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Stop Being A Blogging Zombie: Think Differently for Unique Results

zombie.jpgIn this guest post Seth Waite from Blogussion talks about how to think differently in order to develop a Unique blog. Image by Ateo Fiel.

Last night after turning off the lights in my room I staggered and stumbled from the light switch across the room to my soft and cozy bed. On the way over though I made sure to walk slowly, take small steps, and hold my arms out in front of me. You know the zombie walk I am talking about!

Getting closer and closer to the bed I suddenly nailed my face into our very tall bed post. OUCH! Not only did the bed post hurt my face but it really irritated me. I mean I had been doing everything right!

My arms were out in front of me, I was taking baby steps, and I was sure that I had been doing everything right. So how could this happen to me?

Painfully lying in bed, I made a startling realization. I was doing it all wrong.  My efforts to block myself by holding my arms out in front of me like some “zombie” had been to guard off unwanted crashes, bangs, and bed posts. But this move totally left my face exposed.

To combat the effects of “smashed face”, I thought up a new way to walk in the dark. Just hold your arms out straight in front of you with your hands locked together. It sort of creates a triangle. This new method not only protects my body but also my face. I now travel in the dark much safer.

In a similar vein, we as bloggers often move through the dark. We try to work online with our blogs, ebooks, social media accounts and stat counters in the same “zombie” like fashion.

We do the same things everyone else does and expect to find success doing them. Bloggers and Web Entrepreneurs that have found success are doing it different. I would suggest that they have “hit their face” long ago and found the smarter way to do things.

Here are some great examples of thinking outside the box to find solutions to your problems. Just look and see how different the ideas are and then imagine the possibilities you have in front of you.

This is why you’re fat. If the name does not intrigue you the multitude of bacon wrapped, humongous sized meals will. The site has the most simple idea ever. Create posts with pictures of crazy, greasy-goodness and maybe write a 10 word description of what’s in it. Their original idea gets them over 64,000 visits and 100,000 pageviews a day! It’s no wonder with a slogan like “where dreams become heart attacks”.

Another example can be seen in the Kansas, USA where local towns are giving away property to help build their populations and economy. The idea is different and pretty original in today’s market. (by the way… if you like the prairie and work online, this could be an awesome way to live inexpensively)

Creating interesting ideas through new means was something that the Crowley Webb team did well. They took only $20,000 and developed one of the most brilliant advertising campaigns ever seen. Ads were placed on billboards all over the city of Buffalo, New York asking to see an “Angel in Red” again, from a man named “William”. The billboards continued as a series of requests culminating in a packed pub waiting for “William” and the “Angel in Red” to meet. Sales sky-rocketed and the advertising story made the small pub famous throughout the city. (background)

You see blogging and working online is the same as these examples. The subjects had a desired goal to achieve and they realized that the ordinary way of doing things just wasn’t going to cut it, so they made something original.

Creating a unique blog is all about finding the elements your blog needs to become a stand-alone example of your expertise and authority on the subject. The resource needs to be useful and different then anything else that is being offered, and the rest is history.

You can try to make this change on your own or eventually be forced into it with a very surprising, and painful, awakening. If that face smooshing experience doesn’t do it you will be destined for more bangs and crashes along the way. The only way to change your blogging future is to think uniquely. Stop being a zombie!

Seth Waite is the writer who still has a bump on his forehead. To read more from Seth’s anti-zombie attack kit or new blog tips, check out Blogussion where he writes regularly. He can also be found avoiding that big whale being carried by very small birds on his twitter account Seth1492

How to Create Compelling Content by Inspiring Action

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Image by Anirudh Koul

As we come to towards to the end of this series on how to create compelling blog content I want to examine a topic that is fairly and squarely inspired by readers of ProBlogger.

When I first brainstormed topics for this series I came up with the previous 7 topics (I’ll listed below). I was pretty pleased with the result but wanted to get reader feedback before launching into the series and so asked readers to share their ideas on what makes content compelling.

