Better Blogging: Standing On The Shoulders Of Giants

Better Blogging: Standing On The Shoulders Of Giants

Earlier this week I wrote an article about better blogging ideas gleaned from R.E.M. songs. You can read that article here. However, I didn’t share my favorite R.E.M. song, as I felt it required an article all its own.

If you’ve never listened to this particular song, you’re unaware that the lyrics repeatedly reference “standing on the shoulders of giants.” Not a phrase that R.E.M. penned.

The most famous and well known use of the phrase came from Sir Isaac Newton, in a letter he wrote to his peer and rival Robert Hooke. Newton was not the originator of the phrase either, however. A variation of the phrase was used by a 12th century theologian. But there’s no definitive use that can be deemed the original.

Before I lose you by rambling about origin, I’ll share that the phrase, used often by theologians and scientists, says that our contributions to our discussions and the furthering of our work have been affected by the contributions and discussions of those who came before us.

Singer sing me a given
Singer sing me a song
Standing on the shoulders of giants
Everybody’s looking on

As marketers, and especially as bloggers, we are always searching for something new to share, something to generate discussion, something to spark conversation. However the topics about which we write are often based on the ideas of others, our peers, colleagues and even our “competition.”

It’s important to step off the shoulders of those giants and create something new and unique to call our own idea, even if it’s been generated by our understanding and interpretation of the thoughts of others.

Standing on the shoulders of giants
Leaves me cold, leaves me cold
A mean idea to call my own
A hundred million birds fly away, away, away

It’s that interpretation, that “making it our own,” that allows those ideas to take flight, worthy of sharing across the many social media platforms we frequent.

While it’s quite possible that there are no truly new ideas, I don’t think we’ve exhausted our means to add a unique take and a personalized understanding to the concepts we discuss daily. It’s our ability to extract that unique take that allows us to step down from the shoulders of giants and generate ideas on our own.

So, there it is. My final R.E.M. song shared along with an idea for better blogging. I hope you’ll take a listen to my favorite song and comment on the idea of taking inspiration from others as we generate new ideas of our own.

Book Review: Creativity For Sale

Book Review: Creativity For Sale

I’m a big reader. I often choose a book over the television or a movie. Sometimes I even read around TV shows and movies at home (I do not take my books/Kindle to the movie theater)!

I generally spend anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour reading to unwind at night, hoping my brain will settle and I’ll manage to fall into a good deep sleep. Choosing to read Creativity For Sale: How I Made $1,000,000 Wearing T-Shirts And How You Can Turn Your Passion Into Profit, Too by Jason SurfrApp as a “calming” book was an epic fail on my part. Fantastic book, but if you’re reading it with the right mindset and intention, you’re not going to shut off your brain.

Creativity For Sale by Jason SurfrAppI had to get up, literally, four times to jot down ideas when I started reading this book. Jason, who took on SurfrApp as his last name the SECOND time he sold his last name to the highest bidder, is a big idea kind of guy. While I never contemplated selling my last name, I also think of myself as an idea person, so this book really grabbed me.

The funny, sometimes sarcastic, and self-deprecating writing style also really worked well for me. While Jason takes the launching of his ideas and the running of his business(es) very seriously, he doesn’t take himself too seriously. He’s forthcoming when it comes to sharing both his successes and his set-backs.

While the types of businesses and launches that Jason calls his successes might not mesh with yours (I don’t know that I’d have been a good match for wearing company T-Shirts every day and sharing pics and videos in said shirts), the idea that creative, sometimes even wacky, ideas sell and can become successful and lasting businesses.

While some of Jason’s ideas might seem zany, they are all rooted in the idea that a proper launch involves careful and considered marketing that includes your email list, your social media contacts AND your creativity. The book shares how he built his lists (the right and wrong ways) and I love how very open and honest Jason is about what works, what didn’t work and what failed abysmally. I appreciate that he honestly shares that he once employed spammy tactics and was shot down. None of us are perfect, and we’ve all come close to crossing a line. It’s positive to know that you can recover from mistakes if you are smart about getting back on the right foot.

