Get Off Your Computer and
Become a Better Blogger

image of man with a laptop

Bloggers spend a lot of time on their computers. They’re posting, reading, commenting on other blogs, sending Tweets, checking half a dozen social networking sites, and generally being web-geeky.

They find something interesting or random, and then clue in other people to that interesting or random thing.

This is how blog posts gain steam on Digg or go viral. This is how we find out about new YouTube videos. This is how we communicate now.

Except we don’t.

We were people before we were bloggers

Think about the blogs that you like the most. Like, to pick a totally random example, mine. ;)

Do you like them because they told you something weird or peculiar that you didn’t know about before? Or do you like them because you enjoy what the post says? Because you like the way the article was written? Because you like the style of the author, the blog’s sense of humor, the way the blogger turns a phrase?

Great bloggers become great because they have a unique style and way of thinking. Here’s the kicker, though: They were that way before they ever became bloggers.

Dave Navarro over at The Launch Coach? He was a pretty great dude before blogging was even invented. He was funny. He was helpful. He had kind of an attitude, in a good way. He was all the things we love him for today as a blogger.

But he wasn’t blogging. Not his fault; blogging didn’t exist back then.

If you want to become a better blogger, you need to have a style and a voice of your own — and you can’t find that sitting at your computer desk. Not enough of a voice, anyway, to make you really great.

You’re not going to develop your blogging awesomeness by re-posting what other people have written or riffing off thoughts they’ve had, or setting up endless list posts pointing to someone else’s content.

Those things are fine once in awhile, but they’re not enough to build a great blog.

Forget blogging for a while (but keep it in the back of your mind)

To become better bloggers, we need to get out in the world.

Start conversations with more people. Find the kind of jokes you like to tell. Listen to the rhythm of your voice as you speak. Pay attention to the way people react when you talk. Notice how they seem more interested when you speak in a certain way or when you discuss certain topics.

Pay attention to what attracts your interest. Does color catch your eye? Do you peek around street corners to find out who’s playing that music? Do you slow down to eavesdrop on people who seem to be having interesting conversations? Do you help people on the bus or pick up things they’ve dropped? Do you go talk to storeowners or to the others standing in line with you?

This is how you’ll find a style of your own, a personality that makes up who you are as a blogger.

Find some activities or events around the subjects you like to blog about. Naomi at Ittybiz wrote a great series about marketing and branding campaigns she noticed while walking around town.

Why? Because she’s into marketing and branding. That’s what she blogs about. It was interesting. It made her interesting.

And she wrote these posts from her own unique perspective using her own voice. There are a couple of really spiffy posts that she would never have written if she hadn’t been thinking of her blog posts as she bought paint from the hardware store.

That’s how you can be a better blogger. You find new things to write about just by getting away from the computer so you can explore the world.

So walk away from that keyboard (after you comment on this post, of course). Get outside. Go interact with a real, live, flesh-and-blood person. Communicate with that person. Observe. Watch. And come back when you’ve found out what sort of blogger you really are.

Then write a blog post that rocks that person’s socks off.

About the Author: James Chartrand is rockin’ socks off over at Men with Pens, thanks to a unique voice and plenty of time away from the computer. Check out his blog, then go get some fresh air and sun.

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Comments

  1. Completely true. It’s amazing how easy it is to become locked in your office, trying to create content with no reference point.

    Julia Cameron talks about this in The Artists Way. She says you can’t create art without seeing the world, because otherwise you’re just mulling stuff around in your own brain. There’s nothing new or fertile, just the same old crap that was there before.

    If you take out “art” and replace it with “content”, it’s a pretty accurate description of what we need to do with our blogs.

  2. Great reminder for all the bloggers who sit in their pj’s more often than they should.

    Getting our butts out in public allows us to not only be more creative and have more stories to tell but also lets us actually live a life!

  3. For the past two months I’ve been concentrating on a couple of different goals. Now, here’s James, telling me they are connected!

    I am making a concerted effort to be more sociable, get out more, talk to old friends and make some new ones and trying to write more, build a better marketing plan and post on my blog more consistently.

