Prolific Content Creation With Kelly Exeter
In today’s episode, I want to explore the topic of prolific content creation by interviewing one of my favorite online buddies – Kelly Exeter about her experience of creating content online.
Many of you will be familiar with Kelly because she’s been a regular contributor on the ProBlogger Blog where she writes about blog design and creating content, she’s presented an episode of this podcast back in episode 119 where she talked about how to choose a WP theme and she’s presented numerous times at our ProBlogger events.
I first came across Kelly when she was wearing her hat as a blog designer (she designed Vanessa’s blog) but since that time, I have watched her put on many other hats. Kelly blogs regularly and is a great writer. She co-hosts two podcasts, and edits the FlyingSolo website while still being able to write 3 books in the last 3 years.
So today, I sat down with Kelly to explore a few aspects of her journey. We start off tackling a question I get asked a lot – how personal should you get on a blog? Kelly used to get very personal but lately has changed her approach.
We then talk about Kelly’s writing process where she talks about another change she’s made – moving from being very structured to learning how to use ‘free writing’ techniques.
My favorite quote from this section – let yourself write crappy words
We touch on editorial calendars, what to do when you start second guessing yourself in the writing process and how she goes about researching her posts.
Then we talk about her experience of writing books and how to go about writing those longer writing projects.
We also talk about podcasts – why she started, what that workflow looks like and how it’s different and compliments blogging.
And lastly we talk about how to be a prolific content creator. Kelly reflects upon some of her systems and routines and techniques for getting so much done. We talk burnout, personality types and how to become a more disciplined person.
If you think that sounds like a lot of ground to cover – you’re right! I originally thought about splitting this episode into 3 shorter episodes as we do shift from one topic to another a little but the more we talked the more I realised how some central themes wove through all of the topics.
So settle in – this episode is perfect for those of you who like me take have a long walk each day – or maybe a long commute. There’s a lot of value here!
Further Resources on How to Become a Prolific Content Creator (an Interview with Kelly Exeter)
- Kelly Exeter
- So you want to write for Flying Solo
- Take your writing from good to great in 6 steps
- Kelly’s Posts on ProBlogger
- How to Decide on a WordPress Theme for Your Blog
- Facebook Group
- ProBlogger Event
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In today’s episode, I want to explore the topic of being a prolific content creator by interviewing one of my favourite online buddies, Kelly Exeter, about her experience of creating content online. Many of you will be familiar with Kelly because she’s been a regular writer on the ProBlogger blog for a year or two now where she writes on blog design and creating content.
She’s also presented an episode of this podcast, you might remember back in episode 119, I let her take over the show for the day. She talked about how to choose WordPress theme that is going to be effective for you. She’s also presented a number of times at our Australian ProBlogger events. Many of you will know Kelly and you’ll know that she has different hats that she wears now.
I first came across Kelly when she was wearing her hat as a blog designer. She was designing quite a few Australian bloggers, quite well known bloggers. She actually designed Vanessa’s blog as well. We love to design so much. But since that time, I’ve watched her put on many other hats. I really do mean many other hats.
She is a blogger. She regularly blogs on her own blog at kellyexeter.com.au. She also guests posts on quite a few blogs including ProBlogger. She co hosts two podcasts. She’s been editing the Flying Solo website and over the last three years, she’s managed to write three books as well. She is prolific. She is creating a lot of content in different mediums.
Today, I sat down with Kelly to explore this journey that she’s been on. We started off tackling the question that I get asked a lot. How personal should you get on a blog? I wanted to ask Kelly on this, this question because she’s someone who has changed to attack on that. She was very personal when she first started out. She talked a lot about quite personal things but in recent times, she’s changed her approach. We unpacked that a little bit.
We then talked about her writing process where she talks about another change that she’s made. She’s actually changed her approach from being a very structured writer, having outlines to using free writing. She talks a little bit about that technique and how she does that. We’ve got some further reading in the show notes on that as well.
My favourite quote from that particular section was, “Let yourself write crappy words.” I love that part of this particular interview. It really is something that I learned a lot from and I was quite challenged on. We talked about editorial calendars. We talked about what to do when you start second guessing yourself in the writing process and researching posts as well. We talked about then her experience of writing the longer form content like the three books that she’s written and how her approach again, has changed in that.
We then talked about podcasting, why she started, how that work flow works for her, and how podcast and blogs are different from one another. Lastly, we talked about the unifying theme, I think, of this podcast. That is prolific content creation. Kelly reflects upon some of the systems, routines, and techniques for getting so much done because she does get a lot done.
All of that that I’ve talked about plus she’s a runner, she’s a mom, she s a reader, and she does get a lot done as well. She’s very disciplined or at least comes across that way. We talked a little bit about how to become more disciplined. We cover a lot of ground over the next hour.
If you think that sounds like a lot, you are right. I originally did consider splitting this episode into some shorter episodes but I think there’s this unifying theme, being a prolific content creator. I think together, it comes across. You’ll see some themes coming up again and again.
Settle in, this episode does take a little while. You may actually want to pause halfway and continue it or if you’re someone like me who takes long walks, this would be perfect for you. There is so much value here. I actually got a lot out of it, myself and have already changed a couple of things in my own writing process.
By the way, Kelly is one of the speakers at this year’s Australian ProBlogger event. She’ll be talking about content creation and she always gives a lot of value. If you want to learn more about that event, head over to problogger.com/events. Today’s show notes are at problogger.com/podcast/193 where there is some links to some further reading that Kelly mentions along the way as well as some other stuff that Kelly has written that you might find useful.
Lastly, join the Facebook group, problogger.com/group. We’re seeing a lot of activity in there. I’m loving that group at the moment. I really do look forward to connecting with you there. All of that is linked on the show notes. I’m going to get into this interview now. Settle in, grab your favourite beverage or get out on a walk and enjoy this chat I had with Kelly Exeter.
Hi Kelly, how are you?
Kelly: Hey Darren, very good, thank you.
Darren: Nice to see your football team on the weekend.
Kelly: I know and yours as well. It’s funny, when I went into work yesterday morning I was like, “Everybody’s team won.” How unusual is that with a Dockers’ supporter and a Carleton’s supporter in the office.
Darren: Very good. No one here is wanting to hear us talk about football so maybe we can get on to talk about blogging. A few of our audience are familiar with you because you’ve been on the podcast previously but I just wondered if you can give us the two minute version of how you got into blogging, why you started, and what that first blog is about.
Kelly: The reason was I have a graphic in web design business. It must be seven years ago now, I just had a meeting with my staff to say, “Look guys, I think it would be really good if you guys each started a blog because we’re building sites in WordPress and it would be really good if you were across WordPress, etc.” I was already across WordPress doing stuff for other people but I didn’t have anything of my own at the time.
At that time in my life, I was totally overwhelmed and have way too much going on. I didn’t have time to be starting a blog. Of course, I went home that night and I thought to myself, “I told all of my staff to start a blog, maybe I should start one too.” Because of course, that’s what you do when you have no time. Being me, right there and then, I created the blog because I could. It was called I Love Pretty Things.
