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Take a New Road with Your Blog

This guest post is by Lars Holdgaard of Gode Karakterer.

So you have a blog which has some kind of self-defined success. You are maybe making a good portion of money and you can see the visitors numbers rising. Your position in Google is also doing better and better every month, and everything is progressing.

But maybe it doesn’t feel right. You can see the results, but it still doesn’t feel right. Writing every blog post feels like a pain, and you postpone it as much as possible. Actually, you would much rather just write about something else. But your current audience are used to your current way of doing things—so, what to do?

Let’s take a case

Let’s take a look at Timothy Ferris as he is a good case for this subject. I bet most of you know who he is, but for those who don’t, you should really consider buying his book The 4-Hour Work Week.

He wrote that book in 2007. It’s a book about building a lifestyle earning money from passive income, so you can spend the time just the way you want it. Back when the book became popular, his blog became massively popular too. Every new blog post got between 50 and 100 comments within days. Tim primary posted about business ventures, productivity and tips to outsource.

However, some months before the release of his second book, The 4-Hour Body, the blog changed slightly. There were several blog posts about training, the body, and sport. Now, there could be many reasons for making this change, and of course, one of them being marketing and building up the hype for the book. But the other reason, which Tim also have revealed in interviews, is that The 4-Hour Work Week made it possible to write the book he was really passionate about—The 4-Hour Body. His biggest passion is the body.

I personally stopped following the blog at this time, because the focus was different from when I signed up and followed the blog. I know quite a lot people stopped following the blog because of this change, but at the same time, its popularity grew. So when he changed his style, more people actually came and followed Tim.

Why change style?

Why is this case interesting? I am a firm believer that you have to follow your passion. When we follow our deepest passion, we as human beings, have so much more power. We will find solutions we wouldn’t have found otherwise.

And let’s be honest: if you have been blogging on the same subject for several years, your current biggest passion has probably changed. Changing your style of blogging allows you to come closer to your current life situation. If you have been blogging about growing orchids for two years, maybe it is time to expand to sunflowers or ranunculus. As our interests change from time to time, it is very wise to question how we can change our blog’s style regularly, too.

Changing style has its consequences

However, when we change our style, it has consequences. It doesn’t matter what you do—if you change your theme, change subjects, change writing style, or anything else—it will have consequences.

Some people will definitely not like your changes. Some will most likely even hate it. If you have a fair amount of followers, some people will mail you and tell the change is the worst thing ever you’ve done in your whole life. Just look at the global rage each time Facebook makes some kind of update—everyone has to give their opinion and share it with the world.

When you change style, you will lose followers. If ProBlogger suddenly started to blog about Java programming, a fair chunk of the regular followers would most likely be upset and stop following, as the new style is not what they signed up for. This is what happened with a lot of people with Timothy Ferris.

But when you change, there is a very positive side too. You will attract new followers. As any change you make hopefully will make come closer to your passion, it will shine through. People can feel your energy and passion in your words. So something you will probably experience during change of style is a decrease in visitors for a short time span, and then it will rise again.

Case example: Maj Wismann

I’d like to show you a real life example. Maj Wismann runs the Danish sex and relationships website www.websexolog.dk. She teaches people to focus on love and the relationship before focusing on the sex.

Now, when you write about sex, there are two obvious styles you can choose. First, you can choose the boring and factual way. However, you can also choose a more subtle angle by being very direct and naughty in your communication.

When Maj started her website, she took the first approach. This attracted quite lot followers who bought her products. Maj actually made quite a lot of money from doing this, and changing her approach was really risky. But she wanted to change her tone to become more direct, to write about subjects which are taboo in a very open way—and even to write her articles using profanity!

Even though she was extremely scared about making the change, she adopted it 100%. After her old website had run for three months, she changed the style overnight. Her new style of writing was what was “real” to hear. However, she feared correctly—some of her readers did not like the new style, and she actually lost quite a lot of followers.

But a funny thing happened—the new style let her connect better with the rest of her readers. Those readers started to recommend her website, and today she has many times more subscribers than before. Now, nine months later, she has eight times more subscribers than before.

Why did this change work? It’s hard to say, but I would guess it’s because Danes are open towards sex. An open attitude towards sex and being direct, and even a bit naughty, wasn’t a problem. Doing the same trick in USA or Asia wouldn’t necessarily be a good idea.

Ways to change your style

Let’s now look at how you can change your style of blogging. Not everyone will do it the same way as Maj did, so let’s look at the options.

1. Doing nothing

The first and easiest solution is to do nothing. You can ignore your decreasing passion, and keeping on hating writing each and every blog post.

But truth is that you will most likely burn out. Even if you live from the income you earn through the blog, it won’t be suitable in the long run. Hopefully you don’t see this as an option.

