All posts in Writing

  • Why I’m Changing My Newsletter Format

    mailboxes
    image by Gregory Jordan

    Basically, this is why. If you’re a blogger yourself, you may have seen this article, and I gotta tell ya: it made a whole lot of sense to me. I had already been batting around some ideas for how to approach my newsletter differently, because I just wasn’t feeling solid about it. And then this post came out and helped me really nail down why it all felt weird and how things could be improved.

    There are a lot of good points in the article (for bloggers, the whole site is a great resource), but here are the main ideas I took away:

    1. Content you’d write for your newsletter should go on your blog–there shouldn’t be a separation of “newsletter content” and “blog content,” and a blog could even be considered a collection of public newsletters.

    2. If you’re intent on growing your readership, it doesn’t make sense to put forth the effort of producing quality content for your newsletter only for it to be hidden in inboxes and difficult for readers to share (they could forward it to a friend or two via email, or they could spread your message through social media channels with a much larger audience–their network–via your blog).

    3. The old newsletter format is outdated (as mentioned, sharing isn’t easy, plus, as Jon says in his post, “People recognize mass emails for what they are…”), and newsletters should really just be email updates, alerting subscribers of new content on the blog.

    After reading this and doing a quick assessment of Alternative Badassery’s practices, I outlined my own specific reasons for making a change:

    1. It Will Lead to More Personal Posts

    I don’t really have a problem being raw and authentic in my writing, but I’ve saved a lot of the really deep stuff for my newsletter, mostly because I didn’t know what else I was supposed to be sending to people’s inboxes and thought the heavy material made sense for a more private channel. But now, I’ll just post that crap for the whole world to see! It’s like when I go back to Indiana to visit my family and walk around the house in a thong and they all just slowly shake their heads and wonder where this one came from. #noshame

    2. It Will Lead to More Behind-the-Scenes Posts

    I thought it might be boring to discuss business or admin-related topics in blog posts, but y’all said you liked it. And really, I’m just here to make you happy and give you what you want. So we’ll do some more of that stuff, yeah?

    3. The Whole Newsletter Thing Has Always Felt Awkward to Me Anyway

    Like I said, I never really got what I was supposed to be doing with it. Sending you some shit I wrote? Why not put it on the blog? Asking your opinion about something? Why not ask you via social media? I have this huge list of post ideas with a few newsletter ideas sprinkled in, and that always seemed odd to me–what’s the difference?

    4. I Already Wanted to Move the Discussion Out of Email

    Some of you subscribers have replied to my newsletters with, just, fucking brilliance. You have great advice. It feels dumb that I’m the only one who gets to hear it. Not only that, but also, it usually takes me a while to respond to individual emails. So what could be a lively and helpful discussion among several interested people for whom the subject resonates becomes a stale exchange between two parties who’ve since moved on from the emotion the topic originally stirred up.

    5. It’s More Work

    Look, I don’t get enough writing done as it is. Writing a lot of unique content for the newsletter means writing less for the blog or guest posts on other sites. If it were worth it, it’d be worth it. But as we see above, it’s not worth it. Ya know?

    So What’s the Format Going Forward?

    When I write a new post, I’ll send you an email with a little intro to the article so you can decide if it’s worth your time or not, and a link to it. That’s it. And the stuff you’ve been seeing in the newsletters will now go on the blog (which I’m linking to in the emails… whoa! Still with me?).

    Can We Still Exchange Private Emails?

    YEAH! Of course, of course! Email me anytime! I get that not everyone prances around in their undies/wants to discuss everything publicly. We can totally still have one-on-one convos via email–you’ll just be the instigator of them now.

    ***

    Discuss

    What’s your take on newsletters? Love? Hate? Subscribed to a ton or never subscribe? Favorite format?

    Did you like this post? You did??!! Then, maybe, sign up for email updates, yeah? Thankee.

  • Recommended Resources for Career, Lifestyle, Quarterlife Crises, Blogging, & Freelance Writing

    books
    image by azrasta

    I’ve been flying through books and online resources like it’s my job. That’s what happens when a lover of reading and learning takes on such projects as launching a new blog, trying out freelance writing, and figuring out what to do with one’s life (NBD).

