What I Have Learned in Four Years of Blogging

I began blogging in April 2004. (I actually began writing articles and posting them on my Web site in 1998, but that was before we used the term “blogging.”) Since that time, I have posted 344 entries. At an average of 800 words per post (which, for me, is conservative), that is 275,200 words—almost four 256-page books.

A Keyboard with the Word Blog - Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/jallfree, Image #2641009

Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/jallfree

During this time, I have learned a good deal about blogging. I’m sure I still have a long way to go, but I thought I would summarize what I have learned so far:

  1. Blogging helps me clarify my own thinking. This is probably the primary benefit of blogging for me. Sometimes I am not sure what I think about a topic until I have written on it. Writing helps me untangle my thoughts.
  2. Blogging has given me first-hand experience with emerging technologies. I have listened to many CEOs pontificate on this or that technology. But they are not speaking from personal experience—and it shows. When you actually use a technology, your learning and insights go to a higher level.
  3. Blogging has provided me with a mechanism for instant feedback. I love the fact that people can comment on what I have written. Whether the comments are good or bad, they help sharpen my thinking. As James Surowiecki said in The Wisdom of Crowds, the “many are smarter than the few.”
  4. Blogging has given others a “peek behind the curtain.” The publishing process is a mystery to most people. So is the life of most CEOs. Blogging pulls back the curtain and gives people a behind-the-scenes peek. Based on the emails I receive, this is consistently what most readers like about my blog.
  5. Blogging has given me a way to engage my employees. This is really the reason I started blogging. I wanted a way to transmit what I was learning to my colleagues. At first, I was going to do this on an internal blog. Then I decided to open it to the public. Regardless, when I am writing, I have my employees in mind first.
  6. Blogging has helped me bypass traditional media when necessary. I didn’t really understand this at the outset, but it has proven very helpful. When the media fail to get the story right, I can quickly address it and provide my side of the story. This has been particularly helpful when we make big decisions that cause people to speculate. A blog post can stop a rumor dead in its tracks.
  7. Blogging has made our company more visible. I currently have more than 25,000 readers a week. I have received scores of emails from people who had never heard of Thomas Nelson before stumbling onto my blog. Also, my blog has given me a way to “put a face on the company” and, I think, make it more personal.
Question: So, those are a few of things I have learned. If you are a blogger, what have you learned? You can leave a comment by clicking here.
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  • http://joeelylean.blogspot.com Joe Ely

    I’ve been blogging since 2002 and have found much of the same things, Michael. Writing clarifies. Good writing clarifies even more.

    As a non-employee, I salute your transperancy. It is refreshing and a blog can do that for a CEO, if he/she writes it personally. If the blog is written by the corporate publicist, OTOH, it comes across as phony as a $3 bill. You are obviously writing this yourself.

    Thanks for making it public and letting the rest of us “peek in”!!

  • http://adammclane.com Adam McLane

    I’m not an expert in English, but shouldn’t the title of the post be “four years” as opposed to “four year?”

    I like your blog, thanks for being so transparent.

  • http://writerinterrupted.com Gina

    Hi Mike, I’m a lurker here, coming out to comment. I’ve learned that for me, blogging is a way to connect with like-minded people and writers for encouragement and the sharing of ideas and information. I’ve also learned that comments or feedback can be a powerful thing. As is the lack of comments and feedback. I’ve learned not to compare my blog or the amount of comments I get with other bloggers, but to be obedient to the platform God has me on, despite the numbers. That, for me, has been the hardest lesson to learn.

  • http://www.rachelhauck.com Rachel Hauck

    15,000 a week!? Wow! That’s amazing.

    Can I, um, borrow a few? ;)

    Have a great week, Mike.

    Rachel

  • http://www.michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

    @Adam: Yes, of course, you are correct! I have corrected the title. Thanks.

  • http://www.michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

    @Rachel: No, alas, it is only 1,323 words a week (275,200 word ÷ 208 weeks).

  • http://karlaakins.com Karla Akins

    I, too, have learned much about myself when blogging. I appreciate your blog for its transparency.

  • Doug

    I think it was Thomas Jefferson who said:

    I don’t know what I think until I’ve said it; I don’t know what I know until I’ve written it.

    Or something like that. Or maybe it was I who said it. Well, somebody said it.

  • Joel

    I live in Japan and I always look forward to reading your blogs!!! I had the previlege of meeting you last year in Atlanta at the ICRS show in the valet parking area. I am no longer directly involved in the publishing industry, but I will continue to read and learn from your blogs as long as you post them. I wish all CEOs were “open” as you are. Thanks Mike!

  • http://www.michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

    @Doug: I love that quote. I agree completely with it.

  • http://cjdarlington.blogspot.com C.J. Darlington

    I’ve been blogging off and on for a year or two but only recently started doing it more frequently (i.e. several times a week). As a writer, I’ve found blogging to be a terrific way to get my name out there, so to speak. I try to make my posts interesting as well, but the more contact I can have with my potential readers the better (I’ve written one novel which I’m shopping around as I write my second). So really, what I’ve learned:

    1. As a writer it’s important to HAVE a blog or website.

    2. Update it frequently.

    3. Post interesting and valuable content for readers.

    4. The more personal the posts are, the more comments I get. I take this to mean folks resonate better with personal posts. And I’m not talking about throwing around dirt, but really sharing from my heart, or giving advice from my own personal experience.

