Attacking your sucky excuses for not blogging

You already know that nowadays you’re invisible without some sort of social media presence. You already know the (alleged) benefits of having a personal or business blog.

But you still don’t blog, and for good reason, right? Blogging is work, and ten other things are more important. Writing is hard and takes longer than you think it ought.

god writing

And even if the blog works, the experts say you won’t be able to measure its effect, and it will probably take years to come to fruition. Years? Fooey. You need a sale today. You need a job by next Thursday. Who has time for “years?”

…but that’s like saying you’re not going learn to play an instrument because it takes practice.

…but that’s like saying you’re not going to start a company because at first it’s difficult and the payout — if there is one — is too far away to be tangible.

Not much in life that’s worthwhile is easy, especially at the beginning. That’s not an excuse to not do it.

Here’s a bunch of other excuses you’re probably using to avoid becoming a good communicator with influence in the world. Maybe by showing you ways around them you’ll take the plunge.

I don’t know what to write about.

Kathy over at Virtual Impax has a great way to remedy that:

If you’re in business, you’re either helping customers/clients to:

1. achieve a goal,
2. satisfy a desire, and/or
3. solve a problem.

Decide which of those things you do, and write down exactly what that thing is. You’re not identifying what you do but rather the end result that your customers are using you for.

Now write about that.

For example, email newsletter systems like Constant Contact or MailChimp let you collect names and send email. That’s what they do. But their customer’s goals are to stay in their clients’ minds, to get them to click on links, and probably ultimately to sell them something.

So MailChimp doesn’t need to blog about their software (except maybe to explain a tip or announce a new feature), and certainly doesn’t need to talk about Barak Obama or Miley Cyrus. They should talk about how to write an effective newsletter, how to track key metrics on newsletter campaigns, what kinds of things you should expect to achieve from a newsletter, ideas for content for your newsletter, ways to look informative instead of spammy, ways to get two-way promotion with other bloggers via your newsletter, and so on.

These are all things which are equally applicable to their competitors products, but that’s OK!  Providing a software tool is just one way in which they’re going to help their customers succeed — this training, knowledge-transfer, best-practices, and tips are also necessary to make their customers truly successful.

As Kathy says in that article:

If you don’t KNOW what goals you’re helping people achieve, if you don’t know what desires are being quenched, if you don’t know what problems need to be solved, then OF COURSE you aren’t going to know what to blog about.

Yeah, and you have a deeper problem then blogging: You don’t know why you’re in business!

I’m not good at writing.

So how are you going to fix that?

And yes, you do have to fix that. However you feel about the way the Internet is going, you have to admit that writing skills are getting more important, not less. Whether it’s blog posts, Twitters, Facebook updates, discussion forums, or that arcane so-last-millenium technology known as “email,” we’re writing more now than ever.

There’s no better way to improve than to write short essays and put them on the Internet for all to see. Why?

Short, so completion is realistic. Public, to elicit your best performance. Essays — not memos, not inconsequential updates — because it forces you to consider a topic, decide what you think, and convey that to others, which is the basis of making an impact on another human being.

Writing is like any other skill — you have to practice to improve. Duh. You certainly won’t get better at it by summarizing meeting notes or Twittering what you ate for lunch.

Don’t worry about other people seeing your crappy writing; at first no one’s looking except friends and family, and they understand what you’re trying to do. Later when you’re better at this, you can delete those posts or, if you’re like me, you’ll leave them because it’s fun to see how far you’ve come.

All the good ideas have already been written about.

No, it’s worse than that. Good ideas have been written about by famous bloggers with flair and panache, and it’s been read by their tens of thousands of readers.

So what?

When you see a great article that really resonates with you, that you wish you had written yourself, here’s the post you write next:

[OTHER BLOGGER] wrote a great piece yesterday about how [SUMMARY OF ARGUMENT]. What stood out was [MORE DETAIL, WITH PITHY QUOTE].