Many ideas were shared by readers but one theme that emerged that I’d not considered myself was that of ACTION. Let me share one of the comments that stood out to me the most. It’s from Brad (no link left – I’ve also changed the formatting slightly).

“Compelling content also moves me to DO something. It’s the kind of content that I get to the end of and feel inspired to do something with.

That response might be to comment on the post (respond) but often it’s much more than that. It might be

  • to change the way I live
  • to try something new
  • to share the link to the content with a friend
  • to experiment with a new technique
  • to have a conversation
  • to read more about the topic

The action I take as a result of the content will differ depending upon what it is but compelling content by definition compels me to DO something as a result of reading it.”

I think Brad’s summed up the sentiment of many others who left comments about compelling content being actionable (there are more comments below).

As he mentions – the actions you ask readers take could be any number of things and it will vary a lot from blog post to blog post.

An Example: The Power of ‘Homework’

I personally have seen the power of creating Actionable Content lately. Regular readers of this blog will know that I’ve put a lot more effort lately into creating ‘homework’ for readers. Instead of just writing a theoretical post about how to do something I’ve been adding ‘Homework’ sections into my posts that give readers a ‘task’ or a ‘challenge’ for them to go away and implement.

This is best illustrated in 31 Days to Build a Better Blog which gives readers some theory and an action item for each day of a month.

The feedback on this technique has been fantastic. Instead of people coming to my blog to ‘learn’ and increase their knowledge (something that can be quite passive) they’re now leaving my blog to go away and try something for themselves.

Any teacher will tell you that teaching becomes much more effective when you teach someone to do something and then get that person to do it for themselves. I’m hearing from readers taking the ‘homework’ that I’m setting that this is the case.

Your Homework Today

Today your homework is twofold:

1. Read 12 Tips to SNAP Readers out of Passivity – this post is all about calling readers to Action. It shares WHY Calls to Action are important on a blog but also gives 12 tips on HOW to do it.

2. Call Your Readers to DO something – the action that you’re calling people to DO will vary a lot from blog to blog.

  • it could be to call them to answer a question and leave a comment
  • it could be that you want to give your readers a little homework to do (as I’m doing here in this post)
  • it could be calling them to buy something from you (or an affiliate product)
  • it could be to vote in a poll
  • it could be to go away and have a conversation about the topic you’ve written about
  • it could be to subscribe to your blog
  • it could be to make a donation to a cause you’re supporting

Really it could be anything – big or small but write something that attempts to pull your readers out of a passive state into something more active.

What Others Said About Compelling Content and ACTION

  • “Compelling content, to me, is something that drives me to action. During the whole article/video I am actively thinking about what the implications are for the information that I am given.” – Wallpapers
  • “Content is compelling if it makes me change my lifestyle. If I read a blog and don’t learn something that will change how I behave after I leave the blog, then I never go back.” – Shaun
  • “To me compelling content is actionable content or rare insight.” – Manshu
  • “Compelling content rouses that most precious human resource – action.” – Scott Gould
  • “I am compelled by content that informs me, changes my mind, reminds me, motivates me, inspires me, and/or gives me practical action steps to apply immediately.” – Donna
  • “asks me/ compels me to solve a problem of some kind, or to take some kind of an action.” – Krissy

Read the Full Series on Creating Compelling Content on a Blog

Forget the Fatal Flaws of Blogging

confusion.jpgIn this guest post Seth Waite from Blogussion shares some thoughts on two fatal flaws that most bloggers struggle with. Image by helgasms.

Blogging has been a passion of mine now for almost two years. Learning the basics took time and developing my skills has been even longer, but I have learned how to overcome most bloggers 2 fatal flaws, wisdom and effort.

Wisdom

Most bloggers spend tons of time surfing, stumbling, twittering and clicking around each day, but learn very little. Sure they have seen the lists of tips, pictures of cats, FAIL blogs, and a million get rich quick schemes but very little of them actually learn something. This is where the “Blog Tips” industry comes into play.

Designed to teach bloggers about how to blog better, meta blogs offer targeted information for how to actually succeed online. So the the information is definitely available.

