Early Bloggers

When did blogging begin? Earlier than you think!

early bloggers, blogging history, marketing blogs, Psychotactics, Sean D'Souza

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How To Respect The Intelligence Of The Reader

There are writers. And there are writers.
But you see I was a cartoonist.

It was way back in the year 1988

I was drawing cartoon strips for a very popular newspaper called ‘Mid-Day’. And every day, I’d draw a new strip, and submit it to the newspaper. And since it was back in the days before the Internet, I often had to get on a train, travel 20 miles (about 20 kilometres), walk for 15 minutes to get to the newspaper office before the 7:30 am deadline.

One day I ran into the editor. And he commended me on my cartoons. “But there’s one thing you can do to make it better”, he said.

You need to respect the intelligence of the reader

“You need to write the joke, so that the reader almost gets it,” he said. “And that way the reader anticipates the humour and has twice the laugh. If you go into too much detail and explain the joke in your comic strip, you lose out on the punch. The reader feels cheated. And it’s all because you haven’t respected their intelligence.”

As a writer you need to respect the intelligence of the reader too…

In your writing, you’ll often find that the story you’re telling is coming to an obvious end. And so, you simply leave out the obvious end. You simply let the reader make up the story in their own mind.

So how do you do this ‘intelligence’ bit? Let’s look at an example.

My friend Karen has no problem exercising. Rain, cold, even boiling hot weather doesn’t stop her from putting on those sneakers and bounding out the door.
I have no such luck. I hate exercise. Every cell in my body rises up in mutiny at the thought of doing any repetitive movement.
The flip side is that I love food. And as you probably know, I’m fussy about cooking a variety of great food.

You see the problem, don’t you?
Which is why I had to invent the ‘chocolate motivator.’

As you’re reading the last line of the first paragraph, you’ve already figured out that I love food.
And hate exercise. What happens next? You as a reader already know the answer, so I have to respect your intelligence. Which is why instead of belabouring how many pounds/kilos I put on, I simply move ahead in a swift, nimble way. Your brain fills in the blanks. And whether you consciously think about it or not, you realise I’m respecting your intelligence.

Respecting the intelligence also allows for drama in your writing.
As you noticed, having spared you the details of the whole ‘weight issue’, I went on to talk about the ‘chocolate motivator’. Now I’ve got you even more interested, because you want to know more about the ‘chocolate motivator’.

You can now use something really unusual to let the customer slide through your article, or you can even use something the customer isn’t expecting at all.

Let’s have a look at an example:

My friend Karen has no problem exercising. Rain, cold, even boiling hot weather doesn’t stop her from putting on those sneakers and bounding out the door.
I have no such luck. I hate exercise. Every cell in my body rises up in mutiny at the thought of doing any repetitive movement.
The flip side is that I love food. And as you probably know, I’m fussy about cooking a variety of great food.

And despite this perfect storm, I lost six pounds in less than two weeks.
And it’s all due to the invention of the ‘chocolate motivator.’

See what happened above?
In a piece, you can still respect the reader, and yet bring in something so disconnected that the reader is yanked out of their mid-afternoon snooze. Suddenly they’re paying close attention. And then having got their attention, you lead them merrily through the article using drama and flow.

Writing with drama and flow a learned skill
You need to know when to tell your story. And when to shut up. But mostly you need to respect the intelligence of your reader. It’s only then that you get the reader’s respect back. :)

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Why You Need To Find An Outsider’ Before You Start A Project

When we’re about to start a project, we sit down and we plan.
We plan about the resources we have, the time needed for implementation, and yada, yada. What we don’t plan for is someone to watch over us.

So who is this someone who watches over us?
Is it someone who’s technically qualified? Is it someone who’s emotionally sound? Is it someone who we trust? It doesn’t have to be any of the above. It just needs to be someone. Preferably an outsider. Someone you don’t know so well.

So let me explain
I have no problem getting stuff done. In early May I got off a plane into a chilly autumnal New Zealand. And in four weeks, I was able to complete writing a book (The Brain Audit Ver 3.2), do the voice recording of the entire audio book, editing, tagging, blah, blah while writing articles and doing squillions of other things. What I wasn’t able to do is go for a walk. What I neglected to do is get back to exercising.