Then the body of the post can go in all sorts of directions:

  • Pile on three more arguments for this point.
  • Tell a story about an example of this point.
  • Tell a story about a counter-example which went terribly wrong.
  • Say essentially the same thing but elaborate where the original poster made assumptions or skipped a step.
  • Say essentially the same thing but condense the original poster’s lengthy missive (who, me?) into a punchy summary.
  • Find related articles which agree and create a narrative where you weave their arguments together to drive the point home.
  • Find counter-point articles and explain why those are wrong.

For the conclusion, challenge the reader to use this in her life. Ask a poingant question or suggest actions they could take today.

You can follow this format forever. As you practice, you’ll discover more and more of your own ideas, your own language, and your own flow will naturally take over.

Finally, you can use this same technique for posts you vehemently disagree with!

Just make sure you’re riffing off something you feel strongly about; then finding more to say will be easy.

I’m not creative.

People say this all the time; I don’t think they know what they mean.

Do you mean you’re not a music composer or you don’t get post-modern art or you’re not the next Hemingway? No kidding, me neither. That’s not what this is about.

The goal isn’t to generate art or invent new philosophies; the goal is to improve your ability to communicate and increase your sphere of influence. You don’t have to be an artiste to do that!

The preceeding sections should make it clear that invention is unnecessary and uniqueness is irrelevant. Clarifying your impressions about something you just read is enough; converting your feelings into words is enough; presenting your existing, unoriginal opinion as a three-part argument with a link or two is enough.

Those things aren’t easy, I’ll give you that! But they don’t require creativity.

There’s lots of everyday things you already talk about; now it’s just time to organize and present your thoughts.

I’m not good with software / I don’t know about “the world of” blogging software.

Fair enough, let me help:

  1. Sign up for a free account at WordPress.com or join me at my company WPEngine. Either way you’re up in minutes.
  2. Start with a few test articles to get the feel of things.
  3. Look through the site design templates they have and pick something you like.  This is supposed to be enjoyable!
  4. Don’t worry (right now) about widgets and RSS and fancy formatting and clever pictures. You can do that later.
  5. Write!

There’s more things you should do eventually, like putting your blog behind your own domain name so you can switch blogging platforms later and using Feedburner to track how many people have subscribed to your blog. But if you create too much work for yourself ahead of time you’ll never begin.

Once you get 10-20 posts under your belt, check out the ways this blog got popular.

But that’s later. You can fix everything later. Right now no one’s looking anyway.

Remember, this is for you.

Just start.

Continuing…

Do you have more advice, or do you argue that blogging isn’t useful enough to justify the effort? Let’s continue the discussion in the comments.

, , ,

  • Anonymous

    All very true.

    And today’s Pearls Before Swine (dilbert with animals) is right on topic:

    http://comics.com/pearls_before_swine/2011-04-11/

    -XC

  • Shane

    And if your company sells blogging software.. you should write about sucky excuses for not blogging… =)

    • http://www.myvouchercodes.co.uk/discounts/johnlewis.com John Lewis Sales

      lol but this post is really creative

  • Langhorne19047

    Maybe this is all about Web 2.0 or 3.0 or whatever the flavor is now. What I observe is not a small number of people blogging, but millions who have nothing to contribute and merely confirm they are boring and clueless.

    The exercise of understanding one’s business and its goals is fine. That step was mandatory and understood long before blogging. Moreover, if researching and refining are to be allocated the attention they deserve, there aren’t many free minutes for blogging. The two business types I see blogging are either those with nothing more important to do or those to whom blogging is their job.

    In the latter category, if a company is wise, the creative and innovative types aren’t wasting time talking about it. They’re doing it. You can hire a journalism grad to handle the PR.

  • Aredhel

    Nice. Makes me think about resurrecting my old blog :o) Thank you

  • Michelle Rodriguez

    Nothing like a good “snap-out-of-it-and-just-do-it” on a Monday morning. What I do and the result of what I do speaks very clearly to my blogging block. Thanks, Jason.

