When I was down on my knees at the end of 2013, I decided to turn this blog completely upside down (read more about it here).
Back then, I didn't have a job, no regular income (still don't have), my girlfriend of many years broke up with me and I had to move back in with my mom.
I was very confused. My mind was very confused. And confused minds make confused decisions.
Sick of all of this, I decided to write about the stuff I really cared about. The stuff I wanted to write about. And nothing else. No more BS.
Ever since, I'm writing about my lessons learned, my ideas and thoughts. Completely unfiltered. Some people like it. Some people don't. I don't care.
My blog has become the place where I share my personal notes to self.
The only difference is that everybody out there can read my personal notes to self. It's like my personal notes gone public for everybody to see, read and laugh about.
I've now been following this approach for over a year.
And a few months ago I hit more than 100 published posts. So I decided to write down the 100 things I learned having written 100+ blog posts.
So here we go..
# PEOPLE WILL NOT LIKE WHAT YOU WRITE
As a matter of fact, a lot of people won't like your writing. Or what you write about. But that doesn't really matter. You should only care about the people that like your writing. Don't let the others get you down.
# PEOPLE WON'T UNDERSTAND YOU
A lot of people get a lot of my posts wrong. Sometimes I wasn't clear enough. Sometimes people obviously didn't read the article. And again. You shouldn't care about the last group of people. You should only care about the people that have read your posts and give you honest feedback.
# YOU SUCK WHEN YOU START
It's really, really, really hard to start something new. Especially if you've never done it before. That doesn't matter. We all suck at things we just started. The most important thing is to keep pushing.
To keep pushing through that devastating period where you write for 5 hours, publish it and no reaction. This is where most people will give up. They do it maybe once or twice. Unfortunately you have to do it 50+ times until anybody out there will even notice that you exist.
If I think about it, it might probably take even 100+ posts. And then most people will still not take you serious. But luckily, if you get past 100 posts I guarantee you that you'll be a lot better writer than 95% of the people will ever be. That's just a matter of fact.
# BE READY TO BURN BRIDGES
When you blog you will often say things that a a lot of people will not agree with. And if you don't, that means that you might never be able to stand out. Unless you're already famous when you're starting. I wasn't.
I guess your readers need to feel that you're taking a risk writing all of your thoughts down. That you embarrass yourself. That you're actually really willing to burn bridges.
That will make them feel good. It's like a mutual deal. Your stories in exchange for your reader's precious time.
If you're not willing to take the risk of almost ruining your life, your readers won't take the risk of reading your stuff..
# EMBARRASS YOURSELF
If you don't feel embarrassed or afraid about what people might think about your post, then don't publish it. I'm not quite sure if I'll feel embarrassed enough about this post. Maybe I won't publish it.
If you read it right now, you know that I published it. I really do wonder whether or not someone might actually read all of these 100 points. Let me know if you did..
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# MAKE FUN OF YOURSELF
Never ever take yourself too serious. Because if you start taking yourself too serious people will feel it. They will feel it reading your words. Hell, they might even smell it. I don't know how people do this. It's something like a sixth sense.
And once people started feeling it they will walk away. Because if they want to read something serious from someone that takes himself or herself serious, they'll go and grab a newspaper. Because hat's what newspapers are all about. They are about serious stuff.
So don't try to compete with these guys. Because you just can't. Be the funny guy instead. The funny guy that doesn't take himself too serious. That sometimes also writes some smart stuff..
# BE AUTHENTIC
If you're trying to be someone else, let's say an expert and you're not really an expert people's sixth sense will start to kick in. How? I don't know. They will just sense it. And again, the result is that people walk away. Or they never really stopped to listen. Or to read.
There is so much content out there. And people read on average 10+ blog posts a day (I just made that number up). So they are probably better than any other editor that's making money reading stuff.
They will immediately be able to recognize whether or not someone is authentic. Whether or not it's worth spending two to five minutes of their time reading the entire piece. Most people will just skim it. Even better.
They will go through the article and try to understand the headlines and if they identify themselves with it (or want to show their friends that they possess all of the features of highly successful people) they hit the like or share button. BINGO!