And the cold is a good excuse…
Because it’s not like I don’t plan. I plan to go walking. I plan exercise. And then I don’t get going at all. That’s when I found someone. I went to the ‘Taking Action’ forum in 5000bc and posted my plan. And immediately I found someone. Someone that would gently encourage me.
Someone that would gently nudge me.

But don’t find a close friend or relative

That won’t work at all. The more you know the person, the more likely you are to snap back when you’re underachieving.  You know what I mean, don’t you? We snap back at our friends, our spouses, our brothers and sisters. But we patiently listen to the outsider. Having a friend or relative is counter-productive as you don’t have to live up to their expectations as much. But an outsider,ah that outsider: somehow we feel we can’t let them down.

We feel responsible to keep our word. And so we start getting things done. Just so we can keep that outsider happy.

That outsider someone you need to find today.

This could be your neighbour. It could be your hairdresser. Just find someone who’s an outsider. Who’ll pop up enough to get you going. And keep you going.

For me it’s easy. I just head to 5000bc. And there’s always someone there for me. Someone I don’t know so well, but someone who watches over me and keeps me going.

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How To Know If Your Article Is Exciting Enough For The Reader

When you complete an article, you always have one of two reactions.
You think it rocks. Or you think it sucks. And you may be wrong on both fronts. You may think your article rocks, when in fact it sucks.
And vice versa.

So how do you know if your article works?
You would think you needed to read your article from start to finish, don’t you?

Quite the contrary: You don’t read the article at all. You simply scan the article. And when you’re scanning, here’s what you’re looking for:
1) The headline.
2) The first fifty words.
3) The sub-headlines.
4) The ending.

That’s it.

If you can see a flow from headline through the sub-headlines down to the ending, you know your article is working.
And the reason why it works is because it’s answering all the questions that a reader would possibly ask. Now the only question is: When do you do this audit? Before or after you write the article?

That’s a toughie, because your situation determines how you write an article.
On some days will write an article from start to finish based on a ‘response’. So if you’re in a forum or a blog, and someone posts something, you’ll find yourself all fired up and you’ll write a detailed answer.

In many cases, your answer will have all the power and completeness of a finished article because you’re trying to make sure you cover all the points. In such a situation, all you need to do is make the sub-headlines bold (if you don’t have sub-headlines, invent them for the sake of the exercise). Then audit the article for flow. A touch here, a move there, and your article will be ready.

But what if you’re starting up from the ground up?

If you’re starting up from ground zero, you need structure. The structure comprises of the headline, the first fifty words, the sub-headlines that answer the questions ‘What? How? Why? When? Can you give me proof? Can you give me an example?’ And then the ending paragraph of the article. If you follow this systematic approach, your article will flow a lot better than most written material.

But first let’s take an example using an actual article

Headline: The Power of Connectors in Copywriting
First fifty words: You’ve started reading a newsletter. And before you know it, you’re at 500 words. Then at 750 words. And hurtling past 1000 words. How on earth did you end up reading so much, when all you wanted to do was skim through the article? The answer is in the connectors in copywriting.
The sub-headlines:
- So what are the connectors in copywriting?
- Do you see what’s happening?
- A connection is like a bridge
- Why is this slip-sliding so very important?
- Example, Example:
- Personal Experience:

Ending: If you noticed, the content in this piece didn’t have enormous style. It lacked stories. It lacked metaphors. And yet it made a distinct point. It taught you something very powerful. Of course, the biggest reason you continued to read, was because of the connectors. Every movie, article or sales letter that’s brilliant always has a connection. Create the connection and your reader will read from start to finish!

See the flow in that article?
Once you have flow in the sub-headlines, what you have is solid structure.
And that’s what makes an article exciting: the ability to answer all the questions of the reader in a systematic, easy flowing manner.

That’s your internal audit system. That’s how you know if your article really rocks. Or sucks.

Way better than just ‘wondering’ if it rocks. Or sucks.

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Why Rest Is Critical To Become A Better Writer

Every day at a certain point in my day my brain is exhausted. And this tiredness has nothing to do with writing. It’s rather got something to do with walking. And listening.

And yes, let me explain.

