Why I miss old-school blogging

Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash

I remember way back in 2010 (I know, so long ago) when I found the world of blogging. I was working as a golf professional at the time in Reno, NV absolutely hating my career. After some time on the clock searching for other career paths, I found a blog written by a bespectacled bald gentleman named Seth Godin whose written voice immediately captured my attention.

His posts were short and his headlines were — well, short. They were more like asides or post-it-sized notes than they were editorials.

Each one spoke to me...

Drip by drip, one day at a time, Seth convinced me that I could open up this thing called the internet and write directly to whoever might be paying attention at the time — someone who was into the same weird things as I was.

I fell in love with the art form (yes, I said it) of blogging…

Here are some headlines from the blogs I was following back in the day…

From Julien Smith’s blog, InOverYourHead.net — and this was a really popular blog at the time:

  • The Myth / The Reality
  • Tent
  • Guts

From Seth’s Blog — yes, one of the most popular blogs in history:

  • Form and function
  • Skinnier
  • First, make rice

Fast-forward eight or nine years and the blogging world has changed. A lot. Most popular blogs boast headlines (names not shared to protect the innocent) such as:

  • 7 Ways To Be Happy Right Now
  • 32 Things That’ll Make You Say, “Well, There Goes All My Money”
  • I Was Labeled The High School ‘Slut.’ It Affected My Whole Life

Even personal blogs carry headlines like…

  • 10 Ridiculously Simple Steps for Writing a Book
  • What to Do When You Feel Like a Fake (and Why a Shadow Career is Necessary)
  • HOW TO MAKE 1 MILLION DOLLARS ONLINE (EVEN IF YOU’RE BROKE).

Sure, the old-school blogs I harken back to have hosted clickbait-ish headlines, OCCASIONALLY. But nothing like what the tabloid-laden blog world looks like today.

So what gives? Why the drastic change in tone?

I say it’s because we’re human. We humans want more. We want bigger. More mass appeal. More eyeballs on our stuff.

So we write for new eyes instead of for the eyes that are already paying attention. We write for Google bots instead of human hearts.

I’ve been guilty of this, to some degree. I’ve always tried REALLY hard not to use clickbait headlines. I’ve always tried to keep my voice towards those in my small circle at the time I hit publish.

But there’s no denying that I’ve hosted my writing on a platform that’s meant for broadcasting to new people. And it’s been great. I really owe a lot of the fact that I’m still writing to you today to Medium.

I’m at a place where I want some more of that old-school blogging magic back.

I just want to open up the internet and write a small, personal, heartfelt note to you, dear reader, without worrying about the page views or trending topics.

This is the art of blogging. Not the modern tabloidish kind of blogging, but the kind that the magic of the internet has afforded us. The kind of blogging that’s intended to be small and personal, not epic and bombastic. The kind that whispers to the insiders, not the kind that shouts from the rooftops.

Yes, there’s a time and a place for broadcasting. New eyes are important. Absolutely.

But as messengers, we can’t abandon the eyes we have before us at the moment (yes, I’m talking about the folks on your email list). And we — the ones who are currently enrolled — we already like you. We don’t need you to yell at us, shock us, or try to impress us anymore.

Just talk to us.

I want blogging to be weird again. I want to keep things brief and casual. I want to use insider baseball.

Just some things I’m considering these days.

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Your greatest hits will never get old

“person playing piano” by Gregory Hayes on Unsplash

Billy Joel was playing at Wrigley Field the other night. I could hear him outside my window.

Piano Man. Uptown girl. She’s Always a Woman. All the hits.

And he was rocking out — he wasn’t phoning it in. Which made me think…

Billy Joel has been singing the same songs for almost 50 years ( the album, Piano Man was released in 1973). How many shows has he played between then and now?

And not just big shows — how many weddings has he played for celebrities and royalty every year? How many nieces and nephews have had ‘uncle Billy’ play at their birthday parties?

This goes for all the pop artists from the 60’s and 70’s. They get up on stage time after time, decade after decade, and play the same handful of songs over and over again.

The audience could care less about the new stuff. Those songs are just distractions. In fact, the audience gets a little annoyed when they hear a song they haven’t heard before. They paid for the hits and they want to hear them, damn it.

And so Billy Joel has to play Piano Man at Wrigley Field in the summer of 2018 just as enthusiastically as he did in the winter of ‘73.

What does this mean to people like me who create content for others? A couple things…

Listen to your audience to find your groove

As someone who creates content publicly (though to a muuuuuuch smaller audience than Joel), it was testament to this fact…

If you strike a chord with your audience, they’ll never get sick of you saying the same thing over and over again.

For example, Seth Godin has been saying the same thing over and over again for decades as well. It goes like this (it was the tagline on his site until recently), ‘Go. Start something.’ That’s it. On repeat. Keynote after keynote; bestseller after bestseller; blog after daily blog — for decades.

Maybe you’ve taken the time and emotional effort to build a body of work, either via your YouTube channel, blog, books, podcasts, or what have you.

And maybe something took off. You had no idea. This thing you lobbed out there went absolutely bonkers. This is insane — you’ve gone viral (or at least micro-viral).

One of the first pitfalls that can come up is the thought that you have to switch it up. It’s easy to fear that people always want new stuff from you. That they’ll think you’re unoriginal for beating that same drum again.

But you have to flip that notion on its head.

Your hit sets the groundwork for a deeper groove to be laid in the minds and hearts of your audience.

This is just the start. People obviously want more. Which can lead us to a certain kind of existential pitfall…

“This is great, but who I am is so much more than that”

I know what you’re thinking because I’ve been there. Your hit is kinda surface-level stuff in your mind, right?

You’re telling yourself that you’re way deeper and more complex than those Top-40-esque hits of yours (as much as you love them). And maybe you are.

I mean, my #1 hit is a post I wrote almost three years ago after one year of daily blogging…

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“But I’m not one of these people who just blog about blogging,” I told myself. “My passion is writing about faith and spirituality, not just blogging for bloggers!”

That’s when my adult self stepped in…

“Stop it, Jonas. You are a blogger and people like that about you. Yes, you’re more than that, but own it!”

(Okay, enough self-dialogue. I had to get that out.)

We can’t discount the responses of our audience. If you’re doing your art for a living — or at least, you’d like to — your main job is to serve them, not to navel-gaze.

I’m sure James Taylor knows his creative depths go far deeper than Fire and Rain, but that doesn’t stop him from giving his audience what they want (48 years later!).

Sure, you have absolute creative license to reinvent yourself. I’ve done it a couple times. And each time, it hurt like hell. I remember wishing I was more like Billy Joel (in hindsight) and could suck it up and play an awesome Uptown Girl for the 9,000th time.

