Watching Me Blog

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Blogs are one of the most valuable marketing tools ever created.

I believe that. I don’t just say it. I mean it by walking the talk. I started blogging in September 2003, and since then I have written almost three thousand posts. I’m proud of this blog mostly because it serves two personal Gods for me: my love of writing and my love of sharing. I had the pleasure of speaking in Oslo, Norway last week at the re:think conference. Also on that bill was Chris Brogan (Trust Agents, Social Media 101, Google + For Business). Chris and I have been friends since we first met at PodCamp Boston back in 2006, so any chance to hang out when we’re in the same city, we take advantage of. The morning of the conference, we had breakfast and our conversation sparked a blog post (this one: Where Do Ideas Come From?). It was one of those posts that just had to come out, so I started writing it as soon as we got to the venue. To my surprise, Chris blogged about me blogging (how meta!) with his post: Watching Mitch Joel Blog. In the comments section, Peter Petrovski said: "Would love to read more about how you draft, write and publish posts." Here’s the deal, Peter…

My blogging philosophy:

  • It’s me. Only me. I write, edit, post, moderate, etc… everything. I have an amazing team at Twist Image that did all design and infrastructure, but the content is all me (including the updating of the Blogroll).
  • It’s visceral. I write (almost) everyday. I post when I am done writing. There are moments when I write more than one blog post at a time and – in those rare cases – I will schedule them to the next day.
  • I commit to consistency. I attempt to have six unique blog posts every week and one audio podcast (on Sunday). So, while I may not post daily, you will receive seven pieces of content from me each and every week.
  • It’s one shot. I don’t ruminate and hold blog posts as drafts. I have an idea, I write it.
  • I do not mention brands. As often as possible, I try not to call out brands – especially ones that have screwed up. My philosophy is that the learning from the mistake is more important than who made the mistake. Also, as an agency owner, you never know where your next client will come from.
  • Easy on the self-promotion. I do my best to provide value to you with the intention that if it’s valuable, I’ll become an option should your company require digital marketing services. I try to keep the self-promotion to a dull roar… as much as possible. That being said, I’m proud of what we’re accomplishing here, so it does creep in. The core ideology is that the content should be of value to you first and foremost.

Pre-show (what happens before I blog):

  • I’m an infovore. No doubt about it. From e-newsletters and magazine to business books and RSS feeds, I’m constantly consuming reading, watching and listening to content. My attitude is that I would rather be inundated with emails and feeds than be left surprised when news breaks. I much prefer the delete button over not being in the loop.
  • When something turns into a blog idea, there are two repositories for it:
    • I keep an email folder titled "Blog", where links to articles that inspire are put.
    • I write it down in my trusted. Moleskine notebook.
  • I’ve tried keeping notes on my iPhone using Evernote and the like, but it just doesn’t work for me. I’m better off emailing the idea to myself and placing in the Blog folder.

Writing the blog post:

  • The physical space doesn’t matter. I don’t need to be in a specific room, desk or chair to be inspired. My attitude is very military-like: just write.
  • I prefer to write in silence (music: even classical and jazz) takes my focus off of the words.
  • I use a MacBook Air 13 inch laptop to write.
  • My blogging software is Windows Live Writer. Because this is a PC only program, I run vmware on my MacBook Air just for that one program. I wish someone would write a Mac software as awesome as Windows Live Writer (I blogged about all of this right here: My Blog Writing Dilemma).
  • The blogging platform is MovableType. I’m sure we would be on WordPress had it existed when I started blogging, but it wasn’t as robust back then. It’s just too much work to switch that all now.
  • I believe in tags. As you can see from this post (and any other post), I love adding lots and lots of tags. It makes it much easier to find content later on.
  • A typical blog post takes me twenty to forty minutes from cradle to grave. Yes, I write fast. On average, I can write about 1000 words of original content in about an hour.

After the post:

  • Once it’s posted and live, I tend to let people on Twitter and Facebook know by asking a question. For example, with this blog post I might tweet: "What’s your blogging philosophy? Here’s mine…" I find that asking a question generates comments and sharing.
  • I try to respond to comments, but I’m admittedly not great at it. Some weeks, I respond to every comment and then there are weeks when I don’t respond at all. It’s not you… it’s me. It’s nothing personal. I read each and every one and I am always honored that people take the time to comment, it’s just that life often catches up to me and my philosophy is that I’d rather spend what limited time I do have writing more original content than responding to comments. It’s probably not the most "social" way to be, but that’s how I am wired.

