Three Counter-intuitive Tips for Taking the Next Steps in Life

Author’s Note: So far, my blog posts have revolved around the world of blogging. But today, I wanted to focus on overall productivity and life progress in general. Who knows, it might be the first in a new series of life-advice articles! Enjoy, and be sure to let me know what you think in the comment section below

Google something like “waiting for when you’re ready,” and you’ll undoubtedly find dozens, if not hundreds, of feel-good articles with the same, tired advice: stop waiting, start doing; stop making excuses; stay focused.

Did you really need some anonymous blogger to tell you those things?

You’re cognizant of the fact that you need to get moving. You’re more stuck for ideas on how to get moving.

You’ve tried and tried to get up and moving instead of just talking about it. You’ve vowed to stop making excuses. You’ve tried every which way to break your habit of procrastinating. But every night, you lay down in bed feeling like you wasted yet another day of your life.

You can’t help but think you’re doing something wrong.

Well, you might actually be right.

But don’t worry: It won’t be that hard to change your ways of thinking. You’re on the right track, but your thoughts are a little misguided – and unrealistic. Take a look at the following pieces of advice. You might realize that, while trying to make improvements in your life, you were trying to do way too much.

Make Plans – But Follow Through

We’ve all heard the saying “Life is what happens when you’re busy making plans for it.” The sentiment is clear: many of us spend too much time thinking about what we’re going to do than actually doing it. The advice most people take from this is: stop thinking, start doing.

Think about that for a second: is it really advantageous to dive into life head-first without thinking about where you want to end up?

Would you dive into a pool without a clear idea of how to get yourself back up to the surface?

Obviously, you need to have some sort of plan when stepping out in your next venture in life. Otherwise, you’ll end up wandering through your days without knowing whether or not you’re making any headway.

You absolutely should spend time planning out your path. Identify milestones you aspire to reach along the way so you know you’re getting somewhere. Figure out contingency plans so you aren’t completely at a loss when things don’t go your way. Make sure you have a general idea of the time each mini-task in your venture will take.

Of course, once your plan is in place, get moving, and get moving right away.

Make Excuses – But Take Steps to Fix the Problem

Turn on ESPN and, within minutes, you’ll be shown some commercial telling you to stop making excuses. It seems like sound advice. I mean, only losers make excuses, right?

Not exactly.

We all make excuses throughout our lives whenever we fall short of a goal.

“There just isn’t enough time in the day.”

“I’m not going to the gym in this weather.”

“I don’t know enough to apply there.”

Let he who is without sin, right?

Like I said, we’ve all made similar statements at some point in our lives. But it’s often in what we do after making these statements that define how far we’ll go in life.

If we know we’re short on time, we need to accept that we’ll need to sacrifice some downtime in the future.

If the weather is bad, what’s stopping you from doing some cardio in your living room?

If you feel like you aren’t qualified for a specific position, what can you do to increase your abilities – and your chances at being hired the next time around?

Simply put: It’s not your circumstances that block you from attaining your goals; it’s the way in which you view your circumstances that does.

Instead of focusing on the excuse, push past it. Yes, go ahead and make the excuse, but then let the real battle begin.

The real battle isn’t between you and time, or you and your weight, or you and a job application. The battle is between yourself and your own mindset.

Conquer the way you perceive your life and the world around you, and the roadblocks that have stopped you from attaining your goals will start to fade away.

Put Things Off – But Realize Why You’re Doing So

Humans are not machines. We’re not meant to work tirelessly and relentlessly throughout all of our waking hours.

And we’re definitely not programmed to love work, either.

At a time in which our cell phones, laptops, and other devices are all vying for our attention, it can be hard to stay focused on what we actually need to get done. It’s just so much easier to veg out while playing some silly game on our smartphones.

Why is that? Are you overworked? Are you afraid of failure? Do you not even want to be on the path you’re on?

Your reasons for procrastinating are yours, and yours alone. But the end result is always the same: You don’t get things done.

There are a bunch of ways to overcome the underlying factors that result in your procrastination, and each solution requires you to make changes in your life. As with making excuses, you could either throw in the towel and put off your obligations until “tomorrow, tomorrow, and tomorrow,” or you could figure out exactly why you’d rather waste time on activities that add nothing to your life than actually working toward becoming a better you.

You might realize you’re completely burned out and need a break. That’s totally fine. If you’re not operating at your fullest potential, it might actually be best that you stop working on a specific project for the time being.

If you’re procrastinating because you have a deep-seated feat of failure, you’d do well to make a list of your strengths and weaknesses. Recognize your strengths for what they are, and focus on sharpening them as you work. As for your weaknesses, focus your attention on them whenever possible. Read professional development materials, or sign up for continuing ed. classes. Don’t just wallow in your sorrows believing you’re “not good enough.” If you’re not actively trying to improve – you’re right.

If you waste a lot of time instead of working toward your goals because you feel like you’re just going through the motions and don’t really even want to reach the goals you’ve set for yourself – change them. Do it now, before it’s too late. The longer you wait to start doing what you want to do in life, the less time you’ll have to actually do it.

We’re all guilty of acting in ways that hold us back from reaching our true potential – and we even know when we’re doing it!

But we also have likely figured out ways that work best for us as individuals when it comes to breaking bad habits and improving our situation. What methods do you find work best when you find yourself in a slump?

Beating Writer’s Block #2: How Consuming Great Content Leads to Producing Even Better Content

A month or so ago, I wrote about why bloggers and writers need to be active readers if they want to have any hope of succeeding in their artistic venture.

While I touch on many reasons writers should read as much as they write, the main point I drive home in that post is this:

You can’t produce great content if you don’t consume other awesome content.

There really isn’t an adequate metaphor I can make here. When your car consumes gas, it doesn’t create more fuel. When you consume a delicious meal, you don’t create more food. Most consuming processes just don’t work that way.

But this is what makes artistic endeavors so special: When you consume great content – be it a well-written article, a beautiful painting, or a catchy song – you likely feel some sort of inspiration or motivation to create something as well.

Effects of Consuming On Writer’s Block

Whenever you take in meaningful material from an outside source, whether by reading a book, watching a video, or listening to a podcast, you’ll be able to use the material as fuel to:

  • Create a reactionary piece of your own
  • Improve your base of knowledge or skills
  • Connect with your community

Again, notice that each of these outcomes will result in even more material being produced. Your consumption of content that’s already been created will continue a long chain of production – one that, quite possibly, will stretch ad infinitum. In other words, you can potentially become a part of human history simply by taking the time to learn something new.


Think about the last time you went to a movie. When it was over, did you sit in silence with your friend or partner the entire ride home?

I sincerely doubt it.

My guess is, immediately after exiting the theater, one of you burst out with some comment about what you just saw. You might have loved it, or you might have hated it – but there’s no way you had absolutely no reaction to it.

Would you have ever had that same conversation if you didn’t see the movie?

Of course not.

Regardless of the quality of the movie, you definitely had something to say about it.

This same phenomenon will occur whenever you consume something another person has produced.

You might agree wholeheartedly with what the person had to say. You might disagree completely. You might have wished they would have gone into more detail. Or you might want to attack the topic from a different angle, or take it a step further.

No matter what, though, by taking in material created by someone else, you’ve given yourself something new to write about.

Improving Your Own Skills

I doubt I need to explain the idea that you can learn a lot by reading or listening to educational resources. That really goes without saying.

But maybe your writer’s block stems from the fact that you don’t feel worthy enough to create the content you want to create.

You know what you want to say, but you don’t know how to say it. Or you don’t see the value in creating something that no one will read. Or you’re just bored writing the same old stuff the same old way.

If you approach other material in a “meta” sort of way, you’ll be able to push past this block almost immediately.

What I mean is, instead of reading new material for content, analyze the author’s style.

