I don’t go to the gym.
I could. There’s a gym right here in my town. I’d like to be stronger, faster, and more badass. But I don’t go to the gym, and the reason has nothing to do with my not wanting to get all of the benefits of a good workout.
It has to do with the fact that when I want results, I want them now.
I want to go to the gym just one time and walk out with muscles I didn’t have when I went in.
Now, everyone knows you don’t achieve your physical peak in just one gym session. Yet I keep noticing bloggers out there who seem to believe that they can achieve writing prowess in just one blog post.
That’s just as silly as me expecting to be able to do 50 pull-ups on my first trip to the gym.
Your brain is like a muscle
Your brain is not actually a muscle, so don’t put any bets down on your trivia skills at the local bar. But your brain acts like a muscle. The more you use it, the stronger it gets.
This is how you learn a language, for example. The first time you learn that “Bonjour” means “Hello” in French, you have to think about it pretty hard whenever someone asks you the question. But if you move to Quebec and hang out with me awhile, you’ll find yourself soon saying “bonjour” automatically when you walk into stores.
Your brain doesn’t have to think about it anymore. It’s walked down that neural pathway often enough that saying “bonjour” becomes an automatic response.
When you write a blog post, your first posts might take a lot of effort. You’re going to work hard to remember how to craft a good story, or pause to wonder whether you just made a common grammatical error, or remind yourself to break things up and use bullet points so people can read more easily.
After a few years of blogging, you don’t think about that stuff anymore. It happens naturally. That part of your brain becomes so strong that it doesn’t feel like work.
How to make your blogging muscles stronger
If you want to be stronger, faster, or in better physical shape, you go to the gym often. Maybe every day.
If you want to be a stronger blogger, a faster writer, or in better shape to whip up posts that people want to read, write a blog post every day.
Even if you only post once a week on your blog, put in the time to write every day. Otherwise, you’ll never make your blogging muscles any stronger. If you only lifted weights once a week, how long do you think it would take you to turn yourself into an Ironman?
The more frequently you write, the faster you’ll improve, and the stronger you’ll get.
Here are a few tips to get stronger in even less time.
- Switch it up. Trainers and fitness magazines say to work different muscles on different days, because muscles need to rest. The same goes for blogging. Try writing about a different topic every other day, or testing new approaches three times a week. You don’t have to post those topics — you just have to write them. You’ll still be working your writing muscles, but you won’t exhaust yourself writing the same type of content every day.
- Make every repetition count. A lot of people go to the gym and sort of sleepwalk through their routine. They’re doing each motion, but they’re not working that hard. They don’t notice when they could move up a weight bracket to get more results. When you blog, don’t just toss off a post in 20 minutes without thinking about it. Make every single post count. You’ll write faster when you’re stronger, but right now, slow down and make sure the post you’re working on is the best it can be.
- Increase your difficulty. Speaking of moving up a weight bracket, don’t stick to posts about simple topics. If you feel like you’ve exhausted your current knowledge about your favorite topic, go out and do some research on more complex areas of that topic. Work to make your writing even better and more compelling. Push yourself. Don’t stick around lifting 5-pound weights when you could be lifting 50s. You’re never going to get stronger if you stay in your comfort zone.
Above all else, put in the work. Plenty of people think they can run a marathon. They sign up, they undertrain, and when the big day rolls around, they can’t do even a fraction of the run.
The blogging equivalent of that is when a blogger pitches a big blog for a guest post, but can’t deliver anything like the caliber of writing that blog demands.
So put in the training. You’ll get stronger, faster, and better — and before you know it, you’ll be at the front of the pack with the big shots.
Reader Comments (79)
Shane Arthur says
James: I’m biased, but I feel bloggers should write some fiction every Monday and Thursday.
And, I’d say joining the Copyblogger Gym was the best free decision I’ve ever made. 🙂
Gregory C. says
Some fiction could definitely be a nice alternative to writing informative posts, I really like this idea!
Kiesha @ We Blog Better says
Yes, you definitely have to train those writing muscles. I complained all through college about how much I had to write, that is until I realized, none of my English classes had exams, all we had to do was write an end of term paper and we were done weeks earlier than everyone else.
I’ve learned I’d rather write than take an exam or do math any day!
Jean Sarauer says
This is something that is so easy to forget . . . we get better at what we practice regularly. And, not only do we get stronger and better by changing up our routine, but it keeps us from getting bored.
