Less Platform, More Sanity


I’m posting less on my blog these days, but I may be writing just as much compared to times past. The difference is that over half of my posts stay on my computer where no one else will ever read them.

I don’t feel bad about these unread posts. I needed to write them. Otherwise they would continue to buzz around in my head, demanding my attention and trumpeting their worth and, at times, “genius.”

In truth, I suspect that I would have posted almost all of them in the past. Such has been the pressure to pump up my blog numbers, to keep people engaged on social media, and to, let’s be honest, stir the post just a bit from time to time.

Now that I’ve stepped out of the traditional publishing platform rat race for the foreseeable future, I’m letting posts develop at their own pace and evaluating them with a far more critical eye. Some need a few weeks to settle into themselves. Others are ready to go after a bit of tweaking. And still far many more are done after the writing. The latter is a good thing.

I didn’t realize how badly I needed to just write things down and end it there. I often have an idea or the kernel of an idea bouncing around in my brain, and it can be such a relief to finally see it appear on a page. Once it lands there, I can make a sound judgment about its merits.

This has come into focus for me as I started praying with the Examen. Just writing out the good and the bad parts of my day on the “Examine” app provided clarity and a simple chance to vent a little. I have a moment of bracing honesty each day where I can tell myself, “There, I said it!”

I found that processing my issues in a private way via the Examen provided just as much if not more relief than a more public processing on my blog.

I still believe that blog posts are an important first draft of my ideas. I still think that blogging can be a helpful way to process ideas in public. I still love the idea of writing the best piece of short form content possible and then immediately finding out what readers think. As an author who develops book ideas for years, this immediacy is a blessed relief.

Every person who leaves his twenties behind and starts to stare down middle age or “old” age, whatever that is now, likes to think that some wisdom and gentleness has been added to the mix over time. Whether you call that moving from the first half of life to the second half of life, mellowing with age, or simply realizing that you were a bit of a jerk in the past, a bit of evolution on our parts strikes me as appropriate. I hope that I write differently ten years, twenty years, and even, gasp, thirty years from now.

At this point in my life, sacrificing a bit of consistency for the sake of picking only my best thoughts, rather than sharing ALL of my thoughts, feels like either a wise or a “less dumb” shift. I truly do need to write a lot, but it doesn’t all necessarily need to be shared.

Removing myself from the race to keep growing my blogging platform in order to catch a publisher’s eye finally gave me permission to let up a bit. I still care deeply about reaching more readers with my writing, but my higher priority is letting my work evolve at its own pace and recognizing that oftentimes my writing is only for my own eyes.

Perhaps it would be easier to write for others if I could first learn to write for myself.

3 Terrible, Stupid Things I Used to Do on My Blog


I’ve been blogging since 2005, and that means I’m sort of an expert… at least an expert on what not to do. As I’ve tried to figure out what works and what doesn’t work, I’ve seen that I tended to make some really big, terrible, stupid mistakes because I fancied myself a pure, idealistic writer who does not bow to the conventions of the blogging world.

After changing a few things in my approach to blogging, I thought I should confess my mistakes so that you can avoid making them too.


Titles Don’t Matter for Blog Posts

I used to think that writing was all about writing amazing stories and sharing super-helpful ideas. If you spelled out the basic ideas clearly, the discerning reader would SURELY recognize my genius, brilliance, and value. These savvy readers don’t demand click bait. In fact, they’re most likely sitting by their computers right now just waiting for me to post something amazing.

But oh gosh, if Buzzfeed has taught us anything, which I highly doubt, it’s that people LURVE click-bait headlines. I should have totally titled this post: “You won’t believe what I used to do on my blog!” or “I teared up after reading the second sentence” or “This is better than tap dancing kittens on YouTube.” You get the idea. You were probably clicking all over those fake headlines just now even though you knew I was making them up and they didn’t have any hyperlinks. Admit it.

While we don’t have to give in to the Buzzfeed headline writing buffoonery that is ruining the Internet for the sake of advertising clicks, titles still matter a great deal. Every serious blogger I know spends a lot of time on their titles. These days I begin my blog posts with a title that plainly states the focus of my post for the sake of personal clarity, but then hack it to pieces and work through a bunch of different options before picking one.

