If you have an apple and I have an apple and we exchange apples then you and I will still each have one apple. But if you have an idea and I have an idea and we exchange these ideas, then each of us will have two ideas. — George Bernard Shaw
Consider the story of Samantha, famous author.
Her first book sold millions of copies.
And the fact that it was published at all was a complete accident.
At first, Samantha never actually set out to write a book. She had the seed of an idea – a really wonderful idea – and she shared it in a magazine article. Newspapers picked up that article across the country, and then around the world. Soon, her ideas had taken on a life of their own. Radio and TV shows called. And then a publisher suggested she develop the idea into a book.
The rest is history.
Years later, Samantha and her publisher sought to repeat the success of her first book.
They asked: “So Sam, do you have any more great ideas?”
Turns out she did. She sequestered herself in her office and hammered away at the keyboard for weeks on end.
The book was brilliant, she assured all around her. But because the ideas were so cutting edge, no one else would be allowed to see the book. Samantha was afraid someone would steal her ideas.
So in secret she worked, and when she finally handed the completed manuscript to the publisher, they rushed to publish it.
The book bombed. Few could understand it.
Her ideas were obscure and unconnected. In short, the book was a convoluted mess.
What had gone wrong?
Isolated Ideas, Interactive Ideas
I was listening to publishing maven Janet Goldberg talk about authors – and this advice applies equally to a blogger. She noted that she could always tell those writers who’ve attempted to write a book in isolation. Their writing becomes stilted, their ideas brittle.
Her solution: involve other people in the writing process.
But, how? And with whom? After all, the life of a content creator can become pretty isolated. Many of us have a patient spouse who serves as editor and cheerleader. Beyond that, who wants to bother their friends every time they write another post? And what if your friends aren’t very good at offering constructive criticism?
Make New Friends: Interactively
As content creators, we put stuff in front of our audience, and they get to respond.
And that’s the beauty of being a content creator online: The interaction.
Some of my best ideas – if not all — were made better by putting them out there and listening to what my readers had to say about them. I’ve written on blogs where I’ve been lambasted, ripped to shreds or created all sorts of controversy. And in every case, those conversations made me a better writer, a better thinker – and gave me better ideas.
Tod Baker is an international advocate for learning with technology.
In a 2009 post entitled Hyperlinked Writing is the Most Powerful Writing, he wrote:
A hyperlinked writer connects with readers who care. Ideas bring them together, not spaces. This authentic audience influences writers because it can interact with them by commenting, like in blogs, and contributing, like they do in wikis. This helps writers to think deeper, write clearer, and refine ideas. In short, hyperlinked writing is the most powerful because it creates a community of learners. Notebooks struggle to connect people.
A Blogger isn’t a Teacher
I heard somebody say, “Bloggers aren’t teachers.” And I agree.
We’re really more explorers and leaders – and sometimes, our ideas can instruct or inspire.
This distinction can actually be quite liberating. Think about it: A teacher has an obligation to be accurate and correct every time.
Do you feel the pressure to be “right” or absolutely correct every time you write? Can you allow yourself to simply throw a new idea out there, and see what happens?
Do you hold some things back because they need to be as perfect as possible before letting them out? Release something now!
As a blogger, you don’t have to be right. You just have to write.
Sometimes, the feedback from a complete stranger can be the exact input you need to take that idea to the next level.
If you create content, do you invite interaction on your site? Do you create pathways to make it easy for people to find you?
If not, open up the comments. Get active on social media. Start the conversation. Interact with your readers.
Hey Keith, dig that quote you found about the hyperlinked author. I’m not sure I buy that guy’s take on giving iPads to three year olds (so they can hyperlink with each other???) – but the quote is well applied to your point: adults blogging.
I haven’t started blogging yet, and you nailed just a few of my fears around that. I feel the need to be consistently good, and not just good, but unassailable. I guess, when it comes down to it, I just don’t look forward to that first commenter that disagrees with me. Hmmm. Lot to think about…
You’ve had some good success with sales pages online, now it’s time to take it to the “conversational” level.
I get the fears about blogging – if you understand the value of building relationships over time, there’s nothing to do but get out there and write, the sooner the better.
Nothing is more freeing than getting your first disagreeable comment, trust me on that one. A few years ago, a post I wrote drew lots of comments, and a few real zingers. At first I was worried: Worried that they had misunderstood me, that I was upsetting someone, the whole thing. But something interesting happened: the other commenters took up the case and responded to the zinger-writers – and it turned into a conversation much more interesting than my post could have ever been standing alone. After an experience like that, I was happy to see all comments, no matter what side of the fence they fell on.
Here’s one way you could start blogging a little “slower” if you like: Have you heard of “Tumbler” type blogs? Looser format, one posts links to audios, videos, other people’s posts and articles, etc. On my new site, I’m using this format, I’ll only be publishing a long piece once a week, and sharing other stuff I find… check it out when it launches. I think its a format you might like…
Connie Lee says
Thanks for another great article, Keith.
Sometimes I’m inspired and the whole concept presents itself to me.
Othertimes, I discover one sweet morsel of an idea and I need to find the other ingredients to mix with it so it can become a delicious post.
This is where I rely on my husband and editor, Steven along with you and Jon! By sharing the small bit of inspiration with the three of you, the idea grows to its full potential.
Everyone benefits from sharing with others as their sounding boards.
We’re really fortunate, aren’t we? You and I both have the most supportive “editors” around – it makes a huge difference.
And, I always try to keep in mind those writers out there truly writing “in the dark.” I’ve been there, it isn’t fun. But I can imagine how different that experience would have been with the Internet and especially social media as “sounding boards.” While I appreciate my in-house editor-in-chief, I love getting input from readers — you guys keep me honest!
Mark Christian says
Keith, I disagree! 🙂
I am confused about your statement that “bloggers aren’t teachers.” But when I think about the blogs I read and enjoy, most if not all of them are “teaching” blogs — I learn the nuts and bolts of the online business world, for example, as well as the hobby blogs I enjoy. Clarification?
I was waiting for someone to take on that statement.
I just remembered where I first heard that statement. It was from Jon Morrow chatting with Johnny B. Truant in a call they did together. Jon maintained that our first job as writers is to attract and keep eyeballs.
What I really mean is this: In the “blogging” world (which is becoming indistinguishable from online content in general) our first task is to entertain.
Take a look at those blogs you visit often: Other than topic interest, how do they hold your attention? They have to be entertaining, or thought-provoking, or inspiring. If they “teach” you something, that’s a happy bonus, I would think.
To me, the “teaching” happens with the products we sell. That kind of content requires someone to raise their hand asking for an invite into the classroom (i.e. they have a pressing need they want solved.)
For me, anyway, on this blog, I *try* really hard to stay focused on encouragement, support, nudging, maybe a bit of mentoring. But that said, I’m building a new blog where I’ll include some straight-ahead instruction (maybe – we’ll see how you guys like it . . .)
So in the end, I guess we’re really talking semantics?
Thanks for asking, Mark – always appreciate your input.