A lot of the information is even read by blogging hopefuls. The problem likes in the application of the knowledge. It is not enough to read a post and go back to messing with your plug-ins. You have to apply the information directly to your blog.

The way to do that is by learning the “Act Now” principle. “Act Now” just means that whenever you learn something new, within reason, you act upon it. So today when you read another great post online, follow it through and try it out. With some experience under your belt the knowledge becomes real. Eventually over time this knowledge and experience of application become wisdom.

Effort

Other then wisdom, too many bloggers forget the effort that it takes to be successful. I know this is not something you want to hear, but you probably should anyways. Blogging takes serious work. Anything that is worth something does. There is no “instant” money maker, theory, or plug-in that can ever take the place of real effort.

Effort is more then just putting in time as well. Too many bloggers already put in a lot of time. Often I see posts about “Giving Up my Blog, No One Reads it Anyways”.

I always think that is so sad. With more time and effort in the things that are “wise”, we can produce better content and create a lasting impression on other bloggers and our visitors.

Effort is doing something that is difficult but worth it. For example, writing a post with over 2,000 words on 30 Ways to Make Money Blogging was hard. It took a lot of time and effort to come up with the descriptions, find the links and provide a resource worth reading.

But it was completely worth it. Reading comments from visitors to my blog made me see that the time and most importantly the effort in doing the hard thing paid off. That is what effort is all about. Doing the hard thing that is best for your blog. That will be different for every blog, but almost always it will be some way to uniquely provide an incredible resource for your readers.

If you feel like you are doing one of these principles very well, then keep going with that one and work on the other principle. Finding success comes from the proper application of both of them.

You cannot show your wisdom in niche without the effort of providing the resources, and you cannot show your effort without the wisdom to put into your resources.

So to improve your blogging skills and forget the fatal flaws that might stop you from succeeding, remember to focus on the “Act Now” principle and giving 100% effort. When you combine the two you will begin to see enormous growth in yourself as a blogger, and success for your blog.

The Blogger who is furiously trying to fix these fatal flaws is Seth Waite. You can connect with him at the blog he writes on Blogussion and his twitter account Seth1492.

Two Free Videos (and a Special Offer) for Bloggers and Twitter Users

Today two videos were released that involved me and that I think would be of interest to readers.

video-1.png1. Video interview with Gideon Shalwick – in this video Gideon interviewed me on a range of aspects of blogging.

In the video I talk a little about how I got started but the rest of the interview is packed with a range of tips on how to improve a blog.

The interview goes for just over 33 minutes and includes a special bonus offer that Gideon is giving for anyone who buys my 31 Days to Build a Better Blog Workbook through his affiliate link.

video-2.png2. Twitter Tips for Businesses (and Individuals) – this video is me talking to a set of slides/presentation that I’ve been giving lately at conferences and internally for a number of businesses.

The video goes for around 40 minutes and while it was developed for businesses wanting to get started with Twitter it covers a lot of tips that I think would be relevant to bloggers and individuals with other agendas. The first section covers how I find Twitter benefits my blogging but moves on to a lot of more practical tips on how to use Twitter Effectively.

In total these videos give you over an hour of content – I hope you enjoy them!

How to Write Sharp and Snappy Blog Posts

In this post Dan Kaufman from Bar Zine shares some tips on writing Sharp Snappy Blog Posts.

When you write a story you’re lucky if you can get a reader beyond the first paragraph. This is true in print and it’s even worse online (a recent study by Jacob Neilson at http://tinyurl.com/mubtmr makes for interesting reading). After all, your post is just one out of millions online – and the difference can lie in how well written your copy is.

Writing is a craft that involves a continual learning process.

Having been a journalist and editor for the past 15 years (and I’m now a blogger as well) I still find myself learning – but there are some hard and fast techniques to make your copy snappier and more engaging. Here are some of the basics:

1) Write Short Sentences

Next time you pick up a book and can’t put it down, stop and have a look at the sentence length – you’ll often find the sentences are short and punchy. 32 words is the maximum for an article’s first sentence and while there are exceptions they ought to be rare. Aim to only have one point per sentence.