(Side note: Henneke Duistermaat discusses this in much greater detail in his post The Sin of Originality.)

Experiment with it.

Take an old blog post or an idea that you’ve written about ad nauseam and rewrite it using a different style.

You don’t need to publish this experimental piece.

But, you might even end up replacing your old content with this updated post.

Even though you might only end up rehashing an old idea, you’ll still have created something new, and moved past the block that was stopping you from doing so before.

Connecting with Community and Other Resources

I discussed this in the earlier post I mentioned before, so I’ll be brief here.

Simply put: When you produce reactions to a piece of content, you’ll spark discussion within the community in some way. Like I said before, this could potentially start a never-ending chain reaction.

But, you’ll also open the floodgates for more resources to come your way. If you engage in conversation with the author of a post or other content – or his readers – they’ll likely point you in the direction of content that has inspired them in the past.

The value here cannot be overstated. This won’t be a simple “one-off” occasion, in which you’ll read one other article or listen to a single other podcast. Whatever you consume next will point you toward yet another resource, and another, and another. And, of course, each piece of content you consume will produce within you a reaction, resulting in yet another idea to write about.

And all of this happened because you decided to make one initial point of contact.

Targeted Consumption with a Purpose

So you know it’s important to take in as much content as you can in order to be able to produce great content. But what content will serve what purpose?

The short, confusing answer is: It depends on what you’re looking for.

Staying Informed

Above all else, the purpose of creating content for an audience is that you know something they don’t – and you want to be the one to teach them about it.

If you don’t stay in the know, someone else will come along and teach your audience whatever it is they’re looking to learn.

Because of this, you need to stay up on the latest trends within your industry. You need to know what’s hot before it hits the mainstream. This means reading press releases, blog posts, and other articles the minute they’re released.

You should know by now that, in the Age of Information, news that’s two hours old isn’t news anymore. If your niche relies on relaying trending information to your audience, you need to consistently know what’s happening within your industry as it’s happening.

Even if your niche doesn’t have such a sense of urgency, you still need to be informed. If you’re not providing anything new, why would your audience read your post?

Staying informed is easier nowadays than ever before. A smorgasbord of tools, sites, and services exist to help you curate the latest trending news in any niche you choose:

  • Feedly: With Feedly, you choose the sites you wish to follow based on the topic of your choosing. You’re then provided with RSS feeds for these sites, so you can be sure to get the absolute latest update from each of them. Feedly can help you stay on top of the latest breaking news or trending information in any given industry.
  • Newspapers might be dying out, but is doing its best to remind you of the good ol’ days when news would literally be hot off the press. curates stories based upon your chosen topics from Twitter feeds and other sources and presents them in a headline news-esque fashion for you to browse at your leisure.

Unlike Feedly, your is not updated constantly; rather, new “issues” are released at specific times of your choosing on a daily or weekly basis.

  • Flipboard: Flipboard is one of those apps that can overwhelm you if you’re not careful. When you sign up for Flipboard, you choose which topics you want to receive information about, and are then provided with articles and stories revolving around these topics. ]

The overwhelming part is that you can choose as many topics as you want, and will quickly get backlogged if you don’t stay up on your reading (which in itself will be tough to do). This often results in a lot of time being spent flipping through new stories to see if there’s anything really important that you missed. A word of caution: If you’re going to start using Flipboard, try not to be so liberal when selecting topics you want to hear about.

Using these tools, you should be able to find something interesting to write about.

If someone has covered a specific topic before, read through their articles and see if there’s anything they could have gone more into detail about.

Check the comments section and see if the audience has any questions that were left unanswered.

Think about your own past struggles or experiences with the topic, and write about them. A personal anecdote, coupled with sound advice, can bring a fresh outlook to even the most stale of topics.

Like I said before, if you’re reading with the sole purpose of getting rid of writer’s block, do so with a critical and analytic eye. Be as active a reader as you are a writer.

Stylistic Refresher

Have you ever written something only to realize, when you come back to it later, that it’s absolute crap?

So has literally every other writer in the history of humankind.

When this happens, it can be tough to fix up your mistakes. It can be just as tough to get started on the process of rewriting your work entirely.

Reading someone else’s work can help you get out of this funk.

Read prose. Read poetry. Read different blogs focused on different topics.

Don’t worry so much about the content. Analyze how authors structure their writing. Understand how and why they use certain words in certain cases. Think about the way in which they provide information to their audience.

Along with the aforementioned tools you can use for this exercise, take a look at Shelfari and Goodreads. Think of them as Rotten Tomatoes for books. Not only can you use these services to make a list of books you’ve read, are reading, and plan on reading, but you can also use these lists to find suggestions for further reading.  

As with any other artistic medium, sometimes all it takes is exposure to greatness to inspire and kickstart your own creativity.

So now I want to know: How do you find inspiration as a writer? Where do you get your ideas? Whose style do you try to emulate?

Most importantly: How do you use other media to get past your own writer’s block?

Beating Writer’s Block #1 – Take It Step By Step

Charles Bukowski supposedly once said, “writing about a writer’s block is better than not writing at all.”

As writing is a creative venture, it requires much more than simply going through the motions like many of us do during our nine-to-five day job. It’s not enough to just show up; you have to actively do something after you sit down at your keyboard. And it’s not always easy.

While doing my daily rounds through the blogosphere the other day, I came across an awesome post by Kevin J. Duncan on Be a Better Blogger revolving around beating writer’s block. His post is full of valuable tidbits of information to help get you started, but I’m wondering if Kevin even realized what he had on his hands when writing it.

While reading through his article, I thought to myself: “Each of these points could be an entire post on its own!”

And so, here we are.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be diving deeper into Kevin’s words of wisdom and unpacking them for you. We’ll take a look at the how and why behind each piece of advice, and I’ll provide you with some valuable resources along the way.

So, let’s start off where Kevin began.

Kevin’s first piece of advice to those facing a bout of writer’s block is this:

“Tackle it One Bite at a Time”

When I had just gotten started with my blog (and other online writing), I routinely became overwhelmed whenever I came across established blogs and bloggers with hundreds, if not thousands, of posts under their belt. I simultaneously wanted to be one of them, and felt like I would never get there.

I had nothing in my portfolio. I had little to no experience. I was unsure of whether I could actually build up enough writing samples to get noticed. I felt stuck.

This feeling of intimidation often froze me in my tracks, unable to write a single thing.

Seeing the Forest, But Not the Trees

My main problem when I was just getting started was this: I was thinking too much of the big picture.

Ironic, isn’t it?

Usually, advice columns and whatnot will tell you to look at the big picture.

But when you’re just getting started – with anything, not just blogging – the big picture can be intimidating.

Don't be intimidated by established blogs. Let them inspire you.
Hard to believe they all started from tiny seeds, right?

As a fledgling blogger, it’s easy to get lost in the forest of established blogs already out there on the Web. It’s tempting to throw in the towel before you even get started, believing you’ll never be as big as some of the fully grown trees – I mean, blogs – out there.

In times like these, it’s best to do a little reverse engineering.

What I mean by that is, take a look at some of the blogs that intimidate you. Go allllll the way back to their first pages. Read the first few posts ever published by the author.

Chances are, they’re nowhere near as fine-tuned and effective as the more recent articles the author has posted. In fact, you might even have your doubts as to whether or not the same person even wrote them. It’d be like watching a tape of Michael Jordan the first time he ever picked up a basketball: Sure, you can see potential – but it’s certainly not superstar material.

What this will help you realize is that even the best of the best got started somewhere. Just as there was a point in time that Michael Jordan wasn’t the MJ we all recognize today, those big name, powerhouse bloggers who you could only aspire to be all that got their start the same way: With one single post.

Taking Steps and Understanding Their Importance

You’ve probably heard the old cliche: “A journey starts with a single step.”

