Reflections of a Public Failure

File:Candle or Sorrow.jpgI’ve failed. It’s not the first time, but it’s the first time I’ve failed publicly. On October 31st 2013 I publicly declared that I was starting a new daily blogging habit. I also publicly stated that I had two goals for this daily blog:

1) Surpass my personal best of writing 45 inspirational and insightful daily blog post in a row, then

2) Continue to write 365 daily blog post in a row of the same quality.

I accomplished my first goal, but I failed hard going for the second. I got to 73 blog post in a row then quietly ended my streak on January 12th. It just so happens the post I wrote before I failed was titled What if a habit is not an addiction?

As I was writing it, I was privately having a “Come to Jesus” moment as I realized that after writing 73 blog post in a row that something magical didn’t happen. I didn’t form any type of spectacularly wonderful habit that would propel me to day 365 and possibly to publish my first book.

Two days latter, I followed up with another post titled Calling for death to the daily blog. Although, I vowed in that post to continue my blogging ways, I silently knew that it could be then end for me. Getting to day 365 was a stretch goal I may never reach.

Since that point, my routine of publishing inspirational and insightful blog post has slowly deteriorated. As a matter of fact, this is the first time I’ve published anything in over 10 days. I’m now not even sure if I should stop or keep trying.

It’s sort of like deciding if you should try to hike up an intimidating mountain after failing. It comes down to one simple question. Is quitting more painful than failure?

How to End Proofreading and Grammar Mistakes While Blogging

File:Dictionary discard2.JPGMost people think the hard part about blogging is coming up with blog topics. This isn’t the hard part. If you’re a decent writer, you can make an interesting blog post about a cup of coffee. The hard part is proofreading and grammar.

With the amount of noise from blogs increasing exponentially day by day, being a witty writer is not enough anymore. Your biggest fans (i.e. your mom and dad) may forgive the occasional typo. However, that same typo will cause a casual reader to write you off as a fly by night amateur not worth following.

The obvious way to overcome death by a thousand typos is to have a quality copy editor review your blog post before you publish. As we all know, unfortunately, this is a luxury most independent bloggers can’t afford.

That’s why I recently signed up to try a new product called Grammarly to help automate the tedious task of proofreading my blog. Grammarly is an online software tool that goes beyond the basic spell check you get in WordPress or within your browser. For example, Grammarly finds these often difficult to spot mistakes:

  • subject-verb agreement
  • bad word choices with synonym suggestions to improve readability
  • style mistakes such as run-on sentences and comma splices
  • plagiarism detection & citation help

Grammarly even has a Microsoft Word plug-in if you write your blog post offline before you publish. In addition, one of the features that I love is that, over time, it learns your most common mistakes and then helps you understand how to avoid them.

I started with a free trial to decide if I want to pay to use it as my full time proofreading buddy. You can start a free trial using this link. By the way, the free trial requires a credit card, but I think it’s worth it.

Calling for death to the daily blog

File:High Wood cemetery, France.jpgIs the rise of the daily blog hurting the internet? Being that I am both a blogger who publishes daily and an advocate of the practice, I stopped in my tracks when I read a post from Atlanta entrepreneur Mike Schinkel saying as much.

In a blog post he titled The Web Needs You To… STOP BLOGGING! he pleads for several prominent daily bloggers to stop the practice for both their own good and the good of the community, to include Atlanta’s startup guru David Cummings and renowned venture capitalist Fred Wilson. Schinkel also cites four reasons why the practice of blogging daily is bad:

  1. Daily blogs lack depth
  2. With so many people now writing daily blogs, there is way too much noise in the blogosphere
  3. The content in daily blogs lack excellence
  4. Writing a daily blogs takes up time that could be used for better things

It’s hard to argue with any of Schinkel’s points head on, as much of what he states is true. Especially the point he makes about writing daily vs. publishing daily, advocating that daily bloggers should instead write every day on the same post, going more in depth before they hit the publish button.