2) Use the Active Voice

Have a look at the following two sentences:

The cat chases the mouse

and

The mouse is being chased by the cat

Which one is punchier?

It’s the former because the subject (the cat) is doing something to the object (the mouse). As such, it makes sense to have the subject appear in the sentence before the object. In other words, the sentence is written using the active voice (whereas “The mouse is being chased by the cat” is passive).

Using the active voice is more direct and requires less words – and the less words, the snappier the sentence becomes.

3) Write in the Present Tense

Which of the following headlines seems punchier?

PM halts peace talks

Or

PM halted peace talks

Unless your blog post takes the form of a hard news story you should use the present tense. Even hard news headlines are written in the present tense to make them seem more immediate.

4) Use Positive Language

This means avoiding negative words such as no, not and didn’t when appropriate. You’ll see why when you look at the following example:

Troops have not pulled out of war zone

Vs

Troops stay in war zone

The bottom example reads better since, as with using active voice, making sentences positive often makes them snappier. We also changed the tense from past to present.

5) Write in a conversational tone

A lot of people don’t realise that good writing means using a conversational tone – albeit with better grammar than you would use when talking to a friend in a bar.

Avoid hype, pretentious words, jargon and acronyms – instead of impressing readers it’s a turn off. You should never talk down to your reader by using language they may not understand and you should never assume they know something they may not. Unless you’re trying to spin something or confuse, use simple, clear and direct language. As the old saying goes, if you confuse your readers you lose your readers.

George Orwell put it another way in The Politics of the English Language.

“The great enemy of clear language is insincerity,” he wrote. “When there is a gap between one’s real and one’s declared aims, one turns as it were instinctively to long words and exhausted idioms, like a cuttlefish squirting out ink.”

Dan Kaufman publishes Bar Zine (barzine.com.au), where he reviews Sydney bars. He also writes for The Sydney Morning Herald and teaches online journalism at UTS.

Inject Yourself into Your Content – Principle # 7 of Creating Compelling Content

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As I look back on the posts that have connected most with my readers it is often posts in which I’ve shared something of my own personal story and experience that seem to draw readers into a deeper engagement.

Sometimes it’s not what you write but who you are and the stories that you tell that seem to make content compelling.

Many readers don’t just want information – they want an emotional connection and they want to know that someone real is on the other end of what they’re writing.

To put it another way – Compelling content often is produced by compelling people.

Unfortunately many blogs can be faceless and anonymous ‘pages of content’ that fail to go beyond the conveying of information to creating connections.

Be Yourself

This doesn’t mean you necessarily have to be the most interesting person in the world – just be real – just be authentic. Tell your readers about your experiences, share your successes and failures, give them a glimpse into who you are when you’re not doing what they normally see you do, consider using photos and video of you that help you tell your stories.

Be Relevant

Of course you don’t want to throw in personal stories just for the sake of it – work at finding ways to share yourself in your content in ways that are relevant to the topic you’re writing about. Tell about your experiences and opinions on your topic rather than just reporting on the topic in a detached kind of way.

2 Examples

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1. The Master Himself – If you’re looking for a good example of someone who does this – check out Chris Brogan. He’s compelling because he writes smart stuff and useful content – but it’s taken to another level because he shares so transparently about who he is and how he’s growing and developing in the things he’s writing about. He’s constantly sharing his stories, feelings and experiences but also writing (and creating video and pictorial) content in a very personable way.

2. A Personal Example - Let me share a quick video (3.39 min) now that is both an example of how I’ve previously (a year ago) injected something of myself (and my family) into my blog but also examines some basic principles of getting personal on a blog:

Essential Reading

Here’s a link to the series of posts on getting personal on your blogs that I mentioned in the video. It contains 11 ways to get more personal that I think would make great reading if you’re interested in exploring this topic further.

A Note for Anonymous Bloggers

Keep in mind that this series of posts on creating compelling content contains a series of ‘principles’ that won’t all apply to every blog.

