Kevin’s recent post about how long a blog post should be reminded me of a pair of writing assignments I was handed when I was in school, both of which changed my perspective on writing forever.
You see, when I was in high school and college, I spent a great deal of time studying journalism and creative writing, my two great passions. I was hoping at the time to get a job for a major newspaper working in their Web division, helping grow and promote online journalism.
It didn’t exactly pan out that way, I came out of college just in time to find the news industry already in steep decline, perhaps already past the turning point. Still, my education taught me a great deal, but on the point of post or story length, there were two lessons, both of which were equally valuable in teaching me about writing and how people read.
The First Assignment
In high school it was common for the teacher to assign mock news articles to the class. The rules were straight forward write a news story on a certain topic and it had to be a certain length, usually 1,000 words. We could pull quotes from other newspapers and sources, but they had to be accurate and up to journalistic standards.
Then one day the teacher told us to take our 1,000 word story and quickly turn it into a 500 word one. Worst of all, we only had 20 minutes to do it in.
But while it sounds stressful it was actually fairly easy. Twenty minutes was plenty of time to get through the story several times over and editing it down was more a matter of removing a few nice, but unnecessary, details and tightening up existing writing. At the end of the time frame, most of us had stories that were less detailed, but still largely the same as the ones we walked in with.
In short, I learned you could take out half the worlds of most stories and remove only a fraction of the information, including almost none of the important details.
I received a similar assignment in a creative writing class two years later. However, this time the process we were working with short stories. We were asked to remove 25% of the words without touching the plot. Once again, it was more than possible and, in general, it made the stories quicker-paced and tighter, while sometimes sacrificing some of the warmth and detail.
From these assignments, I learned that cutting words does not mean cutting a story. If you can tell something in 500 words, there is little reason to use 1,000. However, as I later learned was not always the case.
The Second Assignment
Later on, I switched majors. I wanted to study graphic/Web design and was convinced to change my major to advertising. However, when it came to copywriting, I had walked into a whole new world.
In journalism, brevity is valued highly. Getting information across quickly and accurately is the most important thing. However, in advertising long copy is often more heavily prized. In fact, David Ogilvy, one of advertising’s most respected figures, favored long copy strongly in his ads, even writing ads with more than 10,000 words and still receiving a strong response.
The mentality in the advertising world is that if you have a lot to say, you should say it, if you don’t have much to offer, you shouldn’t feel bad about being brief. Selling candy is different from selling power tools, which in turn is different from selling cars.
It was in that spirit we were asked to design a series of ads, starting with roughly a quarter of a page in a magazine and ranging to a full newspaper page, all using the same visuals. But even if we increased the size of the images we used, which was allowed, we still had to be flexible with the body copy, adding and subtracting from it to fit the different sizes.
Quickly it became obvious that, for this particular product, the ads with less copy were not merely more concise, but were worse ads. We had a lot to say and forcing us to be shorter with our words made us harder-sounding and less friendly.
The journalism style of “get in and get out” didn’t work in advertising. As a result, neither I nor the others I was working with were ever happy with my shorter advertisements and neither was the professor.
So to get back to Kevin’s question of how long a post should be, I agree with his conclusion, that there is no rule.
I would say that you should take all of the time you need but no longer. In the end, it is more important that you write compelling copy than keep it under X number of words. Ten thousand words can feel like a hundred if your writing is good. On the other hand, 500 words can feel like torture if it isn’t.
Your topic and your writing should determine your length, not some arbitrary rule. If you write well and on topics that interest people, they will read it, no matter how long your posts are. If you write poorly and on topics with no interest, no one will bother, no matter how short you keep it.
Do You Get Lost in Blogging Busywork?
My prime business intent going forward is to get my 124 ebooks in 1 billion places. That’s it. I will promote other opportunities of course and prosper through multiple channels but it is a billion with my 124. Hold me to that. Wait a second. You won’t have to hold me to that. I’m pretty good about being accountable to myself.