I can honestly say reading Schinkel’s post has swayed me from advocating so hard for others to start blogging daily, but it won’t stop me doing it myself.  For me, blogging daily is a personal journey rather than some external sound box. It’s the perfect tool for introspection. I would even go as far as calling it medicinal.

So when it comes down to it, when you blog daily for internal fulfillment rather than external validation, most of what Schinkel argues becomes irrelevant.

 

The #1 reason NOT to start blogging

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So you want to blog for money? Be warned, blogging is far from an ATM.

Today I read a fantastic blog post by design blogger Colleen Eakins titled I Want to Blog to Make Money. In this post Colleen recaps a discussion she had with a friend in which she stated the following:

Saying “I want to blog to make money” without any other goals, purpose, etc behind it, is like saying “I want to randomly make a commercial to air on tv.” 

I thought that this statement was the perfect analogy.  Just as Coleen suggest, broadcasting a commercial is not a product just like blogging is not a product.  They’re both valuable communication tools that can sell products if you reach the right audience with the right message.

Yes, established businesses can make money from using these tools. However, it’s very rare for individuals to personally benefit.  This is why the need to make money is the #1 reason NOT to start blogging.

I can think of much better ways to write for money other than blogging. First of all, you would be better off doing some freelance writing project via a site like Fiverr or Odesk if making money is an immediate need.

Don’t get me wrong, blogging is a valuable branding, marketing and overall communication tool when you have altruistic motives. However, if you’re going to blog primarily for self-serving purposes, then you should just forget about it.

Daily blogging as a tool to create memories

File:ThinkingMan Rodin.jpgEveryday we wake up, live life, then go to sleep. So what’s the difference between the days we remember and the days we forget?

The obvious answer is something out of the ordinary. Something unique that happens. Something that differentiates the memorable days from all other days.

The challenge with this is that by definition, 99% of the days we live in our life are not out of the ordinary, they’re not unique, and nothing differentiates them from any other normal day. So that leaves us only remembering a small percentage of all the time we live on this earth.

Your small percentage of memories are not a good representation of who you are. Your personality is made up of millions of events, conversations, and observations that made an impact, but did not make a memory.

For me, this is where the daily blog comes in.  When you write a daily blog you’re forced to touch, feel, and smell every moment of your life to find writing inspiration. As a result, many moments that would normally be lost into the bowels of the ordinary get resurrected as insights cemented in the words you publish.

This makes the daily blog much more powerful than it appears.

Yes it’s a communication tool, yes it’s a marketing tool, but more than anything else the daily blog is a tool to create more memories.

3 of My Best Blog Proofreading Tips

best-blog-proofreading-tipsOne of the biggest challenges in writing a daily blog is proofreading. It’s no small task for a single individual to churn out a new blog post everyday. Churning out an error free blog post everyday is practically impossible.

Since the time when I wrote my first blog post back in 2003, browser spell checking and auto-correct functions have taken care of most of the routine proofreading tasks. However, these simple spell check functions also provide a false since of security.

If you’re a regular writer, you know that routine spell checking and auto-correcting doesn’t even touch the tip of the proofreading iceberg. It may actually hurt more than it helps.  The tough part of proofreading is catching the accidental misuse of words that are spelled correctly. This is what my 3 tips focus on.

Proofreading Tip 1: Read Your Blog Post Backwards

When I say read your blog post backwards, I don’t mean literally read it word for word backwards. What I’m saying is to start at the beginning of the last sentence, and read that sentence normally while proofreading it. Then move to the beginning of the second to the last sentence and do the same thing.

Keep moving backward to the beginning of each sentence until you get to the start of the first sentence in the post.

The reason why this works is that when you read a post from start to finish your mind reads what you were suppose to write instead of what you actually wrote. When you read from the last sentence backwards, your mind does not get into the flow of the content, so it’s easier to see the words you actually wrote.

