I’ve been blogging since I was 16 years old, which is 12+ years now (from age 16 to age 28). I’ve been blogging about photography for 7+ years (2009–2016).
There is no “right” or “wrong” way to blog. If anything, blogging is so fun because it is not as “serious.” We can always go back and re-edit what we wrote, and generally if a blog post is older than a week, it is quickly forgotten.
However I’d say that having a blog has given me so much value. I’ve used my blog as a playground for ideas, images, and thoughts. And I’ve blogged with the intention of sharing my learning and life journey with others.
I recommend everyone to have a blog. You have a lot more control, creativity, and flexibility when compared with other forms of social media.
Remember, “tips” should only be used as little sparks to help encourage your own thinking. Tips are just suggestions. There are no “right” and “wrong’s” here. I encourage you to skip around, and not read this all in one go.
If I started a photography blog (or general blog) all over again, this is advice I wish I could give myself.
If you want to read this on-the-go, download it for free below in these different formats. It is “open source”–feel free to share, edit it, translate, and remix however you’d like:
Table of contents
- Get started
- Get it 80% “good enough”, then hit “publish”
- Only blog when you feel like it
- Blog post ideas
- Don’t add superfluous plugins
- Disable stats
- Keep a song (or album) on loop
- Have a certain drink inspire you
- Make your blog personal
- Use the simplest tool possible
- Don’t be afraid of repeating yourself
- Write what you would like to read
- Don’t edit
- Write how you talk
- Social media tips
- It will take at least a year or two before your blog takes off
- Empower other photographers
- You’re only as good as your last blog post
- Write for one person
- Stop blogging once you’ve hit a wall
- Go on lots of walks
- Write down your ideas
- Turn off wifi
- Divide the research and writing phase
- Work in a coffee shop
- Cross-pollinate ideas
- Guest blog post
- Think opposite
- Creative constraints
- Don’t delete as you’re writing
- Write in list format
- Integrate images with your text
- Ask your audience for ideas
- Don’t finish
- Write “evergreen” content
- Don’t read blogs
- Sit, stand, whatever
- Never stop blogging
- Ask yourself, “Why do I blog?”
- Don’t ask for feedback on an idea before you write it
- Don’t ask for feedback
- Don’t argue with your critics; thank them
- Forget what you’ve blogged about
- Have courage for your ideas
- Keep your ideas “open source”
- Blog like you are going to die tonight
- Have a “clickable” title
- Have fun
- Offer solutions
- Admit your own ignorance
1. Get started
The most difficult thing about blogging is just getting started.
We have all these grand ideas, theories, and concepts. But realize that you’re never going to be fully “ready.” Life is a state of flux. We are constantly learning, evolving, and “becoming.”
So the important thing is to just get started.
I recommend just signing up for a WordPress or Medium blog. And if one day you want to upgrade to a more “serious” plan, you can. And if you experiment with blogging, and you end up not liking it, you don’t need to pay money.
When you start blogging, don’t worry about the theme, design, or site description.
Just start your first blog post.
Your first blog post can just be a “hello world” type of post — where you tell the world hello!
As with any introductory post, just introduce yourself. Say who you are, where you’re from, what some of your goals for your blog is, and keep it short, humble, and lively.
If you’re starting a photo blog, share some of your photos. Perhaps your first blog post can be your 3 favorite photos, and just tell the story behind them.
Don’t take blogging seriously. Have fun, and treat yourself like a kid on a digital playground.
2. Get it 80% “good enough”, then hit “publish”
Many of us are “maximizers” — we want to do something perfectly before publishing it.
However the problem of being a “maximizer” is that only 1% of our ideas ever get realized. We get too caught up in the small details, that we never actually execute any of our great ideas.
My suggestion with blogging: when you write a blog post, just get it 80% “good enough” (based on your own standards), and hit publish.
The late artist Steve Jobs once said, “Great artists ship.”
When he said “ship” — he meant publish. Great artists publish their work, and don’t get too caught up in perfection. Because most of the time, seeking perfection is a waste of time. The difference between 80% “good enough” and 99% “perfect” is often not very different.
For example, getting a blog post “80% good enough” might take you an hour or two. But trying to get it 99% “perfect” might take you another 10 hours. I think those extra 10 hours are not worth it. Spend those extra 10 hours going out and taking photos, or writing other blog post ideas.
Also treat the same 80% philosophy to your photos. If your photos are 80% up to your own personal standard of “good enough” — just publish them on your blog. Your photos will never be 100% perfect. There is no such thing as perfection. Just look at nature. There is no stream which is 100% straight. There is no such thing as a “perfect” tree, rock, or blade of grass.
Practice publishing more often.
3. Only blog when you feel like it
This is a point that I wish I knew earlier when I started blogging.
If you read on the internet, they always tell you to blog everyday, no matter what.
But life is messy. Some days we can’t write, blog, or publish.
Also if you try to force yourself to blog everyday, it becomes a chore. It is no longer fun.
However it is good to publish everyday (if possible). Because your audience loves content on a daily basis.
So this is what I do — while I don’t blog or write everyday, I might write 1–5 blog posts in one day. Then I will schedule out my posts far in advance, so only 1 post gets posted everyday. This way you can have a “steady stream of content” — which will keep your fans satisfied, but not be pressured to blog everyday.
And it is also okay to let your blog go for periods of time without being updated. Soil needs to remain fallow and un-tilled for a while, for the nutrients to replenish.
Your creativity is the same. Constant work will drain your mind of all novelty. Take a break.
Only blog when you feel like it. That might be once a day, once a week, once a month, or even once a year.
4. Blog post ideas
There is a plethora of blog post ideas you can do, especially in terms of photography. Here are some blog post ideas, based on things I’ve done:
- Interview with another photographer
- Personal musings on photography, life, and philosophy
- Sharing a photography book you just bought or read, and why you recommend it
- Reflections on a photo exhibition you’ve seen
- Uploading 1 photo, and sharing the story behind the photo, or sharing your “contact sheet” (behind the scenes)
- Sharing a YouTube video on a photographer who inspires you
- Sharing your personal commentary on a new camera, lens, or piece of gear
- Photography/Poetry — write a poem, with photos that are inserted in-between
- Photography tips — try to write an article with 10 tips on any subject— how to take better photos, how to shoot street photography, or how to be more creative
- “What’s in my bag” — take a photo of what is inside your camera bag, and share your rationale behind it
- Record a YouTube video on your webcam about anything on photography — and embed it into your blog
- An article about lessons you’ve learned from a master of photography
- Photography-lessons you’ve learned from someone who is not a photographer (like Steve Jobs, Kanye West, Elon Musk)
If you don’t have any good or creative ideas for blogging— suck inspiration from anywhere and everywhere.