  • http://blog.flairbuilder.com Cristian Pascu

    I just read the first paragraph and then I knew I have to (re)start blogging. And I did, a quick short blog post just to get me warm. :)

  • http://www.hollance.com Hollance

    A good reason to blog is that it helps you position yourself as an expert in your field. Readers will assume that you know what you are talking about if you’re blogging about a certain topic on a regular basis. It improves your credibility.

    For example, years ago I started a blog about learning to play the piano. As they say, the best way to learn something is to teach it. The blog had a number of articles on recording digital piano that became fairly popular. To this day, I still get email from people who want me to help them pick a new digital piano.

    Because of my blog, people assume I am an expert in all things related to digital piano. I never claimed to be but the blog made it so, simply because I was writing about it.

  • http://www.austintenantadvisors.com/ Austin Office Space Guy

    Blogging does take a lot of time and thinking however it will pay dividends later. I can always hire someone to blog for me however I feel it’s important for others to hear my voice. Besides I am learning a lot about how to put my thoughts down on paper and It’s helping bring out and nourish my creative thoughts and comments.

  • David Siteman Garland

    And remember, blogging might not just be writing. It might be video, audio, photos, etc. Something to keep in mind for the “writing makes me want to throw up” folks.

  • http://twitter.com/markbrenwall Mark Brenwall

    ok ok ok already. we know this AND it’s so important to be reminded. blogging just like practicing and instrument needs to be a regular practice.

    i love the very simple way you describe being an information aggregator!

    [OTHER BLOGGER] wrote a great piece yesterday about how [SUMMARY OF ARGUMENT]. What stood out was [MORE DETAIL, WITH PITHY QUOTE].

    this will now be the format for all of my posts this week!!

  • http://www.jonlim.ca/ Jon Lim

    Knowing your customers’ goals is the number one important takeaway here – I realized this recently with my product’s blog, and it’s been paying off pretty well.

    The important thing to realize is that a content calendar will take you a long way, take the time to develop it and stick to it, but also be flexible enough to make changes whenever you need to.

    Once you’ve got that down, it’s just about getting into the habit of writing. Takes a lot of blood and sweat, but completely worth it.

    • Michelle Rodriguez

      John, kowing the customer goal as the objective really helps me focus on content that fits. Good stuff today.

  • http://twitter.com/readysetstartup Susan Jones

    Ok. Got me!

    I’ve stopped blogging because I’m concentrating on raising capital right now. In the back of my mind, I’ve known I need to give it attention because my blog is like my online resume in a way.

    So back into it – No sucky excuses!

    Thanks Jason.

  • http://twitter.com/ricardodsanchez Ricardo D. Sanchez

    Forgot to mention… blogging is also good for your health, I wrote about it here and got excellent feedback from the WordPress community: http://ontechies.com/2011/01/26/blog-more-it-is-good-for-your-health/

  • http://twitter.com/ricardodsanchez Ricardo D. Sanchez

    Forgot to mention… blogging is also good for your health, I wrote about it here and got excellent feedback from the WordPress community: http://ontechies.com/2011/01/26/blog-more-it-is-good-for-your-health/

  • http://www.benblogs.com Ben Chin

    Great article. I like that bit where you wrote “…but that’s like saying you’re not going learn to play an instrument because it takes practice.”

    The mindset is that people are willing to go through all that hard work of practicing to be master an instrument but when it comes to blogging, its always about finding the easiest solution or shortcut.

    In order to master anything it takes real commitment and deliberate practice.

  • http://www.thehairwigs.com L Juan17

    I also have a blog./http://humanlacewigs.wordpress.com/wp-admin/
    But it has no big effect.What should I do?I write the article every day expect for the weekends.

  • Edward Harsh

    Great tips! Keeping in mind your goals and what your customers are using you for when writing can both help you come up with new topics and keep you on track.

  • http://dmitrig01.mp/ Dmitri G

    I’m too lazy. It’s hard to invalidate that :P

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  • http://mkt.info/powerblogging/ BloggingGuy

    I totally agree. Blogging is communicating. It’s about telling your opinion, and everyone has a unique point of view. I wrote an online guide on blogging known as PowerBlogging (which I’ve linked to in this comment). It touches the topic in a fashion similar to what you’ve mentioned.

