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9 Life Lessons I Have Learned from Blogging


Image: http://www.flickr.com/photos/joelogon/ / CC BY-SA 2.0

“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.”
Aldous Huxley

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.

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  • Armen Shirvanian November 20, 2009, 9:03 pm

    Hey Henrik.

    You have gotten a lot of the big points down.

    #6 is true. External validation has to be acted upon or followed up on, because it is not like gas that is put in the tank. We have to put our own gas in the tank, but it is still good to have external validation. We have to keep in mind that others will not put gas in our tank for us.

    Setting limits is another one we don’t usually want to do. “I will do it until I am exhausted” sort of works, but it is not too focused, and we can’t get into a schedule that way.

    Not thinking about what everyone else will think sure is an interesting one. To make others glad about our material, we have to forget that they are there, which is counter-intuitive.

    Accurate set here.

  • David Turnbull November 21, 2009, 2:42 am

    The not thinking about what other’s think was perhaps the biggest shift in my writing. Essentially this is finding your voice, and it’s that voice that separates you from all the other bloggers, that makes what your saying worth saying. Still need to work on translating the lesson into general life, but I’m getting there. :-)

  • Steven Handel November 21, 2009, 4:51 am

    I really enjoyed this one. I agree with all of them, EXCEPT:

    “9. Don’t think about what everyone else may think.”

    I personally don’t worry so much if what I think is the same as everyone else. The thoughts may be the same, but my understanding of it will always be unique. So even if I am only recycling the same old ideas that have been said for centuries – it is my way of describing it that is completely novel and ME.

  • Sibyl - alternaview November 21, 2009, 2:28 pm

    Great post. I really liked point #5 you made about what you give, you receive. It really is amazing how just about everything in life follows the golden rule…why should blogging be any different? It just can’t be a coincidence that the golden rule works in every aspect of life. Perhaps this should always be what we seek to follow with anything and everything we do. Thanks again for the great list and post.

  • Lorraine November 21, 2009, 5:33 pm

    Thank you! I just got started not long ago and am just now setting up Wordpress.org – was on Wordpress.com – I did find that some days, I had a “writer’s block” and other days it just flowed – so I’ll do as you say – save up a bunch of articles on days when I’m prolific and relax my mind when I’m not – thanks too for the links. Good insight -

  • Mark Foo | 77SuccessTraits.com November 22, 2009, 11:22 am

    I can absolutely relate to #9 – Don’t think about what everyone else may think. Whatever I write on my blog, it’s more of a conversation that I have with myself. I write down what I’ve learnt in life in order to clarify the lessons that I’ve picked up and also to reinforce the beliefs that I’ve had. I don’t intentionally write what I think other people are interested to read.

    Cheers~

    Mark

    • Srinivas Rao November 22, 2009, 7:07 pm

      Mark,

      One thing I think is great about this is that it brings out the most authentic version of you. When you try too hard to please other people in your writing you hold back.

  • Srinivas Rao November 22, 2009, 7:06 pm

    Hey Heinrik,

    I love how you tied blogging to life and personal development. There’s no doubt that all of this is extremely relevant. I’ve found that just writing every single day makes a huge difference, whether you post or not . Also, through my interviews that I’ve done with other bloggers and power users of social media platforms I tend to learn alot in a very short time. With the rate at which things change, somebody whos’ an expert today becomes a novice tomorrow.

  • Amanda@choosing-life-my-way.com November 23, 2009, 2:12 am

    Good, motivating post. I really agree with a lot of your points, and especially #1. If you wait for those moments of pure energy and drive to get you going, you might end up spending a lot of time on the couch :)

  • Josten November 23, 2009, 6:25 am

    alot of good points here. When i started carrying around a little pocket notebook i seemed to get more done. Writing blog posts and whatever else comes to mind while i’m out in about or at work i can write it down.
    Great post

  • Rocky | R O C K O N O V A .COM November 23, 2009, 7:00 am

    thanks for the problogger link!

    And I agree with the brainstorming really helping when I am starting on a new piece of work.

  • Walter November 23, 2009, 7:54 am

    I am in this very path you have previously taken. All is well but hard work, patience, focus and strength of character are my basic foundation. :-)

  • Johanne November 23, 2009, 10:31 am

    “Don’t wait for inspiration.”

    Sometimes I’m guilty of that. That’s a very wise tip if you don’t want to remain stagnant for too long.

  • Henrik Edberg November 24, 2009, 7:07 pm

    Thanks for all the added insights and tips, guys! :)

  • Joyce at I TAKE OFF THE MASK December 1, 2009, 6:59 am

    When I was just starting, I also learned a lot from Darren Rowse, and from Yaro Starak. Listening to people with experience is really a great help! I also liked number 4, to set limits and focus only on what’s important. We have but a very limited time to do things, so let’s do the most important ones. Lastly, I guess we should just enjoy what we’re doing! :) People could feel it and they would be inspired as well.

  • Martin Wildam December 1, 2009, 5:33 pm

    “How you present it makes a big difference.”
    I think your posts are very good structured so that I can read very fast over them and get the most important for me. Thanks.

  • Dave Richardson March 7, 2010, 6:58 pm

    Your habit of writing down all your ideas, in a brainstorming manner, is probably the key to your creative success. That’s the way tocapture the fleeting moments of inspiration.