But here's the thing. Do you remember anyone who ever wrote one of these list articles about highly successful people? Well, I don't. And that's a pretty bad sign if you want to be known for your writing. At least in my book.
Try to figure out what works and what doesn't while you still have a small audience.
It's better to completely and miserably fail with a small audience. So experiment the hell out of what's possible or what you thought was possible.
And then experiment some more. Just a few weeks ago I published a one word long post. Did it work? Hell yeah, it worked pretty damn well. And now I write a probably 10 pages long post. Does it matter? No!
I'm just trying to figure stuff out..
# EXERCISE DAILY
Unfortunately writing is not like riding a bike, driving a car or walking. Unfortunately you'll forget how to write properly if you don't do it almost every day. I don't know why, but usually when I stop writing for a few days, the level of my writing is very poor.
And don't even get me started about how hard it is to get back into the flow. It's probably one of the hardest things in the world. I don't even know what would happen with my writing if I didn't do it for an entire month.
I would probably go back to zero. And that's why it's so pretty damn hard to become a good writer. That's why a lot of people told me that I didn't make any progress at all. But then again, a lot of people told me that I made a hell lot of progress.
I guess the only thing that works is to keep on writing and stop listening to what other people say...
# NEVER REGRET
Never regret anything that you published. Be embarrasse about it. But don't regret it.
When I started, I deleted entire posts because I felt that people won't like them. That they might think I'm crazy. But what I learned is that it doesn't really matter.
People actually expect you to write bad articles. They wait for it to happen. And that's actually a good thing. Because once you published a bad article it's like an enormous weight was put off your shoulders. It means that from now on you never have to worry again.
You already screwed up. And now your critics are satisfied and you can focus on what's really important. On getting even more ideas, thoughts and stuff out there. That's all that counts. Nothing else.
Because the more stuff you put out there, the better you get and the more people might start taking you serious. Or not. I don't know. I just have the feeling it works for me.
# HAVE FUN
This is very obvious. But I wanted to point it out nevertheless.
Every time I wanted to write a book or anything else just to make money, it somehow didn't feel like fun anymore. It felt a lot like work. And work does usually not feel like a lot of fun..
So focus on the fun part instead.
# CLOSE COMMENTS
I guess what really helped me in the beginning was that I closed comments on my blog. I was just way too fragile, so every negative comment could have resulted in me stopping the entire project.
And if you remember what I said in the beginning, if you want to stand out as a writer you need to have a strong opinion. And a strong opinion will lead to others having strong opinions about you and your writing.
It worked for me. Maybe it works for you as well. I just didn't want to bother with all the extra noise of thinking about smart responses to stuff people said. I just didn't have the time, guts, willingness to do it. Maybe I was a wimp. But I don't care.
All I care about is writing stuff people love. And the ones that don't love it can go and love something else. I don't need my stuff to be loved by every single person on this planet. I'm already happy when a kid from India writes me that the stuff I write about is inspiring..
# TAKE BREAKS
Nobody can write for 4 hours straight. Or an entire day. It's impossible. Everyone that tells me to be able to do this is lying. You might be able to write for an entire day. But then you'll probably spend 50% of the time on Facebook, Twitter or any other platform.
You need to give your brain a break. Otherwise it will collapse. Or it will look for ways how it can distract you into doing all sorts of other “important” stuff. As I feel my brain trying to distract me for quite a while now, I'll take a break.
I'll go to the beach and watch the sea for a while.
The sea is really rough these days in Montenegro. And it's really beautiful here. The old town, looking like a small medieval town. Small alleys. Surrounded by ten meter high walls. Beautiful flowers everywhere. The smell of the sea.. Mhhhh.
OK, I lied about the flowers. There are no flowers. It only has 12 degrees. But I thought that the flowers would fit in quite nicely.
# MARKET, SELL, PROMOTE
Alright, back to writing. There's one thing, that's so important that it's even more important than the writing itself. It's more important than any product, idea or whatever. It's the willingness to learn how to market your stuff properly.