    The value of many of the items I’ve used is incredible. I’ve been blown away, really. I feel indebted to their creators–they’ve helped me so much! I’d feel like an asshole not trying to spread the word about their work.

    Originally, I developed a “Resources” page (no longer available) to house reviews and links (yes, affiliate links, whenever possible/applicable. I was really banking on making enough money for one coffee a month, ya know?) associated with all the books and products I found exceptional…but it started to get ridiculous. As in, I was reading so much good shit so fast that I was adding awesome things for people to check out all the time, and the page grew into a section of pages, which was becoming annoying to manage…

    Here’s what I’m saying: I want you to know about these resources–I want to sing their praises–but I no longer want the hassle of keeping the pages updated, nor do I want the content taking up precious real estate on my site anymore, K? Homegirl likes a clean website, and I was cluttering things up like an elderly woman does with plastic flamingos and lawn gnomes. No likey. (Besides, I need room in the site navigation for a few new pages coming soon… THE DRAMA! THE SUSPENSE! ARE YOU EXCITED ABOUT NEW PAGES?! I KNOW YOU ARE! I KNOW YOU CARE ABOUT NEW UPCOMING PAGES ON MY BLOG!!!!!!)

    I’ve chosen two near-and-dear-to-my-heart items (also the two I have true/non-Amazon affiliate relationships with) to promote indefinitely (to your right, in the sidebar under “Recommended”), but outside of those, I think I’ll just shoot an email to my newsletter subscribers or write a review post or something for all other noteworthy books, products, exercises, and whatever else I come across.

    This is a boring post so far, I’m sorry. I think this is all stuff I’m not supposed to tell you, too. Like, if I let John read this before I publish it, he’ll tell me no one cares about the administrative details of my site, and that I shouldn’t even mention any of this. But I feel like I’m pulling a fast one on you guys by not always being transparent, so I hope you appreciate all this stuff you don’t care about. Or something like that. Let’s move on.

    Here are some truly remarkable resources I think you’ll find helpful. As mentioned, some of the links below are affiliate links, which means I’ll get about four cents of any sale made through this page (though it doesn’t change your price at all).

    Jung Typology Test

    Discovering my personality type by taking the Jung Typology Test was an enormous breakthrough for me as I flailed about in a quarterlife crisis. I learned what my natural strengths and preferences are, how I experience the world, and how I make decisions–in short, I finally felt like I understood myself. This brought a lot of clarity and relief, and the knowledge propelled me forward in my quest to identify my ideal career.

    Take the test

    Do What You Are

    This book will also help you determine your personality type (through a couple of different methods), but focuses on what it means for your work. What’s better is that it goes beyond simply offering information to include actual action items (hooray!) and relevant exercises to help you determine the best career for you. I didn’t finish the book knowing exactly what to do, but I had certainly narrowed my options down and had a good sense of the direction I should go.

    Read more

    Strengths Finder 2.0

    After coming across the third mention of this book, I knew I had to get it. The main idea here is that we should each figure out the talents we naturally possess, and focus on developing those into strengths (as opposed to spending–wasting–time trying to improve our weaknesses). The thought is that we can be professional powerhouses by finding ways to use our strengths more instead of attempting to get better at the things we’re crappy at, resulting in an average ability level at best. While the book and assessment seem to be more intended to help you make the most of a role you’re already in, knowing your talents can really help you identify an overall good career fit, too. My results revealed a lot about the jobs I would and would not be successful in.

    Read more

    The Art of Non-Conformity

    As I read through this book, I kept noticing this “Oh, thank God!” feeling. Chris Guillebeau puts into words what I’d somewhat subconsciously suspected for a long time: there are other ways to live than the one way you’ve been exposed to. Our eyes are closed to other roads, other possibilities, other ways of seeing the world and our work…and Chris opens them. This book will forever alter your worldview–for the much, much better.

    Read more

    The $100 Startup

    Interested in entrepreneurship? Here’s your guide. Also written by Chris Guillebeau, and also a source of that “Oh, thank God!” feeling–this time when it comes to strategies for launching, operating, and growing (if desired) a business. You don’t need a lot of money to get your brainchild out into the world, nor do you need to screw people over or trick them into buying to be successful. You do need to put some careful thought into how you can provide real value and truly help people, as well as what makes sense for you to offer, how best to offer it, and whom to offer it to, though–you’ll learn how to go about all this, and more, in this book.

