“It wasn’t by accident that the Gettysburg address was so short. The laws of prose writing are as immutable as those of flight, of mathematics, of physics.” — Ernest Hemingway, in a letter to his editor, Maxwell Perkins
The average age of a Nobel Prize Laureate in Literature is 63.
The youngest writer to ever be awarded this prestigious award was Rudyard Kipling, at the age of 41.
There’s an often overlooked rule of the written word: you can learn how to write a good story only by writing an awful lot of bad stories.
Sometimes I wonder if my favorite authors would have been successful bloggers.
Hemingway, Fitzgerald, or Gabriel Garcia Marquez.
They probably could have been.
They would have had to invest a lot of time and energy into building a platform, but they could have developed, in time, the skills required to become successful bloggers.
Blogging is not just about the quality of your words.
Read that again.
Blogging is also about building a platform.
Blogging is not just about being so good they can’t ignore you, but also about being so interested in providing value to your readers that they can’t ignore you.
Blogging is about being able to build relationships and figure out the best ways to harness the power of those relationships.
We often forget about that as we tirelessly obsess about the quality of our content.
Quality or Quantity?
I’d like to ask you, “what’s quality?”
What’s your definition of quality?
And after you answer this question, I’d like you to think about whether or not quality is subjective.
Hemingway lived in a world of gatekeepers, we now live in a world of complete creative freedom.
You can write whatever, whenever, and release it instantly on almost the platform of your choosing.
This changes the way the content is produce, but also the way the content is consumed.
We tend to neglect just how much this reality changes the way we write.
If you’re good enough at building an audience, then blogging becomes a game of what you can get away with.
Four years ago I had the most popular blog on WordPress.com. Over 100,000 followers. Close to 2 million views per year.
I wrote 300–400 word essays, the headline was just a word or two. I always started with a quote.
But I’d also spend 12 hours a day networking, commenting on other people’s content, engaging fellow bloggers.
In today’s interconnected world it’s best to be aware of the fact that the quality of your work is influenced by the quantity of your readers.
The more people read you, the more likely it is for people to perceive your content is being good.
The phenomenon of reputation is a delicate thing, but it can set in motion a butterfly effect that can enable you to reach the top of the mountain pretty fast.
Blogging Is Social Media… So Be Social
There’s this prevalent myth of the creative genius who just doesn’t like anyone, but everyone loves them.
It’s rarely the case.
If you don’t like them, they won’t ever like you. no matter how good you are.
Play nice. Be a team player. Engage others.
In my eight years of full-time blogging I have yet to meet an extremely successful blogger who just went viral, without engaging anyone in any way whatsoever.
Yes, Seth Godin does not allow comments on his blog, but he also gave away more free stuff than just about anyone else. He’s also been blogging since forever, when people didn’t even know what blogging was, or whether or not it will stick around.
Hard work only gets you so far in life. It might be enough to earn a couple thousand dollars each month after years and years of working on your craft.
But in order to become a true rockstar of blogging, you need hard work, strategy, and a bit of luck.
You need social skills. You need to network with others in a way that isn’t sleazy.
There’s this dance between the blogger and their readers. If you want to make them fall in love with you, you’ve got to know how to dance.
It’s not enough to write quality content (everyone would focus on doing just that,) you’ve also got to be savvy enough to navigate this often complicated online social environment.
This means you’ve got to deal with haters, with trolls, with naysayers. You’ve got to figure out what is the best way to say what you want to say, so your readers can relate to you.
It’s not just about the quality of your words or the quality of your ideas.
An idea rated as a 10 is often divisive. Half think it’s a 10, half rate it as a 5.
Would Hemingway have been a successful blogger?
He seems to have had the ego required to work towards building a loyal group of people. He also seems to have had the ego to ignore the haters.
He had the right mindset to know he was good, and to never go looking for outside validation.
This is what ruins a lot of aspiring bloggers. They want the definitive answer to this question,
Is my content good or not?
Here’s the thing. We all write because, at least at some deep, unconscious level, we know we have failed.
Every single article I write about blogging tries to provide the absolute best advice, the advice anyone can apply to become a successful blogger.
I fail, time and time again. But I try, again and again.
Failure is what brings you back in front of a computer.
Failure is what makes you want to write better.
The idea is not to write something’s that perfect, but rather to write something that means something to someone.
That’s about it.
Would Hemingway have been a successful blogger?
Most probably, yes.
But the far more important question is, “do we have to be a writers as Hemingway to be successful as bloggers?”
If there’s one thing I am absolutely certain about when it comes to blogging, is that the answer to that question is “no.”
If it weren’t a “no,” I wouldn’t have been able to build a platform of over 200,000 readers.
After all, English is not even my first language. In many ways, it’s not even my second language.
The bottom line is this: focus on the reader experience just as much as you focus on the overall quality of your content, and you will become a successful blogger.