I saw this as an opportunity because I do literally love pretty things but I don’t like stuff in my house. I love going out art markets and things like that and looking at all the beautiful things but I don’t like buying them so I was like, “Oh, this blog will give me the excuse to go to all these art markets and write about these things even if I don’t buy them.” I remember my very, very, first post was about MOR products and how beautiful they are because they got this beautiful packaging. That was my first blog, I love Pretty Things. I’d love to know how many people remember that one.
Darren: I didn’t even know about that one. I start of as a style blogger.
Kelly: It was funny it got attraction really, really quickly. I actually didn’t even know that there were other people blogging at that time. I just thought it was something people did for business. I thought I was the only one doing it for fun. It was probably a few months later that I stumble all the Aussie bloggers on Twitter. Surely, after that, I think that was when you announced your second ProBlogger in Melbourne. I was like, “Oh yeah. I’ll go into that.” I still don’t even really know why I went along because I was so new to it but I’m so glad I did. That’s where it all started.
Darren: Where did it progress from there for you?
Kelly: By the time I got to ProBlogger in Melbourne, I started that first I Love Pretty Things blog maybe four months, by the time I got to Melbourne, I had four blogs. I have my own Kelly Exeter blog. I had a blog for our business which was Swish design. And then I had also started a blog called Small Business Blog. In my head, I was going to build the funnelling on all these blogs and create products for the creators. Fast forward to the passive income dream of lying on the beach and making lots of money without doing anything, that was the goal.
Darren: That was the goal.
Kelly: That’s where I ended up.
Darren: As I was preparing for this episode, there’s so much we could talk about. We could talk about, I think even in your email footer, it says you’re a writer, designer, and an editor. Where do we even start here? One of the things I do want to focus on this personal blogging because that’s certainly been a part of your journey, writing about what’s going on in your life and what’s going on for you.
I’ve got this question from Sally. She said, “I’m wondering how much of my personal life I should include in my blog?” I see bloggers sharing every intimate detail of their lives. Some blogger do that while others don’t even use their real name. Perhaps the answer to this is it depends but do you have any thoughts on how personal to get in your blog? That can mean from selling in the Facebook group. Interested to hear your perspective on that.
Kelly: Sally is right in saying the answer is probably it depends. I guess what it depends on is why you’re blogging. To say why you’re blogging when you first start blogging will probably evolve to something else. You can only really address that question in the moment.
Some people are blogging to position themselves as an authority in their field. They want to maintain some distance between themselves and their readers. Those people put a lot less of themselves into their blog. Some people will blog about products. Remember when you use to blog about printers. I know that you put a lot of yourself into the printer post. You can do that because you’re blogging about products.
I just think for the vast majority of us blogging the power of it comes from the connection that we get. It’s either trying to connect with like minded people so parenting bloggers are trying to connect with other parents or a book blogger is trying to connect with people who either read books or write books. If you’re trying to connect with people, you do have to bring a bit of yourself to it.
If you’re trying to build a personal brand, then you have to bring a lot of yourself to it. That’s what you’ve done with ProBlogger. That’s what I’ve done with A Life Less Frantic. At the end of the day, the most powerful connections are coming from vulnerability but you, as a blogger gets to decide just how vulnerable you’re going to be. That line is hard to know where it is.
What makes it even harder is the fact that every single blog will tell you that it’s the post where they were like, “I don’t know. Should I publish this?” They press publish and they ran from the room. They come back two hours later and bang, it’s like their most popular post ever. They hesitated to press publish because there was a lot of vulnerability in there. It’s difficult because the most vulnerable posts are the ones that get the best reaction and the best resonance.
At the end of the day, you just have to decide what you’re comfortable sharing and what you’re not. Sometimes, you’ll overstep them up but the good thing is you can always delete it. You’ll know for next time that that’s where your mark is. The mark will shift as well.
I know a lot of people who blogged a lot about their kids when their kids were very young. Now, they don’t mention their kids at all because the kids are a bit older. Sometimes, they wish they hadn’t blogged so much about their kids when they were younger because that stuff stays forever.
It’s hard to know where the line is but I think the short story is you need to be vulnerable if you’re going to connect with people and you need to share your hopes, fears, and dreams but you have a lot of hopes, fears, and dreams so share the ones you’re comfortable sharing. Over time, you’ll get a bit braver about what you shared but you’ll also develop a bit more of a fun to balance about knowing what you don’t want to share.
Darren: Yeah. I think it really depends on the topic as well and what part of you, you share. I know I share quite regularly on ProBlogger about my fears and a lot of those fears have to do with blogging but I’ve got a whole heap of other fears that I don’t share on the podcast or on the blog. I choose what part of myself to reveal.
Kelly: That’s right.
Darren: You sort of talked there about changing your approach. Maybe changing from less personal and that’s something that you late last year, you had a post called Time For Me To Stop Writing About My Life.
Kelly: It’s a bit dramatic, wasn’t it?
Darren: It is. At the time, I remember thinking, “Oh wow, what’s going on here? Is this something life causes?” And then I read the post and it wasn’t quite that. You did talk in that post about how despite being a really quiet and private person, you’ve used your blog for many years to share very openly about your life and dealing with stress, anxiety, depression, overwhelm, and lots more.
But in that post, you’ve talked about how you’ve decided to stop mining my life a blog further which I think a lot of bloggers can probably relate to or at least their husbands and wives could. I wonder if you could talk a little bit more about that decision. Let’s start with why did you blog in such an open, revealing, personal way for the first six or so years and then why the change?
Kelly: I think when I first started my personal blog, not the I Love Pretty Things blog but my personal blog, I was quite lost. I was stressed and overwhelmed. I was fighting depression. I was really, really unhappy in life. I was on a journey out of that. I had started the journey out of that. It already hit rock bottom. I was having therapy. I was doing the things to get out of that. I knew there were other people on that same journey and I knew that they would benefit from moving along the path with me or moving along with me just slightly ahead of them. That’s I made the decision.
As you said, on ProBlogger, you share your fears about blogging. I made the decision in that moment to go right this more aspect of my life, this big thing. I’m fighting the overwhelm, the anxiety, the depression, and the stress that I’m going to share about that specific part of it. A lot of people ask me, especially a lot of my close friends I quite bemused at how open I am on my blog given I’m such a quiet and very private person in real life. I think the reason for that; there are two things at play.
The first one is I’m pathologically shy in real life which a lot of people don’t believe because I’ve developed a lot of management techniques but not presenting in that way. The fact is that shyness does get in the way of connecting with people. For people who don’t understand shyness, it’s a social anxiety that manifest quite differently for different people.
For me, it means if I don’t know you really, really well, my assumptions is you don’t really want to talk to me and if you are talking to me, I need to be adding value to your life while you’re talking to me. I think you can imagine that kind of gets in the way of good, meaningful conversations and being in the moment.
When I write in my blog, I’m released from that self perceived obligation. I’m released from it because I’m not talking directly to someone’s face and if they even so much as glance over my shoulder, I assume that they don’t want to be talking to me and they’d rather be talking to the person behind me. If you’re reading my blog, I know that you want to be, that you’re making the choice to be there.