Because, here’s the thing…

Your audience has zero responsibility to continue liking you.

It’s harsh, but it’s true. As an audience member of yours, all it takes is one click to unsubscribe from your world forever.

Listen, you’re an artist. Sometimes, you have to make bold moves. I applaud you for it. Just understand the reality of the possible repercussions and proceed accordingly. If the bottom falls out and everyone leaves, go ahead and be pissed, but you have to enjoy rebuilding from the rubble. And your second structure might appeal to an entirely different subset of people than your first one.

Here’s one way to introduce your newer, more heartfelt stuff to your audience…

Sneak your new stuff in, drip by drip

What smart artists who have hits seem to do is this… They keep feeding their audience their hits (ex: their new song sounds a lot like their old songs with different words) and they sneak their new stuff into the background.

They’ve given their audience what they want. They’ve made them feel justified for showing up. And now, here’s a new thing I’ve been working really hard on that I think you’ll really like.

Test the waters and see if your audience bites — even a little bit. If so, put more and more in until a larger portion of your work resembles your more heartfelt ‘interesting’ stuff.

Take John Mayer for example. I like John Mayer. His songs are like bubble gum: tasty for a few minutes and then they lose their flavor and you move on with your day. No biggie.

But then he came out with his Paradise Valley album. I was blown away. It wasn’t quite a 180 — maybe a 90 or a 60 — but he was speaking my language. Others, I’m sure, hated it. But that was a risk Mayer took. If it was worth it to him, he could have kept going on that trajectory full-bore thus alienating his old fans while gathering a new audience of acoustic bluegrassy geeks like me.

This isn’t the first time he’s jumped into other lanes. He did it with his Where The Light Is: Live in Los Angeles album which appealed more to blues fans than his typical contemporary crowd.

However, John Mayer keeps playing Your Body is a Wonderland just as he has for 20 years (damn, I’m old — I bought his first hit CD when it came out).

In closing, notice your hits. Embrace them. Learn from them. And know you will resent them (but they truly are blessings if handled the right way).

Move forward accordingly.

Why I don’t incessantly quote the Bible

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

Some people in this faith section of the content universe use Bible verses like they’re back in style, but I don’t. To be honest, I’ve felt a little insecure about it. Kind of like an impostor. But after sitting down and writing out a list of reasons why, it made me feel better about it.

Here’s why I don’t use many Bible verses in my writing…

  1. God never stopped talking through us.
    As epic as the Bible is — and as central as it is to the Christian faith — I don’t believe that God stopped writing through us 2000 years ago. Quoting Charles Bukowski is fun. And Roald Dahl. And Richard Rohr. Inspired words are inspired words. Period. I’m all for the centrality of the Good Book, but I just can’t limit my sources to only that.
  2. I’m more of a contemplative Christian than a Biblical one. 
    At least at this point. Yes, I want to learn more about the Bible, but what I like to focus on is the Christ, not so much the Jesus. The Christ is the thing that boomed with the big bang as Richard Rohr would say. We all are begotten of the father with the same loving, creative, grace-propelling source code.
  3. I’ll be honest, I lack experience.
    Context is key when it comes to the Bible. Without historical context, any Bible verse falls short. In order to explain the historical context of such verses, one must have more time to study and be more proficient than I currently am. This is something I’m working on, but for now, I’m no Biblical scholar. Just a layman offering his whimsical ramblings on a dailyish basis.
  4. As far as I know, it is not a mortal sin to talk about God without using Bible verses.
    I think I’m in the clear…
  5. It’s not always appropriate.
    Sometimes, throwing in a Bible verse fits. But more often than not (especially when it comes to sharing personal testimonies as I do), it’s kinda like, “Ah, man, why’d you have to throw that in there?” No need…
  6. When the Bible turns into a weapon, people get hurt.
    This is when the Bible turns into a law book (kinda what Jesus was against). Like slamming the final gavel down in a way that says, ”It even says so in the Bible — WHAT NOW?!” I just don’t like that vibe.

Maybe these will help you get out there and start sharing your words about faith without being an esteemed theologian first.

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How much how-to?

Photo by Feliphe Schiarolli on Unsplash

I know that the go-to strategy for content these days — especially for creative freelancers — is to teach. To create endless how-to’s on your thing. To see your content as a huge Q&A library.

I want to challenge that right now. (Should be fun, anyways.)

Although I’ve put exactly zero research into this (I’m no marketing scientist by any means), I think that the online closet of how-to is about full. There’s not a lot of room left in that area of the internet. I can go to Skillshare, Udemy, CreativeLive, or a number of others to get a highly produced, cheap (sometimes free) comprehensive lesson plan on how to do virtually anything I want.

A fresh idea for content: Stop teaching how you do the thing and show us what you do with the thing.

Sure, give us some pointers every now and then. But I’d rather see you demonstrate your skill rather than teach it.

Take Casey Neistat for example. He totally could have started his career by posting how-to’s on filmmaking. And he probably would have done well. But, what did he do?

He made awesome videos. Scrappy, DIY (but super well done) stories that chronicled his mundane life (which has gotten less mundane in recent years) told in a way that no one else was telling them.

Now, he’s one of the world’s most sought-after filmmakers in his genre — yes, YouTube vlogging is now a genre, if you haven’t noticed. (And if he were to host a YouTubing class, it would be sold out in seconds.)

Why?

Because he lives his craft. He demonstrates it. Yes, he throws out useful camera reviews and tricks of the trade on occasion. But it’s a small subset of his work.

Tre L. Loadholt is a poet. She’s THE poet of Medium. No one else even comes close. I don’t see her spending time writing endless poetry hacks and how-to’s (thankfully). She’s doing the thing, not just writing about the thing. She’s both artist and expert (well done, Tre).

Demonstrate your skill. Show us your work. And then tell us how to do it. If you want.

Just know that teaching isn’t the only option. What we really want is to see your magic.

That’s what’s going to inspire us.


You can find more of Jonas’ work over at at Higher Thoughts, one of the most popular single-author publications on Medium. Subscribe to his daily-ish missives and musings at JonasEllison.com

Empty platitudes

I was struck today by a deep insight that I love what I do for a living at the moment. Here’s what lead to that epiphany…

I was scrolling around on Instagram (like ya do) and stumbled into the spirituality section where I found someone who’s images looked interesting enough, headed over to their profile page, thumbed through some of their posts, and here’s what I saw…

Quote-image after quote-image of statements like (and I quote, directly)…

Don’t listen to what other people think.

Be kind.

Do what you love.

Dreams come true.

