The Anti-Blog Post to Writing Better Blog Posts.

original_voice

I can’t read your blog.

In fact, I almost don’t read any social marketing blogs out there, because I’m done with wave bathing in the echo chamber.  I’m done with it  — people echoing echoes everywhere.

They read Seth Godin, a bit of Brogan, maybe a bit Gary V for the attitude, mash it all together and slam out another samey samey blog post.  Bloggers in factory-mode.

I know this, because I was on this mode too.  I kept repeating common advice, but I had nothing original to say. After a while, I burrrrned out. Like a TNT stick with both ends lit. Frizzzzzle. I knew it, and more importantly, my audience knew it.  And after cranking out yet another lackluster post, one long-time reader remarked:

“Stop regurgitating, it’s getting pathetic. Tell me something original from your experience.”

Ouch.

It hurt, but the patient needed the medicine. I thought I was following all the blogging success advice, but it was leading me astray. Why ?

The answer may be James Altucher, who’s a notorious investor, entrepreneur and blogger.  I don’t always like his work, heck, I often don’t even understand it.  He’s irreverent and vulnerable, a human fly on my peripheral vision.

But he breaks every “blogging rule” there is to break, and breaks even the ones that don’t exist yet.

But there’s something magical about the way he writes. It’s like the wind, you can feel it but you can’t see it. His content is so unique and disarmingly honest you can’t help but smirk. It’s touching human hearts, and 5,000 to 10,000 Facebook likes per post(!) confirm that.

echo_chamber

What’s the secret?

He doesn’t reside in the echo chamber. Everything he writes comes from him — his one-of-a-kind experience — the way he sees the world.

And that’s what inspired me to write the following anti-guidelines to craft content that’s not just another blasted re-hash on the perfect post, but a reminder of what makes great content truly special and compelling.

Now, don’t treat this like an exact formula, that would defeat the point of the whole post. Rather, it’s food for thought, by yours truly.

1) Everything’s related to everything. Use that to your advantage.
Without going too deep into meta-land, here’s a not-so-far-fetched revelation: People who only blog about what they read from other marketing bloggers have the scope of a tunnel view inside a straw.

They’re wallowing in the pool of idea incest. Instead of reading the same-old-same and echoing, extrapolate your niche knowledge from unrelated places :

  • I have read posts from people talking about happiness when they’re stuck in a wheelchair, 24/7.
  • I have read customer service advice from people dealing drugs on the street.
  • I have read psychological advice from food decorateurs.

Every lesson you want to share with the audience can be linked to a more original example. Chose a unique experience from your life, and connect it with the point you want to make.

What has your recent Thailand journey to do with content marketing?

I don’t know. You tell me.

2) The more you systemize, the more you robotize
By now, there’s probably more blogging advice than bloggers out there. Follow it all, 1-2-3, and then you’ll succeed with viral posts that exceed 1,000,000 views. Right?

Nope. It’s the fast lane to mediocrity. The more I tried to find the golden formula of blogging, the more personality and emotion I lost between the lines. Whoosh.

Just as in Hollywood, most people (online) pretend, but nobody knows anything. The more systems and formulas you infuse, the closer you’ll robotize. Your post will be like an instruction manual for vacuum cleaners. Meh.

3) Cut to the core. Hack away the unessential.
This does not only mean a terse writing style, but also means finding the elephant in the room. Most people skate along the ice surface, but they don’t get below into the frozen water depths. All those shiny blog flares, like which share button to use or whether you should tweet at 9 or 9:05, are distracting you from making a point that will make your audience pay attention.

Give me the essence, baby, the one core thought that most people are afraid to address, but deliver it in a way only YOU can.

4) Style over substance. Sort of.
A lot of people will disagree with this, but here’s the thing — If all you provide is helpful information online, you’re competing with Wikipedia and thousands of robot algorithms that out-inform you. And with an unlimited choice of informational content, we humans pick the one that emotionally appeals to us.

So, style and attitude is what we come back for – whether it’s Seth Godin’s unabashed and clear writing, or James Altucher’s irreverent and vulnerable guide to life.

5) Allow your personal truth to shine through
Another biggie I struggled for almost two years — Keeping a cool, perfect and professional online presence seems to be the way to go, but it also got the emotional pulling power of a frozen brick. Marketing is all about evoking emotions.

It’s tough to go personal and open yourself up, especially with all those trolls out there, but that’s the only advantage you have over robots and computer-generated content. In a world where your potential customer and reader is a click away but also countries apart, separated by lifeless screens, there’s a huge emotional gap.

I want you to close that gap.

Conclusion
Before you create your next content, step back for a second and be still.