While the idea of tagging a blog post as a way to start a meme has all but died, I’d love to see people like Seth Godin, Chris Brogan, Amber Naslund, Jeff Jarvis, Mark W. Schaefer, Avinash Kaushik, Jason Falls, Gini Dietrich, Tom Peters, Jay Baer, Darren Rowse and David Meerman Scott follow this template and write a post about how they Blog. Feel free to ping them and let them know that I’ve called them out!

Christopher S. Penn over at Awaken Your Superhero is playing along: How I Blog.

Mark W. Schaefer over at Grow is playing along too: An inside view of the blogging process.


  1. Great insight being that I’m a long time reader of the blog. Question though…how do you handle writers block? Especially after 3,000 posts, there has to be a time where you just don’t have any ideas, don’t feel like writing or you are just staring at a blank screen scratching your head. How do you snap yourself out of it?

  2. I don’t believe in writer’s block. Being an infovore and overloading myself with content creates more inspiration than I have time to create. I don’t ruminate. If I’m feeling like nothing inspires, I simply start a new document and just start typing.
    I believe that the more I write and create, the more new and interesting ideas show up.
    I highly recommend two books to think differently about what we think blocks us:
    1. The Accidental Genius by Mark Levy.
    2. Do The Work by Steven Pressfield.
    Read those two, short books and let me know if you’re ever blocked again πŸ˜‰

  3. Great post and I do concur. I love writing myself and don’t believe in writer’s block. However, I also have a busy schedule and choose to make time for other things in my life instead of writing. Writing is liberating and I think everyone should get to it, no necessarily blogging, but writing.
    Thanks for sharing your views on blogging.

  4. Great post Mitch, it’s always good to hear from other authors on the way that they work. I’d love to hear what makes Windows Live Writer a much better tool than just plain old Word and see if we should give it a go.
    6 posts a week is impressive – Keep up the great work!

  5. Funny…in so many aspects of my life I believe that you are what you create, so why not create “no such thing as writers block”? I love that…I feel lighter already! “Running” out to the virtual bookstore to pick up those two books right now. Thanks for the insight!!!

  6. Very good post Mitch…I always wondered how you do it…good insight for me. The question I have is how do you get the traffic especially during those first few posts in the beginning?

  7. You sir, are a machine. I’m up for the challenge. I’ll write something about my far less impressive blogging regimen.

  8. You don’t get traffic early on. You have to earn it by being as active in the other spaces as you are on your own space. Nobody owes you anything, so you have to demonstrate to the world why your thinking is worth following.

  9. Personally, I think of it less as “writer’s block” and more of a problem with being able to articulate the idea in my head into the written word. In other words, I have ideas. Sometimes, I just get stuck trying to communicate them properly. I don’t consider that writer’s block.

  10. Thousand words an hour is very, very impressive Mitch, especially given the quality of content that you provide more or less on a daily basis. Likewise I also highly recommend the Steven Pressfield book to gain a different perspective on the notion of ‘writer’s block’ and how to overcome it. Mitch, I thought your approach is reminiscent to Bruce Mau’s advice on how to spur (unlock?) creativity: “Begin anywhere.” Instead of ruminating it’s better to start anywhere to see where the road takes you, which usually ends up being an interesting journey that leads to ideas one hasn’t thought of. I would also throw in Brian Eno’s views on this topic. Eno firmly believes that all, and particularly great ideas, are not pre-ordained but instead result from some kind of process (ie. the journey, pattern, scheduled task, etc). I highly recommend Eno’s set of Oblique Strategies cards for anyone who is looking to enhance their creative process in whatever one does. As a matter of fact there is even an iPhone app which is very handy.

  11. I have – but have not played – with Eno’s Oblique Strategies. It’s been on my list for some time. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been faced with a deadline for a column and both screen and brain are blank. Just writing seems to do the trick… it’s like the lubrification for the idea.

  12. This is a great idea! I need to use this more. I don’t have writers block persay, but I get hung up on what to write. I need to just get it out on my computer and go from there.

  13. Yikes – how did I miss that?! I went right to the Microsoft site and whiffed on your post. Thanks, that did it (embarrassed)!

  14. Hi Mitch,
    Thank you so much for your response on my question!
    Very interesting to read about your philosophies and workflow when it comes to blogging.
    I like your thinking, just write when you have the idea and bust it out. I’m the same in that I’ve been trying to use Evernote and the like to capture and refine ideas, but I’m much more effective at just writing as I get inspired.
    I am trying to get into the habit of blogging every day and it becomes difficult, your posts are a great inspiration. Thanks again!

