This post is based on episode 252 of the ProBlogger podcast.
Thomas Edison. Inventor of the light bulb, the phonograph and the motion picture camera. But not the blog.
That being said, a lot of Edison’s ideas on inventing can also apply to blogging. And so here are 11 quotes of his, and how they can help you become a better blogger.
1. Start with a need
“I never perfected an invention that I did not think about in terms of the service it might give others… I find out what the world needs, then I proceed to invent.”
When you’re building your blog, think about the problems it will solve, the people it will serve, and the changes it will bring. Most successful blogs I’ve come across succeed when they meet a need, solve a problem, or enhance someone’s life.
Depending on what you’re writing about, your blog could:
- give them information they don’t have
- entertain people when they’re feeling bored
- give people a sense of community when they feel alone
- gives them information that teaches them something.
Many successful blogs started with the blogger facing a problem, and then talking about what they’re doing to try and solve it. That’s certainly how ProBlogger came to be. My problem was figuring out how to build a profitable blog, and I used the blog to talk about what I was trying to solve that problem.
Digital Photography School started a little differently. It came about not to solve my problems, but rather to solve problems other people were having. I began answering their questions and helping them out.
And I like to think that by doing so I changed their lives, even if only a little bit.
2. Work smart
“Being busy does not always mean real work. The object of all work is production or accomplishment and to either of these ends there must be forethought, system, planning, intelligence, and honest purpose, as well as perspiration. Seeming to do is not doing.”
As bloggers, it’s easy to fill our time with tasks that seem urgent but aren’t necessarily important.
Posting updates on social media can be one of these things. Yes, it can help us our blogs. But a lot of what we do on social media doesn’t necessarily translate into growth. Instead, they distract us from what we should be doing, such as:
- writing great content
- updating our archives
- building traffic to our blogs
- building community engagement
- monetizing our blogs.
Worried you may not be investing your time as wisely as you should be? Then how about this: over the next week record everything you do and how long you spend doing it. And then, at the end of the week, figure how much time you spent on core activities compared to things that didn’t really contribute to growing your blog.
3. Work and wait
“Everything comes to him who hustles while he waits.”
Unless you have a time machine (of only Edison had invented one of those), some of your efforts will take a while to bear fruit. It’s going to take time for the search engines to index your blog, and for you to build a profile ion your niche and establish trust with your readers.
But that’s okay, because while all that’s happening you can still be working on creating great content, building relationships with your readers, and driving traffic to your blog. Because the more work you do while your waiting, the better the results will be when your hard work finally does bear fruit.
So don’t be discouraged when your first blog post doesn’t appear in a Google search, or you don’t get many (or any) responses to your questions. It will all happen eventually. In the meantime, just keep working.
4. It takes work
“Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration.”
Coming up with ideas for your blog can be a struggle sometimes, and it can feel like a major victory when you finally come up with one.
But don’t start celebrating just yet. It’s going to take a lot of hard work to turn your great idea into a great post.
Unfortunately, this is where a lot of bloggers fail. They come up with the idea, but then don’t put in the effort to maximise its potential. And so their great idea becomes a mediocre post at best (assuming they bother to write one at all).
What a waste.
Creating a successful blog takes a lot of work. You need do a lot of little things, and you need to do them all well. Because when you do, they all combine to create a great blog.
5. Failure brings you closer to success
“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”
Treat every post you write, every attempt to promote your blog and every tool you use as a learning experience that can help shape your future.
If you put something out there and it doesn’t work, you’re one step closer to finding something that will work. Keep putting things out there, and treating everything you do as an experiment. Whether it succeeds or fails, it will teach you something.
Some of your experiments will fail. Others will work, but nothing much will come of them. But sooner or later one of your experiments will fly. And it then become the basis for further experiments that give you even better results.
But whatever you do, don’t stop trying.
6. You are capable of astounding things
“If we did all the things we are capable of, we would literally astound ourselves.”
You have incredible potential. You’re unique, and have qualities that no-one else does. So tap into that uniqueness, and don’t sell yourself short.
You may be looking at your blog and thinking it’s nowhere near as good as you want it to be. Or you may be comparing yourself to another blogger who seems to be doing better than you are.
Don’t limit yourself by what’s in front of you right now. You have incredible potential. You just haven’t reached it yet. And as I said, you have qualities no other blogger has. Your stories, your experiences and your personality are all unique. And through your blog you can share them with the world.
Yes, it’s going to take work. And yes, you’ll have to be patient, and not get discouraged when nothing seems to be happening. Keep going, and don’t sell yourself short. You are capable of astounding things.
