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From Good to Great: 5 Ways to Turn Passion into Better Blogging


If there’s one thing that sets the big blogs apart, it’s passion. With that in mind, here are five ways to turn your passion into better blogging!

1. Be Willing to Learn New Things

Take that enthusiasm you have for your industry and use it to grow your ability to communicate about it. Blogging is a unique medium, different from magazine advertising, direct mail marketing, or email newsletters—so invest the time to learn how it works and to continually improve your skills. Here are a few areas to explore:

  • HTML/CSS: In today’s world of user-friendly blog software and templates, you don’t need to know HTML or CSS coding to start a site—but learning a few basics won’t hurt. In fact, with a little extra coding knowledge under your belt, you’ll be better equipped to tweak your design as you like. For a good start, see this helpful article at Google.
  • Design: Content may be king, but design definitely matters. Keep track of blog designs you like and continually look for ways to raise the bar on how your site looks to visitors.
  • SEO: Search engine optimization is crucial for increasing traffic because it helps bring users to your site when they’re already searching for related information. For more information on this topic, take a look at “Why SEO Matters No Matter How Brilliant Your Content Is.”
  • Photography: The Internet is a visual place, so improving your pictures goes a long way towards improving your site. At the Straight North Blog, we’ve used royalty-free images from Fotolia; at my personal blog Food Loves Writing, I’m always looking for ways to take better pictures and even to hand-illustrate when appropriate.

2. Let Your Excitement Show—on Social Media

When someone is passionate about what he or she is saying, it’s not hard to tell—and that’s just as true online as it is at cocktail parties. Whether on Twitter or Facebook or another site, let your genuine enthusiasm show by sharing and posting online the things that catch your attention.

  • Relevant Links: Find a blog or website that inspires and motivates you? Share it with your followers and tell them why you like it. Not only does this make your feed more valuable, but it also builds community with the authors and creators whose works you’re promoting. Food bloggers do this all the time when they share recipes and links from other sites, like Sarah Kieffer from the Vanilla Bean Blog does here on Facebook:

vanilla bean blog

  • Interesting Articles: When you come across a study or article that relates to your industry, tell your fans about it—they might feel the same way, like Helene from French Foodie Baby does here:

french foodie baby

  • Your Own Work: Promoting your own content on social networks is acceptable, as long as that’s not all you promote. With discretion, let your followers know about your recent work—blog posts, press releases, news updates—and where they can find it.

the house that lars built

3. Find Other People as Passionate as You Are

One of the greatest benefits of sharing your passion online is finding a network of people who also love what you love. Whether you’re a food blogger obsessed with baking, a business blogger fascinated by corporate case studies, or a graphic designer ever on the hunt for slick logos, you can bet there are other bloggers who feel the same way. By forming relationships with like-minded people, you create a strong community that greatly enhances your online experience. Reach out on social media or via email.

Some of the benefits of blog community include:

  • Genuine friendships
  • Loyal audience
  • Promotion of each other’s work
  • Creative inspiration
  • Opportunities to learn
  • Greater visibility
  • Enjoyment

4. Reach High for Specific Goals

Passion is great, but passion with a purpose is even greater. Rather than just striving to blog better, set specific goals—this helps guide your efforts and ensures you’re moving towards a better blog.

Three tips for setting blog goals:

  1. Be Specific: Don’t say, “I want to blog better.” Say, “I want 2,000 new RSS subscribers by the end of three months.”
  2. Make Goals Measurable: If your goal is more subscribers, find a way to calculate that number. If your goal is a lower bounce rate, set up Google Analytics. Make your goals measurable so you know if you’re hitting them.
  3. Set Time Limits: Be sure to set time limits on your goals. Rather than aiming to blog twice a week, aim to blog twice a week for a year—this helps to keep you motivated.