    Thanks for spelling out how the two go together!

  4. Going out for a walk with the Dog or Just going for a Drive can Really help Change your Thoughts and the way you Look at the World. I think most Great post’s are written on a Piece of Paper first and not on a laptop. Computers can be very Distracting and the Best way to Start a Post is with Pen and Paper Sometimes

  5. Good point! I recently got back from a backpacking trip and I told myself I was going to “get down to business” now with the blog and push push push out content – and it got sooo stressful becuase I was never leaving by computer chair! Thanks for the reminder – I think I’m going to grab a coffee at Starbucks and go wander!

  6. James, I agree about having to get out in the world.

    It also helps to have a different perspective on the everyday objects in that world.

    My favorite television show by far is “How It’s Made” on the Science channel. Watch that a few times and the ordinary objects of your world become extraordinary creations by ingenious minds. Even the machines that make these ordinary objects are something to behold.

    With your advice, and shows like How It’s made, you end up seeing the world through a creative lens that leads to more creativity and more ideas.

  7. @ Shane – I love that show too. Great stuff there.

  8. James, that’s been the theme of the week for me and I’ve devoted myself to not posting more of the same re-treaded content. I think throwing yourself into a ‘real’ conversation has a lot of merit. I’m still attached to the real world because of my job in the Army, and I’m inspired on a daily basis by the people that simply cannot understand what it is we do.

    So when I write, I try to keep those people in mind and remember that there is a place in this game for everyone. Of course, finding your unique voice isn’t always that easy…you and I have talked quite a bit about that :)

  9. Love this post! [So will my family… LOL] Your comment is “spot on” Gabe! :)

    Might not hurt to put keep your iPhone in your pocket/purse also. ;-)

  10. Excellent advice, James. Some of my best ideas have come from talking to other people and listening to what matters to them. Walks in the crisp fall air help clear your head too :)

  11. This is great advice. So many people forget that they are people first, in whatever they do. When you try to force something it is usually very obvious.

  12. Yes, I get so tired of simply seeing a rehash of images and news. Some bloggers consider themselves “aggregators”; this can be useful/interesting to a certain point. My blog absolutely depends on me being out and about, as it is all about trends in the design world, so yes, every day is a new adventure in seeing the world! As they say, you just NEVER KNOW where the next best post will come from….

  13. This is especially important if you blog about a topic outside of the online world. If you blog about snowboarding, you damn well better be out there as an active part of that community. These people are your readers after all. You’re not going to learn their frustration, interests, and desires surfing around on Digg.

  14. @Naomi Important reference to The Artist’s Way. We should all read it.

    I always try to keep the word “synthesize” at the top of my thoughts. As I am out and about, I look at everything in hopes that one thing will enrich the other.

    Even if not for the purpose of writing this is a great way to live life!

  15. I really needed to hear that! My girlfriend tells me I have several other girlfriends who are competing with her, and their names are Sony, Dell, Toshiba and Samsung. Time to meet some real people out there.

  16. This is exactly what I’ve been thinking about lately, James. We creative types have a terrible tendency to get locked inside our own brains. It’s fun for a while, but if we never take the time to get out, see the world, and listen to everything that’s happening or has happened, we’ll never get any new material to work with.

    And there’s so much stuff out there to see and learn.

    I actually wrote a post along the same lines last night, if anyone’s interested: http://artofgreatthings.com/2009/11/listen-everywhere/

  17. Really great advice. Sometimes we need reminders, or just someone to re-frame something for us so that we see things differently. Exploring the neighbourhood to see what’s happening in our own backyard allow us to keep our blog post, fresh, interesting, yet personal.

    I particularly like this post because, though it may not have been intended, the advice can help people to become unstuck, by virtue of doing something a bit differently. It’s good to interrupt our way of doing things.

    This is also forcing me to think, which is good, about how to apply the information because my blog is a niche one. Thank you for this blog post! Avil Beckford

  18. I get twitchy when I spend too much time sitting at my desk. While that made me a total failure as a cubicle-dweller, I hope my obsessive need for fresh sources of interesting things to see and do makes me a better writer, and enables me to give better content for my readers. I don’t like it when someone wastes my time, so I don’t want to do that to anyone else.