The second thing that I guess frees me up to be quite personal is that even though when I’m writing, I do have the reader very clearly in mind. To me, they’re like this one, big, amorphous mass. I’m not picturing like individuals reading my words, I’m picturing this mass. I think if I pictured individuals reading my words, in fact, I know this because in the past, there is a period there where if there was a blogger I really, really admire, like I went through a really big Penelope Trunk phase, and I went through a Sarah Wilson phase, and Mia Freedman phase.
I kind of imagine every single blog post I wrote in those various phases was written for those guys, like those individually, specifically. I was imagining them coming to my blog and reading. Anything I thought they would think was a bit lame, I edited it out. I can quite confidently say that those periods of my blogging were not my best work because I was writing for that very specific person. When I write for the big, amorphous mass of the shapeless blog, that’s when I’m quite free to be very personal, if that makes any sense.
Darren: Yeah, that’s fascinating because I know some bloggers are very different today. They do write best when they’re writing for one person. They really tap into that person that they’re writing for and come across in a more personal way. I think I’m more like you on some levels particularly for my speaking. You’re not an introvert, you’re not shy. I’m like, “Oh my gosh, if you have a one on one conversation with me, I’d much prefer to speak to 1,000 people than one.”
Kelly: Oh yeah. People are always fascinated by the fact like you, I love speaking but to me speaking is wonderful because you get to share your ideas. If the people there in the room, they’re generally engaged in what you’re saying and they choose to be there, whereas when you’re one on one with someone, like I said, my thought is always they would rather be talking to someone else and they’re talking to you, you better make it worth their while.
Darren: I found with the talk, and with a blog post, and with the podcast, there’s no one interrupting me. I can present my full idea and I can know that I’m going to take my readers on a journey from A to B and not be asked a question. Those types of things freak me out whereas if I can design the flow of the interaction and be in control, maybe I’m a control freak.
Kelly: I was going to say this is your control freak side coming out. I’ve never seen this side of you.
Darren: Maybe, I’m not sure whether I am or not. I think we’ve got very similar personalities. I was reading one of your post on that and I think we’re very similar except you’re a thinker, I’m a feeler.
Kelly: No, I’m a feeler. It’s just you’re a P and I’m a J. I think that’s where we’re different.
Darren: You’re a bit more organized than me. We’ve established that you openly shared on your blog and that was why but why did you decide to stop doing that or change the direction at least?
Kelly: There was a period of about 18 months there where I just felt with my blog where I was like, “I’m just not connecting with people in the way that I want to and I cannot figure out why.” It took me 18 months that what happened was that my readers were further behind me in their journey than six or seven years ago.
Six or seven years ago, people are at the same spot in their journey as me and we travelled it together. Most people evolved and outgrew me and then they left and then they were replaced with people who were at the start. So, with each successive year that I’ve blogged, I’ve gotten slightly further ahead of where my readers are actually at. Effectively, my problems weren’t their problems so there’s a disconnect there.
I didn’t like to write about things once I’ve been through them, fully processed them, understand them, and understand the learnings that I’ve taken away from them. What I found was by the end of last year, I had literally mines in my life for every last bit of learning, everything else that I was in the process of learning. Some people don’t mind sharing in the moment like, “This is my problem right now and I haven’t processed yet.” You travel the journey with them and that’s very intimate. I don’t like doing that. I only like sharing things once I’ve fully processed it and come out the other side. That was what I’ve gotten to.
My readers were much further behind me than I was. I just didn’t have fully processed learnings to share anymore. That’s why I decided it was time to stop going to my life because every blog post was like, “Here’s something I experienced.” I’d start with the story of something I experienced and then I would go from there about here’s what I learned. I’d kind of run out of the stories.
Darren: What’s the change look like in reality? What’s the new style of content?
Kelly: I guess where do I find my ideas or what do I write about now. It took me a while, probably took a good four or five months where I was experimenting and trying new things. What I now discovered is I’m noticing more. I notice what people are reacting to or responding to more. If I have an answer for that thing, I’ll respond to it.
Late last year, I noticed Carrie had posted something on Facebook about being a bit burnt out. There was this massive string of people who responded and said, “I don’t know what it is about right now but this is why I’m burnt out. I just don’t know what’s going on.” I knew the answer. The answer was it was the end of the year and we all have decision fatigue basically towards the end of the year.
I wrote a blog post to address that. That blog post went off. It got shared quite a lot. More recently, I shared something on my Facebook page about decluttering in a study that someone had done that discovered that a really big problem for me to class families was that I was drowning in stuff and it was of course a lot of stress. That share of someone else’s article started a discussion on my page about people had taught about how they had declut it and had felt so much better.
I started writing a blog post because I noticed that there was a lot of discussion around it. I thought, “I know a lot about decluttering. It’s my favourite hobby.” I started writing a blog post about how to declutter. I actually realized, “Oh, hang in a minute. There’s a piece of the conversation missing here.” That’s the fact that there’s just no point decluttering if you’ll then re clutter your half and have to declutter it again in a year’s time. That’s bad from both the mental health point of view and the environment.
I flipped the post in the middle of writing it to be more about, okay, you’ve decluttered which is great. Everyone’s into decluttering right now, thank you to the minimalist but now let’s talk about not re cluttering your house. That post has been shared 2,400 times which is like 5 times as much as any other post has ever been shared on my site. It’s interesting to me how the more I open my eyes, the more I pay attention to what people are talking about and what’s on their mind, if I had the answer for it, they’re the post that I’m really going off at the moment.
They’ve got nothing to do with me. They’re not starting with a personal story. They’re not sharing my experiences but they’re sharing my learnings and my research.
Darren: There’s an application, I guess, as a result of it.
Kelly: All practicality.
Darren: Verging more on how to practical type stuff.
Kelly: I think that’s the thing I’m known for. Not just saying you should do this, you should do that, I’m known for the practical, here’s how you do this thing or here are little ways that you can make this thing happen in your life. Like actual things that you can do not just aspirational things you can do.
Darren: That’s great. In some ways, the topic of your blog is similar but you’re presenting that topic in a different way.
Kelly: Yeah, absolutely. Everything before was here’s something I experienced, here’s what I learned from it. If you learned something from this as well, that’s great. Now, it’s shifted to here’s a problem I’ve noticed you guys are having. Here’s my answer for it and here’s how to make that thing happen in your life. I understand what your life looks like so I’m not going to tell you to do things that are just not possible to do. Here are things I know that will actually work for you.
Darren: That’s great. It sounds like readers are responding well.
Kelly: Yeah, they really are. It does take awhile to get the balance right. Certainly, every blog post, I’m not hitting it out of the park but the ones that go well do seem to go really well at the moment. There seem to be a bit of a tipping point happening at the moment to me.
Darren: That’s great. I’m sure that helps Sally in her thoughts as well. We might move on a little from personal blogging. Now, I want into tap some of your experiences as an editor. You’ve been working at Flying Solo. Many of our readers will remember Robert Garrish who I interviewed back in episode 191. You’ve been working on that site for a few years now.