  • Kade

    You told that “youdon’t have to be an artist to blog” – that’s true, but why artists can’t blog? I represent some musician groups and trie to tell them the same thing that you said in that blog. Thank you for that – now I can show that I’m not an windblower:)

  • http://design-to-last.com Daniel

    My thoughts are similar, but most people are affected more from their inner voice that from external reasons.
    hers is a post I wrote about it:
    http://bit.ly/h4Tspi

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  • Toyboyt

    Stop encouraging all the shite bloggers. Death to you all.

    (Hey that’s not legally a death threat is it? Cuz it isn’t meant to be.)

  • http://www.joycegrace.ca Vancouver marketing girl

    This is awesome! I want to show it to all my clients who say they are going to write themselves instead of have me do it for them…and then never get around to it!

  • http://www.myvouchercodes.co.uk/discounts/johnlewis.com John Lewis Sales

    hahaha it sounds just like me

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  • http://thecontentbuffet.com/ John White

    One more excuse: You have something to hide.

    Thanks for the idea, Jason: http://thecontenbuffet.com

  • http://raaphorst.info Raaphorst

    can be even more simple, people are looking for:
    – help
    or
    – entertainment

    that’s it.

  • Mmatrka

    I’m struggling to just write thus my work teammate sent me this blog. After reading all of the comments, one thought I had that did not get mentioned was by writing your thoughts even if no one is interested, you will clarify your own thinking.

  • http://twitter.com/PatrickFoley Patrick Foley

    Great post, Jason, as always. Thank you.

    A similar concept I’d like to remind people about – public speaking. It’s important for most jobs, and it’s critical for startup founders.

    As with blogging, the only way to get good at it is to do it: Speak at user groups. Submit talks to conferences. Start a podcast.

    For practice, go to Toastmasters. If you don’t find a chapter that meets your needs, create your own – I started a “Toastmasters for Techies” chapter in my home town (http://tmfortechies.freetoasthost.org), and it’s been a great learning experience.

    • http://twitter.com/ricardodsanchez Ricardo D. Sanchez

      Hey Patrick, you are right about the public speaking part… and that is one of the main reasons I do the Co-Founders meetup in Austin… by the way, it was great to see you earlier this week in Las Vegas at MIX11.

  • Dan Weese

    Thanks Jason!

    A Much Needed Kick in the Pants
    http://post.ly/1tWfM

  • http://www.lsgeekster.blogspot.com Kira Permunian

    Oh I’ve come to the right page here. Jason, you have just force me get time management in blogging and with my other task. To confess, I am really an addict to blogging, I just don’t have enough time to do it. Would you suggest a good time management in blogging? Yeah, it is me who gonna do it, just thinking of maybe you have some great ideas there.

    • http://blog.asmartbear.com Jason Cohen

      How do you manage other tasks that must be done? One trick that works for lots of people is to put it on the calendar. That way nothing else is scheduled and you don’t feel guilty that you should be working on the general to-do list.

      That doesn’t work for me because I have to be inspired; for me writing doesn’t come on demand. So what I do is notice when I’m in the mood and give myself permission to write, right then.

      If you’re “an addict,” that implies you want to do it, and that you’d really prefer to procrastinate about something else. So why don’t you? Probably guilt.

      So do something that alleviates the guilt. Besides the above, if you’re worried that you’ll blog for too long, set a timer — physically, a timer that beeps in another room so you have to leave the computer to turn it off.

      • http://www.lsgeekster.blogspot.com Kira Permunian

        Oh thank you so much Jason. I appreciate it a LOT! I haven’t tried it with calendar and with to-do list maybe this gonna be the time to do so.

        Yeah, even if I’m working, I can’t really stop myself doing some blog hopping and creating articles that’s why all I wanna do now is to have that time setting when would be the right time to blog that would not interfere my other tasks.

        And as you said, yeah, I have to try your suggestions.. hey I gonna have to visit your blog from time to time. Thanks for the share.