I’m very aware that each blogger has their own style and that some choose to blog anonymously or don’t want to strongly tie their own personal brand to their blog. However even an anonymous blogger can develop a ‘personal’ voice and share experiences/stories from their lives that don’t reveal who they are or present them as an egomaniac.

Your Homework for Today

Today’s task is simple – post something on your blog with a personal flavor. Do keep it on topic for your blog but share a story, shoot a video, post a picture, recount an experience that you’ve had, link to where people can connect with you in a more personal setting (perhaps it’s about sharing your Twitter account), share a failure or success you’ve had, share something humorous. It doesn’t really matter what it is – the key is to find a way to do it so that it remains on topic but creates a ‘connection’ with readers. Please do share what you do in comments below – I’d love to hear how it goes and check it out!

What You Said on the Topic

When I asked readers to share what makes compelling content to them one of the strongest themes that came out of the 114 comments was that compelling content is personal. Many people talked about how it’s about touching emotions and telling stories. Here’s just a handful of the many comments that picked up this theme:

  • “When the content tells a story I feel compelled to read it. The story could be about a mistake or a benefit the writer has experienced. For me, it makes it more compelling if I can relate to the story as well. Perhaps I have experienced something similar.” – Andrew
  • “I like to see contents that are written in the casual-style. I also like to see some humor and personal experiences in the content.” – Bash Bosh
  • “I like it when it’s personal and it’s directed at me. It makes me pay attention to it more. It also makes me feel that the author isn’t just some kind of robot.” – The Man Revolution
  • “The bloggers that reveal more about themselves, and get intimate with their readers is what I appreciate the most.” – Beth
  • “Content that is personable, true from the blogger’s heart, sincere, genuine, unadulterated and unfiltered will really draw me in. – Celes
  • “an honest and authentic style always grabs the readers attention. Whether an exciting adventure, a funny retelling of a story, some new angle or intro to new topic, tutorial or just plain informational, it’s most important if the author writes w/o an agenda, is open minded, honest and here’s that word again, authentic.” – XO
  • “Apart from content that has utility (i.e., something i can use related to the blog subject matter), I think I’m looking for a connection. It boils down to creating an organic appeal via stories, humor, self-disclosure, oops!, self-reflection, etc.” – Jed
  • “I look for a personal voice in a web site. One of the things I like about problogger, and Darren’s writing in particular, is the “I” we are all warned so heavily to stay away from. “I’ve identified 7 principles”; what do YOU have to say? Now we’re in a conversation instead of me just dumbly nodding my head and shelling out dough for a magic bullet that only does my business collateral damage and never helps.” – Laurie

The Power of Taking Extra Time to Create Content

time-compelling-content.pngToday we’re examining principle #6 of creating compelling content for your blog but to be honest I feel really strange writing it – because it’s too easy and really should go without saying….

However it’s something I know most bloggers struggle with, despite knowing it – so here goes….

Creating compelling content for a blog doesn’t just happen.

Unless you’re something of a freak (or have a great gift) creating compelling content takes a lot of time and effort. Really it is the same as any creative process – it takes time.

Tangent – over the weekend just gone I had the honor to attend the world premier of an amazing (and controversial) documentary by the name of the 10 Conditions of Love (you can see a trailer for it here on YouTube). The film has been in the headlines here in Melbourne as a result of the Chinese trying to stop it being shown.

The director (Jeff Daniels) is a friend and we know he’s put a great deal of work into creating the documentary. In fact by day he works as a secondary school teacher and so his documentary work has largely been an after hours passion. This particularly film took 7 years to make!

I reflected on the way home from seeing the film to my wife that apart from it being an inspiring story that one of the things that made the biggest impact for me was Jeff’s dedication to the task. 7 years of dreaming, researching, filming, editing…. to create a 55 minute end result.

Having seen the film I feel the 7 years of crafting this film was well worth it – it’s a thought provoking and inspiring tale (can you tell I’m a fan?) – but in addition to the challenging story I was challenged by Jeff’s own incredible effort in putting the film together. I came away asking myself whether I put a similar kind of time and effort into the creation of my own content?

