Welcome to the ninth interview of the Let’s Get Inspired Series. A series where I interview our fellow WordPress.com bloggers on their blogging process, what they write about, their passions, their blogging dreams and their blogging tips. Each blogger has a speciality, well, more than one. Which I attempt to bring out in the interview.
Today we are going to speak to James of the Perfect Manifesto blog.
James is another blogger that I have known since I started blogging in March 2016.
James’s blog is a mix of topics, as you will find out in the interview. I think what has always drawn me to James’s blog is his productivity post, the fact he is in IT (I used to be in IT), and he likes personal development.
Through James’s blog, I have watched him get married, have children and progress in his career all over the fabulous internet.
I hope you enjoy this interview with James and take time to visit his blog and see his excellent blog.
When and why did you start blogging?
Well, I’ve always enjoyed crafting things with the written word, in the past I used to be involved in creative activities writing funny stories, poetry and when I would go on holiday often recorded my thoughts and observations going to strange new lands.
When I went to university I got out of this habit because the last thing I wanted to do was more writing! Even when I finished my course I didn’t pick this habit back up until many years later when I realised how much I wanted to get back into this habit. The question was – what to write about?
I’d been thinking about writing a blog for ages, but always struggled knowing what I wanted to focus on, though in hindsight realise this was just an excuse not to take action.
It took a new year to encourage me to take the next step. The previous year I’d lost both my grandma’s which gave me a firm reminder how short and fragile life is. It was now 2014, the first year of my thirties was coming to an end and I was deeply unsatisfied with the direction my life was taking.
I always thought New Year resolutions were stupid, because most people gave them up after a month, so I never made any, nor had any goals. But because of what had happened I was compelled to write some – I ended up writing a dozen pages listing everything I wanted to change about my life. I jokingly called in “My Manifesto of Perfection.”
One of those was to start writing again and setup a blog. When it came to a theme, my journey was making it obvious what I needed to write about – so I started my blog Manifesto of Perfection, which would be accountability blog based on my experiences working towards my goals and also sharing my own thoughts and knowledge on going through this self-improvement experience.
In terms of choosing WordPress it was simply for convenience, I’d been volunteering at a fuel poverty charity where I was responsible for creating and providing content for the charity blog account. Because I was familiar and comfortable with how WordPress.com works it was a no brainer to work with what I knew.
My blog is purely a hobby, done for enjoyment, though my aspiration is to one day use the blog as a point to launch a book, though I have to admit the time I put on writing a blog has been a distraction from getting something substantial written, though on the positive it has been a major learning process to improve my writing.
How has your blogging Journey evolved?
It’s evolved immensely, firstly it’s not really an accountability blog anymore as I felt really uncomfortable talking about my personal goals so publicly.
One of the obvious things is the slight name change – going from Manifesto of Perfection, to Perfect Manifesto, which was purely motivated by the fact I bought the domain perfectmanifesto.com and wanted to reinforce my blogs name in people’s minds!
Then I’ve made my writing much more focused – I used to write about a lot more topics, but in recent years have seen the benefits of writing about just a few topics, notably if you try and cover too much it’s difficult to maintain a loyal reader base as they aren’t necessarily interested in everything you write about when you spread too widely.
Although considering your audience is important, it’s growth has always been influenced by my interests and what I feel most passionate about, if you don’t do that, then when you’re like me, doing it as a hobby, you’ll get bored and quit.
How often do you blog or carry out blogging related actives?
I try to check in with reading blogs once or twice a week as I struggle for time with my other commitments. Because of my limit availability I will prioritise blogs I already follow, or checking out the work of people who have kindly taken the time to leave a comment on my work.
How long does it take to write a blog post?
This can vary – I’ve managed to write smaller ‘observation/commentary’ posts in my lunch break, to posts that I craft piece by piece over a few weeks. If I had to say an ‘average’ writing time, then about 4 hours.
I have noticed you create great feature images and infographics. What software do you do use to create your graphics?
All my graphics are created using canva.com – I like the fact it has a range of templates, in different sizes, for different uses which you can easily manipulate and make yours by applying your blog brand colours and fonts.