7. Sometimes failing is the start of success
“Just because something doesn’t do what you planned it to do doesn’t mean it’s useless.”
Just because something doesn’t work the way you expected doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a failure. Sometimes what actually happened can be just as useful as what you wanted to happen.
When American engineer Percy Spencer was working on an active radar set in 1945, cooking was probably the last thing on his mind. But then he noticed the chocolate bar in his pocket had melted, which led to the invention of the microwave oven we all take for granted today.
Blogging is no different. Sometimes you set out to serve your readers in one way, and end up serving them in another.
My first ever photography blog was supposed to be a photo blog of my trip to Morocco. I shared lots of photos I took, and then wrote a little review of the camera I used on the trip. No-one took any notice of my photos (apparently they weren’t that great), but my camera review took off. It ranked high on Google, and people started responding to what I’d written, which led to me creating a camera review blog.
But chances are I never would have created it if I hadn’t experimented with the photo blog and taken note of the unexpected outcome.
8. Don’t give up too early
“Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.”
Most blogs are abandoned after a month or two. Unfortunately, it takes about three years for a blog to really take off. And that stretch of time from the two-month mark to the three-year mark can seem like an eternity.
I can remember enduring that period. Is this going to work? I can see some little sparks and a few things happening, but I’m a long way from being able to do this full-time. I’m really not sure I can keep going.
And that’s why we started 31 Days To Build A Better Blog – to get people through those patches where nothing seems to be happening, despite all the effort you’re making. Having 31 days of action and interaction on your blog can really lift both your blog and your spirits.
Just keep going. It will be worth it. o you need to persist with that.
9. Make it fun
“I never did a day’s work in my life. It was all fun.”
A great way to get through those tough months is to make sure you’re writing about something you enjoy and are passionate about.
Let’s face it: to start with you’re not going to be making much money (if any). You may not even have any readers. So you need something else to keep you going.
And what better way is there than to have fun?
So blog about something you’re interested in. The kind of thing you talk about enthusiastically with your friends. The kind of thing you’d probably write about even if you knew no-one will ever read what you’ve written.
And there’s another benefit to writing about things you enjoy. Your energy and enthusiasm will show in your writing, and readers will pick up on it. They’ll keep coming back to read your latest post, and may even come to enjoy what you’re writing about as much as you do.
Which is a fantastic way to grow your blog.
10. Have lots of ideas
“To have a great idea, have a lot of them.”
Not every idea you come up with will be a good one. But if that’s the only idea you have, then you might try to make it work regardless. And chances are the resulting post won’t be a good one.
You’re much better off having lots of ideas you can draw from and discard at will. So make some time for yourself to come up with as many ideas as you can.
Some of them may not work. But this isn’t the time to decide. Just record whatever idea pops into your head, no matter how far-fetched it might be.
And be ready to capture ideas that pop into your head when you’re not trying to think of any. I have a piece of paper and a pencil beside my bed so I can quickly jot them down before I forget them.
Schedule time for curiosity and playfulness. Yes, you need to work. But I think it’s also important to have a little bit of ‘white space’ in your week where you can allow yourself to dream, be curious, ask questions, and brainstorm.
Who knows what ideas you’ll come up with?
11. You don’t have to start with a finished product
“To invent, you need a good imagination and a pile of junk.”
A lot of bloggers think that before they can start they need the perfect domain name, design, tools, products, and so on. But the truth is no successful blog has ever started that way. I can’t think of one that was perfect out of the gate.
My first blog was on Blogger, using the Blogspot domain. I didn’t have a server. I didn’t have the best tools. I didn’t have a design. (I was using their ugly navy blue default template.) I didn’t have any pictures or visuals on my blog at all.
And I had no idea what I was doing. I didn’t know how to code. I didn’t even know how to make text bold.
But I wrote a post, and that led me to write another post. Over time I learned the skills, designed my blog, and I learned how to use the various tools available. (And yes, I learned how to make text bold.)
But my blog is far from perfect. I’m still learning, and there are still things I can add to it.
The key is to experiment and keep working at it. You’ll gradually refine your ideas, your blog will begin to grow, and you’ll get it the way you want it. And then you’ll probably reach a point where you don’t like it anymore, and so you’ll start the process all over again.
And that’s okay, because it’s all a learning experience.
Which quote resonates the most with you?
I really hope the quotes from Edison and how they can relate to blogging has given you some ideas, inspiration and encouragement to keep doing what you’re doing.
We can’t wait to see what happens next.
Photo by Johannes Plenio on Unsplash