Great blog posts don’t just happen. However when I talk to bloggers about their blogging workflow I get the distinct impression that many of us don’t actually put a lot of time aside to develop our posts. While there are times when whipping out a quick post on a basic idea can connect with your readership I’ve found that it is when I set aside extended periods of time to work on a post that it raises in quality to the next level.

I know the pressure of feeling you have to get out a post to keep your posting schedule moving but why not commit to working on one post each week that you work on each day over the week.

Your Homework for Today:

It’s the start of another week – so today choose a larger topic that will take some thought and effort and set aside time each day over the coming week to really put some effort into the writing of the post. Set aside at least 10-15 minutes each day of this week to think about that post

  • to research what others are saying on the topic
  • to look at it from new angles and form a unique opinion on the topic
  • to find examples and quotes to add new depth to the post
  • to check it for errors
  • to make it ‘look’ good (by finding pictures and taking extra time to format it well)

To help you through this process I’ve outlined 10 points in the process of writing a blog post that taking a little extra time can help you to improve your post.

You don’t need to spend 7 years on the post but see what happens when instead of whipping together a post on the run you take time to ‘craft’ it into something more.

Note: Not every blog needs to have long in depth posts to be successful. Many successful blogs take the approach of creating lots of short, sharp and ‘link’ based content – however even many of these throw in longer more thoughtful posts from time to time. If this isn’t the ‘style’ of your blog then I understand your hesitation in mixing things up – but there’s no harm in trying something new on your blog from time to time. It’s all a part of experimenting with new voices and styles – you never know, you might just be surprised by the result!

How To Promote Your Blog with a Giveaway

A guest post from Olivia from Frugal Bon Vivant (a blog about enjoying the good life on a budget).

We’ve already established that doing a giveaway can be an excellent way to promote your blog. So now that you’ve decided to do a giveaway – and it’s been live for three hours with zero entries – what do you do? If your goal is to reach new readers you’ll need to promote the giveaway – especially if you don’t have an established reader base yet. Here are 6 tips for promoting your blog giveaway:

1. Give away something of value

This sounds like a given, but there are so many small hodgepodge giveaways out there already (personally, I love Etsy giveaways, but hardcore promotion of a $5 item isn’t going to earn you points with most people). A good rule of thumb is a $50 minimum value – if you’re planning to promote to a new audience. Plus, many blog giveaway promotion sites require the prize value to be $50 or greater.

2. Keep it simple!

Make sure the entry requirements scale with the giveaway’s value. For example, if you’re giving away a $50 gift card make the entry requirements quick & easy, like “leave a comment with the words ‘i heart cupcakes!’” Requiring six steps to enter is a quick way to see your incoming visitors bounce. Requiring just a comment and then allowing people to get “bonus points” by following you on Twitter, re-tweeting, friending on Facebook, and subscribing via RSS will create much more goodwill. In my experience, only 17% of the entrants did a bonus option.

3. Keep it short

I found that one week is a good time limit. If you let it drag on too long, your readers will stray, but if it’s too short you won’t get as much promotion and traffic out of your giveaway.

4. Leverage your network

Promote to your existing blog network (via Twitter, Facebook Pages, reminders at the bottom of new posts etc). When appropriate, share the giveaway with your personal network too. Don’t be pushy or repetitive, but posting a link on your personal Facebook page with a “Hey guys, I’m giving away xxx on my blog tomorrow!” can generate quite a bit of traffic from friends and acquaintances that are interested in you, but might not have checked out your blog before.

5. Submit your giveaway to blogsblog-giveaway-promotion.png

There are many blogs devoted to listing giveaways, but most of them are a waste of time. I submitted my giveaway to about 30 sweepstakes and giveaway websites, and only saw multiple entries from four sites, but overall those 4 sites generated 85% of my contest entries! (see chart) Another idea is to look for other bloggers in your niche who are doing giveaways and swap links — by mentioning each others’ giveaways. Remember, this needs to beneficial for both of you, so think about what would make you want to swap, if another blogger requested the same from you
.