5. Branch Out

Who says you have to stop at blogging? Why not branch out beyond traditional posts into the world of videos or podcasts? Sometimes a new vehicle is all you need to improve your work. Here are a few ideas for spreading your passion even farther:

  • Videos: Visual, engaging, and filled with potential for adding your personality to your site, videos are typically crowd pleasers. Try answering reader questions, sharing behind-the-scenes information, running interviews over video, or giving helpful how-tos, like Meghan from Eat Live Make does here:

photography 101

  • Podcasts: Built off the idea of radio broadcasts, podcasts let you communicate with your audience orally, opening up all kinds of possibilities, from interviews to roundtable discussions to music and more. One new way to do this is through a Google+ Hangout, which is what Alex and Sonja from A Couple Cooks did on March 9.
  • Guest Posting: Spread your voice online by guest-posting on other websites, like authors do on this site regularly. This builds community with other blog authors and gets your brand out to a larger audience.
  • E-books: By making an e-book, you have a packaged product to sell or give away. This option is great for how-to guides, topical booklets, compilations, etc.  You may create the book in a Word processor, save it as a PDF, and market that PDF directly through your site; or you could go through a service like Amazon Kindle Direct, like we did with our ebook.

written together

Your Thoughts

Whether you’ve been blogging a day or a decade, what have you seen to be keys to blogging passion? How does it show? How can you nurture it? Is passion driving what you do?

Make Better Videos, Part 3: Remember The Passionate Beginning


Ask any working filmmaker a simple question: “what movie would you make if you could, right now?” After a second or two, you will most likely hear an accurate and intricate description of the movie that plays in his or her mind. A glimmering glow slowly erupting from the depths of forgotten passion, showering you with excitement and energy, capturing a glimpse of the original desire to make movies. Somewhere along the way, filmmakers inevitably forget about their specific origin of filmmaking passion. They get caught up in the professional pursuits of their career and over time lose their excitement. Regardless, as long as filmmakers desire to learn, grow and make better videos, they must continually remember the passionate beginning of their movie-making career.

Taking Your Pulse: Where Are You At Today?
Filmmaking is demanding, time-consuming and expensive. Creatively speaking, it’s hard to keep the juices flowing day after day, year after year. The little experiments that once brought tremendous joy, gave way to minimized risk, lessened satisfaction, and a deep-seated desire to escape the burdens of professional filmmaking. This is a critical part of the unfortunate, yet necessary, journey of the artist (yes, filmmakers are artists). If you can make it through the severe times of drought and doubt, you will become a stronger and more devoted filmmaker.

So, where are you at on your journey? For myself, I have been making videos for about ten years and I am coming to a point where I need to empty myself of all that I have learned, so that I can reconnect with why I initially wanted to make videos: To tell stories that matter.

Over the years, I have grown in my technical abilities, but I daily struggle with maintaining my passion and excitement. The stories became less about subjects that mattered and more about making sure that bills were paid and obligations maintained. Not the greatest ingredients for filmmaking success. So, how do you rediscover your initial enthusiasm for filmmaking?

How Far Away Are You From When You Began?
The first step in connecting with your passionate beginning—–why you make videos—–is identifying where you are at. This will help you to identify and strip away all of the baggage that has piled upon your foundations of passion and desire, things like:

  • Comparing ourselves to other filmmakers.
  • Lusting after the latest and greatest equipment.
  • Arguing about editing software changes.
  • Wishing that we were better at our craft.

As you purge these distractions and de-motivators from your creative process, you will actually see that you are closer to your passion than you realize.

Recapturing The Creativity And Passion Of The Early Years
The next step in recapturing the passionate beginnings of your filmmaking career is to make the film you want to make. Here are a few things that you can do:

  • Make a one to five minute short film about whatever you want regardless of budget, equipment and talent. Break out your cell phone, your home video camera or your professional gear and experiment with new styles that you normally wouldn’t think to utilize. If you are a fan of structure, play with cinema verite or non-linear storytelling. If you don’t like structure, try to be as structured and specific as possible. Essentially do the exact opposite of what you would normally do.
  • Return to the “lab” and experiment with the tricks of the trade. Rent a super wide-angle lens, go handheld, try a dolly-zoom horror/suspense effect, play with focus and composition. There are unlimited tools at your disposal, have fun.
  • Feed your creative soul by reading, watching movies and connecting with others. Need some suggestions? Read Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud or Story by Robert McKee. Watch something funny like Monty Python and The Meaning of Life, a classic like Citizen Kane, something you normally wouldn’t watch like The English Patient or your favorite movie, mine is Time Bandits by Terry Gilliam. If all else fails, call up a friend and have coffee and listen to them talk about their job in cubicle world, that alone might just trigger an amazing surge of creativity and desire to make better films.