2. Slow and steady change

The easiest and probably most common way is to make a slow change. Give your audience an appetizer of what you really want to write about, and move slowly toward that new position over time.

If it is a new writing style, try that. If you want to write more about cats and your current blog is about dogs, try to make some posts about cats—and make sure they are high-quality posts.

By looking at the response from your audience, you can estimate how well a radical change will be perceived. This was what Timothy Ferris did—since the launch of his blog, he had few posts about the body and health. People responded really well to these articles, and since it was his passion, he knew it would be a success.

3. A complete change

Instead of making a series of small changes over time, you can do it will a full heart. Change your style overnight, and let the followers live with it.

This will, of course, have bigger consequences than making the change slowly. This way, you can risk losing a large number of followers within a very short time span.

However, if you do it, it has its positive sides too. Yes, it is a big change—but it lets you come closer to what you really want to be doing, in a much shorter timeframe. Therefore the quality of what you do will most likely be much higher.

4. A new blog

Another option is to create a completely new blog. By making a new blog, you can keep the old audience. This is a totally risk-free option, as your old audience need not know about your new project.

However, you will have to start over. Getting visitors for a new blog can be a huge amount of work—especially because you can’t rely on the search engines for quite a while.

You have to be unique

Remember that today, more than anything, blogging success is about being unique. Just look at the comments on all these blog posts on ProBlogger—there are so many people trying to compete on the Internet. And if we are being honest, how many blogs do each of us really follow? It is primary the best ones.

Those we follow are the ones that are really exceptional and unique. Mediocrity isn’t interesting anymore, as we can go to another blog right away. As so many people have written before me, today it’s about being the best, as the competition online is fierce.

If you currently don’t love what you blog about, change. You can either change slowly, fully, or take on a new project—the most important thing is that you do change. You will lose followers, and you will hear from people telling you that you are making a mistake, but believe in yourself. Your passion will shine through, which is exactly what we need and want today.

This article was written by Lars Holdgaard. He owns two websites which both have active blogs: Gode Karakterer which helps Danish students with everything regarding to school and Mulius which is a Danish toys webshop.

9 Steps to Take When You Loathe Your Own Blog

This guest post is by Ryan Barton, author of Smart Marketing.

You’ve got an editorial calendar, you’ve scheduled blog posts weeks in advance. Look how professional you are. Well done. You’re an inspiration.

You press Publish and bask in retweets, praise, and a flood of comments. You’re “resonating” with your “tribe.” You’re prolific. You’re a cocky so-and-so.

Then it hits: the loathing.

You’re exhausted. You’re ignoring your calendar. You can’t be bothered to think about new topics. Your writer’s well is bone-dry. You’ve met the resistance and it has won.

Your writing becomes programmed (verse, verse, chorus, verse, chorus, bridge, chorus). It’s no longer art, and no longer an exercise in intellect. It lacks moxy. You’re phoning it in.

This is a low point. Have you been there?

If you bore yourself, how do you expect your readers to read, let alone share, your content?

What do you do when you loathe your own blog?

Find a way to restart, tabula rasa. And you’re the only one who can make it happen.

1. Do a design refresh

You buy new running shoes, and suddenly you want—need—to run. I must satisfy the shoes, it is their reason for existence. You buy a new car and instantly you cease dreading your hour-long commute.

It’s the same with your blog. Launch a new theme and you’ll feel the need to create new content that mirrors the sophistication of your new design. It pulls you back in and urges you forward. Clearly, your own boredom isn’t reason enough for a design overhaul, but it’ll certainly reignite your fire.

2. Narrow your focus

When I launched The Smart Marketing Blog in 2007, my posts were eclectic random. Readers didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t know what to expect. One day, a post about bus stop ads, the next day, how to set-up PDFs to open at screen height, and another day, musings on a new social network. There was no focus.

But now, when I focus only on smart marketing for small business success, my readers know what to expect. I have focus—a roadmap.

3. Take off the chains

Darren publishes daily. Sort of. Somebody on the collective ProBlogger team publishes daily. But I think he’d agree that expecting you, by yourself, to generate mind-blowing content daily is expecting too much.

At one point, I followed an editorial calendar that scheduled posts twice a week. But even those posts were rubbish. They weren’t inspired, they were the result of a self-imposed guideline. Sure, publishing more frequently drives more traffic, but also yields disappointed readers who are trying to digest your traffic-driven rubbish.

Write because you can’t help it, not because there’s a blank post to fill. Today, I write only when I can imagine giving a speech on my topic. The topic is that good. So good, I can visualize myself preaching from a soapbox. And you know what, my traffic has remained the same, despite publishing much less frequently.