So, what are the steps you need to take when writing a blog post? Among many, many others, you’ll have to:

  • Brainstorm
  • Research
  • Create an outline
  • Come up with headlines
  • Find multimedia to supplement your main points
  • Actually write the damn thing
  • Proofread and edit it countless times

If you just sit down at your keyboard and expect to bang out a flawless article…well, it’s no wonder you have writer’s block. It doesn’t happen that way.

Thinking you can create a perfect blog post without going through the proper steps just because you have a great idea is like thinking you can build a house without making a blueprint just because you have some bricks laying around.

Don't get blocked up because you didn't do the background work.
Someone didn’t do their prep work…

In both cases, you’ll be left standing there with a blank stare on your face, wondering what to do next.

You should never just dive into a blog post and hope for the best; you’re going to end up getting stuck somewhere along the way.

Instead, recognize the value of each of these steps – from prewriting to editing and proofreading – as part of the overall process that will help you become the successful blogger you aspire to be.

You’ll soon realize that each step you take along your journey is as important as the last.

Celebrate the Small Steps

I get it:

The reason you want to get started writing a blog post is you want to feel the satisfaction of a job well done. You feel like hitting that publish button will be the ultimate victory, and you want to get the celebration started as quickly as possible.

Nobody sees all that background work, so none of it really matters, right?

Well, not exactly.

First of all, if you just hack away at your keyboard without doing all that behind-the-scenes stuff, your readers will notice immediately.

Second of all, all of that other work absolutely does matter. You just have to reframe your way of thinking about it.

If you’re writing a blog post just to get it done, are you really even enjoying it? This isn’t some boring assignment given to you by your English teacher. You don’t have to do it. Nobody’s forcing you. You should be blogging because you want to blog.

What I mean to say is: If you’re going to write a blog, you better go all in.

Like I said before, all the background work is just as important as the actual writing. Learn to see it that way.

Instead of reserving all your celebration for after you hit “publish,” take the time to truly experience and celebrate each step you take in the process:

  • Show off your mindmap and brainstorming to friends, family – and even your audience.
  • Comment on blogs and posts you plan on linking to throughout your own post.
  • Ask for feedback from trusted sources based on your outline.
  • Save a copy of your first draft, and read it side-by-side your polished final one.

Creating the perfect blog post is a process, and there’s no getting around that. But once you reframe the way you approach this process, you’ll start to actually enjoy every step along the way.

The more effort you put into your blog posts, the more you’ll have to celebrate. If you rush through the whole ordeal, do you really even deserve to put on your party hat?

In my next post, I’ll revisit a topic I’ve already spoken a bit about: the importance of reading. I’ll share some insight as to what bloggers should be reading, as well as how they can find new material to read on a daily basis.

But for now, I want to know: What is your least favorite part of writing/blogging? What always gets you stuck? How will you change your mindset in the future so these steps start to become part of your routine, and so you actually begin to enjoy them?

Let me know in the comments below!

Beginning Bloggers: Don’t Niche Yourself Down

If you’ve been following my blog since the beginning, you’ve likely read my post on making the transition from academic writing to writing for a web-based audience.

In that post, I briefly touched on the idea that, as a blogger, you’re no longer assigned topics to write about; it’s all up to you.

As a fledgling freelance writer and blogger, I’ll admit this is something I’ve struggled with over the past year. In fact, I still feel some of my best work has been for Lifehack, which provides a list of topics to choose from rather than having writers start completely from scratch.

When I first started writing for Lifehack, I excitedly chose pretty much any topic I felt comfortable writing about. I wrote about successful habits. I wrote about anxiety and depression. I wrote about working from home. I wrote about the dangers of stress. Whatever topics came across my dashboard, that’s what I wrote about.

I’ll be honest: If those topics weren’t listed, there’s no way I would have been able to come up with all of those ideas on my own. At least, not as a rookie blogger.

In the Beginning

Tell me if this sounds familiar:

You want to start a blog. You have literally thousands of ideas swimming around in your head. You have a ton of interests. You have experience in a variety of areas.


You have absolutely no idea where to start.

You would love to write about sports one day, politics the next, and, I don’t know, your experiences as a shrimp boat captain the day after that.

But what kind of blog would that be? It’d be like the Internet version of the mixed-up chameleon.

Start broad and find your niche later.
Pictured: An actual, not mixed-up, chameleon.

However, instead of picking one of these topics and running with it, your brain pulls you in all three directions until you’re stretched so thin you don’t want to write about any of it.

So what do you do?

That A-Ha Moment

There are a ton of articles out there on the Web telling you to immediately choose a niche and start writing. The ones I’ve read all have one thing in common:

They are all focused on the monetary value of your blog.

If your goal is to start making money from your blog right now, then yes, I would advise that you figure out exactly what you want to write about before you get started.

But if making a living from your writing is your goal for the long-term, you’ll be relieved to know that you don’t need to have a niche right now!

Not only should you write about everything that interests you now, but you should continue to write about everything that interests you as you progress in your career as a blogger.

In fact, when you begin your freelance career, you should even write about topics that are completely outside of your wheelhouse. The first article I wrote for Lifehack was a short description of a YouTube video about how to fix a stripped screw with a rubber band. Anyone that knows me will tell you, I’d never in a million years be the go-to guy for handiwork. While that quick article got me started on my freelancing journey, it only gained about 40 shares on social media. Not my best work, for sure.

(Shameless plug: My second article, which was right up my alley, has over 13,000 social media shares to date; Clearly, writing about your area of expertise has its benefits).

The point is, the more you write, the more you’ll see what works, and what doesn’t.

If you’re unsure of what to focus on in your writing, don’t hesitate to write about whatever’s on your mind at that specific moment in time. At the end of your first week of blogging, wouldn’t you rather have a blog with three seemingly random posts than a blog with no posts at all?

Working Your Way Toward a Niche

Obviously, you’ll eventually want to narrow down your blog’s focus if you want to be considered an expert in a specific field. But there’s nothing wrong with testing the waters to see what your best course of action is.

Build Up Your Skills

If you’re a beginning blogger, you have a lot to learn.

I’ve said it before: You may have been a great writer in college and grade school, but this is a whole new ballgame. If your content is anything less than excellent, your readers aren’t going to stick around very long.

So, before you even start targeting your audience, use your first few blog posts to hone your skills.

Experiment with different forms of writing.

Dive into different topics, interests, and areas of expertise.

Cast a wide net and see if you can snag a few audience members early on in the process.

Keep your portfolio growing with every piece you write.

Above all else: Use every moment spent writing as a learning experience. If you want to make a living writing for the web, you have to come to terms with the fact that you need to always be learning.

Start to Carve Your Niche

So you’ve gone a few weeks, maybe months, and maybe even a year writing on various topics, and you still don’t really know which of these you’d like to focus on professionally.

But now, instead of having a blank canvas and being completely unsure of where to start, now you have dozens and dozens of articles under your belt to help you figure it out.

Take a look back through your blog’s content. And prepare yourself to run a gauntlet of questions:

  • Which topics have you written about most?
  • Which have you most enjoyed writing about?
  • Which have come most naturally to you?
  • Which have you learned most about – and would you like to continue learning about?
  • Which articles have engaged your audience the most?
  • What have your readers had to say about these articles?
  • Which topic are you sure they’d like to read more about?

One more question for you: Isn’t it going to be much easier to answer these questions using hindsight than it would have been to predict the answers before you started blogging?

Still Can’t Decide?

If, after this experimental time period concludes, you still can’t figure out which topic to focus on: Don’t.

However, I’m not saying you should continue writing general-knowledge or interest pieces. In fact, quite the contrary.

If you’re so dedicated to each of your topics, there’s nothing stopping you from becoming an expert in more than one field.

But notice what that statement entails:

At some point, you’re going to have to separate your interests completely. You wouldn’t sell lures and fishing poles at a hardware store, would you?