Here’s the thing, there’s a ton of stuff out there on the Internet, and you really, really can’t afford to put up a bland headline that’s something like: “Musings on Stuff I Like.” First off, never, ever use the word “musings” ever again on your blog. In fact, WordPress developers, we need to add a mandatory plugin to the next build that automatically deletes blogs that use the word “musings” in contexts other than Greek mythology. But back to my point, please, for the love, spend some time writing a good blog post title. If you love your little blog posts as much as you say you do, then you need to give them good titles. Otherwise, very few people will be tempted to read your precious little posts.


I Don’t Have to Be Vulnerable on My Blog

Blogging used to be about ideas for me. In fact, it was all about ideas for about the first six years or so. I’d rant and rave about things from time to time, but I spent so much time believing that people just wanted to read my little nuggets of wisdom that I rarely inserted myself or my “feelings” into my posts.

I don’t know how I could have missed this for so long. I mean, yeah, people want to read smart ideas, but it would have helped if I wrote with the voice of a real person and share a little bit from my life.

Having said that, I also feared being one of those bloggers that shares all the things from his/her personal life online. I’m not quite in the Ron Swanson school of personal privacy where I’m tossing my cell phone in the sewer and burying gold bricks in undisclosed locations, but I find it really hard to determine when I’ve crossed the line from being authentic and real (in the sense of, “Keepin’ it real… yo”) into overdramatic over-sharing that violates the privacy of my family.

I can see now that vulnerability is essential for writers. Writers really do have to face our demons and set down at least part of that battle on the page.

Writers have to take risks. We don’t have to over-share or compromise the privacy of ourselves or loved ones, but we have to take big, vulnerable risks if we want people to care about our work. We have to work on stepping up to that line that divides authentic vulnerability from over-sharing, wherever it is, and give it a firm poke—just like old school Facebook.

And even if you aren’t particularly vulnerable, you have to at least care a lot about your topic. I’ve labored for hours over posts that I thought had tons of great ideas, only to see a passionate post I’ve dashed off in 20 minutes become the most popular post on my blog for all time. I’ve you aren’t personally invested in your writing, then your readers probably won’t be either.


Announcing “Here’s My New Blog Post” on Twitter

No one cares that I’ve just posted a blog post. No one. Probably not even my mother most days, especially if my titles are terrible. And yet, I used to complement my vanilla blog post titles with tweets that I plunked down like dry, crumbly, bland wafers.

One day I saw someone quoting from my blog post on Twitter, and I was like, “That’s awesome! I should try that!”

Now, some bloggers go a bit overboard with the Twitter quotes. They highlight the tweetable parts of their posts in bold, set up “Tweet this” links on their posts, or create little lists of tweetable quotes.

OK, I’m not here to judge anyone. This is personal confession time, and I’m confessing that I’m terrible at tweeting from my blog. Do whatever you like. I’ll just say that I saw some folks doing that, and I was like, “Oh come on! Just write something good!”

What can I say? I was born in the wrong age. I’m all “Get off my lawn!” with these new fangled marketing tactics. Even using a typewriter feels a little edgy some days. But back to my main point about the Twitters…


TWEET THIS –> “Even using a typewriter feels a little edgy some days.” @edcyzewski


I’ve still seen that people want to share helpful little quotes. Even if I tend to think in 1,000 to 2,000 word chunks, it won’t kill me to share a quote or two from my latest blog post if folks could find it helpful. Mind you, I don’t write for Twitter and may God banish me from all NHL arenas for life if I ever do. I’ve just realized that my resistance to posting a blog post quote on Twitter wasn’t all that smart of me


TWEET THIS TOO!!!  –> “I don’t write for Twitter and may God banish me from all NHL arenas for life if I ever do.” @edcyzewski



In conclusion, I’ve made some really huge, terrible, stupid mistakes as a blogger. These are all pretty basic, simple, run of the mill blogging tips that you can find all over the Internet. And still, there are tons of bloggers like myself who have resisted them. It’s time to get with the program. Adopting a few best blogging practices won’t hurt… too much. We may even get a few new readers along the way.

What’s the biggest mistake you’ve made as a blogger?


