5 lessons I learned about writing in my first month of blogging

One month ago I started my blog, 3thousand ideas, with the goal of creating 3000 ideas and writing about them. This post is about what I learned in that month, the mistakes I made and how you can avoid them.

1. When you get honest feedback, take it

When I started 3thousand ideas, I thought my writing ability was above average, with some occasional misspellings and grammar mistakes.

So, you can imagine my surprise and embarrassment when I shared my articles online asking for feedback and people online told me the truth. My grammar, spelling, and even my writing style was poor. It turns out that my grade school teachers were right this whole time. (Sorry Mrs. Robinson)

Rather than get upset and chalk it up to just another grumpy person online, I decided to look past the angry comments and try to improve my writing. Now I spend more time revising, and I always have another person read before posting an idea.

After you get over your own ego, honest feedback can be refreshing. You start to realize that your friends and family have a hard time being 100% honest with you because they are afraid to hurt your feelings.

The hard truth–a real comment someone made on reddit

You have to allow yourself to make mistakes and take risks, but you must also learn from those mistakes. That’s how you improve your work and yourself. In the end, you will feel better than if you had brooded over what some stranger said online.

2. Be Clear, Not Clever

In the beginning, every post I wrote hid the main idea until the “grand reveal” near the end, but this just confused readers.

Now, I “give away” the idea in the title of every post. This gives people background knowledge, rather than a surprise at the end.

Another way I found to be clear is to avoid using fancy words, and just stick to words that everyone can understand. I thought that if I used eloquent words it will make me sound more intelligent, but studies show the opposite is true. If readers don’t understand your meaning, they subconsciously blame the writer for the disconnect.

“Poor Faulkner. Does he really think big emotions come from big words? He thinks I don’t know the ten-dollar words. I know them all right. But there are older and simpler and better words, and those are the ones I use.”

Ernest Hemingway’s response when William Faulkner criticized him for writing with simple words

I write about concepts and ideas, so this point is especially important to me. Ideas that exist in your mind are harder for people to understand because people have nothing to base their understanding on, no anchor.

Here is an example of how I include pictures into each article

That is why I create very simple pictures using Apple Keynote, which shows the reader my idea. Our brain understands images better than words, so try to making your work more visual.

Above all, remember to be clear and concise with your work. If you see yourself reaching for a “10 dollar word,” stop and remember WWHD (What Would Hemingway Do?).

Read more about Readability here

3. Your headline is your promise to the reader

When readers see a headline that gets their attention, they click on it. When this happens they are trying to satisfy a curious itch.

Headlines that excessively use this strategy to generate a lot of web traffic are ClickBait. These headlines usually promise something that they can’t provide leaving the reader feeling surprised rather.

Think of your audience and write a headline that will deliver what the headline promises. It’s better to use a headline that generates less traffic if it over-delivers its promise. People who read your work will be pleasantly surprised, and be more willing to subscribe.

4. Avoid the “share and run” strategy

Starting out, I read advice from other bloggers who advised finding where your blog’s audience goes to and use that community as a platform for driving traffic to your blog. What I failed to understand was that you have to become a member of that community if you want their respect.

I found any website/blog/group that was remotely related to my blog’s theme and shared a link, without really knowing the community at all. It didn’t feel right, but I thought that was just the nervous feeling you get when you put your work out there.

My new strategy is as follows:

  1. Find communities where audiences similar to your blog’s theme gather
  2. Become a member of those communities by reading the posts, articles, updates shared there (note: this doesn’t mean you have to officially join a group, it just helps you understand the average member better)
  3. Before you share anything think “Would I want to read this here?”

While this may seem like it takes more time, it will actually save you time. If you understand what your audience wants to read, learn, or listen to you will be able to create content that is more effective.

When you are tempted to share your work somewhere you don’t know very well, remind yourself that you’re in it for the long haul.

5. The feeling everyone gets, but no one talks about

After the initial excitement I felt when traffic started to trickle in, an anxious feeling started to creep up my spine. It became harder for me to sit down and write an article, not because I was afraid of failing, but I was afraid of succeeding. All of the sudden, a bunch of “what if” questions started to pop into my mind.

  • What if people don’t enjoy my new posts as much the old ones?
  • What if I get busy and I can’t keep up with the blog?
  • What if people knew who I really was?
  • What if…

If you tell people about these doubtful feelings, people start to doubt your commitment. People will start asking questions like “Are you sure this is something you want to do?”, which only makes you doubt yourself even more.

This feeling is normal.

It turns out that many other people feel this way too. In fact that this anxious feeling has began to be called the “imposter syndrome”. It’s something that affects everyone from artists to corporate level exec’s.

Although it is called a syndrome, it isn’t a mental disorder, but rather a reaction to success. One study showed that as much as 70% of people feel like an imposter at times.

Even Albert Einstein, whose very name is synonymous with genius today, felt like he was a swindler in his day.

The cure for this syndrome? Realizing that this phenomenon exists. That’s it. You have to push past these feelings and tell yourself that you are enough.

This is the most important lesson I’ve learned.

To summarize:

  1. Learn how to take feedback, especially criticism
  2. Make your content as simple as possible. Remember you want the audience to feel smart, not think you are.
  3. Don’t create clickbait headlines, that promise more than what your content delivers.
  4. Only share your work in communities that you are a part of. It will help build trust in the long run.
  5. Trust in yourself. Feelings of self doubt are normal.

3thousand ideas, is my blog about ideas, creativity and entrepreneurship.

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