A lot of the questions that I got from reader’s Facebook group came about editing post and writing post sa maybe we can switch gears into that little expertise that you’ve got there. A question from Dan and/or Wendy, Dan and Wendy share an account on Facebook. They asked about researching posts. I’m noticing in that we’re just talking about that you said you want to do more post that will require some research. I wonder if you have many tips on how you approach writing about a topic that maybe you don’t have expertise on and that you do need to do some researching.
Kelly: I approach not from the point of view of trying to become an expert, I approach it from the point of view of being an enthusiast. A lot of Carly, my Straight and Curly podcast co host, we share a lot of research in our podcast. we always say to people we’re not trying to present ourselves as experts but we are enthusiasts. It means that you only share research that’s interesting to you. There’s heaps of research out there. A lot of it is very dry. A lot of it, you could share it but you’re not going to engage the reader with it.
With regards to that, I try not to approach it from presenting myself as an expert. I’m trying to be you, the reader. I am presenting you with research in a way that is interesting to you and also I guess actionable for you as well. There’s no point sharing that 20% of people on Facebook process ads in this way. If it’s something that you, the reader use, that’s a piece of research that has no interest for you. I’m not sure if that answers the question but that’s how I approached it.
Darren: I love that. In some ways, that’s what I’ve always done with ProBlogger, particularly in the early days because I wasn’t an expert on making money for blogging because I was just learning how to do it but I was presenting what I found that I found interesting and being really clear that I wasn’t an expert. I think that’s important too.
Kelly: I think you, as a writer, have to remember if it’s not interesting to you as writer, it’s not going to be interesting to the reader so don’t share stuff that you don’t find interesting just because it’s research and someone’s big at that thing.
Darren: Another question from Dan and/or Wendy. Do you use standard templates or outlines for posts—I know Michael Hyatt had talked about how he writes almost like a template type way—or are you more free flowing in the way you write?
Kelly: It’s kind of a bit both. My most basic tried formula for a post is to open with a story or anecdote that kind of introduces the idea that I’m trying to share and then follow up that introduction or that story with some really practical how to’s or practical takeaways in dot points or numbered points so that people connect with the story that hooks them in. And then the practical how to’s or the practical points, it means I’m not just telling them what to do, I’m showing them that they can actually do it. I find that to be a very, very strong formula for post.
Actually, I’ve written something on Flying Solo that outlines that formula so I can give you the link for that.
Darren: That will be great. We’ll link to that in the show notes.
Kelly: With that said, I don’t approach writing of my post in that way anymore. In the past, I was quite structured. I try to outline post before I write them but these days, I free write all my post first. When I say free write, I’ve got the idea, I sit down, I put the timer on for 15 minutes, I start writing, and I don’t stop even if I have to write, “I don’t know what to write here.” That’s what I wrote.
What I find that free writing does is it tests the idea. If the idea is no good, if I don’t have as much to say about it as I first thought, that comes out in the free writing stage and the idea gets dumped.
If the idea is good, then the free writing stage tends to throw up something interesting that I might not have gotten through if I’d approach the writing of it in very, very structured way. After, I free write the post, I let it just sit for a day because then it marinates. It marinates in my head so like when I’m washing the dishes, I’m thinking about what I wrote. If I go for a run, I’m thinking about what I wrote. When I go back to it the next day, like a much better place to refine it into something that’s very coherent and connects well with the reader because it’s got a connect.
I do tend to think I’m not actually that good of a writer but I’m a really, really good editor because I’m really willing to put the time in to refine the post and make it really connect. To me, free writing is about connecting fully with the idea, teasing it out, and then identifying exactly what you’re trying to communicate. Editing is about removing anything that does not take the reader where you want them to go. In short, whatever is left behind, it takes the reader on a really logical journey and to leave a really nice pay off. That’s kind of my process.
Darren: That’s great. How much changes between the free write and the editors? It depends.
Kelly: Quite often, it’s almost a complete rewrite from the free write today which I know would just freak out a lot of people because in the past, I remember Penelope Trunk saying she would write 4,000 words to get an 800 word blog post. I just want to die when I hear her say that but I’m not probably that extreme now but I would probably write 1,600 words to get an 800 word blog post.
I think that’s just the difference between being good and being better than good, if I want to blow on my own trumpet, but certainly, I’m a very harsh critic of my own writing. The writing that I’m happiest with and love the most is the writing that comes from this process as opposed to the very structured process.
Darren: Do you think the years of experience of using that structured process has helped you in the free writing process in some way? Was that something you had to go through to get to where you’re at now? I’m trying to put myself on the shoes of someone starting out. Is it good to start with an outlined type process, or is it better to start with a free writing as you just described or really, does it come down to personality?
Kelly: I would say it’s better to start with the free writing theme. The free writing theme, most people resist it because it involves throwing away a lot of words. That’s very hard to do when you are a new writer. You think like, “If I have taken time and effort to write those words, then I should use them.” But the other thing that we all do, I’m a new writer, is we edit as we go. We’ll write a paragraph and then we’ll edit that paragraph and then we’ll write another paragraph and edit that paragraph.
What that does is it makes the writing process much longer than it needs to be. It also means that by the time you’ve written a post that way, you don’t want to let any of it go because it’s been so hard to get those words out, editing as you go. What we have to remember is that writing and editing are completely discrete task in the completely different parts of your brain that do those thing well.
If you allow yourself to free write, if you allow yourself to write crap words which a lot of new writers don’t want to allow themselves, a lot of new writers, they think that the best way is to sit down, tap out 800 amazing words and bang, their first draft is fantastic. The reality is the better the writer you are, the more crappy your first draft probably is.
I just think as a new writer, you can train yourself to not edit as you go and allow yourself to write crappy words. Sooner rather than later, your writing will improve faster than if you start with a structured approach.
Darren: That’s great. It reminds me a lot of how I prepare for a talk. I prepare for a talk, I free talk. I don’t know if that’s a thing or I just invested something but I just get up in my room and I start talking about the topic. Somewhere, as I’m talking I find these little snippets of, “That resonates with me even though I had never thought of it before”. I’m going to note that down. Those little phrase become the points that I then build up the talk around.
Kelly: The thing is if something resonates with you, you’re excited about it because you’ve never spoken about it in that way before. If you’re excited about it, that comes out in your talk and is so much more powerful than just talking about something you’ve always spoken about.
Darren: I can’t remember who said it but it was from the advertising industry, they talked about how they would brainstorm, as a group, ideas and the things that made the group laugh or gasp, they were the things that they would make note of because they got an emotional response from people. It was just a brainstorming session and then they come back to those things that seem to resonate and build and add around those things.
Kelly: I think the key to any kind of brainstorming sessions is there are no dumb ideas because as soon as people get caught up thinking, “Everything I say has got to be good.” Then you never get to those really cool little things that really resonates so I think it’s important that people remember that. If you’re not willing to write crappy words, you’ll always be able to write good enough words but not great words.