  19. Probably the best compliment I received was from my best friend back in NYC who said “Brian, you get excited like a dog.” It’s true I get excited about the smallest things that people gloss over or don’t even notice simply because they’re not “awake.”
    That said, I take a lot of walks, and I ALWAYS bring my camera. YOu never know what funny things you might see (and then can post about.) :)
    Great article, James.
    Especially like the link back to yourself. Playful. If you can engage your readers in “play”, I think you’re more apt to gain readership.

  20. This is an awesome post!

    The only problem is: I want put a longer comment…but I gotta get out into the world!

    See ya later guys! :)

    P.S>: Really awesome post though

  21. Wow, sounds like this one hits a note with a lot of people and writers out there. I’m glad, frankly!

    Some of my best work comes when I’ve had the chance to go out, talk, meet people, ask about their needs and wants, and put my brain to good use – AWAY from the computer :)

  22. Very true. I am keen in blogger’s meet up, unfortunately, such thing do not exist in Orlando.

  23. Real life is great… definitely better than fiction.

    My blog is about the adventures I have caring for my mom with Lewy Bodies Dementia. Never a dull moment in our house.

  24. Why is it when I’m out and about I get loads of ideas for blog articles and then when I sit down my mind goes blank?

    Somehow I think taking a laptop would defeat the object of getting out.

  25. Yes, James. You are right. The more we are @ keyboard, we forget to peer at the world outside and then the ‘disconnect’ happens, only to lose your reader and with that goes the voice.

    A kinetic dialog with the world around always helps you find your thought and your style and voice.

    Thank you for reminding.

  26. “Dave Navarro over at The Launch Coach? He was a pretty great dude before blogging was even invented. ”

    w00t! I sound 100 years old, thanks, James!

    :-p

  27. Brilliantness. Never truer words blogged. Matches my experience exactly. Now that I’m getting out and backing up and blogging one madman’s 1,700km unicycle adventure to raise awareness of the scourge of landmines in Africa, I’m finding my voice while writing about something I passionately believe in. Thank you for this very astute post which will help and inspire all bloggers. Fred

  28. @pat A small notebook works great for when I’m out and about. I use a journalist’s notebook, which is narrow enough to fit in my back pocket or purse. When I get back to my computer, I already have my ideas written down and can start fleshing them out.

  29. @ Dave – I actually had Brian there at first, but then… well, yeah, he’s… yeah. So you were my second best choice ;)

  30. This is very true:

    “Great bloggers become great because they have a unique style and way of thinking. Here’s the kicker, though: They were that way before they ever became bloggers.”

    In my blogging experience I see (everyday) people trying to become famous, respected, rich, etc. just because they have launched a blog. No expertise, no special knowledge, no real-life experience – they simply think they will make it because someone else had already made it.

    Things do not work like this in blogging – not in a long run, not even in a short run. You have to have some special skills and knowledge if you want to succeed in blogging, and sometimes knowing how to set up a blog, to host it and to search engine optimize it is not enough.

    Great article and I hope that many people will read it and think about it.

  31. I definitely look at the world in a new way as a blogger (and as a parent). For instance, I was really taking in all the comments and mutterings around me while waiting for two hours at H1N1 vax clinic last night. Still letting the experience settle in my mind, and think it’ll make for one of my more important blog posts. Both looking forward to and daunted by writing it.

    P.S. Think Copyblogger has some of the best writing advice around, and not just for bloggers and/or marketers at all.

  32. One of the biggest things which I believe many unsuccessful bloggers are missing is exactly what this article was talking about — personality.

    A big reason which I love this blog, other then the reason that it has extremely useful content, is that I feel that behind the article there is always a person I can connect to, and not a robot (who is planning world domination).

    Once I feel that my articles start getting a bit stale, what I do is take a break. Not a very big break, at most 2 days of relaxation, but I make sure that in those 2 days I’m completely away from my work.

