17 New Promises for Authors

Andrew Raynor

As a writer, I am only as good as my self-discipline. Over the years, I’ve learned that without daily habits, I might as well call it quits. If you’re in the habit of making New Year’s Resolutions, consider adding some of these to your list.

17 New Year's Resolutions for Writers

  1. Measure activity, not results. As a writer, your job is to share your truth, not worry about the outcome of your work. The first goal of a writer is to sit down and do the work, no matter how scary or hard it may be. When you do this, you almost always create something better and more honest than worrying about “what will people think?” So, write what moves you and leave the results to the readers.
  2. Tell the truth. No matter what, regardless of what is at stake, we must create something that is true, both to us and to the world. That means not only to be honest but to true to oneself. If something feels wrong, don’t do it. Your gut is the only thing that separates you from a robot. Try to trust it and be wary of the quick and easy route that leads to success (it doesn’t).
  3. Write what scares you. There is something powerful about leaning into fear and doing the thing that petrifies you. Nothing stirs the emotions of a reader like writing “from the heart,” as they say. Don’t hold back now. This is the year where you show all your scars, and maybe people will thank you for it. Regardless, you will be sharing your truth and that is enough.
  4. Don’t take yourself so seriously. I am guilty of this myself, but the truth is some of the best writing in history has a sense of humor. There’s nothing wrong with making the reader laugh. If all you’re writing is the facts, then you’re a reporter, not a writer. Which is fine, unless you want to create something that tests the boundaries of the status quo, something that goes beyond “just the facts.” In which case, you had better be funny.
  5. Try a new genre. Are you a business advice writer? Try memoir. A novelist? Consider journalism. Whatever you are comfortable with will ultimately cause what you create to stagnate, unless you infuse it with some novelty. Honor your calling as a creative and test the boundaries a little. Push yourself and see how you grow. As for me, I’m trying my hand at fiction.
  6. Write when you don’t feel like it. Professional writers don’t just write when inspiration strikes them. They offer themselves no excuses and do the work, no matter what. You need to do the same. Show up every day, without fail, as often as you can. When you don’t feel like it, do it anyway. This is how you will develop the discipline that turns you from an amateur into a pro. If you do this, you’ll do what so few are able to do. You will turn your passion into a habit.
  7. Do your research. It’s not enough to just “write what you know.” You have to expand what you know. Read a book or two, for crying out loud. Don’t merely pontificate. Tell us something we haven’t heard before, something we won’t hear unless you take some time to ask important questions like “why?” and “how?”
  8. Rewrite until it hurts. Let’s face it. Nobody is brilliant on the first draft. And the second one after that usually sucks, too. This is okay — it’s normal, even — because this is a marathon, not a sprint. Don’t consider yourself done until you’ve put in at least several hours and a few drafts in to whatever piece you’re working on. Remember: all good writing is rewriting. Everything else is just prologue.
  9. Shut up. Take some time and listen — to what people are saying, to what you’re reading, and to what you’re writing. It’s all trying to teach you something. Pay attention, shut that big mouth of yours, and open your ears once in a while. Learn from your surroundings, then use it all to make your writing better.
  10. Read widely. This isn’t just research, it’s practice — honing your craft by studying the masters who came before you. Pick a book that didn’t just pop up on your Amazon list; read a classic or something that has nothing to do with your field. We base our careers on words, so the best thing you can do is absorb as many of them as possible from as many different sources as you can.
  11. Fast from social media. Get off Twitter or Instagram and spend a few hours a week writing. Not your platform or your growing contingent of Internet followers, but the the thing that really matters: the writing. No one will thank you for this, which is precisely why it’s important. You will feel better, and the work will improve (promise). So, take a brief break — at least a week — from the noise and focus just on the work.
  12. Break a rule. Write in an unusual voice or depart from a norm. Stop using commas. Get rid of all adverbs. Do something that causes others, maybe even yourself, to feel uncomfortable. Don’t worry; this isn’t a new style — it’s just an experiment. In the discomfort, we grow. So, mess with the status quo, and see what happens. It could be good, really good. Or maybe not. Regardless, you’ll learn something.
  13. Publish something. An eBook, a manifesto, a full-length book. If you’ve never put your work out into the world in the form of a publish book, it’s time. Nothing grows a writer like shipping. Yes, it’s hard and scary and you probably aren’t ready. But do it anyway. Enough with the works in progress and plans to publish “someday.” It’s time. You’ve got this.
  14. Make money. You heard me. Set a goal to actually earn some income from your writing this year. I remember the first year I set this goal — it changed my life. Our son was born, and seven months later, I was making plans to quit my job and become a full-time writer. Amazing things happen when you set a goal, chart a course, and stick to it.
  15. Start a blog. Blogging is an essential craft for the modern writer. It helps you practice in public, get discovered, and build your fanbase. It’s fun, too. For a step-by-step tutorial on how to get a blog started, read my “how to launch a blog” page.
  16. Meet other writers. You can’t succeed alone. We all need the help of others who are in the trenches with us. Set a goal to grab coffee with another writer at least once a month. If there are no other writers in your town, then hop on Skype and talk online. Don’t try to go this alone; the writing journey is a long and lonely one unless you have friends to share it with. For more on this, you can read my post on networking.
  17. Quit stalling and get writing! Quit reading this post or re-checking your email for the fifth time today. Turn your phone to silent and unplug from the world for an hour. Just write. It’s the simplest, hardest, scariest thing for a writer to do. Not to think about writing or talk about writing, but to actually write.

Of course, resolutions aren’t what make a year new. They’re a formality. The real trick is not setting the goal but having the resolve to do it. Once you start moving in a direction, you don’t have just a plan or a goal. You have a habit.

And that changes everything.

What are you resolving to do different this New Year? Share in the comments.

Andrew Raynor

17 New Promises for Authors

Andrew Raynor

As a writer, I am only as good as my self-discipline. Over the years, I’ve learned that without daily habits, I might as well call it quits. If you’re in the habit of making New Year’s Resolutions, consider adding some of these to your list.

