Creating a Blog with Heart and Soul

“It’s free, it doesn’t matter if anyone reads it… it’s one of the top five career decisions I’ve ever made in terms of having a practice that resonates with the people who I need it to resonate with that I can do forever…” [1][2]

 

Those were the words of Seth Godin – author of 17 books, writer of more than 10,000 blog posts, and member of the Direct Marketing Hall of Fame. He’s not talking about LinkedIn profile hacks. He’s not talking about passing out his business cards to strangers. He’s talking about blogging.

Blogging? That’s so 2005.

And it’s so 2010, so 2015, and so 2020. Writing has been around for as long as mankind has been putting pen to paper. And as long as mankind is putting finger to keyboard, blogging will exist.

When Seth Godin talks, I listen. When Seth Godin talks about blogging, I listen closely. And after listening to him talk time and again about why blogging is so great, I started a one. The benefits have been profound.

Some Benevolent Benefits of Blogging:

  • Blogging makes you more aware of what you’re thinking about.
  • Blogging makes you notice things – things you wouldn’t have noticed if you weren’t going to write about them.
  • Blogging helps you articulate what you’ve been thinking about and noticing.
  • Blogging is one of the best ways for people to see what kind of work you’re doing.
  • Blogging keeps you on the hook. Because it’s public, you’re automatically inclined to hold your writing to a higher standard.

A blog is your piece of digital real-estate – a place where you get to write about whatever you want to write about. Except, you probably shouldn’t write about whatever you want to write about. This is going to be public, after all.

So what should you blog about?

The things that you do.

Are you raising two kids, married to a first responder, maintaining an active lifestyle for you and your family? Blog about it.

Do you notice changes in culture? Blog about it.

Are you a storyteller from Northern Ireland, interviewing people who’ve begun working from home? Blog about it.

A note on Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Unless you’re writing a blog for a company, ignore everything about this acronym. (Except for my explanation on how it works, below.)

How SEO works:

  1. You – the blogger – type certain words or groups of words onto your blog. (For example, if you’re a fitness blogger, ‘Search Engine Optimized’ words would include ‘keto’ or ‘crossfit’).
  2. Someone types those words or groups of words into Google.
  3. Google lists your blog on the first page of the search results. (This is important. Nobody looks at the third page of Google search results.)

“But that sounds like the perfect way to get people to see my blog, I’d be crazy to ignore this.” The point isn’t to merely get people to see your blog. The point of blogging (or doing anything creative) is to use muscles that you haven’t used in who knows how long. I’m not talking about the muscles in your abdomen. I’m talking about the muscles in your brain – muscles you flex by using your imagination.

And how are you supposed to use your imagination when creating a blog? How are you supposed to express yourself if you’re blogging about something like golfing?

The answer is simple and terrifying.

Just be yourself.

It’s the most flowery, whimsical phrase while simultaneously being one of the most daunting, scary things that we could ever be asked to do. Here’s another flowery, whimsical phrase, one that’s less scary. “Pour your heart and soul into it.” We usually say this about something artistic, like an opera. But it’s possible to pour your heart and soul into into something less artistic, like your blog about golfing.

Blogging is an act of self-expression. Self-expression is about having the guts to remove the parts of what you’ve created that don’t remind you of yourself.

Keep this principle in mind while I take you through the anatomy of your blog.

Blog Anatomy

Your blog has only two parts: the design, and the writing.

Part One – The Design

When people visit your blog, what they see first isn’t what you’ve written. They see how it’s designed, formatted, structured. Their eyes will dart across the screen, examining every element of your blog, deciding whether it’s worth their time to read what you’ve written.

The design of your blog is going to reflect the writing on your blog, and the writing on your blog is going to reflect the design of your blog.

Spend time thinking about what your tastes are. This is tricky because tastes change over time. Right now, you might be into angular shapes and dark colors, but six months from now you might think that round shapes and lighter colors are better.

Maybe you don’t have any taste. That’s fine. If it’s any solace to your insecurity about your lack of taste, here’s what my favorite blog used to look like.

tim-ferriss-2007[3]

Nobody is expecting you to be the Picasso of blog design. You can easily avoid any Wayback Machine embarrassment by choosing a design with simple colors and shapes. And for the font, pick one that’s readable (please, no Papyrus).

Part Two – The Writing

You’re going to blog about the things that you do. But when you sit down to write, you will probably notice that writing about the things that you do is difficult. And that’s odd, because the things that you do most often, are, well, the things that you do most often. If you do these things most often, why is it difficult to write about them?

Writing about what you do is about translating what has becoming routine, automatic, unconscious. Think about how hard it is for you to explain something that you do with muscle memory. Someone asks you how you do it, and you can’t explain it, because it’s something that you can do automatically. The best way to get better at writing about what you do is to write about what you do. The second best way is to read about writing.

Here are some articles and books that I’ve used to become a better writer. Ignore these at your detriment.

The Day You Became a Better Writer – A short blog post by the creator of Dilbert.

Timeless Advice on Writing: The Collected Wisdom of Great Writers – If you want to become a better writer, consider your next six hours gone. Down the rabbit hole you go…

On Writing Well – Writing without having read this book is like driving a car without a steering wheel.

The Elements of Style – Again, like driving a car without a steering wheel.

giphy
The best way to get better at writing is to write.

Social media is temporary, but blogging is forever.

“Why should I create a blog, when I can just write on Facebook?”

Remember MySpace? It started as a social media site for people who love music. Now, nobody has any idea what MySpace is. Social media sites come and go. Someday, Facebook won’t exist. (At least not in the form that it’s in now.) If you start a blog today, fifteen years from now it’ll still exist.

Start a blog. Not another social media page.

Conclusion – Who’s stopping you from starting?

You. You and all of your doubt and insecurity.

“I doubt anyone will read this.” It doesn’t matter. The point isn’t to get people to see your blog. The point is to flex your creative muscles on a regular basis.

“But I’m not good enough at ______” This doesn’t matter, either. Just begin. The best way to get better at _____ is to start doing it. The second best way is to read about doing it. If you’re worried about not being a good writer, I’ve linked four resources that I’ve used to improve my writing. Two of them are free. One of them will link you to dozens of other useful articles on writing.

“I don’t believe I can/should/would…” Then keep believing that. Blogging isn’t something to be proselytized. I’m not here to change what you believe in. If you don’t want to create a blog, that’s fine. If you do, I have one more bit of advice for you.

If you don’t enjoy doing it, stop. If nobody reads it, don’t stop.


Citations:
[1] – Seth Godin and Tom peters on Blogging.
[2] – Transcript from episode 138 of The Tim Ferris Show.
[3] – The Old Designs of Big Blogs.

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