There Is Only One Windows Live Writer Substitute for Bloggers on Mac

When I switched from a PC to a Mac, I rejoiced over the increased speed, the slick interface, and the fantastic programs that come right out of the box. However, there’s one program that I use almost every day that I couldn’t take with me to my Mac: Windows Live Writer.

Windows Live Writer for mac substitute

Windows Live Writer is the ultimate in offline blogging editors. It provides the familiar interface of Word along with all of the WYSIWIG features you could need when writing for the web. It’s really easy to insert and edit images in blog posts, format text (including headings), and post content to multiple blogs. It’s not available for Mac unless you’re willing to run Windows, a process that can make a Mac run quite slow.

I wanted a clean break from Windows, and I didn’t want to spend any extra money on even the bare bones Windows 7 operating system.

I write several blog posts each day between my own blog and blog posts for my clients, and I’ve lost enough blog posts to online editors and/or spotty internet that I’ve learned to rely pretty heavily on the stability of an offline editor like Windows Live Writer. For my own blog I use a lot of its formatting options that I simply haven’t found in other offline editors.

Now that I’m a blogger who uses a Mac, there’s really only one viable blog editor that comes close to the features offered by Windows Live Writer: ScribeFire. It’s also the one Mac blog editor that is overlooked in many articles about the search for a WLW substitute.

ScribeFire as a Substitute for Windows Live Writer

ScribeFire is a browser plugin that I’ve used in Chrome, but it’s available in other browsers such as Firefox. It’s a quick install, and it loads without any trouble. Although technically “browser” blogging program, it offers all of the features that you would expect in an offline editor  and I can load it up when offline and save my work.

It’s easy to save  drafts, insert images, post to multiple blogs, and format documents in its text editor. While it doesn’t offer header formatting options, you can easily customize your keyboard to create a shortcut. I just click “COMMAND+3” in order to make h3 headings, and could do the same for every other level of heading if I needed them.

You can remove formatting from text that is pasted in, double check formatting in an HTML editor, and then switch to the visual editor which offers all of the formatting options you’d find in a solid online editor like the one offered by WordPress.

You can’t create or edit pages in ScribeFire, but it’s simple enough to write up content and then paste it into a page template for a CMS like WordPress.

Lastly, and you wouldn’t think this should be such an issue, but you can actually SEE the text in ScribeFire since it’s easy to just zoom in a bit on the editor screen if you need larger text. I have excellent eye site, but all of the blog editors for Mac, which I will summarily dismiss below, had the significant drawback of tiny, tiny text. I searched and searched for a zoom or view option that I could change, but no dice. In fact, I was about to make do with Ecto, but I kept leaning forward and squinting to see the tiny text. All that to say, ScribeFire makes it possible to zoom in on your text as much as you like, and more customization is always better than less.

Now that I’ve sung the praises of ScribeFire for Mac bloggers, here are some other blog editor options I’ve checked out.

Online Blog Editors

Of course you could just write and edit your posts online in the editor provided by your website. I’m in the unique position that my Christian theology blog, the one I update several times a week, doesn’t have a functioning visual editor in WordPress. It’s a common problem that has many, many suggested solutions. However none of them have worked for me.

Even though my other blogs and client blogs have functioning editors, I still prefer writing the content offline and then pasting it into the online editors because I don’t want to risk losing my posts because of a cafe’s spotty wifi. I know some other bloggers have also had issues losing posts in their online editors, but I’m not certain how big of a problem this is, as the latest editor in WordPress is quite good, provided your internet connection is reliable.

Word as a Blog Editor

For many of my client projects, I’ve switched to blogging in Word and just pasting the text into the WordPress online editor. It recognizes the different heading formats (H1, H2, H3, etc.), bold/italic formatting, and hyperlinks. I’ve only had trouble with inserting images, so I just end up inserting them in WordPress through its much-improved media button.


Qumana, Ecto, and Mars Edit: The Terrible Mac Blog Editors

You really can group all of these together for the most part. They’re all impossibly tiny editors with clunky interfaces. The main difference is that you can add some custom HTML buttons (such as h3 tags) in Ecto (probably in MarsEdit I suspect) and MarsEdit and Ecto actually cost money. I even paid for Ecto because I forgot that ScribeFire was option.

