Blog Roll Surfing: Do Some Web Wandering

Here’s a simple activity that each time I engage in, afterwards I feel refreshed and rejuvenated for another week of blogging.

Whenever I’m stuck in a rut, an activity I enjoy for a “reboot” is a brisk walk or short hike away from civilization. There’s something refreshing about wandering in unfamiliar territory, the change of scenery, and enjoying the change of perspective.

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Three Lessons That Will Change Your Blog

Lessons in blogging come from many sources. Recently, I attended a concert by our friend, John Doan, a master harp-guitarist and storyteller (see YouTube Video). As he finished his set, he shared a story about his long-time friend, Burl Ives, and a moment they shared not long before the famous singer and songwriter died.

John has graciously allowed me to share some of that story, and its lessons, applied to blogging.

John Doan was among a team of fellow performers paying tribute to Burl Ives through his music, and was asked to perform a child’s song, one with which he had trouble relating. He went to Burl’s bedside and told him of his struggles, including how he could best honor his friend through this silly children’s song.

Burl shared three important lessons that John continues to use today, lessons for all of us, especially for bloggers.
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Real Artists Ship: The Value Of A Firm, Hard Deadline

Blogging is by and large a solitary activity. The average, self-employed blogger writes out of the comfort of home in their pajamas, thankfully miles away from a grumpy manager fretting over a deadline and micro-managing each click of the keyboard.

Granted, lack of a boss can initially feel like freedom – but as the initial fun fades away and blogging begins to feel like work, that blogger soon realizes that they must become their own manager.

Over the past few weeks I’ve taken on more freelance work than usual (in addition to the day job), while still managing to squeeze out a blog post or two a day. But whenever I get to a place where I’m managing several long-term projects simultaneously, I’m quickly underwater with each in a state of incompleteness, their resolution at some point just out of reach. This is when work really, really feels like work, and there simply aren’t enough hours in the day.

But I do have a short bit of motivational advice that I find inspirational at times of overwork. It’s a simple, short phrase attributed to Steve Jobs while pushing a team of worn-out engineers to complete the original Macintosh:

“Real artists ship”.

I first read the phrase in the book Insanely Great by Steven Levy (it’s about the history of Apple Computer):

Perhaps the most telling epigram of all was a three-word koan that Jobs scrawled on an easel in January 1983, when the project was months overdue. REAL ARTISTS SHIP… One’s creation, quite simply, did not exist as art if it was not out there, available for consumption, doing well… to make a difference in the world and a dent in the universe, you had to ship.

It’s a philosophical question that states all our pre-planning, best intentions, well-meaning efforts, and dutiful toil are for naught – if at the end of the day, nothing “ships” and there is no end result.

Personally, I find the phrase a great way to combat the specter of procrastination and also the morass of good intentions – saying I’ll do something but never quite getting around to it, or getting ninety percent there and then throwing up my hands in frustration. The phrase means that by giving up early, or never meeting the deadline, I’ve failed.

And there is an interesting side result of putting this phrase into action: you absolutely must have a deadline – and one that is firmly set in stone. There is no point in a deadline that aimlessly shifts.

(If your goal doesn’t really have a firm deadline… just lie to yourself.)

Learning to ship just comes down to action and results:

1. Write down what you want to achieve.
2. Pick a firm (but realistic) deadline.
3. Come up with a plan to put into action that can be broken down into clear, measurable steps (milestones).
4. Just do it.

Easier said than done; I know. I certainly don’t have everything totally under control. But because I have a deadline, a plan, and the knowledge to complete each project, I feel like I’m making progress on a daily basis.

Soon, the milestones will begin to fall away, largely due to the firm deadline and imaginary vision of Steve Jobs scribbling on an easel.

If You Want to Start Blogging, You Have to Get Up and Dance

Nobody cares if you can’t dance well. Just get up and dance.
~Dave Barry

When I wrote in Blogging Is About Writing on Problogger that readers will forgive writing mistakes if the blogger is passionate and knowledgeable about their subject matter, a lot of people stood up and applauded virtually. They loved the idea that you don’t have to write perfectly to blog, but it helps.

Is it necessary for every blog to be perfect and have a purpose? Honestly, like the quote above, you do not have to dance well, you just have jump in and dance.

It’s your blog. Do with it what you want. If it feels good, do it. Party hearty! Party on, Garth!

Must You Blog? Then Blog

I’m still in Israel as I write this post, and I’ve met a lot of old friends who listen to me talk about blogging and WordCamp Israel. After a few minutes, they lean forward and say, “I’m probably the most ignorant person in all of Israel. Forgive me. What is a blog?”

I explain that a blog is a website that isn’t a static billboard but a conversation on the web.

“Should I get one? Do I need one?”