4. Ship something

I don’t advocate shipping something simply for the sake of shipping; that only yields mediocrity. But shipping evokes pride and passion and a fierce sense of taking names. Last year I published my book on smart marketing for small businesses, this year I launched my newsletter, and in the months ahead I have two other books in the works. Each functions to inspire and refill my writer’s well.

Aside from your blog—because your blog is not your product, your blog supports your product—what can you create to inject that same inspiration?

5. Change your routine

Want to find new inspiration? Approach your trivial, mundane tasks in a new way. When you break your habits, you force yourself to problem-solve, expand your thinking, and consider other solutions. It’s that same thinking that yanks you out of your writer’s rut. Purposefully take the longer route to the office, travel to a foreign country, run instead of lifting weights, read a different genre book to stretch your mind, expand your palette with a new coffee brewing method, keep your phone off when it’s normally on, watch a documentary instead of that sitcom—or better yet, read a book … with pages, not a screen.

6. Change how and where you write

Last week, I sat in a dark parking lot waiting for takeout from a local eatery. I was isolated, undisturbed, and focused. So much so, I made great progress on a blog post in the matter of minutes. Just me, a journal, and a soft dome light. Working out of coffee grinder-dominated cafes doesn’t foster the same productivity. Neither does sitting in front of a television or high-traffic public venues. Sure, use the excuse that people-watching inspires you. Rubbish.

Take yourself seriously, hide yourself, sever ties to notifications, reminders, and the urge to make sure you’re always in-the-know. Your writing—your art—deserves nothing less than your undivided attention.

7. Read new, not more

How many blogs do you subscribe to? Right now, how many blog posts sit unread? If you’re no longer challenged—if you’re glazing over posts out of habit, if you’re no longer being inspired and challenged—unsubscribe and find new ways to be stimulated. Stop wondering if you’re missing out on anything, cut ties, and stretch yourself. You may be out of school, but that’s no excuse for not remaining a student.

8. Who’s your muse?

Who do you work for? Wake up for? Breathe for? Write for them. Is it your wife, your lover, your most loyal subscriber, or your unborn child? Use them as your motivation to keep driving when you’re not strong enough to persist yourself. Keep this person’s photo nearby as a reminder. Don’t get so busy that you forget why or for whom you’re working so hard.

9. Declare victory or failure

When starting a new project, name your goal. How else will you measure success? Seth said it best, “Declare one or the other, but declare.” Maybe it’s time for self-evaluation. Maybe it’s time to reflect and determine what you did right (to do it again) and what you’ll avoid the next time. Because there will be a next time. “Failure” isn’t never blogging again. No, failure is taking valuable lessons and proactively applying what you’ve learned to the next iteration of your blog.

We’re artists. We all feel the urge to tweak our logos and change our avatars. We see the same “us” every day, and we’re bored. But what we find repetitive and boring and loathe-worthy, our tribe views as consistency and resonation.

The real artists find a way to push through, put their shoulders back and chin up, and reignite their own passion.

Talk back

Have you hit the blogging loathe-wall before? How did you bust through it? Leave a comment below so others might be inspired to do the same. And stick around—later today we’ll take a look at a case example of a blogger who changed their blog’s writing style overnight—and reaped the rewards.

Ryan Barton is a small business marketing, social media, and design consultant. He is the author of Smart Marketing, blogs at The Smart Marketing Blog, tweets at www.twitter.com/RyanBarton, and lives in Los Angeles.

How to REALLY Follow Your Passion to the Bank: The $100 Startup Model

This guest post is by Chris Guillebeau of ChrisGuillebeau.com.

More than a decade ago, I began a lifelong journey of self-employment “by any means necessary.”

I never planned to be an entrepreneur—I just didn’t want to work for someone else. From a cheap apartment, I watched what other people had done and tried to reverse-engineer their success. I started by importing coffee from Jamaica and sold it online because I saw other people making money from it; I didn’t have any special skills in importing, roasting, or selling.

Since then, I’ve never looked back, always working for myself and making a good living entirely through online ventures. And I’m no longer alone: in different ways, thousands of people from all over the world have also taken matters into their own hands. They are rewriting the rules of work, becoming their own boss, and creating a new future.

It all sounds so simple: pick something you love and build a business around it. Start an online storefront, become a problogger, and strike it rich. Cha-ching! But is it really that easy? As you might expect—or as you might have experienced in your own efforts—the real answer is more complex.

That’s why I dived into the real story.

Over the past three years I’ve been working with a group of 1,500 “unexpected entrepreneurs.” Most of these people had never gone to business school, didn’t have a lot of money, and in some cases, never intended to work for themselves. They simply found a way to make something interesting and share it with the world—and along the way, they ended up creating a serious income of at least $50,000 a year.

I learned a few surprising lessons from this group.