How to sell it. How to sell yourself. And how to best promote it. How to promote yourself.
Believing that your ideas, thoughts, products or what not will travel far just like that is never going to work out. The battle for attention is tougher than it was ever before. Simply being a genius or producing genius products is not going to work anymore.
You need to master the art of promoting. And then the art of selling. And then the art of interacting with people. And the art of showing up. And all sorts of other arts. I guess you get the idea..
# USE ALL CHANNELS
It's not enough to put your thoughts onto your blog anymore. No one will find it. Building an audience might take decades. You think Google will send you traffic? Maybe, but only after 1+ years.
I never had a single visitor sent over from Google. Just recently they started dripping in. Where did my traffic come from? Mostly social media, my email newsletter and that's about it.
So be everywhere. Publish your content to an already existing audience.
Publish your ideas on LinkedIn. On Medium. On Twitter. On Quora. Everywhere! Then, maybe if you're lucky some people will remember you. And after they read maybe ten of your stories they will click through to your blog. But only maybe.
Competition is tough. So be where your readers are. You might call this spam. I call this customer service..
# BUILD AN EMAIL LIST
The most important thing are people coming back to your blog. Unfortunately most people will only visit your blog once. And then never come back. Ever again. So make sure that you try to collect their email addresses.
Only if you're able to follow up, to help that seed you planted grow into a beautiful tree will you ever be able to cut through the noise. And become the signal. For some people at least.
That's why I have probably 5 different ways of collecting email addresses on my blog. Too obvious? Maybe. But it helped me to get where I'm now. It's probably the only reason that I am where I'm at now (whatever that might be)..
# EXPERIMENT WITH HEADLINES
If your headline sucks, your content won't get anywhere. Because if your headline is not appealing, no one is going to read your article. Sad but true.
Go on Twitter and tweet the same content with different headlines. See which one performs best. Which one gets more clicks. More retweets.
And then do it again. And then again. Until you understand what people are likely to click on and read.
#SOURCE YOUR IDEAS EVERYWHERE
It doesn't matter where your ideas come from. If you see a cool headline, a cool article or whatever, jut copy it. And come up with your own story. Everything has been said and done before at least once.
So don't be afraid to say or do something someone might already have said once. And then come up with your perspective. People care about perspectives. Especially new and fresh perspectives..
# BE EVERYWHERE
Don't just blog on your blog. Publish your stuff everywhere.
If someone asks you to write an article for them, offer them some stuff that you already published on your blog. Or somewhere else. At the end of the day the stuff that you write on someone else's blog, website whatever won't get you any clicks.
It will get you a really, really, really small amount of clicks. Clicks that will end nowhere.
I published a content on a site once that has millions and millions of visitors. My article got 500+ Facebook shares and maybe 10 clicks to my blog. Nirvana.
But it helps to be everywhere.
If it's not for clicks it might help to increase your credibility. So be smart about it, don't write original content and just offer them recycled content. Everything else might be just a waste of your time and focus.
# IF YOU DON'T WRITE, READ
You should always be writing. And if you're not writing you should be reading. I know this is a stupid rule. And I don't follow it. And nobody on this planet is able to follow it. But I know for sure that this is the only way to become better at writing.
If I don't read or write, all of my skills somehow magically disappear and I have to start from zero again. So you either do it 150% or you don't do it at all.
I know it sounds tough. And to tell you the truth, it is tough. I didn't write for two days and all I could come up is this crappy post.
But to get back on track I needed to write a horribly long post. To get my brain sweating. That's the only way. No one is born a good writer. It all comes down to writing, writing, writing and the same with reading..
# START SMALL (REALLY SMALL)
When I started I didn't start with a blog. This would have taken a really big effort and would have distracted me from what's essential. It would have kept me from writing. I would have been busy trying to figure out Wordpress. And then finding a nice theme. And then plugins.
I would have stopped already before I even started because I'm sure I would have encountered thousands of problems. And all of them would have been potential game stoppers. And because I knew how easy I could be distracted I simply started posting my thoughts on Facebook, as notes.
