Q&A With Chris Brogan on Blogging Content and Inspiration


If you were to ask a new blogger what the hardest part of being a blogger is, more often than not the answer would be, coming up with post ideas and topics that are not only interesting to them, but that also appeal to their audience.

[SKIP TO THE Q&A]

The next answer would likely be building that vibrant, participatory community. It’s been my experience that if you can take care of the former, the latter will likely take care of itself.

Today I’m going to be focusing on the content part of that equation. Focusing on how to turn your passion into tangible results that people will find interesting and helpful. We’ll focus on the community aspect of blog building in a follow-up post coming soon.

Trying to maintain a blog on any sort of schedule, whether it be daily or weekly blog posts, you’ve more than likely found yourself in the position of over-thinking instead of just getting down to it. The initial act of getting out of your head and putting pen to paper, or fingers to keyboards, is perhaps one of the biggest hurdles that new bloggers face.

What’s holding you back?

In order to find out how you can tap into your full potential it’s important to identify just what is holding you back. This is by no means an all-encompassing list but it does address to major issues that many bloggers face:

  1. Lack of self-confidence. Second guessing yourself, worrying that you’re not “good enough” or that someone out there has more experience on a subject than you do then allowing yourself to just shutdown. One of the hardest things to convince yourself of, or more precisely, embrace about yourself is that you are a fucking superstar. There is no one on the planet that is you and everything you write comes from your perspective, not anyone else’s. All the things that make you unique in life, are the same things that make you unique as a writer. Your perspective is a mental snowflake, it’s one of a kind and your voice, your perspective needs to be heard.
  2. Fear of failure. This often goes hand in hand with the issues of self-confidence. Far too often writers have already managed to convince, before they write one word, that their going to be criticized, panned or even ridiculed. When you allow yourself to take the time to write you are, in essence, exposing yourself to the world. Without a doubt one undeniable fact is that, no matter if you’re the greatest writer that ever lived, not everyone is going to like it. I cannot overestimate the value of writer to have the ability to not take any criticism personally. It’s not always easy, in fact it may be the hardest part of being a writer. You have to train yourself to dissect negative comments and try to find any morsels that ring true to you and whether or not you can use them in a constructive way. Alternatively you also need to know when to just disregard blatantly rude comments that lack any substance, they are not worthy of your time. Once you’ve done that it’s important to put them out of your mind and move forward.

Connecting the Dots

I’ve been following Chris’s blog for a few years now and, more recently, his Twitter account. It never ceases to amaze me the sheer amount of content he’s able to produce. Granted it’s his full-time job but he didn’t get there by not being able to generate some kick-ass content.

Obviously I’m not the only one who wondered where Chris gets his ideas from, I’m quite sure he gets that question a lot, in fact, a few years ago he wrote a killer blog post responding to that very question. In 100 Blog Topics I Hope You Write Chris says, “People often ask me how I come up with things to blog about, and I find the question strange, because my problem is the opposite. I have too much to blog about.explaining that he has the opposite problem, Why? Because there’s a whole fast revolution rolling through, and right now – today – is our time to make it all work for us.”

It becomes apparent as you’re reading Chris’ 100 topics list, that he has an amazing ability to connect seemingly unrelated topics and bring them back full-circle so they actually feel right, even consistent which is no small feat considering how eclectic the list is.

Blog Topics For You

Chris has a weekly newsletter containing writing tips and blog topic suggestions to help people find that spark, that one crack in the dam that has the potential to open up at any minute and flood your mind with ideas and thoughts you may have not considered before. If you’ve ever been part of a local writing group you’ll find Chris’ newsletter familiar as it has a very similar vibe to it. It’s like an online workshop wrapped in a newsletter and filled with great content.

Join a very active weekly writing group of over 400 people, who receive 10 or more blog topics every monday morning (eastern time), plus writing advice from a New York Times bestselling author and Advertising Age Power150 Top 5 blogger. // The topics are good for business blogs, personal blogs, and for writing projects out side of blogging, as well. There’s even an English class taking the topics as writing homework, we’ve been told. // From Chris Brogan, co-author of Trust Agents, and publisher of chrisbrogan.com , Blog Topics is guaranteed to get your mind wrapped around a lot of great ideas to improve your blog, grow your audience, and help you find success as a writer. // One last thing: we frequently share your posts with the over 200,000 unique monthly readers of chrisbrogan.com . // For $9.97 a month, you get over 40 topics and tons of writing advice. Join us. We’re eager to help you grow your blog.