17 New Year's Resolutions for Writers

  1. Measure activity, not results. As a writer, your job is to share your truth, not worry about the outcome of your work. The first goal of a writer is to sit down and do the work, no matter how scary or hard it may be. When you do this, you almost always create something better and more honest than worrying about “what will people think?” So, write what moves you and leave the results to the readers.
  2. Tell the truth. No matter what, regardless of what is at stake, we must create something that is true, both to us and to the world. That means not only to be honest but to true to oneself. If something feels wrong, don’t do it. Your gut is the only thing that separates you from a robot. Try to trust it and be wary of the quick and easy route that leads to success (it doesn’t).
  3. Write what scares you. There is something powerful about leaning into fear and doing the thing that petrifies you. Nothing stirs the emotions of a reader like writing “from the heart,” as they say. Don’t hold back now. This is the year where you show all your scars, and maybe people will thank you for it. Regardless, you will be sharing your truth and that is enough.
  4. Don’t take yourself so seriously. I am guilty of this myself, but the truth is some of the best writing in history has a sense of humor. There’s nothing wrong with making the reader laugh. If all you’re writing is the facts, then you’re a reporter, not a writer. Which is fine, unless you want to create something that tests the boundaries of the status quo, something that goes beyond “just the facts.” In which case, you had better be funny.
  5. Try a new genre. Are you a business advice writer? Try memoir. A novelist? Consider journalism. Whatever you are comfortable with will ultimately cause what you create to stagnate, unless you infuse it with some novelty. Honor your calling as a creative and test the boundaries a little. Push yourself and see how you grow. As for me, I’m trying my hand at fiction.
  6. Write when you don’t feel like it. Professional writers don’t just write when inspiration strikes them. They offer themselves no excuses and do the work, no matter what. You need to do the same. Show up every day, without fail, as often as you can. When you don’t feel like it, do it anyway. This is how you will develop the discipline that turns you from an amateur into a pro. If you do this, you’ll do what so few are able to do. You will turn your passion into a habit.
  7. Do your research. It’s not enough to just “write what you know.” You have to expand what you know. Read a book or two, for crying out loud. Don’t merely pontificate. Tell us something we haven’t heard before, something we won’t hear unless you take some time to ask important questions like “why?” and “how?”
  8. Rewrite until it hurts. Let’s face it. Nobody is brilliant on the first draft. And the second one after that usually sucks, too. This is okay — it’s normal, even — because this is a marathon, not a sprint. Don’t consider yourself done until you’ve put in at least several hours and a few drafts in to whatever piece you’re working on. Remember: all good writing is rewriting. Everything else is just prologue.
  9. Shut up. Take some time and listen — to what people are saying, to what you’re reading, and to what you’re writing. It’s all trying to teach you something. Pay attention, shut that big mouth of yours, and open your ears once in a while. Learn from your surroundings, then use it all to make your writing better.
  10. Read widely. This isn’t just research, it’s practice — honing your craft by studying the masters who came before you. Pick a book that didn’t just pop up on your Amazon list; read a classic or something that has nothing to do with your field. We base our careers on words, so the best thing you can do is absorb as many of them as possible from as many different sources as you can.
  11. Fast from social media. Get off Twitter or Instagram and spend a few hours a week writing. Not your platform or your growing contingent of Internet followers, but the the thing that really matters: the writing. No one will thank you for this, which is precisely why it’s important. You will feel better, and the work will improve (promise). So, take a brief break — at least a week — from the noise and focus just on the work.
  12. Break a rule. Write in an unusual voice or depart from a norm. Stop using commas. Get rid of all adverbs. Do something that causes others, maybe even yourself, to feel uncomfortable. Don’t worry; this isn’t a new style — it’s just an experiment. In the discomfort, we grow. So, mess with the status quo, and see what happens. It could be good, really good. Or maybe not. Regardless, you’ll learn something.
  13. Publish something. An eBook, a manifesto, a full-length book. If you’ve never put your work out into the world in the form of a publish book, it’s time. Nothing grows a writer like shipping. Yes, it’s hard and scary and you probably aren’t ready. But do it anyway. Enough with the works in progress and plans to publish “someday.” It’s time. You’ve got this.
  14. Make money. You heard me. Set a goal to actually earn some income from your writing this year. I remember the first year I set this goal — it changed my life. Our son was born, and seven months later, I was making plans to quit my job and become a full-time writer. Amazing things happen when you set a goal, chart a course, and stick to it.
  15. Start a blog. Blogging is an essential craft for the modern writer. It helps you practice in public, get discovered, and build your fanbase. It’s fun, too. For a step-by-step tutorial on how to get a blog started, read my “how to launch a blog” page.
  16. Meet other writers. You can’t succeed alone. We all need the help of others who are in the trenches with us. Set a goal to grab coffee with another writer at least once a month. If there are no other writers in your town, then hop on Skype and talk online. Don’t try to go this alone; the writing journey is a long and lonely one unless you have friends to share it with. For more on this, you can read my post on networking.
  17. Quit stalling and get writing! Quit reading this post or re-checking your email for the fifth time today. Turn your phone to silent and unplug from the world for an hour. Just write. It’s the simplest, hardest, scariest thing for a writer to do. Not to think about writing or talk about writing, but to actually write.

Of course, resolutions aren’t what make a year new. They’re a formality. The real trick is not setting the goal but having the resolve to do it. Once you start moving in a direction, you don’t have just a plan or a goal. You have a habit.

And that changes everything.

What are you resolving to do different this New Year? Share in the comments.

Andrew Raynor

2016 was a year that is awesome. Let’s enjoy!

Andrew Raynor

 

 

As the end of the year approaches, we always take some time to look back at all the things we did that year. We had a great 2016! We created new products, made large improvements to our Yoast SEO plugin and traveled the globe for many WordCamps and conferences. Because 2016 has been such an awesome year, we want to celebrate the end of it with a big sale! As of today (and until January 1) you can get all of our products with a 20% discount!

In this post, I’d like to highlight the greatest Yoast moments of 2016.  These include the moments we are most proud of, or that are just special to us.

Yoast SEO 3.3: Readability analysis

In June 2016 we enhanced our Yoast SEO plugin (both the free and premium version) by adding a brand new feature: a readability analysis. In addition to an SEO score, you’ll now be presented with a readability score. This readability score aims to help you write readable blog posts: we indicate whether you should use shorter sentences, less passive voice or more transition words. We started out just supporting English, but now we also support German, French, Spanish and Dutch.

readability analysis

All those WordCamps…

We travelled around the globe this year and visited so many WordCamps. WordCamp Europe and WordCamp US were so very awesome! But we also went to WordCamps in Paris, London, Milan, Antwerp (Belgium), Utrecht (The Netherlands) and many more. It’s always great to meet our friends of the WordPress community in real life!

We not only visited WordCamps, and MeetUps, but we also attended and spoke at lots of other conferences on SEO, conversion, development and more!

collage wordcamps 2016

Online SEO courses

We’ve created and released three brand new SEO courses in 2016. In the beginning of the year we launched a Yoast SEO plugin training . In June an SEO copywriting training followed and we released a Keyword research and Site structure training only recently. Our courses will really enable you to get started with the SEO of your site yourself! We’re already working on new courses – the first one will be about technical SEO – that are going to be launched in the new year!

SEO Care

At Yoast, we’ve always done consultancy. Since December 2016, we’ve started offering more in-depth and long-term SEO consultancy. We’ve launched Yoast SEO Care, in which we’ll do monthly SEO checks and give practical tips on how to improve your rankings even further. One of our SEO consultants will really dive into the SEO of your site, check for flaws and give monthly feedback. We already have 58 SEO Care clients and have room for (at least) a 100!

Internal linking tool

Just this last month, we’ve launched Yoast SEO 4.0. In Yoast SEO Premium, we’ve added an internal linking tool. Our tool suggests to which posts you should link while writing a new post. It’s a great tool to help you link to related posts. Especially when your creating lots and lots of content, your site’s structure will definitely benefit from using our internal linking tool!

Yoast magazines!

In 2016 we released the first Yoast yoast magazinemagazine. The Yoast magazine is a true, old-school magazine (printed on paper and all!). We hand out our magazines at WordCamps and MeetUps. Luckily, we’ve heard people really enjoy reading them! And, for us, it’s good fun to put them together too.

Joost’s and Marieke’s journey through California

During the summer, Joost and I traveled through California with our four kids. Next to having lots of fun in San Francisco, the beautiful national parks, and Disneyland California, we also met with many people of both the WordPress as well as the SEO community. It was great fun!

14064119_10154355222129373_3507801763430716370_n

Two new eBooks

In 2016 we published two new eBooks. In the spring, we launched the SEO for WordPress eBook. This is our most complete eBook, with lots and lots of examples and practical tips. Just last month, we published the second eBook of 2016: Shop SEO. Again a very practical read and totally focused on improving the SEO of your eCommerce site.

So many new features in Yoast SEO

Our readability analysis and the internal linking functionality were our favorite updates of Yoast SEO. But next to these two updates, we’ve added many, many more features. What about the configuration wizard, the social previews, improved accessibility and the countless bugs that were fixed in 2016? We hope you appreciate these additions, fixes and improvements too, of course!

Jip and many other new colleagues joined team Yoast!

At the beginning of 2016, Jip joined team Yoast. We’re so very grateful to have him on our team. He’s having a huge impact on Yoast! Apart from Jip, we also welcomed Irene, Jimmy, Yvon, Inge, Michelle, Meike, Chris, Anneloes, Edwin, Ben, Sylvia and Patrice to our Wijchen team. On top of that, we’ve welcomed some new colleagues abroad. We’re especially grateful to have Andrea on our remote team!

avatar jip moorsIrene StrikkersAvater Michelle Foolenavatar_jimmy_500x500-1

Conclusion: so many highlights!

We were able to do so many things in 2016: we wrote lots and lots of code, built new features, drew many images and created new courses. And we even did a lot more, (but I can’t write about all of it).

This would not have been possible without you, our loyal readers, clients and followers!!! So thank you all for a beautiful 2016. We’re looking forward to 2017!

SEO New Hampshire

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135: 3 Aspects Of a Publishing Routine that Continues

Andrew Raynor

Writers write. It doesn’t seem that complicated, but most of us struggle with consistency in our craft. It plagues the best of us. So why does a writing habit matter?

135: 3 Undisputed Elements of a Writing Habit that Lasts

A writing habit is a characteristic that separates the amateurs from the professionals. In spite of its difficulty, or perhaps because of it, consistent creation is what makes you a pro. You can clearly distinguish the real writers from the pretenders not only by the work they produce, but by the practice that goes into it.

This week on The Portfolio Life, Andy and I talk about some tricks, targets, and tools to help you write more consistently. We all struggle with this stuff, so maybe this episode will help you get unstuck and start creating.

Listen in as we discuss how to move past your excuses and write better in less time on a more frequent basis.

Listen to the podcast

To listen to the show, click the player below (If you’re reading this via email, please click here).