Are you creating an original piece of work, or are you merely soaking up the sound waves from the echo chamber? Tell yourself the truth. Then slap your face left and right.

Forget about all the average posts about which WordPress theme to use, how we all should have a tribe, and why we need a manifesto.

Been there, done that.

Instead, craft a post from the edge of your mind, with all the mojo, vulnerability, personal experience and original opinions — a little, uncomfortable masterpiece only you can come up with.

Give it to me.

mars dorian

Mars Dorian describes himself as a creative marketeer with a moon-melting passion for human potential and technology. You can follow his adventures at www.marsdorian.com/

Original illustrations by the author.

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  • The echo chamber is a real problem, I wonder why some people bother to blog when all they do is parrot the same thing everyone else says,

  • Good one, Mars! You have definitely followed Number 5 above.

    I agree with a lot of what you’re saying. But we must stumble before we learn to walk. We must learn to talk before we belt out our deepest emotions. And we must have an audience available to hear our profound views on something.

    Do you think writing a guest post for a top ranked blog is one from the echo chamber? 😛

    Thanks!

  • Nice one Mars. Luckily I don’t have time to read loads of other blogs. I read what I need for my job, I may stop by on this particular blog because I often like what I find here, and I write about things I’m interested in.
    Yes, some professional bloggers have advised to read a lot – but I don’t recall them telling me I should read other *blogs*. And I get the impression they don’t waste their time doing so either.

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  • MaureenMonte

    Good work,Mars! What I find interesting about your advice is it is the same advice great writers historically give to aspiring writers – not bloggers, writers. I suspect great writers and great bloggers are one and the same. It gets back to Mark’s point about content-rich social media. Here is a quote from Natalie Goldberg, who has been singing Mars’ song for years: “Write what disturbs you, what you fear, what you have not been willing to speak about. Be willing to be split open.”

    ?
    Natalie Goldberg,

    Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within

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  • I suppose Mars would be in the echo chamber if you consider {grow} part of the echo chamber : ) The reason I invite Mars to write on a regular basis is because I don’t want this space to be an echo chamber, and I don’t think it is. The one thing you count on here is originality. Thanks for your comment Pragati.

  • Yeah, and to be fair – I’m falling into the echo chamber myself many times, that’s why I’m addressing it. I’m just as guilty as everyone else around me. I luv your quote – I think it really comes down to writing content that A) is interesting to your audience and B) is a personal truth, meaning, it comes from straight from your mind / experience.

  • Heh, I hope not 😉
    But you’re right – I fall into the chamber myself many times, that’s why I addressed the burning out. My goal’s to write value-rich posts that only I can write, and fighting that copy cat syndrome that sneaks upon many of us (including moi of course 😉

  • I think it’s human – follow the herd and everything will be fine.
    Unfortunately, that often doesn’t work anymore in today’s fast-paced society.

  • Mars, I can only say I ‘echo’ your sentiment!!!! And have for a long time. The same problem exists across many other channels as well (incl Twitter). This is unfortunately typical in an over hyped market. Thanks for calling it out!

  • Well said Mars! i think it takes a while to find your authentic blogging voice. Maybe regurgitating and what you call “idea incest” is the crawling-before-you-walk phase of blogging. I don’t know. I’m nearly three years in and everything has changed so much since I started. My blog (about life) is taking me places I never intended to go, but it’s following my life and that, too, has taken a turn I never expected nor would have welcomed.
    I agree with you – no systems, no formulas. Write from your heart – from your life. Some will resonate with that, some won’t and that’s the way it is.
    Nice to meet you Mars!
    Lori

  • Thanks, Mars. Authentic communications is what I’m all about and this blog inspires me. I was writing for 20+ years before it became content development. Yes, I’m new to Twitter and such, but now I will approach my work without posing as an echo-phant.

  • Thanks Mars. About a month ago I made the same resolution. In fact, in Springpad, where I stage new post ideas, I changed the title of my that notebook to constantly remind me (see image).

  • ross_boardman

    The echo chamber. Love that.

    A few years ago I used to call all those drones with the QuasiAusi accent “corporate zombies”. Nothing original, nothing new, just compliance and top 5 tips we could guess 10 of.

    Heresy is fun and true to ourselves?

  • Heh, that’s a cool reminder. I need to do that for myself, Jack, the echo chamber can be a comfy place, but we all know comfort kills the spirit.