First, not all hobbies or passions are created equal

You can’t just pursue any passion—there are plenty of things you may be passionate about, but no one will pay you for them. I like to eat pizza, but not matter how passionate I am, its doubtful I could craft a career around my love for mushrooms and black olives. Instead, I had to find something more interesting to the rest of the world.

Whatever your situation is, you must continually focus on how your project can help other people, and why they’ll care about what you’re offering in the first place.

Next, most people don’t make money directly from their hobby or passion, but from something related

Nev Lapwood was a snowboarding instructor in British Columbia, Canada. He got by and paid the bills on the slopes, but competition was tough—and besides, the work was seasonal. Then Nev created a series of snowboarding DVDs and found his real calling. The business now earns a multi-six figure annual income.

In my case, I began a writing career several years ago by sharing stories about a quest to visit every country in the world, but I don’t get paid for that. I have to create value in my business like anyone else does. Without real value, I wouldn’t get paid, and the travel would be just a hobby (albeit a passionate one).

To be successful, find the magic formula between passion and usefulness

To understand how passion can sometimes translate into a profitable business, you must develop a skill that provides a solution to a problem. Only when passion merges with a skill that other people value can you truly “follow your passion to the bank.”

Another way to think about it is:

(Passion + Skill) → (Problem + Marketplace) = Opportunity

In Reno, Nevada, Mignon Fogarty created the QD Network, best known for her signature show Grammar Girl. The show was a huge hit almost from the beginning, spawning a line of books, related programs, and non-stop media attention. But before she was Grammar Girl, Mignon pursued a similar idea in an unsuccessful attempt to build popularity through podcasting. Here’s how she tells the story:

“Before I launched the successful Grammar Girl podcast, I was the host of a science podcast called Absolute Science. I loved doing that show and I was passionate about it. I actually put more effort into promoting that show than I did for the Grammar Girl podcast, and although Absolute Science was well-received, after doing it for nearly a year it was clear that the show was never going to make enough money to make it worth the time required to produce it.”

Mignon changed course, trading science for grammar. The answer wasn’t to abandon her passion altogether, but rather to make sure she connected the right passion with the right audience.

  • “Absolute Science”: Passion… but not enough audience.
  • “Grammar Girl”: Passion… and a substantial audience.

What goes up, goes up further

It’s easy and fun to grow your business or blog once it’s up and running.

That’s why the first sale, the first client, or the first source of income is so important. Many business owners I talked with earned hundreds of thousands of dollars a year, and several earned more than one million dollars a year. In every case, they got to that point by starting small and making continuous improvements along the way.

Once you’ve found a winning formula, that’s when you spend your time on tweaks, the small-and-regular changes that will continue to increase income and influence.

When I asked our group of unexpected entrepreneurs about the follow-your-passion model, I frequently heard a nuanced answer. Almost no one said, “Yes! You should always follow your passion wherever it leads.” Similarly, almost no one dismissed the idea offhand. The nuance comes from the idea that passion plus good business sense creates an actual business.

Can you transition to a meaningful life oriented around something you love to do? Yes. Can you make money doing it? Yes, and you have plenty of examples to learn from—I talked with 1,500 people for the study that led to The $100 Startup, and all of them provided detailed financial information on how much money they made and how much it cost to start their business.

Is there a path you can follow for your own plan to follow your passion to the bank? Indeed, yes. Just make sure you create something that changes people’s lives. That’s where you’ll ultimately find your freedom.

Chris Guillebeau’s new book, The $100 Startup, provides a blueprint for creating freedom by building a business with no special skills and a small amount of money. Chris also writes for a small army of remarkable people at ChrisGuillebeau.com.

Blogging Success and the Law of Averages

Last week I read a very thoughtful—and thought-provoking—post on Corbett Barr’s blog, called You’re Going to Suck.

In it, Corbett makes the point that there’s no growth without failure. We’ve talked about criticism on ProBlogger before, and that’s something that Corbett makes mention of in his post, but failure encompasses so much more than this.

I know about failure—I’ve launched more than 20 blogs in my career as a blogger. How many am I running now? Two. And that career came only after I’d tried around 30 other jobs. When I started blogging, in my early 30s, I was holding down three jobs.

The point I’m making here isn’t that I’m some kind of superman—it’s the opposite! The lesson is that for every success, there are a lot of “failures.” This is true for me, and I think it’s true for many people.

Success isn’t easy

It’s an important point to think upon, especially in an online environment where so many people make success look so easy. I’m not just talking about the get-rich-quick guys; I’m talking even about something as simple as social media. I don’t know about your Facebook friends, for example, but often I look through my personal Facebook feed and think “wow, everyone’s living these amazing lives and having so much fun!”