Show highlights

In this episode, we talk about:

  • The first job of any aspiring writer
  • How quantity leads to quality
  • What it takes to become faster and better at writing
  • The three steps I follow whenever I’m writing anything
  • My favorite writing app

Quotes and takeaways

  • It is better to write more than less, especially when you’re beginning.
  • Pick just one tool. Not 37.
  • The more you can not think, the better you’re going to write.

Resources

Are you willing to commit to writing 500 words a day? Which writing tool do you recommend the most to other writers? Share in the comments

Click here to download a PDF of the full transcript or scroll down to read it below.

EPISODE 135

JG: The more you can not think, the better and faster you’re going to write.

[INTRODUCTION]

[0:00:17.0] AT: Welcome to the Portfolio Life Podcast with Jeff Goins. I’m your host Andy Traub. Jeff believes that every creative should live a portfolio life, a life full of pursuing work that matters, making a difference with your art, and discovering your true voice. Jeff’s committed to helping you find, develop, and live out your unique world view so that you too can live a portfolio life.

Writers write. It doesn’t seem that complicated, and yet you still struggle with the daily habit of writing. How can you build the habit and what tools can you use to assist you? Well today, Jeff has some simple, practical advice if you want to get past your excuses and write consistently.

Here is my conversation with Jeff Goins.

[EPISODE]

[0:01:04.3] AT: Jeff Goins, how are you today my friend?

[0:01:08.3] JG: Doing great Andy, how are you?

[0:01:09.5] AT: I am really, really good and I’m excited to talk about today’s topic because those who are listening — you who are listening right now, whatever you’re doing, wherever you are — you at some level consider yourself a writer in some way, whatever that fiction, nonfiction, you haven’t started writing, you’ve been writing for a long time and today we’re going to talk about how to write more consistently and what are actually tricks but what are some targets and maybe some tools to just writing more consistently.

This is a problem that I think is a lifelong battle, it’s like gravity, it just never grows away. So, Jeff, if it’s okay I want to start with something that I don’t know if you would consider this your most successful teaching but it’s got to be one of your most popular and that’s the idea of writing 500 words a day, right?

[0:02:01.0] JG: Yeah.

[0:02:01.7] AT: Break that down, because this is the next question people always ask, “Are you talking about publishing those 500 words? Where do I put them?” What is the idea of 500 words, what does that require?

[0:02:11.8] JG: The idea is that when you start out as a writer, you aren’t that good and most writers are self-editors and so they write a little bit, they delete a little bit, they write a little bit, they delete a little bit and this is not how you become a great writer. I think the first job of an aspiring writer is to learn how to get words down on a page, and I believe that quality follows frequency. That’s really, it’s a byproduct of quantity and so the more you write, the better you write.

I do think that there can be a threshold to that where if you write so fast, you’re not really thinking through what you’re writing. But as a general rule, it’s better to write more than is to write less, at very least when you’re first beginning. I’ve been writing professionally now for at least five or six years and a decade before that on more of an amateur basis, and I could tell you, there was a line in the sand between me being an amateur and me being a pro. The one defining characteristic that separated my professional years, i.e. when my writing was getting acknowledged by lots of people, I was getting paid for my content and I was able to make a living writing.

Versus when I was just thinking about being a writer, keeping a blog sometimes when I felt like it, and writing pieces of books and saving them on my hard drive. The one defining characteristic that separated those two different seasons of my career were how consistent I was in writing every day. So, as you know Andy, I had this conversation years ago with a friend who asked me what my dream was, I said, I didn’t know and he said, “Well I thought it would be to be a writer.” I said, “Yeah, I guess I’d like to be a writer someday,” and he said, “Jeff, you don’t have to want to be a writer, you are a writer, you just need to write.”

The next day, I got up at five Am and I started writing and I wrote about 500 words a day consistently for the next year and by the end of that year, I had over 10,000 email subscribers, I had a growing blog, I had a publisher who had reached out to me asking me if I wanted to publish a book. I was on my way to becoming a professional writer. And then the year after that was the year we had our son, I started trying to find ways to make money writing. I published two books, replaced my income, then ended up tripling our household income and quit my job at the end of that year.

So it took about two years, but if I could trace it all back to one activity, it is the habit of daily writing. Why 500 words? Because it is enough. I mean, really, for me it was kind of a fairly arbitrary number in the sense that I was writing and publishing an article every single day seven days a week, for a year. I was doing this because I didn’t want to hide and I knew if I wrote something, it didn’t have to share it, I might not finish it. So there was this consequence of if I didn’t do my work, people would know because they wouldn’t see it, right?

So I was practicing in public, I was sharing almost every word that I was writing, not because I thought they were all stellar but because what mattered to be the most at that time was developing the habit. So I did it for the practice, and when I asked Seth Godin, to this day, he blogs daily. “Why do you do this?” He says, “I do it for the practice.” That’s an idea that I really got from him and I love that idea that if you’re putting your work out there every day then you can’t hide. Now, I no longer do that but I’m still writing 500 words a day for books and blog post and articles and various things.

I was writing 500 words a day because that is enough that you could turn it into a blog post or whatever or it’s enough that if you do it every day for the next 90 days, you’re going to have a 45,000 word manuscript. When I got my first book deal, I did what I’ve been doing for a year, writing 500 words a day every day and I did that with my first book, Wrecked, and I had a three month deadline. So I wrote 500 words a day and by the end of it I had a 40,000 word manuscript and we edited it and all of that but that became the book.

So it’s a small enough increment that you can typically do it in less than an hour, I could write about 500 words in 15 to 30 minutes now, but it is a big enough number that if you do it every day consistently over time, it will get you something. It’s small enough that you could do it every day I think. It’s big enough that if you do it consistently, it will lead to something substantial.

[0:07:04.2] AT: Right, it’s worth doing.

[0:07:05.2] JG: Like a book or a blog with 10,000 readers or what have you.

[0:07:08.9] AT: So it’s like that story about the person walking down the ocean shore and they throw out a starfish back and they say, “You’re really making a difference, I made a difference to that one.” It’s like that but it’s actually making a difference. I make a joke of it, but also, I mean, how long does it take, I have a couple of questions here in a row. How long does it take for you now on a good day, on a crummy day but on a good day, maybe an average day to write 500 words?

[0:07:36.2] JG: It takes about 15 minutes. I’ve become a faster, better writer because of this habit and so I have a goal and a deadline like I’ll just sit down, like in a subject, that’s the hardest thing for me. This is why I created the three bucket system, which we’ve talked about another episode, that’s why I separate ideas, drafts and then edits.

When I sit down to draft something, I just pull an idea out of my idea bucket and I go, “Okay, let’s go,” and I get 500 words in 15 minutes.

[0:08:04.6] AT: The next part of that though is, how much of those words do you have an expectation will be useable?

[0:08:10.8] JG: Probably 80%. I mean, like I’m getting the essence of the idea down and then I’m going back and chipping away at it and then as I chip away down to the essence, I kind of add back to it. How I write is I write a bunch out and then I kind of cut it back then I add a little bit more to it and that’s those kind of three sweeps; one is to get it down, the second is to get all of the clutter out and then the third is to really kind of crystalize and clarify the idea. At that point I’ve got a pretty decent draft.

Click here to download a PDF of the full transcript or scroll down to continue reading below.

[0:08:44.3] AT: All right, let me ask a more technical question, which is what are ways that we can help ourselves wth calendar reminders? Are there certain apps that you would use or programs that would help us see our progress. Just give us some tools that we can use to make this just a little easier to succeed?

[0:09:04.6] JG: Sure and I think it begins with a few things. One, pick a number. It doesn’t have to be 500. It could be whatever you want but I recommend 500 and so that’s the first thing. You just pick a number. My friend, Shaunta Grimes picks a time allotment. So it’s either amount of time or amount of words. Don’t do both because then you’re going, “Well where do I stop?” have a very clear understanding of I’m going to write until “blank”.

In the case of Shaunta, she writes for 10 minutes and this is a really interesting strategy. She talks about the importance of tiny goals and how, she did a guest post for me one time called “how tiny goals helped me become a writer” I think and basically what she’s doing is she’s tricking her brain. When she says, “I’m only going to write for 10 minutes,” that is such a small increment of time to ignore it like what else are you going to do in 10 minutes?

You’re going to check on Facebook or something. Can you go for a walk? Can you eat lunch? Can you call a friend? You can’t do anything in 10 minutes so you might as well write because it’s such a small increment of time that it’s not worth procrastinating whereas if I say, “I’m going to write for an hour” or two hours, I will delay that for as long as I can if I’m going to write 10,000 words. It’s so overwhelming that I’m going to push it off.