The two days I spent exclusively using Ecto were dark indeed. Writing was more of a chore than a pleasure, and I promptly deleted the program when I saw that ScribeFire was an option. On a related note, if anyone wants to buy a $20 Ecto registration code from me, drop a comment below!


We Will Survive Without Windows Live Writer

This sounds kind of crazy, but I spent a couple of days mourning the loss of Windows Live Writer. I spent so much time on that program that it was hard to imagine life without it. I think most Mac bloggers can get by with Word as an offline editor and simply pasting the text into an online editor. However, if you’re like me, and you’ve grown used to WLW, save yourself some time and money by checking out ScribeFire.

Did I miss a great blog editor for Mac?

Did a new blog editor come out since I wrote this post?

Has Bill Gates taken time away from promoting knowledge and education in order to provide Mac users with the blog editor we deserve, adapting WLW for iOS???

Let me know which blog editor you use in the comments! 


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Why Bloggers Should Share Their Posts on Their Personal Facebook Pages

facebookThere is a trend lately among bloggers to share their blog posts on writer pages for fans rather than in their personal news feeds. This means that friends who want to follow their personal updates and their blog posts need to friend them AND subscribe to their pages.

Here are three reasons why this is bad for most bloggers along with a hefty caveat:

Assumptions about Blog Content

The fear among many bloggers is that their friends and family will get tired of blog posts being pushed in front of them. Perhaps there are ways a blogger could do this poorly, but this kind of thinking assumes that sharing your own writing is somehow wrong.

While pushy blog content or a pushy approach to sharing blog content would be a turn off, I’d like to ask you, “Who do you write for?” There’s probably a good chance that many of your friends and family would benefit by reading your blog. If not, then you may want to rethink your blog rather than changing your sharing plans.

If your blog is sharing something valuable, then you shouldn’t feel bad about sharing it. When your blog is an extension of who you are and what you’re interested in, it belongs on your personal Facebook news feed.

Assumptions about Friends

I tend to assume that my friends and family don’t read my blog, but every month I hear from someone else who has been quietly reading my blog posts or the articles I write for other sites and share on Facebook. While some friends may choose to hide my updates, enough of them have been quietly following my blog through Facebook that I have no intention of separating my blog from my personal Facebook updates any time soon.

I think it’s more helpful to set up a writing page for yourself if you want to keep your professional contacts away from your personal life rather than sparing your friends and family from your blog.

I use my Facebook writers page to share writing industry news and my blog posts. My personal Facebook page is a mix of my personal updates and blog posts.

How We Manage News Feeds

While this move of blog posts away from personal walls to fan pages is rooted in a desire to be considerate to friends and family, I would like to suggest that this separation causes more problems than it solves. If I want to keep in touch with a friend and follow his/her writing, I don’t like the idea of having to subscribe and friend this person so that I’m stuck following both of his/her feeds.

I like the idea of just having one feed for one person. I’ve got hundreds of friends to sift through, and it seems like more of a liability than an advantage.

Another huge wild card that I can’t speak to directly is how Facebook manages what shows up in my news feed. I’ve heard that pages aren’t always prioritized, and I’ve had too many friends write these posts explaining how I can make their fan pages a priority in my news feed. All of this seems far more complicated and annoying than these friends simply sharing their blog posts every day in their personal feeds.

The Caveat about Blog Content

The one exception to this would be if your blog is firmly planted in a narrow niche that your friends would never want to read about. For example, if you blog about website coding, don’t share your blog posts with friends and family.

There may also be some bloggers who would rather not let friends and family know about their writing. They may even use a pseudonym so that no one can discover what they’re writing about.

An Apology

I’m sorry that I’ve become that bossy blogger telling people what to do about social media and their blogs. However, I think the core issue here is one of self-esteem and personal assessment for bloggers.

Far too many bloggers undervalue their writing.

They just assume that sharing their posts with friends and family is annoying or burdensome to them. I think it’s time for bloggers to embrace their value and to boldly share their work with everyone who needs to read it.

If you blog, it’s your job to writing something valuable and to then share it with readers. If you aren’t willing to share it, then you’ve either failed to create something good or you’ve convinced yourself of a lie about the worth of your hard work.