Have a brave spirit.

Damn it… I’m so. 
Bored. 
Already.

Not that this stuff is bad or harmful or anything of the sort. I’m sure he’s a good guy who’s trying to spread a positive message(?).

It’s just that I so often see the same recycled drivel in the spirituality space that has about as much depth and complexity as a potsticker (with no soy sauce).

Then I start wondering if I’m doing the same thing. Am I caught up in this death loop of empty platitudes and feel-good fluffery that one can easily find themselves in when they have their heads so high in the clouds that they lose consciousness from extreme spiritual boredom?

See, this publication is my space (no, not MySpace — I wish it were that much fun) to explore spirituality and the deeper matters of my life. I give myself the freedom to do that here.

But it’s times like these where I’m SO happy that I have a line of work where I can sit down and work with people who are creating real businesses and projects in the physical world (just so happens that, because I write often about spirituality and such, I attract clients who are more aligned with my values). Where I can obsess over their stuff rather than my own inner wonderings and ponderings for awhile.

It keeps me grounded.

We must stay grounded. And if we find ourselves bored with our writing, we must mix it up and step out of context.

Good writing comes from friction in daily life. In trying new things. In getting out of our own heads so we can take a breath.

It’s something I have to remind myself of often.

Now… Go live your dreams.

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Here’s looking at you, 2018

Some stuff about me and my work for the year ahead

Photo by Federico Bottos on Unsplash

Ahhh, it’s that time of year again. The time of year when we slowly come out of our holiday hibernation to violently rip up last year’s calendar and open up that new one with exuberance.

Since we’re all doing this (at least metaphorically), I wanted to take this opportunity to let you know what to expect in the year ahead when it comes to my work and this publication.

More purpose in 2018

So, first of all, after writing here for so long and interacting with my readers along the way, I’ve learned who I’m here to serve. This time off has given me space to really appreciate this. Because that’s what it’s all about, right?…

Finding your tribe and serving them in a bold way is what makes writing online worthwhile, meaningful, and purposeful.

I’ve found that my tribe is composed of creatives, freelancers, and solo/entrepreneurs who are into making a living doing the thing they love and who want to not only do great work but enjoy life while they’re at it.

These are my people. This is my ‘ministry’ if you will. Not that other people can’t read my work. They can, and do. Plenty of my beloved readers aren’t specifically in this category but find that I speak to a certain part of them, and that’s fantastic.

I guess these people are my people because who I just described is… Me. (Weird how that works, right?)

And so, in 2018, I look forward to writing more about my craft (copywriting and online messaging), but also telling more stories, exploring the absurd, cracking more jokes, creating more things, spouting more anecdotes, and connecting on an ever more grounded level (while keeping it woo-woo when necessary, of course).

Now, here’s the thing that’s important to you, the reader (if you enjoy following my work)…

Why I’m taking my love to my email list

I’m trying something new in 2018. I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty much over social media. I’m opposed to the idea that it’s the holy grail to anything, business or personal.

This isn’t the place to go into the philosophy why (stay tuned), but I’ll just say that I’m taking things to a more intimate level (no, not in a creepy way) in 2018.

What this means is that my daily words will all be published to my daily email list, but only some to Medium.

To give you more of a rundown, here’s why you should jump on my daily email list in 2018…

  • My daily posts will first go out via email to subscribers (while being posted on my main site, JonasEllison.com/blog). Only certain posts will be published here on Medium at Higher Thoughts.
  • I’ll be guest posting on other publications more (in fact, check out my most recent post on Thought Catalog here). Whenever I do, a link will be sent to email subscribers so you can catch it right away.
  • I’ll be offering some spiffy stuff in 2018 (you know — bespoke products and services based around writing, creativity, personal development, and whatnot) and email subscribers will be the first to find out (and thusly be able to capitalize on early bird offers, etc.).

Aaaaand that’s about it, friends. I look forward to seeing you around the internet soon. Please know that serving you has been one of the biggest honors of my life (sorry, I’m getting all sappy again). Thanks so much for reading and supporting me and my work.

I don’t know about you, but I’m beyond pumped for 2018. Here’s to a year filled with more purpose, intention, and meaning (and less stress, hustle, approval-seeking, and anxiety). May this find you tossing out that 2017 calendar with gusto and embracing the 1–8!

As Ever,
Jonas Ellison

P.S. (Again, you can get on that daily list — but only if you reeeally want to — by clicking right here.)

A brief note about living seasonally

And why I’m taking this autumn to heart

Photo by Hedi Alija on Unsplash

I’ve been blogging (either on Medium.com or to my personal email list) every day for almost 3 years now. No, no one has been forcing me to do it. I’ve done it out of my own free will (or something like that) and don’t regret one word.

This work has literally — and I do mean it when I say ‘literally’ — changed my life in so many ways. Here are just a few.

I’ve…

  • Come to enjoy writing more
  • (Both digitally and physically) met hundreds of new people and connected loosely with thousands
  • Found my voice (at least its current incarnation)
  • Reaped the ego-checking benefits of having a daily practice
  • Built my coaching practice
  • Dismantled my coaching practice
  • Re-built my coaching practice
  • (Done this a couple times)
  • Been graced by some crazy opportunities to play alongside some incredible people that I’d never dreamed possible before

I could go on. But this post isn’t about that. This post is about right now and these next few months.

I’m a big seasonal guy. I love the seasons. There’s no way I could ever live in a place like Palm Springs or Fort Lauderdale where there are no seasons. It’d ruin me, mentally and spiritually. It’d be like living with no clock. No reference point. No change. No movement. Kudos to you, if you live somewhere like this. I don’t know how you do it, but I hope you enjoy the hell out of it (I have to say, your golf courses are very nice).

But when I talk about seasons, I’m not just talking about the outside temperature or the color of the trees. I believe we humans were meant to live with those seasons, internally. I also think we’re meant to create our own seasons with whatever stage of life we’re in at the moment.

Maybe we’ve lost touch with this. 
I know I have.

Sometimes, when we find our groove and have important work to do, we grind a bit. We hustle. Embrace that. It’s a blessing. But know that it’s a season. As soon as we lose sight of this, we hustle in vain. Pretty soon we notice, as we’re marathoning Gary Vee YouTube videos at 2 am while slamming Four Loco (do people still drink that stuff?) that we’ve only been sleeping a couple hours a night for… a few weeks. Or months. Or more. (Or way more.)

That’s never worth it.

Right now, it’s autumn. Autumn is the season where the days get shorter, things cool off, more coffee is consumed, and sweaters are donned. It’s the writing season, but not like summer where you can work all day without knowing it. It’s a quieter, more introspective writing season. A time to be more intentional about the craft.

