Here’s How Lee Odden Writes

image of Lee Odden with Authority Intensive colors and branding

He’s appeared in the pages of the Wall Street Journal, The Economist, and the New York Times.

He’s presented in Hong Kong, London, San Francisco, and New York City.

He is a fixture at annual events like Content Marketing World, Social Media Marketing World, and BlogWorld Expo.

His list of keynote addresses is equally impressive:

  • Search Congress (Barcelona, Spain)
  • NMX BlogWorld (NV, US)
  • Fusion Marketing (Antwerp, Belgium)
  • Social Media Junction (Auckland, NZ)
  • Search Exchange (NC, US)
  • MN Blogger Conference (MN, US)
  • Online Marketing Summit (MN, US)

In 2010 he was named one of the top Social Media Strategists to watch. In 2008 he placed #15 on a list of the top 100 online marketers. And he’s ranked in the top ten of the Twitter Power 150 list.

This prolific writer also has a book to his name (Optimize: Win more customers with Social Media, SEO and Content Marketing) and is the editor behind Online Marketing Blog … a highly decorated online marketing website.

  • Content Marketing Institute named it the #1 content marketing blog three times
  • Social Media Examiner named it the #2 social media blog
  • AdAge listed him in their Power 150 List

To say Lee knows the intersection of search, social media, and content marketing is an understatement.

This is what John Jantsch, Owner, Duct Tape Marketing, said about him:

Lee Odden knows more about online tools and strategies than most ever will. But, he also has a great knack for sharing, demystifying, and teaching these seemingly technical topics in ways that allow anyone to make practical use of them.

No surprise Lee is a past board member of the Minnesota Interactive Marketing Association, DMA Social Media Advisory Council, and DMA Search Engine Marketing Council.

And last but not least, Odden is the CEO of TopRank Online Marketing, a content, social, and search marketing agency with B2B companies including McKesson, LinkedIn, and Dell.

And did I mention Lee is speaking at Authority Intensive? It’s true. And trust me: he will bring it.

But enough with the introduction. I’m going to let the writer speak for himself now.

About the writer …

Who are you and what do you do?

“Who am I?” It sounds so existential. Essentially, I’m a guy that’s really interested in the intersection of people and technology. A journey of curiosity has led me through a few different careers to my current role as the CEO and co-founder of TopRank Online Marketing.

For the past 13 years, I’ve been able to travel all over the world, write for hundreds of thousands of readers, consulted for numerous Fortune 500 companies, work with a team of smart and creative marketers at our agency, and learn something new just about every day.

If someone from the future had visited me in college and said I’d end up writing and giving public presentations for a living, I’d have spit my mouthful of beer right out. I mean Sprite.

For our marketing agency, I’m responsible for our own marketing and quite a bit of writing and content creation. Whether it’s writing articles, working with influencers to create conference ebooks, or presenting at industry events, I like to keep my hands dirty with content projects.

Fundamentally I’m a marketer, but also a proud dad, a traveler, a foodie, and a beardie.

What is your area of expertise as a writer?

The majority of my writing (1.2 million words over the past 10 years – sheesh!) is through blogging at toprankblog.com where I cover the intersection of digital marketing and public relations.

In general, the types of content I create ranges from blog posts to articles in industry publications, to ebooks and reports. I’ve also contributed to a few books and written one myself called Optimize: How to Attract and Engage More Customers by Integrating SEO, Social Media and Content Marketing.

Where can we find your writing?

While I’ve contributed to a wide variety of sites ranging from MarketingProfs to Content Marketing Institute and ClickZ, most of what I write on a regular basis is at Online Marketing Blog. I do plan on building out a new blog at marketingblog.com later this year.

The writer’s productivity …

How much time, per day, do you read or do research?

It really varies. Because I have a number of responsibilities and travel quite a bit, I spread research and reading time throughout the day. I’d guess about two hours a day researching.

Before you begin to write, do you have any pre-game rituals or practices?

I do have a routine to write at certain times of the day, but nothing in terms of rituals. Maybe I should start one.

I could eat an orange before every blog post and prank call Brian Clark before every magazine article.

Do you prefer any particular music (or silence) while you write?

As much as I like music, it’s pure distraction for me when I write. I can definitely achieve a state of flow more quickly without music or with white noise.

How many hours a day do you spend writing (excluding email, social media, etc.)? What is your most productive time of day?

I write about three hours a day on average. That can really vary when I travel though. The most productive time of day for me to write is whenever I can get quiet, uninterrupted time, which happens mostly when I fly on a plane – early or really late.

Do you write every day or adhere to any particular system?

I’d tell you, but then I’d have to kill you.

Oh, all right. I used to write all of the blog posts for our blog and still write the majority of them; so writing every day has been a necessity. My system is a hybrid approach of fulfilling the content plan on designated topics and taking advantage of opportunities that present themselves through experiences, news, and interactions with our community. Fortune cookies can work too.

Do you believe in “writer’s block”? If so, how do you avoid it?

