Why You Don’t Need to Mimic Someone Else’s Fame

Why You Don't Need to Mimic Someone Else's Fame

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?

Let’s talk.

Post by Josh Hanagarne

Josh Hanagarne is the twitchy giant behind World’s Strongest Librarian and a blog by the same name about living with Tourette’s Syndrome, kettlebells, book recommendations, buying pants when you’re 6’8”, old-time strongman training, and much more.

Join the Discussion. Click Here to Leave a Comment.

  1. What a post, brilliant!

    It really reflects my thoughts on blogging. For me blogging, in essence, is about discovering what I already know, a reflection of who I am.

    It is just about finding a way to express it.
    .-= Annemieke´s last blog ..Critical about Criticism =-.

  2. That was really interesting – very easy to read and absorb (Had to comment on that before I go any further!).

    I think the problem I have, or rather, could see myself having somewhere down the line, is with continuing to be myself on my blog. Not from a ‘Hey, people listen to me, I should sound like I know what I’m talking about’ train of thought; it’d probably be more to do with ‘Oh god, can I really do this? People listen now…’. Definitely confidence issues for me. 🙂

    That said, there’s a whole support group of people (thanks to theInfopreneur) happy enough to kick my ass back into line if I stray too far.

    Anyway, great post – I’m off to check your blog.

  3. Josh – thanks to you, I got back on track. I know you say it was “too easy”, but you were the one who asked the questions that got me thinking and refocused.

    With you helping me find my voice in my writing and James helping me find a voice in my design, I consider myself a pretty lucky girl.
    .-= Laura Cococcia´s last blog ..The Help Haiti Blog Challenge: Gratitude Donations =-.

  4. Whew! This question “Do you really need help with your blog?” is the very question that keeps on ringing inside my mind like an evil echo.
    I guess what I really need is to hear that “writing voice.”
    .-= yodz´s last blog ..What to Do with Your Random Photos =-.

  5. Wow! What a great post. Very thought provoking. I found that I really don’t need or want to mimic someone, I just need to find what works best for me and stick with it.
    .-= Heather Villa´s last blog ..The Antidote =-.

  6. Archan Mehta says:

    Hey Josh:

    First of all, thank you for this post. You make interesting points here.

    Sometimes, there can be a back and forth, give and take between people.

    We need to have a dialogue, meaning look within and learn from you own self, but also be willing and able to learn from other people.

    We are all born on this earth with different strengths and limitations.
    Maybe you can teach something about the process of writing but can also learn about web design from somebody who is an expert in that field.

    In fact, people who are good at a lot of stuff (all-rounders) are rare to find.
    You can’t expect everybody to be a renaissance figure like Leonardo Da Vinci. That’s why consultants and consultancies are so much in demand, because there are people out there who genuinely don’t know the answer and can’t figure out a solution.

    Finding you own voice is a separate issue. I may already have found my own voice, but I may still be incompetent about certain issues, events, etc.

  7. What a wonderful post!

    The following really resonated with me:

    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.”

    I try to sprinkle in colloquialisms when I can. Adhering to a really strict or formal writing style can cause people to think that you’re uptight. Perhaps that’s why I drop in so many pop culture references…

    All kidding aside, showing “humanity” on occasion is a great way to connect. At the very least, you can show that a robot didn’t write your text.

    …and it isn’t that hard to stump Word!
    .-= Phil Simon´s last blog ..Cover for New Edition of Why New Systems Fail =-.

  8. Mary E. Ulrich says:

    Thanks Josh, great ideas.

    All four of your exhibits tell us something important.

    What struck me the most was that blogging is really a one-way communication. We write a post or comment and it goes “out-there.”

    In a person-to-person conversation, we know from the person’s facial expressions, body language, response, pause…whether they understood what we said. It is more difficult and most people probably don’t want any feedback other than–you are brilliant…

    I can see where you would be an excellent coach because you give honest feedback, plus you make me laugh–some great lines.

  9. Josh, as always, your a stud. You challenge me to look at what I do, and how I do it. With my subject matter, fitness, it’s so easy to fall into the “same ol’ style” as others.

    Thanks for the reminder to be myself.
    .-= Todd´s last blog ..Get strong-10 brilliant (and slightly badass) ways to do it =-.

  10. I work with people who often need to write a short bio or description of their work for a website or a catalogue. The change in voice is astonishing. These imaginative, passionate people suddenly turn into constipated textbooks.

    The hardest thing, I think, is to stop being self-conscious. Not so easy when you’re going public with your thoughts.
    .-= Stacey Cornelius´s last blog ..Accidental social networking for introverted creatives, otherwise known as Twitter =-.