I feel the pull to take a step away from the daily blogging thing. And this year, I’m giving myself permission to do so.

I’m sure I’ll be back to it soon(ish). But for now, I want to withdraw a little. I don’t want to burn out. This is a long-term plan for me. I’ve found my tribe here. I’ve found my work. I’ve found my voice. These last couple years have been totally worth it in every way.

But now, being autumn, I’m using this season to be more intentional. To restore. And to focus on the work that matters.

I have some things in mind that I want to take time to create. I have some interesting opportunities that I want to focus in on. I want to focus on my clients more. And I want to breathe in autumn and enjoy it with family and friends while it’s here.

Yes, I’ll still be writing. Expect at least a post or two a week from me. Hopefully, I can spend a few days on a post as opposed to a few minutes. Deep work is what I look forward to.

I invite you to do the same. Be one with this autumn. Do some journaling (ahem, click here if you haven’t received my new free audio workshop with accompanying ebook on Intentional Journaling). Reflect. Contemplate. Eat, drink, and be merry. Rest more. Recharge. Breathe in the autumn air.

Even if you’re in Palm Springs:)

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Some stylistic changes at Higher Thoughts

I wrote an open letter to Higher Thoughts followers last night on some stylistic changes happening here. The thing about that letter is that it doesn’t pop up on the home page of this publication, which is why I’m posting this. So, if you’re curious, you can read about it here.

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If not, rock on, you bad mamma jamma.

Jonas

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Thanks to the lovers

Image: Kyle Wong

If you’re one of these people, I want to take a moment to thank you. Publicly.

I’m talking about those who, instead of spreading criticism, cynicism and negativity (particularly online), make the more difficult higher choice to spread love, generosity, and solidarity.

I’m inspired to say this because, occasionally I get that personal email from someone asking if I’m making a living through this work and how they can support me.

I have to say here that my life is abundant beyond measure. It really is. In many ways. No, I’m no Tony Robbins — not even close — but I’m doing just fine. Yes, I have to be creative with how I earn a living, and it’s a delicate dance, but I’m doing better and better every day.

Those emails make me feel like there’s people out there who understand. Who care.

Because this new kind of creative online work some of us do is really weird. It’s largely uncharted territory. There’s 64,000 people who follow my work. That makes my head explode.

I have no college degree. I’m not in any type of guild, union, or society. All I have is the passion at the pit of my belly and a way with the written word.

It’s amazing I can sit here and do this. All of us can, if we find the people we’re here to serve.

The lovers out there remind us someone is actually listening. Not just following… But listening. (Totally different.)

All it takes is one person to remind you that the work you’re doing is real, valuable, and meaningful.

They understand that asking for money in return for art (especially in the spirituality realm, in my particular case) is a legitimate exchange, but a difficult one for many to grasp. They remind me that I’m not the only one who knows this kind of work is as practical as any.

They appreciate it. So much so that they angelically reach out to offer a calming, supportive voice.

Not to play the victim card here. At all.

Like I said, I’m truly blessed to be able to show up here every day and share with you. My wife is incredibly supportive. My three year old is finally okay with letting Dad type a few words of edits on occasion when inspiration strikes. And my audience is incredibly supportive.

That said, these words of support mean more than you may know.

So if you’re the kind of person who does this (even if it’s not to me, but to others like me you happen to enjoy and derive value from), thank you.

Thanks for asking. 
Thanks for loving.
And thanks for keeping me going.


Jonas Ellison is a spiritual counselor and blogging coach who writes shortish preachments in Higher Thoughts on the daily. To jump on his mailing list and get his free email course as a gift of his undying gratitude, do your thing below…

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My New Class: Authentic Audience-Building Through Medium

It’s finally here

Me… Writing.

As you may know, over the last few years (but over the last few months with increased focus), I’ve been working privately with people helping them get their messages out in an authentic fashion to the world (largely using the digital power tool of Medium.com).

This work has been some of the most fulfilling I’ve ever done, to know I’ve had a hand in giving such creative people a solid nudge towards connecting with a tribe of people as weird as they are (I say this in the most loving way imaginable) without having to sell their souls doing it.

My story seems to be a unique one. I’ve done things differently than most.

I created a publication with myself as the sole writer about a topic that isn’t super popular on Medium (spirituality) and I haven’t used hardly any of the clickbait marketing tactics so overwhelmingly present on the web today.

Not many online marketing people I know would advise people to do things the way I’ve done them. However, I can honestly say that it’s all been intentional.

I had no idea if this creative project of mine would turn out to be a fruitful one. All I knew was that I had a burning desire to endlessly perfect my craft as a writer while saying something meaningful along the way. And I wanted to do it in a way that was true to me.

Well, here I am today. I didn’t set out to cast the widest net. My intention was to drill down as deep into my subject matter as I could. My focus has been on relationships, not shares. I measure my success through the words I hear from readers, not page views.

But somehow, I’ve ended up as a Top Medium Writer in several topics and my publication ranks at the top of Medium in those same categories. My work here has evolved a ton, and I along with it. I started as a burned out freelance copywriter. Today, I’m on the path to ministry and am building a body of work my daughter will have forever, hopefully long after I’m gone (if they don’t delete the internet before then).

Sharing my experiences and lessons learned on this journey is a mission of mine. Today, I announce my first online class around this topic: Authentic Audience Building Through Blogging: How To Find A Tribe As Weird As You Are Without Selling Your Soul. (Or something like that.)

Note: The team at Medium has nothing to do with this class or the opinions, lessons, or bad jokes within it. This is all me.

Yes, a key part of this class is Medium. Without this here platform, I’d still be writing for my 30 followers on my Wordpress site. Medium is the present and near future (at least) of blogging. If you know how to use it effectively, it’s like lightning in your fingertips.

But the class is also about boosting creativity and managing the fear of the journey along the way (yes, this is a spiritual journey).

Join me for a free online event

To hear my story, grab a few actionable takeaways, and learn more about the course (which will launch in June), I invite you to join me for a free live webinar on Friday, 4/28 at noon, PST.

Space is limited for the live webinar. Only 100 attendees will be allowed in. However, all registrants will automatically be emailed a recording of the class. I encourage you to mark your calendar, show up 10 minutes early, and claim your spot to take advantage of the live Q&A at the end.

In this webinar, we’ll hang out for 90 minutes or so and you’ll walk away with a ton of free advice that you can immediately put to use that same day.

If you happen to miss the live webinar, not to worry… I’ll email you a recording (however, if you’re live, you’ll be able to take advantage of the live Q&A at the end).