It’s often the case, too, when we look at other bloggers, or even just other individuals or groups in our niche. We’re all presenting professional personas online. On the web, it’s an easy matter to create an ideal “you,” or an ideal of your blog or business. As we look at the online presences of peers or competitors, they can seem bulletproof, and far more skilled or capable than we are.

Don’t be fooled!

These online presences aren’t the full story. It’s important to remember that. Sometimes when we look at what others are doing, we can feel bad about the fact that we’re only human—that we can’t afford flashy advertising or a custom blog design or a PR agency to promote us an arrange interviews for us.

But as Corbett says in his post, “put aside the ego and start making mistakes.” Ego isn’t just about wanting to think of ourselves as invincible. Ego can also allow us to give ourselves excuses when, really, the truth is that we’re all human. You might not know about the personal challenges that your most admired blogger or peer is currently facing, even as they launch a new product or sell one of their businesses for six figures. It’s ego that can make us think we’re the only ones facing difficulty.

When Corbett says “start making mistakes,” I think of those 20 blogs I’ve started, and I think about the law of averages. It’s easy to say “we learn from our mistakes,” but I think our “education” isn’t often so dramatic that it happens as a result of one mistake. The same goes for failures—one dramatic failure needn’t be the end of you. It took me twenty blogs to get to the point I’m at now—and I’m hardly a media mogul or blogging empire boss!

Learning lakes time, and experimentation. A tactic that didn’t work with your last blog might work with this one. Who knows? You’ll probably have to give it another try to find out. Maybe that will lead you to another failure. But maybe not…

The more mistakes, the better

The more mistakes you make, the closer you get to finding a sustainable path forward—especially when it comes to the ever-changing world of blogging. The more failures you experience, the more likely you’ll be to narrow down a pathway to success, however you define that.

Have you failed at blogging? Have you made mistakes that have helped you grow as a blogger? Tell us about them in the comments, so that we can all benefit from your experiences.

Why I Steal Content (And Why You Should, Too)

This guest post is by Adam Costa of Trekity.com.

I have a confession to make: for the past few years I’ve stolen content. Lots of it.

It’s not something I’m proud of. Hell, I’ve never admitted it to anyone besides my wife (and she’s an even bigger thief than me).

But this painful truth must come out, and—rather than see my dirty laundry exposed by someone else—I’d like to be the one to declare it publicly.

I am a thief. Worse… I’m a plagiarizer!

I have stolen content and used it for my own evil purposes. And if you’ve been around here long enough (or read my content elsewhere) chances are you’ve read been exposed to my crimes of passion.

“Passion?” you say. “How could this possibly be considered passion… when all you’re doing is stealing from other writers? Stealing from writers who shed blood, sweat and caffeine to put out the best content possible? What’s wrong with you, man?”

In my defense…

I would argue that stealing content is not only commonplace, it’s a smart business strategy. But please don’t misunderstand me.

I’m not saying you should hijack other people’s content and pass it off as your own. Nor should you mindlessly repeat whatever the “hot tip” of the day is.

No. You do need to create new, interesting and—above all—unique content.

Sometimes, at least. But if you’re reinventing the wheel with every post, you’re overlooking an absolute goldmine of content. One which you can ethically steal, and use for your own nefarious purposes.

But before I tell you where this goldmine is, I must make another confession.

It’s not as bad as the first. In fact, it may help you understand why I’m doing this. You see…

I’ve only stolen from one person

Myself. And you know what? I don’t mind at all.

Remember the goldmine? The one I promised to reveal? Well, that goldmine is every piece of content you’ve already produced. It’s all sitting there—buried deep in your archives—waiting to be brought to light again.

Why you should steal, too

The truth is, if you’re using your content once, you’re wasting your time. Remember that post you wrote about Thailand? Why not turn it into a video? Why not create a slideshow? Why not drip feed content through Twitter?

Seriously, what’s stopping you? Maybe you think you don’t have time. Or don’t know where to start.

Well listen up, buckaroo. Reusing old content takes less time than creating new content. And it reaches a different audience (some people love video, others prefer to read … why not engage them all?). Recycling content actually saves you time.

Here’s how to start

Below are 19 popular forms of content:

  1. articles
  2. social media updates
  3. blog posts
  4. enewsletters
  5. case studies
  6. in-person events
  7. videos
  8. white papers
  9. webinars
  10. microsites
  11. print magazines
  12. traditional media
  13. research reports (white papers)
  14. branded content tools
  15. ebooks
  16. tweets
  17. Pinterest updates
  18. podcasts
  19. mobile-specific content

Chances are, you’re only using one of these forms for each piece of content you product. Shame on you. Look at the above list—you could easily recycle a single piece of content into five or more different forms.