  11. @Annemieke: If it reflects your thoughts on blogging, were both geniuses.

    @Heather: As people start tuning in, the pressure to be “on” can definitely rise. But I really believe that continuing whatever it was that that brought those people in should keep them coming back, and new people coming in.

    @Laura: You’re never going to give yourself enough credit. I guess I’ll have to make my peace with that:)

    @Yodz: It could totally be possible that you could use help with your blog. I just think that sometimes that question gets asked too early. Kind of like people who think every problem has a geographical solution, when taking care of business at home first and asking the right questions could save the hassle of moving!
    .-= Josh Hanagarne´s last blog ..50 Time Saving Tips – Guest Post By Gordie Rogers =-.

  12. @Josh Have to agree with you there; if people care enough to come and read, then they deserve to see the person that attracted them to the blog in the first place. Though if you change as a person over time then I’m fairly sure that’s fine too 🙂 (So long as you’re growing and improving, I mean)
    .-= Heather´s last blog ..Review: 3D World Magazine =-.

  13. @heather Villa: I think emulation can be a great start, or a way to get out of a rut, or a way to spark new ideas, but everything we write that begins as an homage should wind up being 100% us.

    @Archan: absolutely. I’m not meaning to imply that I don’t need help with the technical issues myself. I’ve got my own coaches. You’re right: there’s a huge difference between asking for help with some things and finding your voice. Do I really sound like I expect everyone to be a Da Vinci? I don’t expect ANYONE else to be a Da Vinci.

    @Phil: Oh, I’m not above the occasional (or constant) colloquialism. I tend to forget that not everyone in the world knows every inside joke of mine:)

    @Mary: I agree, but sadly, not everyone IS brilliant. At least, maybe not in the blogging medium. One thing I’ve seen is that it’s imperative to have your own voice, but your own voice may be out of sync with your own goals. If you’re selling something or building traffic, I think it’s important to know who you’re writing to, and whether the topic you’re writing about works with your voice. To get over the top, a misogynist’s voice won’t work on a blog about women’s rights, so he should probably start a different blog.

    @Todd: Thanks. That bicep gravatar is following me everywhere!

    @Stacey: “constipated textbook.” Awesome. I’m stealing that.
    .-= Josh Hanagarne´s last blog ..50 Time Saving Tips – Guest Post By Gordie Rogers =-.

  14. @ Secret Agent: I love that picture at the top of the post, by the way. That’s a smug-lookin’ dude.
    .-= Josh Hanagarne´s last blog ..50 Time Saving Tips – Guest Post By Gordie Rogers =-.

  15. Josh,

    Great post. All so true and it’s all connected, isn’t it? I think when you say that you can’t teach people to love it, that’s the real key. If you do love writing a blog, the rest will follow in time. If you’re doing it out of some sense that everyone “has to,” it’s going to be like calculus homeowrk.

    ‘Cept I liked calculus homework, happy geek that I am.


    You know, you’re on to asomething there. What I’ve always done is treat blog writing like writing a letter back in the old days. (sigh)

    I picture one person, and “talk” to them. As if getting them on the phone is too expensive, like it used to be. Because even today (sigh), it is too expensive for me to get hundreds of people on the phone every day.


    I am totally stealing “constipated textbook.” Perfect phrase. 🙂


    .-= Kelly´s last blog ..Sour Sales Save Stores! =-.

  16. Darn, I type so slowly Josh stole it first. LOL.
    .-= Kelly´s last blog ..Sour Sales Save Stores! =-.

  17. @Josh – So branding really does work. 🙂
    .-= Todd´s last blog ..Get strong-10 brilliant (and slightly badass) ways to do it =-.

  18. Finding your voice and staying on track, now thats hard.
    I think my style is still evolving. Each week I seem to add a new element into the mix. Humour ? Quotes ? Stats to back up my ideas ? Links to my work of the work of others ?
    Do you know what ? By the end of the week I have forgotten to do the humour or the quotes or whatever it was I was trying out. It’s like trying to stuff jelly in a bag.
    I’m still at it though !
    .-= Lucy Thorpe´s last blog ..Why Football players can’t be trusted. =-.

  19. Great post – very thought provoking.

    The line that first struck me was ‘my blog lives or dies based on who I am, not on the information I provide.’ I follow writers when I can relate to the person behind the words more so than the words themselves. With the vast number of sites out there, the reality is that a blog post, regardless of how original the topic may seem, likely has already been written. It’s the individual perspective that adds color to someone’s writing and determines how easy it is to relate.

    I also have the benefit from knowing Laura Cococcia from our high school years. When I started to blog regularly about topics other than fundraising efforts, I looked at who Laura read – finding Men with Pens and also your site.

