People ask me a lot of crazy questions ranging from, “Are you really a white guy posing as a black guy for this blog?” to, “Would you be open to having sex with my girlfriend while I watched?” (Yes, I was actually asked these questions, and my answer to both was a simple “No”). The most common “normal” question I receive is: Can you give me some advice about blogging? Since I’m a man of the people, I will be happy to oblige.
Before I get started, let me address something that’s probably on some of your minds: “DDW, you started blogging in June! Do you really think you have the experience to offer anyone advice about this?”
Experience is so overrated it’s ridiculous. Don’t believe me? Let’s say you wanted your kid to learn how to play basketball. Now let’s say you could choose between two teachers: Me or LeBron James. Who would you choose? I have a lot more basketball experience than LeBron. Hell, I was smokin’ fools on my Junior High team while LBJ was a toddler pooping in his diapers. Obviously you would pick me based on the experience factor alone, right? I doubt it. You’d choose LeBron because he’s the greatest basketball player alive, and I’m…um, well…let’s just say that I’m not. Don’t get it twisted. I’m not saying that experience isn’t important – I’m just saying that it’s not nearly as important as some people make it out to be.
This is where you drop from the mental monkey bars. Don’t swing to the transition of, “Oh, so you think you’re the best blogger alive, huh?” That’s not what I’m saying at all. I just want people to stop putting so much emphasis on experience. Who knows? You may find that a newbie like me has some good information to share – but I’ll leave that up to you to decide. Get comfortable, because I have a lot to say.
LESSON #1 – Know your Why: I’ve talked about the concept of “Why” in detail previously, so I won’t dive too deep into it here. What I will say is that you need to have a goal for your blog – in other words, why do you want to do this? Do you want to raise awareness for a certain cause? Do you want to make people laugh? Do you want to use your rock-bottom story to inspire others to get off the mat and keep fighting?
Do you know what the common theme is in the examples I provided above? Each one of those Whys adds value to the lives of others. Once I figured out how I wanted to add value to people, everything else became quite simple.
This is the first question I ask when people approach me for blogging advice, and many times I get unanswered emails or blank stares in return. Don’t even bother starting a blog until you figure out your Why. If you haven’t determined why you’re writing your blog, why do you think anyone else will give two shits about it?
Editor’s Note: It doesn’t really matter what your Why is as long as it isn’t getting rich or getting famous. If getting paid or being the cool kid is your reason for doing this, then please do yourself a favor and stop right now – because it will end badly for you. I’m not saying that you can’t achieve these things, but money and fame are not Whys – they can only be the result of your Why. Focus on how you can enhance the lives of others – not just yourself. If you do a really good job of adding value to your readers, you’ll find that your life will become enhanced as well.
LESSON #2 – Ignore numbers: By “numbers,” I mean page views, Facebook likes, Twitter followers, etc. Yes, I get caught up in all of that foolishness every now and then, but don’t let numbers rule your perceptions of others or yourself. The quality of a person’s writing isn’t directly (or indirectly) correlated to the amount of fans he or she has. For example, I’ve noticed some folks with over 30,000 Facebook likes with blogs that (in my opinion) are just awful. Seriously, you could fart repeatedly on your keyboard and come up with better content. On the flip side, I’ve seen bloggers with under 200 Facebook likes with undeniable talent who consistently pump out epic posts.
Stats do not even begin to tell the whole story. Remember, even the greatest and most popular bloggers started with under 200 Facebook likes at some point too.
LESSON #3: Write hard: Speaking of numbers, in the beginning you’re not going to have a lot of people read your stuff…or so you think. I can’t stress this enough – write hard, because you never know who’s reading. A few days after I wrote my most popular post to date, I was contacted by a high-end retailer who offered me some free swag and an employee of a popular morning TV show contacted me to say that if they ever do a show on daddy bloggers, she’ll see what she can do to make me a featured guest.
I had no idea that people like this read my blog, but this is proof that you never know who’s watching.
Here’s another way to explain this. Years before I met Mommy Doin’ Work – I went to the local drug store to pick up some aspirin. It was early in the morning on a Saturday, I had morning breath, I was unshaven, I had some body odor that could’ve been sold on the black market as a biological weapon, and my clothes were mismatching and dirty. I didn’t care…all I wanted to do was pick up some aspirin and go home.
But who did I bump into at the drug store?
You know that awkward moment when you see someone that you don’t want to see and you’re like, “FUCK!” but you can’t turn around or hide because it would be too obvious? That’s what happened to me. She looked great, was in phenomenal shape, and was completely put together. I, on the other hand, looked like I just completed a seven-day “cruise” on the Amistad. Anyway, she probably left our brief conversation thinking, “Wow, he’s gone completely downhill since we broke up.” That wasn’t the case, but she caught me in a bad moment. It’s almost ten years after that encounter, but I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if she thought I was a homeless man today.
