Today’s guest post comes to us from Josh Hanagarne, author of the World’s Strongest Librarian, and a guy I really like as a person. He came online, got whacked by the glittery fame stick in just a few posts and has sat there slightly amazed by it all ever since. Which is pretty cool, if you ask me.
The fact that he is still slightly amazed about his fame makes his posts interesting, in that he brings up questions that I think we should all ask ourselves. This post asks a good question indeed. Enjoy.
Perhaps it was inevitable. People – quite a lot of them – had begun to read my blog and decided that I could help them build their blogs in the same way. Nobody wanted to hear that my results were a product of dumb luck and fun. And some hard work, but mostly dumb luck and fun.
I was having a hard time explaining that my blog lives or dies based on who I am, not on the information I provide. I really can’t screw up too badly.
But they wanted those results, those numbers.
Many of the people who approached me for help were writing – or planning on writing – blogs that were high-stakes and information-based. Try telling someone who gives stock market advice to just treat blogging like a game and have a good time.
But what I tell people are four scenes from the last six months that sum up what I’ve learned better than I can spell it out:
Exhibit A: The High Style
The man I was listening to spoke with a strong British accent. It was awesome, but his story was even better.
This was John DuCane, CEO of Dragon Door Publications. John was born in Africa, was a brilliant film critic in England, made a bunch of films, got all kinds of advanced degrees, and then wandered around India for a long time, studying with yogis and getting enlightened.
John is so intelligent that I feel like an enormous toddler around him.
I was in his marketing lecture, nearing the end of RKC instructor kettlebell certification. John writes the majority of the ad copy for Dragon Door, and he was talking to us – the new instructors, the front lines, the new faces of his marketing arm – about how to write so our audience would always understand us.
” And suddenly, I realized that I had to unlearn everything I knew about writing,” John said. “I needed to write at what is basically junior high level, here in the States.”
And this was a man who could totally pull off words like Heidegerrian at the breakfast table.
Exhibit B: The Hopeful Mimic
“But I want to be able to write like you,” said the man who had decided that I could help him. “You’ve just got a voice that people respond to, and it can’t be that hard to tell me how you do it.”
“Well, that’s flattering, man, but I’m not sure what to say about it,” I replied.
“You just seem to enjoy it so much,” he said. “That’s what I want.”
It’s true that I really enjoy writing, but it’s rarely easy. That’s part of the point for me: the challenge. It’s fun, but it’s not like I sit at my keyboard, occasionally throwing my arms into the air and squealing, “Wheeeeeee! I’m writing!”
Of course, it is sort of like that, but< a href="http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1592407870/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=1592407870&linkCode=as2&tag=wwwjcmeca-20">that’s Tourette’s, not glee.
I couldn’t find the heart to take someone on as a client who obviously gets no joy out of the writing process to begin with and who wants to learn how to enjoy writing. It would have drained me and disappointed him.
Nobody deserves to get paid for that.
Exhibit C: Too Smart
Mike T. Nelson from Extreme Human Performance is one of the world’s foremost experts on getting people out of pain (and increasing athletic performance, albeit with bizarre looking methods). He has also helped me make some great strides towards easing the symptoms of Tourette’s Syndrome and the pain it can cause.
Most blogs find a niche and zero in on their audience. Mike’s audience is anyone who experiences pain and wants to perform better. You can’t get much more universal, and potentially, profitable.
Mike is pure scientist. However, he isn’t stodgy, and his social skills are better than mine. He’s very passionate about his subject and can talk about it for days.
Unfortunately, his subject is complicated, and most people don’t understand terms like “sensorimotor amnesia” or “neuromatrix” or “proprioception” or “nerve glides.” Even Microsoft Word thinks every one of those words is a spelling error.
So there was the question: how to distill something complex that sounds super-technical and intimidating into a message that could do just about anyone on Earth some good?
It was surprisingly easy. Mike just needed to talk about himself more and not use three words where one word would do. Everyone understands “ouch.” Not everyone understands the need to “avoid moving into startle mode.”
Exhibit D: Too Easy
The writing voice is a lot easier to see than to explain or coach.
One of the first people I agreed to work with was Laura Cococcia from The Journal of Cultural Conversation. I was a bit hesitant and unsure about what I was worth, so I basically said, “Pay me, decide whether it’s worth it, and demand your money back the second it gets lame.”
So we proceeded.
Laura already had a voice. Where her wonderful blog lagged was when she started sounding like other people. All I ever really had to do – other than offer some cosmetic tweaking and aesthetic suggestions – was steer her back to being her.
In other words, I got lucky. I never had to explain the writing voice to her, which I probably couldn’t do anyways.
I leave this part to you, my friend. What stands out in these stories? Does anything look or sound familiar to you? And the bigger question is, do you really need help with your blog? Or do you just need someone to tell you what you already know?