Get blog ideas from watching documentaries, films, reading magazines, reading books, conversations, people you meet on the streets, or just daydreaming in a coffee shop.
5. Don’t add superfluous plugins
Whenever anyone starts a blog, they want to add tons of plugins, modules, and sections.
I’ve gone through it. I wanted more traffic, page views, comments, etc. I installed all the social media plugins, the newsletter plugins, the page view plugins, the comment plugins, and the sharing plugins.
But the problem is after a while, your blog gets cluttered. And you spend more time figuring out what kind of plugins to install, rather than creating interesting or useful content.
Furthermore, plugins often slow down your site. Keep your blog clean and lean. Keep your plugins to a minimum. When in doubt, uninstall a plugin.
I’ve also made it a personal goal to keep my plugins to a minimum. I’ve disabled comments, plugins, and stats. Why? All these things ended up distracted me from creating content, and coming up with new ideas.
Of course this is different for everyone. Only use the plugins which really help you focus on what is important to you, and don’t install distracting plugins.
Oh yeah, and those newsletter pop-ups are the most annoying things ever. Please don’t install those.
6. Disable stats
Going back to the prior point, disable your stats. Disable your page views, and your information about traffic.
Blogging should be a personal journal/diary. You blog not to get tons of views or comments, but because it helps you express yourself creatively. You do it to empower others. You do it because you need to.
Personally, looking at my stats all the time was like a drug. The days my traffic went up, I felt ecstatic. Days when my stats were base-line or went down, I would feel depressed.
I would then think of ways I could boost my page views. I started to compromise my ideals. I focused on writing more camera reviews (because that is what gets you a lot of page views), rather than writing photography-related education articles (which is my true passion).
I feel that as a blogger, we should be inspired intrinsically— the inner-drive and motivation. We should not be inspired extrinsically—seeking the admiration from others.
There used to be days when I wrote things that I thought were amazing, and after sharing them, I would get disappointed because I didn’t get as many likes, comments, or page views as I thought I “should” get. And that de-motivated me.
So I would say if you’re starting off in blogging, keep your stats disabled for a while. Perhaps keep it disabled for a few months, until you’ve written at least 30 posts. Then you might want to enable it again, to see where your traffic comes from. This information can be useful.
But at the same time, you want to find a middle-ground which works for you.
At the moment of writing this, I have statistics disabled from my blog. And I feel a lot more tranquil, peaceful, and focused.
But who knows, perhaps having stats and pageviews can motivate you.
But if I started blogging all over again, I would say f*ck pageviews— just create the content you wish you could read.
7. Keep a song (or album) on loop
One of the best ways I get into the “flow” of blogging is to put one album on loop. When I start listening to that one album, I get in the “zone” — and I am able to block out the world, and start writing.
I know some writers who listen to one song on replay. For others (like myself), like to keep albums on repeat.
For me, I currently have “The Life of Pablo” by Kanye West on loop. I must have listened to this album literally 50 times in the last few months. This keeps me motivated when writing, and helps me block out distracting noise at the coffee shops where I usually write.
But for some others, listening to music while writing is distracting.
Experiment, and see what works for you.
8. Have a certain drink inspire you
For me, whenever I drink coffee (smell coffee, taste it, and feel the caffeine hitting my bloodstream) my brain knows: “It is time to write.”
For you, that might be a cup of tea, flavored water, or a lovely single-origin double-espresso. Or it can be a glass of wine, beer, or (who knows) a shot of vodka.
I find that by having a certain taste in my mouth— it stimulates me to write, create, and blog.
9. Make your blog personal
For me, I love personal blogs. I am curious about the life of others.
This is why gossip magazines and celebrity gossip is so popular. As human beings, we are naturally interested in the personal lives of others.
So when it comes to your blog, don’t just write things about the photo-world. Write things which are personal to you.
Perhaps you can share some photos that have personal significance to yourself, and you can explain your thought process.
Also you can treat your photo blog like a public visual diary. Share the mundane details of your day (going to work, having lunch with a friend, or random snapshots).
The beauty of blogging is that you can take any ordinary thing, and make it interesting.
It is always easier to blog when you’re traveling, because everything is so new and novel. But the key to becoming a great blogger is to be able to live in one place for a long time, and still come up with good ideas.
Don’t write your blog in third person — write it in first person. Write with your soul. Make your photos, writing, and blogging embedded with yourself.
Who are you? What makes your view of the world unique? What kind of mark do you want to leave in the world?
Make it personal.
10. Use the simplest tool possible
A lot of bloggers have a hard time “focusing.” To me, focus isn’t applying effort to concentrate on the work you’re doing. Rather, focus is eliminating distractions. Focus is eliminating complexity.
For example, when it comes to writing, I try to use the simplest tool possible, with the fewest distractions.
I currently am writing this on “IA Writer” — a minimalist writing tool, in full-screen mode. Whenever I format, I use “markdown” to add subheads and to bold things. I hate using Microsoft Word and other word processing tools with too many formatting options. It distracts me from the most important work — writing.
Generally my workflow goes like this:
- Write in IA Writer
- Copy the information to WordPress
- Format/edit the text in WordPress
- Add images
Aim for simplicity, not complexity. There will always be new tools for writing, editing, and publishing.
Just try to use the simplest tool possible. Just like photography — try to use the simplest tool possible to create images.
11. Don’t be afraid of repeating yourself
When I first started blogging, all my ideas were “unique” (at least to me). However as time goes on, you begin to repeat yourself.
I got a lot of push-back from my audience. They would tell me that I’ve already written something similar, and that I shouldn’t keep repeating myself.
However what I realized is that while my die-hard fans would re-read the same thing, I would always have new readers who didn’t read the information before.
Not only that, but whenever I repeated a similar concept or idea, I would further refine and distill these ideas. So everytime I wrote on the same topic, it would be slightly different.
As the Greek philosopher Heraclitus said, “No man steps into the same river twice.”