It’ll obviously be incredibly time-consuming and intensive, but if you’re up to the challenge, you can run more than one successful blog, each with a completely different focus. Doing so will net you (sorry, still thinking of fishing) audience members from a variety of industries which you never would have reached if you stuck to a single topic.

Just make sure you don’t spread yourself too thin. You don’t want to lose audience members on both ends because you couldn’t make up your mind and burned yourself out.

The main thing to take away from all this is that you shouldn’t let your indecisiveness when it comes to finding a niche keep you from actually writing. If it comes to it, use the old “throw it at the wall” approach: Whatever sticks is worth looking into, and whatever doesn’t won’t be remembered, anyway.


Writing When You Really Don’t Want To

Okay. I promised myself last week that I would get back on track here. Three posts a week. It’s not impossible. It’s not even difficult. Yes, it’s easy to not do it. But it’s not difficult to do. I just need to actually sit down and freaking do it.

Of course, Monday morning rolls around, and I’d rather do anything else than sit down and write. I could blame it on the fact that my wife and I had a nice, relaxing visit with our families this weekend. I could blame it on the excitement and comedown of Super Bowl Sunday. I could blame it on the fact that I’m currently sitting in a hotel room in Connecticut right now – when I think hotel, I think “vacation.”

But then I could come back with “Okay, you were visiting family, but you didn’t have an hour or two to yourself?” I did – no excuse there. “Okay, so yesterday was the Super Bowl. But it started at 6:30. And it’s not like you were partying all day like you used to. So what happened to the rest of your day?” Again – no excuse. “So just because you’re in a hotel you’re gonna pretend it’s summer vacation?” The only reason we’re here is because my wife is currently at a job interview. Clearly, this isn’t a vacation.

For every excuse I could possibly make, the writer in me has a quick rebuttal that makes me feel like a lazy schlub for not breaking out the Chromebook and at least getting something out.

So here we are.

I’ll admit, writing about not wanting to write is a bit of a copout. But, if it’ll get my fingers moving on the keyboard, so be it.

But I want to go a little deeper than just lamenting about not wanting to do any work. I mean, most – if not all – of us, at one time or another, simply don’t feel like working. It’s not that out of the ordinary.


Our reasons for not wanting to work can be as complicated as we are as human beings. Sure, laziness may be one factor. But To chalk up a lack of drive to simple laziness is…well…lazy.

I figured to get back into the swing of things, I’ll take a look at the many reasons I (and many of you, most likely) have fallen short of my writing goals in the past:

  • A lack of inspiration
  • A lack of motivation
  • Feelings of inadequacy
  • Outside factors

Lack of Inspiration

Inspiration is defined as “the process of being mentally stimulated to do or feel something, especially to do something creative.”

It’s the metaphorical lightbulb that goes on over your head right before you start out on some creative venture.

When you’re inspired to do something, nothing will get in your way while you work. Hunger, fatigue, sickness…when inspiration hits you, none of these detrimental factors come into play. You simply don’t make excuses.

On the other hand, when you’re not inspired, it can be hard to get moving.

Sometimes those “aha” moments come to you and make it easy to get down to business. But other times, you have to do some prerequisite work before you get started.

If you’re not feeling inspired, there are a few ways you can get there:

Be a Consumer

It can be difficult to produce anything of value if you haven’t recently consumed anything to inspire you.

I’ve mentioned the importance of being an avid reader if you want to create a consistent and successful blog.

Think about it: Shakespeare wasn’t born with all those plays and sonnets hidden somewhere in his mind. Many of his plays are based on stories that had been written hundreds of years beforehand. And, while he may have written some of the most incredible sonnets known to man, he certainly didn’t create the poetic form himself.

To paraphrase Sir Isaac Asimov: you’ll be able to see much further by standing on the shoulders of giants.

In other words, if you’re having trouble creating a new post or article, look to the greats in your field. Read some of their newest posts, or listen to their latest podcasts. You’ll almost certainly find something to write about once these outside sources get you in the right frame of mind.

Dig Deep

Of course, you don’t want to simply piggyback off of a blog or podcast you just came across. It wouldn’t make much sense to simply rewrite something that’s already been done, would it?

Instead, dig a little deeper.

Read the post with the explicit purpose of finding a springboard for an article of your own.

Make a list of questions you have while listening to a podcast, and research the answers.

Check the comments section – both of your own blog and others in your blogging community.

Find out what people are talking about and run with it.

Look on Twitter to see what hashtags are trending. There’s bound to be something that both interests you and is worth studying a bit more about.

In short: be an active consumer. Don’t just passively read as if you were watching a rerun of a sitcom you’ve seen a dozen times. Don’t just throw on a podcast and let your mind wander to all the chores you have to do later on.

If the goal is to gain fuel with which to produce content yourself, make sure you’re actively taking in all the information you possibly can.

Lack of Motivation

While inspiration and motivation are sometimes used interchangeably, there is a clear difference between the two.

Inspiration, as mentioned, is the catalyst that gets you moving.

Motivation is defined as “the reason or reasons one has for acting or behaving in a particular way.”

In other words, motivation is the knowledge that without action, you’ll never reach your goal.

However, this is not to say the two aren’t deeply intertwined. It’s almost certain that, while I discuss motivation in the next section, I’ll bring up the word “inspiration” at least a couple times. Hopefully I don’t confuse myself!

Anyway, motivation can come from two different sources: from the outside, and from within. Let’s examine how we can fix a lack of both.

Extrinsic Motivation

I like to pretend I’m not a huge fan of extrinsic motivation. I guess it’s because I know that, somewhere in the spacetime continuum, the teenage me is calling the 30-year-old me a sellout. I can just hear him now: “You don’t need to get paid to enjoy your work, man!”


Since when are intrinsic rewards bad?
Now I have to wear this, according to a contract I made up when I was 15.

But, let’s be serious: in the real world, getting paid to do work is definitely a motivating factor.

That’s not to say I’m getting paid for this post (I’m not). But I do know that every post I write on here is one more article to add to my portfolio, which, in turn, may lead to more prospects in the future. So, even though I’m not getting paid per se for this post, it may lead to money in the long run.

In fact, I’ll do a little bit of full disclosure: That last paragraph was the entire reason I sat down to write this post. I could have just spent two hours watching SportsCenter while I waited for my wife to wrap up her interview.

But the thought crossed my mind: If you don’t do anything for the next two hours, you’re setting your future self back two whole hours – time you’ll never get back. Stop waiting. Get moving, or you’re costing your future self money.

I didn’t start writing this post because I had to, or even because I wanted to. I did it because of this extrinsic rewards I’ll eventually reap, and I’ll know that this post was, even in the slightest bit, a contributing factor to earning those rewards.

If you’re having trouble getting started, think of the rewards you’ll receive, either in the short- or long-term, for a job well done. It should be enough to get you moving in the right direction.

Intrinsic Motivation

Okay, I just got done saying I didn’t actively want to write this when I started out.

But guess what? Now that I’m almost done (I’ll wait while you breathe a sigh of relief), I’m incredibly glad I got down to work.

What value would have been added to my life if I wasted the last two hours watching SportsCenter? I watched the Super Bowl last night. I don’t need to hear anymore about how Cam Newton stormed out of his press conference, or how Peyton Manning said “Budweiser” 75 times in his post-game interview.

However, working on this post has, even in the slightest way, made me a better writer. I’m not sure how – and I’m not sure I’m supposed to know how – but I’m sure my skills have improved ever so slightly in the past two hours.

And, once I committed to writing this article, I decided to not be content with a half-assed post that didn’t say anything of value.

With the exception of the span of time in which I wrote that last section, I wasn’t thinking of any outside reward at all while writing this. I’ve focused on one thing: creating a solid piece of writing.

