How to Write a Successful Blog
July, 26th 2012
I’ve been looking at a lot of blogs lately to see just what makes a blog successful, and what lessons I can learn from this.
Actually carrying out this research is something of an exercise in how to mar the scientific process. For one, what actually qualifies as a successful blog is up for interpretation. Secondly, there’s way to accurately get a list of “All Blogs That Were Ever Started” to be able to compare them to blogs that are deemed successful.
1. Successful bloggers love writing.
There are few things tackier than copying sections out of other people’s blog entries without asking permission, but Chris Guillebeau’s entry on How to Write 300,000 Words in One Year is so full of greatness that I’m inspired to do just that.
In choosing to write, you must choose the pain of discipline. Good news: it’s not that painful, once you get used to it. You just have to make it more important than other things you could spend time on.
Make your art your obsession. Fall in love with it. Experience withdrawal symptoms when you don’t give it your attention.
Say no to other things so you can make art. Learn to view sacrifice as an investment. Writing is a joyful experience that will bring you comfort and satisfaction, but you must put the hours in.
This reminds me of a section in Julia Cameron’s The Right to Write:
“When we make time to write, we can do it anytime, anywhere…. If we learn to write from the sheer love of writing, there is always enough time, but time must be stolen like a quick kiss between lovers on the run. As a shrewd woman once told me, “The busiest and most important man can always find time or you if he’s in love with you and, if he can’t, then he is not in love.” When we love our writing, we find time for it.”
You must fall in love with writing. If you’re not in love with whatever it is that you’re trying to be great at, you won’t practice enough to become exceptional. Anyone can become exceptional, but it depends on the quality of your practice. (Talent is Overrated and The Talent Code are my favorite books on deliberate practice.)
2. Successful bloggers keep going.
By definition, there are no successful abandoned blogs.
Again, Chris Guillebeau has it right when he quotes Jim Rohn: “We must all suffer one of two things: the pain of discipline or the pain of regret and disappointment.”
Plenty of genius writers have abandoned their blogs: it takes a long time to build an audience. That’s why I love looking at Tim Ferriss’s and Ramit Sethi’s first blogs: no one was reading. You can see it in the lack of comments. Where Ferriss and Sethi (and other successful people) excel is in their ability to consistently favor actions that get long-term results over short-term gains. Even when you don’t lose weight every time you go to the gym, you keep going… and eventually you look hot. Even though you don’t have thousands of readers, you keep writing. And eventually when they start coming, you’ve already got a lot of great content that keeps them hooked.