Proofreading Tip 2: Check the Common Misused Words

Here is a list of the words I misuse the most.  I always go through each post and double check that each of these words are used in the right context.

  • A, an, and
  • They, The
  • Then, Than
  • There, their, they’re
  • Where, were
  • Lose, loose
  • Its, It’s
  • Effect, affect
  • Alot, a lot
  • Your, you’re
  • to, two, too
  • Knew, new
  • right, write

It’s not that I don’t know how to use these words. It’s often either the auto-correct changing it to the wrong use of the word, or me typing too fast without thinking.  Either way, double checking these words is a must.

Proofreading Tip 3: Write, Take a Break, Then Proofread

It’s best to never publish a post just after you write it. No matter how many times you proofread, you will always miss something when you publish right away. This is the sequence I use:

  1. Write the post
  2. Proofread it one time to catch the obvious stuff
  3. Take a break and go do something else for 20 to 30 minutes (One of the things I like to do is go find an image for the post during this time)
  4. Go back and do the hardcore proofreading

When you take a break, it helps your brain to forget what you were trying to write and read what you actually wrote.

Finally, there is a good chance that when you write a blog post about proofreading there is a grammar mistake or typo in it. So while I did my best to proofread this post, feel free to drop a comment below if you find something I missed. While you’re at it, share your proofreading tips too!

Daily Blogging is the Art of Writing Even When No One is Reading

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Writing a daily blog is like setting up chairs for an event you’re hosting only to have no one show up.

Have you ever had the fear of hosting an event to only have no one show up? Spending all day setting up chairs, then at the start of the event all the chairs are still empty…

That’s how starting a daily blog feels.

Today I have officially been writing this daily blog for 47 days straight without missing a day. My previous personal best was 45 days in a row back in the spring of this year.

When I started this new blog, my first goal was to reach a new daily blogging personal best. Now that I have achieved this, I’ve realize that the key to keeping a daily blog going is mastering the art of writing even when no one is reading (i.e. hosting the event even if no one shows up) .

As of this weekend, on average, the blog post I write on Saturdays and Sundays only get read by 1 or 2 people (me and my wife if I’m lucky). Even on a good day, during peak hours, I’ve maxed out at 40 people.

For example, yesterday I really enjoyed writing a blog post I titled The Peanut Butter and Jelly Manifesto. I feel really good about what I wrote and think it’s worthy of a Facebook like or two.  Even a re-tweet.

Yet, only one other person read it (and they didn’t even share or comment on it).

Paltry numbers like this deterred me during my first attempt at a daily blog. This time around I’ve accepted the fact that I’m writing for myself more than I’m writing to get readers.

The art of writing when no one is reading is simple. Set personal goals that have nothing to do with traffic numbers, track your progress, and repeat.

My first goal was to break my 45 day record. Done.  Now, I want to go after a streak of 365 daily blog post in a row. Basically, that’s it. Of course I want to write inspirational and insightful content on this blog, but that’s not really measurable. So while I’m trying to find that inspirational and  insightful voice, my goal right now is to show up consistently, everyday, regardless of how many people read what I write.

Cheers to the party of one!

 

How Seth Godin Writes His Daily Blog

File:Seth Godin in 2009.jpgOne of the most prolific daily bloggers in the world is Seth Godin. Seth’s philosophy on writing a daily blog is what inspired me to start writing this daily blog 41 days ago on October 31st.

So if you want to learn how to write a daily blog, then learning from the master is the best place to start.

The way Seth Godin writes his daily blog is by setting aside time everyday to write. Not time to write one blog post a day, but time to write one time a day. That means when Seth Godin commences his daily ritual of writing, he could write 1 blog post or 50.

Instead of publishing what he has written for that day, he puts every blog post in a queue for publishing at some future time. Then he goes through all of his queued post and sometimes removes the ones he doesn’t like and replaces them with something he does.