So don’t feel bad about repeating yourself. If anything, human learning is all about repetition.
If you want to learn a new language, you need to keep saying a word and phrase over and over again, before it sticks.
The same goes with your blogging. You might need to repeat yourself several times before your ideas stick in your own mind, and your ideas stick in the mind of your reader.
But my suggestion is whenever you repeat yourself, try to add something new. Or remove a superfluous thought. Or try to re-mix your idea a bit, with some novelty.
12. Write what you would like to read
When I started my blog, I wanted to learn more about street photography. Whenever I would google “street photography” I found lots of great images of street photographers online. But I couldn’t find any resources on “how” to shoot street photography (without getting punched in the face).
So I ended up starting the blog I wanted to read. I focused on street photography exclusively for 5–6 years. I tried to dissect the work of the master street photographers, tips, techniques, composition, and inspirational ideas. As I blogged, I learned.
Even if you don’t have a big audience, know that you’re always blogging for your own benefit.
Nowadays, I’m trying to embrace “beginner’s mind” again — trying to write resources and information for beginners.
I feel that a lot of beginner photographers have a hard time starting off in photography. Furthermore, all the resources on the web for beginner photographers are generally very shallow, have no personality, and are bombarded with camera advertisements.
I am writing these new articles, blog posts, and resources for my 18-year old self.
What kind of information do you wish you could access on the web about photography?
Are you a street photographer, documentary photographer, landscape, bird, baby, wedding, or commercial photographer? What kind of information do you wish was online, but you can’t find?
That is your opportunity. That is where there is a hole. Fill that hole, by filling it with your own ideas, explorations, and blog posts.
Write what you want to read.
13. Don’t edit
This is a controversial point — I say as a blogger, focus less on editing, and more on creation.
I feel that an over-obsession with editing (in terms of blogging) prevents people from publishing ideas. And I think for blogging, it is okay to publish half-baked ideas. Why? It helps your thinking and creative process along. And once again, blogging isn’t about perfection (leave that to the book publishers).
When I started off, I rarely edited. I just did the basics— spell checking, formatting, and adding in photos to my blog posts.
As time went on, and my audience got larger, I got more and more people telling me to edit my text. I experimented getting friends to help edit my text, Cindy to help me edit, or just edit myself.
But for me, editing slowed me down. It frustrated me. I was more interested in blogging and creating new ideas, rather than editing.
And honestly, 99% of your audience isn’t going to notice any small errors you might make in your blog posts. Only the English majors might notice.
But if editing is super-important to you; edit by all means. But don’t let editing get so in the way, that you never publish.
Publishing is the life-blood of a blogger.
14. Write how you talk
Isn’t this funny — we always get “writer’s block” but we never get “talker’s block”?
Talking is natural. Writing isn’t.
So my suggestion: write how you talk.
If you have severe “writer’s block”, open up Google Docs and just talk to your computer (and let Google transcribe the words).
The nice thing about blogging like you talk is that it feels more personal. It feels more natural. And the words will flow easier from your finger-tips.
I know that academics have a very hard time blogging. Why? Academic and university-level writing is a different type of writing. It is often very strict, structured, and hierarchical.
But blogging should be free, light, and natural.
And the more you blog like you talk, the more personal it will feel. And the more your reader can connect with you.
The nicest compliment I’ve ever got was when I met someone who was an avid reader of my blog and told me, “Eric — you’re exactly like in real life like who you are on the blog!”
Don’t be double-faced; be one person.
15. Social media tips
If you plan on sharing your blog posts on social media, I’ve found that 12pm (noon) is the best time to post for “maximum engagement.”
Also people like regularity in your posting, but they don’t like it when you post too much.
I’ve found a good middle-ground is to keep your social media posts to 1–3 a day. If you’re going to post multiple times in a day, try to space it out by 3–5 hours. This way you don’t come off as “spammy.”
Another thing I wish I knew if I started blogging all over again is to start a newsletter.
A newsletter allows you to have more flexibility than social media. More people check email than they check their social media. And with a newsletter, you can customize your content in creative ways, whereas with social media you are restricted to the platform. Further more, most social media platforms die, while email is here to stay.
Also I’ve found it best to get more engagement on social media to ask more questions, rather than provide answers. Give your audience a chance to put in their 2 cents. People love to express their own ideas, give them that chance.
16. It will take at least a year or two before your blog takes off
Do you want to get thousands of page views, get sponsorships, and make money through blogging?
Realize it might take you 1–2 years before your blog really gets traction.
For me, I started blogging for fun. I had a full-time job (9–5), and I would blog whenever I had free time. I aimed to blog at least 3x a week (Monday, Wednesday, Friday).
Monday would be street photography tips. Wednesday would be interviewing/featuring the work of a street photographer I admired. Friday would be posting the work from the community of photographers from social media.
I woke up early before work to blog. I blogged during my 30-minute lunch break. I blogged when I got home after work.
I blogged on the weekends, and whenever I had free time.
If anything, blogging when you have a full-time job is the best. You have no pressure to quickly monetize your blog and make a living from it. You have more freedom, because you have a monthly salary to support you.
For me personally, it took me at least 2 years before my blog really took off, and that was posting at least 3x a week.
So be patient. Don’t expect your blog to be an overnight success. Things take time.
You can’t expect a great redwood tree to reach great heights overnight. It takes redwoods decades, centuries, sometimes even millennia to reach the stars.
As with your blogging— whether you become “successful” or not isn’t up to you. You might blog for 5 years, with no real traction, and without the ability to monetize it.
But once again, why do you blog? For yourself, for others, or to make money?
My suggestion: blog for yourself, even if nobody else read it.
17. Empower other bloggers/photographers
I remember when I started off in photography, my goals were to become famous, to get a lot of social media followers, and likes.
However I labored in vain. I couldn’t get anyone to feature my work, publish my work, or interview me.
Then one day it hit me: perhaps I should focus on publishing and promoting the work of other photographers I admired, instead of trying to promote my own work.
Therefore I started to reach out to photographers whose work I admired. I interviewed them, learned more of their shooting style, and their inspirations. They loved it, and were quite humbled.
The irony is the more I interviewed other photographers, the more popular my photography became. After publishing interviews with other photographers, those photographers would bring their friends to my blog. And then people would end up seeing my work as well.
Seek to empower other photographers, and you will end up empowering yourself.
