Zen and the Art of Remarkable Blogging

Zen and the Art of Remarkable Blogging

The 1974 bestseller Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance begins with the following disclaimer from author Robert Pirsig:

“[This book] should in no way be associated with that great body of factual information relating to orthodox Zen Buddhist practice. It’s not very factual on motorcycles, either.”

Likewise, this article isn’t going to teach you much of anything about Zen Buddhism, and absolutely zero about motorcycles. But I hope it does provide some insight into effective blogging, or, at a minimum, gets you to think differently about your current notions regarding content and the attention you seek with it.

The Four Noble Truths of Blogging

1. Get Over Your “Self”

Buddhists believe that suffering begins with our perception that we are separate and distinct from the rest of reality. In other words, our own egos make us miserable.

In blogging, the publisher / reader mindset can also cause you unnecessary pain. The key to successful blogging is an alignment of interests between writer and reader. It’s that sweet spot where what’s good for your readers matches what’s good for you.

Don’t focus on having a great blog. Focus on producing a blog that’s great for your readers.

2. Free Your Mind

Zen is all about seeing deeply into the nature of things by direct experience. Blogging that gets noticed and linked to is all about seeing existing information from a unique perspective and writing with a fresh angle.

Zen encourages meditation, and great blogging requires contemplative thought. If you’re truly going to get into lateral thinking mode, you’ve got to step away from the keyboard and think. Stop surfing, twittering, and reading RSS feeds and go for a walk.

Albert Einstein figured out that time is relative while on a stroll with a friend. Go do something else and a killer angle for your next blog post may just pop into your head.

3. Detach From Results

Another key to existential angst is an attachment to outcomes rather than simply focusing on excelling in our actions. This is true for any pursuit, including blogging and social media marketing.

When you focus on the outcome you expect from your content, you are almost invariably failing your readers. Moreover, while one great piece of content may change your blogging profile immensely, a failure to consistently perform at or near the same level will make you nothing more than a one-hit wonder.

Focus on consistently producing excellent reader-focused content and effectively promoting it. The results will come.

4. It’s Up to You

While still steeped in Buddhist philosophy, Zen is more concerned with attaining wisdom through doing, in that daily life and mundane tasks will teach you more than any sacred text could. In this way, blogging and Zen are closely aligned—simply showing up and keeping at it will teach you more than anyone else can.

Zen encourages practitioners to learn from teachers and other students to better understand how to attain truth through direct experience. The blogging community offers a similar environment, but the final breakthrough will always occur in your own mind and be the result of your own actions. You’ve got to accept responsibility for your own success.

I’m sure the story of the origin of Zen can make this point much clearer than I ever could:

Buddha gathered his disciples at a lake on Gridhakuta for instruction. His adherents sat in a circle about him eagerly awaiting his teachings. Wordlessly Buddha reached into the muck and pulled up a single lotus flower. He then held it high for all to see.

Practically everyone was bewildered. But then the disciple Mahakashyapa began to laugh.

Finally, Buddha handed the lotus flower to Mahakashyapa and said,

“What can be said I have said to you, and what cannot be said, I have given to Mahakashyapa.”

Get it?

Lazy Sunday Linkage

  • Check out Mike Sansone’s Nuts and Blog Bolts on Blog Talk Radio, featuring copywriters Michel Fortin, Ryan Healy,Tom Chandler and Roberta Rosenberg tomorrow last night at 8 EDT. Should be some good stuff with this crowd. Sorry, got the live date wrong, but you should be able to hear the recording now.
  • Read this post to further understand why the A-list doesn’t matter, and why they actually may be a complete waste of your time.
  • Next, read the ingenious, low-cost hustle that Seth Godin employed to promote his book Purple Cow. Are you really doing everything you can to get the attention you want?
  • Check out Minic Rivera’s new video project, Short Movement. Very cool stuff.
  • Andy Hagans reveals my secret past life. Or not.
  • I hope I didn’t discourage any readers with my grammatical errors that make you look dumb post (“dumb” just made for a better headline, which in turn helped it become the most popular post I’ve ever written). Check it out, I made a dumb mistake in my last post.
  • Jim Kukral asks me a question that I was going to try to answer, until I realized that the answer is what I write about here. I haven’t done a single thing to develop or promote this blog that I haven’t shared with you. There are no secrets; only poorly-organized information that needs to be compiled and edited into a book, which I need to get focused on. :)

Anyone else have any cool links? Drop ‘em in the comments.