Writer’s block is my nemesis. I’ve dealt with writer’s block off and on for the past five years or so. Changing the situation can work in the short term, but what has worked for me in the long run is to focus on creating rich engagement opportunities with other like-minded and differing points of view — both online and off.

I think the richer your interactions with a community, the more ideas will flow and the more questions there are that need to be answered.

Community is a goldmine for combatting writer’s block.

The writer’s creativity …

Define creativity.

To me, creativity is seeing and communicating ideas in ways that are unique, compelling, and unexpected.

Who are your favorite authors, online or off?

When I was a kid, science fiction was my thing and I read quite a bit of Isaac Asimov, Robert Heinlein, J. R. R. Tolkien, and also got into some Franz Kafka.

Can you share a best-loved quote?

“What the mind of man can conceive and believe, it can achieve.” Napoleon Hill.

How would you like to grow creatively as a writer?

After all the writing I’ve done, I still don’t feel like I’m a very good writer. So really, any improvement would be growth for me.

I would like to do a much better job of incorporating different levels of story across multiple content types and media over a longer timeframe. I’m doing a lot of research into transmedia storytelling right now.

Who or what is your Muse at the moment (i.e. specific creative inspirations)?

Stan Lee. I’ve been revisiting a lot of the Marvel comics I grew up with as a kid and now see the storytelling and visual elements in a whole new light.

What makes a writer great?

I think great business writers are excellent at “info-taining” readers and using stories to relate business topics that both inform and help the reader feel what the writer is conveying.

The writer’s work flow …

What hardware or typewriter model do you presently use?

My 13” MacBook Air is my digital typewriter. I also use iPads and an iPhone for research.

What software do you use most for writing and general workflow?

I love Evernote for writing and organizing research. It syncs to the cloud so I can easily research and keep notes from anywhere to a single location available to any of my devices.

Do you have any tricks for beating procrastination? Do you adhere to deadlines?

Clearly, judging by my timing with this questionnaire, I suck at deadlines. Procrastination or just getting well-organized is ongoing for me. This is why I will be hiring a marketing assistant.

I have made some progress though. I try to set deadlines and work backwards, breaking down how much to have done and when. I also keep 5-6 articles in progress at any given time to combat the rarity of uninterrupted time. For me, finishing off an 800-word article I’ve been nibbling at for a few weeks is much easier than sitting down and researching and writing an article in one or two hours.

How do you stay organized (methods, systems, or “mad science”)?

Evernote and Google Docs are my magic.

How do you relax at the end of a hard day?

Being with my kids, out to dinner with the family, go for a 30-mile bike ride.

Just for fun …

Who (or what) has been your greatest teacher?

Experimenting and figuring out insanely difficult situations and failing and succeeding has been my greatest teacher.

What do you see as your greatest success in life?

Family is the most important thing to me, so creating a great life for them has really meant a lot. I am very thankful to everyone on our team, clients, and peers that helped make that happen over the years.

Professionally, it is incredibly satisfying when people introduce themselves at conferences and tell stories about how they’ve used our blog posts, articles, and book to advance their careers and grow their businesses. I never expect it and am awed when it happens.

What’s your biggest aggravation at the moment (writing related or otherwise)?

Overcommitting to projects I am involved with personally. I need to say no and delegate more often.

Choose one author, living or dead, that you would like to have dinner with.

Toughie! Benjamin Franklin? No, let’s go with Dr. Suess.

If you could take a vacation tomorrow to anywhere in the world, where would you go (cost or responsibilities are no object)?

I want to go to Nepal and also Brazil, but Hawaii is winning out. North Shore on Oahu would do the trick.

Can you offer any advice to fellow writers that you might offer yourself, if you could go back in time and “do it all over?”

Brute force trial and error writing takes way too long! Take some classes, get a mentor or two and practice as much as you can. Stick with what you’re most passionate about and be persistent.

Is there anything else you’d like our readers to know?

All work and no play makes Lee a dull boy.

Please tell our readers where they can connect with you online.

And finally, the writer’s desk …

Although Lee does most of his writing on an airplane, he’s still got a little sanctuary he likes to hunker down in and get some work done.

And if Lee’s mind wanders while working, his trusty sidekick Coco keeps him line.

Then there’s always the monster book on Shakespeare to jostle his creative juices if he gets bored.

Image of Lee Odden desk

And thank you for sharing The Writer Files …

More Q&As are in the works from writers who inspire us, and if you care to explore our archives, you can find more inspiration here.

If you’ve already subscribed to Copyblogger via email or RSS, the next installment will be delivered to you just like the rest of our daily content. If not, go ahead and subscribe right now so you don’t miss a thing.

Now set some ambitious deadlines and get back to work! See you out there.

And if you’d like to join in on the discussion around this post, we’d love to see you in the conversation over on Google-Plus.

Editor’s Note

We are thrilled that Lee Odden will be speaking at our content marketing and networking event — Authority Intensive — taking place May 7-9, 2014, in Denver, Colorado. It’s currently sold out, but stay tuned for details on next year’s Authority Intensive!

About the author

Demian Farnworth


Demian Farnworth is Copyblogger Media's Chief Copywriter. Follow him on Twitter or Google+.

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