Becoming Yourself and Growing Your Blog

Did you recently start a blog and feel like you have no idea what you’re doing? Do you feel like your blog will always suck and you’re never going to get any readers? Or do you just feel lost and want to give up?

Here’s a secret: your favorite bloggers felt the same way when they started. Very, very few of them actually had any idea that they’d end up where they are now, writing in the voice they now have about the topics that now fascinate them. Simply put, they grew with their blogs, and got better through a lot of practice.

Ali recently wrote “Every Blogger Starts From Zero” over at Problogger that tells much of the same story and gives some good practical suggestions for how to improve your blogging. It’s a great post, and she ought to know, for she’s one of those bloggers to watch out for.

But today, I’m not going to do a lot of telling; I’m going to do a lot of showing. We’ll take a look at a few blogs that are typically regarded as awesome blogs, check out their 10th (or so) post, and compare that to their current posts. In every case, you’ll see improvements in writing quality or a distinct voice or scope that wasn’t there before – and though you can kind of see the bloggers in there in the earlier posts, you’ll see that they’re hiding, too.

Let’s start with this blog, though.

The Flourishing Part of Productive Flourishing

I’ll put this out there first: I’m not really comfortable including my blog as an awesome blog, but it’s the one I know the most about. This knowledge lets me show you the evolutionary path to a degree that I can’t for others.

I got on this kick today because I noticed that a newsletter subscriber subscribed after seeing what was perhaps the worst post on this blog. After reading it and cringing, I quickly started editing it. I considered deleting it, were it not for the last paragraph. The irony was that the post was about why I quit blogging and the changes that I would make. Run and check out: “Why I Quit Blogging” circa February 2008. Note: in a sense of fairness and transparency, I reverted the post back to the awful version it started out as.

Are you kidding me? There’s this thing called proofreading, and apparently the editor was out for lunch. And a double-listed post? What was I thinking?

Beneath the many typos and lack of thought about how the post would look like to a reader, you can clearly see me in there. What you don’t see, however, is any sense that an actual reader is part of the conversation. To my credit, though, I had 9 readers at the time, so there really wasn’t anyone reading.

But I persisted and got better. Through time, my writing became less academic and more approachable, and I figured out that I was actually talking to someone. After crashing and burning by trying to write like a blogger, I started writing how I wanted to and how I talk and think, and every post was written to particular people or to problems that people were having.

I’ll include a list of links so you can see the progression, if you wish:

  1. 10th post – Falling Off of The Horse and GTD, August 3, 2007
  2. 30th post – What Type of Boss Do You Have?, February 26, 2008
  3. 50th post – Why Academics Have a Hard Time Writing to Non-academics, March 10, 2008
  4. 100th post – ToDo Lists, Technology, and Simplicity, July 29, 2008
  5. 150th post – Create, Connect, and Consume, January 27, 2009
  6. 200th post – Your Art is For You, May 14, 2009
  7. 250th post – How to Mindmap Your Way Through Stuckness, August 17th, 2009

I’ve finessed the numbers a little bit because drafts change post counts and I wanted to pick something close to that post count that was representative of my writing style, but you can still see a progression. There wasn’t a clear road from “Why I Quit Blogging” to “What We Gave Up When We Gained Abundance” – but there was one writer who kept writing.

The Rise of Leo of ZenHabits

Everybody writes about Leo’s rise in the blogosphere and how fast it was, and for good reason: the guy came out of nowhere. For four or five months, you couldn’t read a blog without seeing Leo’s name pop up. Clearly, a guy that prolific needed to write a productivity blog.

But if you paid closer attention, you could see a maturation in his writing, which is striking because he came into blogging from journalism – he was already a good writer, yet his voice and style changed, too.

Check out “How I became an Early Riser” and compare that to one of his latest – “The Slow Secret: How to Make Lasting Changes In Your Life.” Both are undeniably Leo, and he’s one of those guys that makes blog-friendly writing seem natural.

Look closer, though: in his most recent article, there’s no hesitation to his writing. It’s crisp – he doesn’t have to hedge what he’s talking about any more. The scope is bigger, as he’s synthesizing Taichi with productivity. And, lastly, the last post is full of you, not him.

You can read Zen Habits nowadays and forget that you’re reading about simple productivity, and that’s all because of Leo’s voice, style, and credibility. One of the best feats any non-fiction writer can pull off is writing in such a way that you don’t care what you’re reading – you’re just happy to be reading. Leo does this in spades.

