Asked & Answered: On Books and Blogging

Ana Spoke  is a blogger and self-published author. I have been following her blog for over a month now, and have learned some great tips and tricks about blogging. The newest idea she shared was a blog tour.

Ana is promoting her new book Shizzle, Inc (Isa Maxwell escapades Book 1), and in an effort spread the good word she is doing interviews and guest posting on her follower’s blogs. Needless to say I jumped at the chance to interview her! Since Ana is in Australia and I am in the US we did the interview over email, which was another first for me.

“You Go, Girl!”

According to Ana, Shizzle, Inc (Isa Maxwell escapades Book 1). was born when she wrote a spoof scene of Fifty Shades of Grey (Fifty Shades, Book 1). The scene was about Isa, a young and dumb girl, meeting  an eccentric billionaire. She emailed that scene to her sister who found it hilarious and demanded more. At her sister’s urging she continued writing bits and pieces of Isa’s story.

“This time it had to be different.”

Ana has shared on her blog that she has started multiple writing projects, but none of them really went anywhere. When Ana had a raw draft of Shizzle, Inc (Isa Maxwell escapades Book 1) she made the decision to turn these scenes into a book and finish it! Ana’s read a number of books and articles on plotting, character development, and creating drama, but needed some additional motivation to complete the book. She started her blog to give her public accountability in working toward her goal. The blog narrates her journey from draft to publication and beyond. Since deciding to publish the book herself the blog has also become a marketing platform. To expand her reach and promote her brand Ana has started posting helpful articles on a regular basis and engaging other bloggers.

“I love data…”

To meet her goal of finishing the book Ana needed structure to stay on track. She created a spreadsheet to track her daily word count. Ana also shared some of her blog stats with me that show the snowball effect of her recent marketing efforts.

  • 1,863 blog followers
  • The week of 09/06 – 2,092 views from 923 unique visitors
  • 21,477 Twitter followers

Ana assured me this was a big jump from the approximately 20 followers the blog had in the first year. Having these data points to track progress have been very motivating for Ana, and have helped her achieve her goal of becoming a published author!

Pro-Tips

  • Consistency – blog once a week and have a daily word goal.
  • Try to learn something new every day.
  • Have fun!

Thank you, Ana for the wonderful insight into the world of blogging and writing. I am going to start tracking my daily word count so I can review my own trend lines, and hopefully see some improvement! I also can’t wait to jump into Shizzle, Inc (Isa Maxwell escapades Book 1). I’m through chapter 2, and am looking forward to really getting into the book over the weekend.

If you’d like to see what all of the fuss is about grab a copy of Shizzle, Inc (Isa Maxwell escapades Book 1) and head on over to Ana’s blog!

Asked & Answered: A Dilettante Approach to Meditation

Gabriel Harren and I are both on the Community of Practice steering committee at sdg. At our last meeting we discussed Gabriel’s upcoming CoP presentation about demystifying meditation. The presentation is scheduled after my 66-day challenge so I invited Gabriel to a meditative breakfast. I was excited to discuss meditation with someone who had practical experience, but hadn’t made it their career or become a recluse.

 “Clarity of mind.”

Gabriel indicated that he has always been a little high strung so 4 years ago he started practicing meditation regularly. He currently meditates 20 minutes a day, 5 days a week. His routine consists of coffee, an inspirational quote, the Skimm, and making himself comfortable in a plush chair before listening to a guided meditation from Headspace.

Some of the tangible benefits of meditation he has experienced include lower anxiety, better ability to focus, and clarity of mind. Improved concentration has allowed Gabriel to be more productive and focus on his sales goals.

He has also experienced the intangible benefits of meditation that let him be more engaged with family, friends, and colleagues. His passion for meditation and self-improvement has allowed him to add value in other’s lives. He feels like he is a better listener and more patient.

“Everyone should be doing it.”

Because Gabriel is so willing to share his experience with meditation he has had the opportunity to talk with a lot of people about creating this habit. He maintains he is not a guru, but can certainly help people come up with an action plan. For most it seems like getting started is the hardest part. Change is difficult, but Gabriel recommends trying to understand the why before digging into the how. If you understand your goals and motivation it will be easier to dive into the tactics.

“…enjoying a blissfully balanced life.”

Gabriel’s overall goal is to clock 10,000 hours of meditation, which is the generally accepted benchmark for mastery in a field. By meditating for 1 hour a day in 30 years he could be enjoying a blissfully balanced life. I know that’s something I want!

Pro-Tips

  • Headspace!
  • Get a good night’s sleep and do your sit first thing in the morning,
  • Create a routine of your practice.
  • Recognize the “gremlins in your head” and get your mind out of the way.

Recommended Reading

I had a wonderful time discussing practical applications for meditation with Gabriel and discovering new ways to grow my practice.

What tips discussed here will be the most useful for your meditation practice? Please share your thoughts in the comments.

Asked & Answered: Insights on Blogging

Tara Mortenson is the Marketing Coordinator at sdg,where we both work, and one of the driving forces behind our blog. She is also the first person I added to my relationship action plan when I was setting my goals for this blog. Tara was gracious enough to sit down with me for an hour and let me fire off questions, and here are the highlights of our conversation.

“Set a goal and stick to it.”

In 2011, sdg wanted to re-brand and launch a new website. They decided to create a blog at the same time to help increase traffic and interaction on the new site. The goals for the blog are:

  • Give potential clients and candidates a good sense of the sdg culture.
  • Create another opportunity for employees to get involved.
  • Provide credible answers to questions from their audience.
  • Consistently increase blog views and followers on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and Glassdoor.

To accomplish these goals they came up with the following action plan:

  • Post 2-4 times a month (hopefully weekly).
  • Have a variety of employees contribute to the blog (they have about 30 different contributors a year).
  • Review blog progress every 6 months.

It was great to have Tara share so much information with me on their process. It helped to validate the work I have already done and gave me some great ideas for how to proceed. I will definitely implement the 6 month review. It is a good timeline for reflection, brainstorming new ideas, and creating a schedule for upcoming posts.

“Edit.”

Tara and I discussed some of the common problems that people run into when they try to start blogging. It seems like many struggle with getting their ideas down on paper. Taking your great idea and translating it into a logical and readable post can be difficult, so it’s helpful to have someone edit your work. Tara edits all of the posts that are submitted for the sdg blog. She corrects grammatical errors and can help to improve the structure of the piece. For the more technical posts there are other editors who will review for accuracy. Getting another set of eyes to read you work can be invaluable.

I don’t always have someone readily available to review my work so I usually take a break after I finish writing. I get all of my ideas down and then come back to it a few hours later. A little distance makes it easier to remove or rearrange sections.

“It’s not as scary as you think.”

Tara’s #1 blogging tip was don’t be intimidate by the act of sharing your writing publicly. This really resonated with me because putting myself out there by sharing my thoughts and ideas with the world is hard. She summed it up nicely by saying, “you don’t have to be a ‘writer’ to create something people want to read.”

Pro-Tips:

  • Make sure your audience can quickly determine what your post is about.
  • Proofread your work but don’t try to be perfect.
  • Create your own content because you need permission to use other people’s pictures and videos.
  • Lists can be very effective!
  • Be consistent.
  • Have a backlog of posts ready to publish for when you get swamped.

My conversation with Tara reinforced the importance of goal setting and editing. She also gave me a lot of confidence in moving forward with this blogging endeavor. Our conversation has inspired me to keep reaching out to experienced people in my network as I dive into these new habits.

What questions do you have for an experienced blogger? Please share them in the comments so I can ask them in my next interview!