at least one pin blows up.

While I got over the "promote only new posts" mindset on Twitter pretty early, I kept to it with Instagram. Lately, I've been good at promoting old posts as well. It's unfair that we spend so much time creating content and promote it only until another new post is up. Blogs are long-form and long-term content. They can easily be shared again and again. I'm slowly working to be better at it on Instagram.

12. canva

Before I decided to draw my graphics, I used stock photos and created post headers. I started using Canva then. But the application is very versatile and can do basically everything related to graphics.

I now use Canva for making Pinterest images and items for the resource library. Why use Google Docs and have a plain document when there's Canva with all the cool and cute designs?

After using Canva, I think I tried using one other similar application and it was not as convenient as this one. If you don't use Canva yet, you have to. It's not only for people working in graphic design or who need it for work. I've used it to create Instagram stories, posts, random collages, and more. I love that it has so many design options for everything we might need and it takes care of the sizes too. And if something custom is required, super easy to make it.

13. Feedly

I used to keep up with blogs on the WordPress reader. It's user-friendly convenient and made it easy to find new blogs. But it cannot be used to follow blogs that aren't on WordPress. Once I started following more self-hosted blogs that don't use WordPress, I clearly needed another way to keep track of new posts.

Someone mentioned Feedly (I forgot who) so I tried it and it stuck. Feedly is now the only app I use to keep up with blogs. Earlier, I used to track some with Twitter too but now it's just Feedly. Whenever I find a cool new blog, I follow them on this app.

I use the free version which allows 3 types of categories. So I sort all of the blogs follow into blogs, friends, and self-hosted. Self-hosted is explanatory. Often the self-hosted blogs I follow are of different niches or post different types of content so I like to read them when I'm in a specific mood. Friends are of course the blogs run by people I am friends with online. The third, "blogs", is everything else.

I like that there's an option to automatically open posts on the browser instead of within the app. Within the Feedly app—and even in the WordPress reader—all the formatting doesn't come through and the blog aesthetic pretty much gets lost. Hence, I prefer reading on the browser. I like looking at the blog aesthetic while reading, it creates a vibe. And every blog post is written with that vibe in mind so reading it without the aesthetic is basically not experiencing all of it.

Feedly is convenient because the interface is simple and the app is available for every device. I have its application on all 3 of my devices. Almost all blogs are available to be followed on it as well (unless the blog doesn't have an RSS feed).

Keeping up with blogs has also become a comfort activity after switching to Feedly because it's separate from everything else. Earlier, I would get distracted on WP reader and switch to my dashboard or start writing a new post. But now, I sit down with a drink and read all of the posts one by one through this app. There's nothing else on the app that will distract me.

14 blogging tools that help me blog better pinterest image

be wordy with me!

What blogging tools do you use? What are the stories behind them? Is there any weird tool that works for you (like Discord for me)? Do you have any suggestions for me to try? Tell me in the comments!

photo of Sumedha

Sumedha spends her days reading books, bingeing Kdramas, drawing illustrations, and blogging while listening to Lo-Fi music. Read more ➔

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  • thecritiquesofafangirl says:

    This is such a great and comprehensive post! I love hopping the blog discord you have created, working together with people helps me stay so much more productive than I usually am!
    Thank you for the recommending Blue Host, I have been actively searching for a host for when I do go self-hosted and this seems like a good option!
    I also need to jump on the notion train but am so lazy to make my own layouts ?

    I use goodnotes to brainstorm my posts and it has been of great help and use pocket to save important and favorite posts for quick access! Other than that I don't really have any specific tools I use for blogging.

    Reply ➔
    • sumedha @ the wordy habitat says:

      Thank you, Mek! Oh so Notion definitely isn't for ~everyone~. I set up a layout when I had the time and I haven't changed it in 2 years because it's working fine and I don't have the time to redo. But if I were starting out now, I probably wouldn't use Notion. Definitely suggest checking out other apps if Notion looks daunting to you.

      Reply ➔
      • thecritiquesofafangirl says:

        I like the flexibility it has to offer but am always open to new options for helping me organise my blog though haven’t found something that works well for me tbh ?

        Reply ➔
  • yourwordsmyink says:

    Honestly Notion is a life-saver. I committed to fully using it this year and I am loving it so far. Also something that helps me is Wordtune, great for catching those pesky passive voice sentences.

    Reply ➔
  • Raji says:

    Great post Sumedha! I use Notion for planning and scheduling my blog posts too, as well as tracking my TBR. I really want to try Feedly now, it sounds way more convenient than the WordPress Reader. Thanks for sharing!

    Reply ➔