Darren: That’s correct. As you’re talking down, it leads me to Shelly’s question that she asked in the group. What do you do when you’ve got those doubts in your writing, when you start to second guess whether what you’re writing is any good or not? Is that signal that maybe it’s not good and you should throw it away or is that something you need to learn to push back those little voices?
Kelly: You gotta learn to push back. My advice to Shelly is to press publish and leave it to your readers to tell you. The thing that’s very frustrating is the some of your very best writing will not resonate with your readers and some of the stuff that you think is a bit bleh, will. This is the very frustrating thing about blogging. You just never really know.
It’s interesting I met Jeff Goins at a conference earlier this year. I really want this year to be the year that my writing goes the next level. Should I start just publishing one blog post a month but make that blog post completely killer? He said, “No.” He said, “Look, I’m a really big believer in publishing at least one a week, once a week because it forces you to show up. It removes the perfectionism and the hang-ups that will come if you are trying to publish a killer post once a month.”
Interestingly of course, he’s proven to be very right because I published that post I mentioned earlier that got 2,400 shares, that’s not my best writing, that post. The idea was good and it resonated but it certainly wasn’t my best writing. If I was only publishing once a month, that post would never have made the cart. Now, it’s like the most shared on my site ever.
One, you have to get comfortable with the fact that your very best stuff will not resonate with people the way you think it will. Just press publish. If it bombs, who cares, if it goes well, enjoy the surprise.
Darren: If it goes well, you found something that resonates so that you can then build your next thing on or write a book about or become known for.
Kelly: I think it’s key to remember that people aren’t necessarily resonating with your writing. Lots of pretty ordinary writers technically out there but they have brilliant ideas and they’re able to talk about those ideas in a way that reaches people so people resonate with the ideas and not necessarily resonating with your writing. If there’s any freedom in the fort, take it.
Darren: Interesting. Terry asks kind of similar question. Something like how do you get your ideas and information into a post without sounding like you’re being opinionated, or self centered, or it’s all about me? I guess there’s another little voice that sometimes we hear as we’re writing like, “This is going to make me come across like I’m just self centered.” How do you deal with that?
Kelly: I guess that’s the one big thing I learned years ago from Penelope Trunk when I did a blogging course with her is that blog post is never about you. If you do feel like it’s about you, you probably shouldn’t publish it. I guess my first rule is I never place myself above the reader. Some people do that because that’s the brand they’re trying to build but for the most part, people don’t really like feeling like you as a writer are above them.
A good way to not be coming across the self centered is to not subtly tell the reader I know more than you are, better than you. The second thing to remember is people do want your opinion. It’s why they’re reading your blog but they want to know where your opinion comes from.
If you’re just talking at them and telling them what you think without giving any supporting reasons this thing happened to me or this thing to a friend and that’s why I think like this, then you’re robbing them of the chance to change their thinking, or learn something new, or appreciate these new thoughts that you’re bringing to an old topic. I guess rather than thinking about yourself and am I self centered, ask yourself what’s in here for the reader?
If you approach all your blog post like you read it over at the end and you go, “What’s in here for the reader?” as long as there’s something in there for the reader, you’re okay. If there’s nothing in there for the reader, then you got to either rewrite the post or not publish it.
Darren: Yeah. One of the questions I get asked a lot is about editorial calendars. How much to plan ahead and how to plan ahead? How do you come up with the ideas? Jason asked in the Facebook group the same question. Do you have any tools that you use or any techniques that you use? Particularly with a blog like Flying Solo which is a very much about a topic but there’s lots of different things that you could cover within that big topic of being a solo entrepreneur. There’s a lot you could write about there. How do you make sure you are not just going over the same things over and over and develop an editorial calendar that’s going to appeal to you readership?
Kelly: The first thing I’d say is it doesn’t matter too much if you are going over the same topics as long as the writer is bringing something fresh to that topic. Usually, what the writer is bringing to that traffic that’s fresh is their own personal experience so I strongly, strongly encourage Flying Solo contributors to come at a topic that formula that outlined earlier which was here’s a problem that I had, here’s what I learned, here’s what you can take away from what I learned in a very, very practical way.
That said, you don’t want to just be writing about the same things over and over again. I’ll go back to tools. The first tool that I use is Spreadsheet. I’m really low tech and I really resist changing some things. My husband is always trying to get me to dig in those because he loves all those tools and automation. I’m like, “You know what, I really love my Spreadsheet.” I know a lot of people use CoSchedule to plan out the editorial calendar. At Flying Solo, I go to Spreadsheet. It allows to get that high level view of what we’ve got coming up, what we’ve published, who’s up when?
We build that a month in advance so I’m always a month in advance with content for Flying Solo and that’s because I just don’t want to be scrambling for content a week out from publication. We publish five to seven posts a week so I like to have those locked in a month out because what does it frees me up to do is then it frees me up to look at where there are holes and go to our contributors and go, “Guys, I’ve compiled the list if you’re struggling for topic ideas.”
Because for the most part, they come to us and go, “I’ve written a post about this. Is it suitable for you guys?” Most of the time it is but sometimes it’s not and it breaks my heart a bit to not back an article I know someone put a bit of effort into so I compile ideas and thoughts. I read other publications. I take note of headlines that capture my attention and then I kind of, Flying Solo eyes the headline, then I drop it into this idea spreadsheet.
In one way, I want the contributors to come to me with their own ideas because they bring fresh ideas that I wouldn’t have thought off but then on the other hand, I also give direction about like these are the things our readers are telling us that they want and I direct them in that way as well. You’re getting the best of both worlds as far as I’m concerned. That’s managing aside where there’s lots of contributors and you’re in charge of all the content.
For my own site, I’ve never had an editorial schedule and I’m never ahead in writing for that because I use to try writing my post two to three weeks ahead of time. I think I’ve listened to Nicole Avery talk at a conference and I’ll be like, “I really need to do an editorial calendar. I need to plan out my strategy.” And then what I found was if I write a post two or three weeks in advance, by the time it published I wasn’t engaged with that idea anymore.
It probably didn’t matter but it mattered to me because I wasn’t into the idea so what I do now, I have lots of ideas I have in Evernote. Every time I have a blog post idea, I put it into my Evernote. But generally speaking, as I mentioned before, I will notice something that people are talking about or resonating with like say, today and I will free write my post for Thursday today. I’ll edit it tomorrow, publish it Thursday. It just keeps things super, super fresh. Certainly, for my own blog, because I’m only publishing once a week, that works really well for me.
It just depends what you’re publishing schedule is. Also, your topic and how personal your blog is that really dictates whether it’s nice to keep the content super fresh or whether you can plan well in advance.
Darren: You certainly see on blog like ProBlogger and Digital Photography School, it’s much more like the Flying Solo experience. I’d say in Vanessa’s blog, she writes a day up to her head because she wants to be able to engage in the comments with energy because that was something she just wrote and she’s still excited about it and she doesn’t have to think back a month ago when she wrote the post to how she was feeling to re engage.
Kelly: That’s exactly where I’m at with my process. I find it very hard to engage with the comments and the thoughts people are sharing if it’s something I wrote a month ago. I’m like, “Yeah, I moved on from the idea now.”