Why You Have to Write a Good Blog Post or Quit

I used to think it was important to keep the posts coming fast and furious on my blog, letting a few lousy ones slip through every now and then. Actually, I’d let that happen more often than I care to admit. The more I read blogs today and notice the trends in social media and the blogosphere, I have become convinced that it is blog suicide to stick lousy or sub-par content on your site.

The cost of this is steep enough that you’re probably better off quitting rather than dragging out a mediocre blog. Here are a few reasons and then a couple solutions for writing a good blog post:

Competition is Fierce

There are a host of experienced tech-savvy folks who have lost their jobs and are now concentrating their energy on creating top-notch web sites. In addition, the number of blogs out there are growing daily, so the competition for readers will on increase for the time being. They are using networks, offers, partnerships, advertising, and giveaways to attract readers to their excellent posts.

Your Contract with Readers

In posting content online you are asking are offering content in exchange for someone’s valuable time and attention. This is a contract that should not be taken lightly. Violate that contract too many times and readers will stop dropping by—turning you into the little blog that cried “Content!” I like some bloggers out there as people, but I’m not a big fan of their blogs, having been disappointed one too many times. Poor posts take a toll on readers.

Your Reputation

While you don’t want to risk annoying your readers with frivolities, you also don’t want to compromise your position as not only a helpful, but hopefully an authoritative writer. Have a look at Michael Hyatt’s blog. He’s the CEO of Thomas Nelson, the top Christian publisher, and his helpful blog only further seals his place as the leading Christian publisher, if not one of the top publishers overall. Through excellent posts he has become a defacto CEO for many in the publishing industry who look to his lead.

There are other Platforms

If blogging isn’t your thing, you can still advance your ideas and create buzz around your work by using Twitter and Facebook. If you have an idea to share, just post it as a note in Facebook. These forms of micro-blogging are great ways to network and to get noticed without the drag of maintaining a whole blog.

How to Write Good Posts

If you’re in a content slump, but you don’t want to give up, write a post today announcing a 30 sabbatical. With Christmas going on I suspect that your readers won’t mind all that much anyway. Announce that your triumphal return will take place in 3-4 weeks.

Take the following month to list the topics you’d like to blog on, set up Google alerts to send you updates related to those topics, follow a few popular blogs such as problogger.net, make a list of 4-5 ideas to write about each week on these topics, and select a few books to read. Take those blog post ideas you’ve listed and write up one-paragraph summaries of each post or a rough 4-5 point outline. Complete sentences are optional at this point.

The night before your return, write out a good draft of your first blog post. Proof read it in the morning and then post it. Later that afternoon or evening write up your draft for the next day’s post, and then proof and post it the next morning.

Plot out some rough ideas for topics, series, books, or articles. Keep track of your news alerts for blogging fodder and make sure you read at least 5 key blogs in your area of interest. As you plan your return it will be crucial to commit to a 30-day period of posting. You need to develop good blogging habits, and 30 days will be sufficient to send you well on your way.

The next post this week will be: Why you have to market your blog…

How to Improve a Blog Post

Bloggers are always told that the most important step in drawing readers is writing great content. “Content is king,” as they say.

Even if you have a great idea and some excellent writing skills, here are a few ways to improve your blog post:

Let It Sit

Whether a few hours, days, or weeks, it often helps to distance yourself a little bit from a post. You’ll be better prepared to work on your introduction, transitions, and conclusion. A second draft ALWAYS makes a blog post better.

Write Content People Care About

Step back for a moment and ask, “Why does this post matter?” If it doesn’t, rewrite it so that it connects with the needs and interests of your readers. Adopt an angle or include information that is relevant and of interest.

Edit and Condense

You said it in four sentences, but try saying it in two. While you’re at it, show your readers some respect by catching all of your grammar and spelling errors.

Use Lists and Bold Font

Write your articles so they are easy to scan, but still provide enough content for those who want to take their time reading it. You typically have a few seconds to catch a reader’s attention.

Write a Better Title

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Blog Post Editors for Everyone

I gave a presentation this past weekend on using online tools to help authors get their works published and marketing. At the center of on online strategy, at least for me, is a blog that revolves around the author. All other social media should take readers to the author’s web site where they can read his/her work and possibly purchase a book.

