Today WTD presents a conversation between Darren Rowse and WTD Chief Editor Mary Jaksch. His blog Problogger is the number one info site for bloggers.
Mary: Hi Darren! I would like to ask you some questions about your career as a writer and hear what top tips for writers you have for us. When I look at your amazing success, it’s hard to imagine that you were once a beginner.
How was the start of your career as a writer?
Darren: Truth be known it was quite accidental. While I always enjoyed communication through the written word in school it was the spoken word that was my passion when I began to dabble in blogging. I was working as a minister at the time and one of my favorite parts of the job was preaching and speaking – I loved researching a message and then crafting it together into something to then be delivered.
I began to dabble with blogging as a hobby and found that I enjoyed similar things about the process of crafting a blog post as I loved in crafting a sermon.
As my time in the job I was doing came to an end it was quite natural for me to put more and more time into writing.
Mary: Some people may be surprised to read that you were once a minister! What a journey that has been for you. Of course every journey has its key moments when you turn a corner and the landscape suddenly changes.
What were the turning points in your writing career?
Darren: In many ways the last 5-6 years of blogging have been quite a gentle and steady development for me in my work. I’d have to say that the ‘turning point’ moments have been fewer and further between than some might think and that the real progress has come in the small moments each day when an idea for a post hits and I sit down to write.
Having said that – there were a few moments that stand out more than others including:
- The day I first discovered the medium of blogging – I often wonder what would have happened to me if I’d not decided to start one all those years back.
- The day I announced I was a full time blogger and able to make a living from blogging – this got a lot of attention from other blogs and sites and was a day my blog ProBlogger really started to grow.
- A day that I was linked to by a massive site (Slashdot) and was hit with tens of thousands of visitors a day – this taught me so much about capturing readers and making them become loyal instead of arriving on your blog and then leaving a few seconds later.
- A night in New York where we held a party for readers of ProBlogger and over 80 people showed up. I live in Melbourne Australian and to fly to the other side of the world and find people who think enough of you to come out on a cold night to meet you (some of them traveling for hours) was quite a profound experience and one that showed me the power of blogging. I think it was also a night that it hit home to my wife (who was there also) just what blogging was about – she couldn’t believe how people ‘knew’ me!
Mary:Your story illustrates the power of blogging. I think it also illustrates the fact that you really pour yourself into your blog. This allows your readers to relate to you as a person. Your brilliant at building a community! I recently subscribed to your newsletter and it’s instructive to see how you use every opportunity to draw people together in order to foster a community feeling.
I am sure building a community was a process of trial and error for you. We learn by doing. We learn by making mistakes and falling flat on our face. And we also learn by hitting on something that works.
What were your most important insights along the way?
Darren: I’ve had so many lessons – here are a few that come to mind:
- When something works – do it again and extend upon it.
- ‘Play’ – experimentation with new topics, voice, styles of writing is important – it brings freshness both to you as a writer but also your readers
- ‘Play’ also with new mediums – they’ll teach you a lot but also expose you to new audiences
- Interact with others on a similar journey – I’ve learned so much from other bloggers and writers
- Involve your readers – one of the exciting things about new mediums like blogging is that they allow you to have immediate interaction and feedback from readers – this has made me a better writer on so many levels.
Mary: I admire the fact that you write and publish so many posts. As bloggers we are always under stress trying to get the next post out – polished and in time.
What are your tips for developing speed without sacrificing quality?
Darren: A few thoughts come to mind on this:
- I try to capture ideas wherever I am.
I jot ideas for posts in notebooks, text files on my computer, in the notes section of my mobile phone, I email them to myself and I even leave voice messages on my own phone with them! I think it’s important to always being on the look out for ideas and to do something to capture them. This way when you come to write you’ve got a start.
- I ‘batch process‘ a lot of what I do.
This means when it comes to writing I set aside mornings just to write and I’ll write multiple posts at once – which I then ‘drip’ out on my blogs later in the week. This way I get on a roll with writing and get a lot done at once.
- ‘Pausing’ before hitting publish is important.
I’m currently putting together a series of posts on Problogger about moments to ‘pause’ during the writing of a post. The problem is that many of us rush through posts from the moment an idea hits to when we hit publish and if we just took a few moments along the way to consider things like titles, formatting, how our posts look, how they conclude (etc) they would be a lot better.
- Finding your rhythm and workflow of writing comes with time.
Writing blog posts every day for 5 years gets you thinking and working in such a way that it begins to become more natural. It doesn’t just ‘click’ for most of us from day one – but if you persist over time you’ll find it begins to happen.
Mary:It’s a relief to hear that it gets easier over time! You have certainly ended up with a distince voice on a distinct blog. To be unique in a crowded marketplace is not so easy. More blogs spring up each day and it’s hard to differentiate ourselves from each other.
What are your suggestions on how to find the unique essence that sets a blog apart?
Darren: I think it comes with time. As you try new things with your blog you begin to spot what readers react well too and you develop those areas of your writing. You also learn what doesn’t work and either ditch them or modify them. You’ll also find that over time a ‘persona’ begins to form in the minds of your readers – hook into what they think about you because this could be your ‘brand’.
- There are many things that you can do to make your blog more distinct – blog design is one of them and your writing style is another.
Mary: Your book and your blog posts exude passion. You seem to really love what you are doing.
What is it about blogging that fires you up?
Darren: My two passions are communication and community. I love to say something that helps another human being in some way or another. I also love to help people find one another and to find places of belonging. I think blogging enables both of these things.
Mary: Finally, I want to ask you about your book . I’m sure it’s destined to become a classic. I certainly keep it handy and refer to it regularly.
What key ideas in your book ProBlogger: Secrets for Blogging Your Way to a Six-Figure Income do you see as most important?
We’ve written the ProBlogger book as a book to teach bloggers how to make money from blogging – however interestingly we’ve written a lot about issues that don’t directly relate to monetization.
One might think it’d be a book just about advertising or affiliate programs on blogs but while we do cover all this we spend more time looking at other issues such as writing content, search engine optimization, developing a readership etc All of these topics go together to help a blogger grow a profitable blog and so we felt it important to mention them all.
Mary: Thank you, Darren. It’s great that you took the time to share your thoughts with us at WTD. I feel inspired by what you’ve said and I’m sure our readers will too!