The Cussing, World-Saving, Marketing Maven known as Naomi Dunford

I talk to a lot of smart people on a daily basis, and Naomi is definitely in the top 5 in this category. For what it’s worth, at the top, it’s hardest to say who’s better, and really, the time spent trying to figure it out is better spent just appreciating their talents.

But people aren’t drawn to Naomi solely because she’s smart; they’re drawn to her because she tells great stories. If there were ever a natural infotainer, it’s her. Her stories make you forget that you’re learning – so much so that she’s now figured out that she has to give people homework if she actually wants them to apply her insights. True story.

Yes, some of her stories are not safe for work, too. And thankfully so, for there are all too many stuffy business people that do more to help people fall asleep than to help them build their businesses.

But it took her a while to develop her writing style, too – even though she started with plenty of writing under her belt. For exhibit A, check out “Technical Difficulties: 5 Ways To Cope,” and for Exhibit B, “An Itemized List of All The Shit You Don’t Know.”

Both are stories that include Jamie as a counterpoint. But there’s nothing in the first story that rings of Naomi’s attention to comedic/storytelling detail. The first one also doesn’t feature a blasphemous, F-bomb dropping toddler, and even if Jack was around and talking at the time, it’s quite clear that the rendition of the first story wouldn’t be as literal; it would read like something you’d read at a boring blog like this one.

Besides the detail, though, watch how she’s violating the “rules” of the English language to tell the story. For instance:

When I have tried to use my father’s razors, my legs look like they’ve been through the rough edge of a grater. It’s hideous. And painful. And hideous. And painful.

A lesser writer would have butchered that paragraph by shaving off the repetition and applying silky smooth punctuations and transitions. But her paragraph conveys the way her legs felt and thus serves the story better than a cleaner version. (I get the image of a shorn Wookiee with acne, but maybe that’s just me.)

She’ll probably show up here and rant about how she hates writing blog posts, but the fact of the matter is that she’s better at what she does because she’s been writing blog posts. Deal with it, Naomi.

Steve Spalding: Splitting Atoms, One Story At A Time

Simply put, Steve is one of those guys you should know and follow. Not only is he both compassionate and brilliant, he’s one of those guys on the leading edge of what’s happening. I’m thankful that he’s serving as a conduit for the stuff that’s moving and shaking, although I wish I could get him to agree with me that a computer desk is not an appropriate place to fall asleep.

What you might not know about Steve is that he’s a trained engineer. As in, he actually went-to-a university-and-got-a-degree type of engineer. He thinks like one, too, but he doesn’t talk or tell stories like one.

At least, he doesn’t nowadays. But check out “How To Learn Linux” and you’ll see an engineer writing. Yes, it’s Steve the tinkerer there, but the Steve of “80% of People Quietly Despise Their Lives” is rather different. He’s still breaking things down and trying to put them about together, but again, look at the scope change.

Furthermore, though his first post is full of “you’s,” they’re more like place holders in that one. It’s awkward in a post like the first one to not use “you,” but notice that the “you” in the later post really is you, like you’re sitting they’re talking to him. He’s anticipating what you will say throughout the conversation – he’s talking to someone, not everybody.

Given his involvement in 93 Studios, I suspect that his stories will only get richer and more interesting – not at all what you’d expect from an engineer writing about learning Linux.

When Jonathan Wasn’t Unconventional

While Jonathan’s ascent wasn’t nearly as quick as Leo’s, it’s still remarkable. Since launching Illuminated Mind in March 2008, he’s grown it to about 10,000 readers. Given that he’s part of the third wave of productivity/personal development bloggers, that’s no small feat.

Jonathan’s writing makes people positively uncomfortable in a way that’s conducive for personal growth. He brings out the itch you’ve been trying to ignore for a long time – and his style and voice go along way towards getting people to at least think about issues of authenticity and personal liberation.

I’ve known Jonathan for a good while now, and, though he’s always been a rebel, his earlier writing didn’t indicate as much. I think a lot of this came from the regular contributions he wrote for Zen Habits early on, but as he defined himself, his posts there changed, as well.

Let’s take a look at the early days of Illuminated Mind, though, by looking at “How to Boost Your Energy.” You see the classic blog post here, and it’s something that would fit well on ZenHabits or 90% of other productivity/personal development blogs. I’m not saying that it’s a bad post – but it’s not a post where you see Jonathan.