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  • Walksoftly

    This annoys me. A friend sent it to me as a way of helping me start to actually post the many articles I’ve already written. I have plenty to say, controversial and otherwise, and I do know how to write. At least, I did. The annoyance derives from the fact that this person who so altruistically is here to help US communicate, sells blogging software. Gee, conflict of interest much? Not at all, he says, he is here to help us AND make a buck.

    Yup, it’s time to start blogging… with ANYONE else’s software because I don’t like the fact that he slipped it in “my software or wordpress” – for the record? WordPress is excellent and I don’t like self-aggrandizement. He’s banking on the fact (hope) that no one else will notice how blatant it is. Sorry, Sparky, I’m one of those annoying bright people and I did notice.

    And it really pissed me off. So much so, that I WON’T bother to write about it because it would give you free advertisement.

    You see, had he done this and been more upfront, it would be okay. “Hey folks, I sell blogging software, and everyone blogs, here are some reasons to do it.” Or even “Here are some reasons to blog, and some things to help you get over the hurdles, and the reasons why blogging is important (is it? It is important for everyone? For every person out there?) for those who have something to say. Trying to convince the reader that EVERYONE has something to say is simply wrong. Incorrect. Error.

    “Here are some reasons to blog, and some things to get you over the hurdles. You already know that blogging helps businesses and is a great outlet for thoughts and ideas. In the interests of disclosure, I own a company that makes blogging software. WordPress also makes great blogging software, and I’m genuinely here to a) SELL YOU MY SOFTWARE or b) help you get started on blogging.

    It feels a lot more like B based on the lack of disclosure and the oh-so-cute “BUY ME, BUY ME” slipped in at the mention of blogging software.

    Ugh, I truly find this sort of thing distasteful and it ensures that I’ll advocate against anyone using his software. Smarmy salesman with all sorts of reasons why you should blog, err, buy his software.

    • http://blog.asmartbear.com Jason Cohen

      I can see why you took it that way. However if you actually read other blog posts of mine, you’ll see that I’ve been promoting blogging for years — literally years before even thinking of starting a blog hosting company. So that wasn’t the idea.

      Also my first suggestion in the article is to sign up for a free blog at WordPress.com. Yes of course then I mentioned my company too.

      Also if you read previous posts you’ll see that actually I do NOT think that pushing WPEngine here will result in customers. See: http://blog.asmartbear.com/reputation.html

      I’m glad you wrote this because it will make me more mindful and careful about such things in future! It wasn’t intentional but it clearly struck a chord.

      Thanks!

      • Walksoftly

        Hosted by super-fast, super-secure WPEngine.

        © 2007-2011 Jason Cohen

        WordPress Admin
        ——————————

        WordPress Admin? Please explain that. And frankly, whether or not you’ve been an advocate of blogging “for years” or not, is irrelevant. What sort of kick-back are you getting from Automattic? And please explain the Jason Cohen WordPress Admin in tiny print at the bottom of the page. It seems to suggest that you might be a part of that as well, why would you be listed as an Admin?

        From Google:

        “Automattic, the company that owns WordPress, admitted to the attack this morning and noted that it may have left over 18 million blogs vulnerable…”

        The above, a hit from Google in the “Who owns” (seeking specific names) WordPress search, is of grave concern. Why would you attempt to funnel people to a company that has sub-standard security such that 18 MILLION blogs have become vulnerable.

        Your connection to Automattic? Your relationship with WordPress?

        • http://blog.asmartbear.com Jason Cohen

          Wow, you’re paranoid!

          That “WordPress Admin” is just a link to my own admin page for my own WordPress installation. You’d know that if you clicked it instead of assuming it “meant” something.

          I get no kick-back from Automattic; in fact to my knowledge no vendor anywhere gets “kick backs” from Automattic. It’s a *free* service. There’s no affiliate program, no salespeople, nothing.

          To say that WordPress.com is “substandard” because they had a security breach is laughable. Surely you know that *every* company and *every* piece of software which 18 million people use has had security problems.