    Great stuff.
    .-= Lisa F´s last blog ..Artist Chat – Carrie Saunders of Anna Street Studio =-.

  20. The hardest thing for me is feeling that being myself is anything that others can appreciate and beyond that actually understanding who I am and not who I am trying to be.

  21. “The writing voice is a lot easier to see than to explain or coach.” – That statement pretty much sums up that entire post… simply because it’s so damn true.

    Weird I’ve never heard of you Josh, how the hell did you manage to fly past my radar at 6’8 while carrying around your huge metal balls?

    Must be broken or some shit. Now I feel like James, who (apparently) can’t reference to anything “popular”.

    Anyways, nicely done.
    .-= FitJerk’s Fitness Blog´s last blog ..Interviewed By Stand Up Comedian Jordan Cooper =-.

  22. @Kelly: My only goal in life is to have nothing in said life resemble calculus homework.

    @Lucy: In the beginning, I was kind of proud of succeeding with the “unfocused” blog. But as I look at the pattern in my archives, I’ve definitely done more of the things that worked, and fewer of the things that bombed. I usually don’t realize that any sort of evolution has occurred, however, until I look back a ways.

    @Lisa F: that Laura, was she a nerd in high school?

    @Ralph: Amen to all of that. If I knew exactly who I was, I think I’d bore myself. As someone said in Don Quixote, and which Aerosmith ripped off 600 years later, “It’s not the Inn (destination), it’s the road (journey).

    @Fitjerk: Under your radar? I met you in the Problogger forum before I bailed out of there. I have a comment on my blog from you in the irrational fears post? Man, I’m really sneaky if I can interact with someone AND fade from their memory immediately:) Unless there’s another fitjerk, but I don’t think so.
    .-= Josh Hanagarne´s last blog ..50 Time Saving Tips – Guest Post By Gordie Rogers =-.

  23. @Kelly, no worries. You and Josh can have joint custody.
    .-= Stacey Cornelius´s last blog ..Accidental social networking for introverted creatives, otherwise known as Twitter =-.

  24. I don’t even know how one could write without being themselves. I guess it happens, though.

    But when being yourself, still only post the stuff you believe in, instead of being more preoccupied with filling a certain quota of posts for the week.

  25. @Josh

    HA, seems you’re right. It’s because I never knew what you looked like. You could be sneaky, but my shitty memory that’s heavily visual probably has something to do with it. That and I read about a million blogs.

    As for bailing me out of ProBlogger. Hmm… again, needs expansion. I don’t recall needing bailing. Now you have me confused. (do you still hang around there?)

    As for another fitjerk… haha funny you ask because there actually IS. In the early days when I was working on my… er, “brand” , some douchebag went and bought “thefitjerk.com” and the “.net” variation. That’s right, he put “the” in front of my given pen name.

    It was an early web marketing mistake that people can learn from: buy every possible permutation of your domain name within reasonable doubt.

    Live and learn.
    .-= FJ – No BS Fitness Blog´s last blog ..Interviewed By Stand Up Comedian Jordan Cooper =-.

  26. Great article of course Josh! I really appreciate all your help and experience. Writing is a skill that I will be working on much more over the next several years to lifetime.

    Thanks again!
    Rock on
    Mike T Nelson PhD(c)
    .-= Mke T Nelson´s last blog ..All Aboard the Biofeedback Bus: A Radical Tour of New Personal Records, Inspiration and Knowledge =-.

  27. @fitjerk:I wrote “Before I bailed out of there,” not “before I bailed you out.”
    .-= Josh Hanagarne´s last blog ..50 Time Saving Tips – Guest Post By Gordie Rogers =-.

  28. @Josh

    Perfect, now not only is my memory shoddy, I’m slowly un-learning how to read. Watch for me in 2 years, I’ll be writing posts on how I’m managing my A,B,C’s

    Anyways, mind me asking why you left? Seems like you have a crap load to share.
    .-= FJ – No BS Fitness Blog´s last blog ..Interviewed By Stand Up Comedian Jordan Cooper =-.

  29. It’s like when you’re a teenager and adults advise you “Just be yourself” for your first job interview.

    What is myself?
    Who else would I be?

    I think I’ve found the me that works in writing, but the dangerous urge to be more than I am still creeps in and ruins “me.”

    Thanks for the wonderful reminder to keep it real. (Apologies for invoking Randy Jackson there.)
    .-= Leah Wescott´s last blog ..University Fires Director of Creative Studies for “Giving Students Ideas” =-.