  • Awesome article and I totally agree. I often see an article entitled, ‘The 5 secret steps to successful blog articles’, to my detriment I read on, only to discover that the ‘tips’ include such visionary advice as “write great content”, “share that content with the right people” and “become popular on social networks”. This is not advice, it’s common sense that everyone ‘should’ know, even if they don’t write content to share with others.
    Finding truly original content online is becoming more and more difficult, and as such, more and more frustrating!
    I believe the difference between original, well thought out content, and simply echoing others is whether the author really cares about what they write about, or whether they are just banging out as much content as possible in the short sighted hope that this is the formula for success – it’s not.

    Bottom line is that if you really believe and care about what you write about, then you’ll take the time and effort to produce truly original content that inspires those that take the time to read it.

    Again, great article! 🙂

  • Mars,

    Dude this post could not have come at a better time for me. Lately I’ve been feeling burnt. Between my various outlets I’ve written over 70 blog posts in 2013… and a black cloud of average content has started to swirl around in my brain. I hate it.

    I never wanted to be an echo chamber writer but sometimes I feel like that is where I’m headed… Just another guy talking about marketing like it’s something new. Time to take a step back, hit the reset button and remember what makes us unique.

    We were given our unique voice for a reason… The adventure is finding out what that reason is.

    Great work buddy,

    Hanley

  • thanx man, I think this is a danger that affects us all. I wrote this partly as a reminder to myself – to remember to stay true and don’t follow the marketing herd, which is sadly very easy to do.
    i think it’s all about being conscious and holding still before you write your next piece of content – thinking : is this really my opinion, an original thought based on my experience, or am I just rehashing what’s already in the cloud ?

  • I don’t necessarily have a problem with people building off the ideas of others on two conditions: 1) You would need to publicize the fact that you are expanding upon someone else’s idea versus just regurgitating, 2) You would need to market yourself as a “News” outlet versus an original thought space.

    If your business is other people’s work then obviously it’s OK but it’s “Thought-Leaders” regurgitating that is tough to handle and a trap none of us want to fall into.

  • Then it’s a good thing I rarely read other people and am already hyper-opinionated. 😀

  • Julie Musial

    Excellent post and I totally agree. A while ago I asked Mark Schaefer a question about blogging. He said “have the courage to be who you are”. Since that time I have changed how I write. Many more life examples and much more from the heart. I find that writing from your own experience makes it much more enjoyable. You can’t be afraid to be different. Not everyone is going to like your style and that’s ok. If all you do is copy someone else (which so many do) how do you expect to be at the top?

  • Yes.

  • exactly, most people think by copying successful creators that can repeat their success, when in fact they’re shooting themselves in the foot.

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  • Matt Mikulla

    Yup! Funny, I went in my feed reader this morning and went right to James Altucher.

    I wanted to read something witty. Maybe something inspiring. More importantly I wanted to read something unique and personal. Not the same old crap on a crap stick.

    I don’t blog much but have recently launched a new personal art site. Rather that doing the same crap like “5 Ways to Arrange Artwork in Your Living Room” I will tell stories of my personal experiences. With a point and purpose of course.

  • I had a music industry blog for a while and I burned out in the same way. I know that feel. I’m seeing more and more people write from their own personal experience which is refreshing. There is great content out there, you just have to know where to look for it. I’ve become particularly fond of this guy’s writing as of recent: http://fuckadvocacy.com/

  • Fabulous!

  • Agreed. I read about .1% of articles that come my way because as you say its all the same bullshit.

  • If it is not useful, original, inspirational or thought provoking, and if it isn’t written in your own voice, it’s just a sales landing page. We certainly have more than enough of those.

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  • Yvonne Root

    Well Mars,

    It seems I got hung up at the sentence which asks, “What has your recent Thailand journey to do with content marketing?”

    You see, I’m sitting in my hotel room in Thailand, waiting for a connection to come for a google chat with the fam. While waiting I’m clearing a ton of email, scanning a few blogs and by golly, reading your post. Now, I have to think about what my latest Thailand journey has to do with content marketing. 🙂 Of course, I’ve a few ideas including a post concerning a scrap of paper I found in the pocket of the seat in front of me while flying from one location to the next.

    My list of blog thoughts and ideas from this 11 day journey has just gotten a bit better because of your advice. Thanks!

    What has
    your recent Thailand journey to do with content marketing? – See more
    at:
    http://www.businessesgrow.com/2013/02/27/the-anti-blog-post-to-writing-better-blog-posts/#sthash.bJKkpjvF.dpuf
    What has
    your recent Thailand journey to do with content marketing? – See more
    at:
    http://www.businessesgrow.com/2013/02/27/the-anti-blog-post-to-writing-better-blog-posts/#sthash.bJKkpjvF.dpuf

  • Mars, I would love to “echo” your advice, but that
    seems to somehow be the wrong thing to do at this time.

