My 5 Year Blogging Mistake & How I’m Fixing it in 2016

This was a scary post to write. I’m going to share my biggest mistake, and with it come the chance you might not want to hear from me again. It’s necessary to share, and even if this is goodbye, I think you’ll learn something from my biggest screw-up.

Here goes.

I started blogging in 2011. Since then, I’ve knocked around several different ideas for my writing and topic focus. Here are a few of them.

  • Building priorities and habits
  • Fitness, especially the at home or “primal” niches
  • Productivity
  • Marketing, storytelling and branding
  • Manliness

Personal advice I ignored from 6 figure bloggers

I remember conversations with Matt Frazier, Matt Jabs, and other people not named Matt who told me emphatically that I needed to pick a focus and stick with it for a set time. This was the only way I could find out what held traction and what did not.

I should expect to spend a minimum of 1 year creating content, and 2–3 was more likely. This is before growth, an audience, or income. I was told to pick my topic and dial it in for a year or two.

Sean McCabe has a great analogy of fire and work. When a person starts creating, it’s like the spark of a little fire. The more she tends the flame and keeps adding wood, the more the fire grows. As time passes and she cares for it and keeps adding wood, it grows to a bonfire!

Everyone likes to party at a bonfire.

One more lesson here from Sean. When you’re building your bonfire, stay focused on that fire. Don’t go running off while it’s growing to start another one. Wait until you reach a sustainable bonfire, then carry the flame to start your next one!

I had created several little fires all over the place, and was continually running around trying to keep them alive! But they weren’t doing anything for me besides causing stress and draining my energy.

My Bonfire for 2016

This year I’m focused on sketchnotes. That’s it.

Derek Sivers tells a great story about trying push a boulder up a hill.

It’s difficult, time-consuming, and disheartening. But if you are able to roll a boulder down a hill, it will do most of the work for you! The challenge is to guide the momentum of your work, but that’s really fun!

For many of my projects, it was like pushing a boulder up a hill. A little progress here, and little rollback there.

But when I created a sketchnote, people responded! I’ve had more interactions, job offers, freelance work, interviews, and feedback on sketchnotes than any other topic combined.

Despite this momentum, I’ve had a hard time committing to sketchnotes as a focus. It’s the same fears many people come up against!

  • Other people do this better than me.
  • How am I ever going to build something on stick figures?
  • Can I create original content or just sketch other people’s work?
  • No one is going to pay for this.
  • What about the other people who have subscribed for another reason? I’ll disappoint them!

The people who helped me move on.

Despite all these defeatist emotions, I pushed out a sketchnote every month and people loved it. Finally, at lunch one day my friend Grant Baldwin told me straight up.

Stop giving time to all these things you’re ok at and give all your effort to the thing you enjoy, people love, and is a unique skill.

I’ve also been involved in a mastermind group with Heath Padgett and KC Procter, who encouraged me to chase it too. I presented two ideas to them, sketchnotes and another thing (more on that another time). If we were in the same room together, they would have slapped me. There are so many other people who have given me similar advice, like Dylan, Arlen, Sean, Val, Nicole, Felippe, Nathan, Bryan, Jeff, and more!

It’s been obvious to everyone except me that sketchnotes should be my focus for the next year.

So for all the various reasons you may have found me in the past, for the foreseeable future I’ll be sketching about big ideas and visual communication. You’ve probably seen some of my sketchnotes, but if you want a clear look, check out IdeasNotArt.com.

For now I’ll be sharing one post a week from a sketchnote I’ve recently completed, my process for sketching, and how you can create sketchnotes too!

Many people have reached out and asked how they can use sketchnotes for better memory and information retention. They’re being used in schools, churches, for books, podcasts, and blogs. Plus they’re fun!

If you want to try sketchnotes and learn how to create your own, just click here and you’ll start the free email course. It's the best way to get started!

I’m really excited about the rest of this year and what it can bring. For each one of you that is a part of this, I hope you’ll let me know how I can help you learn more.

PS: I also wrote a follow-up post, “5 Steps to Deciding What to Focus Your Writing On”.


My name is Matt Ragland. I work at ConvertKit on Customer Success & Education. I’m also a visual thinker that loves to get people thinking outside the box. Creating sketchnotes for writers, speakers, and events is my ongoing side project. If you’d like to work together, let’s talk!

matt[at]mattragland.com

twitter.com/mattragland

ideasnotart.com