  30. I love reading Josh’s stuff, he is always great to get his vies across. I, like many others have envied Josh’s success and secretly plotted to NO Wait. just envied his success. I even asked him for advice and he answered me honestly and didn’t blow smoke at me. It was his blog that made me decide to just write whatever I wanted and damn the consequences, the writing is the important thing. Thanks for making the net interesting.
    .-= Justin Matthews´s last blog ..Waiting for Inspiration, A Sure Way to Fail. =-.

  31. @Mike: If your zillion years of schooling haven’t made you a good writer, you’re in trouble!

    @Fitjerk: Honestly, it was just timing. I had the book deal come up out of nowhere, my son started walking, my blog exploded, I started teaching kettlebell classes, my job changed….something had to go. I like forums and I have a great relationship with Darren, but something had to go. I was spending a lot of time in that forum, and I get a much better ROI just writing a Problogger guest post. that’s sharing with a greater benefit. I asked Darren if he would hate me if I bolted, and he just laughed.

    @Leah: Nobody apologizes for invoking Randy Jackson! Like there’s even anyone else worth invoking!

    @Justin: Oh, I hear there’s some other interesting stuff out there. I just think most of it wants your credit card.
    .-= Josh Hanagarne´s last blog ..50 Time Saving Tips – Guest Post By Gordie Rogers =-.

  32. Thank you for the insightful information. Interesting pic. I just be me on my blog and in my writing. I don’t try to write like anyone else. Wanting to share a voice and show people the real me is what I am after. I think my blog is doing ok so I do not think I need any help, but will always listen to suggestions. Agreed with Lisa F. Have a great weekend!
    .-= Michelle Kafka´s last blog ..Random Inspirational Quotes =-.

  33. @Michelle: If you are happy with what you’re doing and you’re having a good time, don’t listen to ANYONE who tells you you’re doing something wrong.
    .-= Josh Hanagarne´s last blog ..50 Time Saving Tips – Guest Post By Gordie Rogers =-.

  34. @Josh: With the only difference that you have words instead of thoughts. Much better for a blogger 🙂
    .-= Annemieke´s last blog ..Development, Evolution and Transformation =-.

  35. @Josh

    That makes sense, forums can be a little… “consuming”. At one point I was writing more there then on my blog, not a bad thing but was time to re-focus.

    And book deal… that’s bangin! Congrats, good luck with that.
    .-= FJ – No BS Fitness Blog´s last blog ..FitJerk Friday#3 – Importance Of A Workout Buddy =-.

  36. This article really hits home with me because even though many of the probloggers obviously know what they are doing, we lesser-known, but aspiring bloggers need to stay true to our voice and the content we want to write.

    The distractions of Twitter and the like can stifle the flow of content and if we do that, then we have no chance.


  37. interesting and novel manifestation of “the Emperor’s New Clothes” syndrome

  38. Thanks, Josh…I love your post:) I only started blogging a couple of months ago and have a new bounce in my step for the efforts. However, I’ve had a lingering concern about my “pot luck of blog content”…a narrow focus is so much easier to market, but I have varied interests and want to write about varied interests. Your words remind me of my baseline: even if I don’t find a way to make a living by writing, even if I don’t become geographically independent, I am connecting with a community I enjoy, letting their words inspire my journey and (hopefully) inspiring others on theirs.

    I’ll be adding you to my RSS feed…thanks again for the (indirect) encouragement!

  39. Luck comes into it – there can only be a certain number of winners.
    .-= tempo dulu´s last blog ..Obama Bar, Jakarta =-.

  40. Everyone is a unique character. You should build yourself from within. Then, you will shine no matter where and when. Then, you become the center of attention at least at some circle.

    In a nutshell, you should be able to shine from inside and this emerges when you take the hard way of experiencing the difficult tasks, taking tough challenges and jump in the middle of fire to gain what you tin you deserve or prove your point.
    .-= Rahman Mehraby´s last blog ..Website Copywriting Is More Than Just Writing Website Copy =-.

  41. Everyone is a unique character.branding really does work
    I think I’ve found the me that works in writing, but the dangerous urge to be more than I am still creeps in and ruins “me.”

  42. The jewels I got out of this brilliant post were simply be yourself! Many of us are so freaking afraid of the man inside we do everything to stifle the genius that dude has!

    Be yourself and speak in a tone that make people thing you have known then for years. I have struggle with this aspect on my blog for a minute, every time I try to “tame” myself the results are the same.

    Less traffic, fewer comments and thus lower sales. So if I was born a bad ass I need to roll with it. It is what is is.

    Thanks Dude!
    .-= Glendon Cameron´s last blog ..Delivery Stories- No I did not hear y’all! =-.


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