Examples of recycled content

Here are just a few examples to get you started:

  • blog post >> video >> podcast >> enewsletter >> series of tweets >> print magazine
  • ten blog posts >> ebook >> podcast >> microsite
  • images in blog post >> Pinterest >> ebook >> slideshow >> photography site (e.g. Flickr)
  • interview >> slideshow >> video >> transcription in blog post with images >> images added to Pinterest
  • live presentation >> video >> podcast >> blog post.

3 Unique ways to recycle content

1. Umapper

Umapper lets you easily customize maps. You can add images, annotations and video within your maps.

For example, let’s say you write a post on BBQ joints in Austin, Texas. With Umapper, you could create a map with each restaurant pinpointed with annotations and add video of each restaurant showing shots of the food.

2. Dipity

Dipity helps you create cool looking timelines (check out this one on Russian history) with zero programming or design skills. Have you written a post that flows in chronological order? Add it—along with images—to Dipity. Then embed the timeline on your own site underneath your existing post (or create a new page altogether).

3. Many Eyes

Many Eyes, which was created by IBM, helps you visualize data in new and exciting ways. It’s also a great way to “steal” public data and create something valuable.

How? For example, you use the average travel expenditure by country and create a chart like this one.

So if you’re already sitting on old content, break open these tools and start creating more valuable content in less time. After all, the future depends on what we do in the present.

Okay, I stole that line. From Gandhi. Sorry about that.

Adam Costa is Editor in Chief of Trekity.com, a new kind of travel website. †You can also follow him on Twitter.

The Most Important Skill for Long-term Blogging Success

This guest post is by Amy Parmenter of ParmFarm.com.

In the early stages of blogging, content is definitely king, but if you hope to be in it long-term, creativity must rule the day.

It’s easy to think of new ideas when you’ve only been blogging a few months, but what will you write about next year? How will you offer new ideas—or the same ideas from a fresh perspective?

In order to be a ProBlogger you must be a good writer and a creative thinker.

Do you have what it takes?

Here’s a test. If you were to win Darren’s free trip to Australia, how many blog posts could you generate?

That’s an easy one for travel or photography bloggers, but what about everyone else? Did you decide not to enter the contest because you didn’t think the trip would apply to your niche?

I challenge you now to think again. Only this time, think more creatively.

I’ll go first. Here are ten example posts to get your creative juices flowing:

1. Pet bloggers: Will your dog get along with your new kangaroo?

You just know you want one! Visiting Australia would be the perfect opportunity to remind your pet-loving readers of all the things they must consider when adopting new animals and introducing new pets to the household. Maybe the kangaroo isn’t such a good idea…

2. Art bloggers: The value of an artist’s community

I love this one because it took a little legwork. Queensland Tourism is offering a free trip, and a bit of research in advance should not be out of the question. I Googled “Queensland artists” and found a great community that has gathered online because its members have “limited opportunity to exhibit their works” in the state. Why not connect with them, enhance your own experience, and deliver a fabulous post to your readers?

3. Aging or senior bloggers: How old is too old to travel?

How old is the oldest person on the plane? 60s? 70s? Maybe you could interview him or her. That person would probably be flattered by the attention, it’d be an easy way to pass the time, and you’d get a terrific post and probably plenty of comments!

4. Religion bloggers: I had faith in Australia

For those who believe, there is no place on Earth where God is not present. No doubt the beauty of Queensland will deliver a spiritual experience to anyone who is open to it. Write about it. Then ask your readers to share their stories, too.

5. Finance bloggers: How to expense a “free” vacation

An important aspect of blogging is problem solving. If you’ve got a problem, chances are your readers have experienced it as well. Help them. Use the trip to detail the problem of expensing a free trip—and the solution.

6. Design bloggers: The outback out back

There’s nothing like traveling half way around the world to gather new ideas for your own back yard! This would be an easy post featuring patio or garden designs influenced by people, places, and things you discovered in Australia—complete with photos, of course.

7. Self-help bloggers: King for a day in Queensland

I’m sure the Australian getaway will include lots of sun, fun and pampering for those who so desire. As such, it is the perfect opportunity for self-help bloggers to remind readers about the value of a vacation, a change of scenery, and the importance of treating yourself when the time is right.

8. Fitness bloggers: 7 Exercises you can do on a plane

Without a doubt, the greatest obstacle for some in traveling to Australia is the extremely long flight. Blood clot issues are well documented and, frankly, exercise is a must. Running in the aisles would probably get you tackled by an air marshal, but a good fitness blogger should be able to offer at least seven exercises that can be done while seated or with very little room to move. More importantly, this is a post that would have broad appeal to anyone flying for more than a few hours.

