Posted by Mitch Mitchell on Nov 7, 2008
One of the weirdest things about blogging is that not everyone wants to leave comments on the blog. Sure, I’d love that as much as anything, but what sometimes happens is people will send you an email to tell you things or to ask you questions. I take that as a compliment, especially since no one has sent me anything bad yet.
Anyway, there’s one question I get more often than any other. The odd thing is that I get this same question outside of this blog. I get it on my other blog. I get it from my newsletters. I get it from people in organizations I belong to. I sometimes get it from people who have been forwarded things that I’ve sent to others. And I always get it from my friends, because I tend to chronicle my life and then share my stories with all my friends. I’m betting some of you would have loved to have been on my personal mailing list when I talked about the day the plane I was on that was trying to take off hit a deer. Or, if that’s not good enough, how I, as a five year old child, walked away from a crowd in downtown Japan and went on my own adventure, while teachers scrambled to find me.
Anyway, that question is: “How can you be such a prolific writer?” Well, it’s just what I do. As some of you may know, I’ve actually written a book on leadership called Embrace The Lead, and an ebook called Using Your Website As A Marketing Tool, two books that have nothing in common with each other except the fact that I wrote them. I’ve also got 5 other books in the works, but who knows when I’ll finish any of those. I’ve written tons of articles in multiple places on a variety of subjects, and I’ve been published in a few national magazines and newsletters. Frankly, I wish I could get more people to pay me for writing, because there’s nothing I’d rather spend time doing, other than playing poker (yes, my wife knows this, so go ahead and tell her).
Okay, enough of the self promotion. How does one go about being a prolific writer? How does one come across so many ideas to write about?
I like to think of myself as someone whose real business is the accumulation of knowledge. Other than geography and entomology, I have this insatiable thirst for knowledge. I just want to know things. I also like to think I have kind of a discerning eye for being able to step outside of a situation and view it as a story. On this blog I posted something short, with videos, on how I felt after Barack Obama was elected president. I’m not sure how many of you saw this accounting on my other blog of what went on with my wife and I the night he was elected, but I’m happy to share it here.
Anyway, after I’ve accumulated some knowledge, or after I’ve had time to digest an event as a story in my mind, I love sharing my thoughts and happenings with others. Maybe my goal should be in storytelling, because I just love to tell my tales and share information as much as I can.
So, getting back to the point, which is how you can become a prolific writer yourself. Here are five ways you can become a prolific writer:
* Write like you talk – I see many blogs where people seem to be trying to figure out how to write rather than just writing. Most of the time when I sit down to write, I write directly into blog, real time, and I don’t stop until I’ve written the entire thing. Most of my posts take between 5 and 10 minutes to write; that’s about all. Now, it takes a little longer to finish if I’m adding links, which is always a smart thing to do if you can, but otherwise, my posts are usually done fairly quickly. Even most of my very long posts have been written that way. This post is being done differently, as I’m writing it in Word (word to the wise; if you compose something in Word, then transfer it to an HTML based program, you need to remember to change all the quotation marks so your coding will be recognized; maybe Microsoft will fix that one day) and then I’m going to transfer it over. I’m taking a little more time with this one because it’s a listed post.
Anyway, when you write, whether it’s short or long, ask yourself if you’ve written in your voice. With short posts, ask yourself if that’s how you would present yourself if someone was sitting with you and talking to you. If you’re writing a long post, do the same thing.
* Think of every situation as a story – Who doesn’t love hearing or telling a good story? The truth in life is that almost every moment of interaction with someone else can be told later on as a pretty good story. Right now, I have a story in my head about the adventures my wife and I have had over the past two weeks with a chipmunk that’s somehow found its way into the house, and how even the exterminator has seemed to have lost this battle. I don’t have a place to put it, however, but it’s a story I can tell friends. However, when it comes to your blog, telling your story about an implementation you did with new hardware on your computer or new programs you’re trying to run are all stories that you could probably tell on your blog.
* Don’t niche yourself into a corner – There’s a lot of talk on the blogosphere about selecting a niche and sticking to it. However, there are also thousands of blogs that have been abandoned because those people couldn’t continue thinking about what they wanted to write about. People who write financial blogs seem to run out of things to say because they think their niche is finite, but it’s not. Right now, I’d be writing about the price of gas, the bad news about the car and housing industry, credit cards and their changing of interest rates and top dollar limits, why keeping health insurance is important in a bad economy. There are thousands of ideas related to finance that aren’t directly related to the stock market that they could be writing about.
One of the issues I’ve had with many blogs I’ve been reading lately is that it seems many of us tend to keep writing about the same issues over and over, and at the same time. Days ago I wrote about commenting on blogs, only to discover later on that four other blogs had written on the same topic on the same day. When we talk about blogging, we tend to stick to specific niches that help drive blogs into prominence, hopefully. That’s why I break out into other areas from time to time on my blog, throwing up a video or two, giving a personal opinion about something, or sometimes going in directions that don’t have much to do about blogging at all, but are important to me at that moment. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. I believe Sire’s guest post on why he loves blogging was a very important post because he’s someone who refuses to be locked into a corner as to what he can write about on his blogs, even if they have a specific focus.
* Don’t worry about perfection, but check your grammar here and there – There is no such thing as the perfect post. I’ve written some that I think are pretty good that get few writers, and some things I thought I was just putting up to have something to write about that have touched a lot of people. People sometimes worry what someone else is going to think about what they’ve written, and that can help to paralyze them and stilt their writing. I’ve never had that issue; I write whatever I feel like, whenever I feel like, trying to offer something pertinent or personal, and that’s that. I don’t use profanity because I don’t use, and never have used, profanity in my real life (I’ve also never had a drink in my life, smoked cigarettes, taken illegal drugs, or, for balance, gone to church since I was 11 years old).
At the same time, I have to admit that there are times when it’s hard reading a blog post or an article where the grammar is choppy and sentences don’t flow in some fashion. I make allowances for people for whom English isn’t their first language, because I’ve seen how some of the posts I’ve tried to do in other languages (thanks, or kind of thanks, to Babelfish). And by grammar, I don’t mean using a word like “y’all”, which is a part of my language, and I don’t care how many people tell me it’s not a real word. I’m talking about major misspellings of easy words (it’s easy to tell a typo from a misspelling), picking the wrong words (”there, they’re and their”, as examples), or missing words throughout someone’s copy.
* Write about what you love and like – I love blogging, and it goes well with this blog. I love finding all sorts of things on the internet, which I can write about on this blog. I love writing about the things I do on my business blog. I have some kind of passion towards everything I write about, whether it’s positive or negative. When one has a passion, one can do a lot of things and talk about a lot of things. Everyone has a passion, and many people are hesitant to release it to the public. Trust me, there’s so many more things I could talk about on this blog that would make people’s heads spin, but that’s not what this blog is about. I have a place for that sort of thing, but I’m not sharing it here, so don’t ask. As I was listening to Lynn Terry on a conference call earlier today, she was saying how she has multiple outlets of expression under pen names that she doesn’t tell everyone about because sometimes she just needs to step out of being Lynn Terry for a few minutes. I’m the same; every once in awhile I just have to be someone other than Mitch Mitchell, or T. T. Mitchell, my business name, or whatever my wife feels like calling me at a particular moment. Still, being passionate about something, and adding a passion for writing into the mix, is probably the most important thing about blogging, and something I cover in my blogging series.
If you can put all of those things together, you can be a prolific writer. Some of them might seem like it’s a lot of work, but trust me on this one; if you’re doing something you love, it’s never work.