“Do not be too timid and squeamish about your actions. All life is an experience.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson
“Experience is not what happens to you. It is what you do with what happens to you.”
Last night, as I was going to sleep, I thought about the most common question in my inbox: “What are your tips for creating a successful blog?”. And as I thought about it I got an idea. Not about writing about what I have learned about blogging. But what blogging has taught me about life.
So here are 9 life lessons I have learned. Or in some cases healthy reminders of what I already knew. I hope you find something helpful for your life/blog.
1. Don’t wait for inspiration.
The most common question I get from people when I met them in real life and they learn that I do a lot of writing is this one: “How do you come up with all the ideas?”.
Well, I have never been one to rely much on inspiration. If you want to be able to write and produce articles consistently week in aand week out you can’t always wait to get inspired. You just have to work and think. Come up with ideas and drafts. Some will suck, some will not.
I don’t always feel like writing a new article. But I sit down and start writing anyway. And somewhere along the way inspiration and fun pretty much always catches up with me.
Now, how do I come up the ideas?
I have about a hundred drafts with post titles and brief outlines saved in a folder on my computer. By writing it all down I always have some idea to pick up and expand into an article.
After 3 years, I still have an interested in personal development. I have experimented and thought about it a lot. I have read a lot about it. When you really are curious about something and having fun with it then ideas and writing flows a lot easier.
A few more tips for inspiration are:
- Brainstorm. You can often get a good stream of ideas going if you just get started. You may not feel like you have any ideas at all. But as soon as you sit down and start to brainstorm to reach for instance 20 ideas on some topic your mind starts to spit out idea after idea. It’s a bit weird, but after the first idea pop out you often experience a sort of ketchup effect.
- Expose your mind to new ideas. Read a variety of stuff, not just the stuff you are used to. Talk to people about all kinds of things. Follow blogs and people on Twitter that aren’t your usual cup of tea.
- Expose your mind to stillness. If you overload your mind with too much knowledge and ideas you may not only start using it as way to avoid taking action. It can in my experience hinder creativity. Sometimes it’s good to stop exposing your mind to a lot of new information. This can help you digest the impressions you have picked up recently and combine a few of them into cool and exciting ideas.
2. More work. Less talk.
So there is the trap of waiting for inspiration. Also, don’t fall into the trap of talking a lot about what you are about to do. I have found that this just makes it harder to do it. And it can get you stuck in analysis paralysis mode for months as you argue about stuff that is probably irrelevant with other people or just in your own head. Plus, you don’t know much until you do and get some real experience.
So just do stuff. Learn from your failures. Do again.
A week of good work is worth more than a trillion theories that are never put into practice.
3. Learn from people with more experience.
This is so key – in any area of life really – and can really help you to improve quickly and avoid wasting time.
When I started blogging I spent two or three weeks reading lots and lots from the massive archives of Problogger.net. I learned a lot about blogging, marketing, monetization and what you should and should not do. Before I started this blog I knew very little about blogging. After those weeks I at least had a basic education that was very helpful. If you are thinking about creating your own blog or have just started one I recommend reading the big series Blogging Tips for Beginners over at Problogger.
As mentioned above, experience is most important. But there is no need to reinvent the wheel. Getting a bit of basic education and learning about common pitfalls can cut down on your learning curve in any area of life.
4. You need to set limits and focus on just what is important.
I have cut back on reading blogs, on Facebook and internet in general. When you cut out the less important stuff your mind clears up. It becomes focused. It becomes light and inspired more often.
All of us have a lot of stuff going on. If you never cut out anything of the things you do now, how will you have time to do all that stuff you really want to do? How will you do something in the best way you can if you mind is constantly overflowing with information and stuff you don’t really need that much?
To make room for all the new and cool stuff you want to do it is very likely that you in the end have to let go of some of that old stuff in your life that feels oh so familiar and safe.
5. You get what you give.
I think any social interaction is to a large part about exchanging positive feelings and people giving some kind of value to each other. That value could be helpful hints, hugs, a listening ear, something fun or just new photos of Lady Gaga with some strange hat on.
This goes for blogging. This goes for any conversation or interaction.
If you are trying to get other people to always give you more value than you give them – in real life or on your blog – then you suck the positive feelings out of the place. And people will become less and less likely to want to hang around and interact with you.
6. More external validation won’t save you.
Every day I get dozens of messages via comments, email, Twitter and Facebook about how cool some article I wrote was or how awesome my blog or I am. It is pretty nice. Here’s the thing though: after a while your mind gets used to it. You don’t get giddy or overly happy. It becomes a part of life.
Now, some comments or emails make me really happy (usually the ones that are really specific about how some article helped someone to overcome a dark period in their life or solve a problem). And I do appreciate all the kind words. But nowadays I mostly look at it as being happy for the people who said the kind things because I am glad that something on my website could help them and that they are in such a good place that they feel like expressing their appreciation.
But my main point here is that your mind gets used to pretty much anything. So if you think that getting more validation from other people via a blog or some other place will somehow save you then you may be disappointed. It’s all good and nice. But in the end I do believe that the only way to pull yourself up out of not being that fond of yourself or low self esteem is by creating more inner validation of yourself. You can’t find that groundwork outside of yourself.
But you can find it on the inside by for example viewing other people and the world in a kinder light and letting that flow over to how you view yourself too. And by doing what you know deep down is right – taking action, being kind, being positive, acting in a mature way etc. – instead trying to take what may feel like the easy way out.
By doing such things you create an inner spring of validation and positive emotions. You become steadier, calmer and more centred.
7. Ideas and insights are fleeting.
Always keep a pen and paper close by. I don’t know how many ideas I would have never gotten to explore here if didn’t have this habit. If you forget the pen and paper and get some idea, pull out your cell phone and type it down there instead.
8. How you present it makes a big difference.
I changed the design of the blog – to the Thesis theme – a while ago and the rate of added subscribers and the offers from advertisers have increased. The blog looks more professional and therefore I believe it looks more trustworthy now than it did before. It leaves people with a better first impression.
The same thing goes for your clothes. For your appearance. For how you say something – mumbly and barely audible or with a loud and clear voice? – and how you move, sit and use your body.
No, the surface – or what may seem superficial – is not just what matters. But it does have a big impact. Don’t neglect it.
9. Don’t think about what everyone else may think.
If you have a blog then after your first big wave of new regulars has arrived you may start to experience a sort of stage fright. You may think: “Oh, now I have a hundred regular readers, a hundred Joes and Marys waiting for some new content”. And then you start second-guessing yourself and worry that someone will be upset, mock you or that you will somehow screw up big time.
I don’t think too much about how many readers there may be. Or what they will think. When I write I either think about it as discussion that I have with myself or something I am writing to just one reader. Or I just focus on the fun and excitement of the article I am writing and nothing more. Feeding your own fears will not help anyone.
This works the same in any other part of life. Don’t be too concerned about what people may think of you (but of course use your common sense). You can never please everyone. Focus on doing what you think is right instead and on getting approval from yourself.