Next week, I'm re-releasing my Storytelling For Bloggers main course - teaching everything I've learned about building a blog that readers will fall in love with.
You've been through the free version. This is the full thing.
Seriously, I'm excited. I got good feedback from students from its first run earlier this year - and this revised edition is even better.
(Obviously. Because, why would I make it worse? Note to self: come back and edit this bit so you sound, like, really professional, Mike.)
Anyway, that's next week.
Today, I'd like to talk about the bookcase in front of me as I write this, because it has been teaching me a lot about the power of knowing what the hell you're doing with your blog in the first place.
Here's the view:
All these books are by one author - and everyone in Britain over the age of 30 knows her name. The reason's simple: since she started writing in 1922, she's sold 600 million books - almost all of them without the help of the internet.
Right now, the online world is filled with people telling you how to publish and sell your creative work, and sometimes offering products or courses to help you do it. In a way I'm one of them - although my course is really about making people love your work, so it also applies to those sane, sane folk who don't want to turn their blogs into businesses.
Anyway. If you're interested in blogging because you want to write books, I'd recommend the work of The Creative Penn, Mark Dawson, Tim Grahl and Sean Platt, Johnny B. Truant & David Wright to anyone, because they're generous and smart and they all have terrifically useful podcasts.
But it's also worth looking at the books on your shelves already, especially the really old ones - the ones you grew up with.
You know - the ones that have been everywhere for decades.
So the other day, I looked up from what I was typing, and there were all these books you can see there, property of a book-obsessed friend who really loved the stories she read as a kid.
Look at all those books.
Imagine being that author. Imagine having 36 books to your name. I mean, wow. That's the mark of a full writing career to the point of burnout, right?
Amazingly, when applied to Enid Blyton, it's not even close.
Enid Mary Blyton was one of the most successful storytellers of the 20th Century - and she did it by outwriting everyone else, producing an estimated total of 762 books between 1922 and 1968.
Just in case you think that's a typo: yes, seven hundred and sixty-two.
If you zoomed in on Enid Blyton during an average year, you'd see her writing around a book a week, and up to 10,000 words a day. She had a formula that fitted her audience (children of a certain age & rebellious, outdoorsy temperament), and she stuck to it. She sat at her desk and worked until the work was done, and then she immediately started on the next book...
And she did that over 700 times.
Her work is most definitely of its time (I remember, as a kid, reading a line in a 'Famous Five' book about some people potentially being thieves because they were foreign, and thinking that didn't sound terribly fair somehow). Her work is sniffed at by some writers - Phillip Pullman described her work as "mechanically recovered meat", and various attempts have been made by publishers to render her more politically correct, most ending in failure.
Yet she's still insanely popular - maybe because our love affair with the outdoors is currently having a revival of its own.
However they feel about her stories, nobody can fault Enid Blyton's work ethic. I've always found her incredibly inspiring in that regard - plus, since I'm an aspring novelist, she's a colossal, bone-rattling kick to my backside.
If you want to tell stories for a living, you need to sit down and make enough of them to make an impact, the more stories the better.
And Enid Blyton was a master of it.
(Imagine if she was still writing, and each new book launch - every week! - was also promoting hundreds of her other books in the "Customers Who Bought This Also Bought..." section at the bottom of the Amazon book listing. Imagine the sales. I'm not sure my mind can handle that thought.)
However, the most prolific writer I've ever heard of is Corin Tellado, a Spanish writer of romances.
She wrote a truly mind-exploding 4,000 books before she was done.
Okay, that's books. What about other creative projects?
Writing a book is strategically straightforward. Book-writing has a shape to it. Nobody starts writing a book without the intention of finish it. It's a discrete piece of work, and when that work is done, it's released in some shape or form, for money or for free, to friends & family or Amazon or an agent or publisher - or, you pick at it for years in frustrated guilt (edit this bit out as well, MIKE, IT'S TOO AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL, gulp).
As creative business ventures, books are similarly by-the-numbers (book marketing? Hell no - it's the Wild West, right now).
1. You write them. 2. You edit them. 3. You finish them. 4. You release them. 5. You (hopefully) reap some kind of quantifiable reward for your efforts.
In other words, pretty much what Enid Blyton did for four decades.
Blogs? Well, they're trickier.
Blog posts are fairly straightforward, sure. But blogs, as a single creative endeavour? Not so much. There's a lot of blundering, a lot of flailing around, and too much opportunistic lurching at what's popular and trendy, without stopping to think about one simple thing:
What, ultimately, are you working towards here?
If, say, you want to be a professional writer of books, having a blog is incredibly useful to you. Joanna Penn recently hammered this home on the first episode of Mark Dawson's new podcast. Want to sell books? Build a blog. She's far from the only bestselling author saying this.
But you still need to know exactly what that blog is for.
A blog is just a tool for getting your words out into the world. It's not a business model with an on/off switch. It's not a fully-formed creative project by default. It's just a bunch of code on a server somewhere with your name against it, containing empty spaces filled with an infinity of possible uses.
It can be the thing that unlocks the career you've always dreamed of - or it can swallow all your energy and give away all your work for little or no reward.
It can be a life-enhancing craft you do purely for the love of creating something - or it can be a frustratingly aimless chore that turns into a burden and finally, just before the end, a guilt-inducing curse.
If Enid Blyton was alive today, I'm sure she'd have a blog - but she'd be damn sure it was helping her publish children's books (probably to Kindle), and equally damn sure it wasn't getting in the way of that aim.
However she'd be using it, it would be helping facilitate her real goal here - to hammer out a new adventure story every week.
That was Enid Blyton's ultimate purpose. Whatever formidable compulsion to write was powering her work (I'd use the word "obsession", admiringly), her purpose was to create book after book, a constant stream of productivity.
As a creative effort, it was staggering, even if each book was pretty much like the last. As a business venture it was rock-solid, because the more books she had on sale, the more money she could make every month.
That was her Why.
And I think nobody should start a creative venture, commercial or otherwise, without defining some kind of Why.
If there's a book in you, or a script, or a painting, or anything creative that your restless soul keeps nagging at you to create.... imagine having 4,000 pieces of that creative work out there in the world, being consumed by new people every day, maybe even bought by them. Imagine having a tenth of that number, or a hundredth.
Imagine that very clearly in your mind, just for a second.
How does that feel?
Do you really, truly want that?
Well, I don't know how you're going to get it, other than dedicating yourself to working hard and smart for as long as it'll take...
But I do know that telling someone, turning it into words and getting it out of you, is the first step (and when it comes to blogs, it's a step too few people take when they start writing, which is why I made a course around it).
So - hit Reply now, and tell me what you're working towards - or want to be working towards, if only the time was right.
Tell me your Why, right now - and let the world know you're ready for this.
I'll be waiting to hear from you.