18. You’re only as good as your last blog post
What keeps me motivated in blogging is to keep taking my blog to the next level.
You’re only as good as your last blog post. Therefore everytime I blog, I try to make a slightly better blog post. I try to push my creative limits. I try to avoid plateauing.
Now this might motivate you or discourage you.
For me, it motivates me. But once again, there is no “right” or “wrong” in blogging.
But I do encourage you to always try to achieve personal greatness.
So don’t be satisfied with your past blog posts; aim to always make your blogging better by studying other bloggers, by analyzing your old blog posts, and to create the content which inspires you.
19. Write for one person
Going back to the point of writer’s block — another way I’ve found to get the words flowing is to pretend like you’re writing a letter to one person.
It is often difficult to write to a nebulous audience. But we are a lot more motivated to write when it is directed at one person.
Who is your ideal or “perfect” reader? Who is that person? Is it your mom, your friend, or perhaps your past self?
The nice thing about writing for one person is that it is more casual, feels less forceful, and is more personal. It gives us a strong sense of purpose. It helps motivate us.
Even as I’m writing this — I’m imagining as if I’m writing this to a friend who wants to start blogging, and might need help with some inspiration, tips, and advice.
So if you want an easy template, start off your blog posts saying: “Dear [X],” and start your letter.
20. Stop blogging once you’ve hit a wall
I can go for hours blogging on end, intensely focused, and in the “zone.”
But inevitably I hit a wall. Whenever I hit that wall, I don’t try to push myself past that wall. Instead, I stand up, stretch, do a few lunges or squats, order another coffee, or go on a walk.
I feel that writing is a process that should be effortless. The Taoists call it “wu-wei” — action without action. Action that isn’t forced.
That doesn’t mean that you don’t put in effort. In-fact, during the deepest moments when I am in the “zone”, I lose track of time. I become wholly-integrated into the task of writing. I almost feel like the words are writing themselves.
But once again, that wall will come to everyone at different points. Use that time to take a breather. Maybe take a nap, take a shower, or relax.
21. Go on lots of walks
Some of my best blogging ideas happen when I’m walking. Like the philosopher Nassim Taleb says, “If you want to become a philosopher, first start off by walking long walks, slowly.”
I’m not sure what exactly it is about walking that helps you get good ideas. I think it is a combination of the fresh air, not being stuck to your chair, and how humans were designed to walk.
In-fact, I’ve done some research about the human brain, and one of the biggest functions of the brain is to coordinate movement. Many organisms that don’t need to move, don’t have brains.
So it only makes sense that by walking, we are able to stimulate our brain. Going back to Nassim Taleb— he argues that walking is probably as important as sleep. Unfortunately most of us spend our days and nights stuck inside an office, in our cars, or in our homes— not having the chance to walk.
So my suggestion— try to walk as much as possible. See if you can walk to the grocery store, if you can take public transit, go for a 5 minute walk around the office, or just walk around a bit after dinner.
This is what I love most about street photography; having an excuse to go on walks with my camera.
22. Write down your ideas
You don’t need to write down your ideas. But I find it helps.
For me, I generally jot down my ideas in Evernote, whenever an idea pops into my head. My smartphone is generally in my front pocket, or my backpack, and is the easiest for me to use.
Others use notepads, or other analog processes.
It doesn’t matter how you write down your ideas, but I feel that by writing down ideas, it helps stimulate your mind. And it gives you a trail of your “stream-of-consciousness” that can help inspire other ideas.
For example, whenever I have a random idea, I will write it into Evernote. Then before I start blogging, I will randomly look around the ideas I wrote down in Evernote. I might hate all 20 ideas I read in a row, but find 1 idea that I find interesting, that I want to pursue.
I’ve read a lot that it is “better” to write with your hands on a piece of paper. I’ve done both— analog and digital. For me, ultimately I prefer the convenience of digital— and honestly, my ideas haven’t been different either way so much.
Therefore don’t stress out how you track your notes or ideas. Just do whatever works for you.
23. Turn off wifi
The internet is an exciting place, always wanting your attention. Emails, Facebook, and your smartphone are always dying for your attention.
If you really want to focus and get some high-quality blogging in, turn off the wifi on your laptop. Also, I recommend putting your phone into ‘airplane mode’ (or turn it off completely). It is hard to get into the “zone” when you’re blogging. You don’t want to be interrupted.
For more intense measures, I recommend the “Freedom” app which disables your internet (no matter how many times you restart your computer) for however long you choose. When I’ve written several books in the past, I credit this one app for giving me the best productivity gains.
Remember, focus is what you decide not to get distracted by, not how hard you try to focus your energy.
24. Divide the research and writing phase
But what if I need the internet to do research for whatever I want to write about?
My suggestion: divide your research phase from your writing phase.
Turn on the internet when you’re doing research. Save all the documents, information, or images you need to your computer while you’re doing research.
Once you have all the materials you need to blog, then shut off your wifi, enable Freedom, or do whatever you need to do from being distracted.
Then focus on writing.
I also believe that one shouldn’t rely too much on external information to blog. I think the most effective blogging is a combination of your own personal experiences, as well as the experiences of others. If you’re totally getting all of your ideas solely from others, you risk just copy-and-pasting information, instead of remixing it and making it something unique and new.
25. Work in a coffee shop
Everyone has a different preference for blogging. For me, I always get my best work done in coffee shops.
Part of it is being around other human beings which motivates me. Part of it is the caffeine, which helps me concentrate and focus. Part of it is needing a little external noise, which motivates me, and forces me to concentrate more.
I also find myself being able to write better when there is enough natural light. I prefer to write next to a window, or preferably on a top floor of a cafe that has some natural light streaming in. I get energy from the natural light.
Others work differently. Ray Bradbury wrote Fahrenheit 451 in the basement of the UCLA Powell library. Others I know can write in tiny attics without any light.
Experiment with your different writing environment. But I do strongly believe that coffee shops promote creativity and the right atmosphere to work. But maybe that’s because I’m just addicted to coffee, haha.
26. Cross-pollinate ideas
I love cross-pollinating ideas from different artistic disciplines.
For example, my biggest inspirations on blogging about street photography came about from studying psychology, sociology, and philosophy. I studied sociology in college, and studying humans has been the most fascinating thing to me. If anything, I see myself less as a “street photographer” and more of a “sociologist with a camera.”