    Read more

    279 Days to Overnight Success

    Another slam-dunk (free!) resource by Chris Guillebeau, this guide lays out the process of–and key concepts involved in–building a successful online platform. If you blog just for fun/creative release/whatever, this probably won’t interest you. But if you’re ready to take things to the next level, spread your message, get some traffic, and maybe even sell some stuff through your site, you need this info.

    Read more

    Writer for Hire: 101 Secrets to Freelance Success

    When I first started seriously thinking about freelance writing, I did a ton of research on what I’d need to do to be “legit,” and ended up completely overwhelmed. I came across a recommendation for Kelly’s book, and purchased it right away…and found that pretty much all my questions were answered. You can have zero knowledge of the publishing industry or what pitching story ideas or working with editors is like, and come out feeling like you have a decent grasp on it all after reading this book. You’ll also have a template for each of the common emails and letters you can expect to be sending as a freelance writer. Another book worth way more than it costs!

    Read more

    ***

    Discuss

    Have you used any of these resources? If so, what was your experience like? Any related items you’d add to the list?

    Did you like this post? You did??!! Then, maybe, sign up for email updates, yeah? Thankee.

  • What Makes a Good Blogger? (Plus an Announcement, Which I’m Pretending You Care About)

    macbook
    image courtesy of tobiabischoff

    If you’ve spent a few seconds on this site, you know I’m going through a quarterlife crisis. I’ve pretty much done every self discovery exercise possible, taken all skills assessments, read my face off on career advice, begged for feedback from friends and family, and tried anything out there to figure out what to do with my life.

    So at this point I probably have more self knowledge than anyone on the planet, and….yes, I’ve made a decision about my career. (Squeal!) But we’ll first talk about what you came here for: characteristics of a good blogger.

    As I reviewed my talents as identified by the Strengths Finder 2.0 assessment, I picked up on something: I was basically born to blog. Looking at the things I’m good at made the reason I put so much time and effort into something that pays me next to nothing very clear: my “career” as a blogger is a perfect fit for my natural strengths.*

    I started wondering what other innate abilities might lead a person down a blogging path. Here’s what I came up with.

    Note: I use words like “good” and “serious” and “successful” to describe a certain caliber of blogger below, but I’m aware we all have different definitions for the terms, inside the blogosphere and everywhere else. For the record, I’m thinking of people like Chris Guillebeau, Emilie Wapnick, and Penelope Trunk when I use these words. Also for the record, I do not believe any of them describe me. Yet.

    And, the announcement is at the bottom. So if you don’t care about what makes a good blogger, go ahead and scroll.

    AND: this is a long-ass post, so if you’re planning to skim, read “Sense of Responsibility” and “The Announcement.” I’m reading over everything right now and that’s definitely where the good stuff is.

    Curiosity & Intellectual Qualities

    Bloggers explore ideas, starting in their own mind. Sometimes a conclusion is reached and the concept is articulated via blog post; other times the exploration continues “out loud” in the blogger’s writing, inviting readers to contribute and build a discussion around the topic. Whatever the case, it seems to me a blogger is probably constantly wondering, pondering, reflecting…and enjoys working toward the discovery of truths. Essentially, I think good bloggers are good at thinking.

    Love of Learning

    If you’re perpetually looking for answers and information–as it seems most bloggers are–you probably really dig reading, researching, and just generally figuring things out. More than that, though, I think it’s quite likely the serious bloggers derive satisfaction from the process of learning itself, rather than the end goal of a definitive solution or sufficient level of understanding. Sometimes, knowledge isn’t immediately (or perhaps ever) applicable, and remarkable concepts can come together from bits of accumulated information way down the road. Someone who sets out to learn only when the destination for the data is defined probably wouldn’t be comfortable with the lack of purpose seemingly attached to the effort.

    Input Habits

    The folks at Strengths Finder call a knack for collecting, organizing, and archiving things “input.” This is kind of boring so I don’t really feel like writing a lot about it, but basically, it seems logical that a blogger–whom we’ve now established thinks a lot and learns a lot–would need the ability to effectively process large amounts of data in a way that makes recalling or locating them later (like for use in a blog post) relatively easy, right? There are probably several good methods out there; some are discussed in the comments section of this post.

