SlowBlogging


A few days ago, Mara Rogers wrote a post for Copyblogger about SpeedBlogging. Her post had a lot of smart tips for writing blog posts more quickly and efficiently, and I don’t disagree with any of the advice she gave.

But I’d like to propose another way to approach your posts: SlowBlogging.

Heard about the Slow Food movement? They’re an organization devoted to food that’s less convenient. No tomatoes in January (or June, if you live in Melbourne), no Lean Cuisine, no balancing a Big Mac on the steering wheel while you’re trying to merge onto the freeway. The Slow Food movement is all about food that’s quirky, local, and tasty.

Blogging is inherently a quick medium, but sometimes you want some handmade content that takes a little more time.

Chris Garrett calls these posts flagship content. Most blog posts are best consumed when they’re fresh, but these keep their value. They act, in Chris’s phrase, as “ambassadors for your blog.” They build your reputation and you can send readers to them again and again.

Solid “pillar” or “flagship” content takes a little longer to put together than routine daily posts do. Here are some SlowBlogging ideas you can try when you’re creating that cornerstone content.

Some ideas need more time

Mara’s an advocate of keeping a bank of ideas for future posts, and so am I. There’s nothing worse than wanting to cook up a tasty blog post and having nothing in the pantry.

Some ideas are topical, and you’ll need to write them up right away. If you’re going to comment on the latest celebrity train wreck, you’ll need to strike fast. But other ideas need more time to mature. You might think of them as bottles of homemade elderberry wine. They don’t taste too good when you first bottle them, but after they’ve been sitting for awhile, they start to get really tasty.

You’ll have some ideas that you’re just not sure what to do with. Park them in your idea cellar until they’re ready. Although some ideas do turn out to be duds, I’ve found that I often get the best posts out of ideas that have been sitting dormant for the longest time. You never know when that idea will ripen up and give you the perfect angle for a classic post.

Should it be a series?

Some ideas refuse to gracefully boil down into a single blog post. If you have a topic that’s getting away from you, consider making it a series.

Writing a blog series lets you give some loving in-depth attention to a topic without overwhelming your readers. And it gives you a wonderful feeling of luxury to know exactly what you’re going to write about for the next 7 or 8 posts.

A well-written series can form a terrific cornerstone for a blog. You might want to check out Brian’s Copywriting 101 series to see how he did it over on Copyblogger. I recently had a great time with a series on Dumb Things Small Businesses Do.

Rewrite, rewrite, rewrite

I love Mara’s fearless advice to “write and commit, then click Publish.”

I can tell you from personal experience that my method isn’t necessarily the key to optimal blogging productivity. But for me, writing is rewriting. It’s in the editing stages that I find the most important ideas in a post and polish them up to make them shine. (As well as clearing away any murky stuff that makes the post less delicious.)

I try to write a post two days before I want to post it. Over those next two days, I’ll read the post with fresh eyes each day and make changes. I do a last pass when I’m prepping it to post.

I do sometimes write “same-day” posts, but when I do, I still try to run through them at least three times. And if I can give myself a break between rewrites, I do.

This is a time when you want to know yourself. If you’re putting your posts through dozens of rewrites because you’re insecure or perfectionistic, try to force yourself to let go a little earlier in the process.

But if you tend to post your first drafts, try a few rewrites, especially on your authority content. You just may see a new depth and weight appear in your writing.

Write for pleasure

The Slow Food movement is all about taking a long Sunday morning to simmer the perfect pasta sauce just because you want to. You take your time picking out the perfect ripe tomatoes, you make a special trip to the farmer’s market for those really good Italian sausages, not because you have to, but because it’s enjoyable.

Sometimes you need to be efficient and get a point across. But I hope you’re also taking some time to write posts that give you pleasure. Play with language a little. Have some fun tossing an idea around. Let your personality come through.

Life is too short to bore yourself with your own content. No, it’s not all about you, but you’re also not a content-producing automaton. At least sometimes, take the time to savor the process of writing.

Mara’s SpeedBlogging techniques are definitely useful. And sometimes you want a nice, quick stir-fry list post for your blog. But when you need a long-simmered blog post Bolognese, give SlowBlogging a try. Variety is the spice of life . . . and blogging.

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Flickr Creative Commons image by lepiaf.geo

Where Are Your Blind Spots?

Everyone should follow the golden rule, right?

No, no, not the one that says “he who has the gold makes the rules.” I’m talking about the golden rule we all grew up with.

Treat others the way you would like to be treated.

Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

Works for kindergarten and it works now, right?

The key to wealth, health, happiness and world peace?

Not necessarily.

The platinum rule

There’s another rule, sometimes called the platinum rule.