The moral of this story is to never have one of these “bad moments” on your blog. If you feel too lazy to write a good column and you just want to “mail in” some half-assed shit, do yourself a favor and back away from the computer. Like I said, you never know who’s watching, and that one crappy article you post could end up being the only post an influential individual will ever read.
LESSON #4 – Don’t take yourself seriously: I absolutely love people who can laugh at themselves. In doing so they’re saying, “I don’t care if you laugh at me, I’m still cool.” As I’ve mentioned in previous posts – many of you wouldn’t have liked the old version of me. I took myself waaaaaaaaay too seriously and got pissed if anyone laughed at me for any reason.
Nowadays, I’m at peace with the fact that I do a lot of stupid things that are pretty damn funny. I’m also at peace with the fact that I’m the punchline of many of those stupid things. I’m not saying you should put on a clown suit and act like a buffoon (unless that’s what you want to be known for); I’m just saying you should share some of your embarrassing moments with your readers. It will make them connect to you on a personal level and realize that you’re not some robot hiding behind a laptop. Nobody’s perfect, and nobody likes people who pretend that they are.
LESSON #5 – Full Disclosure: This is one of those lessons that I learned the hard way. Remember last week’s post about the conversations I had with Grandma Doin’ Work (my mom)? Well, I thought it would be innocent and funny, but GDW was less-than-pleased that I shared those conversations with the general public. Even though the vast majority thought the post was hilarious – she was really unhappy, so I removed it. Don’t make the same mistake I made. If you’re going to mention your family or close friends on your blog, make sure that you clear everything with them first. Yes, it’s a no-brainer, but it’s worth mentioning because it wasn’t one of my finer blogging moments.
LESSON #6 – Keep it Real: The great Bill Cosby once said, “I don’t know the key to success, but the quickest way to failure is trying to please everyone.” No truer words have ever been spoken. I’m not going to name names, but there’s a blogger who masters this concept. First off, I’ll say that this woman has over 35,000 Facebook fans, but I’m definitely not one of them. She’s an excellent writer, but to me she comes off as a mean-spirited douchebag (yes, women can be douchebags) who isn’t afraid to let everyone know how great she thinks she is. Here’s the awesome part – this woman doesn’t give a damn if I like her or not. She’s achieved a high level of success just by being who she is, and anyone who doesn’t like her or her style can hit the bricks (including me). I don’t particularly care for her style, but I respect her tremendously for keeping it real – and there is no doubt in my mind that her realness will lead her to even bigger successes down the road.
Don’t be the “nice person” for one group of people and the “edgy person” for another group. Readers are smart, and you’ll be exposed as a fraud quicker than you can say Milli Vanilli if you roll with the fakeness. Be yourself. If you want to talk about nothing but flowers and rainbows on your blog, go for it. If you want to be a douchebag and talk about assorted versions of douchebaggery all day, then you should go for that as well. It really doesn’t make a difference what you write about – as long as you understand that you will offend some people and some people will just not like you. On the flip side, you’ll also have a legion of fans who will love you to death if you’re authentic. The excellent bloggers I follow never cater their writing to suit their readers. Hell, do you think the lady I referred to earlier is going to change just because I don’t like her personality? That will never happen.
As far as I’m concerned, I’ve learned that the individuals who believe in me and my “Why” will stick around and the ones who don’t will leave and find something else that better suits their interests. No matter what happens, you can always count on me to be real and stay real.
However, when you’re keeping it real, there will be a group of people who will do whatever they can to rain on your parade. Yes, we’re talking about haters, and that serves a nice transition to my next point.
LESSON #7: Embrace Haters: Haters will pop up out of the woodwork when you achieve any measure of success. Keep in mind, ”success” is a relative term and how you define your success is completely up to you. I consider myself a successful blogger – and success to me doesn’t mean a book deal and two million readers – it simply means adding value to the lives of others through my writing.
Many of you will deal with haters, so I’ll quickly run down the most frequent types I’ve come across so far.
The Idiot: These people are usually just simple-minded knuckleheads incapable of stringing together a group of multisyllabic words in a sentence without grunting themselves into unconsciousness. They’ll provide poignant and thoughtful feedback to an article like, “You suck!” or “Fuck you!” – and sometimes they’ll offer a low blow about your race, appearance, gender, or parenting skills. To get an idea of what I’m talking about, check out any YouTube video with over 10,000 views and visit the comment section…”The Idiot” loves to hang out there. Anyway, these folks are more amusing than they are offensive. Simply chuckle at them and keep moving.