I’ve been blogging for over ten years now and still find myself staring at my computer screen with a million and one thoughts racing through my head but often finding myself fighting the two issues we discussed above. For purely selfish reasons I decided to reach out to Chris and pick his brain a bit. Below is the short Q&A that took place between me and him. These questions aren’t just about blog topics, they’re more about getting the feel of what it generally takes to be successul, not just as a writer or blogger, but as a valued and helpful member of the community.

Q&A with Chris Brogan

Me: I’ve read a number of posts by you discussing the issue of bloggers running into the problem of “not having anything to write about”. You’ve said you have the opposite problem that you have too much to write about and have even posted blog entries with hundreds of suggested topics. I’d like to drill down on that issue a bit. I think a lot of writers have less of an issue of coming up with subjects to write about and more of an issue deciding whether or not that topic is worth writing about, which in itself can make a writer feel they have nothing to write about. So, my question is, how do YOU decide what is “worth” writing about. I often find myself censoring topics for fear that nobody is going to give a crap about it or the subject is going to seem completely inane to my readers. Is that a filter a blogger needs to learn how to turn off in order to stop worrying about the reader and start worrying about their motivation?

Chris: Oh, I guess I don’t have that built in fear that no one will give a crap. I ask this simple question: “is it useful?” If I can answer that it will be useful to others, then I write it.

Me: Niche blogging seems to be popular now, partly due to the fact that there are so many bigger, well-funded corporate blogs out there that have the money and manpower to cover virtually any topic imaginable. Do you think there is still room in the blogosphere for broad concept individual blogs to thrive? If so, what advice would you give those bloggers.

Chris: Niche bloggers are more business-focused, it seems in my estimation, or they’re short sighted. Depends on how successful they are which one I’d label them. I think there’s not as much room for another Dooce. I think there’s not enough room for another Boing Boing. I loathe the idea of there being another TechCrunch or Mashable. I think general is tough. I think that, instead, it’s not about the niche. It’s about finding “buyers” for each story. Who is your audience, and why should they read you?

Me: You have a weekly newsletter that you send out (which I subscribe to) that has the feel of a virtual writing group. You share blog topics, writing tips and even member’s posts from time to time. What do you hope to see people get out of your newsletter and where do you get your inspiration from to share these topics on a weekly basis?

Chris: I hope that people get inspiration, that they get fuel, that they feel really empowered by what they’re doing. I hope that they feel the great excitement about sharing things with the group. As for my inspiration? I get some of it from hearing what others are struggling with. I get some of it from little pads of ideas that I fill out while I’m doing other things. I get some of it from reading incessantly all the time.

Me: You’re a big fan of affiliate marketing and often claim that’s what pays your mortgage. What’s the best advice you can give to someone who would like to seamlessly integrate affiliate marketing into their blog without seeming like they’re just trying to spam their readers? Also, what sites/affiliate programs do you recommend people take a look at to get started?

Chris: Affiliate marketing is all about finding products and services that your community needs. First, if all you have is an audience and not a community, you won’t make a lot of money. Once you get that great blend of a community that you understand and products or services that might benefit them, then you’ve got the formula. I do rather well by affiliate marketing, and no one who’s part of my core community ever complains about that.

Me: Getting noticed. This is a big one. There are a lot of people out there who write great content, have some great insight and they publish their blog post, send it to Twitter and Facebook etc. and sit back and wait for the magic to happen. Unfortunately, there’s a lot of noise out there and it’s not always easy to get noticed. What’s the best way to “pound the pavement” so to speak and get your content out there. How do you become your own cheerleader without sounding like, well, you’re own cheerleader. There’s a fine line between confidence and arrogance and spamming. If you were talking to a young writer/blogger now what would be the one piece of advice you would give them on how best to promote themselves and stay confident?

Chris: To promote one’s self, become part of the community. Marjorie Clayman comments everywhere that I seem to visit. I noticed her for that. I subscribed to her blog because I saw her everywhere that I spend time. Write guest posts. Be helpful. Be where the people are with HELPFUL INFORMATION. That’s the real guts of it. That’s how I did it. I was everywhere, and I was helpful.

What are your tips and tricks to make sure you don’t have any great ideas slip through the cracks.  Also, if you’re a blogger feel free to share your link in the comments, it would be nice to share and show off some of your killer content.

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