Contrast that with “Your Comfort Is Not Important.” In it, you see Jonathan’s style of taking conventional or common beliefs and showing how they go against what many of us care about. Notice the lack of a list; he has developed a relationship with his readers such that he knows they’ll read what he writes, even if it isn’t in an easily digestible listed format. At the end, he introduces the term “artful ignorance,” which is him making novel contributions to the conversation.

The former post is something that many writers could write if they did the research and the brainstorming. The latter post is something that very few could or would write. That makes all the difference between a post that gets read and a post that gets filtered, but it’s not like Jonathan knew 18 months ago that he’d be where he is now with his idiosyncratic style.

The Remarkable Sonia

Sonia is another one of those really smart people, being fluent in multiple languages and one of the best copywriters I know. Brian Clark knew what he was doing when he snatched her up, for she’s one of those people that both *gets* copywriting and can teach it in the way that we mere mortals can understand.

Sonia’s also another showcase of someone who was already talented who is still growing and developing her own voice. You’d think that after the many posts on Copyblogger, she’d have her shtick down, but it turns out not to be that way.

Compare her “How to Tell A Story” to “How to Quit Being a Badass.” Ask yourself who she’s writing to in the first one. Notice how long her paragraphs are in the first one compared to the second. See how she puts ideas together and how her headers are now more informative.

It’s hard to have the confidence to write a one-sentence paragraph, yet her later post has 5 of them and a bunch of punchy, two-sentence paragraphs. The first post is telling you how to write a story, whereas the second post is showing you how to write a story.

The later post is not an aberration: scroll through her five most recent post, and you’ll see that this brilliant punchiness is now the way she writes. But you’ll also pick up on her warmth and compassion – which is exactly what she radiates in person: warmth, compassion, and quiet but powerful intelligence. You only only see one shade of her in her earlier posts, but now, we get Sonia.

Become Yourself

How can I know what I think until I say it? – E. M. Forster

Throughout this post, I’ve tried to show you that influential bloggers didn’t start out that way. We – if I may humbly add myself to the list for ease of discussion – started out hesitant and bland and we hid behind our words. Every post we wrote inched us ever closer to who you now read, and I guarantee that every blogger I mentioned will cringe when they go back and read their earlier posts. Hey, there are a lot of reasons why we hide our archives.

What I couldn’t show you is how our designs changed with us. Many of us started with the same crappy, free themes, then moved to less crappy themes, then paid for a theme, and, finally, got a theme designed for us. We couldn’t have designed the themes we now have because we didn’t know what we’d like. And, while blog designs are important, they’re secondary to your development as a blogger. Let me be very clear here: fiddling with plugins and themes has very little payoff when you’re starting out – your fiddling is probably more of a sign of procrastination versus a legitimate concern for the usability and presentation of your blog. We’ve all been there.

So, if you’re worried about where your blog is going, join the club. Frustrated about your lack of readers? Yep, been there, too.

But you don’t grow a blog by thinking about growing a blog or trying to figure out what you should be writing about – you grow a blog by writing, posting, receiving feedback, integrating feedback…and writing, publishing, posting, integrating feedback…and writing, publishing, and integrating feedback.

You will feel like you’re writing in the dark with no one listening, but that will change – only if you keep at it. You will write masterpieces and you will write crap – but you only get the masterpieces if you’re willing to write the crap; the crap will sink to the bottom and remain hidden in your archives, whereas the masterpieces will rise to the top. Your blog will grow, and you will grow with it – but only if you learn to sit down, write, post, and keep yourself open to new opportunities.

The blogging world is different now than it was 2 years ago. You can build a community on Twitter and launch a blog, which is much different than when some of us started and there really wasn’t anyone on the other end of the conversation. The tools are now easier to use and blogging is no longer some weird hobby that you keep in the closet.

It’s also harder now because so many more people are doing it. You have to compete for readers’ attention to a degree that veteran bloggers didn’t have to. For instance, when I started blogging, there were about 5 big blogs in this niche – ZenHabits, Steve Pavlina, Lifehacker, Lifehack, and 43 Folders. If you want to start a blog in this niche today, you have a few hundred to worry about, and you’re not going to rise above the rest doing the same thing everybody else is doing.

