Tag archive for "Writing Techniques"

How to Blog

TL;DR – 3 Reasons Why No One Wants to Read Your Blog Posts

3 Comments 16 May 2012

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When I first started blogging, I was knee-deep in my over-caffeinated college education. I took the writing I was doing for class, or the ideas that my teachers didn’t want to read, and turned them into blog posts.

They were long.

They were dense.

They were brilliant, if I do say so myself.

But goddamnit, they were boring.

When I started studying with Jon Morrow I learned that good blog writing isn’t the same as good writing anywhere else. Academic writing is different than legal writing, poetry is different than business plans, and novelists are singing a different tune than grant writers.

Somewhere along the course of my blogging career I learned that my dense academic writing wasn’t doing me any favors.

It was probably somewhere around the same time that I realized my traffic rankings were never breaking the double digits, and my mom had stopped bothering to even pretend to read.

Exhausted from all of my hard work, I decided to take a step back and take the intensity out of my content. I started writing more like I was talking to a friend and less like I was talking to a professor. More like “Jen’s had three glasses of wine and isn’t afraid to make someone mad” and less like “this blog is going to please everyone and I’m going to instantly become recognizable for my brilliance.”

 

Lesson #1: Write Like Your Most Fun and Engaging Self, Not Your Smartest Self

Most people, when trying to sound like their smartest self, come off like an asshole.

You know when you go on a date and the other person is just trying way too hard? How you never want to go out with them again? How they end up looking more like a needy insecure looser than someone that’s much more aloof and far less desperate? Well, don’t be that guy.

Do you know what will prove that you’re smart?

Making interesting points. Captivating people’s attention. Proper use of grammar (for the love of God, check your “its/it’s” and “you’re/your” and “to/too” before you press “Publish”). These things alone will set you above 99% of published content on the internet.

Do you know what will make people come back to your blog?

Being engaging. Being humble. Admitting what you don’t know (and being passionate with what you do know). Having character. Being relevant. Teaching your readers something useful that they want to know (not just that you want to talk about).

Blogging, my friends, is a lot like life in this way. Have real value, have grace and humility, don’t be afraid to laugh at yourself, and don’t be arrogant. Oh, and know your grammar.

 

Lesson #2: TL;DR* – Break Up Text with Sub-headers

One of the biggest lessons newbies mess up (and I still fail to do myself, sometimes) is break up text visually.

Internet eyes are skimming and wandering eyes. They’re like the boyfriend that’s always looking to see “what else is out there.” They are not committed people, my friend.

So, if you had a boyfriend with a wandering eye, would you sit down and explain to him how wonderful you are to convince him to pay attention? No, you’d put on a skimpy dress and walk around like he doesn’t exist. Much more effective.

Similarly, if you try and get someone’s attention by putting a big dense block of text on the page, they can’t skim it, so they lose interest and wander off elsewhere.

But, if you break up the text with catchy little subheads they are able to skim, they get caught up in the buzzy little titles, and are forced to read to see what it is your talking about.

For instance, tell me which of these pages you’d rather read:

Effective Subheaders for Bloggers

No subheaders. Just a lot of Jen. 

Effective Subheaders for Bloggers

Still a lot of Jen, but now elegantly divided up with little inner teaser titles (aka, sub-headers)

The efficacy of sub-headers when looking at a piece of text is one of the many reasons list posts are so effective. For instance, one of my most popular posts is the eloquent piece “7 Signs You’re Dating a Sociopath” (apparently I’m not the only one interested in these things). One of the reasons I believe it’s so effective, though, is because of its visual appeal and intrigue:

Sub-headers and list posts for bloggers

Lesson #3: Let Multimedia Spice Up Your Life

One of the coolest parts of producing content online is that you can embed images, audio, and video anywhere you like.

We all learned the “show don’t tell” philosophy in elementary school, and now we can take that to a whole other level.

If you’re trying to explain how to do something but one step is particularly technical, make a short YouTube video demonstrating it and embed it in your post.

Draw diagrams. Doodle. Draw pictures.

One person who has mastered this is Austin Kleon, who I interviewed here on Blogging Fearlessly for his book Steal Like an Artist. We can also learn from web comics like The Loading Artist or Hyperbole and a Half.

The message is, there are many ways to illustrate ideas and concepts – the more mediums you’re able to throw in there the more stimulating your blog post will be for the reader, and the more likely your message is to resonate and make an impact.

At the end of the day, make content that’s fun to read. The more you can provide real value and be entertaining, the more likely people are to come back and want more. x

*TL;DR = “Too long; didn’t read.” When Chase and I first started dating he said this about all of my blog posts. He later learned that if he wanted a girlfriend that that acronym could no longer be a part of our relationship internet messaging dialogue.

Improve Your Life

Do Something With Your Life – You Unique, Shiny, Lazy-Ass Snowflake

9 Comments 07 March 2012

Americans are big believers in individualism. You, my friend, are one unique-ass shiny snowflake. There never has, nor will there ever be, anyone like you. You can wave your unique pride flag high in the air and seek comfort in that. Seriously. And the truth is, for the most part, most of us believe it. We sing in the shower with belting pride, even though our mom may or may not have dropped the hint once or twice in our childhood that when we sing it sounds like a cat stuck in a bag being thrown up against a wall. That doesn’t faze us. We’re still astounded when “he never calls again” because we are a one-in-a-million catch and he’s a downright moron for passing up the chance of a lifetime to have the pleasure of our company. Further, how about that economy? How can there be no jobs? How can there be no jobs for a unique, brilliant, shiny little snowflake like myself? I deserve 6 figures! I went to college! I want benefits and paid vacations and disposable income!