9. Food bloggers: Raise your hand if you’ve had a Vegemite sandwich

I can’t imagine there will be any shortage of ideas for this niche but I included this example to make the point that, as a blogger, you want to write about something special, new, or different whenever possible. While Vegemite sandwiches may be nothing new in Australia, few people who live in the States have ever had one. Have one. Write about it. As a blogger correspondent, you need to take me where I cannot go.

10. Blogging bloggers: How to speak Australian

This is a topic I decided to add half way through this post when I was challenged with spelling “traveling” correctly. That’s because it has two l’s in Australia, but only one in the U.S.! In the course of your travels, take note of other differences and use them to illustrate the point that knowing your audience—and “speaking” their language—is critical to blogging success.

I think you get my point.

If you are struggling to come up with creative posts, you either need to change the way you think or change your niche.

As a longtime journalist, it is my daily challenge to cover the same stories others cover, but from a unique perspective. The same holds true for anyone who wants to be a ProBlogger.

Obviously, Queensland Tourism would like us all to write, “Australia is the most amazing place on Earth. Go there. Now.”
I think we can do better.

So, your turn. If you were selected as one of the ten Queensland blogging correspondents, what would you write about?

Amy Parmenter is a journalist, public speaker and blogger who writes (creatively!) about personal growth at the ParmFarm.com. Get her free ebook here.

The Not-so-secret Ingredient of an Engaging Blog

If you read Lisa’s post on the Grace of Communication yesterday, I hope you felt as inspired as many of the commenters who added their thoughts to it.

Her heartfelt post really spoke volumes, and not just about social media. As I read it, it reminded me of a question that I see asked often in the blogosphere:

How can I make my blog more engaging?

What’s “engaging”?

If you’ve ever thought “I want my blog to be more engaging,” you probably had some idea in mind of what that means. It might be that you want to lower bounce rates, increase repeat visits, or encourage more comments on posts.

All of these are measures of “engagement,” but I find that the most engaging blogs I read offer something that’s intangible: a sense of rapport or personality. These blogs say something that interests me in a way I can relate to.

I think that’s something that’s close to the “grace of communication” that Lisa explored yesterday.

While the metrics are all valid, I don’t know if we can really measure this intangible value, which characterizes the most engaging blogs. While the stats do go some way to reflect engagement—and are very helpful to us as we try to grow our blogs—I don’t believe they’re the whole story.

The thing that’s got the greatest potential to engage your readers is you.

A more engaging blog

Yesterday, Lisa described the natural flow she sometimes achieves with her class. Interestingly, the way she explained it made is seem miraculous—something organic, which can’t be forced, but arises spontaneously when the conditions are right.

We can certainly work toward building engaging blogs, just as Lisa works toward building her fitness practice. But there’s an element of the spontaneous in establishing an engaging blog, too.

The key ingredient is you. I think the more of yourself you can put into your blog and your online presence, the better your chances of reaching that spontaneous communications flow, where readers read, share, and respond naturally, and almost effortlessly.

I’ve found Google Plus to be an ideal forum for creating the right conditions for a communicative flow. It allows for a rich exchange in real time, it makes it easy to follow that exchange and, perhaps most importantly, that kind of deep exposure encourages us as bloggers to be open and really “ourselves.”

And that, I think, is the pathway to greater engagement. By being yourself, you encourage others to be themselves: you create the sense of rapport that sets the scene for that spontaneous flow of communication.

Have you experienced that sense on your blog, or when you’ve been communicating with your tribe? Tell us about it in the comments.

The Grace of Communication

This guest post is by Lisa Johnson of LisaJohnsonFitness.com.

Social media has changed my life in a fundamental way that I never saw coming. My first innocent forays onto Twitter had not prepared me for the ride I was about to go on.

Through social media I have started a new career, grown more close to my husband, been able to spend more time with my son, and still managed to help provide for my family.

But those are the perks to what I do. They are not why I do it … there is grace in communication.

As a Pilates Instructor I live for those moments that seem to descend out of nowhere. I’ll be teaching a class and we’ll all just click, every movement has flow, my voice allows my students to focus more deeply, and we dance in a way, their bodies and my voice weaving together intricate patterns. The sweat builds, hard bones and sinew become fluid, and an awesome, amazing thing happens: my class and I find grace. It’s powerful to all of us.

It brings me to tears and embarrassed giggles. My students know what I mean, and then hurry out into their busy lives. It’s why I’ve taught Pilates for longer than I’ve ever done anything in my life—fifteen years now—to hit those random moments of grace, of being able to give my clients a small taste of empowerment.

Social media is often maligned by the uninitiated as a place of misfits and people who can’t have “real relationships” in their “real lives.” I suppose for some that’s true, but that hasn’t been my journey at all. I have found it a place of true connection.

Keyboards click, screens flicker and millions of people pour a torrent of words into the stream. Most of it washes over us in ones and zeros, never recognized into existence.