“Do unto others as they would want done to them.”

The platinum rule doesn’t take your likes and dislikes as the standard. It gets your ego out of it (as much as possible) and puts your customer at the center, where she should be.

(One hotel management pundit even came up with a double platinum rule, where you’re expected to anticipate what your customer would like if only she knew about it. Sounds suspiciously like marketing to me.)

How to use the golden rule to drive your customers up the wall

I have a friend who runs a service business. He’s extremely conscientious. It’s very common for him to spend three or four unbilled hours researching the cheapest possible solutions for his customers.

There’s just one problem. His customers are ready to strangle him.

In almost every case, they don’t actually want the absolute cheapest way to solve the problem. They prefer a solution that’s packaged for convenience. Or that comes with a help desk so they can ask dopey questions. Or that just gives them the nice warm feeling of certainty they have when they buy a name brand.

His efforts to save them money too often cost them time and aggravation. And even now, most customers will be happy to spend money to save on time and aggravation. (They at least appreciate being given the option.)

He’s living by the golden rule. He would love it if a vendor bent over backwards to save him money, and he assumes that’s what his customers want.

It’s not. But he can’t get out of his own head long enough to see that.

Making it about their needs

It’s incredibly hard to think like another person. We all believe we do, but we have blind spots.

My friend can’t conceive of a customer who’s got bigger worries than cash flow.

I have a hard time remembering that most customers don’t want an overwhelming map of all the territory they could cover, they just want a fast map to get where they want to go.

You’re not going to be able to wave a magic wand and get completely out of your own head. No one is so enlightened that they don’t fall into this trap. Even the Dalai Lama probably assumes that everybody likes yak butter.

How to find your own blind spots

The next time a customer gets mad at you, try to listen for what might really be going on. Did they take your professionalism for condescension? Did your relatively minor screw-up make them look bad in front of a friend?

What assumptions did you make about this client relationship? Try to look at even the ones you think are ridiculously obvious. If you can get into a productive conversation about it with the customer, that’s fantastic. It will make the customer feel good and it will help you get smarter.

Surveying your customers works, too. To get out of blind spot hell, remember to leave things open-ended. If you create multiple-choice questions, you’re just asking people to validate what you’ve already decided.

How about you?

What blind spots have caught you up lately? Let us know in the comments.

Flickr Creative Commons photo by woodleywonderworks

The Mad Ninja Skill for Getting
Anything Done

I’ve found it: the magic bullet. The bass-o-matic technique that solves all problems, cures all ills, makes its own sauce, whitens and freshens your teeth (and laundry) while you sleep.

I’m going to share my super ninja secret for moving forward when I’m stuck (it works even better when combined with Havi’s destuckifier), finding focus, lighting up the escape route when the cabin starts to fill with smoke, and giving me the ninja strength to punch my way through obstacles and make things happen.

This is the equivalent of Beatrix Kiddo’s Five Point Exploding Palm Technique. It’s so powerful and dangerous that you might want to burn your computer after reading this blog post. Or at least, I don’t know, clear your browser cache.

The top-seekrit, ultra dangerous, uber-ninja skill that will set you free

Start writing stuff down.

(From this point forward I’m going to get all bossy and tell you what I do. Feel free to slavishly follow my model or to ignore it and make your own.)

I’m not talking about making lists, although that works too. I’m talking about journaling.

(Normally I despise the practice of making nouns into verbs, but journaling is just different for me from writing or writing in a journal. Feel free to throw rotten apples at me, I understand.)

Journaling is the act of getting all the gunk out of your brain and onto paper.

Journaling isn’t really writing. Writing involves editing and shaping and making careful word choices.

Journaling is more of a purge. We all have a lot of crap rattling around in our heads. Unworthy thoughts. Petty obsessions. Stupid fears.

Everyone. The Dalai Lama, Pema Chödrön, everybody. Murky, ugly mental gunk is part of being a human being. Most of us walk along desperately hoping that no one ever finds out what awful people we truly are.

Don’t worry. The nicest people you know are secretly even more horrible than you. (Hard to believe, I know.)

Journaling lets some air in. Getting the gunk on paper makes it suddenly look not all that bad after all. And writing down all the horribleness robs it of its power. Which leaves you free and clear to master the universe.

The main technique

Use physical pen and paper. Yes, even if your handwriting is atrocious. Yes, even if you hate to write by hand. If you are physically able to write by hand, do.

When you write with a pen on a piece of paper, you can’t go back and change a word because “gee, I didn’t really mean I hate my little brother.” You’re stuck with what’s there. It’s a tiny commitment to get the true first thing out of your mind and onto the page.