Why the A-List Doesn’t Matter

An old familiar discussion has popped up again in the blogosphere. Every few months a debate breaks out about the blogging “A-List” and the inequities faced by those not included.

This time, Jason Calacanis (for the “A-List”) and Tony Hung (for the “blue collar” bloggers) go at it, with healthy interjection from Hugh MacLeod of Gaping Void. Tony makes good points about the fact that many A-List bloggers were already famous when they began blogging, and that they tend to be clustered in California and New York City, but other than that, I’m not sure why anyone (especially someone as talented as Tony) should dwell on this subject.

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How the Discovery Channel Can Help You Score Links

Myth BustersIt’s time to bust a myth that’s been running around the Interwebs lately.

There are some folks who feel that certain subject matter makes it impossible to naturally attract links with content. Others know that with a bit of imagination, just about any topic can support the successful development of remarkable content that results in links.

Scoring attention with the geeks at Digg is easier with certain subject matter, and that’s true of any specialized audience, big or small. When it comes to our own profession, hobby, or circumstances, we’re all geeks. We want to know the latest specialized details that matter to us, and we love it when that information is presented in an interesting or even entertaining manner.

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Do These Headlines Work For You?

Let’s take a break from the headline remixing, and look at some of the submissions that I thought worked “as is.” Often the key to great editing is knowing when to keep your hands off, despite the fact that we might have taken a different approach ourselves. Feel free to voice contrary opinions in the comments—I always love to hear suggestions on how to make any headline better.

Let’s start off with the strong headlines that I didn’t even try to rewrite. In fact, I suspect that in these five cases, Jim, John, Jim, Maki and that anonymous guy at Engtech fully knew their headlines rocked, and only wanted to hear us confirm it.

My Contact Form Has Been
Broken For Months

Don’t you just love when things like this happen?

After having the nagging feeling that something was not right, I tested the form on my contact page last weekend, only to have my concerns confirmed. It didn’t work.

I replaced the old form with the new WP-Contact Form III from Kristin Wangen, which is an improvement on Doug Karr’s modification of the original WP-Contact by Ryan Duff (Duff’s site seems to have died late last year). Works like a charm now.

I’m a bit concerned about how much correspondence I’ve missed. I have no idea how long the form was inoperable, but I’m guessing at least two months. Given the amount of consulting requests, biz dev proposals, and reader email I received this week with a working form, something tells me a lot of people received zero response from me when trying to get in touch this year. That’s unacceptable, and I’m upset about it.

So, if you’ve tried to contact me over the last couple of months (and you’re still reading despite my lack of response), please accept my sincere apologies. This is one of those instances where the technology that is supposed to make our lives better instead creates new problems.

Headline Remix Madness – Part Two

This is the second installment of the headline remix series. You submitted content, I’m rewriting select titles and telling you why.

If you missed Part One it’s here. Otherwise, let’s carry on, shall we?

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Headline Remix Madness – Part One

I received over 100 submissions for headline remixing, so in the spirit of March Madness, I’m going to try to rewrite as many as possible in a series of posts. Frankly, the quality of the submissions has been really good, so I will also try to point out those that work “as is” and why.

Let’s get started.

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Here’s Monday Reading Material While I’m in Austin

I’ve got to run down to Austin and meet some folks at SXSW (darn the luck), so here are some links you might have missed. I’ll be back before you know it to remix those headlines.

OK, everyone play nicely while I’m gone and I’ll hopefully have something for you tomorrow. Unless there’s a good party tonight, that is (and there always is at SXSW). ;)

Tubetorial Sold to SplashPress Media

What can I say? They made us an offer we couldn’t refuse. :)

SplashPress Media Ltd. has acquired the assets of Tubetorial, LLC, which includes the Tubetorial website and the Cutline Theme Community. SplashPress is the owner of over 30 websites, including The Blog Herald and the recently-acquired Performancing.

Tubetorial was a concept I came up with several months prior to Google’s acquisition of YouTube, and the timing couldn’t have been better. I partnered with Chris Pearson to launch and develop the site last September, and we were just about to segue into phase 2 of our business plan after an initial 6 months of successful content development and promotion. However, we started receiving inquiries from several groups about acquisition. SplashPress quickly stepped to the head of the pack in terms of credibility and vision for the concepts we had created.

SplashPress plans to integrate Tubetorial and Cutline with Performancing, which shows they clearly understand the importance of community-building alongside solid content. Chris and I offer our best wishes to the SplashPress team, and expect to see great things going forward.

More at 901am.