By letting the naïve filmmaker within emerge and run free, you might just make better videos that surprise even the internal critic. But in order to do that, you must never forget the passionate beginning to your movie-making career.

5 Golden Rules: Passion


This post is part of 12 Days of Blogging 2010: 5 Golden Rules. Make sure you check out the rest of the series for more awesome advice from bloggers around the world!

You don’t have to have passion to post something well-written. A trained, talented writer can cover nearly any topic. But blogging isn’t about “covering topics.” It’s fairly easy to pick out the bloggers who have passion about what they’re writing and the bloggers who are running their site because they want to make money with it. Passion is essential. After all, most of us start blogging because we want to get away from doing a job we hate. There are a lot of easier ways to make money if you don’t care about loving your job!

But I’m rambling…let’s look at what some much-smarter-than-me bloggers have to say about the topic of passion.

1. How to Get paid for What you Love by Chris Guillebeau at The Art of Non-Conformity

Chris is the poster child for doing something unconventional with your life (he even has a book about it), but in this post he gets pretty real about the chances you actually have to succeed doing something you love. Not everything can become a business. If that was true, I would be making money laying on the beach with a glass of wine and a book. Writes Chris:

Whoever your prospects, customers, or clients are, they have to identify with what you do and believe it can be possible for them as well. That’s why you work to find the magic convergence between your passions and what customers will pay for. (I go on and on about this in my business work—if you have the Empire Building Kit, I’m sorry for repeating myself. But, I repeat myself: you have to meet a clear need or solve a real problem for the people who pay you. This is critical!)

In fact, the more you can focus on other people’s needs and understand how they overlap with a skill you enjoy sharing, that’s where the real follow-your-passion model gains potential.

Check out The Art of Non-Conformity for more and follow Chris on Twitter @chrisguillebeau.

2. Take This Job and Shove It by Tyler Tervooren at Advanced Riskology

Who among us hasn’t wanted to say that to a boss at some point or another. This post by Tyler Tervooren isn’t actually a post in the traditional sense, but rather his announcement of a completely free ebook you can download from his site. Called Take This Job & Shove it: A Riskologist’s Guide to F*** You Funds. From the post:

This 10,500 word guide is completely free (actually, it pays you $100 to read it) and I wrote it for anyone who’s sick of their job and ready to quit and do something more meaningful but needs help making the transition without freaking out about money.

You don’t even have to give your email address to snag a copy, so there’s no reason not to head over and pick up this guide! While you’re there, check out the rest of Advanced Riskology and find Tyler on Twitter @tylertervooren.

3. Are You Thankful for Your Passions? by Dave Murray at The Way of the Murr

I met Dave rather randomly at BlogWorld 2010 – and I’m so glad I did! Not only did I have an amazing burger (seriously, it was totally yum), but we had a great conversation over dinner, and I’ve enjoyed reading his blog since then. He wrote this post in response to the idea of making a choice to pursue your passion. Not everyone has that opportunity. From the post:

Take a moment and take stock of all the amazing projects you have been part of. Write them down. Look at them. You’ve probably have done a lot more than you think. This is your passion lifeline. It shows you how your passion (or lack thereof) has dictated the path you’ve chosen.

We are all passionate about something, and these are the days of opportunities. Take your passion and make it a reality, because there has never been a better time for it to happen.

Check out The Way of the Murr for more on life and social media and follow Dave on Twitter at @DaveMurr.

4. What’s Better: Passion or Experience? by Collin Vine at The Trailblazing Life

In my opinion, passion and experience are both important if you want to be successful on any career path – but you can gain experience over time. Passion is something that you can’t learn; it comes from within you. In this post, Collin Vine talks about the two. Writes Collin:

If you want to be an entrepreneur and don’t have any experience, it doesn’t matter. Find your passion. Apply yourself. Say Fuck it. Reach out to others. Look for opportunities. Passion beats experience.

Do you agree with Collin? Head to The Trailblazing Life to read more and follow Collin on Twitter @collinvine.