6. Expect attrition

Anytime you’re doing a giveaway, you’re going to get more traffic, followers, subscribers etc, but when the giveaway is over some of them are inevitably going to drop you like third period French. Fortunately, there will still be some entrants who saw enough value in your blog to stick around. The day my giveaway ended, I had 6x the RSS subscribers and followers on Twitter than what I had started with. Within a few days though, 10% of them unsubscribed/unfollowed – which to me was an acceptable attrition rate and I was stoked to see that I was creating enough value after the giveaway for the 90% of my new “friends” who stayed.

If you’re still in the planning stages of your giveaway, try to think of creative ways to do a cheap giveaway… Have you won anything recently? Or received a gift that you can’t return? I gave away a Sansa slotRadio mp3 player (valued at $99) that I won from another blog giveaway that had only 21 entries – fairly good odds – so shipping was my only cost.

How have you successfully promoted your blog giveaway?

I Heard Blogging Was Dead. I’m Glad I Didn’t Listen

A Guest post by Josh Hanagarne – World’s Strongest Librarian

Howdy to you, you handsome and gorgeous Problogger readers and assorted excellent geniuses. First off, let me say that after my first two guest posts here, your comments and emails have flattered me to the point of blushing for days on end. If you are to be trusted, it sounds like you think I give a good pep talk.

I’ve got a big one for you today, and some very exciting news. But you only get to continue reading if you agree that blogging is still alive and kicking. Otherwise, take a hike and go Tweet. Of course, if you’re here, you probably think blogging has some life in it yet. Pat yourself on the back and have a cookie. You’re smart.

I do Tweet, by the way. I’m just not going to let it replace my little blog that I love so much.

Humble Beginnings

It’s been about 6 weeks since my first Problogger post, How To Land Big Interviews When Your Blog Is Small. Because World’s Strongest Librarian is relatively new (about 3.5 months now), I’ve focused more on the “whys” of blogging than the “hows,” while I learn. Anybody can blog about the process of blogging because we are all familiar with it.

I was plugging away with daily posts, soliciting guests and occasionally making a fool of myself. My series How To Have Tourette’s picked up a lot of steam and I received tons of emails from Tourettics and parents of children with Tourette’s. The links kept coming and the spam grew exponentially, so I figured I was on the right track.

The attention was nice, but more importantly, blogging was fun. That’s the only way you can do a good post every day—if you look forward to it and enjoy the process.

People said I was progressing nicely and I took their word for it because I’m a vulture for compliments. Other people said they were confused (and irritated) by how quickly I was progressing and that they didn’t “get it” at all.

Speaking of that…I don’t care about that. I write for myself first.

Then one day I woke up and read an email that made me scream so loudly that I woke my toddler up.

Not-So-Humble Results

The email was from a very famous blogger who writes dazzling books. It basically said—and I am paraphrasing here—“Your blog caught my eye and I think there’s a book in it. I’m copying my agent on this email.”

After regaining consciousness, I went to work and tried to breathe. The agent emailed me later that day. A couple of days after that I signed contracts to be represented by a real-life literary agency, not the one that has been contacting me in my head for 10 years.

I am currently in the process of finishing the book proposal with my agent (that still makes me feel too fancy and I usually say “the agent,” no offense to Lisa if she’s reading this) for a memoir with the working title of The World’s Strongest Librarian.

There are no guarantees. Maybe that book will never be published and maybe a black hole will open under my desk today and we’ll lose contact because I’m on my way to the other side of the universe. But nothing about this has been typical so far and I’m not going to start second guessing myself now.

Neither should you.

Nobody is more surprised by this than me

I’ve looked at that email every day since and tried to anticipate the questions I’d be asked. “Why you?”

To that I say, “I don’t know.”

“Ok, well…what’s your secret?”

“Uh…ignoring everyone’s advice? Maybe?” Honestly, there’s no plan. I write stuff I love and if other people like it, that’s a wonderful bonus.