Every day I take a brisk walk for about an hour. And I almost always have my iPod and I’m almost always listening to a course, some educational stuff, or learning a language.

But about 45 minutes into the walk, something weird happens. My brain shuts down. No matter how much I try to focus, whole sections of the audio seem to drop out. I get easily distracted. I try harder than ever to concentrate, but despite my best efforts the information seems to have no hold on me.

My brain is overwhelmed with information

And it doesn’t even have to be new information. New information is extremely exhausting, because my brain has to work out:
1) the relevance of the information.
2) the applications to my every day life.
3) how to use the information in the right manner (and not goof it
up).

This mental calisthenics takes enormous computing power. And by the 45 minute mark, I’m exhausted.

But when I go through the same information the next day I’m refreshed

And this is because my brain has rested. And it’s had time to absorb, sort out and tidy the information into tiny little brain cupboards. Now I start to build on the previous day’s work. And so every day, a new layer is added.

And this brings me to writing articles daily instead of once a week.

You are wasting your time if you try and write once a week

When you’re learning new concepts, the brain needs to struggle and sizzle a bit every day. Then it needs a rest. The next day it builds on that information it learned the previous day. The frying and sizzling goes on.

And then it rests again. However, if the brain goes through working on one factor day after day, for a week or so, it learns on a daily basis. It adds to the knowledge, so that by the time the week has ended it’s pretty confident about the new learning.

So let’s take an example…

Let’s say you’re in the Psychotactics Article Writing Course. And on the first week, you only work with creating structure by answering the questions: How, what, why, when etc.

You keep at it, day after day. The first few days are pure torture. Then something seems to settle. By week three or four, the structure issues concerning what, why, when etc. doesn’t faze you at all.

Nope, you’ve got something else that drives you nuts. Like creating angles. Or creating drama. Or flow.

If your brain tries to take on all of the concepts together it goes into a state of confusion

But if it handles one form of structure a week, day after day, then you know what happens, right?

Yes, you get better. And the reason you get better is because the brain gets time to rest. It gets time to resolve glitches. It gets time to store. It gets time to layer the information without having the burden of learning and applying it all.

But surely you don’t have time to write every day

You probably don’t. And I don’t. And no one has time to write every day. But we believe we can indeed have one big chunk of time in the week, and that’s when we’ll get things done.

And of course you know what comes next. Not only will that chunk of time come and go, but you’ll be under more pressure than ever. And you’re more confused than ever.

Setting aside even fifteen minutes will get you to write three-four paragraphs. It doesn’t matter if they’re crappy paragraphs. It doesn’t matter if the headline stinks. It doesn’t matter if there’s no flow.

What matters is that you do the every day discipline. What matters is that you’re giving your brain the best chance to succeed by giving it a break between successive sessions.

Of course there’s a story why I started writing once a day

At one point I wasn’t writing once a week. I was writing once a month. And writing was torture. I’d struggle over an article for a day or two, and there was no guarantee that I’d complete the article.

And I’ll tell you I wasn’t having any fun at all. I did it because I had to. I did it because it was helping our business get more clients. But I hated the process of writing the article.

Of course once it was done, I’d preen around the words and be all happy with my work of ‘art’, but the process, arrrrrrrgh I hated the process. So I did something quite weird.

I started writing more often

I started up a membership site at 5000bc.com. There was absolutely no content at 5000bc when I first started. So in a moment of bravado I promised the members five articles a week. And though I was petrified about meeting this deadline, I went about it systematically and turned out an article or two a day.

Most of the early articles weren’t long and structured. They were short —a bit like blog posts. They had interesting pieces of
information, but there was nothing dramatic about the style and structure. And then an amazing thing happened.

I was able to write five-seven articles a week with more ease than an article a month.

It didn’t make sense. Surely I was going to run out of material, I thought. Surely that stupid Writer’s Block would head-butt me
sooner than later, I thought.

But instead my brain took over. The discipline of writing every day forced my brain to think of innovative ways to have an endless run of content and no fear of writing whatsoever.

Your brain is a lot like my brain

It works. Then it shuts down.
Then it needs its siesta, so it can wake up refreshed and live to write another day.

Try the discipline of writing every day, and resting every day. Not because I say so, but because without it there’s only struggle and
frustration.

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