    I blog in the healthcare sphere, but rarely read other healthcare bloggers,
    except under extraordinary circumstances, just exactly because of the points
    you make. I want to be able to be original, and don’t even want to take the
    risk that I might parrot someone else by accident. I read a few social media
    blogs because I like to look at style and listen to what seems to create a
    sense of community. I use stories from my past or sometimes the present to
    illustrate my point of view. Emotionally charged incidents, when I talk about
    death and dying, child abuse, other heartfelt situations seem to be the ones to
    get others to comment. But that can take a lot of energy. Relating stories of
    medical errors, for example and the impact they may have had on patients means
    re-living the excrutiating pain that accompanies the memories of such events. That makes it hard to produce such content day after day. But valuable, I suppose. It allows one’s readers to really know you, and it allows them to learn a real lesson, not an imagined one. It allows them to decipher the real expert from the parrot.

    Thanks for your honest and helpful post.

  • Hey Alice,

    I understand – emotionally heavy stuff can drain your personal resources, especially if it’s a matter of life and death. I certainly wouldn’t say – only write about THAT, especially if it demands a lot.
    But I have to admit that the most emotionally-connecting and valuable content that I ever produced was HARD to create – because it was very personal and deeply-rooted to my past.

    Grrreat, deeply moving content, that both enriches and inspires, is often uncomfortable to create – as all great work is.

    You’re pushing your comfort zone of what it means to be human.

    The other side is the easy-to-create content, the one that doesn’t mean much and is often just a rehash. I did that too many times myself.
    A lot of people in the social media blogosphere don’t second guess or go for personal flavor – they just copy what they read elsewhere and slam it online. There’s no reflection and personal opinion to it whatsoever.
    Copy, paste, rinse and repeat.

    I think in today’s age, with more and more content produced by algorithm and / or content factories, it’s more and more important to create content that pushes you and your audience, hopefully resulting in a marvelous experience that enriches everyone’s life !

    Sorry for rambling for so long, heh.

  • Yes, it’s truly getting more difficult. The echo chamber is all-mighty, and it’s wayyyy more effort to come up with your own thoughts than it’s to copy the successful bloggers and content producers.

  • I think we all start out with a bit of idea-incest – we are new to the game and test the waters. But some folks (including me, until recently) stay too long in the waters 😉

  • Hehe, nice. Although there’s nothing work with that headline if that’s actually true to you. I’m going to personalize up all of my upcoming blog posts.
    No more me-too-copycatting. Life’s toooooo short for that.

  • Hi Mars,

    God, I love Altucher.

    I love your post too and would add …

    Stop sitting in front of a screen all day. It’s extremely unhealthy and is just bad for you on so many levels. In fact, James Altucher explained this better than anyone yet in one of his posts, describing how your computer screen overstimulates the pineal gland. Fun stuff.

    Start writing out ideas on paper ((with no distractions.)) Don’t follow the outline of some “expert” to a tee. I’d say most in the blogosphere have consumed enough of this stuff, their noggins now overflowing and ready to pop, but they just keep filling it up, consuming post after post. Been there, so done that. For god’s sake, let it out. Just you, pen and paper.

    I’m done consuming for the day, thanks for the wake up smack 😉

  • Awesome article… You are so correct. I think it is important to make a distinction between those bloggers who are expressing themselves and having fun, and those who are trying to make some kind of business.

    The ones who are having fun ought to follow their path whether they are regurgitating or not, you have to master something before you can really create art with it.

    Those who are trying to make a living on the internet have to get real as soon as possible, you can create average content and trick people to visit your site, but visitors will not spend money unless they are really impressed. Thank Mars, from your number one fan of this moment, until the next great post I visit…

  • Jeff

    Great post and I agree, I’ve eliminated probably 90% of the blogs I used to read recently because of what you’re saying. It’s like the same album on repeat, after a while you hear something so much, it just stops meaning anything.

    I love Altucher and just discovered him myself.

    For vulnerable and brilliant posts I also recommend the guy at http://postmasculine.com. Really smart and unique. He says things no one else does with a lot of clarity and humor and is building a big following.

  • Wow. *bowing to zen master* I’m going to have a good long think on this.

  • RG_Riles

    Well played, sir… well played. 🙂 MARK! Thank you for asking and answering the same question I’ve been struggling with for quite some time. I’m sick of the rules – except maybe those SEO rules that actually make a difference, and I’m sick of all the paraphrasing. Speaking from the heart, talking about whatever you want to talk about that day… it’s all part of being genuine. I wouldn’t want to read me if I was systematic about it and just found ways to repackage content here and there and everywhere. I want to read something interesting and see if there’s something new in that content! So, that’s what I will resolve to write. Thanks for the breath of fresh air.

