10 Rules About Blogging

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Blogging is really painful for me. I’ve had over 400 posts. I’m not really news driven. I’m more “heart driven”. I don’t even read the news. So I have to keep finding parts of my heart that I haven’t explored yet. I have to keep bleeding until it hurts. But I’m a bit addicted to it. Not always for the right reasons. Sometimes I simply want approval. Sometimes I want to be creative. Sometimes I want to help people. And sometimes I feel bad if I haven’t posted in awhile.

Every day it’s usually a soup of all of the above. And the people around me are sick of it if I can’t come up with a post idea by 8am. Then I’m unhappy. Blogging is painful if you want to be good at it. So I’m all in favor if you want to be bad at it.

Nor am I going to say you should pay attention to me. I would prefer if you didn’t follow any of these rules. Blogging is a drag. Every day. I look at my favorite short story writer ever, Denis Johnson. He wrote around 10 good stories in a LIFETIME. And if I write one bad post I get emails about it. So I really hope people do the opposite of these rules and be bad bloggers. I sometimes bleed too much when I blog. When you bleed too much it gets painful for yourself or for the people around you (“Ugh,” I can hear Claudia saying, “I have to put up with him all day saying ‘I have nothing to write about’ “)

(what I look like when I finish a blog post)

Nor am I saying that  I’m the Moses of bloggers so now I can write the 10 rules. Moses stuttered and I don’t. He also killed the first-born non-Jewish child of every family in Egypt. I think that’s a pretty cruel thing to do. I’m just saying here’s 10 rules that I try to follow. I don’t sell ads or anything on my blog. Nor do I follow the blogs whose sole purposes is to tell you how to make money as a blogger.

But I want to improve as a writer. And I think blogging is a brand new form of literature. It’s blogerature. It’s not poetry, or short stories, or essays, or reporting (if it’s done right). In my opinion (and people can disagree) blogging is a brand new 3 dimensional art form.

(actually, think of a blog as a 4 dimensional art form. It links backwards and forwards in time and space.)

1. Say something nobody has ever said before, ever!

Example: My recent post, “I’m scarred”. Its a response to a large part of the self-help industry. I view many things in self-help as methods of hypnosis. They hypnotize you to be happy when you might not be. Then, if you are hypnotized, you can function in the real world and achieve success. That, in a nutshell, is 99% of “self-help”. But I don’t want to be hypnotized. I want to be the real me. The real me is scarred and proud of it. Rather than being hypnotized into being a functional human in a brainwashed world, I want to be a superhuman, riding on top of the zombies. I AM LEGEND!

2. Say it with blood. If your blood stops, you have a heart attack. You die. If your blood doesn’t leak onto the page, your post will have a heart attack. It will die.  If you can’t say something with blood, then don’t say it, else it won’t reach the heart.

Example: my “Note to Facebook Shareholders”, I start with how much money I lost in the dot-com boom. Result: its a big number so people get shocked. Just like you get shocked when you see a car accident and you stare out the window as you pass. You can’t keep your eyes off of it. All of that blood! Blood gets to the heart. If you can’t say something you are embarrassed about, then don’t say anything.

 

3) Tell a story. Not just blood but tell a story with a beginning, middle, end. For instance, something is wrong in the world and you have an idea to save it: beginning is How this Problem Has Effected Me. Middle is How it’s Affecting the World. End is Solution. Then the real End is how people react to your thoughts. The bloody aftermath.

4) Deliver something of value. Everyone has read blog posts like “10 ways to have more confidence in a meeting”. Without the above three items though, nobody will read that post. But people want help. They need it. It’s a hard world. If you really have something you are expert (through personal experience or heavy reading that you can synthesize) then share it. But deliver value in every post. Deliver value in every sentence. Try to in every word if possible.

5) Pictures. There’s a reason Instagram just got bought for $1 billion. There’s a reason Pinterest is the fastest growing social network ever. There’s a reason Facebook is considered just one big photo sharing service (on my “facebook ticker” on the right is just just people commenting on other people’s photos. People LOVE pictures. And people have little attention span.

(everyone likes a good photo)

There’s 800mm blogs. You have to compete. It’s not enough to have the above 4 rules. If you are going to have a post greater than 200 words you need to get people’s eyes to dance down the page. There are three ways to do that: photos, bold text, and lists (or all three). Photos because their eyes jump from photo to photo (and hopefully read everything in between). Lists because their eyes jump from point to point and then they decide what to read in those points (each point is almost like a mini-blog post. Plus its like a road map of how to read your blog). BUT, if you go the list route, you still need photos. But not the other way around.

