The First Year Of Blogging – Writing

Welcome to the first post of this series about my first year of blogging as a business. Today will talk about writing, which is the cornerstone of your blogging. You couldn’t really have a blog without constantly creating quality content. This is why writing is one of the most time consuming blogging activities. But is … Read more The First Year Of Blogging – Writing

The First Year Of Blogging – The Series

Last year on October 1st I made a commitment. To start blogging as a business. Half the distance, meaning 6 months ago, I checked out things in a series called The First 6 Months Of Blogging. Those first 6 months were really exciting. But time flies and a lot of stuff happened since then, so … Read more The First Year Of Blogging – The Series

The First 6 Months Of Blogging – Writing

During my first 6 months of “serious” blogging I discovered a lot of things about blogging and about myself. In the first post of this series I’ll share what I learned about the blog writing process. This is a rather long post, more than 2500 words, so I suggest you set aside some time to read it comfortably. Keep in mind that this series is targeted towards people who embraced blogging more like a profession or a revenue oriented activity rather than people who blog for relaxation or fun. There’s quite a difference between journaling and blogging.

Posting Speed

During the first 6 months I wrote 106 articles on my blog. For the sake of statistics that accounts to 0,58 posts per day. Here’s the monthly breakdown:

October 2008 – 17 posts
November 2008 – 20 posts
December 2008 – 20 posts
January 2009 – 17 posts
February 2009 – 15 posts
March 2009 – 17 posts

The lowest month was February and the most productive months were November and December. During the first 3 months the enthusiasm level was pretty high and I found it easier to work. But after the first 100 days I had to rely more on self-discipline than on enthusiasm. The motivation was there all the time, but the drive to work is made of more than just enthusiasm. I had to really stick with it. I had to keep a constant flow of work, and here’s why.

Posting speed is one of the key metrics of blogging. Here are some of my thoughts about blog metrics, among other things, if you want to know more about this topic. Based on the posting speed you can actually predict some of your other blog metrics, like traffic and comments and pingbacks. In fact, posting speed was the main metric I wanted to control during the first 6 months.

When I decided to go full time blogging, this was my first and most important commitment: to write at least 15 posts per month, one post every other day, at least 1200 words for every post. That was my number one goal.

And I did this for a number of reasons:

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How To Write An Ebook Using MacJournal

Writing an ebook could be a lot of fun. Not to mention the fact that by writing something you’re spreading value directly and you can receive a lot of direct compensation. If you chose to sell your ebook chances are that you will make some money. Sometimes a lot of money. And if you chose to give it away for free, it’s a sure bet that you’ll make a lot of new friends. Either way, it’s a win.

But writing an ebook can be sometimes overwhelming. I’m not talking about the actual writing process, choosing the topics, putting the chapters together or the main ebook subject. I’m talking about the invisible scaffold, the physical setup for managing, maintaining and organizing your work. Sometimes you don’t remember what you wrote yesterday, or your ideas are coming too fast and you don’t have the time or the habit to write them down, or you don’t have a place with the last version of ebook and have to compile it every time you distribute it.

In today’s post I’ll share with you my setup for writing an ebook. It’s a system based on my favorite journaling application, and that would be MacJournal, of course. I’ve already wrote some articles about enhancing MacJournal, like power blogging with MacJournal, GTD style, or how to create a habit in 15 days, feel free to check them out before starting to read this one.

Writing An Ebook

I’m not going to talk about how you can chose you ebook subjects, because the options here are endless. You can write an ebook about gardening, an ebook about dating, an ebook about cooking, about programming, about business, about self-improvement (that would be my case, by the way) the sky really is the limit. I am going to talk about what your physical steps are in creating an ebook, what exactly are you going to do, step by step.

For start, your ebook will contain sections, or chapters. The main creation process involve writing those chapters which are forming the main product. Yeap, I know you know that, just saying. You usually have a plan for that, either in form of a list, either as a mind map. You also establish a writing speed and a certain volume of writing each day. This is the main work.

But if you’re writing an ebook, you must already have a blog in which you can talk about that. If you’re writing an ebook and don’t have a blog yet, I highly encourage you to create one ASAP. It’s not very difficult, and it’s good for your writing habits. So, besides from writing your actual ebook, you’ll have also to write some blog posts about it. To announce your ebook to your potential audience, to share progress or to call for opinions.

Apart from that, you will promote your ebook and you’ll do that by writing various pieces of text, most often landing pages for all your promotion channels.

And in the process, you may have some ideas about the ebook, about the blog, about promoting or about anything else. I often found out that committing myself to a medium term project like an ebook opened the door to a bunch of new ideas.

And of course you will do a lot of research also, usually grouped into notes.

So, to keep a long story short, your ebook will consist on:

  • chapters
  • blog posts (including landing pages)
  • ideas
  • notes

Introducing MacJournal

MacJournal is a great application for journaling and blogging. With a little bit of hacking it can be a killer application for blogging, as I already wrote. But in its default setup is a little bit too simple for writing an ebook.