Despite all of the changes, though, content is still king. However, content is no longer informational content, but style, tone, voice, and the rest. You’re not Wikipedia, and you also have to rise above the post templates you find on Problogger because everybody else is using those same templates, too. You’ll have to learn to reach through the screen to connect with your readers, and if you don’t, they will move on to someone else who will.

To connect with your readers, you’ll have to develop the voice and style that is unmistakably you. And you probably won’t know who that person is unless you start writing; living is not about being – it’s about becoming. Between where you are now and where you want to go stands a lot of writing. Not thinking about writing. Not worrying about writing. Not figuring out what you’re going to write. But writing.

I hope this post helps you when the path is hard – we’ve been there, too, and we’re still figuring out where we’re going. Now, go become yourself and grow your blog…one post at a time.

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  1. says

    Wow … Charlie, what a fantastic post, and huge thanks for the link! I think I actually came across your cringe-worthy post at some point and stopped reading after about the second bullet point (sorry!) I felt like I’d read the same post a few too many times in the blogosphere.

    Whereas now, you have me reading every single line…

    My blogging has progressed across several blogs. I started writing about uni life when I was 18/19. (I *think* – *HOPE* – all the evidence has now been deleted.) Then I blogged about my life and writing, in a blog where I managed to mis-spell the title – in the URL, too, not just on the site. (How’s THAT for a typo?)

    And then I had a couple of blogs before Aliventures, the design/usability slowly improving with each. I’m still finding my style with Aliventures, but I’m seriously grateful for all the failed blogs that lay before it, because I’d not have got anywhere like this far without them.
    .-= Ali Hale´s last blog ..10 Scary-but-Exciting Reasons to Work for Yourself =-.

  2. Charlie says

    @Sonia: I didn’t think the length would fly, but it’s awesome that you think it’s Copyblogger-worthy. And it’s easy being kind when it’s just the truth of the matter.

    @Ali: Don’t apologize for not reading the post. It’s horrible and I’m embarrassed as hell that it’s up.

    I went through two really bad domain names before Productive Flourishing, and even PF is dubious, so I know how you feel. And all the failed blogs, posts, and endeavors are not really failures – just growth opportunities. They’re only failures when we don’t learn from them.

  3. says

    Yet another great post. This one is darn near epic. Look at you, doing epic shit. :)

    Thanks for a thoughtful, detailed post, and for the encouragement to those of us who are still hoping to get “there” (wherever “there” is) with our blogs. It’s good to have great examples!
    .-= Marissa´s last blog ..Monday Mashup #2: Six Witnesses =-.

  4. says

    When you asked me for that post, I spent quite a bit of time cringing, mostly because looking that far back in the archives makes me realize how crap most of what I’ve put together over the course of the last several years was.

    Then I thought about it a bit and was struck with the idea that you so eloquently stated in this post, and that is the fact that I wouldn’t give those early posts away for the world. Not because I’m particularly proud of them but because every post we write gives us some insight into how we think, and the earlier ones — I believe — are a more honest look into our core personalities, before we evolved into the personas we now sit comfortably in.

    They are time capsules, they are therapists and every so often we -should- look back on them to see what made us start out on this path in the first place.

    Great, great article Charlie and thanks for picking me to be a part of it.
    .-= Steve Spalding´s last blog ..80% of People Quietly Despise Their Lives =-.

  5. says

    Dude, this is so spot on.

    I think so many of us “play it safe” when we first start out blogging. We’re afraid of not ruffling any feathers, we’re afraid of calling attention to ourselves by doing something strange or unique.

    It turns out that not doing things strangely or uniquely is what makes blogs fail.

    I think a lot of new bloggers will benefit from this post. It’s something that’s been on my mind for a while, I’ll definitely be send it to the many new bloggers that contact me for advice on how to get going with their blogs.
    .-= Jonathan Mead´s last blog ..The End of Self-Sacrifice; or Paid to Exist is LIVE =-.

  6. says

    This is what one half of my people call a “mitzvah.”

    It takes stones to leave your bad sh*t up there for all the world to see, and even mightier ones to point to it.

    And being reminded that *all* of us start out this way””at the beginning, even if some people’s “beginning” seems pretty damned advanced””is a good thing, too. I think it’s time to examine why I’m so embarrassed about my own early stuff. Seems to me that the next logical step in this process is to get down with my mess and process 100%, and be kinder towards my younger, dumber self and her dubious content.
    .-= Colleen Wainwright´s last blog ..Poetry Thursday: Shit that don’t fit =-.