6) Challenge conventional wisdom. I don’t want to read the NY Times on Sunday and then see more-or-less the same thing in your blog the next day. If you think Romney or Obama should be President, give reasons nobody has ever thought of before. If you think kids should be unschooled give: reasons, curriculum, results of unschooling, experiences in unschooling, etc. Maybe you think Israel should be relocated to Montana. Maybe you think Google should be implanted in the eyes like in a cataract-style operation. Maybe you think the SEC, IRS, and FDA should be abolished. I’m not saying I agree with any of the above but if you are going to take a stance, go out to the furthest, weakest, limb on the highest tree , and shout it loud. then Bleed. The bleeding will carry the blood back to the root of the tree. Back to the people standing watching the tree.

Don’t do it just for the sake of controversy. But a blog should help people how to think. Everyone is brainwashed all day long. The blogger is the deprogrammer. You have to look at things in a different way. If you don’t, then go back to being a robot and wait for the next instructions from the mothership.

7) Show, Not Tell. Don’t tell me “Apple has a better phone than Google”. Give me specific examples why and how you specifically used the iphone. Don’t tell me “Richard Nixon was a liar”. Show me when he lies. Put me in his shoes and make me lie as if I were Richard Nixon. Start off “You are Richard Nixon and you are scared. Everyone standing in your office right now might be testifying against you but you don’t know who. What do you do? You stand up and lie…”  Don’t tell me the FDA causes companies to spend too much to develop a drug. Show me a company that spent a billion dollars and had to drop out at the last moment because they couldn’t raise enough money for the one drug that everyone deep down knows cures cancer.

8) Titles need  to be GREAT. You don’t want titles to be link-bait. Like, “10 Ways I Peed on Politics”. But make sure they suck someone in. This is no different than direct marketing from the 1940s. Making a title on an envelope so good that people HAVE to open it despite the piles of junkmail. Lists are good for this. But check out the book “Tested Advertising Methods”. There’s scientific evidence what is a good title and what is not. You want people to CLICK. I wrote a recent article on TechCrucnch: “Why Google Might go to Zero“. I was talking about the article to a friend of mine the morning it was released and he said, “why didn’t you title this “This is like the XYZ Case Number 2″. I can’t even remember what the XYZ case was. BORING! My article ended up being popular. In part, because of the title. And also, in part, because I told a personal story about never getting the girl’s number.

I bled, I delivered value, and I gave evidence nobody had ever thought of before.

9. Use Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and any other platform you can think to spread the world. Offer to syndicate on various sites. You need to built your platform. There’s no such thing anymore as “build it and they will come”. People say if you syndicate then Google Search doesn’t like that. WHO CARES!? If you consistently deliver value, then value will come back to you.

10. This is almost a summary of the above but: NO RANTS. Personal story, great title, blood, problems, solutions, value, challenge wisdom. But no rants. The personal story weaves it all together. Even this post started with my own personal pain about blogging. Every day I have to decide, “is this the day I stop.” Why am I even doing this? I don’t really know. But I like to do it so today it continues.

End it “And then I sat down and ate vanilla ice scream. My favorite.” Cap off your anger with sweetness. Deep down, we don’t want problems. We don’t want blood. We want to eat vanilla ice cream. And that’s what I’m eating right now.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/james.altucher James Altucher

     I would have to laugh to write about that one also. Signed,
         – from one divorced guy to another

  • http://www.PriscillaPWood.com/ Priscilla P. Wood

    People read other people because of what they have to say and because of their engaging writing style, both of which you have. If that’s not true then nobody would read Denis Johnson (more current but still Jesus’ Son is 20 years old), Sylvia Plath or Virginia Woolf, old stuff right there. 

    I’m going to take a wild guess and say that if someone lands on a really good post of yours they will read it.

    I know I’ve gone back to read your posts several months back, post I’ve already read and read them again because they are still current, it doesn’t get old in fact the date proves it.

    What makes a post timeless is its content not the date. :-)

  • http://Www.brookefarmer.com/ Brooke Farmer

    I HATE bleeding in public. But…

    I’ve recently (in the last couple years) come to the conclusion it is the only way to cauterize the wounds. If you bleed in private for the rest of your life, you will bleed to death.

    I started blogging two and a half years ago. I blog under a pseudonym, so I can bleed all over the place and still feel safe.

    The blogging, however, lead to some other opportunities. Ones in which I couldn’t hide behind a fake name. I have stood on a stage in a packed (but smallish) theater and told some of my closest held secrets to a room full of strangers. It was the most terrifying thing I have ever done- and I don’t shy away from scary things. But it felt so fucking good afterwards.

    I have since continued to perform in these story telling shows and am compiling some of the essays into a book. The book will be nothing but blood. But I laugh a lot, so it won’t feel so heavy.

    I think that is another rule. Maybe a life rule more than a blogging rule. Be able to laugh at your own blood. Carrie Fischer said “If my life weren’t funny it would just be true and that is unacceptable.” I try to live like that.