  • Alright you’ve just held me to a higher ground Mars, epic unique, vulnerable, content that resonates from now on only!

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  • Great article Mars! First time dropping by here so twas a refreshing read! I recently decided to retire reading from a lot of blogs because my head can no longer handle hearing the same stuff regurgitated again and again. I also love the injecting with personality part. Yes, yes, yes!! We’re not blogging machines (even though we’ve felt that way!) reaching out to a machine world something akin to ‘The Island’! 🙂

    Thanks for being honest and encouraging us to all get out of this echo chamber! I too usually love a bit of Altucher 🙂

  • oh please–branding yourself as one ‘beyond brands’ –how cliche…

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  • Mars, we are singing from the same hymn book, have almost exactly the same sentiments about James Altucher’s blog. Just done the mass unsubscribe exercise of me-too blogs myself.

    I try hard to be contrarian, controversial and politically incorrect in my posts. The ones that reflect stories from my very different life get the most visits, the more warts exposed, sacred cows eviscerated, or different views, the more readers.

  • Yes, yes, yes. WOW. Building off your own experiences is more powerful than 1000 me-too posts. And it’s actually easier once you decide to do it. PS – There’s something about pontificating and writing that authoritative post about blah blah blah that is just posturing, just trying to look more important than we really are. That approach is really just a barrier to connection, a wall between the writer and the reader. I have learned that the hard way.

  • Yeah, that’s why I stopped reading most of the blogging blogs – it’s always the saaame information, and your input does determine your output. And you’re right about the screen – I’m going far more often to get new experiences, you know, learning from the “old, physical world” out there.
    Makes for better stories, too.

  • I don’t think EVERY article has to be epic, Natalie, although I’m guilty of using that word wayyy too often. I think it’s more about the original experience – is this article that I’m about to write truly coming from my opinion and experience, or is there a little Seth lurking in the back, dictating me what to write 😉

  • Hey Rhonda,
    I think we’re all playing a game online – the site is our mask, and it allows us to conjure different roles. But when we’re too stuck in a role, the writing becomes stale and mechanic, and we’re losing that which makes us human…and interesting.

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  • It’s funny but the same could be said of podcasting too. At least with podcasting, though, you voice is such a strong differentiator

  • Excellent. thank you so much. If I may add one thing: never fall for the frequency-trap. I often get offers from people who say they can write a nice blog each week. I don’t buy that for a minute. You tell me you are going to sit at your desk each friday at 15:00 and have an original thought? It doesn’t work that way. Original thoughts usually spark from sudden insights, triggered by unexpected events. Like you said: they may well be totally unrelated to the subject at hand – more often than not, they’re the patterns you see when you take a step back; the connections you make between seemingly unrelated topics. Inspiration can hit you any time, anywhere – but it can’t be rushed. I’d much rather have that one inspired blogpost every few months, than a recycled opinion each and every week. Interestingly enough, the people who offer to write a piece a week usually don’t seem to find the peace of mind to write an inspired blogpost even once a year…

  • That’s an interesting topic, and I certainly only write when I have something interesting to say (which means a new blog post every 2-3 weeks or so.) I wonder if you can still increase that, simply by forcing yourself to be more attentive and inquiring. Seth Godin for example always seems to say something personal and smart, every single day. Heh.

  • Yeah – can’t stand those people. That’s the guys in high-school that used to get A-grades all over the map, did great in all sports and scored with chicks as well. Likeable, intelligent, witty. Terribly annoying. 🙂

    I’m pretty sure you can accelerate your creative thinking though – if you’re prepared to free your mind from your regular work, that is. Debra Kaye just did a nice piece on that on Fastcompany.com: http://www.fastcompany.com/3006322/why-innovation-brainstorming-doesnt-work

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  • Jess Cuevas

    Your article is very interesting. You really point out the key for the success of any blog: Originality. Consumers and readers now are demanding for unique proposes, and real content. Everyone has a story that deserves to be told to the entire world!!

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  • The Echo chamber is soo easy to fall into, pitfalls all around, thx for sharing this

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  • Thanks for this, Mars. I’ve been trying to write first thing in the morning before the rest of the planet is awake (well, not technically … ) and no other influences are corrupting my writing. Coming up with wacky stuff that I think will become my philosophies, for example, The Lounge Chair of Timeless Oblivion.

    There’s my little Uncomfortable Masterpiece for you. Thanks for posting.

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  • very thought provoking

    this have me torn and thinking about how i will write better for my clients

    and nice illustrations bro!

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