If you need to use a keyboard and screen, turn the monitor off. You want to remove your ability to go back and edit. Journaling is all about uncensoring yourself and freeing up your need to be “nice” or “appropriate” or even “sane.”

You don’t have to get all fancy and use a Moleskine or whatever the cool kids are using. You could use a fountain pen, which is what I like (this is a good beginner’s pen), or a .19 Bic. Doesn’t matter. But do use something that’s as comfortable as possible and lets you write quickly. Think flow.

Write without stopping. When you’re journaling, keep the pen moving. Even if you have to write this is stupid this is stupid this is stupid this is stupid this is stupid until you come up with something to say.

Journaling is not about consideration. It’s about moving too fast for your Inner Grown-Up to keep up.

Embrace the horrible. You’re de-gunking, remember? There’s going to be yukky stuff in there. Racist, homophobic, heterophobic, boring, immature, petty, mean-spirited, cruel, violent, bitter, self-pitying. downright evil. Name any quality you don’t want to have, it’s gonna come out.

What you find out when you do this is that you can write the words

I wish a nuclear bomb would destroy all life on earth so my assbag neighbor would melt and die

and nothing bad happens. No nuclear bombs. No destruction. No lightning bolt smiting you dead.

Plus, the feeling goes away. Or at least it eases up a little. You may find yourself starting to laugh about how out of proportion it all is.

You air it out. And when you air it out, the demon loses its ability to slow you down and confuse you. Life works better when you’re not slowed down and confused.

How often do you do it?

Julia Cameron’s Artist’s Way recommends three “morning pages” of freewriting every day for a month. I’ve done that a bunch of times, and it’s a great exercise, very freeing.

I usually journal when I’m feeling blocked up. There’s a particular sense in my gut when I’m not moving freely and I’m unfocused and crabby. That’s when I know I’ve got some gunk to clear out.

Sometimes I need to journal every day. Other times, I might go a month or two without needing it.

Journaling and goals

Lately I’ve had enough big projects to juggle that I’ve had to get a little more focused about goals. Plus I gained about 15 pounds that, for some reason, don’t look all that good on me.

So I’m doing Dave Navarro’s Damn Serious New Year’s process for some goals. Every day I journal a page (or two, if I feel like it) on progress and stuck places and looking for potential gunk. It keeps my attention on my goals and reminds me why I want them.

And it helps me see that I am getting traction and the wheels are moving, even if the movement is subtle. Which is huge. I don’t know anyone strong enough to keep taking action on goals if they don’t think that action will bear fruit. Journaling lets you see the little baby steps of progress, and those will build momentum if you let them.

Share your ninja prowess

Do you ever journal? What tools do you like to use? Paper or pixels? Fancy notebook or scrap paper? Do you journal every day? Do you keep your journals or destroy them?

Let us know your ninja journaling techniques in the comments!

Do We Really Need Brass Balls?

Along with the notion that an entrepreneur has to be a ruthless warrior, there’s another metaphor that gets used a lot for small business owners–you’ve gotta have brass balls.

Apart from the irritating implication that only people with certain kinds of plumbing get to be successful, once you start meeting a lot of extremely successful people, you realize that this “requirement” is completely bogus.

I’ve done quite a bit of work with a gentleman who founded a billion-dollar company. He’s about as decisive as a squirrel trying to cross the street.

He’s prone to massive anxiety (and creating the same in the people who work with him). He makes a lot of fear-based decisions. He can be a little hysterical.

He’s also smart, resourceful, knows his customer incredibly well, and has boundless enthusiasm and energy for his business.

I’m not going to speculate on the makeup of the man’s testicles, but I don’t think anyone would use the term brass.

I know another entrepreneur, a woman who runs a top-of-the-line consultancy. She manages a team of 20 coaches who transmit her expertise to her clientele. She’s better than anyone at what she does because she’s more empathetic and more perceptive than her competitors, so she creates better solutions for her customers.

Is she a confident, self-assured businesswoman? Sure she is. Does anyone tell her she has brass balls? I suppose it’s possible, but that’s probably the last way you’d describe this woman’s warm, elegant style.

For various reasons, I’ve come into contact with many people at the height of success. They vary quite a bit. Some of them are megalomaniac control freaks. Some of them are head cases. Quite a few of them are low-key, quiet types that you would never guess made millions of dollars a year.

Success requires a commitment to consistent, focused action, and the ability to figure out the right kind of action to focus on. It requires either luck or talent. (If you’re lucky enough to get both, you can make it happen faster.) Usually it requires mentors, or at least good models.

Brass balls, however, are entirely optional. You have my permission to succeed wildly without them.

(Yes, I know the picture is of brass bells. But sorry, I am not going to sully my nice blog design with a photo of trucknutz.)