Once I saw people liking and commenting, I started publishing them somewhere else and then post a link on Facebook, so I could see how many people clicked on it. After that went pretty well, I started a blog. But not a Wordpress blog. That would have been too complicated.
Too many things could go wrong. Too much distraction, themes and options. So I went for the easiest solution possible. I took Typepad. A very old school kind of blog provider where you can barely install any additional features. So that forces me to focus on the writing instead of some UX/UI BS..
# DON'T LISTEN
Don't listen to the people that only want to bring you down. Don't listen to the people that only want to criticize you. Just ignore them. If they write a comment just to get you down, to push your button, just click the like button or upvote it and leave it like that.
# OK, LISTEN
Listen to people that want to encourage you. Those are the people you need to focus on.. Those are the people that will help you get up in the morning. Those are the people why you're doing all of this. Those are the people that support you, so support them. Period.
# STAND OUT
You need to stand out. How can you stand out?
I guess the only way to stand out these days is to be yourself. There have been billions of people living on this planet earth. And none of them looked like you. Smelled like you. Walked and talked like you. Thinks the way you think.
Because we're all unique. We're all one of a kind.
Unortunately, we live in a society where sameness has become the norm.
That's why people that focus on just being themselves will stand out. Even if you're a little crazy you should be yourself. Because that's how you stand out. Be yourself. Celebrate your differences. And hide your similarities.
# RESPECT THE PLATFORM
Every platform favors a certain way of dialogue or interaction. Make sure that you know and understand these differences. One thing that almost always holds true is to not direct people away from the platform they're on.
If they're on Facebook, they will usually want to stay on Facebook. So post directly into Facebook. No link to your blog. Only if it's absolutely necessary should you post a link to somewhere else.
I know it is very tempting to direct people away from a platform and onto your platform.
But leave it up to them. Don't force them.
# BE ALMOST ILLEGAL
Whatever you do, don't ask. Don't ask for any permission. But please don't harm anyone. Or do anything illegal. Other than that, everything is allowed. And probably even appreciated..
# BS IN BS OUT
If you only read and consume snippets of content and articles like “how to become successful” or some other BS you will never ever be able to produce anything original or come up with cool and fresh ideas.
Your thoughts are the product of the thoughts and ideas you put into your system. It's as simple as that..
# LOOKS DON'T MATTER
It doesn't matter how your blog looks like.
All that matters is that you produce great content, ideas and thoughts. Everything else is useless. People telling you that you need a better design, a mobile optimized website or whatever kind of BS, don't get the point. They're not interested in your ideas anyways. They're just interested in looking at nice things.
Let those people look at Pinterest or their beautiful iPhones instead. They're not your target group. Your target group are people that care about your ideas. Your writings. So focus on them and forget about all the others..
# SHOW UP OFFLINE
Don't be online-only.
Be offline as well. Show up in the real world almost as much as you do online. The Internet is a great medium for a first step but in general nothing beats seeing someone in real life. It increases trust a lot faster and building a connection is a lot easier as well.
Think about it. Who would you prefer to tell your friends about? Someone you only met online or someone you met online, fell in love with online and then fell in love with even more when you met offline. I guess you get the point..
# REINVENT YOURSELF
Be constantly reinventing yourself. Do something unexpected. Do something no one would have thought possible. Come up with one hundred ideas. And then two hundred. Redefine what everyone thought was possible.
Make the impossible possible. Change the rules. And then make new ones. And mix them with the old rules. It doesn't matter. As long as you keep it fresh and exciting, people will want to come back. Never settle. EVER.
# FORGET ABOUT SEO
If you care about SEO, forget about it. It won't help your blog. It might work for a niche site but not for a blog. Maybe it might, but then you would always have to think about keywords and all of that other BS.
I tried it once. And it was limiting my thoughts. My ideas. And it felt empty. It somehow felt like a job that had to be done. And that's the worst thing that can happen to you (if you want to be a writer or blogger).
The moment writing feels like work you'll start to hate it. You'll despise it. Just like every other job. So do yourself a favor and just write. Write about whatever you want to. Whatever makes you feel good.