  15. I love your writing style. However, I cannot follow it. I need to save drafts and get back to them later to optimize, make sure that I have not missed anything. I think, I would get better with time and experience.
    I also love Live Writer but when I copy the same content to word, I observe lot of correction ( mainly grammatical) which live writer could not catch. But live writer gives better experience of writing on actual site.

  16. Thanks for sharing this Mitch. I really resonate with much of what you said, especially in terms of allowing the writing to flow. i’m a research hound, and I know that sometimes my love of learning overtakes my time spent writing, as I peel the layers of the onion, reading more…and more…and more. I do love to read, but I really must temper that so that my love of writing isn’t hindered by time constraints.
    I like your reply to Ankur: “The point is never to follow someone else’s way of writing. Your way is your own… so long as it works for you, that is all that matters.” That message is gold.
    Always enjoy your posts, and I especially liked your revelation that you don’t always reply to comments. Good to know:) Cheers! Kaarina

  17. Mitch, easily one of the more enjoyable and pensive posts I’ve read in a long time. I loved Brogan’s on watching you, and I liked this one even more because it really puts us, your readers, in your head and we get to see the way your mind rolls. Totally dig that my man.
    And I look forward to those you challenged as well.

  18. Your approach to blogging is very similar to mine. Count me in as another person who would love to see a Mac versin of Windows Live Writer!

  19. I launched a blog in the last few weeks of December last year. You spoke at TOC in Frankfurt, Germany and I referred to those notes many times before I launched. Thanks for outlining your philosophy.

  20. Fantastic insight! But I have one other question. Your posts are filled with so many links, how do you do that? Manually, software, etc?

  21. That is one of the main reasons why I love Windows Live Writer so much. It has an auto-linking feature. So, when I type if Twitter for the first time, I add the hyperlink and then, whenever I create a new post and type in Twitter is automatically creates the link only the first time I mention the word. It is a massive time saver. And yes, I love links. It’s what makes digital text three-dimensional.

  22. And that is why I dig your blog. For the knowledge, perspective, links…
    Thanks Mitch.

  23. Oh my goodness, I love this idea! I guess I have an obsession about process. I sometimes write about the writing process at my blog, but I haven’t ever distilled the process into a single post. Maybe I should. I think it would be fun. I certainly had fun reading your post and Mark Schaefer’s.

  24. Fascinating stuff, Mitch. As others have said, I’m amazed at your ability to not only churn out (kick ass) blog posts, but to do so on a regular basis. Your consistency is what really impresses me.
    One question: Why don’t you include social sharing options here? If I want to share this post on Facebook, Twitter, G+, etc. I have to do a bit of work. I’m not outright objecting to the “do the work” stuff, but wondering if excluding those sharing options was a conscious, intentional decision or … something else.
    Ok. Off to share now. Ha!

  25. Yikes! My bad, Mitch. Just seeing them now. I guess I didn’t scroll down enough. Sorry! Does the plugin allow you to put the social sharing at the bottom AND top? If so, I’d be curious to see if your social sharing increased at all.

  26. It’s a custom Blog, so we can do what we want. Our thinking is this: you will only share when you get to the end of it. Maybe that’s small-minded, but that’s how we think πŸ™‚ LOL.

  27. I don’t think it’s small-minded at all. Honestly, I was just curious. I figured if I missed it maybe others did too.
    Really enjoyed the post by the way. Felt like I was “Being Mitch Joel” for a few minutes. See you in Knoxville in a few weeks!

  28. Mitch,
    I just picked up on your podcast but for some reason never got to your blog. Thanks to Marcus Sheridan I came across a post by Jay which linked here.
    Anyways I wanted to say thank you for this. As I start out on my own blogging it’s nice to see how others do the process.
    I will be sure to follow you more closely here but I’m hooked on your podcast!
    Thanks so much.

  29. What a fantastic idea, Mitch! I think all of us out there who identify as writers think about our process (perhaps, with varying degrees of intensity) with some frequency. I suspect that some common threads will emerge.
    Digging into an idea right now. πŸ™‚

  30. Sure, I’ll play along! My process mirrors a lot of what you do, but I’ll write it out next week.
    BTW, I showed the Chipotle ad in a speaking engagement yesterday and people loved it. So thanks for that tidbit!

  31. Wow, 1000 words in an hour is great. No wonder you have plenty of good content. It takes me around 3 hours to get my typical post of around 800 words per day. This in itself is a big drain on my resources as I have to juggle my time with my normal web design projects.

  32. Please Note: Windows Live Writer may be disontinued soon. Scott Lovegrove (Microsoft MVP) has posted an online petition to “Save Windows Live Writer” []. If you love the program like I do, please sign the petition and spread the word!

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