Thank you so much for your love and support. If you’re someone who wants to create a body of work you can be proud of and connect with an audience of peers authentically, I hope you’ll join me on the 28th.

P.S. This class is already half-full (again, only 100 attendees allowed at once). If you want to get notified first for future events such as this, jump on my mailing list. You’ll get first crack at these in the future.

Looking forward to seeing you there.

Why swearing isn’t always profanity

Image: Markus Spiske

Occasionally, I’ll get an email from someone (I’ve been talking about my emails a lot lately, do forgive me) who wishes I’d clean up my rhetoric.

I used to get angry at these people. I mean, they don’t HAVE to read my work. So why do they take the time out of their day to draft me an email? There’s a million more things they could read at any given moment online. Why anyone would consume any piece of content they don’t like is beyond me in today’s content-infested world.

But now I’m seeing that many of them are well-intentioned folks who really like what I have to say and want to share it with a wider audience, but they deem it inappropriate to do so. This frustrates them, so they tell me about it. Which I actually appreciate. Because it means they care. (Or so I think.)

I let these emails go by until they reach a critical mass where I feel the need to address the topic again here for those who haven’t seen me address it before, as my thoughts about swearing evolve over time.

So, what the hell? It’s a nice, slow day (besides the fact that we may have a nuclear holocaust over this Easter weekend), so let’s talk about the literary power tool of cussing.

Note: To read a couple pieces about swearing that I love, check out this one from Mark Manson and this one from Dear Coquette.

Here’s my three and a half cents on swearing, why I do it (sometimes), and why I believe it to not always be the same thing as ‘profanity’.

1. This is a blog

I know… Statement of the obvious, right? Well, I’m not sure if a lot of people realize that a blog post is far different than an article in USA Today or a piece on FOX News.

I’m not a Bill O’Reilly or even a Matt Lauer — thankfully. I don’t have a PR team. I’m not polished by a committee or censored by shareholders.

I’m a blog-writer guy. Blogs are real. They’re written by real people with real thoughts, stories, emotions, and musings.

My blog is me. I am my blog. This is the art form of blogging. We should realize and embrace this so we know what we’re getting into when we read blogs.

2. Swearing and I go way back

I have a deep background in swearing. My dad was an artist at it. He could string together a sentence, 80% of which was composed of swear words, and it would somehow make sense.

I don’t come from a refined, scholarly family. My parents were a couple of farm kids. It’s in my cultural marrow, this swearing thing.

That said, not that I have to (or want to) apologize, but I really don’t cuss much. I’m probably one of the more mild people in my friend group.

As a writer, I strongly believe one should always use the right word, whatever that may be. And in some instances, there’s nothing better or more fitting than a swear word.

‘Shit’ is my favorite word

It just is. Always has been. Nothing brightens up a room like the word ‘shit’. It’s just mild enough to be smooth, but direct enough to have an impact. ‘Shit’ is beautiful.

I write for an adult audience

I really hope no 6-year olds are reading my work. If they are, they shouldn’t be.

If I was talking to a kindergarten classroom, I’d respect that audience. Same as if I were talking to my late grandmother across the dinner table.

But this is the internet. Although I could very well be talking to anyone and everyone — if I wrote like that was the case, I’d be writing myself into obscurity.

So I get to/have to choose who I write for here. And that person is either myself or one of my friends (yes, ‘one of’, who will remain unnamed, but it doesn’t matter, because you don’t know them anyways). We enjoy mild to mid-level profanity.

However, I get that, if used too liberally, there’s a certain point where swearing gets sloppy. Which leads me to my next point…

Swearing is not always ‘profanity’

Let’s unpack this a little, shall we?

Profanity is the quality of being ‘profane’.

‘Profane’ means ‘vulgar’, ‘obscene’, ‘lewd’, and ‘lacking good taste’.

There are certain times when anything BUT a swear word is profane, obscene, and lacking good taste.

If I walked up and slapped your kid in front of you for no reason, it would be inappropriate to say anything but, “Hey, fucker” (or some version of that).

On the other side of that coin, if you told me that you’re having a baby, I’m going to grab you by the shoulders and greet you with an emphatically unapologetic, “Holy shit, that’s fantastic!” (unless your other kid was around, then I’d censor myself).

I think what’s more profane than swearing is fakery. I’d rather be faced with someone who swears authentically rather than sensors himself in a fake, ungenuine, self-stifling way.

I’m not saying you HAVE to swear. I know a small handful of people who’ve seemed to get by without it. But that’s who they are. They’re totally genuine, not putting on a show as a way of manipulating those around them to think that they’re righteous, perfect, God-fearing people.

Profanity to me is a disconnection with Self. Whether that results in swearing or not swearing is merely a byproduct of that misalignment.

I think what’s more profane than an honest, genuine, well-placed swear word is the nonsense spewing out of most mainstream media channels today. Just saying…

But you’re going to be a minister. And you’re a dad. How COULD you?

Don’t worry. I’m not about to get up in front of a congregation and make an ass out of myself. I’m not a total buffoon. Again, there’s the whole ‘understanding your audience’ thing. But after service, at the pub or the coffee shop, all bets are off.

As far as my fatherhood status goes, I’m treading softly around her now until the concrete dries, but Rory will eventually hear me cuss (she already has, but I’m reeeally careful now because she’s a little sponge). Which is fine with me because I want my daughter to know that I’m not an emotionally empty being.

Here’s something I’ve witnessed: Some of the most spiritual people I’ve ever met use swear words (but are hardly ever profane). Some of the best dads do too.

So, here’s to swearing. But profanity can go fuck itself.


Jonas writes short daily stories and preachments on the daily here in Higher Thoughts. Get one to enjoy with your coffee every morning by subscribing below.

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Milestone: Higher Thoughts reaches 50k readers

Image: Ryan Wong

Wow… I woke up to this hot little notification today…

This is a thank you. I’m humbled…

You’ve given me more of a reason to get out of bed every morning: to figure out a new way to elevate your spirit so you can better tackle your day. If it wasn’t for your love, I’d probably just press snooze. Again. And again. And… Well, you get the point.

I’m also thankful to the power of Medium. Because of this digital power tool, it’s been possible with no ‘marketing’ whatsoever. No buying traffic. No clickbait (maybe just a little). No Facebook ads. No interrupting anyone to read my stuff. No pitching to huge blogs. (Sure, that stuff might have helped, but I’m lazy.) Just relentless focus and genuine connection with humans like you who are as weird as I am... Amazing.

Alrighty… Back to your day. Thanks so much for your attention. Thanks so much for your love. And thanks so much for inspiring my work.

