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Saturday, August 27, 2011

As A Blogger, What Should You Write About?

What do you write about? Your passions and your knowledge will tell you.
When you set out to be a blogger, you can't just write a couple posts and call it a career. You have to come up with new content on a daily, weekly or monthly basis - the more often, the better. But I've chatted with many bloggers and they wonder, "As a blogger, what should you write about?"

Before you answer that question, you have to ask yourself a few questions...
  1. Why do you want to blog?
  2. What are you passionate about?
  3. What do you know about?
  4. What do you want to know about?
  5. What is your reference point or perspective?
Question number one is so critical. Why? Do you want to just practice writing? Do you want to build a diary? Do you want to have a place to store thoughts? Do you want to give people information or advice? Do you want to build an audience?

If you answered YES to the second last question in the paragraph, then you'll be on your way to getting a YES on the last question. Readers subconsciously are always asking, "What's this mean to me?" Is it entertaining them? Is it informing them? Is it showing them something they've never seen before? If the reader can't find some YES's there, then you're going to be shooting bytes into cyberspace like a drunk on a mechanical bull with a hair-trigger machine gun. You may hit something, but you'll waste a lot of ammo on nothing.

When your mission is to deliver content of value and you couple that with your passions, writing should be easy. But even bloggers who have passion and know that they want to deliver have trouble figuring out how to write what is on their mind.

Knowing your passion or passions is important, but do you know anything about them - at least enough to write about. You don't have to know everything about a particular subject to write about it. You can do research. Everything you want to know is a few Google searches away. Cull some facts and figures, put them into a logical progression and you could have a pretty good blog post.

Another area you can find subject matter is on something YOU want to know about. Write about your process of discovery and what you've found.

The last question above asks about your reference or perspective. This is a big factor for me. I look around and write about what I see.


I'll tell you exactly what I do and you can formulate your own strategy from there.

First, I get an idea. It could be from something I saw on the news, on the street or a funny twist on something that is going on in the world. Because my background is as a stand-up comic, an advertising agency owner and a stock trader - along with a salesman, dope dealer, candlestick maker, radio announcer, and a few other jobs - I have a lot of experiences to draw from.

When I'm feeling funny, I write funny stuff. But I also see things that bother me or things that can help someone. Scan through my posts and see the topics I write about. I cover a broad range.

My reference point is that I live in a predominantly black neighborhood. So, I write about my racial observations. I have been diagnosed with a couple mental conditions, so I write about those. I have friends that have mental conditions, I write with them in mind. There are lots of unemployed people around me. I've written about that. I see people that are marginalized in society, I write about that. I've even written a few sports articles.

You'll also see a lot of "How To..." posts. "How To..." is a popular search term. Think of what you know and what you love and pick a niche topic. "How To Do What My Niche Topic Is." There's a post.

There are two ways to approach your subject matter - be a generalist or a specialist. I'm a generalist. I do that because that is my personality. I've done a lot of things, I'm interested in a lot of things and I have opinions on a lot of things. Plus, I'm really good at SEO (search engine optimization) writing. I know how to do the right things that give me the best chance at getting good placement - PAGE ONE OF GOOGLE - on a consistent basis. It doesn't work all the time. And some posts, will never be found on search engines, based on the way they are written (usually comedy pieces). But, I'm building a broad base of topics that do well on search engines. Over time, I'll attract a very broad range of people.

My readers that have commented directly to me generally love my blog. Sure, there are some pieces that they couldn't care less about, but in general, they like the majority of what I write about.

I model myself after Mike Royko, the Pulitzer-Prize Winning author and newspaper columnist from Chicago. Royko wrote about a lot of subjects in his columns. Sometimes he was hilarious. Sometimes he was heart-wrenching. Sometimes he was informative or educational. But he was always interesting.

I want to be the Mike Royko of the Internet. You can't peg me to one thing, but you want to read my work.

As a specialist, you'll target one segment and write about every nook and cranny of it. Auto repair or fishing or quilting or kids games or decorating.

In some cases, you don't even have to write much. Maybe you're terrific with a camera. All of your posts could be great shots you've taken. People enjoy good photography.

Can you make silly videos? Short videos are popular. You load them to YouTube, slap them on a blog and you're done. I'm just started to get into video, doing shorts - 3 to 8 minutes. 

When you're a specialist, you position yourself to be an expert in the field. That's a great position to be in.

But what if you say, "I'm not a specialist." Doesn't matter.

There is a true story I heard a long time ago. A scullery maid (a woman who worked in a kitchen doing grunt work) went to the wise business owner. She asked, "How can I make more of my life?" He asked her, "What are you standing on?" She said, "Brick." He told her to take a week to research and write whatever she could find about bricks. And she did.

The following week, she brought her paper to him and he was impressed. She wanted to know what to do next. He instructed her to pull a brick out of the floor and asked what was underneath it. She said, "Sand, and an ant." He said, "Pick one and write about that." She selected the ant and went about doing her research.

A week later, she had her paper and presented it to the business owner. He was very impressed. He told her to write more. She did. And she continued to research and write. Eventually, she became the world's foremost authority on ants.  - - - Best in the world - - - starting from a lowly employee in a kitchen.

As a writer, you can go anywhere you want. You can be anything you want to be. But the only way you'll sustain it is if you are passionate and you are knowledgeable or are willing to gain the knowledge.

I'm sure the team of writers at Mashable didn't know squat about the iPad when it was first introduced. But they figured it out. They spent the time the average person would not spend on the iPad and then they condensed their findings into a post.

And that is what a lot of blogging is about. Being willing to do the work that other people don't have the time to do. Or introduce them to social commentary or ideas that they probably wouldn't come up with on their own. Or - my favorite - make 'em laugh.

Your mission is simple. Be informative. Be provocative. Be bold. Be controversial. Be entertaining. Be good at whatever it is YOU choose to do.

My former father-in-law used to say, "Every person I meet is my superior at something." He respected everyone. You have something that no one else has. Or the willingness to get what most people won't go find - then you write about it.

This process takes thought. Ideas can come at any moment. I rely on an old Chinese Proverb: A dull pencil is better than a sharp mind. Write it down. Write all of your ideas down. You might not know what to do with that idea at the moment, but it may come in handy later - if you wrote it down.

Once I have an idea, I select a picture. Then, I write. All of my posts are one draft, with a few minor spelling or grammatical corrections. I don't belabor any of my posts. I write from my passion and from my heart. I know how to tell a story. It's a skill I acquired through lots of practice.

When I get to the bottom, I proof read it twice, add the photo, check it in PREVIEW, add links to other posts on my blog, add labels (tags), PREVIEW again, correct any formatting glitches... PUBLISH. Then I start marketing... but that is in my FREE course on How To Start A Blog.

I just hope this gives you some direction as to how to get started. I have a friend who started a blog five months ago and hasn't written one post. Can't come up with an idea. His blog is about current events. He can't figure out one current event to write about. I can find 35 current events a DAY to write about. I can only get out a few.

Don't make excuses. If you do, you're not tapping into your passions and/or your knowledge. Or you just don't know how to write. Can't help you there. I learned through years of practice.

From today forward, as a blogger, the question "What should you write about?" will never be a question you will search for an answer to - you'll know.

FREE Course:
How To Start A Blog | 10 Lessons On Starting A Blog For Profit

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