Whereas 10 minutes I can’t push it off so it’s a small enough increment of time that you’re just going to do it now. But then what ends up happening as I said, you trick your brain and with Shaunta she says, “Most days I write more than 10 minutes”. So I am just telling myself I am just going to write for 10 minutes but on the days when I can only write 10 minutes, I don’t beat myself up about that. I go, “Okay well that was your goal” so you do it.

So pick a small enough goal whatever it is, 10 minutes, 30 minutes, 500 words. For me it’s 500 words because I know I’d rather work to the word count than the time amount because I waste the time right? Whereas if I write 500 words in 10 minutes, I just did it faster and that’s me knowing myself and going, “I want to do things efficiently, quickly and then move on to the next thing”.

So pick a number then pick a time, time of day. Beginning of the day, end of day, whatever, have a time that you can reserve specifically for writing. When I first started, that was five to 7 AM every morning. Now that my life has changed a little bit, I’ve got more free time during the day. I don’t have a day job. I like getting up with my kids and spending some time with them, having breakfast that sort of thing. Most days I’m writing from at least nine to 11 AM but I’ve got time blocked out to get my 500 words down and if I mess around for an hour and 45 minutes and then on those last 15 minutes I write 500 words.

[0:11:36.0] AT: They’re good.

[0:11:36.5] JG: I celebrate that, right? So I’ve got some grace and then lastly, pick a tool. One tool not 37, whatever it might be. When I just want to write something, I’m looking at my desktop right now. I’ve got Microsoft Word, which I am editing a book on. I’ve got Scrivener which I use…

[0:11:55.7] AT: Now let me pause real quick, I heard someone say, it might have been Hyatt actually but the Microsoft Word has improved dramatically.

[0:12:03.1] JG: It has. I swore it off at one point.

[0:12:06.4] AT: So you and billions of other people. I want to pause because I don’t want people to go, “What? Microsoft Word? Jeff must not be thinking right” No, I have heard from very reliable sources that it’s better.

[0:12:19.6] JG: It’s better. So I’ve got Word, I’ve got Scrivener, I’ve got Text Edit, I’ve probably got a dozen word processors on my computer. When I have an idea, when I have something that I want to write, I always pull up in the same app and it is an app called Byword. It is a minimalistic text editing tool and all it shows me is the text, no formatting. I can’t italicize or do anything. It uses mark down which is a coding language which is kind of cool.

But the bottom line is it’s minimal formatting. All I see is a big blank screen and a blinking cursor and the word count. So have a tool. It could be Evernote, it could be whatever it doesn’t matter. There’s lots of great tools. If you need to pick one, I recommend Byword. I think it’s only available for Mac. I’m not sure that there’s a PC version.

[0:13:09.8] AT: Yep, you’re right.

[0:13:10.9] JG: But you could use Word or Evernote or any number of other tools. iA Writer is another one. I like something that’s minimalistic so I can just sit down and write and just get the words down. So yeah, those are the three things that I would have. I would have a number, some kind of goal. I would have a time, when you’re going to do it that isn’t going to compete with other activities and again, know yourself, know your schedule, know when that time is.

Try to be consistent with that not because you’re the most consistent person in the world but because if you make that decision ahead of time, there’s not the stress of, “When am I going to find time to write today?” because that’s writing time and then lastly, pick one tool because the goal here is to think very little about it. To sit down, open up the thing and just start writing and the more you cannot think, the better and faster you’re going to write.

[0:14:03.0] AT: Absolutely. I want to echo or wrap up here but I want to echo the Byword endorsement. If you are going to write a very robust book, Scrivener can definitely be a good place because they have these writing targets but it’s just more complicated. I think it’s worth it but if we’re trying to just get into the daily writing habit, certainly you could use Scrivener, but sometimes using Scrivener for daily writing habits is like driving a Land Rover or a Hummer to the supermarket.

It will get you there but it’s an overkill, right? But the Byword, it does have apps for your phone, for all your I devices as well as Mac and if you save it to Dropbox then you can pick up your writing wherever you are, so you can start and stop. I do a lot of it for its minimalism. You had mentioned mark down, I don’t have mark down open when I write mine. But I actually had something I made called the productive writer’s guide and I went through eight different programs.

Including Google Docs, why not use Google Docs? It’s all backed up in the Cloud or Evernote and I love Evernote. I’m a huge Evernote fan, but for just undistracted writing Byword wins and one of the main reasons it wins is because I encourage people to write when you’re not on the internet. You can turn your internet off, I don’t know if people knew this or not, you can turn your WiFi off and you probably should and Byword will still work.

And it’s because it’s not a distraction that’s why I never tell people to write in Google Docs because you’re just one click away from Gmail and that’s a dangerous hole you’re going to fall into, right?

[0:15:37.0] JG: Right, yeah.

[0:15:37.3] AT: You’re never coming back but I love your endorsement of Byword and I do encourage people to go pick it up and it’s not a free tool. It’s just worth every penny and more, right? So definitely check that out in the App Store. Great recommendation, great other tips you have given us and I encourage you all to go out there and just start to build a habit. Put those things in place; a number, a time, a length of time and start that writing habit. As Jeff said, it really is the line in the sand, the beginning point of when he really turned pro. So Jeff thanks for that recommendation today.

[0:16:12.5] JG: Yeah, you bet and I would add one bonus resource to it, which is if you need some accountability which we all do, I would encourage you to check out My 500 Words. It is a free online writing community where you get 31 daily writing prompts to get your going and I think if you can write 500 words a day for about a month, you’re on your way to having a regular writing habits. We also have a free Facebook group with thousands of writers.

So they just post their daily writing count or either their daily word count and get encouragement feedback, not a place to endlessly promote blog posts or whatever. Just a place to get encouragement accountability for your writing and you can find more about that at my500words.com, 500 is the numerals, 500, my500words.com.

[0:16:59.4] AT: Awesome, thanks again Jeff.

[0:17:01.0] JG: Yeah, thank you.

[END OF EPISODE]

[0:17:09.1] AT: So are you willing to commit to writing 500 words a day and are you going to invest in Byword to help you write in a distraction free environment? Well, let us know by going to goinswriter.com/135. Or you can message Jeff on Twitter @jeffgoins. We appreciate the time you take to listen to our show. I’m Andy Traub, and on behalf of Jeff Goins, thank you for spending some time with us.

Now go build your portfolio.

The first job of an aspiring writer is to learn how to get words down on a page and I believe that quality follows frequency.

Click here to download a free PDF of the complete transcript.

Andrew Raynor

135: 3 Undeniable Aspects Of a Publishing Routine that Continues

Andrew Raynor

Writers write. It doesn’t seem that complicated, and yet you still struggle with establishing a writing habit. Why does a writing habit matter?

135: 3 Undisputed Elements of a Writing Habit that Lasts

Because it’s a defining characteristic that differentiates amateurs from professionals. You can separate professionals from amateurs not only by the work they produce, but by the practice that goes into whatever they create.

This week on The Portfolio Life, Andy and I talk about some tricks, targets and tools to help you write more consistently. Listen in as we discuss how to get past your excuses and write better in less time.

Listen to the podcast

To listen to the show, click the player below (If you’re reading this via email, please click here).

Show highlights

In this episode, we discuss:

  • The first job of the aspiring writer
  • How quantity writing leads to quality writing
  • What it takes to become a faster, better writer
  • Which three steps I use whenever I’m writing
  • Our favorite app for writing every day

Quotes and takeaways

  • It is better to write more than less, especially when you’re first beginning.
  • Pick just one tool. Not 37.
  • The more you can not think, the better and faster you’re going to write.

Resources

Are you willing to commit to writing 500 words a day? Which writing tool do you recommend the most to other writers? Share in the comments

Click here to download a PDF of the full transcript or scroll down to read it below.

EPISODE 135

JG: The more you can not think, the better and faster you’re going to write.

[INTRODUCTION]

[0:00:17.0] AT: Welcome to the Portfolio Life Podcast with Jeff Goins. I’m your host Andy Traub. Jeff believes that every creative should live a portfolio life, a life full of pursuing work that matters, making a difference with your art, and discovering your true voice. Jeff’s committed to helping you find, develop, and live out your unique world view so that you too can live a portfolio life.

Writers write. It doesn’t seem that complicated, and yet you still struggle with the daily habit of writing. How can you build the habit and what tools can you use to assist you? Well today, Jeff has some simple, practical advice if you want to get past your excuses and write consistently.