But then a stray comment will catch an eye, a conversation will start—maybe it’ll be a cascade of back and forths, or maybe it’ll be a few comments here and there over time. But there is a connection.

I have my people on social media that I depend on for a joke, a pick-me-up, or a kind word. Sometimes I don’t even know their real names, just a Twitter handle and a sentence or two of biography. I try to give back in the same way with an atta boy/atta girl or a warm phrase when needed.

I have experienced everything through social media: humor, fear, failure, redemption, even death, have all come at me through the screen. I have made real true friends and been humbled when I was able to help someone. Many of these connections have spilled into “my real life”—and these are people I would never meet any other way.

There is grace in that. Our disconnected lives, blown apart from generational family ties, have found a new way to connect, to find a tribe, to belong.

Social media has evolved into a business. The software companies are our conduits, advertising the currency, and brands online jumping up and down for attention, looking to win eyeballs and wallets. But it is still all driven by humans, sorting ourselves by hashtags and groups, by geography and hobby. So we find our people and connect.

How brilliant is that? How truly, truly brilliant?

It’s magical that we tap keyboards and stare at screens and find humans tapping back at us. Have you reached out and found a connection waiting for you? Have you been changed, even in a tiny way, by your social media life? How do you tap your connections?

Lisa Johnson went from Pilates studio owner to one of the top fitness people on social media with her popular blog, LisaJohnsonFitness.com. She balances teaching at the studio with working with social media clients through Healthy Dose Media, a company she founded with her husband, Greg Wymer. She is frequently found on Twitter @LisaJohnson.

Move Beyond Fear: Find and Keep Your Writing Voice in 10 Steps

This guest post is by Sean M. Madden of Mindful Living Guide.

I’ve been teaching creative writing, along with mindful living, for years now. And I can say, without hesitation, that fear is ubiquitous. Its presence, more than anything else, stops writers in their tracks.

All seems to be going along beautifully, words and ideas are flowing, characters and plots are taking shape, and wham! a certain self-consciousness seeps in. The flow slows to a trickle, we begin to falter, and, worst of all, we judge ourselves harshly, comparing our present writing to our glory days. Or we compare ourselves against other writers, those in our midst, or literary greats of times past.

Just a few minutes ago, I finished up an informal discussion which I was leading on the web. The talk shared the exact title of this article, and one of the participants is a long-time student of mine. He’s the sort of guy you’d never guess would be fearful of losing his writing voice. He’s a confident and successful middle-aged businessman, and he’s led an unusually creative life. He’s gigged as a singer-songwriter, owned and managed art galleries in London, has a lovely family, and travels widely.

Yet Alex has a lingering concern—the very one detailed above, whereby his writing seems to get off-track, falters and he starts doubting his abilities, whether he’ll manage to write with ease as he once did.

Fortunately, there are steps we can take which, if heeded, will do more than help us to find and keep our writing voice. These steps can help us to move beyond fear and to live more creatively.

Ten steps to help you move beyond fear and find and keep your writing voice

  1. Acknowledge your fears: don’t pretend they’re not lurking there behind the scenes.
  2. Face them: Face your fears with a simple, uncomplicated awareness of the corresponding bodily sensations. In other words, notice how your fears (and thoughts generally) make you feel, physically.
  3. But don’t feed them: As with online trolls who get their jollies trying to wreak havoc, your fears will lessen and eventually fade away if you stop engaging with them on their terms.
  4. Recognize that your fears are illusory: You can smile at their devilish innocence.
  5. Simply put pen to paper: Write through your fears. Write down whatever comes up.
  6. Notice our tendency to negatively compare ourselves with others: These crippling, judgmental thoughts are another illusion, another trick our minds play to limit our naturally creative selves.
  7. Realize that action trumps fear: When things get tough, go for a good long walk, take a yoga class, return to your breath. Do such things as these on a daily basis and things will not get so tough so often.
  8. Write down your inner truths: Do this with great courage and honesty. You’ll thereby find your voice.
  9. Take heart knowing you’re not alone: We, all of us, feel these fears. Don’t believe otherwise.
  10. Trust in the process: Nurture an awareness that everything, even fear, can be a great teacher!

What fears tend to squelch your writing voice, and what strategies do you use to overcome these fears? Please leave your comments below. Let’s get the conversation flowing.

As a Creative Writing & Mindful Living Guide, Sean M. Madden offers Writing, Literature & Mindful Living courses and workshops — and one-to-one guidance — worldwide. He’s also the creator of the new #mlmon and #wpthu communities. To keep apprised of Sean’s live web-based writing workshops (Next Up: April 8 & 15) and other online and in-person offerings, sign up to the MLG newsletter. You can also follow (@SeanMMadden) or  email him.