    That means no brain storming ideas, no Twitter, and certainly no writing at all. Sometimes when your brain keeps repeating one thing too much, it starts to lose that energy it had at the start.

    That’s why it’s important to keep your brain thinking. Switch things up a little. You’ll be surprised how much a walk in the park can raise your productivity.

  33. The world is where I come up with my greatest ideas. Not just by talking with others, though.

    Just by observing the world around me I begin to connect the dots and come up with ideas that make me joyous :-) and accomplish entertaining others.

  34. this is sooooooo true, i send a newsletter every Week. its open rate was going down and down. I did not what the problem was, but as soon as i used the evryday remarks and turned them into lentghy hilarious articles, Newsletters open rate went up and up and awayyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy :)
    P.S I Love reading Copyblogger

  35. Great post – I totally agree. I thank my conversations with friends for many of my post inspirations. Sometimes you’re just telling a story or making a random comment and then by the reaction of the listener you can tell – this is post material. Try it out on one more set of ears.. and get back out of the “real world” and into the blogosphere to share with the masses.

  36. There’s a world outside blogging? Oh man I gotta get on this new thing asap!

  37. Fantastic points here, James (well, what else would I expect from you? ;-))

    I definitely find that post ideas come from life — and that the posts I’ve enjoyed writing most (or reading most) are ones that’ve been inspired by something that happened OFFLINE. One I loved recently was Sid Savara’s “elephant grass” story… http://sidsavara.com/personal-development/this-is-the-bridge-and-i-must-cross-it … it drew me right into the post because it put real experience upfront. Plus Sid’s voice and personality really shone through.

  38. @Gabe LOL. “also lets us actually live a life!”

    And who knows maybe when you’re out there in the real world, you may be able to get to be the first to get a new idea and post it on the web. Not just twitter about something other people twittered. Things do happen in the real world first before anything on the net.

  39. Spot on James, sometimes I feel like I’m the most anti-social person on the planet. The computer and Internet take up too much of my time because there’s always something to do, a note to send, an edit, comments to read and reply to, networking, and coffee to drink. Then everything starts going gray; the content, my thinking, my relationships, my diet, my complexion. A short walk does wonders. I’ll try to find that balance now. Thank you

  40. Lol! Makes sense. I sometimes wonder where to get big ideas to blog about when they are just waiting outside my door. :D

  41. I’m all the way down here on the comments already James so I’m not going to repeat what others have said, like this is a great awakening post, that life is actually the main developer of great content, and that we all need to find something to say about everything and sharing your true believes is what makes you unique. Well dang it.

    Oh, and @Pam, a notebook like @Tanya said, it’s the way to go. I ditched the laptop since even a Mac is not fast enough to capture those flying ideas before they go poof. I use my faithful, never-waiting-to-boot-up Moleskine for that. –Paul

  42. Nice one, James! A lady who uses horses for healing has been asking me up to her ranch for the best part of a year.
    I’ve finally made time and will go next week.

    In addition to a wonderful break from my PC, I expect to come back loaded with fresh stories the like of which people have never seen.

    So, many thanks for your validation of an initiative that’s long overdue. Best regards, P. :)

  43. Hey James,

    Your blog is simply an extension of who you are. If you’re boring in real life, your writing will be snooze-inducing as well.

    Just like songwriters who spend all day writing songs will only create music about music-making, writers who spend all day exploring online will only write about websites and social media or whatever. Both are not human, relatable, or interesting.

    Get out there and live. Be interesting. Enjoy life, have fun.

    Blogging and writing can only be an extension of your remarkable self. The outcome is only as good as what you put into it.

    Great reminder to just go and LIVE,
    Oleg

  44. Wise words.

  45. @ Paul – No matter how far down in the comments you are, I read every single one of them. (I also wish I could answer every single one of them but there’s a lot!)

    @ The Other Paul – I can say one thing firmly, through experiences. Horses do a world of healing, even to those who just go by to hang out with them for a while.