As Ever,
Jonas


Jonas writes short daily stories and preachments on the daily here in Higher Thoughts. Get one to enjoy with your coffee every morning by subscribing below.

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Why I’m scared

Image: paul morris

I’m scared because I write.

I’m scared because I’ve chosen a path where I share publicly, every day.

I’m scared because one day it caught on and some people actually started paying attention.

I’m scared because I always thought this would be awesome — not scary.

I’m scared because it is awesome, but the fear has risen in-step with the awesomeness.

I’m scared because it seems people perceive in me a position of authority of sorts.

I’m scared because I’m expected to know answers.

I’m scared because every day I realize more answers I don’t know.

I’m scared that I’ll disappoint you, and you may leave and never come back.

I’m scared because I told the world I was studying to become a minister.

I’m scared because this ingrains my fears above.

I’m scared because now, I’m REALLY supposed to know the answers.

I’m scared because I like to tell stories, but fear my stories will let people down because they aren’t… Answers.

I’m scared because my fears are self-obsessive passing thoughts, but I’ve just told everyone, so now they’re documented facts.

I’m scared because tomorrow I’ll be fine.

I’m scared because tomorrow, maybe I won’t.

I’m scared because I’m becoming a ‘Jesus person’.

I’m scared because ‘Jesus people’ have never settled well with me.

I’m scared because I don’t want to become that kind of Jesus person.

I’m scared, but I know that fear is a couple clicks better than apathy.

I’m scared because I create.

I’m scared and I want you to know that you can be scared too.

And tomorrow, I promise to show up, just as scared as always.


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Jonas writes short daily stories and preachments on the daily here in Higher Thoughts. Get one to enjoy with your coffee every morning by subscribing below.

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How one year of daily blogging changed my life

Holy shit. One year.

A year ago from today, I was creatively dead. Frustrated. Coming off of three years as a freelance copywriter, being the father of an almost two-year-old, and the husband of a wife who was in the throes of starting her own ed consulting business — I was exhausted.

I was taking work as it came in. Hustling, squabbling over rates, and trying to collect on long past-due invoices. I can feel the knots in my stomach to this day.

I had no platform. My personal blog had 30 email subscribers, mostly composed of family and friends. I was burned out. My muchness was gone. I needed to get it back.

[embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=haiF5DOWwRo[/embed]

It was around this time that one of my favorite internet people — Casey Neistat — had started his daily YouTube vlog. On his first episode, he explained how he was tired and busy as ever… Which is why he needed to (wait for it…) create something every day. In his case, a vlog.

I was inspired. Seeing that, combined with years of reading Seth Godin’s prodding to blog daily, I reached a point where something gave way. I had to do it. I had to stop complaining about my lot and start creating.

Every. Single. Day.

The initiation of a daily blogger

At first, it was crickets. But it was cool. Because I had no idea what to write about or who my audience was, I wrote whatever came to my mind that day. I was my audience and I wrote strictly for the process. I tried my best to divorce myself from results. Blogging became my meditation. Being in a quasi-depressed state, I used it as a daily excuse to publicly elevate my lowly thoughts to a more positive, life-affirming place.

I started to get a little traction. Recommends trickled in from strangers. Each one fueled me more and more.

After a month, I decided to write about my month-long daily creative experiment. I hit publish. Went to bed. And woke up to a vibrating phone full of tweets, recommends, and shares. The post went viral (not mega-viral, but viral enough for me).

I was getting tweets and emails from publications like The Daily Dot, The Observer, and Huffington Post.

Just like that, I’d staked my little claim on my tiny corner of the internet.

All those years of writing in notebooks, untitled Google docs, and for thankless clients had actually shown a result. My personal brand had started growing. After years of rot, something had taken hold.

And just like that, I was all-in. The momentum was too much to stop. I was a daily blogger. I decided to take my daily exercise of elevated thought and create a personal Medium publication — The Jonas Chronicles.

To date, it’s grown to almost 17,000 readers with posts having been translated in 4 languages. I’m the sole writer and editor. I did this on purpose because I wanted it to be a collection of me. A digital footprint of my evolution as a human and creative over the course of time. By doing so, I started a body of work. My body of work.

But the road over a year wasn’t all rainbows and unicorn dumplings. It damn near killed me.

The challenges of daily blogging

When I started out, little did I realize the storms ahead. Daily blogging is no sweat when you have a plethora of ideas and time to translate them into writing. At first, this was the case. I was a fertile wellspring of ideas and could articulate them with ease. I was high on daily blogging. The inertia carried me for a while. But soon, the idea of me continuing this daily activity started looking grim.

A few months into my endeavor, we took a three-month trip to Europe. My wife had gotten a research grant from the Swiss government to look into their higher education and vocational schooling model (yeah, I married the smart one). We went to New York and Philadelphia for a week to visit family before heading to a town in France just across the Swiss border. Alex drove into Basel, Switzerland most days to do her research while I hung out with the kiddo. Then, she’d come home around dinner, we’d eat, and she’d hop on Skype to meet with her US clients.

It was a cramped schedule with a lot of traveling — all with a toddler in tow.

But, on planes, trains, and in the passenger seat cruising down the autobahn, I wrote. During the windows of time that my wife and kid slept, I made it my priority to get a post out to the world. I had to get it in during the nooks and crannies. Sometimes it was easy. Often times, it wasn’t.

I remember one particular time when we went for a weekend trip with some friends to their chalet high up in the Swiss alps. It was a beautiful weekend. After a relatively rough beginning to our stay abroad (we discovered the hard way that running a new business from a different country was damn near impossible — plus, it’s real, the French generally love being assholes to Americans), it was nice to be hosted by English-speaking locals for a change.

But the problem was, there was no WiFi where we were in the Alps (silly Swiss). I didn’t even have 4G.

I wasn’t going to let this end my run. I’d gone this far, I couldn’t stop.

I woke up after our first night’s stay at sunrise before everyone else (as usual) just to be able to honestly tell my readers, once we’d returned to civilization, that I’d not missed a day — that I’d earnestly written this post, but could not share it with them. I wrote the post on my iPhone ‘note’ app. And somehow, just like that, my phone was graced by the Swiss gods above with two bars of cell reception. Just like that, a beam of telecommunication had shot over the alps and showered my cell phone in its glory. I was able to keep my obligation, stay true to my mission, and post.

Besides this, even after returning back to the US, there were the sick days, the holidays, and the days I was creatively blocked that I had to battle through. I tried to post out of sight of my family so I could fulfill my one main job as a husband/father — to be present in their presence. But some days — actually, a lot of days, looking back — I couldn’t. I had to flip open the laptop during family time and post.