Practice makes perfect 😉
Josh Garcia says
I remember when I first sat in front of my pc to write my first post. It took me hours! However, I made it a point to write a post everyday to improve my skills. I’m glad that I stayed consistent with this.
Today, I can write a post a lot faster and with juicy content. Thanks for reminding me that I must continue working out my skills.
Chat with you later…
Jeff Korhan says
James – While I wholeheartedly agree you have to take action to get better, I do not agree that writing every day and posting weekly, or when you feel like it, will have the same effect as if that writing were posted.
There is a big difference between writing for practice and writing for real. The only way to get better is to post! You have to feel the pressure and respond to it or you will never get better at managing it.
It forces you to do a number of things, namely, to do as you say – rewire the brain-muscle to condition it to respond when time is short, when ideas are thin, and energy is low.
When I switched to daily blogging (taking one day a week off for family) I discovered a spontaneity that I could not have otherwise imagined. It not only helped my blogging but my speaking as well.
Writing for practice and blogging for real is the much like doing a sport for pleasure and doing it for competition. The pressures of competition alter the experience, including how the brain responds.
As they say, talking about it and doing it are two different things.
Posting is doing it! 🙂
Alpesh Patel says
My mind was thinking on the same terms.
The best of the artist, they may be playing a musical instrument or singing.
The best of sportsperson they may be playing any of the popular or unpopular games. These people counted among the best. They don’t stop. Everyday they do their work. Not as a routine, but with the heart in it. Can something better be produced ?
This is the spirit that makes them best and they continue to do so!
James Chartrand - Men with Pens says
@Jeff – Well, if your personal belief system require external validation to provide you with that feeling of it being “real”, then yes, hit the publish button by all means.
But keep in mind that for many people, there is no public viewing required to validate that what they’ve created is tops.
For example, I don’t need to hit publish to know that I’ve aced the competition. For others, they do. We’re all different in that, and there’s no right or wrong.
Vincent, from PlasticPilot.net says
Nice analogy, and I know what you’re talking about, because I’d love to play piano, but no one can teach it to me in one lesson 😉
I like the idea of writing things you don’t publish, and to make it easier for me, I do that with a notepad and pen. It’s then possible to do it everywhere.
Btw, the link to “men with pens” is broken.
Great advice. Great writing. I love the way you extended the exercising metaphor. Your muscles may not be, but your writing is pretty “badass.” You made me laugh. Thanks! 😉
Patrick Bakker says
So that is why I feel exhausted (but fulfilled) after writing a post. And it’s cheaper than my gym, too!
Peter Shallard says
I also want to chime in and note that many great fiction writers (the ones who pump out book after book) write acres of stuff that never sees the light of day …. much less a publishers desk!
It all depends whether you approach good writing from a belief of scarcity or ABUNDANCE.
Nicely said, James. I just started blogging a couple of months back myself so I’m still in the learning curve. But we’ll get there.
I think the other little issue is knowing when you’re actually doing it right… How do you know when you’re ‘muscles’ are ripped? I think some people are actually really good but just never quite get the exposure they need to give them that encouragement and mental boost to keep it up. Due to that lack of encouragement, some people just give up and move on…
Kelli Wise says
Thanks for this article. I’ve just started blogging and it’s hard. It’s made even harder when I read really great blogs and then read my own. It’s the equivalent of going to the gym and seeing someone bench press 200 lbs and knowing I’ll be doing good to bench press the bar. It’s gotten fractionally better with every post, but I still have a lot of writing to do before I consider myself good. I do publish 5 times a week simply because I know myself: If I don’t commit to hitting publish on 5 articles a week, I won’t write as much. It’s reassuring to know that it will get better. Thanks again.
I think it is interesting that many bloggers I meet do not consider themselves to be writers (or even claim to not enjoy writing), yet blogging is using the written word to share your views and ideas.
Author Ray Bradbury said, “Quantity produces quality. If you only write a few things, you’re doomed.”
Andrew Billmann says
What? No mention of poutine as a training aid?
Jeff Korhan says
Wow, responses I had not expected. 🙂
Anyone that plays golf knows you can go out and shoot a great round on a frequent basis when you playing with your buds or you family. But put that golfer in competition and they will miss a 2′ putt – even the pros will validate that.