  7. says

    There’s a saying that goes, “Your early work should embarrass you”

    This is true of my writing, my photography, even the first training pieces I put together in the corporate world. But sometimes, as we look at the people we admire, we do forget they had early work too.

    Fantastic post, Charlie!
    All the best!
    .-= Deb Owen´s last blog you want to be happy? here’s the key =-.

  8. says

    Am printing to read with patience and highlighter as directed, but LOVE that your blog is printer friendly and will point to its added usefulness when begging clients to let me do this to their sites (“but it’ll look so dull!” Arg!)

    I’m expecting to learn a lot from it/you, Charlie-dear,
    and I know I’m expected to act on what I learn…
    which is a key pleasure in our fond friendship — thank you.

    .-= TheGirlPie´s last blog ..TheGirlPie: @HiroBoga I somehow thought you were RTing a "super Sanskrit project" — THAT was impressive! (Sure @soniasimone ‘s is too~) =-.

  9. says

    This rocks! I’m so glad you did that. I have (occasionally) shown clients my first articles from back in 2001, but you’ve really laid it out in a fantastic way that makes the whole topic approachable.

    I’m going to put a link to this post for our next class, coming up this Tuesday, that’s on “creating content.”
    .-= Mark Silver´s last blog ..About Selling Too Much =-.

  10. says

    Spot on, Charlie! I often have people asking me about my blog and how I developed my style, and they’re asking because they’re keen to start a blog but thinking they have to get clear on the style and core content first. I don’t know if it’s just me, but I feel like I couldn’t have developed my style and my core content before starting to blog. It developed as I wrote, tweaked, felt what felt right, got feedback, tweaked some more, reflected, tweaked, chatted with other people… and did I mention lots of tweaking. And that’s how it’ll continue to develop.

    I think it was Tony Robbins (who I’m loathe to quote ‘cos I really don’t enjoy his style, but his core content is often very good) who said that if you want to learn fast and change fast, then get started now and take massive action. When he wanted to learn how to speak well, he booked himself to speak 3 or 4 times a day for a few months and learned by doing, tweaking, doing, tweaking… rather than getting into formal learning and analysis paralysis.

    When I first started blogging, I religiously read problogger and copyblogger and all the other ones telling you how to write, but soon realized that reading those blogs was just a form of resistance and avoiding writing my own one and developing my own style, so I switched my focus, and that made a world of difference. Now that I’ve developed my own style, I get more out of popping into problogger and copyblogger every so often.
    .-= Cath Duncan´s last blog ..Resources for Transforming Your Fears, & My Five Rules =-.

  11. says

    This post beyond rocks the universe, Charlie.

    (And, ironically, the CommentLuv thing below is going to link to a blog post of mine which I DO find repulsive and cringe-worthy – but unfortunately I wrote it 2 days ago instead of 2 years ago. :D)

    That said, this post has made me feel a LOT better about putting myself out there, finding my voice and style and core content, and generally not being so afraid of my own shadow – and the shadows of fantastic bloggers like you and Colleen and Jonathan and Sonia and… [insert 25-name list here].

    Thank you for this.
    .-= Charlotte´s last blog ..5 Gmail Labs Widgets That Will Save You From Yourself =-.

  12. says

    Hi Charlie
    I really enjoyed and identified with a lot of this post. I have been blogging for about two months. I’m really enjoying it but can see it takes time to develop and part of the key seems to be persistance as well as the obvious good content. As you said, the key is to keep doing it and keep learning and intergrating the feedback. I think one of the things I was worried about, was whether people would want to read what I have to say…but it turns out…. yes they do! One of the things I have kept telling myself (like a lot of your message in this post) is that the Steve Pavlina’s all started somewhere. Back to the original message of the post though, I think it really is all about being ourselves. :-)
    Thanks again Charlie
    .-= Jen´s last blog ..So what is Life Coaching? =-.

  13. says

    Charlie, you said, “You will feel like you’re writing in the dark with no one listening, but that will change – only if you keep at it. You will write masterpieces and you will write crap – but you only get the masterpieces if you’re willing to write the crap; the crap will sink to the bottom and remain hidden in your archives, whereas the masterpieces will rise to the top. Your blog will grow, and you will grow with it – but only if you learn to sit down, write, post, and keep yourself open to new opportunities.”