Here is my conversation with Jeff Goins.

[EPISODE]

[0:01:04.3] AT: Jeff Goins, how are you today my friend?

[0:01:08.3] JG: Doing great Andy, how are you?

[0:01:09.5] AT: I am really, really good and I’m excited to talk about today’s topic because those who are listening — you who are listening right now, whatever you’re doing, wherever you are — you at some level consider yourself a writer in some way, whatever that fiction, nonfiction, you haven’t started writing, you’ve been writing for a long time and today we’re going to talk about how to write more consistently and what are actually tricks but what are some targets and maybe some tools to just writing more consistently.

This is a problem that I think is a lifelong battle, it’s like gravity, it just never grows away. So, Jeff, if it’s okay I want to start with something that I don’t know if you would consider this your most successful teaching but it’s got to be one of your most popular and that’s the idea of writing 500 words a day, right?

[0:02:01.0] JG: Yeah.

[0:02:01.7] AT: Break that down, because this is the next question people always ask, “Are you talking about publishing those 500 words? Where do I put them?” What is the idea of 500 words, what does that require?

[0:02:11.8] JG: The idea is that when you start out as a writer, you aren’t that good and most writers are self-editors and so they write a little bit, they delete a little bit, they write a little bit, they delete a little bit and this is not how you become a great writer. I think the first job of an aspiring writer is to learn how to get words down on a page, and I believe that quality follows frequency. That’s really, it’s a byproduct of quantity and so the more you write, the better you write.

I do think that there can be a threshold to that where if you write so fast, you’re not really thinking through what you’re writing. But as a general rule, it’s better to write more than is to write less, at very least when you’re first beginning. I’ve been writing professionally now for at least five or six years and a decade before that on more of an amateur basis, and I could tell you, there was a line in the sand between me being an amateur and me being a pro. The one defining characteristic that separated my professional years, i.e. when my writing was getting acknowledged by lots of people, I was getting paid for my content and I was able to make a living writing.

Versus when I was just thinking about being a writer, keeping a blog sometimes when I felt like it, and writing pieces of books and saving them on my hard drive. The one defining characteristic that separated those two different seasons of my career were how consistent I was in writing every day. So, as you know Andy, I had this conversation years ago with a friend who asked me what my dream was, I said, I didn’t know and he said, “Well I thought it would be to be a writer.” I said, “Yeah, I guess I’d like to be a writer someday,” and he said, “Jeff, you don’t have to want to be a writer, you are a writer, you just need to write.”

The next day, I got up at five Am and I started writing and I wrote about 500 words a day consistently for the next year and by the end of that year, I had over 10,000 email subscribers, I had a growing blog, I had a publisher who had reached out to me asking me if I wanted to publish a book. I was on my way to becoming a professional writer. And then the year after that was the year we had our son, I started trying to find ways to make money writing. I published two books, replaced my income, then ended up tripling our household income and quit my job at the end of that year.

So it took about two years, but if I could trace it all back to one activity, it is the habit of daily writing. Why 500 words? Because it is enough. I mean, really, for me it was kind of a fairly arbitrary number in the sense that I was writing and publishing an article every single day seven days a week, for a year. I was doing this because I didn’t want to hide and I knew if I wrote something, it didn’t have to share it, I might not finish it. So there was this consequence of if I didn’t do my work, people would know because they wouldn’t see it, right?

So I was practicing in public, I was sharing almost every word that I was writing, not because I thought they were all stellar but because what mattered to be the most at that time was developing the habit. So I did it for the practice, and when I asked Seth Godin, to this day, he blogs daily. “Why do you do this?” He says, “I do it for the practice.” That’s an idea that I really got from him and I love that idea that if you’re putting your work out there every day then you can’t hide. Now, I no longer do that but I’m still writing 500 words a day for books and blog post and articles and various things.

I was writing 500 words a day because that is enough that you could turn it into a blog post or whatever or it’s enough that if you do it every day for the next 90 days, you’re going to have a 45,000 word manuscript. When I got my first book deal, I did what I’ve been doing for a year, writing 500 words a day every day and I did that with my first book, Wrecked, and I had a three month deadline. So I wrote 500 words a day and by the end of it I had a 40,000 word manuscript and we edited it and all of that but that became the book.

So it’s a small enough increment that you can typically do it in less than an hour, I could write about 500 words in 15 to 30 minutes now, but it is a big enough number that if you do it every day consistently over time, it will get you something. It’s small enough that you could do it every day I think. It’s big enough that if you do it consistently, it will lead to something substantial.

[0:07:04.2] AT: Right, it’s worth doing.

[0:07:05.2] JG: Like a book or a blog with 10,000 readers or what have you.

[0:07:08.9] AT: So it’s like that story about the person walking down the ocean shore and they throw out a starfish back and they say, “You’re really making a difference, I made a difference to that one.” It’s like that but it’s actually making a difference. I make a joke of it, but also, I mean, how long does it take, I have a couple of questions here in a row. How long does it take for you now on a good day, on a crummy day but on a good day, maybe an average day to write 500 words?

[0:07:36.2] JG: It takes about 15 minutes. I’ve become a faster, better writer because of this habit and so I have a goal and a deadline like I’ll just sit down, like in a subject, that’s the hardest thing for me. This is why I created the three bucket system, which we’ve talked about another episode, that’s why I separate ideas, drafts and then edits.

When I sit down to draft something, I just pull an idea out of my idea bucket and I go, “Okay, let’s go,” and I get 500 words in 15 minutes.

[0:08:04.6] AT: The next part of that though is, how much of those words do you have an expectation will be useable?

[0:08:10.8] JG: Probably 80%. I mean, like I’m getting the essence of the idea down and then I’m going back and chipping away at it and then as I chip away down to the essence, I kind of add back to it. How I write is I write a bunch out and then I kind of cut it back then I add a little bit more to it and that’s those kind of three sweeps; one is to get it down, the second is to get all of the clutter out and then the third is to really kind of crystalize and clarify the idea. At that point I’ve got a pretty decent draft.

Click here to download a PDF of the full transcript or scroll down to continue reading below.

[0:08:44.3] AT: All right, let me ask a more technical question, which is what are ways that we can help ourselves wth calendar reminders? Are there certain apps that you would use or programs that would help us see our progress. Just give us some tools that we can use to make this just a little easier to succeed?

[0:09:04.6] JG: Sure and I think it begins with a few things. One, pick a number. It doesn’t have to be 500. It could be whatever you want but I recommend 500 and so that’s the first thing. You just pick a number. My friend, Shaunta Grimes picks a time allotment. So it’s either amount of time or amount of words. Don’t do both because then you’re going, “Well where do I stop?” have a very clear understanding of I’m going to write until “blank”.

In the case of Shaunta, she writes for 10 minutes and this is a really interesting strategy. She talks about the importance of tiny goals and how, she did a guest post for me one time called “how tiny goals helped me become a writer” I think and basically what she’s doing is she’s tricking her brain. When she says, “I’m only going to write for 10 minutes,” that is such a small increment of time to ignore it like what else are you going to do in 10 minutes?

You’re going to check on Facebook or something. Can you go for a walk? Can you eat lunch? Can you call a friend? You can’t do anything in 10 minutes so you might as well write because it’s such a small increment of time that it’s not worth procrastinating whereas if I say, “I’m going to write for an hour” or two hours, I will delay that for as long as I can if I’m going to write 10,000 words. It’s so overwhelming that I’m going to push it off.

Whereas 10 minutes I can’t push it off so it’s a small enough increment of time that you’re just going to do it now. But then what ends up happening as I said, you trick your brain and with Shaunta she says, “Most days I write more than 10 minutes”. So I am just telling myself I am just going to write for 10 minutes but on the days when I can only write 10 minutes, I don’t beat myself up about that. I go, “Okay well that was your goal” so you do it.

So pick a small enough goal whatever it is, 10 minutes, 30 minutes, 500 words. For me it’s 500 words because I know I’d rather work to the word count than the time amount because I waste the time right? Whereas if I write 500 words in 10 minutes, I just did it faster and that’s me knowing myself and going, “I want to do things efficiently, quickly and then move on to the next thing”.

So pick a number then pick a time, time of day. Beginning of the day, end of day, whatever, have a time that you can reserve specifically for writing. When I first started, that was five to 7 AM every morning. Now that my life has changed a little bit, I’ve got more free time during the day. I don’t have a day job. I like getting up with my kids and spending some time with them, having breakfast that sort of thing. Most days I’m writing from at least nine to 11 AM but I’ve got time blocked out to get my 500 words down and if I mess around for an hour and 45 minutes and then on those last 15 minutes I write 500 words.