Anyway, it’s been fascinating to see moments of my mind attempting to pull me to blogging busy work. You know exactly what I mean. For me, my day is largely about promoting my ebooks through Twitter, Facebook, blog posts, guest posts, Live broadcasts on Facebook, my podcast, and videos on Twitter as well. Other than promoting a few other opportunities, I do not intend to do anything else. But of course my mind tries to pull me toward blogging busy work at times. How does my sidebar look? Is my sidebar converting enough? What about blog comments? Should I open comments on specific old blog posts? Each question indicates some type of busy work that is not genuinely important or business building for your blog. Of course, most bloggers spend a fair chunk of their days on busy work and wonder why they struggle and fail so horribly. If you spend most of your time doing what does not matter, you will fail. But if you spend most of your time doing what does matter, creating and connecting and opening multiple streams of income, you will succeed. Blogging is that simple.
But blogging is not comfortable at all because even though we intellectually know to avoid busy work, our fears pull us in towards the silly activities. Some bloggers spend weeks or months or even years doing stuff that ultimately does not matter. Why spend hours on your blog design when it’s the content you create and the connections you build that lead to your greatest blogging success? You have to be honest with yourself when it comes to blogging. Being straight with yourself makes the difference between success and failure.
I usually catch myself within seconds to minutes of being engaged in busy work that does not really make a difference. I scan my email in seconds. I am down to that number now. But I recall my struggling days when I would be in my email for 20 minutes or an hour or longer every day. I tried to read every word of every email. I tried to engage every silly sponsored post pitch. Huge mistakes. I wasted so much time on what didn’t matter. You know what matters? Creating helpful content and building genuine connections with human beings by helping other bloggers. Do these things and you position yourself to succeed. Add income streams and you position yourself to become a full-time blogger, just like I discuss in this eBook.
Blogging is simple but uncomfortable. Creating and connecting feels uncomfortable when your fear pulls you toward busy work. Ego is like that. The mind is like that. It makes a mountain out of a molehill by pulling you away from core, business building blogging activities towards stuff that waste your time. I have never looked at a heat map in my blogging life yet I’ve circled the globe for the past eight years as a professional blogger. Feel free to spend a few moments checking out heat maps but when moments become hours, you’re messing up. You’re too engaged in blogging busy work. Help people freely and generously. Trust in the process. Open multiple streams of income. Promote your core opportunity the most, like me promoting my 124 ebooks. Success will find you.
Do You Reject or Accept Opportunities for Growth?
I just wrote and self published this ebook in a little over 24 hours:
not bad, eh? I asked my readers for ebook ideas. I received answers. I wrote the ebook. I really hustled on this one. I’ve already generated a quick sale. How? I accept opportunities for growth immediately. Do you feel the same way? Or do you reject opportunities for blogging growth? Be honest with yourself. This is not a comfortable process for bloggers to follow because your ego may sting a little bit.
Blogging struggle is borne of rejecting opportunities for growth. Blogging success is born of accepting opportunities for blogging growth immediately. I opened another income stream within 24 hours based on seizing an opportunity immediately. No hesitating. No hemming and hawing. No delaying. Other than sleeping for a handful of hours I did nothing else other than write the ebook, proofread the ebook, add photos and publish the sucker during that 24-hour stretch. Oh yeah. I also did some networking and content creating and yes, I promoted a handful of my 123 books. But I wrote ebook number 124 during that time frame too. Why? I love blogging. I love freedom. I love seizing opportunities for blogging growth.
Emerson said all life is an experiment and the more experiments you make the better. This wise man knew the secret to success. Seize the moment and squeeze all you can out of the moment by accepting opportunities for blogging growth fast. If a reader nudges you to write an ebook, write the darn ebook. Do not delay. Unless you despise writing, and you probably don’t because you blog, write the ebook, help the reader and make money. If one reader has that issue than 50 million readers have that issue. We are all human beings with pretty similar problems when you break everything down.