Darren: There’s nothing worse than that. Not even remembering the post you wrote because it was so long ago that you created it. One of the other things that I love about what you’ve done over the last few years is that you’ve been doing blogging and podcasting which we’ll touch on in a moment but also, you’re doing some bigger projects and you’re writing books. You’ve written three and I hear you’re thinking about the fourth or started writing the fourth. Is that right?
Kelly: Yeah. The fourth is still thinking. I know what it is but I just haven’t been able to get to it. I’ll talk about that.
Darren: One of the things I noticed is that you’ve got three books so far. One is called Your Best Year ever: 7 Simple Ways to Shift Your Thinking and Take Charge of Your Life. Another one is Practical Perfection: Smart Strategies for an Excellent Life. The third one is 20 Simple Shortcuts to Small Business Success. As I went over to Amazon to have a look at them all because they’re all Kindle and they’re real books as well. They’re all in different categories. You’ve got self help, religion and spirituality, and business and money.
You’re covering some broad categories there. I’m wondering what’s the thinking behind that. How did you come up with the topics? Maybe your fourth one, I don’t know, is it building on one of those ideas or is it another category altogether?
Kelly: This is me. I’m very organic in my approach to things. It’s funny because I can be very, very structured but when it comes to what I’m writing about, I do like to be very organic and I do like to respond to a need that I see or perceived. With Your Best Year Ever, that came about at the end of 2013 when it just seemed like everyone was just dying for the year to be over. Lots of people had a bad year that year.
I had actually, in my mind, been writing this book for a year. Every time I went for a run, it was there. It just seemed at the end of 2013, there was a real big need for it. The book’s in my head was about simple mindset shifts that you can call on when it feels like life isn’t going your way. It seemed like there was a need for that book at that time. I really just put myself on the pressure to make it happen. I wrote that in a very short period of time which I think we’ll discuss in a sec.
Practical Perfection, that came about because I wanted to write another book. I was like, “Okay, what’s a really common problem for my readers?” The common problem for my readers at that time was that the high standards they hold themselves to were getting in the way of them living their best lives. This is something that had been a problem for me in the past but I had figured out a way to get around it. Be able to set goals, go after big things, but still lead a simple family oriented life. That’s what Practical Perfection tackled. Managing those perfectionist tendencies we all have while still being able to lead a happier life.
The business book, again, I’ve been wanting to write a business book for a while. I was the editor of a small business website. I’ve owned and run a small business for 10 years with my husband and I just felt like I had a lot to share in that regard. I guess I was thinking what book to write last year, let’s be honest. I was like, “Well, this is the one. It’s time to write that business book.” I knew what I wanted to write and it was 20 simple strategies that have helped me achieve business success. That one came out of that.
I guess with all three books, they came from me listening to what people were saying their problems were and then putting together something to address those problems.
Darren: Yeah, which is similar to what you’ve said with the blog posts, really. I get the sense it might be looking for those bigger themes in the things that you’re hearing again and again. That’s interesting. Are you taking the same approach with book four? Is that a need you see that you’re responding to or is that something more within you that you just have to say?
Kelly: That one is responding to what you call a spark, noticing sparks. Last year, I had noticed there was, I think it was on Thought Catalog or something. There was this post about over thinking and it got it shared, I don’t know, 30,000 times or something stupid like that. I’m an over thinker, always have been, always will be. I’ve always seen it as a bit of a character flaw and then there are 30,000 people who shared this post and I was like, “Clearly, I’m not alone in that regard.”
Carly and I on Straight and Curly, we did a podcast episode on over thinking. It’s funny because we finished recording that episode and we were like, “Can we publish that because we’re going to sound like freaks?” We published it anyway and that just got a huge response from our listeners. Our listeners are very engaged but their engagement on that particular episode was just next level.
From people going, “Oh my gosh, I thought I was the only one who thought like this.” And then there was a third theme that, “Oh yes.” I put it out there that I was thinking that my third book, I was going to call it Over Thinker’s Anonymous. It was going to be about over thinking. I started a Facebook group for people who might be interested in those themes and following the journey of the book and then bam, within like the first week, there were 600 people in that group. I was like, “Okay, there’s definitely resonance here.”
I guess it was kind of a stage journey. If I hadn’t seen those sparks and then if I had said, “This is what I’m thinking my next book will be. Here’s the Facebook group.” And like 20 people joined, then I would have gone, “Uhm, no spark.” There is something definitely there so now, I’m engaging with the people in the group and really try to get down to the bottom of what is the problem for you with regards to over thinking, what is it holding you back from life, what’s the cause of it, and then that’s what I’m going to address in the book.
Darren: It strikes me that a group of over thinkers will really be useful in that process. You just have to ask a question and you get a lot of responses.
Kelly: They’re very engaged and very helpful. They’ve been amazing to date, really helping me refine the core idea of the book. The other books were written in very, very compressed period of time and then I had no energy to launch them. At the end, where it’s this one, I really want to do this. I want to give it a bit more time and I want to launch it properly and do everything right with this one.
I look at the first three. I was like textbooks, I learned a lot from writing them. I learned a lot about titles and how important the title is. I learned a lot about the essential idea has to be one that resonates. I learned a lot about launching, what works and what doesn’t. This fourth one, I’m hoping I can get a few things right.
Darren: You touched on the writing process. I suspect you one, you’re giving it more tie by the sounds of things, the fourth one. What does that writing process look like? Is it different to what we talked about earlier with a blog post, free writing, refining, editing phase? Is that you approach a book as well?
Kelly: With the books, definitely a lot less free writing. I definitely try to have a structure that I watch. That went really well for Your Best Year Ever and for 20 Simple Shortcuts Small Business Success. All three books have been written in very short periods of time so Your Best Year Ever was written in 12 days. Practical Perfection, the first draft is written in 30 days. I took a more of a free writing approach to Practical Perfection.
The editing process was so harrowing and basically involved rewriting 2/3 of the book that I’m not sure I would take that free writing approach to a book again. With 20 Simple Shortcuts, I again returned to the whole thing of archive. 20 Simple Shortcuts, that’s effectively 20 blog posts. Okay the way that I’m going to write the first draft of the book is I’m going to write literally 20 blog posts. In May last year, I worked 20 blog posts to that topics that I wanted to cover for 20 Simple Shortcuts. That was effectively the first draft.
The reason I wrote all of those in such compressed periods of time is because I don’t have heaps of time on my hand and it seems to be the only way I can get a book written. Say for Your Best Year Ever, that was written, we had two weeks off at the end of the year, we shut our business and we took some time out. I wrote that book in the mornings on the 12 days that we had off.
With Practical Perfection, I just locked off, November, a couple of years ago. Again, every single morning I wrote 1,000 words in the morning. And then 20 Simple Shortcuts, I wrote a blog past a day, everyday. That method’s great because it gets the book written but it does burn you out quite badly. You literally can’t write anything else while you’re doing those things. I couldn’t blog. I couldn’t guest post for anybody. I couldn’t go on Facebook which is probably not a bad thing. It’s very intense. It burns you out but it gets it done.