You also get access to stock photos, which makes life easier as it can be a real pain in the you know what, trying to use pictures that have some sort of copyright ownership to it.
The reason I blog is for the writing, so I don’t like to get too consumed spending time on graphics – the header graphic I use on each post is designed to be simple so I can easily update the text to reflect the blog post title and replace the feature image, this usually takes no more than 10 minutes.
I do create other graphics – the most time consuming ones are the Infographic images, this can involve a bit more playing around, and I try and find appropriate vectors to explain the story of the content. This can take about an hour, and because of the time taken, I’ve used these as the main feature of some posts.
How many times do you proofread, edit etc.?
As many times as it takes – I’ve made the mistake in the past of not bothering then reading some obvious, embarrassing mistakes.
Now I’ll write posts, often editing as I go along which I know many writers don’t recommend as it can really slow down the writing process, but I really like to illustrate my point while I can remember. Once finished I will read through, often doing so out loud to ensure it makes sense and then readjust as needed to help it flow better.
Do you have a favourite place to write?
I write wherever is best – I have my work desk which has been setup since working from home (excuse the mess) which is a great place for quite focused work, but I’ll also sit on the couch or dining room table.
How do you generate ideas for your blog topics?
Everywhere – sometimes I’ll read something and it will trigger my own thought, or a memory – I’ll then make some notes on my phone or a notepad in anticipation of being able to flesh the idea out, or I hear someone talking about a problem and realise I have some ideas to solve that.
Twitter can be useful for inspiration because it’s full of so many micro ideas, but I don’t recommend relying on one source, so I try mixing things up, often I’ve come up with ideas away from the desk, working out at the gym or going for a walk.
How often do you publish a blog post?
I used to publish twice a week, but have moved to a once a week schedule as I wanted to allow more time for writing longer posts, and allow me to apply a bit more research and focus on some other writing projects outside of my blog, like trying to get published in external publications, my newsletter and writing my first book.
Out of all your blog posts that you published to date – which 3 are your favourite?
My personal favourites are:
This will always be a favourite, because I felt this was my first ‘good’ post. I took a basic concept, how I felt bucket lists were shallow and fake, to write a sort of amusing opinion piece. Another big reason I liked it was because it was my first attempt at writing an “Unpopular opinion” type post, where I could challenge peoples thinking.
Although this is a really new post, I thought I’d written something really good, that will have massive value to anyone who suffers from Imposter Syndrome. I suffer from this too, and wanted to share some concepts I’d picked up from the learning I’d gone through.
Over the years I’ve had a few year who’d damaged me badly, that I wanted bad things to happen to them. It was a major milestone in my personal growth, when I realised those feelings of retribution were gone and the people who hurt me no longer held this power.
What do you love about blogging?
I absolutely love the power of reaching people from across the world! I have a habit of checking my blog stats purely because I’m fascinated who has visited from small, obscure countries at the other side of the world!
Secondly, I absolutely love reading a comment from someone who has obviously taken the time to read your idea, then give a thoughtful opinion to how the post makes them think/feel. On one of my posts recently a conversation started between two commenters, which I thought was absolutely amazing that my post had become its own micro discussion community.
What don’t you like about blogging?
Whew! You could really get me going on this for several blog posts! I’ll focus on the big one though… I really dislike the fakeness from some parts of the community, it’s blindingly obvious that some bloggers are totally self-entitled and expect everyone to read their work without giving anything back in return. I’ve had to turn the like button off several posts because people keep pressing that star button when they haven’t even read it!
This has given me a healthy distrust of the community, I’ll only read content of blog article which interest me, or from people who have gained my trust that I realise they are worth checking out.
What is your biggest blogging lesson?
How many page views you get each day/month/year is not an indicator to how successful your blog is.
This is something I used to be really bad at – when I started I was grateful when I started getting people looking at my work, then I wanted it to grow bigger and bigger, but the truth is – progress simply isn’t linear, and when it comes to blogging you shouldn’t base your self-worth on these numbers.
I’ve now changed my progress as a blogger to look at:
- How much better is the most recent post to the first post?
- The quality of the comments received.
- Commenters saying things like “I can really relate to this.”
- People becoming more susceptible to sharing my work on social media.