          Also WordPress happens to be the most popular blogging platform on Earth by a long stretch, so to suggest that I’m “funneling” people is like saying “just Google it” is “funneling” people away from Bing.

          I *wish* I had a “connection to Automattic.” Then maybe I could get WP Engine listed on their “Suggested Hosting Providers” page. But we’re not. Because I’m not.

          Think about it for two seconds: Is it more likely that a person with my history and my online reputation who has been talking about blogging for years and suggests that people go get the free, GPL’ed, most-popular blogging platform to write with is (a) just an obvious suggestion, or (b) a nefarious scheme in which I’m secretly in league with another company with dubious management abilities, but I’m too stupid to hide my allegiance and therefore place “WordPress Admin” text in the footer.

          • http://twitter.com/ricardodsanchez Ricardo D. Sanchez

            It is funny how Walksoftly thought you are a WordPress Admin because of the link to your blog’s Admin console… :)

      • http://twitter.com/billmcneely Bill McNeely

        I blog over at Danger Zone Jobs .com about how to get a job overseas or something about the work enviroment. At the end of each article I end with a 1 liner inviting people to my site http://www.helloimlogistics.com. That technique passes the editors smell test. I thought you tastfully plugged your company and then left it at that.

  • Walksoftly

    Addendum; more “hey this is really an advertisement, not an article on blogging” found in the “SUBSCRIBE TO MY RSS FEED so I can SELL you more stuff you don’t need”

    The whole “continuing… Do you have more advice, or do you argue that blogging isn’t useful enough to justify the effort? Let’s continue the discussion in the comments”

    Doesn’t that strike anyone as incredibly disingenuous? “Hey, I’m a boy scout, I’m here to HELP you all, let’s TALK about it.” Such utter rubbish; he’s here to SELL something and masking it this way and then playing the “Let’s talk about it, I’m SO VERY sincere” game is genuinely making me angry. It’s so very distasteful. SELL if you wish to sell, salesmen are entirely too good at convincing the average person to buy whatever junk it is they are selling – necessities and important things; things people want, will sell themselves. But do NOT pretend to be here to “talk’ about it, do NOT pretend to be here for anyone’s benefit other than your own.

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  • http://twitter.com/BstnMelody Robin Zaragoza

    Love the section for “All the good ideas have already been written about.” I’m super lazy about blogging and use this excuse all the time. You make great suggestions for countering my laziness!

  • Cynthia Kocialski

    Here’s another excuse “I don’t want people to think I’m an idiot”. What’s the marketing expression, a good reputation is best, a bad reputation is not as good, but the worst reputation is to have none at all.

    On the bright side, if they don’t blog then the easier it is for the bloggers to attract an audience.

    • http://blog.asmartbear.com Jason Cohen

      Great one! Wish I had thought of it myself. :-)

  • Vodkhang

    Good writing. I always love writing a blog and it took me a year to start

  • http://winonlinetoday.com/article-marketing-is-the-foundation-for-success-online Ray

    Great post. I used the excuse of not being able to write for a good while, but then thought of letters, postcards, etc., I’d written in the past and remembered how much enjoyment writing about recent events, places I was visiting, etc., has always given me, and realized that maybe I could, after all, put something together that others may find useful, and decided to take the plunge. I now write articles for my own blog, other people’s blogs, etc., and love the whole process. The key is, as you stated, to not worry about the quality initially, but just to get started – the rest will fall into place over time and with a LOT of practice.

    Cheers,
    Ray

  • http://pupeno.com J. Pablo Fernández

    If you, like me, find coding or working on your product so much more fun and interesting than blogging or tweeting, to the point where you forget about it all together, then you can use a tool I built called Keep on Posting (http://keeponposting.com) which will warn you when your posting frequency goes down.

  • http://jokerblog.net jokerblog.net

    keep going Jason, great post !

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  • http://nononsensemusclebuilding20.com/ Mike Lyons

    I thought all the ideas were taken too but you can always find something to blog about. You just need to get started…

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