  46. Great post and so true. You need to live your own life in order to have anything new to blog about. Commenting, reading and helping other bloggers out is important. But you need you time away to be a better blogger. Thanks for the great post.

  47. James I had a good laugh reading this post because I’m at the tail end of an almost 3 week period of being housebound because of a combination of sick kids, sick me and bad weather. I feel like a boring, miserable mess and it actually took a lot of doing for me to get up the energy to run to Target today but I’m so glad I did because it did us all a world of good to be out.

    No wonder I haven’t been up to writing much lately! Although I am kind of tuckered out right now and probably do need a couple more days of rest before I’m myself again, your post reminded me that this blah, hopeless, I have nothing to write about except how much my throat hurts and I want my mommy feeling is temporary.

  48. It is a sad, sad day when we have to give people a primer on how to interact with the outside world. This not a slam against your post, but rather, a commentary on what we in this country have become. Maybe I’m too new to the blogosphere, but my initial response to reading this post is, “Really? Are you kidding me?”

  49. Timely post. I’ve been reading during my commute to and from work and watching people on the train and thinking about my blog to see what I could be providing to my readers. The real world is much more fascinating than just sticking myself to the computer really.

    I’d definitely agree we should go out and see the world and bring back some ideas for our blog. After all, we’d be living and taking actions in the real world after we finish reading stuffs on the internet.

    P.S. Anyone here types like the guy in the picture? It’s really time to take a walk +D

  50. Nichole,

    The reason that many bloggers don’t get out is not because we don’t want to..but because we’re usually working a regular 9-5 and then coming home and working 2nd shift on our blog. It’s really more a matter of time than desire.

    The lonely life of an entrepreneur :)

  51. This is something that I love most about the articles on Copyblogger. They all have a good theme that gets tied together nicely. It’s actually hard to do.

    I write about snowboard instructing and I work as a snowboard instructor, most of the time. Must give me lots of opportunities to find stuff to write about. I’ll have to see next winter.

    At the moment i’ve been writing about where i’m at, the fact that in between seasons sucks.

    Still very new to all this though, which is exciting!

  52. Hi James,

    Getting away from the computer and going outside every day is the only way to keep the mind and body fresh.

    I don’t do enough of it but when I do, after coming back the batteries are recharged and the mind is creative.

    No matter how much we want to keep working and creating content, being glued to the computer without leaving it behind is counterproductive.

    Just like you say, no personality except for that of a geek can develop in front of the computer screen.

    To be interesting to others we need to be interested in other people and go out and interact with them.

    Vance

  53. I come up with every idea I have for a blog post while I’m in the ocean surfing. So I can totally relate to this. The creative mind can’t possibly get that engaged when all you do is sit in front of a computer. I also keep a list of ideas handy and keep adding to it, and whenever I figure out what the idea will look like as a blog post I write it.

  54. Nice Post James! it is true and quite helpful for me. I agree with you.

  55. Nice one, James. Keeping up with blogs and tweets – and posting myself does my head in. Time to start thinking about a life/blog balance, hey?

  56. Great thoughts James.
    Developing an interesting personality, series of stories that are engaging and authentic and style which people can embrace don’t usually come in the technical environment of the internet. Thanks for the encouragement to get a ‘real’ life to bring back to readers on the web.

  57. @ Nichole/Nathan –

    …we’re usually working a regular 9-5 and then coming home and working 2nd shift on our blog…

    Or working our 9 to 5 right there in our home, as a self-employed individual or freelancer :)

    But Nathan has a very good point. Even the 9 to 5er that doesn’t have a blog still comes home to a second shift. Wind-down from the day, kids, making supper, a quick load of laundry, homework, watch a bit of tv or read before bed…

    I don’t know many mums and dads who have extra playtime – and they’re not even on the Internet.

    So I’m not so sure this post reflects a “sad state of the world” but just… well, life in the 21st century. Personally, I don’t think life is very sad, just busy.

    *shrugs* Better than worrying about cholera and the plague while feeding the peat bog moss fire in a cold and drafty 10 by 10 cabin, no?