The “Look At ME” Hater: For short, I like to call them the LAME Haters (man, I just love when an acronym works like this). These guys love to be the center of attention. Scratch that – they NEED to be the center of attention. They thrive on creating controversy even when controversy shouldn’t exist just so people can pay attention to them. For example, let’s say you created a post titled, “Ten Reasons Why Jerry Sandusky Should Never Babysit Your Kids” (as if one reason isn’t enough). Most reasonable people would agree that Mr. Sandusky wouldn’t be on their short list of potential babysitters; however, LAME Haters will make inflammatory comments about why you’re wrong, attempt to embarrass you in the process, and demonstrate how much smarter they are than you (in their minds only). They’re usually pretty good at pushing the hot buttons that will annoy the living shit out of you – but the goal is to ignore them. Once you remember why they’re harassing you (usually jealousy and/or a desire to be noticed), they become much easier to brush off.
The “I’ve Done it Before” Hater: Ah, gotta love the old-timer. He’s the one who started a blog a few years ago and will put his arm around you to say, “Look kid, I started a blog in 2009 and trust me – NOBODY becomes successful blogging. I’ve done it before, so I know.” Since my Bullshit Detector is always switched to the ON position, this is what he’s really saying: “Look, I don’t have the talent, drive, and perseverance to become successful at blogging – and the last thing I want is for you to become successful because it will further solidify that I don’t have what it takes to do it.” Remember this – NOBODY can place limits on what you can and can’t do other than you. When someone tells you something is impossible, they’re only saying that they can’t do it themselves.
The “I Love You” Hater: It’s hard to call these people haters, because 99% of the time they mean no harm. It could be your spouse, your parents, or your best friend who really wants you to be successful, but they also spew negativity towards to you under the disguise of “ensuring you don’t get hurt or disappointed.” Since these haters are usually folks who you love, respect, and trust – it can be very hard to deal with them. Just remember that this is YOUR dream, not theirs. Don’t let anyone get in the way of that. Ever.
The key is to always embrace haters – because once they start trickling in, it means that you’re on to something special. When I say, “embrace,” I’m not saying you should invite them over for dinner – I’m saying that a part of you should smile inside while you’re dealing with them accordingly. A friend of mine once told me, “The best way to deal with haters is to continue doing more of the shit that they hate.” Very sound advice, if you ask me.
Editor’s Note: Please do not confuse people who disagree with what you write for being haters. People who disagree with you are wonderful because they can open you up to a viewpoint you may not be aware of. It’s how they disagree with you that is the difference between a thoughtful individual and a hater.
Editor’s Note #2: Remember the mean-spirited blogger I referred to earlier? I’m sure some of you probably think I’m hating on her, right? Not exactly. A true hater would call her out by name, leave nasty comments on her page, and attempt to diminish her brand – and I have no desire to do any of those things. Like I mentioned earlier, I respect the hell out of her for being genuine. I just choose not to read her stuff anymore, that’s all.
LESSON #8: Focus on what’s important: Stop wasting your time researching the best blog designs, cool widgets, and fancy plugins. Your blog is like a hotel. When I visit, I don’t care that you have flashing lights embedded in the floor tiles or reclining chairs that provide an electronic deep tissue massage. I simply need a hotel room to cover the “three S’s”: Shit, Shower, and Sleep.
Everything else just gets in the way. Again, this is only one man’s opinion (mine) – but when I visit a blog, I’m there for one reason: To read. The only time I give a rat’s ass about a blog’s design is when it takes away from my ability to read what’s there. Focus on writing hard for your followers and spend less time wondering where to place your shiny social media buttons.
LESSON #9 – Determine your boundaries: This is the trickiest thing for many. What should you share with your readers and what do you want to keep private? Do you want your name out there? Your spouse’s name? Your kids’ names? The city you live in? etc. I’ve seen both ends of the spectrum – bloggers who stay completely anonymous (no names and no pictures) and bloggers who freely share the names and pictures of their loved ones and themselves. Take some time to make an informed decision about your boundaries before you open your blog up to the public. The Internet doesn’t have a “Delete” button and you could end up regretting what you put out there if you aren’t careful.
LESSON #10 – Have fun: Seems obvious, right? I’ve talked to a lot of bloggers who view this gig as a chore. Yes, blogging takes a lot of time, effort, and maintenance – but to me, it’s also extremely enjoyable. If you do something you love, you never work a day in your life, right? Sure there will be days when you’re not feelin’ it, but if that happens more often than not – then you should probably consider doing something else. If you take anything from this article, please make it be this: Always spend your time doing things that will make you Happy.
That’s all of the blogging advice this newbie can think of. The good news is that you can use these tips for all walks of life, and it’s my sincere hope that you do. However, if you don’t find any of this to be useful, you can always ask someone with more experience to help you.