Mhhhh, writing this last paragraph felt good. Really, really good..
# DON'T COMMENT ON OTHER PEOPLE'S POSTS
A lot of people will tell you that you have to comment on other people's blogs. To build up some crazy, super star, Team America kind of super blogger crew. But that's all BS. Or maybe that's great. I don't know. I've never done it.
Too much work. Reading someone else's article and then thinking about something smart to write. Takes way too much time. And it takes away my focus. So I don't do it. But give it a try. Maybe it works for you..
# WRITE ABOUT EVERYTHING
After a while you'll realize that you can write about everything. See I'm even writing a paragraph explaining you that it's possible to write about everything. And that's a good sign. Because that's when you know that you got into the flow. That writing became a habit.
When you walk around on the streets, see something and have to think about a post, that's when you're in the flow. When you talk to someone and you think, oh hey that would be a great post, that's when you're in the flow.
When you can't think about anything else than just the one thing you want to write about until you wrote it down, that's when you're in the flow.
So how do you get into the flow? By writing. And then writing more. And then more. And then some more. And then, you'll maybe at some point get into the flow. Or not. I really don't know.
# DON'T TRY TO CONVINCE PEOPLE
Never ever try convince people. If someone thinks a certain way you won't be able to change it. So don't waste your energy trying to convince someone that doesn't agree. Respect their opinion and move on.
I've done this mistake many times in my life. And I was never able to convince anyone. I might have been able to explain why my ideas are better or more true, but in the end I didn't make more friends.
Instead, the only thing you might be able is to make enemies. Or people that don't like you because you showed them that they were wrong.
If that's the price, I prefer making friends and respecting other people's opinions. But it's a long way to get there. I'm not there myself either..
# WRITE DOWN YOUR IDEAS
Write down all of your ideas. It doesn't matter if you have hundreds of ideas a day. Write them down as soon as you have them. Because one moment the idea might be super clear right in front of you and then the next moment... GONE.
Happened to me so many times. Or another thing that might happen. You focus super hard on your thought and don't think about anything else. And then you'll be stuck with that one single thought until you find a piece of paper and a pen.
Get that thought out of your system. As soon and as fast as you can. Write it down. Have a small writing pad. Or take your phone. Whatever. Just get it out of your system.
# DON'T GUEST BLOG
I already mentioned it before. Don't guest blog. It's a waste of time. If someone only wants original content, drop it. It's just not worth it. Recycle your content instead, safe time and get some easy credibility (if needed).
But always remember. Guest blogging won't make you any more successful, any faster. If your writing sucks on your own blog, it will still suck on somebody else's blog. So focus on getting better instead.
I know I repeat myself a bit here. Focusing on writing to improve my game every single day and trying to ignore all of the outside noise worked for me. No clue if it'll work for you. But it's definitely worth a try.
# BE PATIENT
Your first 40+ posts will most probably not be read by anyone out there. I know it's sad, but that's just what it is. But look on the bright side. You can easily recycle all of that content that everybody ignored in a few months.
I did that with almost all of my content. I just recently started sending out my first 30 posts on Twitter. Again and again. And it received more upvotes than ever before. True story.
# NEVER SETTLE
Every time you feel like you made it, get over yourself, buckle up and try to work even harder. Because there are millions of other people out there trying to grab your reader's attention. It's a tough world and there are many talented folks out there.
So never settle. Be moving. Always. Be flexible. All the time. Be awake. Don't sleep.
# DON'T OFFEND
Don't offend or talk bad about anybody. That's an absolute must. And don't hurt anybody's feelings.
# NEVER EVER ARGUE
Don't argue with anybody. I know that's hard and it happened to me many times already. And then all of a sudden it's 1am in the morning and you realize that your girlfriend is back home waiting for you..
There was this brilliant sentence I read recently. I guess it was on James Altucher's blog and it went something like this:
"When you get in the mud with a pig, the pig gets happy and you get dirty."
Trying to become a better writer is tough. That's why you should try to celebrate your wins. It doesn't matter how small these wins are. Celebrate. Celebrate and reward yourself. Reward your system. Reward your brain.