I’ve been able to have a lot of fun mixing totally random ideas. I’ve written articles combining lessons I’ve learned from Steve Jobs, Kanye West, and Elon Musk — and applied it to photography.
I’ve been able to read cognitive science books, and using the concepts of it to help me make better decisions when buying cameras, taking photos, or interacting with others on the streets.
Know that creativity shouldn’t be trapped in one domain. Find artistic creativity and inspiration from theater, poetry, dance, film, audio, podcasts, books, magazines, or other blogs.
Imagine yourself like a kid— throwing all these different ideas into a blender, and making a little smoothie for yourself.
And if you’ve ever tried to make a (brand new) smoothie (with strange ingredients) — it doesn’t always taste good. But with enough experimentation, tinkering, and effort— you might actually create a new recipe that is delicious.
27. Guest blog post
One of the best ways I was able to build up my blog was to cross-promote and do guest blog posts on other sites. This allowed me to attract a wider audience, and build up my own personal audience.
The fun thing about guest blog posting is that it forces you outside of your comfort zone, and to write for a slightly different audience.
For example, when I did guest blog posts for Digital Photography School, I knew that I was writing for a very general photographic audience, instead of my hyper-focused community of street photographers. This helped me re-evaluate some of my concepts in street photography, and make it more palatable and understandable by photographers just starting off.
Let’s say you like to blog about poetry— how would you do a guest blog post for a business site? Or say you’re a business blogger, how would you do a guest blog post for a poetry site?
28. Think opposite
Another good way I stimulate ideas for blogging is to think to myself, “What if the opposite were true?”
For example, in the realm of photography — we are told to photograph everyday. Then I wondered, “What if the opposite were true? What if you shouldn’t photograph everyday if you want to become a better blogger?” This helped stimulate more novel ideas.
It is always nice to have a devil’s advocate on your shoulder. It helps you from getting stuck in the same old patterns of thought. It helps you push your creativity to the next level, into a different realm.
For example, let’s see you see other bloggers writing a lot of “listicle” articles (10 tips for x,y,z). Do the opposite— do long-form essays.
Let’s say everyone else is becoming too theoretical and “New York Times” style in terms of their blogging. Then go opposite, and write a listicle — except try to make it damn good.
If everyone is writing 500–600 word op-eds, go extremely long. Try to write epic 5,000–6,000 word blog posts. Or if everyone else is writing really long-form content, try to keep your word count under 200–300. Minimize.
I do believe it is important for you to be true to yourself in blogging, and not do things differently just for the sake of it. But thinking “opposite” will help you come up with fresh ideas, and even give you a chance to strengthen your argument.
Apparently this what beginner lawyers do— they have to write strong reports on both sides of an argument, as if they were arguing on each side of the pedestal. This will help them create stronger arguments and counter-arguments.
29. Creative constraints
One of the best ways to be more creative is to add a “creative constraint” — where you don’t have unlimited options. When you put a constraint on yourself, that forces you to be more creative.
In the realm of photography, sticking with one camera and one lens forces you to make the most creative photos (based on the limited equipment you have).
For blogging, this might mean different things in terms of “creative constraints.” Some ideas:
- Only do a blog post that is “texted” on your smartphone
- Limit your blog post to 300 words (or some arbitrary number you choose)
- Limit your blog post to 30 minutes (once you’re done writing, you must hit publish)
- You are not allowed to write more than 1 idea in a single blog post
- Limit yourself to blogging only once a week — what would be valuable enough for you to write about?
- Write a blog post in the form of a haiku
Sometimes we make excuses as bloggers that we don’t have enough time, resources, or a good enough writing device. But don’t let these excuses get in the way. Instead, think of how our limitations can help us be more creative.
30. Don’t delete as you’re writing
One of the best writing techniques (also applies to photography) is the concept of “stream-of-consciousness.” The idea is that you write (or photograph) without editing, or deleting anything, during the process.
For example, put on a 25-minute timer and you must constantly write for 25 minutes, without hitting the delete button even once. Don’t worry about capitalization, grammar, or spelling. Just keep writing, and you edit at the end of the 25 minutes.
For a photo assignment, do the same thing. Go out and shoot for 25 minutes, whenever you find anything even remotely interesting. You’re not allowed to check your LCD screen or delete anything while you’re shooting. Only when you go home and review your images.
When you’re writing, focus only on writing. Don’t edit your text during the writing phrase.
If you edit while you’re writing, then you get stuck. You lose your train of thought, and you lose your flow.
Keep the stream running. Write all in one go, and edit all one go afterwards.
31. Write in list format
Personally, I love writing in a list format. To me, it helps me organize my thoughts. It also helps me concretize each concept I want to write about.
Writers have been using lists for centuries. However nowadays it is seen as taboo to write a “top 10 list” for anything— because it is seen as “click-baitey” and unprofessional.
I don’t think there is anything wrong about writing in a list format. Just make the content is useful, informative, and uplifting.
Also the nice thing about writing in a list format is that it helps the reader actually read your content, skip around, and extract information quickly. Most people are on-the-gun, and are probably reading your blogs on their phones, during their commutes, or when they are waiting in line to buy something at the grocery store. Or even when they’re waiting for the restroom.
I personally prefer reading articles when others write in list format. But once again, if you feel this format doesn’t work for you, throw it out the window.
But I do encourage every blogger to write at least one “top 10” list in their life.
32. Integrate images with your text
The thing about reading is that most people are lazy. They prefer images. We are visual creatures. Apparently we can recall with 80–90% accuracy the images we’ve been presented with. However when it comes to textual information, we retain something far less than that.
My suggestion to have more effective blog posts: combine images with your text.
Whenever I blog, I try to add an image at least every 3–4 paragraphs. This keeps the reader’s attention going along.
Do you remember when you were a kid, and you switched from picture books to non-picture books? Didn’t it suck?
Even adults prefer to see images with their text. Even in magazines as prestigious as the New Yorker, longer articles tend to have a cartoon every few pages or so.
If you’re a blogger (and not a photographer), this might be a good chance for you to go out and make photos. It will help your creativity, and also give you images that you can accompany your blog posts.
If you’re already a photographer, this can also help you. You can go opposite— use your images to stimulate ideas for blog posts.
Try to make the images consistent with the text you’re writing. But worst-case scenario, you can also use random images. Better to have un-related images than no images to keep people engaged.