How quickly do you reject opportunities for growth because you fear something or someone? My most lucrative freelance writing client basically had to beg me to work for him. I so deeply feared I would not be worth the money he was paying me and I also feared his criticism, even though he was such a nice, warm, genuine dude. After he would not accept me saying no, I accepted the job and made a pretty penny over the course of our relationship. I learned my lesson. Now I gobble up opportunities for growth so quickly it’ll make your head spin.
I could go to bed right now to take a quick nap. I just worked for the long stretch to write the e-book and release it. But I gobble up this opportunity to write a guest post. Again guys, I accept opportunities for growth and grow like a stinking blogging weed.
Do not ignore opportunities because you fear seizing blogging opportunities because ignorance leads to struggle, failure and quitting. Seize the moment. Seize opportunities for blogging growth. Write the guest post. Broadcast live on Facebook. Upload a video to Twitter. Write the ebook. Convert it to audiobook. Create a course. How do you think I retired to a life of island hopping? I did not sit on the sidelines folks, waiting and waiting and waiting for opportunities. I seized opportunities for growth quickly and more opportunities flowed my way. Opportunities seized, multiply fast. Opportunities rejected disappear immediately.
Seize the blogging moment!
No Blogger Can Force Clients Customers or Readers to Learn and Succeed
Sometimes you just need to get right to the point with blog post titles. This is one such title and blog post. After answering questions for readers recently I made a realization. Honestly, I’ve had this realization in mind for many years. I guess I never chose to write about it. But today I will cover the topic. You cannot force a reader, client or customer to learn and succeed. This is just not possible. You cannot will someone to see what they are not prepared to see or do what they are not prepared to do.
Sometimes, coaches struggle horribly because they base their success or failure on the success or failure of clients. This is lunacy. You can show a horse the way but you cannot force the horse to drink, right? Ditto for human beings. You can coach someone but you cannot force them to do what you advised them to do. That is 100% in their hands. In truth, the best blogging coaches, ebook writers and consultants are at peace with doing their best job and leaving it at that.
I regularly answer questions for free, offering experience, helpful advice for new or struggling bloggers. Said newer struggling bloggers return within a few seconds with more questions, trying to find a different way to succeed, trying to find the quick shortcuts that lead to guaranteed failure. I release these people. Although I have compassion for fear-filled new and struggling bloggers, it is not my job to convince them of my 30000 hours of blogging experience. Either they’re smart and listen, humbling themselves and their ego. Or they make the foolish decision of trusting their fears over my 30000 hours of blogging experience. Either way, I have nothing to do with their outcomes. They choose to listen or to ignore me. I’m cool with that.
Be clear with the fact that most humans live predominately from fear so until they change their programming through a personal decision they will ignore good advice and follow bad advice. Self-fulfilling prophecy. In the same regard, you can trigger emotions in someone that allows them to follow your successful advice. Someone may open up and learn from you if it’s their time to open up. Totally their personal decision that has nothing to do with you. This is why I never get full of myself. I understand everybody’s life is their choice. I can show the way. You choose to follow or ignore. Nothing to do with me.
Stop wasting your energy trying to convince, manipulate or flat-out force clients and customers to do what you advise them to do. Offer your advice. Detach. Some folks will follow your advice and succeed with their blogs. Other folks will ignore your advice and continue to fail. You did what you could but now it’s up to them to use your knowledge and experience for their benefit. Keep helping people. Keep meeting new people. Don’t get attached to clients or customers. Offer tips and leave it at that. Every human being is fully accountable for themselves. You are a blogger, not a babysitter. You inspire but you’re not a savior. You can try but you can’t force people to do anything. Be at peace with this truth and you will become more successful than you ever dreamed. Most bloggers never succeed wildly because they never scale, being heavily attached to a few clients or customers. Highly successful, happy, free bloggers keep meeting and helping new people and allowing those people to find their own way. I am responsible for no one but myself. This is how I’ve lived the life of my dreams.
Do you want to live a movie-worthy life of travel like me?
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PS…the featured image is me in New Zealand and the hut above is where me and my wife lived deep in the jungles of Costa Rica.
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