  58. The key is in the last 2 paragraphs of the article. If you don’t find yourself interesting, no one else will either.

    Unfortunately, the reverse does not hold.

  59. I completely agree. In fact some of the topics on which I was able to write in length were the result of discussions with friends and colleagues.
    We can write what we read, but we can only write better what we experience!

  60. Yes, yes and yes. I think everyone is in agreement! Many blog posts (as copyblogger has previously stressed) are successful because they offer the reader something of value; whatever that might be.

    For those of us fortunate enough to have one hand in marketing and one in sales, dealing with the ‘real world’ is a little easier than people routed to the desk. However, it’s definitely true. The ideas for my blog often come from what I hear clients say or problems I hear others having.

    I would suggest if you can’t get out of the office to generate ideas, ask those you work with who do.

  61. Totally agree! If you want to produce quality work, coming from a unique perspective and primary resources, then first-hand research is the way to go!

  62. This is such a great post. For me, I get the best ideas away from the computer. Usually, I am driving or doing something with the family. Being a at home Dad and freelancer, I try to get out as much as I can; that and being with my family are the times when I get the most inspiration. By being you in the real world, you will naturally find the blogging you in due time.

  63. Couldn’t agree more, James.

  64. Most people have already repeated the salient points. Regardless, this is great advice and now I am going out for a night on the town with the girls. Always gives me new perspective :)

  65. I find this so true. I work at a college and find that I need to interact more with people that work at the college and visitors of our website. I find that I do learn a lot by visiting with people. No matter how good the collaboration tools (Google Wave) become, it will never replace real relationships and communication.

    This is a really good reminder.

  66. Whilst I was at University studying play writing, this advice was given in the first lecture. You can gain so much knowledge from listening to other people for various types of writing including blogs and articles.
    Interaction is definitely the key to gaining more content ideas as well as developing an individual style. Thanks for bringing this to light James.

  67. I completely agree with this author. We cannot become a great blogger just by sitting in front of the computer and banging our head to write some new fresh content for the blog post. Until and unless we go out of the office room and talk with people and share ideas and collects some better ideas from fellow mates. Great post for emerging bloggers .

  68. In summary: Get a life!

  69. right @ Lexi. Blogging gives you a comfort zone. It can hurt communication skills. Eventually, you’ll have to go out in the world and meet people. Great post.

  70. What a great suggestion. I spend way too much time at the keyboard. The other day I went to the store I used to work for and chated with my former colleagues.

    By the time I got home, I had thought of several things to write about!

    It works!

  71. If you blog of real life stories there wont be time to take someone else’s hard work

  72. Yes the real blogging comes from the Real You which can only be found out when you move away from the computers and take time to explore yourselves

  73. A great advise to all the blogger out there. Most of the blogger are glued to their computers all the time. This post of your’s is a must read for all the bloggers.

    Good post..

  74. I was thinking about this very thing recently. How I work so hard to make sure I make my rounds that I spend too many hours on my laptop. Some time ago, I thought about jumping on the band wagon for whatever…then I thought, “Why” everyone else has already said it. Thanks for writing this.

  75. Some of us have trouble staying home – rather the opposite of the couch-potato-blogger’s plight. Writers know that reading literature, knowing a trade, and possessing the eagle’s eye are requisites for lasting letter-fame. What do I have to show or tell that you might be interested in seeing or reading? No one will ever know, if I don’t take myself, and perhaps a camera, outside.

  76. Yes! Life makes great blog material. At least, when done correctly.

  77. This is a great reminder that we can’t just keep pouring out words onto the page as bloggers without eventually needing to pull in for a fill up. I was going to quote you were you say that we were all people before we were bloggers, but it seems like bloggers are getting younger and younger now so I gave it a second thought. Oh, then there’s the pets that blog. ;)

    I’m always surprised (why I still am I have no idea) at how many ideas for posts flood my mind when I’m away from my computer interacting with other people face-to-face. I’ve made it part of my routine now to get up and take a walk after a few hours at my keyboard. It always brings a refreshed perspective.