33. Ask your audience for ideas
Whenever I don’t have a good idea, I like to ask my audience for their opinions, ideas, and thoughts. I will sometimes ask people via social media, or in-person about things they would like to learn, or what they wish they could read (or watch on YouTube).
Often their ideas might not gel with yours. But every once in a while, a random comment can lead to an interesting blog post idea.
And don’t just ask your audience. Ask strangers. Ask your parents. Ask your friends and family.
As a photography blogger, I know tons of people who want to learn about photography. I ask them, “What kind of photography articles, YouTube videos, or blog posts would you like to see— to take your photography to the next level?” They often come up with pretty “obvious” things — which are actually fantastic ideas.
This lead me to writing certain blog posts:
- How to shoot street photography on an iPhone
- How to shoot street photography on a cheaper, older smartphone
- What are the best shoes for photographers?
- How to take better photos
- What to know in photography when you’re starting off
- What is the best camera for street photography/photography
- Is a smartphone camera “good enough” to be a “good” photographer?
I feel to be creative means always having your eyes, ears, and heart open to the suggestions of others. But ultimately, you decide what to blog about and what not to blog about. Don’t shut out the thoughts of others, but just be selective and picky what you decide to pursue.
34. Don’t finish
If you’re writing a blog post, but you end up not finishing it — perhaps you weren’t passionate enough to finish it, and it might not be worth sharing.
There are some blog posts which are meant to just be written half-way, and can be a spark for another idea, for another blog post.
Earlier I mentioned the importance of publishing your work often, even if it isn’t perfect. However I still think your work should be at least “80% good enough” (according to your own standards). If it isn’t at least 80% good in your eyes, save it as a draft, or let it hang out on your hard drive (or the cloud) before pursuing.
Sometimes procrastination is good for a writer/blogger. You don’t want to pull the cookies out of the oven before they are fully-baked.
Similarly, sometimes your ideas aren’t always fully-baked. So be patient. Add intentional creative delay to your work, to further develop and marinate your ideas, before you push it to completion.
35. Write “evergreen” content
Probably one of the best tips I’ve heard— writing content that will be relevant 1 year, 5 years, 20 years, or even 200, 2000 years from now.
I discovered in the photography blogging world, 99% of the blogs out there are dedicated to gear, equipment, lenses, and new cameras. The problem is that these blog posts aren’t “evergreen.” Every 6 months, a new digital camera comes around. Then instantly your old reviews become obsolete.
I try to blog as if thinking that someone 2,000 years from now can still read it. This allows me to focus on more fundamental truths in photography — how to take better photos, how to take more personally-meaningful photos, how to add more emotions in photos, and better composition. The art of photography won’t change much into the future, but the technology will change drastically.
So I’ve made the conscious decision not to blog much about photography equipment or gear. I only do camera reviews when I am genuinely compelled to do so, about cameras or gear that I am personally interested in.
But even for those old camera reviews I’ve done, they quickly become useless. That is why nowadays I focus more on photography education, concepts, and theories that can help all photographers. I try not to write too much about technical settings and such in photography, as the technology is always changing. I read blog posts from even 5 years ago, and am astonished by how irrelevant it is now.
Write content that will never die, and alway stay fresh.
36. Don’t read blogs
Ironically enough, to become a better blogger, I recommend you to not read other blogs. Rather, read great novels, fiction, or philosophy books that have been around for a long time. There are a few good blogs out there, but there is a lot more “noise” than “signal” out there.
Books have a higher signal/noise ratio than blogs. If a book has been around for 500 years, I can confidently state that it will probably exist a lot longer than a blog post that has been around for only a day or two.
Furthermore when it comes to books, it is better to read older books. Because once again, if a concept or theory has remained in existence for 2,000 years in a book, it is probably much more relevant and “true” than a book just written a year ago (or else it would have disappeared a long time ago).
Some of my favorite authors include the following:
- Seneca (Letters to Lucilius, On Benefits, On the Shortness of Life, On Tranquility)
- Epictetus (The Discourses, Enchiridion)
- Jesus (Bible)
- Lao Tzu (Tao Te Ching)
- Marcus Aurelius (The Meditations)
- Nassim Taleb (Antifragile, The Black Swan, The Bed of Procrustes)
- Ryan Holiday (Ego is the Enemy, The Obstacle is the Way)
- Tim Ferriss (The 4 Hour Workweek)
- Mihalay C. (Flow)
These are all books and authors I have re-read over and over again. Another tip I got from the Roman philosopher Seneca, is that it is better to re-read a book that has had a profound impact in your life, rather than to always try to read new books.
Once again, it is ironic that you’re reading this blog post (even though I’m telling you not to read blogs). So if this information is sterile and doesn’t bring you value, please please please— shut your browser window, and pick up a book instead.
37. Sit, stand, whatever
I’ve practiced writing in different ways. I started reading all this literature how writing while sitting is horrible for you, so I practiced writing on standing desks for a while. Then I moved overseas (where there are no standing desks) and so I’m sitting again.
Honestly, I haven’t found that much of a difference between the two.
Don’t worry too much whether you stand, sit, or even walk on a treadmill while walking. Don’t worry too much about “optimizing” your writing environment, or bodily position. It probably makes less of a difference than you think it does.
Just find out what is comfortable for you, and ignore the science behind it.
38. Never stop blogging
The only way to be “successful” as a blogger is to never stop blogging.
99.9% of blogs stop being updated after the first month or so. The only difference between “successful” blogs and “unsuccessful” blogs is about longevity.
If you’re not passionate about blogging, I don’t think you should blog. Don’t blog because you think you “should” blog to improve your SEO (Google search engine ranking), for marketing purposes, or because everyone else is doing it. It needs to come from within — a deep desire for you to introspect, to create, and share ideas.
Don’t die. Plan to blog until you’re dead.
Over the last 5 years, I’ve written over 2,000+ blog posts. And I would definitely say that my writing today is a lot better, more refined, and swift than it was in the past. And I’m excited for the next 2,000+ posts.
It might sound exhausting, but it isn’t.
You need to breathe until you die, you need to walk until you die, you need to eat and drink until you die, you need to interact with other humans until you die, and you need to be creative until you die.
Blog like you breathe. Without creative air, you will die.
39. Ask yourself, “Why do I blog?”
One of the most important questions we should ask yourselves as bloggers is this: “Why do I blog?”