But, something kept me going.

This was the most important work I’d ever done in all my life.

I was opening a vein and connecting with a real audience — something I’d wanted to do ever since I first knew it was possible. Ever since I read that first post from Seth Godin all those years before. I was establishing a true connection — albeit a digital one — with more and more people every day.

The spoils of daily blogging (and why you should do it)

So here I am. One year of daily blogging. Before I go, I want to highlight the most important takeaways from this last year. These are ways that I’ve grown in direct relation to this endeavor. Things I’ve gained that will never be taken away.

I found my life
Blogging every day forces you to notice the details of your life. You need fodder for the day’s post. And you’ll scour your world to get it. You become hyper-aware. You find ways to turn little subtleties into big ideas. You start writing with questions only to be faced with answers by the time you reach the end of the post. Your headspace literally becomes transformed.

My muchness has come back 
The act of making something every day — even something as small as a blog post — is huge for your idea muscle. You will transform. There really is no choice.

I found my voice.
I won’t lie. I pulled a lot from others. Especially at first. I had to find seeds of ideas in the work of other people in order for me to expand on, especially when I was running short for ideas (I credited them all, don’t worry). I played around with writing in their style. I colored my pieces with the intonation, punctuation, and wordplay I observed in the greats.

But soon enough, my voice emerged. Writing became almost effortless. My voice started flowing easier through my fingertips than through my mouth. The keyboard became an extension of my soul. Once I had the slightest idea, I found myself taking off and running with it. I could articulate with ease. It was like a dam breaking.

I found my people
Sure, there’s always the trolls (although not many at all), but I started getting emails from people from all over the world telling how my words were changing their lives. One woman told me how my posts inspired her to reconnect with her daughter. A guy emailed me saying how my posts were helping him tremendously with his PTSD.

I was blown away. Still am when I think of it.

There are the countless people who’ve digitally high-fived me, saying how my musings were motivating them to do better work that mattered. I was helping makers get past creative blocks and pulling people out of the writing closet while inspiring them to show their work to the world. These emails and notes provide a thrill that will never cease to put the wind back in my sails.

I found the power of packaging and shipping ideas
My adventures showed me the value of taking the fuzzy etherealness of my thoughts and forming concrete, digital words and passages from them that would then be transmitted to people all over the world in the click of a button. This concept blows me away. For free (FREE!), I’m able to digitally package my thoughts and send them into the homes of countless people for the chance to possibly change their world (or at least give them something to laugh at). Mind-blowing.

I found how incredible Medium is
Before this, I had a self-hosted Wordpress blog. I don’t want to knock it too hard, it was a great start, and I connected with some great people through it. But from what I’ve found…

If you don’t already have a large audience, a self-hosted blog pales in comparison to the power of Medium.

With Medium, I could write my nonsense randomness on my personal profile if I wanted. I could create publications as collections of ideas, anecdotes, and stories when I felt inspired to do so. I could find and contribute to others who’ve started publications while opening myself up to whole new audiences.

And they’re not slowing down. Medium is in a place of tremendous growth and cooking up ways to support publishers and create a community of readers and writers.

Why you should try it

I urge you to try this. Mind you, they don’t have to be big long posts. Most of mine were 200–300 words. Some are even a few sentences. Just something, every day, in public, from you. Not every post will be great. A lot will suck. You will want to quit. But when you do it, something in you changes.

If you grow an audience, awesome. But even if you don’t, you’ll have built an incredible body of work. A digital trail that chronicles your evolution as a human. You’ll have built a personal brand — a sharp investment in time, but something required in this day and age.

Many of us have daily regimens or habits. Some of us meditate or run or read, etc. I highly recommend taking up blogging. You’ll find that, by sharing your truth with others on a daily basis, not only will you be contributing to them, you’ll start to know yourself at a level deeper than you’ve ever experienced.

And then you’ll be sitting there, thinking… Damn. Should I do it again?

Blogging as a literary genre

Image: Hannah Wei

Being a blogger, I’m a walking self-conscious mess. I consider myself a writer. It’s something I love and something I do every day. But then there’s that little, slippery, evil voice on my left shoulder that tells me I’m not rrreeeallly a writer. I mean, c’mon, right? I’m a blogger.

Was Hemingway a blogger? Toole? Wolfe? No.

Now, there are writers who HAVE blogs. But really, they’re writers, in the literary sense. Not bloggers. Right?

(Do you ever have this internal dialogue?)

What if, in a hundred years, we’ll see blogging as its own literary genre?

The kind of blogging I’m talking about here are the transmissions that show the micro movement of one’s life. Our thoughts. Transitions. Growth. Opinions. Fears. Workflow.

Maybe we’d see that we should have better respected this thing called blogging. Maybe now’s the time to flick that angry little man off of our left shoulder and tell him to pack sand?

Maybe Dickens, if he had the technology available to him — woulda been a blogger. He’d be better able to serialize his stories than he did, for sure.

It seems to me that blogging is often seen as a means to an end. We blog to get a book deal. We blog to grow an audience. We blog to sell a product. We blog to do this or that…

But what if we just blogged to… blog?


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Blogging as weight-training

This is not a photo of me:) Image: Cristian Baron

I suggest not letting your blog become the main place you do the ‘work’. If it’s too late — if you’ve already started a blog with hopes of ‘monetizing’ it, if you have time, I suggest starting a different, personal blog away from it that you can use as a sort of sandbox to play in.

Have a place to play. A place to condition.

How many times, in an athletic endeavor, do you do the exercises from conditioning — say, squats — on the playing field? Never, right? You do them away from the field to improve your strength in general (which will, in turn, lead to better results on the field).

When we’re doing our actual work that pays the bills — it’s game time. We need to perform. But if this is all we do, we get stale. We get soft and weak. We become like the athlete that doesn’t weight train.

Make your blog your training ground for your creativity. Not the arena.

Create a place to play around. To experiment. Try the stuff that you think won’t work. Be free. Don’t worry about numbers, etc. Just try different ways you can connect with yourself and thusly your audience. Be free here. Want to write a poem? Write a damn poem. Want to write a fictional satire piece? Now you can. Want to write a listicle? Go for it.

This is your place to play. A place to drop the weights on the floor and put on those Slayer beats.


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Walking in the dark

Image: clotaire lehoux

I’m a little over a week from Higher Thoughts’ 1-year anniversary (on April 30th!!). So, I’ve been reflecting heavily on what this thing — this little experiment of daily blogging (which has turned into a healthy obsession and way of life) — has done for me.

There’s so many things, but the one that’s top of mind right now is this…

Creating something every day has taught me to get used to walking in the dark.