It took a little inspiration to get started, and I had to convince myself that lounging around watching ESPN wasn’t a good way to start my week off, but once I got moving, there was no stopping me. And, by the time I wrap this up, it’ll be just about time to check out and go pick up my wife.

I might not have started out writing because of intrinsic factors, but looking back, I feel much better about myself than I would have if I just went back to bed for the morning.

Sometimes intrinsic motivation works backwards, I guess.

Okay, there are two other factors I mentioned as to why I – and others – fall short of our writing goals. But I’ll let you off the hook for now, and get back to you later on this week. See how I’m tricking myself into writing more? Hey, whatever works, right?

Blogging Consistently, Part 2

Last week, I ate some crow after letting my blogging habit fall to the wayside.

Unlike times past, when I would have just given up altogether and moved on to some other venture, though, this time I used my shortcomings as a springboard for a new blog post about blogging consistently.

I decided to make it a two-part entry for a few reasons:

  1. The initial discussion about the importance of blogging consistently ran a little long
  2. I figured I could keep you all coming back to see how to stay consistent
  3. It gave me incentive to come back and write more. How “meta”!


We all know that blogging consistently is incredibly important if we want to retain and grow our audience.

But how can you hold yourself to it? We all live busy lives, and, for lack of a better term, shit happens to all of us. Some days, blogging just isn’t the most important thing in your life.

I understand we’re all human. And your audience definitely knows this.


They have no obligation to stick around on your page if you’re not providing them with anything of value. I’ve said it before: your audience isn’t interested in you on a personal level.

This sounds so callous, but think about it: If your local coffee shop was closed for the day, you wouldn’t spend more than a minute or two wondering if the owner is okay. You’d go across the street and get your morning pick-me-up elsewhere, and move on with your day. This isn’t to say you don’t care and are some horrible person; it’s just that you have other things to worry about, and can’t afford to take on the burden of worrying about someone’s well-being just because you buy coffee from them.

Anyway, I digress.

The point is, if you want your blog to be successful, you have to stay consistent, no matter what.

And you can do this by:

  • Setting Reasonable, Meaningful, and Measurable Goals
  • Making a Schedule and Sticking to It
  • Being Deliberate
  • Shifting Your Perspective

Let’s unpack these a little bit, shall we?

Setting Reasonable, Meaningful, and Measurable Goals

I mentioned this in passing in the first part of this post.

But I want to dive a little deeper into the topic, because it really can make or break a blog (and a blogger).

Think back on all the New Year’s Resolutions you’ve made in the past. How many of them have you actually kept?

Now, I’m not saying you never kept any of them. But I bet the ones you didn’t keep weren’t reasonable, meaningful, or measurable. By setting up these unrealistic goals, you actually set yourself up to fail before you even took the first steps.

The same goes for your blogging goals.


I told myself at the beginning of this year that I would blog at least three times a week (aiming for five), including one longform post.

It doesn’t sound like a lot, does it? It sounds pretty reasonable, especially as I write this.

But, I didn’t take into consideration all the other writing I’d be doing as a freelancer. I didn’t take into consideration that some weeks my daily schedule would be absolutely packed with assignments that actually need to be done unless I wanted to lose a well-paying gig. I didn’t take into consideration life’s contingencies, like flat tires, doctor’s appointments, and family dinners. For some reason, I thought it would be possible (and socially acceptable) to just lock myself up and write, write, write for an entire year. I mean, it’d be nice…but it just isn’t reasonable.

Not to mention the human factor – that is, I’m no machine. Not yet, at least.

Robots can work all day...they just choose not to.
One day, Matt…One day…

Imagine if, instead of blogging daily, my goal was to hit the gym every single day. It sounds ambitious, but it’s not sustainable. Even professional athletes have rest days, after all.

It was crazy of me to think that blogging daily would be any different. Yes, some days you’ll wake up ready to type, type, type. But other days, it’s just like any other job – you’d rather stare at the wall for eight hours than go anywhere near your keyboard.

I’m reminded of the old adage that works in pretty much any given scenario (except the 400m dash, I guess): It’s a marathon, not a sprint.

In other words, pace yourself.

I’m going to run some numbers here to make sense of what I’m trying to say.

Let’s say I paced myself at three articles a week throughout the entire year (and stuck to it):

(3 x 52) = 156.

By the end of my first year of blogging, I’d have 156 posts under my belt (in addition to the many other articles I’d hopefully have written elsewhere).

In reality, during the month of January, I wrote eight posts in the first two weeks, then took almost two weeks off (let’s round up to two weeks to make it easy). Essentially, that’s only eight posts per month.

8 x 12 = 96.

Even though I started off incredibly fast, I only kept up that pace for two weeks. Extrapolated over a year, this method would result in sixty fewer posts than if I committed to three per week.

It turns out writing less, but more consistently, will ultimately result in huge gains in the long run.


Another thing to take note of is the measurable aspect of this goal.

Imagine my goal was “I want to blog more than I did last year.” If that were my goal, I would have already reached it by now with the ten or so articles I’ve posted. Big whoop.

“More” isn’t exactly quantifiable. And it doesn’t speak to quality, either. I could have posted “more” than I did last year by just posting a captioned stock photo every day. Again, big whoop. I would have reached my goal, but am I really growing in any way?

Since I revamped my goal to three blog posts per week (on average), I will be able to tell by the end of the year whether or not I’ve reached my goal.

Yes, I know I need to step it up. Keep it to yourself😉

Make a Schedule, and Stick to It

As with any goal, you need to figure out how often you want to work toward your goal. And you should never, ever derive from this plan for anything short of a true emergency.

I discussed this in the intro of the first part of this post: Once you make one excuse, it becomes easier to make another, and another…until you just stop working toward your goal completely.

Don’t let this happen. Your friends want to meet for happy hour? Too bad, it’s a blogging day. Your favorite rerun of Seinfeld is on? Too bad, you have work to do. Your wife’s car broke down? Too ba…

Just kidding. Like I said, things come up. Of course, you should never put your blogging above the health and safety of yourself or your loved ones. But just know that once you pick your wife up and take care of the car troubles, you’re going to have to sacrifice some leisure time later on to reach your daily goal.

Set the Bar, Then Aim Higher

Okay, so you’ve set a reasonable goal, and set a schedule for your blogging habit. But some weeks you just feel like you could do better.

By no means should you confuse the bar you set for a ceiling.

If you feel like writing, write. Don’t hold yourself back just because you’ve already written your “three for the week.” Take advantage of the time you have. Push yourself when the mood strikes.


Internet readers are fickle (which I’ve said before). You don’t want to confuse your audience by posting daily one week, three times another week, two times in one day the next week…you get my point.

If you post on a random Thursday after your audience has become accustomed to hearing from you every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, what do you think they’re going to want next Thursday?

Instead of posting whenever you finish an article, no matter how many posts you write, keep your schedule consistent. Keep those other posts locked up for future publication. Within a few months you should have a dozen or so articles that have yet to go live, giving you a bit of leeway when life throws a monkey wrench into your plans.

Be Deliberate

I said something before about how easy it would be simply to “blog more”: It’d be easy to just write a quick paragraph every single day and boast about how you wrote 365 blog posts this year.

But that’s not what you want to do, is it?

Don’t ever catch yourself writing “just because you have to.” Blogging will quickly become a chore if you start seeing it like one.

Write About Your Interests

I love writing, and I love writing about writing.

Unlike in my college days, I’m not constantly looking at the word count of the blog posts I write. I’m not writing to fulfill a quota; I’m writing to get my ideas out there.

That isn’t to say I’m writing for myself. You should know by now that’s not the case.

But I’m not writing about something I have absolutely no vested interest in just because it’s a hot button topic. You’d know immediately if I was looking for clicks.