    So true – especially in my case. Thank you for reminding me that to get masterpieces I also have to be willing to often write crap.
    .-= Julie´s last blog ..Audit-Proof Tax Diary =-.

  14. says

    You have no idea how much good you’ve done with this post. I was just about to quit (and I can see I’m not the only one). But thanks to you, I’ll be back at it next week (and I hope the rest of you will, too).

    This is what I love about blogging – the cool kids help the new kids and we all get a little better in the process.

    Thank you Charlie!

  15. says

    I cringe almost every time I write a new blog post and send it out. I sometimes feel it’s not quite right and just put it out there anyway. I figure putting something out that’s not quite perfect is better than nothing at all. But, I know I’ll get better. I might not ever be a great writer, but I feel like I’m getting bettter each time.

    For my last post, I decided to write to my husband. Not literally. But, I used the same tone I would use when discussing something with him and imagined I was talking to him. And, what do you know? Most popular post yet. Must be something to that finding your voice thing. :)
    .-= Naomi Niles´s last blog ..Web Designers – Don’t skip the wireframing phase. =-.

  16. says

    Charlie – fits so well with what we’ve been discussing – and it’s comforting to know that everyone goes through this process – that it is, indeed, a process. And, I did grab a drink before I sat down to read this, as instructed, but just a Diet Coke :) Thanks for always being inspirational.

  17. says

    So helpful to be reminded, and by someone (you) whose thought process I respect so much: Don’t stop yourself from publishing just because a given post isn’t (contrarian) (ground-breaking) (game-changing) enough to establish you as a Blogger To Watch.

    Just post. And keep posting. Your voice will emerge over time.

    We become bloggers worth reading, by blogging. Thanks Charlie!

  18. Charlie says

    @Marissa: It’s definitely long, but it was one of those where I wanted to finish the thought. My sincere hope is that it was worth the time spent reading it.


    They are time capsules, they are therapists and every so often we -should- look back on them to see what made us start out on this path in the first place.

    I’m with you on this, Steve. I cringe when I read my own stuff, but I also smile a little bit because I see me in there. I remember what I felt and thought then, and it’s a great celebration to find myself anew.

    And then I look away – after all, there’s only so much value you can get out of crap. :p

    @Jonathan: It’s hard to stand up and call attention to your uniqueness in a culture that’s schizophrenic about it. We all want to be unique, but we also don’t know what to do with uniqueness. I appreciate you sharing it with others, and I look forward to continuing to grow with you, m’friend.

    @Colleen: Thank you – I’m just trusting the good from it will overrule the ick factor I get from it. You’re embarrassed by your earlier stuff because you judge it from your current perspective; I think you’re looking at it from the perspective of how “bad” you were instead of how much better you are now. If we don’t know where we came from, how can we appreciate where we are?

    @Deb: I think no one’s amazing when they start. The people who think they were awesome shift the time in which they were counting. We all work – some just stick with it and get better.

    @Mystery Woman aka TheGirlPie: Print-friendly blogs are surprisingly overlooked. Given my tendency to write long posts, I wanted to give people a chance to have an easier way to read my posts. An upshot for me is that it also gave me the courage to write in a way that was comfortable for me. I hope it does help, and though I won’t be able to see whether it does in your writing, I’m glad to know you expect it to be of value.

    @Mark: Thanks for sharing it with your class, Mark – and for your continued encouragement and support!

    @Cath: I agree with you about the blogging style. Using the templates built confidence, in much the way that training wheels do on bikes. But at a certain point, you have to take the training wheels off so you can ride. Knowing the rules is helpful, but knowing when to break them is where art and style come from.

    @Charlotte: You’re too close to it now, but come back and read your post in six weeks. You’ll see what you were trying to say and appreciate it, and you’ll also see your growth. Oh, and I’d add the send and archive widget to the list. Thanks for sharing your value – and you’ll get more comfortable with your voice in time.

    @Jen: Congratulations – you’ve reached the phase in which you’re no longer writing in the dark. Someone’s there, reading what you write, and you can’t see it now, but they’ll be happy to get your next post.

    @Julie: It’s easy to say in theory, but putting it in practice is what makes the difference. Play with your talents and voice, and your masterpieces will come. Tell the editor to go away until you’re done writing, and then she can come in and help. But, most of all, play.