When I decided to write some ebooks (and that would be several weeks ago) I turned to another fantastic piece of software from Mariner, StoryMill . StoryMill is a tool for writing fiction material, very close to writing movies scripts, including characters and scenes. It’s not a surprise that Mariner launched something so close to script writing since they are also owning Contour, one of the best tools for writing actual movie scripts. But it was too complicated for an ebook. Great for a novel, but an ebook is usually less than a novel.

So, I decided to make some tweaks to my MacJournal setup and come up with something a little bit more complex than a MacJournal vanilla setup but less complicated than a full blown StoryMill installation. I made use of MacJournal tagging capabilities, entry attributes like status and label, and of course, smart journals. At the end of the post you’ll also be able to download a template containing all the modifications described here.

Writing An Ebook The Smart Way

Well, enough with talking, let’s do some work. Here’s how you can create a setup for writing an ebook similar to the one I use right now.

The Main Journal

First and foremost, I created a new journal in MacJournal and named it after my future ebook. In this post, I’ll use a MacJournal template for an ebook called “7 Things”. It’s an example ebook which contains all that I’ve learned from my daughter, each year. She’s 3 now, so I will have 3 chapters. This journal will hold all the necessary information for my ebook, acting like a main repository.

After that, I established a little routine for writing stuff in this journal. Nothing complicated: each time I add an entry in this journal I tag it using the Inspector window. And this is where the power of this setup actually is, in the tagging area. If the entry is a chapter of my ebook I add a tag “book chapter”. If the entry is an idea, I add to that entry the tag “ideas”. If the entry is just a research note, I tag it “notes”. I think you got the idea. Exactly, when I write some blog post, I tag it “blog”. Tagging your posts is a great habit anyway, regardless of the fact that you’re writing an ebook or not.

Another important habit is to keep a close reference of your entry status. Using the Inspector make sure you assess each time after you finished writing something the status of it. Mac Journal offers 5 statuses for your entries: Unknown, Not Started, Underway, Needs Review and Completed. Most of the time I’m in the “Needs Review” status. When I finished a chapter I assign it the status: “Completed”. You’ll see later why this is important.

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Therapeutical Talking And Writing

Every time I talk about something that was on my mind for a lot of time, I have the tendency to forget about it shortly after. Just talking about things that really were on my head seems to make them disappear afterwards. I had this impression a lot of times. Lately, I experienced this almost on any topic I am thinking about. Expressing my thoughts in words, written or talked, made the topic vanish. It’s like giving the thought some shape pushes it out of my brain, into another realm.

I had this going on for many years. I ruminated about something for months, making it bigger and bigger in my head, and then, all of a sudden, expressed it violently. Either in form of a journal entry, a blog entry, or sometimes in a fight or controversy with somebody else. After the eruption, the inside volcano magically disappeared. I even forgot that there was a volcano in that place. Shifted my attention to something else, and of course, started another ruminating session on a different topic, soon to be ended with another eruption, in several days, weeks, or months.

This chain of reactions lead me to the concept of therapeutically talking or writing. In today’s blog post I’ll try to understand what are the reasons for this therapeutical dimension of talking. Why is this happening, what are the triggers and what are the limits of this behavior. Is this a good thing, a bad thing or just a thing that I have? We’ll see about that together.

Healing Talking

During the last 5-6 years I started to pay more attention to this phenomenon. I monitored those “eruptions” and the subtle mechanism behind them. Gradually isolated similar events and tried to build on a pattern. It seemed that every confusion, fear, worry or lack of trust was in fact a root for a ruminating session. Not being able to express in the very moment my feelings about that confusion or fear pushed it back into my mental backyard, converting them in seeds of some huge wild-growing plants. 

Without paying attention to those plants, they grew until they started to shade my normal thinking patterns. They grew so big that they took some of the whole garden light. So big that I was forced to confront them. And the only immediate action I could take was to cut them out. Talking them out loud, writing about them, bringing them into conversations or fights. I just cannot leave in the dark, so I had to eliminate the obstruction, most of the time by violently expressing it.

After I eliminated those huge ugly wild-growing plants, the backyard was clean again. No need for another confrontation, my mental clarity was not obstructed anymore. Those wild-growing plants were out for good, so the very topic that generated them was forgotten.

This pattern was so powerful that it become my way of life. Almost everything that wasn’t managed was staying somewhere back, waiting to reach an “explosion” point. After expressing my feelings out loud, the problem disappeared. I went on this rollercoaster for years, until I started to feel annoyed about something.

I didn’t realize in the beginning what was my annoyance. But things around me started to lose consistency. I was forgetting stuff, more and more stuff and more and more often. If there was something that I was already “erupted” on, I even avoided direct confrontation. I knew from the beginning that this will lead to a huge wild-growing plant that will need to be cut in a painful storm of words, so I was keeping the distance. I didn’t engage in a lot of activities, started to work less, to keep honest relationships away, to avoid social interaction. All of that was before a source of pain expressed by words, so it had to be avoided.

But that was even worse. My way of dealing with negative emotions or situations was keeping me from experiencing a true and sincere life. Everything was thrown back and vomited weeks after in order to keep me clean. And between those periods I was almost invisible. I wasn’t doing much on my own. It was this chain of non-confrontation and therapeutical talking that took command of me. It was an auto pilot.

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