Once my blog started rolling and gathering hype, the emails about how I wasn’t focused enough started to roll in. I don’t want to focus. I think it’s boring. And when the traffic stops coming, I’ll start worrying…or just go do something else.

To give you an idea of just how unfocused I’ve been, here’s the spectrum of posts you might expect to see on a week at World’s Strongest Librarian:

  • A video about making your wrists stronger
  • Articles and videos about battling Tourette’s Syndrome
  • A book review of Where The Wild Things Are
  • My sister telling a story about a one-eyed goldfish at Wal-Mart

and so on.

I wasn’t sure what to think about their comments. It seemed like things were going okay.

In hindsight, I now say: who cares what I think at this point? I sure don’t. All those little voices that tell me I’m not good enough—I’m forwarding them to the people who already have faith in me. People with a lot more clout than I do who seem to have total confidence in what I’m doing on World’s Strongest Librarian.

You’re no different

It’s true, so don’t protest. If your blog is making progress, than keep blogging. Put your head down and go. As long as you enjoy it, who knows what might happen? Do you? No, you don’t!

This is my favorite compliment I’ve been given:

I read all of your book reviews even though I don’t like to read. I also read all of your strength training and fitness material even though I hate exercising and don’t plan on starting. Keep it coming.

When I asked this person to elaborate, they said:

I read because you write it, not because of what it says.

I didn’t plan that. How could you? You can’t because you’re not in anyone else’s head. People can always surprise you and there’s certainly no accounting for taste. I’m not sure why any of this has happened but none of that means I’m going to put my hat in my hands and reject all the good will insisting that people are all wrong about me.

I mean, come on: Is that really the point you’re trying to make? That you’re just not good enough? I didn’t think so. Then why do we spend so much time correcting people when the compliment us? Quit fussing and go write something that you love and that people can use.

Who do we think we are?

Three and a half months ago I pushed “publish” for the first time in my WordPress Control Panel. My goal was to have 100 daily readers in one year and to make myself laugh. That’s it. Two weeks ago I signed a contract with a literary agent.

You’re always going to be asking yourself, “Who do I think I am? Why should anyone listen to me?” Track down the insecure void that produces those thoughts and throw some acid on it.

Or you can decide that yes, blogging is dead and no longer opens doors for anyone. I see no signs of that.

Once you get over your nagging blogging-blues-nobody-loves-me thought loop, come listen to my voice for a while. I’m nobody, but since I’m here, here’s what I say:

Why not you?

Seriously, why not you? If you can actually explain to me why nobody should listen to you to the point where I agree, then you have no business blogging anyway and should go do something that you love. It will make you happier and there will be a tiny fraction less noise on the Web.

One of the most satisfying aspects of blogging is that I am constantly surprised. I’m surprised by the things I write, the people I meet, and the very real relationships and friends that I’ve cultivated online. Most of the surprises are small, but some are big enough to scream about.

If you’re committed to making a go at this, keep plugging away, take the steps you read about on Problogger, ask questions, and enjoy yourself.

The only thing sadder than wasting time at something you don’t enjoy is wasting time and not getting results.If you enjoy your blogging, no matter how modest it is, it’s not a waste. The results will come. I see blogging as one more way we learn about ourselves. One more mirror to look into.

The Internet makes it very easy for people to do favors for each other. Go meet everyone you can. One morning, you might receive an email from someone who thinks you are worth more than you do. When they tell you that, don’t argue.

Go go go.

Today.

Now.

Don’t look back

Don’t second guess.

You’re not the passenger, you’re the driver.

Refuse to deal with life. Make it deal with you.

I’ll be doing the same. Thank you all so much for the continued support and encouragement. I will throw each of you a parade with 1000 dancing elephant if the book ever gets published.

Josh Hanagarne writes World’s Strongest Librarian, a blog to help you get stronger, get smarter, and live better… every day. For bonus articles, videos, and original music, please subscribe to the Stronger, Smarter, Better Newsletter. If you know someone with Tourette’s Syndrome, please let them know about the blog. They need to know that someone out there “gets it.”