The cross benefit is the okay, it burns you out but it’s a very, very short period of time. Everyone around me understand that Kelly is not at her best right now but it’s only for 20 days or something.
Darren: It sounds like there were some tough patches in it. What do you do, what’s your approach when that writing process gets hard, when it’s not flowing? When you’re hearing the little voices, do you recommend getting away, having a break, do you push through? What’s your go to advice there?
Kelly: I cry first. I definitely don’t recommend pushing through. Is you’re in your first draft and you’re free writing, then push through but if you’re into that editing phase where draft is very important, then for me, stretcher is the most important thing. Everything that I write, whether it’s a blog post or a book, I want to take the reader on a journey. I want to deliver payoffs along the way. I want them to get to the end feeling energized that, “Okay, this thing, I’m going to do this thing now.”
Usually, when I ran into problems, it’s a structural problem. I’m like, “I don’t know how to get them from this beat to this beat seamless kind of fashion.” When I find myself stuck there, I do have to just walk away either literally like I’ll go out for a walk, or I’ll go have a shower, or I just have to let it sit for two or three days. Usually, you come back after two or three days, it’s so obvious to you how to fix it but in the moment, you just can’t see it. That’s my method for dealing with those bad, bad days.
Darren: I find for me similarly, it’s usually about how to I get from A to B. Sometimes for me, I need to almost break it down into imagining the person in one state and I want them to be in another state. What are their minute, little steps that they would need to take and that sometimes reveals the links of how to structure a post but also how to take them on that journey. You’re focusing on that change, I think for me would be the answer. I’m a big walker too. It all happens when I’m on a walk.
Kelly: I never had as many ideas as when my kids were babies, infants and I took them for a walk for an hour everyday. I had to walk with my phone. I was just talking into my phone the whole idea going, “I’ve got another idea. I’ve got another idea.”
Darren: Second last shift in the video to podcasting because I think it’s only been a year and a half, maybe two years that you’ve been podcasting?
Kelly: A year and a quarter.
Darren: I can’t believe that. You have shifted a lot of your content creation into the podcast. You’ve got two. One Let it be, another, Straight and Curly. Both are co hosted podcast. Now, if you go to kellyexeter.com, to your blog, there a lot of podcast in the midst of all the writing as well. We haven’t got a lot of time but why podcasting for a start? Let’s just start with that.
Kelly: It’s interesting because when I first started working at Flying Solo two and a half year ago, they said to me, “Are you still in podcasting at all? I was like, “Not in the least. I’m a writer. I can’t bear the thought of unedited words going out into the world.” At the same time, I think this is the tropical thing that you were at, I don’t know if you remember because that was the moment you decided to start your podcast.
Everyone was talking, everyone had a podcast. It was the next big thing. I was like, “Maybe for Swish Design, we should do a little podcast or something.” But I never thought of doing one for myself. Just over the course of that year, I started getting interviewed on a lot of people’s podcast about Your Best Year Ever. I discovered after the first few where I was like emailing the person who interviewed me and saying, “We got to do that again because I can say all those things I said so much better.” They’re laughing at me and going, “No, it’s fine.”
I started to relax into it a little bit more and then I started to actually really enjoy it because the big difference for me between podcasting and writing is podcasting, you can go on a tangent and it doesn’t matter as long as the story that tangent is following is good whereas when you’re writing, you can’t go tangential because you lose the reader. That’s just a fact. It doesn’t matter how good the story is, they’ll be going, “What does this got to do with the topic of this post?”
I really enjoyed being able to tease out topics with tangents which I can’t do with writing. The opportunity came in a very round about way to start the podcast with Carly and with Brooke when Jackrabbit.FM started out. The other thing was I had no time. I was like, “It’s all well and good to do a podcast but I don’t have time to produce it.” Jackrabbit said, “We’ll take care of the production. All you guys have to do is record.” I was like, “Okay, let’s give it a go.” It’s been amazing. I’ve loved it, loved it so much.
I think I’ve chosen pretty good co hosts, Carly and Brooke are both my people so I think that that’s why it’s so enjoyable because it’s kind of we’re creating content but we’re also getting to catch up all the time.
Darren: It’s a good excuse to have a call with someone. Have you considered giving up blogging after you started podcasting? Because I know a lot of bloggers do when they get this bug?
Kelly: I did. I didn’t really consider giving it up but I did send Brooke and email after the first few episodes came out. I said, “I might never blog again.” She was like, “Yes, that always happens.” But I think I kept blogging because for me the big difference between podcast and blog post is the sharing thing. It’s so easy to skim a blog post and decide it’s good enough to share. You can share it right then and there. With podcast, people don’t generally share them even if they’re really good because when they’re listening to it, they’re not in the position to share it.
What I see, I see podcast is brilliant for connecting really deeply with people and for people really getting to know you because it’s such an intimate medium but I do think for the purpose of spreading ideas and I guess my big thing that drives me with writing is I want to be known as an interesting thinker and someone who has interesting ideas. Blog post for me, still win the day in that regard.
Darren: It’s interesting. We’ve been, over the last few episodes, talking about some of the different types of content. We’re yet to get to podcasting but I think very similarly that it’s a deep connection with people but it doesn’t tend to go viral in any way as much as written, or visual, or video, all of those things are much easier to share.
When you’re considering a topic, this maybe a little different for you because you’ve got co hosts, but how do you decide whether your idea should become a podcast or whether it should become a blog post?
Kelly: Generally speaking for blog post, I generally only write about things that are fully processed and have very fully formed thoughts on. Certainly, that crosses a little bit into the Straight and Curly podcast because we’re generally speaking only formed ideas there too. They’re much more like tip type things or research thing around a specific topic.
Even though my blog is in theory about self improvement, Straight and Curly is kind of like next level all self improvement, all about make yourself better whereas my blog writing is more about gentler, a gentler approach to living your best life. That’s how we distinguish a content between and Straight and Curly.
Those topics are probably closer to my standard blog topics but what I find Brooke and I tends to in the podcast is we tend to discuss ideas and topics where our ideas aren’t yet fully formed. I quite enjoy those discussions because they might eventually then lead to a blog post because in having the discussion on the podcast, then I’m able to more fully form ideas and then write about them.
I will say that Brooke and I are talking about something we’ve not fully processed or were fully across. It’s quite interesting for the listeners because they’re discovering things in real time with us. That’s another level of intimacy of there as well. It’s quite fun for the listener.
Darren: Interesting. I feel like there’s so much more we could delve into podcasting but I’m going to keep that for another day. The last thing I want to talk about. I kind of hinted it at the top of the podcast as I was trying to work out where to go with this. I realized that you are doing so much stuff. You’ve got a blog, you’re writing for that, you’re creating two podcast episodes a week, you’re writing a book a year, you’ve been actively editing Flying Solo, you’re in social media, you’re a designer, you’re involved with your Swish Design business, you’ve got a family, two kids and a husband, you watch football, read books, and go on runs.
A few question, Kelly. This might turn into a therapy session. How in the world do you do it all? Is that routines and systems, or you’re outsourcing, or you’re just not sleeping, is there some magical tool we don’t know about? Tell us the secret.