“Do you?”
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Blogging With Conviction

Whatever you say, say it with conviction.
Mark Twain

Don’t you love reading bloggers who write with conviction? I do.

According to Merriam-Webster, conviction is “a strong persuasion or belief.”

In Are You Blogging Through Rose-Colored Glasses, I wrote asking you if you blogged through colored glasses, a perspective that “colors” your blog writing style and presentation of your ideas. Now, I want to know if you blog with conviction, putting your strong beliefs and power of persuasion into your blog posts.

Do you?
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Tips for Staying Writely Motivated on Your Blog

Writing has become such a process of self-discovery that I couldn’t wait to get up in the morning. I wanted to know what I was going to say.

Sharon O’Brien

Do you start your morning with that kind of energy? So excited, you race to your computer to write your first blog post before you even hit the shower?

There are some days when my eagerness to see what I’m going to write next shoves my body out of bed in the morning to rush to my computer. There are other days when I wish I could lie in bed and wait for the muse of the moment to slap me awake.

Sometimes, there are so many things to write about, I can’t stop writing. My husband has to peel me off my laptop. Other times, there are so many things to blog about, I’m overwhelmed, staring at the computer screen unable to write a word.

How do you keep motivated to keep producing content on your blog?
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What Do I Blog About?

I’m often asked by beginning bloggers: What do I blog about?

I have some answers for them, and hopefully for you.

While I recommend that you blog about your passion, whatever your blog’s purpose and goals are, there are times when the well of blog ideas dry up. While I’ve written much about how to find sources for your blog posts, I thought I’d give you some different kinds of inspiration to help you find something to blog about. It’s up to you on how you choose to incorporate these blogging ideas into your blog.

Ya cain’t sing nothin’ if ya ain’t got nothin’ to say.

Shotgun Willie by Willie Nelson

Blog About Anything

You can, if you want, blog about anything. Just start writing and see what happens as you write. Amazing topics can come to mind if you just start writing your thoughts.

However, just as you really wouldn’t want someone to read the thoughts in your head, nor do your readers. Take time to edit what you’ve written. Find the nuggets within what you wrote and edit your words to highlight those gems for your readers. If you have made a lot of points and possibly said too much, don’t delete it. Divide it up into multiple posts if you like the points you made.

Just write. Sit down and start typing. Go here and there and just let whatever you think flow from your head through your fingers.

Stream of consciousness writing can be amazing. Like journaling, if you let it happen, it’s kind of like channeling your unconscious through the keyboard to the screen. You never know what might come out. It might be a brilliant idea, comment, quote, or a new thought that takes you in a new direction.

Follow it.
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Bloggers Who Blame Don’t Change Things

In Placing Blame Where Blame Deserves to Be Placed, I wrote about how many bloggers throw blame on the wrong personal or company and how we need to be more responsible when we use our blogs as weapons of blame and guilt.

I recently ran across the following quote:

When you blame others, you give up your power to change.

Douglas Noel Adams

Many bloggers use their blogs to complain, blame, and get a little revenge, but does it make a difference? Sometimes.
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Are You Blogging Through Rose-Colored Glasses?

Twoflower didn’t just look at the world through rose-tinted spectacles, Rincewind knew – he looked at it through a rose-tinted brain, too, and heard it through rose-tinted ears.

Terry Pratchett, The Light Fantastic from the Discworld series.

As you write your blog, you are viewing the world through your lens, your filter, your perspective on the issue. Like Twoflower, is your view so narrow that you are blogging through your ears and brain as well as your eyes?
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The Blog is Mightier Than The…

I’ve been thinking about the power of blogging lately. It’s amazing how blogs and the openness of the web has helped communicate what is going on in Burma, in spite of the governmental shut downs, and blogs growing in popularity in Pakistan, Iraq, Iran, and other places in the world where “freedom of speech” can come with a jail sentence. As I prepare to leave next week for WordCamp Israel, October 25, 2007, in Tel Aviv, I’m reading the blogs of many Israelis. A saying keeps echoing through my thoughts: The pen is mightier than the sword.

Credited as being first said by Edward Bulwer-Lytton in 1839 play, Richelieu; Or the Conspiracy, I’ve seen many variations on this, but I wonder if anyone has yet said, “The blog is mightier than the pen and the sword.”

Just doesn’t have the same punch, does it?

Still, the ability of the written word to influence and change the world has been around for thousands of years. Its power increased when the word became portable, traveling from place to place as the population spread around the world, bringing the preserved words of the past with them.

Today, the written word is virtual, which could mean ephemeral, but it’s not. It is still made of sharp metal when used properly.

As I contemplate freedom of speech, blogging, and this old saying, let’s look at how that famous quote has been used by others to make a bigger point, and how it applies to blogs.
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