To make it easier for him to write, he always writes using a conversation style instead of using a formal writing style. Since he writes like he talks, it’s second nature for him to write about things he notices.

As a result of writing about things he notices, Seth Godin doesn’t have to do a lot of research or spend any time looking at competitors. This approach saves a massive amount of time.

However, this approach means that Seth Godin is not necessarily writing “for” his audience and therefore many of his blog post are hit or miss. When he finds a hit, he writes more on that topic. He may even turn a hit blog post into a book. When he finds that a topic is a miss, he takes a mental note and moves on.

That’s it. That’s how Seth Godin writes his daily blog. What do you think?

1 Month of Doing a Daily Blog

File:Baldeaglevictoria.jpgI started this daily blog 31 days ago on October 31st.  So far I’ve been able to continuously meet my goal of writing one blog post a day, everyday. My initial goal is to surpass my personal best of 45 blog post in a row.

I am doing this in order to build my blogging muscle.  My first hypothesis is that it’s easier to blog everyday than it is to blog once a week or once a month because of how strong your blogging muscle gets when doing a daily blog.

My other hypothesis is that a daily blog can change your life.

After one month of blogging, I’m confident that my first hypothesis is right. Doing a daily blog is much easier than blogging weekly or monthly. However, the jury is still out on the whole changing your life thing.

One month is clearly not enough time to judge this particular outcome. My thought is that if I continue to show up everyday, I will eventually figure out how to write a handfull of epic post that resonate deeply with people.  This will then lead to me finding my true voice, and in turn help me become a great writer.

At this point I haven’t been able to find that voice, although I do feel I’m getting closer.

Two of the post that people have found particularly inspiring and insightful include the post I wrote about the day I quit my job and the post I wrote about my son’s painful experience starting wrestling season 0-4.

The positive feedback from those two extremely personal stories suggest that people connect more with you when you share real life experiences.

Over the next month, I plan to do more of this.

Two Important Lessons Learned 25 Days into My Daily Blog

File:Escribano.jpgI committed to writing this daily blog 25 days ago. Since then, I’ve wrote one blog post each day without fail.

There are two main things that I’ve learned since starting:

1. It takes more than 25 days to form a habit

2. The key to the daily blog is to sit down and write

Lesson 1: Blogging is not Habit forming

Habit formation is more difficult than attempting to reach some mythical milestone of days.  At one point, I was convinced that there was a 21 day rule to create a habit.  It turns out that this is a myth.

The reality is that you just have to force yourself to do what you said you were going to do. When I sit down to write a blog post it has nothing to do with it being habitual. Since my family life requires flexibility and adapting to change, there is no way I can set a specific time of day to write everyday.  As a result, the only thing I can count on is that sometime between 12:00 am and 11:59 pm I must FORCE myself to sit down and write a post.

I put “force” in all caps because this is literally what I must do because it’s often very hard for me to overcome this inner voice that tries to talk me out of it.

There is nothing magic about it.  It’s sheer will power to drag myself into my office and put my fingers to the keyboard. After 25 days, I don’t notice anything with this process changing or getting easier.  It’s brute force today just as it was on day one.

Lesson 2: Just Sit Down and Write

When I sit down to write, at least 50% of the time I have no idea what I’m going to write about.  Today is the perfect example.  All day long I used my idle brain cycles to think of a topic.  Nothing stuck.  Nothing motivated me.  I just couldn’t think of anything I wanted to share.

So when I sat down at my computer at 7:53 pm to start writing this post, I was flat out stumped.  I gazed at my screen for a little over 30 seconds, then I just started typing. Then,  waalaa!!!

This is not the first time this has happened either.  Time and time again I sit down thinking I have nothing to share.  All day my anxiety builds with thoughts that I will end my daily blog streak without breaking my 45 day in a row personal best.

Then I force myself to just start writing and suddenly I get inspired.

After 25 days of doing this, I can now say I trust myself.  Not only do I trust myself, I trust the process.