This has nothing to do with scarcity and abundance. I write a lot that I never publish – every morning. If your purpose for writing is for yourself, that’s cool. I have closets full.
On the other hand, if you are blogging to help an audience to solve their problems, you have to ge it out there. That’s why I blog and why I now do it daily – to make a difference by helping as many as possible.
Writing is not blogging. Blogging is blogging.
James Chartrand - Men with Pens says
@Jeff – It looks like you might have just implied I have no career 😉
Blogging is a medium. It’s a method of delivery, and it uses writing to deliver the message. It’s just as valid as any other form of writing, which is simply an act of penning words.
Now, if your *personal* definition of “what is writing” equals “not blogging”, then that’s great. But keep in mind that’s a personal definition that changes with every person.
To me, writing is writing. And blogging – and everything else involving putting words on a surface (even a virtual one) – is writing.
@Andrew – Poutine is your reward to a hard workout, man.
@Tola – Good question. My answer is a question back at you. How do YOU, personally, know when your writing muscles will be ripped? What does that look like FOR YOU?
Peter Shallard says
Im still going to push that it is about scarcity vs abundance.
Many fiction writers write for their audiences, then permanently shelve the drafts… or keep them shelved for years before revisiting and perhaps maybe publishing.
If you believe in your ability to produce an abundance of good writing (good for your audience, not just for you) then the need to publish ALL vanishes.
Jeff Korhan says
Peter – All buy that. For years I wrote poetry for me an only me. When I got one poem published, it just didn’t feel right.
Nevertheless, I feel I have transcended that and now I’m writing for both of us – the observed (the audience) and the observer (the writer). 🙂
O.K. guys, nice convo, but I’m off to interview a colleague at his place of business.
You can bet I’ll be writing – and blogging about it.
It’s a series on my blog called Small Business Marketing Talk.
Shane Arthur says
@Jeff: I believe you and James are basically saying the same thing.
James said “Make every repetition count.”
You are basically saying, “hit submit, ie, take your shirt off so other people can visually hold you accountable for making every repetition count.”
Some bloggers have the discipline to write privately and still make every repetition count, some don’t.
Awesome post! I need that kick in the butt to get me blogging more often. Since I started working full time, it’s been more difficult to keep up my blogs. I’m writing more for work and it’s true, the more you write the faster and better you get. Thanks, this is what I needed.
It is my goal to write 2 hours each day. Not only to improve my writing, but to keep me focused on becoming a freelance writer.
When I skip days or write less than I should, it takes a while to get that flow going. It is true: If you don’t use it, you lose it.
David Crandall says
This post is perfectly timed for me! I posted just today about making time sacrifices so that I can post every day. I freely admit that my reason for doing so is because I want to get better and know that only happens with intentional practice.
The analogy of putting in time at the gym is perfect! Thank you for the encouragement.
It’s also nice to know it eventually gets a bit easier! 🙂
well put, simple succint and powerful, great reminders and tips, it is so easy to get bogged down in the world of blogging (I started in Nov 2009). I am amazed at how much ‘advise’ there is, and how little of it is applicable … thx for this
Good post for me.
Just remind me nobody is perfect. And even if you get 1 success with one post, it will be hard to keep on.
PS : Watch : the link in “About the Author” seems to be broken.
khush-Adsense Information says
You are very right, brain works like a muscle, the more you work it, stronger it gets. Great tips for bloggers.
Sonia Simone says
Vincent and remy, thanks for the heads up, it’s fixed. Wrong kind of quote marks in the hyperlink. 🙂
Great article – I love the analogy with the gym.
Isn’t it strange that when you’re away from the computer your mind is full of ideas write about. But when you open up WordPress all those ideas have faded away and your mind goes blank.
Maybe that’s why you see so many people just drifting aimlessly in the gym 🙂
Shane Arthur says
ps. Did you check on the availability of menwith50poundpens.ca yet?
James Chartrand - Men with Pens says
@Shane – I can just imagine the number of emails I’ll get about people who read it just a little different than that… Pass!
Sonia Simone says
I can see both points on post every day vs. write every day. I think both would be very valuable — different people are just different.
Anil Atluri says
Yes, it’s a muscle and it needs to exercise and there are some who need to ‘write’ every day and then there are some who need to push that button, ‘publish’ just to feel that ‘tap on the back’.
Nice post James!
@Jeff I’ll look forward to that interview.