5. Start with Dessert by Matthew Kimberly at How To Get A Grip

I have a confession to make. When I was compiling links for this series, I had another post I wanted to put in this spot. As I was actually writing it, though, I went back and read that first post (from a different blogger) and thought, “You know what? I don’t really know if that’s advice I want to pass on.” I’m all for debate and varying opinions, but it just didn’t sit well with me.

So left without a fifth post, I decided I was going to explore the list of blogs I have bookmarked to “check out when I have time.” You know, the list that gets ten links added to it for every one I actually check out. And I clicked on “How To Get A Grip” – a blog I first discovered because its owner, Matthew Kimberly, did an interview with BlogcastFM.

I think I’m in love. It’s puppy love, of course, just like you’ll always find at the beginning of a new relationship, but love nonetheless. And he recently posted something that I thought would be perfect to share with you all about passion. This post isn’t about going on some grand question to find your true calling in life or quitting your job to start your own business – at least, it isn’t on the surface, though you could say that those are some of the underlying messages. But really, it’s about the little things. The things that make your day happy. DO THEM. From the post:

This isn’t about hedonism, or dietary irresponsibility. Eat your greens, but if it’s a day when you’re going to have pecan pie anyway, eat it first. If you choke on your spinach, at least you’ll do it with a sugar rush and contented dessert-eating grin on your face.

You have a responsibility TO YOURSELF to make sure that your day includes a decent quota of chocolate muffins, dirty sex, brandy, rock-climbing and assorted fun stuff.

I seriously just made my roommate listen to me as I read the rest of this post aloud, along with three or four other posts from How To Get A Grip. Then he got annoyed because he was in the middle of doing stuff and I was laughing like a damn five-year-old. In other words, I think you should check out this blog, and follow @mjkimberley on Twitter.

Your turn – comment with a link to your best post about passion, tell me your thoughts on why passion is (or isn’t) important, and share your passions!

This post is part of the 12 Days of Blogging Series. The 5 Golden Rules are:

You can also check out all of the posts in this series here: 12 Days of Blogging 2010

Is Your Blog a Drunken Sorority Sister?


Having a big personality can actually work to your advantage if you’re a blogger. Wallflowers have a hard time standing out in any niche, both online and at conferences like BlogWorld. For some bloggers, though, it’s a fine line between being a blogger with presence…and the drunken sorority sister.

We’ve all seen them – the girls at the party who’ve had just a little too much to drink. They’re saying things that are outrageous, they’re taking off their tops, they’re making out with guys in a dark corner, they’re jumping in the pool…and they’re throwing up in the bathroom. If you’ve never seen anything like this, just watch an episode or two of Jersey Shore.

Worst of all, they’re laughing and having fun, thinking that they look sexy and cool…but in reality almost everyone else is embarrassed on their behalf.

The blog equivalent to this involves less puke (hopefully…though I’ve seen some bloggers who’ve had too much at conferences, so it can be a problem). The result is the same, though. You’re being outrageous and think you’re cool, but everyone else is just embarrassed on your behalf. This comes from not being able to reel in your personality to give readers a composed, thoughtful version of you.

This manifests itself in a number of ways:

  • You write posts about things that you really care about, but which have no relevance to your niche, leaving your audience saying, “Um…what was that?”
  • You get involved with some kind of blogging feud, not posting your opinion, but posting something that turns into a back and forth routed in name calling or false statements, not fact or logic.
  • You get defensive about a comment because you’re unable to take the criticism and grow as a blogger.
  • You ramble, getting way off topic and never actually coming to a clear point in your post, but rather just ranting or raving about the topic.

As you can see, there’s one common factor in the ways your drunken sorority sister blogging personality can come out – emotion.

Emotion is a good thing. I personally believe that the best blogs out there, regardless of niche, are ones written by people who are emotionally invested in their topics. There’s a fine line, though. When you find yourself getting emotional, it’s easy to write posts or leave comments that don’t show yourself in the best light.

So what can you do to find the strength to write about emotional topics without making a fool of yourself?