[0:11:36.0] AT: They’re good.

[0:11:36.5] JG: I celebrate that, right? So I’ve got some grace and then lastly, pick a tool. One tool not 37, whatever it might be. When I just want to write something, I’m looking at my desktop right now. I’ve got Microsoft Word, which I am editing a book on. I’ve got Scrivener which I use…

[0:11:55.7] AT: Now let me pause real quick, I heard someone say, it might have been Hyatt actually but the Microsoft Word has improved dramatically.

[0:12:03.1] JG: It has. I swore it off at one point.

[0:12:06.4] AT: So you and billions of other people. I want to pause because I don’t want people to go, “What? Microsoft Word? Jeff must not be thinking right” No, I have heard from very reliable sources that it’s better.

[0:12:19.6] JG: It’s better. So I’ve got Word, I’ve got Scrivener, I’ve got Text Edit, I’ve probably got a dozen word processors on my computer. When I have an idea, when I have something that I want to write, I always pull up in the same app and it is an app called Byword. It is a minimalistic text editing tool and all it shows me is the text, no formatting. I can’t italicize or do anything. It uses mark down which is a coding language which is kind of cool.

But the bottom line is it’s minimal formatting. All I see is a big blank screen and a blinking cursor and the word count. So have a tool. It could be Evernote, it could be whatever it doesn’t matter. There’s lots of great tools. If you need to pick one, I recommend Byword. I think it’s only available for Mac. I’m not sure that there’s a PC version.

[0:13:09.8] AT: Yep, you’re right.

[0:13:10.9] JG: But you could use Word or Evernote or any number of other tools. iA Writer is another one. I like something that’s minimalistic so I can just sit down and write and just get the words down. So yeah, those are the three things that I would have. I would have a number, some kind of goal. I would have a time, when you’re going to do it that isn’t going to compete with other activities and again, know yourself, know your schedule, know when that time is.

Try to be consistent with that not because you’re the most consistent person in the world but because if you make that decision ahead of time, there’s not the stress of, “When am I going to find time to write today?” because that’s writing time and then lastly, pick one tool because the goal here is to think very little about it. To sit down, open up the thing and just start writing and the more you cannot think, the better and faster you’re going to write.

[0:14:03.0] AT: Absolutely. I want to echo or wrap up here but I want to echo the Byword endorsement. If you are going to write a very robust book, Scrivener can definitely be a good place because they have these writing targets but it’s just more complicated. I think it’s worth it but if we’re trying to just get into the daily writing habit, certainly you could use Scrivener, but sometimes using Scrivener for daily writing habits is like driving a Land Rover or a Hummer to the supermarket.

It will get you there but it’s an overkill, right? But the Byword, it does have apps for your phone, for all your I devices as well as Mac and if you save it to Dropbox then you can pick up your writing wherever you are, so you can start and stop. I do a lot of it for its minimalism. You had mentioned mark down, I don’t have mark down open when I write mine. But I actually had something I made called the productive writer’s guide and I went through eight different programs.

Including Google Docs, why not use Google Docs? It’s all backed up in the Cloud or Evernote and I love Evernote. I’m a huge Evernote fan, but for just undistracted writing Byword wins and one of the main reasons it wins is because I encourage people to write when you’re not on the internet. You can turn your internet off, I don’t know if people knew this or not, you can turn your WiFi off and you probably should and Byword will still work.

And it’s because it’s not a distraction that’s why I never tell people to write in Google Docs because you’re just one click away from Gmail and that’s a dangerous hole you’re going to fall into, right?

[0:15:37.0] JG: Right, yeah.

[0:15:37.3] AT: You’re never coming back but I love your endorsement of Byword and I do encourage people to go pick it up and it’s not a free tool. It’s just worth every penny and more, right? So definitely check that out in the App Store. Great recommendation, great other tips you have given us and I encourage you all to go out there and just start to build a habit. Put those things in place; a number, a time, a length of time and start that writing habit. As Jeff said, it really is the line in the sand, the beginning point of when he really turned pro. So Jeff thanks for that recommendation today.

[0:16:12.5] JG: Yeah, you bet and I would add one bonus resource to it, which is if you need some accountability which we all do, I would encourage you to check out My 500 Words. It is a free online writing community where you get 31 daily writing prompts to get your going and I think if you can write 500 words a day for about a month, you’re on your way to having a regular writing habits. We also have a free Facebook group with thousands of writers.

So they just post their daily writing count or either their daily word count and get encouragement feedback, not a place to endlessly promote blog posts or whatever. Just a place to get encouragement accountability for your writing and you can find more about that at my500words.com, 500 is the numerals, 500, my500words.com.

[0:16:59.4] AT: Awesome, thanks again Jeff.

[0:17:01.0] JG: Yeah, thank you.

[END OF EPISODE]

[0:17:09.1] AT: So are you willing to commit to writing 500 words a day and are you going to invest in Byword to help you write in a distraction free environment? Well, let us know by going to goinswriter.com/135. Or you can message Jeff on Twitter @jeffgoins. We appreciate the time you take to listen to our show. I’m Andy Traub, and on behalf of Jeff Goins, thank you for spending some time with us.

Now go build your portfolio.

The first job of an aspiring writer is to learn how to get words down on a page and I believe that quality follows frequency.

Click here to download a free PDF of the complete transcript.

Andrew Raynor

The Very Best Christmas Present a Can Obtain

Andrew Raynor

This time of year is filled with joy, hope, and eggnog. We gather with loved ones to sing carols and exchange presents. But the best gift a writer can receive won’t be sitting under the tree.

The Best Christmas Gift a Writer Can Receive

The best gift you can give yourself this year is the gift of time.

For years, I dreamed of becoming a writer. The one thing I needed most in order to make this happen was time. I needed more hours in the day to work on my book, to even think about what I would write in the first place.

But this, unfortunately, is a gift no one possesses to give. There is no more time. Time is the one thing we never have and never own. Time has us. It is always moving forward and carrying us along with it. We are beholden to its whims — we are slaves to time.

I wish I could tell you to give yourself more time. But I can’t. That would be a lie. All I can say is to try to see the time that is already there.

Time, perhaps, is like love. Sometimes, we fail to notice it until it’s too late. We keep wanting more of it — we feel starved by the lack of it. But then something happens — a loved one dies or a friend moves away — and we realized we had more of something than we ever thought.

So, this is my wish for you: to find more time in the day to write just a little more. To recognize the time you already have and to use it.

Here are a few ways to do this:

1. Do an honest audit of your week

Write down everything you do each day and ask yourself, “Was this necessary?” and, “Did this have to take so long?”

I am often embarrassed by how long I take doing simple tasks, like brushing my teeth or taking a shower. Why is this? Because I let myself get interrupted. I tell myself that texting someone or checking my email three times in five minutes is somehow more productive, when in fact it’s getting in the way.

If I would just say “no” temporarily to certain tasks and instead be fully attentive to whatever I’m working on at the time, each thing wouldn’t take nearly as long. Intentionally tracking my time has helped reveal the truth about how much time I actually have.

Time is like money. If you don’t track it, you’ll always run out.

2. Start setting tiny goals

My friend Shaunta taught me this when she told me that she started setting a goal of writing for only ten minutes a day.

“It’s such a short amount of time,” she told me, “that it’s silly to put it off. I might as well just do it and move on with my day.”

But something interesting happens when she does this: many days, she ends up writing more than ten minutes.

The tiny goal is just a way to trick her brain into starting an activity she might otherwise procrastinate. But on the days when she only writes ten minutes, she celebrates the achievement and moves on.

Even writing for as little as ten minutes a day can lead to a tremendous amount of output over time.

3. Learn to write faster

Some writers say things like, “I am a slow writer,” and I think that’s interesting.

Do runners say they are slow runners? Are some people slow eaters? The obvious answer is yes. But anyone can improve their performance in nearly any activity.

So, whether you’re winning races or not, you can probably improve the speed of your running. Speaking from experience, you can certainly learn to eat faster. When I was a traveling musician and sometimes only had five minutes to scarf down a large meal, my band and I learned the art of quick consumption.

The same is true of writing: you can get faster. How? By practicing. And as you do this, you just might see the quality of your writing increase with the speed.

Appreciate the gift you already have

As my friend Shauna Niequist once wrote in the foreword to one of my books, “What we have is time. And what we do with it is waste it.”