@Simone – am already on your list! 🙂
I think it’s really important to enjoy it to. There might be times when you have to write about a subject you don’t particularly like. Even then, there’s often a few interesting things put into your content. And then there’s the part of putting your content together so that it flows nicely for your reader.
Peter Carr says
Looks like i need to go to the Gym more often,
I made a pledge to write 5 articles a week, i am going to make that 10. Give that lazy brain of mine a good stretch and workout.
K9 Coach says
As the finisher of 9 Ironman’s, this post made huge sense to me! I didn’t get to the 1st Ironman with a couple of workouts under my belt.
The same holds true in dog training. People tend to fall into the trap of thinking a couple of lessons or a two week camp is going to do the trick for a lifetime….. ya gotta practice using the muscles all the time, whether it be training for an Ironman, training a dog, or being the author of your own blog.
Peter Shallard says
I agree, people are different and all. I pushed my point just because I think the BELIEFS that drive people to do one or the other are really significant.
I’d guess most people would change their writing/posting habits if they really believed in their ability to pump out top quality stuff, effortlessly.
Ricardo Bueno says
I challenged myself about about a week ago to write (at least) one post per day. Didn’t have to be long, just share one solid thought. I saw it as an exercise towards better writing and better thinking.
In about two weeks time, I think I’ve missed a day or two (but hey, it was the weekend). Anyway, I think it’s coming along great and it feels pretty good too.
It’s all about making a great habit out of your blogging routine. If you’re passionate about your blog, you’ll find that you love spending hours working on content to the point it doesn’t feel at all like a task.
Keep at it for at least a month and you’ll soon realize you’re doing it on autopilot.
Gordon Rowland says
Thanks ‘James’ for another action-provoking post.
Your compelling ‘write every day’ philosophy reminds me of my late, ex-RAF fighter pilot flying instructor father. His success rate proved that training sessions every day, or at least every alternate day, was far more time-efficient and cost-effective than training only once or twice a week.
This was a terrific post, James! Very well done! Your gym analogy was superb, and I really appreciated your candid and strong advice. I will implement the wisdom you shared here. Thank you! ;0)
Sandra Lee says
This is excellent advice. I’m a newbie, but I wrote posts virtually everyday my first month and it was great to know I could do it! I’ve relaxed my pace a bit now, but I want to keep “in shape” so I’ll be keeping this advice in mind. Thank you.
Wow, I love this idea. It makes blogging feel like RPG video-games, which we all know, are unarguably, extremely addicting.
Dev | Technshare says
Awesome Post. “Increase your difficulty” That’s awesome to hear. Really Great Point buddy. Thanks for sharing this awesome Post !!
City Sylvester says
This post was about practicing your blogging skills to become a better blogger, but it also inspired me to get back into my old work out routine as well 🙂 If you blog enough, one day you’ll hit a plateau where your content has to reach to a higher level. It’s not just the mind, the blog is also a terrible thing to waste.
You are so right, I satrted with blog recently,and it took me lots of time to write first post, now that is going so much easier. I am not publishing everyday, but now I will give my best….to make my brain cells working better 🙂
Matthew Needham says
I agree. Certainly with posting more regularly blog posts are much quicker to write and I think I’ve definitely upped my game.
I was judging comments as a measure of success of an article, however, I’ve come to realise that is a measure of how much interaction you get. It doesn’t mean it’s a good blog. Re-Tweets and ‘likes’ reflect that far more.
Oh yes! But I would go to the gym too. Because any training supports “all” your life. Even though it is great to specialize, a person who goes to, for example the gym as well as writing everyday, generally does better in the writing than a person who does not go to the gym.
What you learn in other practices you can apply to your current one. A worked body is much more open to creative endevours than a sluggish body.
You mentioned not going to the gym. This does not take a way focus, it ads focus.
Susan Redmon says
Great post James! I’ve found blogging requires patience and practice but where the effort is made … results will follow in the form of retweets and likes.
Mike Kirkeberg says
Another reason to continue to exercise our brains – brains are extremely lazy. They are lazy out of necessity. Your brain, my brain and all the commenter’s brains suck up about 20% of all the energy we have. That’s 20% of the oxygen, food, water, or anything else we stick inside. So what?
If there is a part of the brain we aren’t using, the lazy brain will shut it down, or at the very least work it with a skeleton crew. It doesn’t come down to use it or lose it. It is use it well and often and it will serve you well.