    I was once in a five year relationship with a man. We lived together for a good portion of it. I don’t think he ever saw me cry until the month when everything came to an end. I’m learning to cry and bleed. And I gotta tell ya, I think it’s really fucking healthy.

  • http://Www.brookefarmer.com/ Brooke Farmer

    Laugh at yourself. Then we will laugh too.

  • husseinghouleh

    I believe that if you believe in those rules, you then should not be worried about bad responses from people, especially if you believe you are right, but then again, I might be wrong :-)

  • Efrain

    Haha thanks for this post. I actually started blogging because of you. And i just wrote post called “10 Things I Learned from James Altucher”

    mefrain.blogspot.com

  • Tim

     Robin,

    Have you tried one of those programs where you speak and it types?  I may do that as it would save a lot of time

    Tim

    • Robin Heinen

      Yes, currently I am using Dragon NaturallySpeaking 11 since a few weeks. It’s very nice, and it works (fast as well!). This obviously improved my life as a blogger :). And as a student, I could get a copy at one third of the normal price. It’s a must have for everyone who loves to share, but is somehow ‘blocked’. It might also help other writers… sometimes talking is easier than writing, I guess.

      Robin

      • Tim

         Robin,

        That’s funny, it’s exactly what I am looking at and then I saw your blog where you were trying that. I may have to try it as well, thanks

        Tim

  • Dave

    Don’t ever stop blogging, James. If you stop, I’ll cry.

  • Advil

    I never miss your blog, and can guarantee that you have added value to my life. But in this blog you said “I don’t sell ads or anything on my blog”, but there is an advert on the right for StockTwits (and another for you book) :-)

    • Advil

      I feel bad now for posting this comment, as I always read you blog, and always get something out of it…

  • http://twitter.com/adrianoarwin Arwin Adriano

    In reality there is always something blog and what makes it hard is when you were confuse of what to blog about.

  • http://blog.jimgrey.net/ Jim

    Of course I like the “rules” you list that I already follow. Whenever someone has the same idea I have, I naturally think they’re brilliant.

    I’ve been blogging for 5 years and post twice a week.  Some of my posts suck, most are okay, a few are really good.  I write about stuff that’s interesting to me that I think might be interesting to someone else.  I write just to keep writing.  Posting the sucky posts helps me because I’m embarrassed by them, and it makes me want to work harder at it so I am not backed into a corner the next time with no good ideas (or only poor execution of a good idea) and have to post that sucky one.

    I’m not competing. I just want to write and have some people read it. I’ve managed to attract a small following. The same ten or twenty people show up all the time in the comments.  That makes me happy and it’s all I need to keep going.  Fortunately, they’re kind when I suck.

  • Sherry Siska

    Would you consider doing a whole post about number 9?  I’m old and clueless, apparently, about how to gain followers on Twitter.  And, about the only thing I’ve gotten from Google+ is a massive (ha!) following of Russians.  I’m slightly worried that it might be some friends of that Russian mobster guy down in Key West who called me “Mamala” and evidently thought me quite a catch, but that’s a story for my blog, not yours.  Anyway, more specific advice (perhaps with a handy glossary) would be much appreciated! 

  • http://www.dinosaurtrader.com dinosaurtrader

    I just don’t believe it’s one in ten.  I think all the yoga and positive thinking has blissed you out too much and numbers have lost their relevance.

    Admit you think “everything is one” now.  This is what happens when you marry a yogi.  

    -DT

  • http://www.killfive.com Killer

    I think you may be the Stephen Crane of bloggers:
    “Many red devils ran from my heartAnd out upon the page,
    They were so tiny
    The pen could mash them.
    And many struggled in the ink.
    It was strangeTo write in this red muck
    Of things from my heart.”

  • Roy
  • http://www.livingbydoing.com/ Anders Thue Pedersen

    0. Be honest

    I find it hardest to write honestly what i want to write, all too often i end up writing for the reader/what i think the reader would like.

  • http://robnonstop.com/ Robnonstop

    What does syndicate mean?

  • Hassan

    “He also killed the first-born non-Jewish child of every family in Egypt.” – Umm.. No ..   He was the messenger ..  

  • http://twitter.com/kyle_bailey Kyle Bailey

    James you’re my hero

  • Rogie Y

    saying it with blood and following all the other rules helped a lot in my blogging. having an all time high views today by doing it, wow. Thanks a lot James. I can’t remember how I got into your blog but what I know is that I’m totally hooked to it now.

  • http://twitter.com/michaelhwan Michael Hwan

    I just started blogging and I’m glad this post is helping me along. Thank you James! ^.^

  • http://www.blockbusterdiva.com/ MiciROX

    I love it when a blogging post has a unique edge to it.

  • Shubham Somani

    Really i like it. the content you have written is awesome. i like your post.