One of the best ways to stay consistent in your blogging is to always write about topics that interest you. Your daily life is a treasure trove of content, even if you don’t realize it. Case in point: this article stemmed from the fact that I had shirked my blogging responsibility for almost two weeks. In delving into a shortcoming of mine, I’ve managed to pen a longform article discussing how I (and others in similar situations) can improve.

Write With Fervor

My blog’s tagline says it all: Why write if my life doesn’t depend on it?

When you sit down to write, you need to be writing. Not checking your Facebook page. Not wondering if your friend got the meme you sent them earlier. Not eavesdropping on the conversation being held on the other side of the Starbucks. You need to write.


If you find yourself getting distracted constantly, figure out the problem and fix it.

The problem is going to be unique to your own situation, so unfortunately you’re on your own for the most part. Maybe you need some soundproof headphones. Maybe you need to unplug your WiFi. Maybe you need a change of scenery. Whatever it is, do it, and do it now – before you waste anymore time

Check out Write or Die if you’re having trouble staying on track. It sounds pretty morbid, but it’s more along the lines of sadistic: Once you start writing, you can’t stop – or you’ll be punished. If you so much as glance around the room, your words will start to be erased. It’s a great way to keep your ideas flowing and stop you from micro-editing along the way. And you definitely won’t want to “just check Instagram for a minute,” because a minute could be all it takes to erase an hour of your hard work.


If you have trouble managing your time while writing, check out time-tracking apps such as Toggl, or use the Pomodoro technique. There are a ton of programs out there that will help you keep track of how much time you’ve spent working – as well as how much time you’ve wasted staring into space. Seeing how both of these periods of time add up may just be the catalyst you need to make a change in your writing habits.

Maintaining a blog seems like it’d be pretty easy, but once you start it becomes crystal clear that a lot more goes into it than you may have at first thought. Once you have a more realistic idea of what to expect throughout your blogging journey, though, you’ll realize that you definitely can make it happen – as long as you do it on your own terms.

Blogging Consistently, Part 1

Okay, it’s time for another round of Full Disclosure:

I suck. It’s been almost two weeks since my last post on here, and I have absolutely no excuse for being so lax in my writing. Guess I haven’t been living up to my blog’s name, have I?

What follows may sound like a list of excuses, which you should know I’m completely against. So, please know this next part isn’t meant to excuse me from my writing. It’s meant to be a quick summary of my past month of blogging: where I succeeded, and where I fell short.

I started the year optimistic and enthusiastic about where I’d be taking my blog. Within a week, I had five detailed posts under my belt, grown a small following of other students in The Daily Post’s Blogging 101 course, and connected with established bloggers through backlinks and comments. Things were going great.

I believe I kept up the pace for the first two weeks of the course. I know I missed one assignment that was fairly inconsequential to my needs and goals, and I was okay with that. It didn’t seem like a big deal – especially because I had otherwise remained consistent in my posting.

But then, as it is want to do, life threw a few things my way that needed my immediate attention. I put my blog on the backburner for a few days, knowing I could come back to it when I was ready and able to focus on my writing.

Right there is where the problem began. Saying I’d come back to it “when I’m ready” was such an ambiguous statement that I started rationalizing not blogging by saying I “wasn’t in the mood” or “would get to it soon.” Ahh, tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow…

But enough about my sob story. Like I said, I made excuses to myself, but that doesn’t mean it’s okay to slack off. I’ll bite the bullet, fess up, and move on.

At least it gave me something to write about today…

Today, I’ll be talking about blogging consistently, and why it’s important to audience retention and growth, as well as SEO rankings.

Audience Retention

Imagine a new store opens up in your neighborhood advertising state-of-the-art electronics, gadgets, and gizmos at prices that blow the nearest chain store out of the water. You take a walk downtown during an afternoon off to check it out, only to see a “Sorry, We’re Closed” sign in the window. Confused, you look for a sign telling you the store’s hours of operations, but there is none. You call the next day to get more info, and are told “Well, we might be open for the rest of the day, but we might not be. I’m not sure if anyone will be in tomorrow, either. On Friday, we’ll definitely be closed – we want to enjoy a long weekend.”

Sounds crazy, doesn’t it?

When will you "be back"? Your audience needs to know!
What, exactly, is your idea of “shortly”?

No matter how awesome every other aspect of the store is, if it only operates whenever the owner or manager “feels like it,” it’ll never succeed. Customers will just end up going elsewhere, even if it means spending a little extra money – as long as they can be sure they’ll actually get what they want.

I’m sure you can see where I’m going with this.

I’ve said it before: A blog is not created for the sake of the blogger; it’s for the audience. And audience members will only stick around if they can rely on the blog’s creator to provide valuable content on a consistent basis. There are hundreds – if not thousands – of other places to get similar information on the Internet. If you’re not providing what your audience wants, they’ll find someone else who will.

This isn’t to say you should hit the ground running and never stop.

Let’s revisit the store metaphor. What if the owner started out by keeping the store open for forty hours a week, before it had built a large customer base? The amount of wasted electricity and manpower would likely be enough to sink the business before it ever got moving. At the very least, he would immediately have to scale back its operational hours – which, to its customers, would appear to be writing on the wall symbolizing problems with the business in general. They wouldn’t be able to trust any guarantees or warranties given by the store, and would end up choosing a more reputable place to do business with.

Again, I’m sure you can see where I’m going with this.

If your blog’s audience sees that you haven’t posted in weeks (after getting used to reading something new every day), what are they going to think? They’ll believe you’re getting lazy, or you ran out of ideas, or simply don’t care about whatever cause you “dedicated yourself to” in your initial blog post. They’ll end up finding a more reliable source of information, and will leave your blog behind.

Audience Growth

Of course, you want to do more than simply retain the readers you already have. The ultimate goal of any blog is to see its readership grow.

The more you post, the wider your reach becomes. A blogger who consistently comes up with new topics to write about will reach a wide variety of audience members – all individuals looking to fill a specific need.

As your blog – and your audience –  grows, you’ll gain the momentum needed to keep pushing. And it will become easier and easier to sustain an intensive blogging schedule.

When you only have a small audience base, creating post after post can be draining (side note: I love you guys, your comments have been amazing, but I can’t dedicate two hours each and every day to something only a handful of people are reading!).

If my audience consisted of thousands of individuals – which may result in contracted freelance work, or more – I’d be more than happy to dedicate a huge chunk of every day to creating engaging content for my own blog. But if my blog posts aren’t paying the bills, it simply can’t be my top priority

Like with any other business, as I said, a blog should grow with its audience. Find a balance. Create enough engaging content that your audience slowly but surely increases in numbers. But don’t dive in so fast that you get burnt out and let down the people who gave you a chance in the first place. Do that, and your initial efforts will all be for naught.

Search Engine Optimization

Sure, your audience can grow through word-of-mouth (your own, or your current audience members’). But you can also make Google and other search engines work for you – if you’re consistent.

As you gain a deeper understanding of SEO, you’ll start to see it’s not all about keyword stuffing and cloaking. Google’s algorithms are getting smarter and smarter, and can see through these spammy techniques right away.

Search engine rankings go even deeper than calculating the amount of visits a page gets, too. Google now records how long a visitor stays on a specific site or page, as well. It uses these data to calculate a site’s dwell time, which Neil Patel calls “a critical, but often overlooked facet of search optimization.”

(Side note: Finish reading this article before you check out that link. I’ll give you the basics, and let Neil dive deeper afterwards)

Anyways, what does this have to do with consistency?

The answer to that question is two-fold:

  1. Consistent content = consistent pageviews = higher SEO ranking
  2. Fresh content = more crawling done by search engines = higher SEO ranking

The first part of this is just common sense. Much like the shop that maintains steady business hours, your blog will be visited by readers during the times they would expect to see new content. And as your audience returns, they’ll end up spending more time on your page in the process (perhaps checking out other posts they may have missed, or articles full of information that supplements the new post). All of these actions performed by your reader while logged on to your site make you look beautiful in the eyes of search engines.