    Confidence

    You put shit out there when you’re a blogger, and there are always going to be people who don’t like your shit. Always. People attacked me as a writer and as a person (which is kind of hilarious. Not that big of a deal, people.) when an an article I wrote made it to AOL’s homepage–I don’t expect this to ever go any other way. I could absolutely stand to beef up my confidence in general, but when it comes to my writing and my ideas, my skin’s a little thicker. If it weren’t, I think the backlash that comes with blogging in any meaningful way would crush me.

    Doggedness & Patience

    I launched Alternative Badassery in January after half-ass blogging on two other domains for about three years. I knew I wanted to take it to the next level this time–to regularly produce content, spread my message, and change lives. A little experience, a lot of prep time, and a ton of research effectively set my expectations in terms of the work ahead of me and the traction I wouldn’t be able to make quickly. I imagine the successful bloggers out there are real go-getters with tremendous amounts of patience–there are always a million things you should be doing, and often, a gigantic amount of effort does NOT yield a gigantic amount of results (especially when you’re still a no-name).

    Sense of Responsibility

    I mentioned I’ve been blogging for over three years–I’ve never been able to explain why. I just feel like I’m supposed to. That’s the only way I’ve ever been able to describe it that sat well with me. I feel like God gave me ideas and a way to communicate them, and I’m being a total shit head by not fulfilling my duties if I don’t write. I don’t even like writing that much when I really think about it. It’s difficult and frustrating and time-consuming and exhausting. (Really. I am worn out when I finish a post.) But if I’m not blogging, I feel like I’m procrastinating on a to-do the universe has assigned me. I can’t quit blogging when I try. I’ve tried a million times in the past. (I felt like I should just give up completely if I weren’t going to whole-ass it.) I always, always come back to it, though. I imagine the good bloggers feel this drive, too.

    ***

    The Announcement

    It may be obvious: I am committing to making Alternative Badassery my future career. I am committing to getting the products and services (ebooks! courses! consulting! so many other ideas!) I have in my head out into the world. This is both a completely logical and totally irrational decision, depending on how you look at it (good fit vs. financial security).

    I gained another insight from the Strengths Finder 2.0 assessment: judging from my natural talents, I’ll never find a career that’s a good fit for me. At least not in the traditional sense of the word “career.” There is no pre-packaged job out there that makes sense for Cassie. This conclusion, after the months of searching and evaluation, is now undeniable to me. I must build my own career and business.

    This possibility had occurred to me before. I’ve decided before that I should work for myself…and then I started getting chicken. I started feeling silly, and started looking for a more stable option that would still be a good fit. It doesn’t exist. When I looked at my list of talents, the suspicion that doing my own thing is the answer came back. But I have so little trust in myself in terms of professional decisions–I’m scarred by my own bad career moves–that I needed someone else to confirm it. Penelope Trunk did. (Yes, I did a career coaching call with her, and yes, it’s absolutely worth the money. And even more wild than you’d imagine.) In her words, “You don’t fit in to how we pay people…”

    “I think you think the whole thing’s bullshit…” she noted later in the conversation, of the attitude I have about the concept of employment. She’s right. Ultimately, if I’m being totally honest, I think almost all jobs are stupid. I think the goals of most businesses are unworthy in the scope of life, and I think the time employees spend working to fulfill them is absurd. I’ve said it before (in my newsletter) and I’ll say it again: you can’t make me believe we were put here to do things that suck.

    I want to make lives better, and I want the opportunity to make every second of my life meaningful. It’s possible to make a huge impact on the world through traditional employment, sure, but that second bit–the overwhelming desire to do meaningful work only–makes it a terrible setup for me. You ask me to create a spreadsheet and I feel like I’m dying. ‘How is this improving lives????!!!!! We are not on earth to do things like this!!!!!!!’ If my feelings could talk, that’s what they’d say.

    So, here we go, friends. I have so much work to do. Should be a good-ass time.

    *I guess now I’m going to ditch the quotation marks.

    ***

    Discuss

    What else makes a good blogger? What role or line of work do you feel responsible to the world to fulfill?

    Did you like this post? You did??!! Then, maybe, sign up for email updates, yeah? Thankee.