Every day, I’ve stared at the beautiful blank Medium editor wondering what the hell I’m going to write. Every single time, I’ve had to address that dreadful feeling of being empty of ideas, stories, and opinions. I’ve had to swat away that pesky fly that is the notion that everyone is going to hate it / ignore it / ridicule it / call the fraud police on me because of it / etc. But just like walking in the dark, soon enough, after stubbing my toe or cracking my head on a cabinet a time or two, my eyes adjust and it becomes more clear. Then, I’m good. I can make a whole meal, pick out my clothes (although those damn socks are never the same color), and plug in a phone charger. And every day, I’ve somehow managed to find that damn light switch.

What’s really cool is, after making it a daily habit and practice, those ocular night vision muscles (I think that’s the technical term for them) strengthen. So even though I always start out in the darkness, my eyes are adjusting more quickly. And those stubs and bumps are becoming fewer and farther between.

The darkness never goes away, but it definitely becomes a lot less ominous. (More on this coming up at the end of this month.)


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Hug your haters (but sometimes, you gotta handle your hecklers)

Image: Daniel Ebersole

When you put your work out there in public, you will run into haters. It’s just the way it goes. As elizabeth tobey so eloquently pointed out in this post, the internet is a breeding ground for sociopathic behavior.

Combine a virtual world where you are divorced from human interactions (voice, facial expressions, body language, the psychological effect of a crowd who is watching and listening to you) and have nearly total anonymity, and you’ll find yourself in a world that is a breeding ground of sociopathic behavior.
-Elizabeth Tobey

That said, most of the time, haters deserve nothing more than to be ignored. They’re pigs just waiting for you to get in the mud with them in your nice, clean clothes. If it’s a one-time hit from a clearly apparent obnoxious troll, block them (or not) and move on with your life. Your time is too valuable.

But then there are times when haters should be hugged (like Jay Baer wrote about in his book — which I can’t totally endorse because I haven’t read it yet, but his track record is such that I’m sure it’s awesome). Occasionally, haters have a good point. If they give you a well-thought out and articulated scathing that makes you see an opening that you want to close, it behooves you to address it, thank the hater, and use their thoughts to improve.

But then there’s the heckler.

The heckler is the super troll that shits in the pool and ruins the experience for everyone.

S/He is usually a repeat-offender. They write long, personal, anger-fueled, non-productive diatribes with the sole purpose of tearing you down. They pay no regard to the destruction they cause.

These lower life-forms deserve a public flogging. I’m no expert in this area, so I’ll take this chance to hand it over to the experts. To further study how to do this, look no further than the world of stand up comedy. Here’s a few to study right off the bat.

[embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wU7gKwfRaqs[/embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=quoO6dgDzRU[embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nK-ycyJCIhs[/embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pKZn7ZK_qVo

I hope you never have to take things this far. It’s ugly. And engaging a heckler at this level takes quite a commitment of mental fortitude, wit, and time. If you have to hop in the mud with one of these pigs, you must finish the job. You can’t just wrestle around with them a bit and hope they stop. You have to hit them with everything you’ve got.

I’m not sure if this is my style. So far, I’ve done fine not negotiating with terrorists. I’ve never been a big conflict guy. I’d rather block ’em and forget ’em.

But there you have it. A few different classifications of haters. Ignore ’em, hug ’em, or handle ’em. Pretty simple.


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I can’t listen to you anymore

Image: Sebastian Pichler

Hey, you. Yeah, you. The one who left me a response that one time. Yes, the one that was kinda trollish, and your name seemed a bit made-up, but who knows, maybe you’re a real person who thought you were helping me.

Either way, doesn’t matter...

You threw out some serious criticism. It wasn’t even that bad. The really bad ones are easy to ignore. But yours, it was subtle. I forget exactly what you said, but the essence of your note was that you like some posts but really can’t stand some of the other ones. Then you went into detail about the ones you hate. It threw me a curve because I really enjoy those ‘other ones’. But now, when I sit down, all I can think of is that one… damn… response.

Yours. I’m obsessing about it. All the other responses — words of support, love, hilarity, curiosity, and gratitude — those are long gone from my mind right now. Why can’t I think of THOSE?

It’s stupid, I know. I should just put you out of my mind and move on. Well, it’s proving extremely difficult to do.

Here’s the deal, dear responder… I’m breaking up with you. When I sit down to write, I have to shut you off. I can’t listen to you anymore. I’ve got to feel that hesitancy well up — the feeling that clamps down on my hand as I type and tries to censor me — and I gotta write in the face of it. I know I might lose you as a reader. And this kills — seriously, I’ve worked so hard for your attention…

But I gotta let you go, responder. I gotta be free.


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On going in the right direction

Image: Josefa Holland-Merten

The latest exchange from my irregular, random, experimental, wacksydaisical Q&A (which you can submit your random questions to here).

I want to start blogging but I can’t seem to come up with any sort of overall theme or direction — how do I do that? Or can I just stumble along and write whatever until I figure it out? Should I call my blog whatever?
-Michelle

Hey, Michelle!

So, you want to start blogging, huh? Well, I think that’s groovy.

The advice I’m going to give you pretty much flies in the face of the ‘branding experts’ out there. So brace yourself.

NOW, there’s a million different ways you can go with this. But, you asked for MY opinion, so here goes nothing…

I think you should make your blog YOU. Have an opinion before you start — at least an inkling of one. If you don’t have a definite opinion, at least have a question.

Write what you’d want to read from you if you were a reader. (I know, it’s meta, but hang in here.) Would you want to read crap? Probably not. Would you want to read yourself describe your lunch? Probably not. But if you wrote it in an interesting, insightful, entertaining way — maybe so. Would you want to read yourself drone on abstractly about stuff that makes no sense? You get my point…

I think you should just start. As long as you can see the road directly in front of you, you’re good — that’s all you need to make it to wherever it is you’re going. However, if there’s mud all over the windshield, you’ll want to clean it off before your foot hits the gas. Get a little clarity. Enough to get started, at least.

Also, Michelle, know that you’re going to write a lot of shitty posts before your good ones start showing up (and even then, you’ll still write shitty posts on occasion). There’s absolutely no way around this that I know of. So you might as well start now (if you haven’t already).

Fuck the branding experts. Fuck coming up with the perfect name for your blog or the perfect headline or the perfect anything else. Give us YOU, Michelle. That’s what we want to see on your blog. Even if you’re writing for a particular ‘niche’ (sorry, that word is like fingernails to a chalkboard to me). Even if you’re writing fiction. Put yourself in everything you do.

The rest is up to the gods.

Godspeed,
Jonas

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