Kelly: I wish it was magic. I wish I had some magical tool to offer. I guess a few things. One biggest thing that I do that most people probably don’t want to is I get up early. I won’t say how early because I don’t want to freak everybody out. But the hours before 7:00 AM in my house, everybody in my family knows that that is for me to write an exercise. Those hours are untouchable to everyone else.
If I get up at 6:00AM, I’ve got an hour. If I get up at 5:00AM, I’ve got two hours. If I get up at 4:15AM which is when I get up, I’ve got a bit more. Those hours are so precious to me. They’re the real reason I get to do as much as I do because my kids are good sleepers and they know that time in the morning is untouchable. I guess that’s one quick tip for parents in particular is that you’re family will be far more respectful of the things that you do every single day than the things you do every so often.
My kids, they know, if they get up before 7:00AM, they go in the living room and they watch TV. I’m not available to them at 7:00AM. That’s everyday. If it was something I was doing every so often, they would feel much more empowered to interrupt me and I would feel less able to go, “No, you know this is my time.” But because I do it everyday, like I said, untouchable.
In order to get up early, I go to bed early which means avoiding addictive Netflix shows or being really disciplined about only watching one episode. We were watching Suits. It really ruined my productivity because sometimes we were watching three shows a night. I was like, “Okay, one a night. That is it.” Then we went to bed. The morning hours that I’ve spoken about, I do not use them to stuff around. I use them to write and to exercise.
With the podcast, we record those in batches of two to three episodes at a time. We’ve actually just moved both podcast to seven or eight episode seasons with a three week break between each season because we were finding the publication schedule was quite full on in the scheme of what we all had going on in our lives. As I mentioned before Jackrabbit takes care of everything other than the recording so if I had to do anything about that, I wouldn’t be able to do it. The only reason I’m able to do the podcast is because I take care of all the production and everything.
I think key piece of the productivity equation that a lot of people miss out on, that I don’t, is that I really, really prioritize the things that are going to give me good energy levels for everyday. I prioritize good sleep. I won’t sacrifice sleep. I know that’s the first thing most people sacrifice when things get really busy but I don’t sacrifice sleep. I exercise everyday and I eat really well because those three things ensure that I’ve got the energy levels to be productive in the time that I allocate to be productive.
Routines, of course, every single thing I can build a routine around, I do. The reason routines help you produce quality content is because it free up head space. Between 7:00AM and 7:30AM, I’m doing stuff in our kitchen. I’m making lunches. I’m making people breakfast and doing things that I’ve got on auto pilot. I’m not having to think about what I’m doing because I do it in the same order every single morning. Even though that can, in theory, be quite a busy time of the day, it’s mental down time for me. I can and muse while I’m doing those things. That’s what routines do for people. People who pushed back against routines, they don’t restrict you, they are freedom. I could go on about that forever.
Darren: We could both talk about that for awhile.
Kelly: And then, I think I do often find myself on the edge of burnout because I have I have taken on too much. When I do, what I do is I just recalibrate. Say, right at this moment in time, I am in a recalibration mode. I actually finish up at Flying Solo at the end of May. I’ve pulled right back on the amount of guest posting I’m doing because I was guest posting two or three times a month. Those were taking me 10 to 15 hours to write.
As I mentioned, we’ve moved our podcast to seasons and the reasons I’ve done all of that is because as I mentioned to you before, I want to want to get to the writing of this fourth book. I didn’t want to write that book in a compressed period of time again like I did with the others. I’ve gone, “Right, this is really important to me to get to this fourth book. I need to step back from some of these other commitments that I’ve had and free up that time.”
I think people get afraid to recalibrate because it feels like they’re not managing their time properly. I just say, “No, it’s being sensible and it’s being smart to acknowledge that you actually can’t do everything that you want to. You gave it a go. You did it but now, it’s time to step back.” It doesn’t mean that you’re never going to do those things again. It just means you’re not doing them right at this moment.
I do think the biggest secret to consistent and prolific content creation is to set a standard and then hold yourself to that standard. Be realistic but set yourself that standard. What it is, is building the habit creates the discipline. Most people think they have to have discipline in order to do these things that were doing and do them well whereas it’s the opposite. The habit’s built out the discipline and then the discipline keeps you going because you get to see all these things you’re producing and it creates success momentum.
Build the habits, the discipline will come. Set yourself a standard and you will meet it because that’s what you do.
Darren: That’s great. Very tweetable. I think they’d actually share this podcast because no one needs, no one does. They all listen. There was the tweetable building, the habit building, the discipline. The other one from today that I wrote down is let yourself write crappy words.
Kelly: That’s my favourite one.
Darren: You’ve got to tweet each of those. If you’re listening, if you still made it to this part in the podcast, there’s two little task for you to do. Thank so much, Kelly. There’s so much ground that we’ve covered there. I really got a lot of value out of that, myself. Where can people find you or what many places can they find you?
Kelly: Best place is definitely is kellyexeter.com.au. If you’re looking the best place to start, go to kellyexeter.com.au/simple because that kind of gives you a little bit of roadmap for where to get started on my site, freebies, and stuff like that as well.
Darren: Excellent. Thank you so much and we will link to that and I think you mentioned another resource on Flying Solo. We’ll link to those in the show notes today. We look forward to hearing seeing all those years of the podcast.
Kelly: Thanks, Darren.
Darren: Thank you so much.
Thanks for listening to that interview with Kelly Exeter. I hope you got a lot of value out of it as well. I certainly am feeling very motivated having just listened to it again. You can check out Kelly’s blog and podcast at kellyexeter.com.au, link to that in the show notes today. I’ll also link in the show notes to some of the articles that Kelly has written on ProBlogger about blog design and about writing content. The show notes are at problogger.com/podcast/193.
Also, remember that Kelly is speaking at our Australian events this year both in Brisbane and Melbourne in late July, early August. She’s talking about content creations. She’s going to dig really much deeper into some of the things that she’s been talking about particularly it pertains to monetizing your blog. She always delivers a lot of very practical and actionable information. Her sessions always get very highly rated that’s why have invited her back this year. You can find out more about those Australian events at problogger.com/events.
Lastly, if you did enjoy this episode, you might want to check out episode 119 in which Kelly took over the podcast for the day. She talks about choosing the right WordPress theme for your blog. A little bit of a different theme to today’s podcast but it is Kelly and it will show you a little bit of a different side to her as well.
Thanks for listening. Don’t forget to join the Facebook group. Do a search on Facebook for ProBlogger Community and you’ll find it all. Head over to problogger.com/groups. Thanks for listening today. I’ll be back next week with a shorter episode in episode 194 but still some actionable advice for you. Thanks for listening. Chat with you soon.
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The post 193: How to Become a Prolific Content Creator (an Interview with Kelly Exeter) appeared first on ProBlogger Podcast.
- 191: Tools for Creating Great Visual Content for Your Blog
- 189: How to Create Amazing Videos for Your Blog Using Your Smartphone
- 187: Is Written Content Dead?