- Writing something that I know is making at least ONE person’s life better.
Point being, there is lots of other things to take away than who is and who isn’t visiting your small corner of the web.
I see you have Guest Posts on your blog. Do you accept any guest post, or do they have to be on a specific topic?
I do accept guest posts! If you want to write for Perfect Manifesto, then visit my Contact Me page, to submit your idea and we can discuss.
Before you do though I recommend:
- Looking at the content of my blog to see if your work is suitable for the type of things I write about.
- Don’t use it as an opportunity to spam the post with links.
I don’t care about how popular you are, what you DA score is, or if you only started your blog yesterday, my main priority is that you provide content to the best of your abilities.
What keeps you blogging? Do you find it hard to juggle life and blogging?
I’ve actually had periods before getting married and having kids, when I would have breaks just because I didn’t have the motivation to write, I feel the issue isn’t necessarily these commitments, it how much satisfaction I get from blogging.
It certainly is challenging balancing personal life with blogging, what keeps me going is I really enjoy and see value in what I’m doing. When my first child was born, I really struggled adapting to my new life, that writing wasn’t the priority.
When things settled down I got back into writing Perfect Manifesto, while accepting the reality my audience had dipped from the break. So I decided for the future, to remain consistent with my writing – even when other things in life get in the way.
My biggest concern when my second child was born that my blogging routine would drop off, but by scheduling a few posts in advance, I was able to ride out these challenges and keep up with my writing.
It’s a part of my routine to keep writing, and my wife is fully supportive giving me time to write. She recognises, like my interest of going to the gym that it is part of me and actually benefits my whole wellbeing from having these outlets.
Sometimes it does feel a bit much, which is why I decided to go back to publishing once a week as it felt like I was constantly slogging away writing and preparing posts.
My general mindset with all my responsibilities is to focus on the task at hand, when I’m working in my career, my priority is doing the best job I can, time with the kids, I’m present, and I make time with my wife to keep working on the relationship. This makes my writing really effective, as I’ve grown to recognise how precious the free time is, so will always push to get a first draft written when time allows.
Do you have social media accounts?
You can follow me on Twitter at Perfectmanifest
General Blogging advice for bloggers: Do you have any advice for bloggers starting or struggling with blogging?
The big one for me is – stop comparing yourself to other bloggers.
You also get bloggers who’ve only been going a short amount of time who seem to get huge out of nowhere. This can be frustrating when you’ve been slogging for years!
It’s always worth remembering you don’t know each persons situation – some have more time, know more people, are writing to a more popular niche, I’ve also noticed how many “overnight successes” seem to have some sort of communications, media or journalism background, so it’s no wonder they are more effective at doing this!
Whether you are new or been going for years like me, then it’s always good advice to not compare yourself to others.
- Stop sweating over site states.
- Read other stuff to improve your craft – it’s a cliché but you can learn a lot looking how good writers craft a sentence. You can even learn from bad writers – why do you dislike the post? What can you do to avoid making their mistake?
- Only read what interests you – it can become a chore if you end up reading content you don’t care less about.
- Don’t feel obliged to fall in like for like/comment for comment. If someone’s post doesn’t speak to you, or you just find it boring, don’t feel you have to reciprocate, just because they’ve commented on your post.
- Learn the rules of blogging/break the rules – it’s useful to have basic understanding of concepts of SEO and what makes an eye catching blog post, but don’t do this at the expense of making your work lifeless and dull, do stuff you find fun which might not necessarily be popular.
- Learn from the best in your field. I write about self-improvement, so I keep in touch with the great writers in this area – Ed Latimore, James Clear, Mark Manson. Every time I read their content I ask – what makes them so awesome at writing content on personal growth?
- Aim to get be better at what you do every day.
Are you inspired, motivated?
I hope you have enjoyed this interview with James.
Do visit again next week when we have another blogger interview. In the meantime, please do take some time to visit James at his blog Perfect Manifesto. James is the ninth blogger in this series, below are the other blogger interview; please do take time to read their interviews.
Images: Supplied by James therefore are his copyright. Feature image created by myself on http://www.canva.com (canva is very easy to use; I have created a YouTube video and post on it)