As an entrepreneur who sometimes has trouble shutting down and decompressing, I also appreciate that Jason shared his struggles to get and stay healthy while running a business (or many businesses). It can be very hard to balance life and innovation/ideas. It’s important then entrepreneurs remember that taking care of themselves allows them to take care of business.

I like a business book that can share smart content and ideas without taking itself too seriously. This book definitely falls into that category, much like the books by Scott Stratten – especially The Book of Business Awesome / The Book of Business UnAwesome and QR Codes Kill Kittens. While this books is about a lot more than just social media marketing, it absolutely embraces the idea that you can/should be entertaining while you educate!

Will all of the ideas I jotted down while reading this book come to fruition? Probably not. But a business book that sparks ideas and gets the reader excited about their business in a new way is a business book I want to read. And I did!

If you haven’t already read Creativity For Sale: How I Made $1,000,000 Wearing T-Shirts And How You Can Turn Your Passion Into Profit, Too, I strongly suggest you add it to your must read list. If you have read it, I’d love to know what you thought. Do you agree with my take? Please share in the comments!

Beating Writer’s Block: There Are No Stupid Ideas!

Beating Writer's Block: There Are No Stupid Ideas!

… at least when it comes to topics for potential posts and articles.

You remember this phrase:

There are no stupid questions, often followed by a snarky addendum like, “just stupid people!”

I’m revising that phrase for the purpose of this article. Here we go:

There are no stupid article ideas, only the stupid people who don’t record or write them down in some fashion and then complain that they don’t have anything to write about.

Writer’s Block Woes!

While not having time to write is the excuse I hear most often, it’s closely followed by, I don’t know what to write about. You know, they’re mired in the worst case of writer’s block ever known to mankind!

Malarkey! You might not have a fully fleshed out article ready to publish just like that, but if you’re on board with the important of content marketing – and I know you are – then you’ll have some sort of idea list. That list is what’s going to get you through!

Keep A Growing List Of Article Ideas

You can keep the list in a composition notebook, in Evernote, in an Excel spreadsheet or store it in a Google Drive folder. That’s what I do.

I have a folder titled Mallie’s Article Ideas. Each time I have an idea I create a new document. Sometimes all that I add to the new document is a title. Sometimes a quote, or a bulleted list. Regardless, I’ve jotted down the idea, no matter how small and it’s waiting for me when I get the AHA moment to flesh it out into a full article.

You never know when inspiration will strike. Readying yourself for that strike with a lovely list of ideas is so very smart. Instead of feeling overwhelmed about what you’ll write about today, you’re presented with a plethora of possible topics. You need only scroll through your list. If you’ve kept that list topped up, something will grab your eyes as they pass by and transmit a “that’s the one” message to your brain.

How Does This Work With A Content Calendar?

I’m so glad you asked! I maintain a very loose interpretation of a content calendar. Rather than marking that Monday is the day for Article A, I simply designate Monday as a day when I’ll publish something. By doing so I’m not forced to push through publishing an article that I’m not feeling all that jazzed about at the time. Instead, I whip through my trusty list until inspiration strikes.

Clean Out The List Once A Week, For Clarity.

Once a week I go through the list to see if I need to delete anything that is no longer of interest (maybe someone else already wrote it up and there’s not much else I can say). If I’ve merged any ideas together, I clean that up, too. If I’ve published an idea, it gets moved to my published folder. Why not just delete it? I like having a quick reference for what I’ve already done.

I sometimes jot create 15 documents in an hour. And sometimes several days pass between entries. But by keeping that growing list, I’m never stuck with only one topic. I can’t choose not to write because I’m not “feeling” a certain topic. With a list full of my ideas, I can always find something that sparks me to publish.

How do you collect and save article ideas? Do you keep a running list? How do you beat writer’s block?