  • Outline your posts. Have an intro, some supporting paragraphs, and a conclusion. This will help you stay on topic. Remember, you don’t have to post about every single thought you have relating to the topic. You can do multiple posts or address issues at a later time. Focus on a specific point you want to make and edit out anything that doesn’t fit.
  • Write a post, but wait a day before hitting the publish button. Sometimes, something that makes us really emotional in the moment isn’t as big of a deal when we go back and think about it at a later date. Tap into your emotions while they are happening, but reread your post the next day to ensure you’re saying what you want to say in a classy, dignified way.
  • Ask a friend to read your post. I’ve done this multiple times in the past, to ensure that what I’m saying is clear without being too offensive. When you’re dealing with a topic that you’re passionate about, offending people is bound to happen, but you don’t want to do so because what you’re saying is unclear or mean.
  • Do your research. One of the biggest mistakes you can make is posting about an emotional topic, but having your facts wrong. Read what other people are saying, but find direct sources to confirm the story. You come off looking foolish if you’re passionate about the wrong facts.
  • Don’t have too much to drink at BlogWorld.

Ok, that last tip might not fit well at the rest, but it is certainly relevant. We’re all hoping to have a fun time, but make sure you’re 1) safe and 2) able to remember the good time you’ve had. After all, if you’re a drunken sorority sister (or frat brother) at BlogWorld, you aren’t doing your blog justice.

Overheard on #Blogchat: Passion vs. Skill (@DaveTaylor)


Do you participate in #blogchat? Every week, this weekly discussion on Twitter focuses on a specific topic and bloggers everywhere are invited to join in. Because I often have more to say than what will fit in 140 characters, every Sunday night, I post about some of the most interesting #blogchat tweets. Join the conversation by commenting below.

(Still confused? Read more about #blogchat here.)

This week’s theme: Who are you writing your blog for, you or your readers? Who should it be?

As you can guess, a lot of the discussion this week pitted two valuable ideas against one another:

  1. You should blog for yourself, about topics that you’re passionate about, because your posts will be more interesting and you’ll enjoy your job more.
  2. You should blog for the reader, because it is really your community who makes your blog what it is, especially if you blog for money.

Many people agreed that the best case scenario is a little bit of A and a little bit of B, but along the way, we certainly got some interesting comments on both sides of the argument. One that I thought was especially worth noting:

@DaveTaylor Btw, not sure I agree you “must” be passionate about your subject if you’re a skilled, pro writer…

So, do you have to be passionate about a topic to write about it? For some people, the answer is yes, but for professional writers, nearly any topic can be covered if you’re willing to do the research. I should know; I’m a freelance writer and I’ve definitely written about topics that do not particularly interest me.

The disconnect between DaveTaylor’s tweet and practicality, however, comes when you consider the very nature of a blog. Answer this questions for me:

Why do you blog for money versus do something else for money?

The American Dream – or really, the human dream in general, this isn’t just about being from the USA – is that you make a living doing something that you love, something that doesn’t feel like work. Yes, a skilled writer should be able to cover just about any topic. But the whole point of blogging is to get away from having to work in a job that you don’t feel passionate about. Otherwise, why not just get a 9-to-5 and not have the stress of trying to figure out how to make money with your blog?

I don’t care how skilled you are as a writer. If you aren’t passionate about a topic…

  1. …it will be a chore to write every blog post.
  2. …you’ll miss out on big stories because the topic isn’t something you naturally follow in your free time.
  3. …you won’t connect with your audience well because, yes, they are passionate about the topic.
  4. …it will take longer to write every post because you have to do more research.
  5. …you won’t really care about your blog, other than whether or not it’s making money.

If you aren’t passionate about something, you can certainly do a wonderful job blogging about it for a client. A good example of this is how I spent years blogging about weddings for a client of mine. Yes, writing posts was still a chore and they took longer to research, but I didn’t have to worry about building an audience, networking, etc. because it wasn’t my blog. I wasn’t emotionally invested. I just did a good job with the text and collected a paycheck.

But if you’re going to start your own blog? Please have passion. For your own sake, pick a topic that you really enjoy and even feel emotional about. In the end, even if another niche looks more lucrative, you’ll build a better blog if you have passion.

Check out “Overheard on #Blogchat” here every Sunday to read about some of the most interesting tweets from participating bloggers.

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