But then, you talk to someone about starting a blog, and it’s a whole new ballgame. Suddenly, they start to crack. They’re into it for about 10 minutes. Anyone I’ve ever talked to about starting a blog has been someone that I talk to, in life or online, and I only talk to people that I find interesting. I know people that are sensitive, people that are charming, people that are downright hilarious, and people that know more about politics in their left eyelash than I’ve known in my entire lifetime.

So, I encourage these people to start a blog. I would love to be able to chuckle to the hilarious ones in the morning while I check my google reader. I would love to learn a thing or two about politics from my worldly friends. I know these people are amazing, so I think they should get out there and be a part of a worldwide conversation. I want them to get off their butts and be the amazing unique individuals that they are with me, slap it on a WordPress blog, and share it with the damn world.

For about 10 minutes, they’re into this. They know what I’m talking about (since they are hilarious and worldly and they know it) but then, then the fear starts to set in. “Ehhhh, what if I’m not a good writer?” “I don’t really have anything to say.” “What if I suck and am embarrassed?”

What just happened!?! I thought you were the unique shiny snowflake that demands euphoria! I thought you were the up-and-coming Julia Roberts! I thought you were Elle Macpherson’s doppleganger with a voice like a thousand singing angels?? What happened to all that confidence??

And there’s that damn ego again. It’s that same ego that makes you think you’re one in a million that makes you terrified of anyone thinking a single mean thought about you. Unfortunately, I don’t know if you’re one in a million. I don’t even know if you’re one in all of Arkansas. But I do know that that doesn’t mean you aren’t incredibly spectacular with something great to share with the world.

So here’s my message for you and your excuses-filled brain:

1. Get over the fact that people might say mean things about you.

“Those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.” – Dr. Seuss

People say mean things about me all the time. They don’t tell me all the time, but I know they’re saying it. I know people snicker about me behind my back, and I’m sure I’ve been made fun of before. Maybe many times before. But guess what? I choose to not care. I can either recede into a hole so that no one has a mean thing to say about me, or I can live and be myself and tell my one-in-a-million heart and passion and energy that anything mean they say  they are saying because they’re jealous, because I’m happy. And I know who I am. And I’m not afraid to be who I am. And I’m lucky for that. And you know what? I don’t have any time to make fun of them, because I’m too busy having fun and being myself and enjoying my one little life on this earth. So there, problem solved, stop stressing.

2. Get over the fact that you will never be “the best.”

As my favorite person in the world Ellen Degeneres once tweeted (I can’t find the exact tweet, but you get the gist) – whenever you find something that you’re good at, just know a 10 year old in China can do it better than you.

Totally true.

But it isn’t about being the best. I can sell my marketing, blogging, and copywriting skills because I spend more time working on these things in a month than most people will spend in their entire lives. So guess what? They can either take a couple months off work and learn the things I know, or they can pay me to do it for them and get back to their business, lives, and particular realms of expertise. Similarly, you have insights and experiences that other people don’t have. You don’t have to be the best in the world, but if you know more about cooking than I do, I’d sure as hell love some good dinner recipes. I don’t want you to be a 5 star chef because I won’t be able to keep up -  I just want someone a little better than me that can help take my cooking to the next level. If you’re REALLY good at cooking, then screw helping me and make a site targeted to other advanced cooks. Whatever you level is, there will be a market looking to learn from you. If you spend more time cooking in a month then I’ll spend in my whole life, you better bet I’ll buy a cookbook from you, because I’m sure it rocks. You have skills in something, so help a sister out and share them.

3. Get over the fact that you “have nothing to say”

First of all, if you legitimately have nothing to say then you need to be first person to start a blog. You need to have some motivation and incentive to get off your butt and find some things that you’re passionate about and can talk about and contribute to the world. If you literally have nothing to say, you must be the world’s most boring person. If I am ever stuck at a dinner party trying to make conversation with you, I will probably say I’m going to the bathroom and sneak into the kitchen to take shots. Then, I will probably puke on you at dinner. So, long story short, read some books, cook some meals, have some adventures, and find SOMETHING worth talking about, or there’s a good chance I will puke on you  at dinner one day.

That said, if you do have enough to talk about to make it through a dinner party, then just figure out what it is you could talk about in writing, on the internet. Take some pictures of meals you make and rate different recipes. Put up anonymous conversations you have with weird coworkers. Share tips on poker. Tell us about coping with married life. Share. Because sharing encourages you to learn more, allows you to attract like-minded people, and forces you to articulate the things that you are used to just drunkenly blabbing about when no one else is really in the mood to listen. This way, you can start soberly blabbing to people that care, and it will help you grow. It’s a beautiful thing.

 

So, long story short, start a blog. If you’re short on time, then do your day job and spend the money to have someone like me build it for you. Either way, it’s an important hobby to have, that hobby of being an interesting human being that contributes something to the world. It’s important to learn how to have the confidence to put yourself out there, and the humility to not take it all too seriously. You are a unique shiny snowflake, now go kick some ass.

How to Blog

Get Rid of Writer’s Block Once and For All

No Comments 01 March 2012

So you want to start a blog.

You sit down to a blank piece of paper, or a blank word document, and you stare. And you stare. And you stare.

So you get up and get some coffee.

Then you have to pee.

So you’re in the bathroom, and you start fixing your hair. Because you want to look good for your computer, right? No, but it’s always tempting to fix your hair when you’re in the bathroom.

So you sit back down at the computer. You check your emails. Check your twitter. Check your Facebook.

Now your stomach is growling and you’re hungry. Get some food. Ay yi yi. Now you’re thirsty. Better get some water.

Soon the day is done, and your grandiose plans to start a blog were thwarted by the fact that you couldn’t write a single damn thing.

Well, you have writer’s block. Continue Reading


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