Too often we are worried with other questions— what should I blog about? How often should I blog? What kind of social media platforms should I use? What kind of format should I use?
But we never ask the why behind what we do.
Why is the “why” so important?
It helps us single-down our purpose.
For example, I blog because it helps me flesh out my own ideas, share these ideas which I hope will empower others, and because it keeps me alive. If I didn’t blog, I would feel less of a sense of purpose in my life. Without blogging, I’d have no reason to live or be alive.
I go to bed excited to have more energy the next day to explore more ideas, and blog more. Often when I’m lying in bed, I let new ideas simmer and I wonder to myself, “What am I going to blog about next?”
For you, you might have different reasons for blogging. Here are some other reasons why you might blog (none of these are ‘right’ or ‘wrong’)
- To increase your Google search results
- To ‘brand’ yourself
- To help you mediate on ideas, and flesh them out
- To have your writing or photography reach a larger audience
- To keep a personal journal or diary, that you can access in the future
- To connect with other creative people from around the world
- To get “likes”, “comments”, or “page views” based on the content you create
Once again, I’m not going to play some sort of moral judgement on you, based on your reasons behind blogging.
Just be honest with yourself, in terms of what you do, and why you do what you do.
Once you can really laser-in on the “why” behind your blogging— you will have more enthusiasm, focus, and a stronger sense of purpose.
40. Don’t ask for feedback on an idea before you write it
I think a classic mistake we make as bloggers is this — we have an idea about what we want to blog about, and therefore we ask our friends and our colleagues for feedback on our idea before we actually create it.
Inevitably everyone (in some way) is going to find holes, weaknesses, or reasons for you not to blog about something. Everyone has an opinion.
Then you might have too much negative energy and vibes, and might convince yourself not to blog. And boom, you have nothing that you created, nothing out there.
My suggestion: just write or blog about something, and then ask for feedback and suggestions after you’ve published it. This way, you have more creative momentum.
41. Don’t ask for feedback
Another controversial idea about blogging (going off the prior point)— don’t ask for feedback on your ideas.
Any truly novel, interesting, or unique idea is going to not make sense. Why? Because it hasn’t existed before.
It wouldn’t make sense for Henry Ford to ask a horse-carriage driver what they thought about having a gas-powered automobile. Similarly, it wouldn’t make sense for Elon Musk to ask the executive of a gas-car company for his thoughts on making an electric car.
Once you’ve created something unique or new, that becomes popular (or perhaps unpopular), everyone is going to have their own opinion — both negative and positive.
If you’ve blogged about something that you feel passionately about, and others either hate it (or ignore it)— why do you care what others think? Why do you care about their feedback? Isn’t your own conscience more important?
I’m not telling for you to never ask for feedback. But what I’m telling you is only ask for feedback if you want it. If you feel confident about your own blogging by your own standards, know that your own approval is the most important.
42. Don’t argue with your critics; thank them
The more popular you get in blogging, and the more controversial or counter-intuitive your ideas, you will always get critics who disagree with what you say. They may say nasty things about you online.
Personally I’ve gone through it. It hurt, a lot. I’d ruminate on their negative feedback, and I’d feel like a sham. I lost sleep, lost courage to blog, and lost my creative edge and zest.
But rather, consider getting negative feedback or “haters” as a sign of success. When you’re a nobody, people only say good things (usually your mom or family). But everyone else will ignore you.
Once you start getting the attention of others, that is when your ideas are starting to become more “successful.”
I think the only sin a blogger can make is be boring. If your ideas are interesting, they’re going to spark a response. And the more interesting your ideas, the more passionate the feedback (either positive, or negative will be).
My suggestion with dealing with negative feedback: just tell them, “Thank you” with a smile, and move on. Better yet, just ignore it, and move on.
43. Forget what you’ve blogged about
Once you’ve finished a blog post, don’t pat yourself on the back, and just settle back into your routine. Rather, think about the next blog post you’re going to write about.
Forget what you’ve written in the past. This will keep your mind fresh, agile, and nimble. Keep your “beginner’s mind” — when you start everything new, everything is exciting and fresh.
Once you become an “expert” — you become trapped in your old ways of thinking. You become less innovative, creative, and novel with your ideas.
Even if you wanted to exactly duplicate your past thoughts or ideas, you couldn’t. Because you’re constantly changing, evolving, and growing.
Even biologically — the cells and atoms in your body today are vastly different from the cells and atoms in your body even a week ago.
Keep moving forward, and evolving. Think of it as “Blogger’s Darwinism” — only the fittest ideas survive.
43. Have courage for your ideas
It takes a lot of courage to be a blogger. To share new ideas, and put yourself out there is scary. You put yourself at risk of hate, negative backlash, and online trolls.
My suggestion: think of yourself as a martyr for your ideas. To deflect the criticism you’re going to face, imagine that you put on a golden fleece of armor, which no online troll can pierce. Even when the trolls see your shining, gleaming, armor— the light will blind them, and they will grumble back to their caves.
44. Keep your ideas “open source”
The biggest inspiration I got from blogging is the idea of removing copyright from your ideas— or “copyleft” as some people call it.
Ideas are the lifeblood of society. Why keep others from sharing your idea? Don’t try to be greedy with your ideas. The more you share your ideas and theories and concepts, the better off your ideas (and you) will be.
The internet is essentially a big copying machine. Whenever someone accesses your blog posts, photos, data, or information, the content is copied to their device. Why try to hoard all this information to yourself and be greedy with it?
I’ve had the policy of keeping my information on this blog “open source” — which means anyone can copy it, paste it, remix it, translate it, or do whatever they want to do with it. And it hasn’t hurt me at all. Instead, it has empowered me. My ideas are now spreading at a much faster rate, my blog posts and ebooks have been translated into dozens of different languages, and the spread of my ideas has helped me become better known.
So I also encourage you to take an “open source” approach to your blogging. The success of the human race depends on you keeping your ideas open and free.
I also recommend against putting copyright logos and watermarks on your images. It just cheapens your art, and makes you look more like a newbie.
Furthermore, even if you wanted to put “copy protection” on your images (preventing people from copying it) — if someone really wanted your image, it would be easy to “steal” it. Just screenshot it, and use Photoshop to clone out your watermark. Easier than pie.
And by putting on a copyright logo or watermark on your work, you ruin the viewing and reading experience for 99% of your other viewers. Is it worth it?