But we don’t have to do that. We can learn to appreciate the gift of time we already have and learn how to better use it. We can become stewards of our time, taking better care of this nonrenewable resource we all have access to.

As we do this, we just might be able to better share our gifts with the world.

Do you have “enough” time to write? How can you give yourself the gift of time this year? Share in the comments.

Andrew Raynor

Tribe Writers Live — February 4th and 5th

Andrew Raynor

Are you looking for a way to build a loyal tribe of readers? People who will follow your blog, read your book, pay you to speak, and buy your products?

This is what my online course Tribe Writers is about.

In February, I’m going to get in a room with 30 people and teach the entire Tribe Writers course in-person.

You’ll learn the 8 weeks of material in two days and have the chance to implement what you learn with real time feedback from me.

My goal is to give students the two things they ask for most: 1×1 help and a fast track to see results sooner.

Here’s the deal:

  • Tribe Writers Live is a 2-day intensive workshop in Nashville, TN, February 4-5.
  • 10 spots are already gone — only 20 seats are left. We expect to sell out soon.

To set you up for success, everyone who comes will get:

  1. Six months of unlimited Q&A with me and my team, starting immediately after the event.
  2. Online access to Tribe Writers premium edition.
  3. Tribe Theme — the shortcut that allows writers to create a professional website faster.

This is an exclusive training with 1×1 help for people who want the best I have to offer. Tickets are $1,997.

Travel and lodging are not included, but we do have a payment plan that allows you to split the cost over 6 months.

I know this isn’t for everyone. It’s not supposed to be. But if you’re one of the people looking for a fast track and more 1×1 help, we’ve created this opportunity for you.

Click here to claim one of the 20 spots.

Want to join but need more information? Email jeff@goinswriter.com. This is a big investment, and I want you to be sure you’re making the right choice.

We really will cap this once it sells out. I can’t deliver 1×1 help to a big crowd, so we’re keeping it small on purpose. If you want in, claim a spot before they fill up.

Andrew Raynor

Yoast’s most-read articles of 2016

Andrew Raynor

 

 

We’re approaching the end of 2016. It was an excellent year for Yoast: next week we’ll elaborate a bit on that (including a nice surprise for our loyal readers, so stay tuned!). We hope you had a great year as well, in which you took your website to the next level and managed to outrank your competitor! Not yet? During the 12 days of Christmas, we’ll share our most-read posts on our Facebook page daily. Make sure you read those, so that you can get the most out of your website. Can’t wait? Check out the ultimate countdown below!

12. Crafting good titles for SEO

best_read_12_crafting_good_titles_joost_fi

On #12 we find Joost’s post about creating titles that perform well in the search results. This post is an essential read if you want to get more traffic to your site. The title tag is the first thing a user sees in the search results. And it’s one of the most the important factors for Google to decide what the topic of a page is. This combination makes crafting good titles a necessary skill for anyone doing SEO. So read!

Read more: ‘Crafting good titles for SEO’ »

11. The Snippet Preview: a how-to

best_read_11_snippet_preview_joost_fi

Now you know how to craft a great title (with some help of post #12), Yoast SEO allows you to check what it will look like in Google’s search results! Our snippet preview functionality shows a simulation of the snippet Google will show. This means that, while working on your post, you can already amend your title, slug and meta description to create an enticing snippet that will make people click on your result! Joost will guide you step by step through this process.

Keep reading: ‘The snippet preview: a how-to’ »

10. Site speed: tools and suggestions

best_read_10_site_speed_joost_fiWe’re very pleased to see this post on #10. We can’t stress the importance of site speed enough. It’s one of those factors that are crucial for SEO and user-friendliness. Making your website faster can lead to getting organic traffic for new posts faster and to better rankings. In this post, Joost gives some tips for tools and improvements.

Read on: ‘Site speed: tools and suggestions’ »

9. Robots txt: the ultimate guide

best_read_9_robots_guide_joost_fiSpoiler alert! Apparently, you guys love to read aboutrobots.txt, as you’ll see another post on this particular topic very high in this chart. The robots.txt file is one of the primary ways of telling a search engine where it can and can’t go on your website. This guide covers all the uses of robots.txt for your website. Making a mistake in your robots.txt can seriously harm your site, so make sure to read and understand this.

Read more: ‘Robots.txt: the ultimate guide’ »

8. SEO copywriting: the ultimate guide

best_read_8_seo_copywriting_marieke_fi

In 2016 we wrote a lot about… writing. Because, content is still king, if you want to get more visitors to your site. That’s why we also launched an SEO copywriting training. In this complete guide, Marieke touches on everything that’s important for writing content that ranks. She talks you through the process of keyword research and the three stages of the writing process. A must-read if you want to write SEO-friendly and readable articles!

Keep reading: ‘SEO copywriting: the ultimate guide’ »

7. WordPress security

best_read_7_wo_security_michiel_fiMaking your website safe, for yourself and your customers, is something you should never neglect. On top of that, Google favors websites that are more secure. So we’re glad this post was a popular one. And, don’t let this topic deter you, Michiel gives a very hands-on list of how to improve security on your WordPress website.

Read on: ‘WordPress security’ »

6. hreflang: the ultimate guide

best_read_6_hreflang_joost_fihreflang tags are a technical solution for sites that have similar content in multiple languages. It tells search engines which country or language site it should show in the search results to a user from a particular country. Because, as a site owner, you want search engines to point people to the most “fitting” language. A must-read if you’re going international with your business! 

Read more: ‘hreflang: the ultimate guide’ »

5. 5 tips to write readable blog posts

best_read_5_readable_blog_posts_marieke_fiAs mentioned at #8, writing was quite a thing at Yoast in 2016. In March we added a readability check to our content analysis. Because, if you want your readers to read your entire blog post, or to interact with you, you should make sure your blog post is easy to read! As this post is featured on #5 we assume you found Marieke’s post pretty readable 😉

Keep reading: ‘5 tips to write readable blog posts’ »

4. Setting up WordPress for AMP: Accelerated Mobile Pages

best_read_4_amp_joost_fi

In 2015, Google started talking about it, but 2016 definitely became the year of AMP. In February, Joost wrote his first article about setting WordPress up for AMP. He introduced the Yoast SEO AMP Glue plugin, which integrates Yoast SEO into your AMP pages. Very soon he wrote a follow-up to that post to let you know where we stand, and what you should do with AMP. Both posts ended up in the top 10 of our best read posts of 2016.

Read on: ‘WordPress and AMP: part 2’ »

3. Rel=canonical: the ultimate guide

best_read_3_canonical_joost_fiLike many articles in this list, #3 is about a fairly technical SEO topic: the canonical URL. Canonical URLs are there for you out when you’ve got duplicate content issues (and you might have those without even knowing!). A canonical URL (an HTML link tag with attribute rel=canonical) tells search engines that certain similar URLs are actually one and the same. It passes the ‘link juice’ to the URL you deem most important, so Google knows which article to rank. You’d better learn how to implement them!

Read more: ‘Rel=canonical: the ultimate guide’ »

2. How to use the content and SEO analysis of Yoast SEO

best_read_2_content_analysis_marieke_fiOur second best read post is on the feature Yoast SEO is most famous for: the content analysis. In 2016, we added a readability check to our SEO analysis. So apart from checking whether you use your focus keyword often enough and on the right spots, we also check certain readability aspects of your copy. In this post, Marieke describes all features of our content analysis in detail and guides you step by step through optimizing your post.

Keep reading: ‘How to use the content and SEO analysis of Yoast SEO’ »

1.WordPress robots.txt example for great SEO

best_read_1_robots_joost_fi

Our best read post of 2016 is quite a technical one! As a follow up on the ultimate guide featured at #9, this post has a very practical approach: If you’re on WordPress what should you do with your robots.txt file? In a clear and comprehensive way, Joost explains what the current best practices are for your WordPress robots.txt and why. Enjoy the read!

Read on: ‘WordPress robots.txt example for great SEO’ »

SEO New Hampshire

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Performance optimization in an HTTP/2 world

Andrew Raynor

 

 

A revolution is currently going on in the underpinnings of the web. HTTP, the protocol your browser uses to connect to your site, has a new version: HTTP/2. This is not something that should concern the average user, but for web developers, it changes how we do performance optimization entirely. In this short article, I want to explain what performance optimization best practices you can do away with, and why.

What changed?