In the part of the presentation on blogs I spoke highly of Windows Live Writer as THE top blog post editor. It’s free, easy to use, and supported by lots of great add-ons, including an automatic update to Twitter for each new blog post. However, PC user that I am, I overlooked the plight of bloggers who use a Mac.

Someone brought up this point, and the only editor I recall hearing rave reviews about is Ecto. You have to fork out a bit of cash, but heck, Mac users are already tossing away two to three times the cash of a PC user. They should be used to spending money on their cool computers.

I did a bit more digging and found that Ecto is still one of the top programs out there for bloggers on a Mac. However, there is the option of running Live Writer on your Mac, it just takes a little work.

I also found a list of suggested Mac programs that confirmed the excellence of Ecto, but also listed some other great options. One of them is Blogo, a program recommended elsewhere.

So if you don’t mind dishing out $20, not bad for a program if you ask me, you can find a very suitable blog editor to use on a Mac. In the meantime, I’ll be running my virus-software, rebooting regularly, and cleaning up junk files on my PC, while taking small comfort in knowing that I at least have a superior blog editor.

Five Types of Blogs Worth Reading

After browsing through a few blogs the other day, I began to think about what I look for in a blog. I read a wide variety of blogs, but there are certain blogs that I just HAVE to click on if I see new content in my feed reader. I’ve tried to figure out why I’m drawn to them.

This is a purely subjective exercise, as I’m sure others will have different takes on this. However, if you’re new to blogging or are struggling to find your way, I hope this list will help you.

What I’m typically looking for:

  • Chronicles interesting experiences. It’s not usually interesting to read about someone’s day at work or what they had for breakfast, but there are bloggers who lead unusual or fascinating lives and have the writing skills to make it shine on a blog. I personally enjoy reading about Jordon Cooper’s experiences working at a Salvation Army. There’s always a story to tell. Example: www.jordoncooper.com
  • A unique, passionate, and informed perspective on news, events, or ideas. This is blogging for me in its purest expression, offering up ideas and adding to public discourse. Example: www.swingingfromthevine.com
  • Ideas in condensed formats for easy browsing and skimming. Using bold font, bullets, or a solid summary in the beginning helps me figure out if I want to read the whole post. I know you poured your heart out in those 500 words, but I don’t always have the time to read every 500-word post. As a reader, I need help figuring out if this post will be something I want to read. With an overload of information out there, this is essential. Example: www.toddhiestand.com
  • Obscure or helpful links. Sometimes you just want to laugh or to watch something interesting. While these blogs may sometimes wow you with a solid, informative post, sometimes it’s fun to visit a blog that offers up helpful information just for the heck of it. Example: www.jesusneedsnewpr.blogspot.com
  • Interaction with other blogs, providing summaries and insights. You can’t read every blog, and so it’s important to find a reliable guide to the blogs you want to browse. In addition, far from simply sharing links, these blogs help you sift through and evaluate their finds. These blogs not only elevate the level of discourse, but also help you find blogs doing the same. Example: www.tallskinnykiwi.com

What I’m not looking for:

  • Links to news and information everyone already knows about. If I can find this article on my Google news page, why are you linking to it on your blog? Enough said!
  • Links to news and information without any helpful commentary or perspective. Many bloggers link to something in the news and then say, “This is important, what do you think?” As a reader I’m not motivated to put my own ideas on the line because the blogger hasn’t taken the first step. In other words, the blogger hasn’t really started a conversation, but rather asked other people to do the work for him/her.
  • Long, rambling posts without structure or editing. The ideas may be good, but the author needs to take the time to organize the thoughts better and make them accessible for readers who may not want to sift through the whole post.
  • Self-indulgent, life-chronicling posts that are neither unique nor interesting. You blogged about going to breakfast, which is nice and all, but you haven’t offered anything of value like a restaurant recommendation or insights into what you thought about while out for breakfast.

That’s my list of criteria, what is on your list of do’s and don’ts?

From Blog to Book

Problogger has an article with some tips on ways to take a blog and turn it into a book. the publishing industry is unpredictable and hard to break into. Though this article claims to hold the key to six figures, I think getting published in the first place is enough of a feat.