45. Blog like you are going to die tonight
If today was your last day on earth, what would you blog about? What would you not blog about? What would you regret not writing about?
I think thinking about death is a healthy practice. It keeps your life in perspective, and keeps you from getting distracted.
Don’t worry about monetizing your blog — just focus on creating the best, most useful content you can today. Because you honestly don’t know if you’re going to die tonight. Who knows, you might choke while you’re sleeping, or have a heart attack in your sleep. Or in the evening on your drive home, an 18-wheeler might run a red light, and T-bone you on your driver’s side door. Or you might slip on a banana peel when you’re leaving the office, and split open your skull.
Let your own morality and limited sense of time propel your work forward. Let that be the antidote to your procrastination in your writing. Let the thought of death help give you encouragement, enthusiasm, and energy to blog the best you can today.
46. Have a “clickable” title
If you saw your blog post title in a social media stream, would you click on it?
Ever since the time of newspapers, people have known that having a catchy title is the secret to having the content being read.
Great novels, books, articles, magazines, and works of art have often needed good titles to reach a larger audience.
“Harry Potter” is an easy title to remember (we all know what a pot is). If the title was “Harry Dzijek” would it have spread as much?
Similarly, you want to have catchy titles for your blog posts, if you want them to be read, and gain traction.
Generally, good titles are ones that entice the reader. It creates mystery. It offers value. A good title is descriptive enough about the material, but doesn’t give away all the answers.
I also find the best titles are short. Think of some of the most memorable phrases, some advertisements, some which are “aphorisms” (short, poetic, sayings):
- Less is more
- Think different
- Small is beautiful
- More money, more problems
- Measure twice, cut once
- Better safe than sorry
- Two is one, and one is none
- The more the merrier
- YOLO (you only live once)
Honestly there isn’t a science to writing a good headline. My suggestion is to just look at catchy advertisements, the titles of best-sellers, and anything that makes you want to click on it.
Study Buzzfeed, and other popular blogs. Or look at banner advertisements or other “related articles” on the web that entice you to click on it.
Make yourself the test subject, and learn along the way.
47. Have fun
Honestly, if blogging is a chore for you, stressful, or not gratifying to you — why do you do it? Life is painful as it is.
Treat blogging as fun — something active you like to do in your leisure.
Is blogging adding stress, or removing stress from your life? Is blogging adding joy, excitement, and fun in your life? Or is blogging adding stress, anxiety, and frustration into your life?
Your reader is no dummy. If you write something that is forced, and not written for fun, they will sense it. As Nassim Taleb says, don’t try to fool your reader. People can smell passion from a mile away.
48. Offer solutions
There are a lot of problems in the world. We love to complain.
But how do you create value for others? By offering solutions, not by just bringing up problems.
People complain about global climate change. But what are these people actually doing about it? What kind of action are they taking? What kinds of solutions are they proposing? Elon Musk is creating electric cars and solar power plants. That is why he is a billionaire— he is offering and creating a solution to a billion-dollar problem.
In my photography blog, I also try to offer solutions, advice, and things of value. I try to focus on the practical aspects of photography — how to make better photos, how to build your personal confidence when shooting, and how to find more personal-satisfaction in your photography.
I feel a blog post is useless if it doesn’t stimulate a new idea in you, or offer a solution.
Of course all “advice” is autobiographical in one way or another. And not all your advice will be helpful to everybody. But it will be helpful to a few people — and that is worth it enough for you to share and suggest solutions.
49. Admit your own ignorance
The only way to keep learning is to be aware of our own ignorance. As the Venetian saying says, “The further you go into the ocean, the deeper the water becomes.” (once again, credit to Nassim Taleb for the idea).
We humans think that we know the solutions to everything, and for everybody.
However the cornerstone of wisdom (ever since Greek times) is the proverb: “Know thyself.”
We can spend an entire lifetime trying to discover who we are, why we do what we do, and how to live a good life (according to our own standards). Most people never figure out who they are.
But the more we discover who we are, the more we can open ourselves up to help others.
Buddhists try to seek “enlightenment” to end the suffering in themselves, before they can help others. Similarly the Roman philosopher (and former slave) Publilius Syrus once said, “Don’t water the fields of another if your own fields are parched.”
We need to know that no matter how hard we study, how long we live life, or how many books we read— there will be a limit to how much we can learn. We will always be ignorant, in one way or another.
Even when I was hungry to learn more about photography, I (mistakingly) thought that if I studied the work of the master photographers, I would gain more knowledge about photography. In-fact, the more I study the masters of photography, the more ignorant I realize I am about the field of photography. The more photographers I learn about, the more photographers I realize I don’t know about.
So stay humble. No matter how experience you are in your own specific domain, in blogging, or in living life — you will always hit some sort of limit.
In your blogging, show your flaws, and show them like ornaments. I find beauty in the blemishes of people, and the beauty of the wrinkles and wear-and-tear of the elderly.
Similarly, you will find more people relating to you and your work if you admit your own ignorance, your own shortcomings, and being humble.
Always stay a student, always keep “beginner’s mind” and keep arrogance at bay.
50. Write your own list of blogging tips
The last thing I want to leave you with is encouraging you to come up with your own list of 50 blogging tips. No matter how experienced (or unexperienced) you are — I’m sure you have unique ideas you can share with others.
And once again, “tips” are just suggestions. Not rules. “Tips” should be used as little sparks to light our imagination, creativity, and ideas. They should never be taken as fact, and should always be criticized and scrutinized.
This is the list of 50 tips I would give to myself in blogging if I started blogging all over again. Everyday I try to hold onto my humility, and try to always learn from others.
I hope you enjoyed this journey with me. I hope it has helped you get an idea in one way or another.
Don’t feel like you need to read these tips all one-by-one. Skip around. Share this list with your friends, print it out, or store it on your phone as a PDF to spark new ideas (when you need inspiration).
So what are you waiting for? Go blog, and share your unique ideas with the world.
More social media lessons
If you want to learn how to use social media, read the resources below:
- Free Ebook: The Social Media Blackbook for Photographers
- How to Start Your Own Photography Blog
- A Photographer’s Guide to SEO, Blogging, and Social Media
- How to Brand Yourself as a Photographer
- Advice for Aspiring Full-Time Photographers
- 1,000 True Fans