The most important thing you should know about the new HTTP/2 is that it no longer requires a new request for each file. This is the modification that makes our performance optimization guidelines change so drastically. In the HTTP1 / HTTP/1.1 world, it’d be faster to combine JS & CSS files and even images, so there would be fewer requests between browser and server. In the HTTP/2 world, this type of optimization is no longer needed and can even become counterproductive.

Can I use this already?

The answer is, fairly simply: yes. If your site is running on HTTPS, then all major current browsers support HTTP/2. You or your hosting company might have to change your server configuration to make sure it supports HTTP/2, but that’s it. Some older browsers might not be able to use it, but your site would still work for them.

So I can use HTTP/2, but should I?

Yes, you should use HTTP/2! It’s a lot faster than old fashioned HTTP1, and when you set it up well, most of your visitors will benefit hugely.

Does HTTP/2 mean I don’t need a CDN?

Even with HTTP/2 you still need a CDN. A CDN delivers content a lot faster than your average server ever will, so your site would still benefit enormously from having one. Every proper CDN will already support HTTP/2.

Performance best practices that changed

The following performance best practices are no longer needed with HTTP/2 and should be done away with:

  • Concatenating CSS and JS files
    As reducing the number of requests is no longer an issue, there’s no reason to do this anymore.
  • Image spriting
    Image spriting is the practice of combining several small images into a larger image so as to reduce the number of requests. This is a cumbersome process with quite a bit of overhead, and HTTP/2 entirely removes the need for it.
  • Domain sharding
    Though this was slightly less common, some heavy sites used multiple CDN domains to serve their files. This because a browser could only open eight parallel connections to a server in the world of HTTP/1 and they’d want to serve more files in parallel. Because HTTP/2 removes the need for parallel connections as there can be parallel downloads within one connection, this best practice becomes counterproductive. The use of multiple CDN domains actually means multiple DNS requests, which slows the site down instead of speeding it up. (Steve Souders, the godfather of web performance, already predicted in 2013 that when HTTP/2 becomes ubiquitous, domain sharding will go away.)
  • Inlining CSS and JS
    Inlining small bits of CSS and JS is a practice that was aggressively pushed by Google. Because the CSS and JS are inline, it cannot be cached properly. As a request for a small file now has no extra overhead, we can do away with this best practice.

Google PageSpeed and HTTP/2

Unfortunately, Google’s PageSpeed tool and many other web performance testing tools are rather slow in their adoption of HTTP/2. They should be changing their guidelines. If a simple HTTP/2 test shows you that a site is capable of using HTTP/2, quite a few of the site speed suggestions are moot. Their documentation speaks of “networking round trips” that simply, in an HTTP/2 environment, don’t happen.

There are people at Google that understand this, of course. This presentation by Ilya Gregorik in 2015 already shows all of that.

Read more: ‘Site speed: tools and suggestions’ »

SEO New Hampshire

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Ways to get cellular Wealthy Cards in Google

Andrew Raynor

 

 

Rich Cards are the newest addition to Google’s enhanced search results. Using structured data in the form of Schema.org, certain types of subjects can get an enhanced presentation in Google. Rich Cards, not to be confused with rich snippets, are search results in card form that the user can swipe through and mostly pop up on mobile. At first, only recipes and movies had rich cards, but now local restaurants and courses joined the club. The results are still only available in the US, though. Let’s see what all the fuss is about.

What are Rich Cards?

Rich Cards example

Rich Cards on Google.com (US).

Rich Cards are a sort of extension of the rich search results we know as rich snippets. On mobile, a card is the basic presentation unit of a search result. Rich results are the search results that have extra information attached to it, this could be aggregate ratings, prices or availability. The end result is a well-structured presentation that is easy to grasp and quick to act upon. Another type of rich result offers a direct interaction with the search result. For instance, some restaurants now offer the possibility to reserve a table directly from the search result. In the future, there will be even more interaction possible, thus making for a much more user-friendly and efficient search experience.

The primary driver of this type of innovation is the enormous rise in mobile searches. Mobile has eclipsed desktop and search engines are working hard to tap into the vast possibilities this brings. One of these innovations by Google is Rich Cards, where a user finds a neatly presented and quick to use search result. Swiping through the cards makes it possible to locate the result that best fits the user’s intentions. As a site owner you can make individual results available, or a list of items within a particular category. After that, a user can swipe through the results to find the best results within that category on your site.

Which cards are available?

When Google introduced Rich Cards, they only made them available for movies and recipes. In November 2016, it became possible to add local restaurants and online courses. However, these are still only available for US search results. Cards present themselves in a carousel or a vertical three-pack that displays courses. Cards can be marked up individually or as a series of articles within a category of your site.

Check out the screenshots below to see the four current rich cards:

rich cards courses restaurantsrich cards recipes movies

How does it work?

To get any rich result, you need structured data on your page. Just like rich snippets, rich cards use structured data to tell search engines what your page is all about, so they can use it for the enhanced presentation. You need structured data to tell search engines about the meaning of the elements on your page and not just what they say.

The big search engines, Google, Yandex, Yahoo and Microsoft, came up with a shared vocabulary called Schema.org. Schema.org is often in a data format like RFDa or Microdata. However, everyone seems to favor JSON-LD these days. Not without reason, because it is easy to write and readable for both humans and machines.

So structured data makes rich results possible, but it is not certain that you’ll get rich results if implemented. It’s all up to the search engines. Just make sure that your data is correct and keep your fingers crossed.

Get started with Schema.org

To get started with Schema.org in JSON-LD, you need to determine what you want to markup and how you want to do it. There is a Schema.org for almost everything, from products to courses and services to local businesses. Be sure to take a gander at the Schema.org website to get a birds-eye view of all the schemas.

If you want users to perform an action after they have found your search result, you should determine what this action should be and how you should handle it. If you do, it is possible to reserve a table in your restaurant or a buy a ticket for a movie in your movie theater. Actions are in a pilot program, but you can express your interest if you’d like to join. See this Google page for more information on that. In Google’s documentation, you’ll also find great example code to get you started, for recipes for instance.

To help you with your quest for rich search results, we’ve written some articles on adding structured data. Check out the following articles for your reading pleasure:

Our Yoast SEO plugin uses JSON-LD to add information about your site search, your site name, your logo and your social profiles to your web pages.

Swiping with AMP

Google is increasingly pushing AMP, even in the rich search results. A search for [chocolate cheesecake recipe] on mobile shows two carousels, the one on top with regular search results to be swiped through. The second one, somewhat further down the page, consists of AMPlified content and makes it possible to swipe through the results, even after tapping on a link. It makes for a beautiful and fast experience, but AMP is not necessary to get this type of rich card. However, you do get a few benefits; Google likes sites that use AMP, plus your site loads lightning fast and the swiping actions are solid.

AMP is very much a work in progress, and Google is figuring out how to incorporate it into the search results. There will be a lot going on in the coming months, and we are trying to keep you informed on all of the changes in the SEO/structured data worlds.

Rich Cards Google AMP

Left: an AMP carousel with only recipes from Allrecipes.com. Right: a tap leads to the relevant AMP page.

Track progress in Search Console Rich Cards report

One interesting recent development is the new Rich Cards report in Google’s Search Console. In this new tab, you will find everything related to the performance of your structured data. You can see how many cards are indexed and if there are critical or non-critical problems.

Cards fall into three categories: ‘Invalid’, ‘Enhanceable’ or ‘Fully Enhanced’. If your cards are invalid, you should check the structured data and fix all problems. Enhanceable cards have only non-critical errors in the additional, optional data fields. These cards will still display, but not in the most optimal way. Fully enhanced cards render correctly and perform as they should. Keep an eye on your report at all times and fix issues when they pop up.

Before you add your code to your pages, you should always check it in the Structured Data Testing Tool. In any case, you should follow the rules, because failing to do so and presenting incorrect data, could harm your site.

Conclusion

Mobile rich cards offer searchers an intuitive way to browse the search results. Cards are very visible and naturally catch the users eye, begging for a tap. Carousels group the relevant results together and make them swipeable.

The implementation of rich cards is still in development and could change at any moment. This is a fairly new paradigm for previewing and navigating search results, and it’s not easy to predict if searchers will adopt this. In the end, carousels don’t have a really good reputation…

At the moment, Rich Cards only apply to a small sampling of subjects in one target market: the US. This means that all your efforts will only affect search results in that one country. If you have the means and capacity to implement the structured data for Rich Cards, go right ahead. If you don’t, or if you are not in the target market, it may be better to watch the developments closely and jump on the bandwagon when Rich Cards get a worldwide release.

Read more: ‘Rich snippets for product listings’ »

SEO New Hampshire

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