Okay – off my soapbox.
Cindy Lavoie says
I totally agree with the workout analogy. I’d add another point to it, though. A lot of people start going to the gym with great intentions, throw themselves into it with great relish, and then burn out because they can’t keep up the enthusiastic pace they started with. Same thing happens when many people set their sites on a marathon.
I’d argue the same is true with blogging. Don’t be the hare in the race and burn yourself out. Be the tortoise and commit to a doable pace for the long haul. If that means you aren’t likely to keep up a pace of 2-3 posts a week, then do one post a week — but build it into your regular routine so it lasts.
You don’t have to post everything you write, but don’t disregard it altogether. Sometimes the best posts come from an idea that springs up from an unpublished post.
Samantha Milner says
This blog got me thinking about increasing my weights instead of blogging. LOL!!! Great tips. Thanks for sharing.
Gordon Rowland says
In a nutshell, if we’re not going forward, we’re not standing still either, we’re going backward.
So keep on keeping on, and one day, dead or alive, we’ll get there.
On the way, it may not be be easy and it could drive us crazy. But, as Freud said: There can be no art without inner turmoil.
Traffic Building says
You are dead on! Any activity that you want to get better at should be treated like a muscle. The more you do it, the better you get at it. And just like pro athletes do, your muscle gets better developed with time too. Great read…
Thank you–I needed to hear this right now. I had gotten out of the habit of writing every day just to write, whether or not it ever made it to a blog. Something has been missing, and I think that’s it.
Mark Anthony says
There are good analogies, and then they’re are great analogies. This post qualifies as the latter. What’s funny is that I do workout, yet it never occurred to me how silly it was to have such high expectation so early in the game (with regards to my blogging). Thanks for the insight ~
Warren Contreras says
You just inspired me to write this comment to pump me up a little. I don’t think you need to write 500 words to get the exercise you need to tone up, just write whenever the opportunity strikes. It’s like my doctor says, if you don’t go to the gym at least take the stairs instead of the elevator when you can.
Asia Tour says
How many people who consider themselves to succeed? And how many are back in terms of writing? Did they not think about the steps they are going to make? ‘Your Brain like a muscle’ is not an answer, that I think!
City Sylvester says
@Warren Contreras You’re right, small better choices are better then doing nothing.
I simply like your “few tips to get stronger” …thanks a lot..overall very inspiring.
Sarah Z. Cordell says
Love the comparison between working out your body and your brain! As anyone who’s ever suffered from writers’ block can tell you (including me; my blog is suffering!), writing breaks a mental sweat just like jogging breaks a physical sweat.
Wow! A very inspiring and informative post. I have enjoyed the story you have told behind the blogging tips. It’s great.
It’s my turn now to implement these on me. 🙂
Thanks for sharing this awesome Post !!
I recently started a blog, and it took me lots of time to write first post, now that is going so much easier.
Ruby Craft says
I reached one hundred posts and started a new blog to go with it. This helps when I want to see how many views or comments there are. I have been writing more on these blogs than I have in a year. Very fulfilling and enjoyable to write to my audience. Thank you for the advice. I think everyone else is doing a marvelous job!
Montažne hiše says
How can you improve the quality of your writing to make it even more enjoyable for yourself and your readers.
Here are eight tips to become a better Blogger.
1. Define your purpose
2. Know your audience
3. Engage your readers
4. Add photos to your posts
5. Mix up your approach
6. Keep it brief
7. Provide links to other helpful sites/information
8. Proofread and edit yourself tirelessly
I agree more writing = better writing/blogging.
But I also think you don’t have to post daily to be a successful blogger.
Helpful & informative article! Thanks for sharing!
Steve Wade says
Great article on blogging. I am new to this caper so I am just taking in as much information as possible. ! have written one blog but I am not sure if anyone as even read it yet, hopefully they will find it amusing. Thank you and keep up the great work.
Best regards Steve
Thank you for taking the time to write such a great post. Like Steve, I am new to this whole blogging thing and it’s good to know that other people have the same feelings that I am having right now. It takes me about an hour to write a post after I have the idea. Sometimes longer! With practice I am sure writing will start to flow a lot easier. I think writing comments on other blogs can help improve this process too.
Thanks again for a helpful post. David
Jessica Letchford says
Good article – thankyou! It’something I’ve been thinking about lately: practice practice practice!
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