I began writing as a whim but it has turned into quite the passion. What started as a lowly little blog on WordPress has turned into a passion that has translated to a secondary (hopefully primary) career opportunity. I’m still amazed to look back at prior blog posts or written articles. I often laugh so hard just reading the sentence structure and word choice. I think back to how difficult it was to put pen to paper and drum up some ideas to jot down.
I’ve gotten quite a few questions on writing and blogging. My own personal blog hasn’t made it big time and still attracts a very modest amount of views but, I have had considerable success improving my writing process and making it into some mainstream online media sites. The journey was painful to say the least. I sat at my desk many of mornings with a full cup of coffee and an empty head staring at a blinking cursor.
I’m a huge fan of analogies. I use them daily to explain the process of personal training and why everyone should invest their hard-earned money in three months of coaching.
Writing is a lot like sex.
Why? Let me explain.
Your first time will likely turn out terrible.
You won’t know what the heck you’re doing or what words to put where. You’ll likely be embarrassed by your first time. That’s okay. You aren’t going to show it to anyone. Hide it, but review it for further practice for next time.
I still remember the first blog post that I wrote. I detailed a new show by Jamie Oliver that highlighted the crisis of cafeteria food in our school system and sought to educate and improve school lunches. I thought the show was informative and awesome so naturally it seemed like a good topic to put out on the blog. The writing was forced, choppy, and didn’t flow well together. That’s completely okay.
Through reading the work of other writers and tons of practice, you will get better.
Different strokes for different folks.
Your style is going to be different than everyone else. When I first started reading blogs on the internet, I was immediately hooked on the quirky and sarcastic posts by none other than Tony Gentilcore. He exudes wittiness and a smart-ass but extremely intelligent demeanor in all of his blogs. No matter the topic, he manages to get me to read all the way to the end. That’s a skill that needs to be developed. A few others that I caught on to right away were JC Deen, John Romaniello, and Roger Lawson. They all have a different language that they use with readers. In the beginning, I tried to emulate their style, but I’m just not the same person they are. It was far too forced, and I couldn’t drum up jokes and jabs on a whim.
Use other writers as an example of what is possible. Don’t try to emulate them to a “t”. Your writing should sound natural. Practice the style of writing that makes you feel comfortable.
Is this going to be a one-night stand or something that lasts?
Are you starting a blog or writing to make money or just to express your thoughts and let your family members know how you’re doing? Making this choice in the beginning dictates what you write about, the look and feel of your site, and how you approach your blog. Those looking to make money need to blog fairly often but spend even more time on promotion of their posts and hitting mainstream.
Now, I’ll be forthright and honest – I have no intention of making money through my own personal website or blog. Honestly, I think anyone that sets up a personal blog to make an outlandish amount of money is a bit insane. The blogs that make a lot of money are those that serve a huge audience like ProBlogger (which is directed towards – you guessed it – bloggers). If you have a website domain, say JeremeyDuVall.com, you’re mainly going to attract people that care to check out what you have to say, which in my case is perfectly fine with me. You may be different.
Your answer to this question may change throughout the history of your blog. Originally, I wanted to pull in some expendable income through my site. Just realize that if you eventually want to make your blog profitable, you can’t be writing about Aunt Matilda’s grey sweater that she got you for Christmas. That doesn’t serve a huge audience. Figure out who the blog is for and write accordingly.
Practice, practice, practice.
Just like in the sheets, it’s hard to get better at anything by just watching the highlight reels. You have to get your hands dirty. I’ll write about anything – honestly. You just may not get a chance to read it. Experiment with different styles of writing in order to see which ones suit your personality. If you want to put them up on a blog for feedback, go for it. Just realize that these posts may have a splatter affect since they might not be related to each other. In my case, I’ve set my blog up to be open to a variety of posts. If your blog is about fitness, but you want to write a short fiction piece, it probably doesn’t fit with the other posts on your blog. (Note: It can be done. Roman did it and received exceptional praise BUT he had a goal in mind – his product.)
Here’s some good advice from Lou Schuler (an award-winning journalist and author):
As you can imagine, my own view of writing is more nuanced. I think there’s a process, which I compare to learning a sport like basketball.
Writing a blog about whatever is the equivalent of practicing shots in your driveway. You spend some time on free throws, and you also screw around with trick shots that you’d never use in a game. But if you want to get good, at some point you have to play with others. Writing for pay is the equivalent of joining a team. You have someone else calling the plays, and if you want to stay on the team you have to run those plays.
Borrowed from Jon Goodman’s post Should You Write for Free.
Don’t just lay there. Do something.
The best piece of writing I ever received came from a book called Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott:
Thirty years ago my older brother, who was ten years old at the time, was trying to get a report on birds written that he’d had three months to write. It was due the next day. We were out at our family cabin in Bolinas, and he was at the kitchen table close to tears, surrounded by binder paper and pencils and unopened books on birds, immobilized by the hugeness of the task ahead. Then my father sat down beside him, put his arm around my brother’s shoulder, and said, ‘Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.’
What’s this bird talk have to do with you writing a blog post or an article? Writer’s block is real – and it’s going to hit you at some point if you write long enough. Writing can be a real pain in the ass when you absolutely have to get something done but just can’t seem to put words to paper. It’s frustrating to say the least. The process of taking the piece ‘bird by bird’ means formulating the article one piece at a time. Don’t focus on the entire post as it will be overwhelming. Direct your attention on putting sentences on the page one at a time. Don’t even worry about if they go together perfectly. Hopefully, no one reads your first draft anyway. Just focus on getting your thoughts on paper then review them later and polish them up. Rather than allowing yourself to get frustrated, work on the post ‘word by word’ and write something.
Oh the mistakes I’ve made…
I’ve made a ton of mistakes along the way transitioning from the kid that hated English class to a guy that wants to write full-time. Don’t make the same ones:
Read your work before you publish (out loud if possible).
I’ll admit: I hate to proofread my posts before I submit them to editors or publish them on the blog. On the blog, I don’t really care if I have some things misspelled. Published works are different. Learn to always reread your works before someone else stumbles across your mistakes. If you aren’t in a public place like Starbucks (or if you don’t particularly care), read your articles out loud. You’ll get a true feel for how they sound.
Don’t end your sentences with a preposition. They’re terrible to look at.
This is almost as faux pas as sleeping with your best friend’s sister. You just don’t do it.
Stop misspelling common words.
Learn the differences between their and there, effect and affect, it’s and its, and other common words created to trip you up. Here’s your guide from The Oatmeal.
Learning everything else
Want to figure out how to start your own blog or get published in your first magazine? Here are some resources to get you started:
You could be the best personal trainer in the world but it doesn’t matter if nobody knows who you are. Blogging is the best way to get known and generate countless passive income streams.It’s a confusing and time-consuming world. This book starts with the steps you need to set up your website and continues with systems on everything you need to know to become a blogging pro and set up tons of passive income streams to last a lifetime.
Three of the fitness industry’s top writers and editors – Lou Schuler, Sean Hyson, and John Romaniello – show you how to improve your skills, build an audience, get the attention of magazine editors, create a revenue-generating business, and even achieve the ultimate recognition of your expertise: a published book
Alright, that was a humorous jab at what I’ve learned over the past two years of blogging and writing.Do you have ambitions of writing for a fitness magazine or just writing in general? Pass along your best resources. I love to read difference sources and would love to hear your thoughts!