Then it will start to associate writing with a reward. And then your system will want to write even more. Because it wants its reward.
Our brains really are a bit like dogs. You reward them and then they'll do whatever you want them to do.
If you don't reward your brain, it will never ever do what you want it to do..
# FORGET ABOUT YOUR REPUTATION
If you care about your reputation or believe that you might have a reputation to loose you should probably not start blogging. Because people want to hear crazy stories. Bad stories. Stories never told.
If you're not willing to write this kind of stuff, people will most likely not read your stuff. Unless you're a famous person. Then they will read everything. And share everything you say. And buy your underwear..
# NO STORIES. NO READERS.
If you don't tell stories and only write down some boring information (as accurate as it might be), people will not read your stuff. They will watch the news instead. People won't come to your personal blog to read the news. That's why these things are called blogs and not the news..
Writing, publishing and then waiting for people's comments, likes and shares almost always feels like being close to failure. You put out something you spent a lot of time working on. And then people are going to judge it.
Publishing an article that no one likes feels like the ultimate failure. I use it to get used to failure. To get used to shipping things. To get better at handling failure. To me, publishing an article is like putting a small product of yours in front of the public.
It can succeed or it can fail. People can like it and you will be able to immediately see it. But you will also see it if people don't like it. So for me, writing is the best, easiest and fastest way of getting used to failure and getting closer to becoming a shipping machine.
# TWO FIRST LINES
The first two lines are the most important thing in your article. Right after the headline. If the first two lines are not like “damnnn, I need to read the entire thing,” you won't get anywhere. So try to put your best stuff in the two first lines. If people like the first two lines they'll be likely to continue reading. At least for a bit..
# TWO LAST LINES
The two last lines are the make it or break it decision. Your readers will remember these two lines. If they don't blow them away they will never hit the share button or the like button. The last two lines will be the stuff your readers will remember.
So use them wisely and make them memorable. It's the icing on your cake.
# RUN YOUR OWN SHOW
There are no rules. You can write about everything. It doesn't matter.
# GO FOR WALKS
Walks will light your brain on fire. If you've writer's block go out for a walk. Look around. Enjoy the beauty of nature. Enjoy life. And then go back to writing..
# HAVE A SIDE HUSTLE
Making money with writing is almost impossible. Maybe it's possible. But it will probably take 5+ years. Or more. I don't know. And again, if you're trying to write to make money, then writing will soon feel like a job. And then you will start hating it. And then you'll stop writing...
# GIVE TALKS
What I realized is that writing enabled me to become a better speaker. I can now talk for hours and hours without any slides. I simply tell the stories I tell people on my blog. Having all of that stuff written down and having checked all of my posts for errors multiple times enabled me to almost know them by heart. True story.
Here's a list of my future and past appearances (remember, always be selling!). I'd love you to drop by and hang out..
# CREATE IDEAS.
Create ideas and don't just simply spread content without any personal opinion or story.
That's just information. And information is already available everywhere else. Ideas are the currency of the 21st century.
Last century, knowledge was power. Today, ideas are power.
So start spreading your ideas and join the 21st century. The idea century..
# EVERYONE CAN BE A WRITER
Seriously. I strongly believe that everybody can become a good writer. It's the one thing almost everybody on this planet earth can do. No one has a competitive advantage. We all start in exactly the same way.
When I went to school I always had bad grades on my writings, my essays and my letters. I regularly got Es and Fs (the German equivalent). And now, I'm spending most of my time writing. And some people told me that it's really good.
Whereas others have told me that it's really bad. So I don't know. Maybe my teachers were right and I just suck at writing. But I know for sure what I don't suck at.
I don't suck at being myself...
Don't worry about spelling errors. Or grammar. Or punctuation. It doesn't matter. All that matters is your voice. And if your voice sounds like someone from the streets that's good. Because that's you. that's unique. That's how you'll stand out..
# YOU MAKE THE RULES
I have no clue about how many points I already wrote up until now. But you know what? I make the freaking rules.
So I'll just stop here...