But, if you’re inconsistent with your posting, your audience won’t know when to expect something new, and may not come back at all.


The second part of that answer – search engine crawling – is a little more technical.

I’ll try to keep it simple (for myself as much as for you!). Search engines are programmed to “crawl” web pages as they are updated. If your blog lays dormant for long periods of time, it stops being noticed by these search engine “bots.” (I really want to make some sort of “cob-World Wide-web” pun, but I’ll spare you from that torture)

A deserted blog will end up collecting virtual cobwebs.
What, exactly, is your idea of “shortly”?

Think of it like this: a restaurant reviewer isn’t going to go back to an eatery he’s reviewed in the past and order the same meal, right? He wouldn’t have anything new to say, and would only be wasting his time.

On the other hand, if the restaurant adds something new to the menu, the reviewer will be more likely to go back and try it out – knowing he’ll have new material to work with.

The more you update your blog – with valuable content, mind you – the more attention you’ll get from search engine bots. Every time you update your blog, you’re virtually raising your hand above the horde of other websites out there, saying “Hey! Check me out! I got some new stuff to show you!” 

Again, the “new stuff” you have to show off better be good, or it won’t matter how often you update your site. Don’t be like the kid in class who answers every question the teacher asks incorrectly just so he gets noticed. You’ll only gain the ire of the virtual Raymond Reddington’s of the World Wide Web.


It really is that simple.

Just kidding, it’s really not. But I’ll explain more about that in future posts. For now, just know that if you want to retain and grow your audience, whether through human or computerized recommendations, one of the most important facets to keep in mind is providing valuable content on a consistent basis.

But how, exactly, do you keep the ball rolling? How can you stay consistent in such a busy, hectic world?

We’ll discuss that next time. I’m sure you’ve had enough of me by now =)

In the meantime, I want to know: What are your experiences with starting and maintaining a blog? Have you had any trouble staying consistent? What have you done to stay motivated? Have you changed your routine at all to accommodate your blogging? Let’s start up a discussion down below!

Academic vs. Web Writing

First of all, let me apologize to you guys, myself, and the Blogging Gods for falling off the face of the Earth for the past few days. I started off my venture using the Daily Post’s Blogging 101 assignments using a “no excuses” mantra, so I’ll just admit that I haven’t exactly been making the most of my time over the past week, and let valuable blogging time slip away because of it.

Anyway, I’m sure you’ve all been waiting with bated breath for my next post (just keep telling yourself that, Matt!), so without further ado, I want to dive in right where I left off: Getting inspired by my neighbors.

In an earlier post in which I discussed the importance of reading as much (if not more) than you actually write as a blogger, I mentioned a handful of blog posts that really struck a chord with me. One such article, written by The Judgmental Observer, argued in defense of academic writing (something I had argued against early on in my blog’s lifetime).

Although I’ve already admitted I was a bit misguided in my initial approach, I feel like I owe it to Amanda Klein (the Judgmental Observer herself) to unpack my thoughts a little further.

What the Reader Wants

One thing we can all agree on is the fact that the Internet offers something for everyone. No matter your purpose for logging onto the Web, you’ll be able to find what you’re looking for within minutes (possibly even seconds).

That being said, in addition to the fact that roughly three billion people have access to the Internet, it’d be an incredible oversight to write something such as academic writing off as “dying” or “dead.” Longform, in-depth articles might not exactly be the most-clicked stories on the web, but that doesn’t mean absolutely nobody is interested in them.

Depending on a reader’s purpose, both academic and web writing have their merits.

Why pick up a book if you don't want to read it?
Why pick up a book if you don’t want to read it?

If you’ve sat down with the intent of finding hard-hitting, insightful prose which gets to the heart of a certain topic – and makes you question your foundational values at the same time – which type of article would you seek out? A longform academic piece will be much more effective in discussing complex issues than an article titled, oh, I don’t know, “Ten Reasons Racism is Alive and Well in Today’s Society.” A quickly- (and probably poorly-) written listicle discussing such a deep topic would be nothing short of insulting. Obviously, complex issues that stretch to comprehend ideas woven into the fabric of society need more time and focus to be impactful. No reader seeking enlightenment would click on a 400-word article claiming to have solved some major world issue thinking they’d be getting what they wanted.

On the other hand, readers aren’t always looking for a challenge, so it makes sense that not everything out there is of academic quality. Even if a reader is looking to learn something, that doesn’t necessarily mean they want to wade through lines of long-winded prose to get there. Web writing can, and often does, offer insightful advice while cutting out all the wordiness of academic writing. Read any post by Neil Patel and tell me you didn’t learn something. But notice the difference between his writing and an article you’ll find on Longform: While you may read longform articles to seek abstract enlightenment or intellectual growth, you’d read Patel’s blog posts looking to learn new skills and take immediate action.

Simply put, the purpose of reading longform articles is to enjoy the journey, while reading web writing is all about getting to a new destination.

What the Writer Wants

The writer should have SOME input, right?
The writer should have SOME input, right?

Okay, so when a writer puts words on a page, his audience is in mind at all times. But that doesn’t mean he’s not allowed to do what he wants, right?

When an academic writer sits down to pen an op-ed piece, he does so with the intention of getting out everything that’s on his mind, no matter how long it takes. Since he knows his audience will be prepared to hunker down and dive into a longform piece, he can be comfortable writing without urgency (while also being careful not to go off topic). It makes sense: No reader is going to seek out a longform article only to click away from it because it’s too long. That’d be pretty counterintuitive, wouldn’t it?

On the other hand, someone like Brian Dean isn’t trying to shake up the fabric of society with his writing; he simply wants to offer advice, and get his services noticed in the process. If you check out his blog, you’ll notice he doesn’t beat around the bush. Every single word in each of his blog posts serves a single function; there’s no wasted space. Brian doesn’t have to use long-winded prose to convince you of some abstract ideal; he hits his audience with a barrage of statistics, facts, and actionable advice, and lets his readers do with it what they will.

Hoping for a Similar Outcome

Through two completely different methods, both academic and web writers actually aim at having a similar effect on their audience.

Simply put: All writers write because they want to improve their audience’s lives in some way. Why would they publish their words on the Internet if they didn’t want others to be affected by them in some way?

Actually, this may be the reason web writers can get right to the point while academics need more room to get their ideas out.

Web writers can work under the assumption that their readers already agrees with them, and are looking for actionable advice on how to move forward. They don’t need to spend time convincing their readers that such and such a method is the way to go, so they can dive right in and start helping their audience improve their skills and abilities – and their lives as a whole.

On the other hand, many – if not most – academic writers have some persuading to do in their writing. They not only have to present facts that support their perspective, but they also have to weave a story that convinces others that their point of view is correct. They have to appeal not only to their readers’ intellect, but also to their emotions as well.

In both cases, the writer’s overall goal is the same: Provide information that leaves their audiences changed in a positive way.


Again, I’ll admit I took a black-and-white stance on an issue that clearly has many grey areas. Lesson learned!

Is there anything else to add about the value of either academic or web writing? As always, I’d like to think I covered it all, but if I missed anything, be sure to let me know down below!


Blog Personalization: The Minimalist Approach

Okay, Daily Post, the other day you got me to switch up my blog’s theme a bit (which did improve it!). Two days later, you want me to personalize it even further?

I know; I get it. There’s a lot more to blogging than just writing. But – and I think I’ve gone over this before – I’m all about functionality. I don’t like dressing things up without having a reason to show them off. What’s the point of getting your car washed if it doesn’t run? Wouldn’t you want to focus on making it usable before making it look nice?

That’s how I’ve been approaching my blog so far, and I’m pretty happy with it. I’ve spent hours and hours creating valuable posts for my (growing) audience, and the responses I’ve gotten in one short week of serious blogging has been great. I know it could be larger (believe me, I’ve read the stories), and I’m hoping it will in time.