    @Mahala: You’re welcome, Mahala. You’ll come up with more doubts and confusions along the way, but it won’t be about what you need to write. It’ll be about the best way to express an idea – once you reach the point where you’re thinking about style and not technique, the game changes. The third stage, of course, is where you’re not thinking about style or technique; at that point, you’re just in the joy of writing.

    @Barb: I’m really glad you’ll be back in the conversation next week. Your voice and participation matters, and you’re right: we all get a little bit better by helping and supporting each other. Ain’t interdependence grand?

    @Naomi: You tapped into a key insight, Naomi – when you write to people, it clicks. People want to be talked to, not at, yet it’s so hard in the beginning because we’re talking at people.

    And thanks for your comment about my posts. It really does help because I still pause before I hit publish.

    @Laura: Ah, one of my muses shows up! I’m glad you read this, as I was hoping you’d pick it up. And how many times have I said that I’m alright with you drinking. :p

    @Janet: Your last line sums up the entire post superbly, Janet. And the funny thing is that it takes a long time to know when I given post is going to be (ground-breaking)(game-changing)(contrarian). All too often, when you force it, it doesn’t happen. When you play, it can – not that it will, but it can.

  19. says

    Charlie, I love the case studies and the care you took to write this post. As someone just starting out with my brand new baby blog, it’s inspirational to be reminded that all the big bloggers started out right where I am. Not that I want or need to be huge, I do want to do some good by writing for a community of my peeps however large or small it turns out to be.

  20. says

    I`m drooling Charlie! I have been blogging for 6 months and for the last 2 hv been feeling the need to be more expressive and find the VOICE that`s uniquely ME.

    I love blogs that are different and unconventional and really like Jonathon`s, Naomi`s, Simone`s and Leo`s styles. Don`t know Steve and was pointed to your site just today so I`ll be reading up on you both.

    Off to tweet the link now, this is something every new blogger should read! Cheers and thanks muchly, Tia aka @TiaSparkles
    .-= Coach T.I.A ´s last blog ..Tuesday Tip – Face One Fear Today! =-.

  21. says

    Wow, as someone looking for his voice, this is exactly what I needed to hear right now — I’m so fortunate I stumbled across this post! Thank you!

    The last few paragraphs really speak to what it’s all about: just get out there and write — take a chance at making a fool of yourself in return for the possibility of finding your own voice.

  22. says

    Wow, thanks so much for writing this. It’s so good to hear about the struggles of blogging from a bigger blog.

    Today is 5 months for my site and I’ve been really surprised how difficult it has been to learn to write for the web. College must have messed me up pretty bad because I still struggle to get away from the elongated introductions to fill word counts.

    I’ll keep your post in mind, thanks a lot.

    -Austin @ Foreigner’s Finances

  23. says

    I don’t even recall how I landed on this page. I think it was from a link on another site. But I’m glad I did. I added each featured blogger on my blogroll. And I didn’t just do that because you said so. I checked them all out and really liked their blogs. I think that is another thing I got from your post; something that seemed to me as more implied than prescriptive: read really good blogs to help with your own blogging. Thanks for this post. Loved it!

  24. says

    I have just finished reading this post at 2:30 am, when I woke up with an uneasy feeling about my future. I consider myself as a writer but I am afraid my amateurish blogging activities is going nowhere. This post saved me from going down to a 3am depression. I will keep writing. Thank you.

  25. says

    Thank you for such great advice!

    I think we often times think that if we set out to make money with our blogs, that it will happen. But the best way is to write and learn on the way.

    This is the most valuable post I’ve read in a long time!

  26. says

    I have just stuck few minutes ago. But now… seems to me that I am spirited. Now, I can believe that, there is nothing to worry about. I will have the capabilities to write well one day. One day, there will have the so much visitors to read my blog.

    Thanks for your research and show us the result.

    I have been benefited.


  27. says

    Developing your style and voice is definitely an iterative process.

    It’s okay to vary your style, too. I’ve been published in academic journals and newspapers — I write more formally and modestly for the journals.

    When you’re starting out, it’s alright to have a personal blog to find out what you like to write about. I’ve written on my personal blog about a wide spectrum of subjects — public speaking, multi-monitors, volunteering, etc.

    I’ll see what themes emerge over time, and then maybe I’ll start a new blog devoted to a particular theme.

    Best wishes to everyone as we develop ourselves and our writing.

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