But I’m not about to focus on making the blog attractive and presentable before I have anything to present.

Think of the implications of making a blog attractive before it’s ready to be shown off…

Thinking Zuckerberg

Raise your hand if you don’t know who Mark Zuckerberg is.

Put your hand down, you liar!

Since you’re on the Internet, there is a 100% chance you know who he is. And I bet you can picture exactly what he’s wearing right now.

Zuckerberg is one of the richest people in the world, yet he’s wearing the same grey shirt and jeans in almost every picture you see of him.

His reasoning is simple: Why waste time thinking of what to wear? He has much more important things to do with his time.

Not only that, but who does he have to impress? He doesn’t have to wear a suit and tie to make people think he’s important. His accomplishments have made him a household name. He would have been able to do all of that if he wore a flowery muumuu every day of his life.

Appearances can be deceiving...or not.
Pictured: Not Mark Zuckerberg

Okay, I’m no Mark Zuckerberg (yet, anyway). But my outlook on appearances is quite similar. In person, I dress nice enough to not look slovenly – but I don’t go overboard. The same goes for my blog.

Misleading Your Audience

Have you ever had someone try to sell you something you just knew was too good to be true? Did you buy it anyway?

If you’ve fallen for this trick in the past, chances are you’re a little more weary of it now. And I guarantee you’ve avoided that store or service ever since they swindled you.

Now, I’m not even selling anything; I just want to get noticed by an interested readership and potential clients (okay, I guess I am selling something, then).

But imagine if my blog only looked good, but lacked content. What good are promises of valuable information if what I’m giving you is nothing new, and can be found elsewhere?

There is none.

No one is going to click on a blog and think “Great design! The content is terrible (or non-existent), but since it looks really good, I’ll be sure to come back tomorrow!”

As I’m only just getting my blog off the ground, the last thing I want to do is attract people right away, only to have them put me on some sort of personal blacklist, never to return.

I’ll definitely get around to adding more personality to my blog, but for now, I want to focus on creating great content that attracts people willing to dig a little deeper.

Valuable Additions

I mentioned this the other day. “Personalizing” your blog doesn’t mean changing it just for the sake of change. Returning to the car metaphor, I’m reminded of that episode of The Simpsons when Homer was tasked with designing the blueprint for a car.

If you’ve never seen the episode, you can only imagine the kind of additions he requested for his dream car: a spoiler (on a non-sports car), a horn that played “La Cucaracha,” and one of those orange balls on the antennae so it’s easy to find (on every single one…).

Homer just kept adding things he thought would be awesome, but he only ended up ruining his brother’s business completely.

The point is, do not add anything to your blog unless you have a specific purpose for it. Yes, you can experiment with themes, fonts, and widgets. But if you’re doing so just for the heck of it, stop. Think about what the change you’re about to make means for your overall blog.

Is it something you’re going to want to change tomorrow? Is it something that’s going to change the direction of your blog (in a positive or negative way)? Or is it something you don’t even want, but think you need it because “other blogs have it”?

Just as you need to make every word count in each of your posts, you want to make sure the aesthetic and functional additions you make to your blog improve it for yourself and your audience in a meaningful way.

Honestly, I can’t wait until my blog gets to a point where I can add different widgets and make certain changes that actually mean something to my readers’ overall experience. But that day is not today. For now, I’ll focus on creating the best content I possibly can, and increasing my audience with substance rather than fluff.

(Side note: Two Simpsons references in one post? #goals)

All About “About Me” Pages

Believe it or not, your About Me page will ultimately end up being the most visited page on your entire blog.

It makes sense if you think about it: If a person reads one of your entries and likes what they see, they’ll almost certainly check to see what you’re all about. For every new visitor your blog gets (at least, the ones who enjoy your content), you can safely assume they’ll pay a visit to your About Me page.

So it makes sense that your About Me page can’t be an afterthought. A flat, uninspiring About Me page says…well, it says a lot about you, and your worth as a writer.

This doesn’t mean your About Me page needs be set in stone, though. Just like your blog’s overall theme, you can feel free to change your About Me section as you evolve as a writer and grow in skill and experience.

But if you’re just getting your blog – and freelance writing career – off the ground, how can you create an About Me page that truly encapsulates who you are, and what you’re really all about?

Have a Purpose

Every single part of your blog should have some sort of purpose, and your About Me page is no different.

Now, I know what you’re thinking: “An About Me page is obviously going to be where I tell all about myself!” Well, you’re not wrong. But you’re not exactly right, either.

Yes, your About Me page should include information about yourself. But it should only include information that is valuable to your blog and audience. For example, if you maintain a blog related to criminal law, you’d definitely want to include information about your background as a defense attorney, prosecutor, or judge. But nobody’s going to care that you like to hang-glide or windsurf during your free time.

The content of your About Me page really depends on the purpose of your blog as a whole. Who do you hope reads your blog? Why do you want them to read it? What do you hope they do with the information they glean from your page? What are you getting out of the deal?

Instead of treating your About Me page as a simple introduction, use it as a vehicle for the overall purpose of your blog. You’ll get a lot more out of it, and so will your audience.

Cook Up a Meal

The Daily Post (which is, as you may know by now, the inspiration behind this blog in the first place) says one of the best ways to engage your audience through your About Me page is to cook a meal for them.

Confused? I don’t blame you. But keep reading; it’ll make sense in a minute.

Imagine reading Bill Gates’ resume. Doesn’t exactly sound like fun, does it? His list of accomplishments, while impressive, is still just a boring list of achievements.

Now imagine reading Bill Gates’ biography. This would include most, if not all, of the accomplishments on his resume, but it will be told in an interesting way that allows readers to see him as a person rather than a faceless list of acknowledgements.

Your About Me page shouldn't be a simple list of ingredients
Ingredients don’t make a meal; The chef does

This is what your About Me page needs to do. There are thousands of blogs out there on the Internet. What makes yours special isn’t your list of accomplishments; it’s your story. How did you get to a point in your life that you realized your experiences were worth blogging about? What do you hope your writing does for your audience? What do you hope it does for yourself?

I’ve gone on at length before to say that nobody really cares about you as a person. But I’ll admit, this statement is a little short-sighted. When you’re passion shows throughout every page in your blog – especially your About Me section – people will understand how dedicated you are to your blog’s topic, and will continue to return each day to hear what you have to say.

A Call to Arms

I discussed the importance of having a purpose for your About Me page, and while each blogger has their own unique purpose for their blog, they all have one thing in common:

They want their audience to do something.

Anyone who makes their blog public is doing so with the hopes that others will read it and have some sort of reaction to it. But it’s not enough to create content and just hope your audience does with it what you wanted them to.

You have to get them to do it.

That sounds a little subversive; don’t worry, I’m not talking about playing Jedi mind tricks or anything.

If your audience enjoys your content, they’ll be happy to do their part to make sure you keep the content coming. Do you want to build a community of readers? Ask them to comment. Do you want to get noticed? Ask them to share the posts they enjoy the most. Do you want to engage them, not just today, but in the future as well? Ask them to subscribe to your blog (or mailing list, if you have one).

Think about it: You’re providing your content absolutely free of charge. The least your audience can do is complete a small task to help keep your content coming strong. But think about when you get something for free: Unless you’re asked to do something in return, you’d likely just take what you can get and go about your merry way, right?

All it takes is a nudge in the right direction, and your readers will be glad to help out.

A lot more goes into creating an About Me page (which even I haven’t gotten around to doing just yet), but these few tips will help you get started on the right foot. Remember: Your entire blog should be ever-evolving, so make sure to revisit your About Me page whenever you reach a milestone in your life worth discussing in your story.

Are there any other tips you have for fledgling bloggers regarding their About Me section? Start up the discussion down below!