    Your blog is a great place to visit, Michael. I especially enjoyed and benefited from your posts on conquering e-mail. I went out and bought the 4 Hour work week book as well as Getting Things Done after reading your entries here.

  • http://www.rhondamcknight.blogspot.com Rhonda McKnight

    I too am a new author. Sold my first two books and trying to get my name out. One of my New Year 2008 committments was that I would begin blogging. It was April before I kept it, but I’m doing it and I do find I enjoy the discipline of blogging and organizing my thoughts. I also really enjoy the personal feedback in comments. It’s nice to know people care.

  • http://www.marydemuth.com Mary E. DeMuth

    I started blogging when our family moved to France to be church planters. At first it was a way to connect with so many folks back home, but then it became a place of honest catharsis–about writing, culture-shock, spiritual warfare, you name it.

    Now I’m the mistress of two full time blogs (one personal, one publishing related) and write as a guest on several others. I see it as a way to form connections with people.

    It humbles me when someone approaches me and says, “I read your blog every day.” What a privilege.

  • http://www.withoutwax.tv Pete Wilson

    Great post Mike. I have found #2 and #5 to be especially true!

  • http://www.colleencoble.com Colleen Coble

    I love your blog, Mike! Even we authors like to have a peek inside the workings of our publishing house. I learn something new all the time.

    For me blogging is a way to connect with my readers, to take the pulse of their thoughts on issues, and to let them know I care about them. Besides, it’s just fun to have an online community of friends. The bloggers that comment over on our blog at Girls Write Out have become friends with a true community feel. Who would have thought? LOL

  • http://www.thewritingroad.blogspot.com Scoti Springfield Domeij

    Blogging prompts me think beyond my current writing project to inspire others. Beth Vogt and I encourage beginning/intermediate writers, so we blog five days a week.

    Some days I don’t want to blog, but deadlines compel me to focus, write and keep my word. Like the handle on a hand press water pump, that commitment forces me to push until I draw out creative juices.

    A blog also improves the skill to think and write tight. I’m a researchaholic. Blogging is a tool—the riffled gold pan—that motivates me to shake out the research sludge, leaving behind golden nuggets.

  • A.L. Bundy

    A daily devotional blog has helped me become more disciplined in going to the Word even on hectic mornings, and staying with the Word long enough to be fed. A self-imposed space limitation has forced me to be clear and concise. Perhaps I could achieve as much with a journal, but a blog makes me more aware of the great cloud of witnesses before whom I live.

  • http://mattrix.info Mattrix

    I’m a new subscriber to your blog and Twitter updates and I’m excited to comment for the first time.

    For me, I also find that your Twitter updates help me to gather more subtitle information from you, which enhances your blog entries. I feel like I can simulate a CEOs life with your feedback.

    This is especially important to me as a Christian, business man looking to excel to an executive position someday.

    Thank you for being open.

  • John Young

    And Mike I’ve been reading and loving all your blogs since 05. I’ve watched you change in your thought process and I think it’s made you a better listener. A lot of CEO’s don’t feel the need to listen. And who’s going to tell them otherwise.
    I don’t read a lot of blogs. I’m busy and most are boring. I’ve often said most blogs are either ego trips or cheap self promotion. But you’re not some random street walker, but instead in a unique position to assure us it’s all going to be ok or at least show you’re thinking about making it ok. Certainly last week’s major publishing exit is cause for concern.
    I’m readings tons of research this hour on results of media impression, persuasion, and impact. I know some print guys have a strong bias for print, but with no surprise, newspapers and magazines are coming in very low in all these ad catergories. There is a lot of clutter, blur, and uselessness in all publishing.

    Remember when we’d be somewhere and hear someone say thru tears “that book changed my life.” I don’t hear that much anymore. I miss that, but think for our survival, it is a necessary next step.

  • http://www.michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

    @John Young: Thanks for your kind words. The truth is that I am trying to figure it out myself. The landscape is changing—rapidly.

    This is why it needs to be a conversation. Different people see different things. The days of the lone CEO figuring it out from the ivory tour are gone.

    Thanks again.

  • http://davidatodd.blogspot.com David Todd

    As a relatively new blogger (Dec 2007), I’ve learned: 1) it’s hard to always find something to write about; 2) it’s hard to find time to blog; and 3) it’s hard to establish a blog therem. At least these are hard for me.

    Good post, Mike.

    DAT

  • http://www.HeBlogsSheBlogs.com Laura Christianson

    I’ve been writing my Exploring Adoption blog the same amount of time as you’ve been blogging Michael, and I would add a #8 to your list: Blogging gives me insights into what others are most interested in learning about my topic.

    Reader e-mails, comments, and visitor stats tell all; some of my posts that get the most hits are on themes I would have never considered writing about otherwise.

    I’ve had so much fun with blogging that I’ve co-founded a business that helps businesses and individuals start their own blogs. We frequently cite your blog as a great example of what a CEO blog should “look” like.

    Keep up the great work!

  • http://www.teawithtiffany.blogspot.com Tiffany Stuart

    Your blog helps me as a writer. And as a fellow blogger, I blog to untangle my thoughts too.

    Loved this.

  • http://www.myspaceless.com RadX

    I’ve been blogging since March 2006. I have learned that sharing my thoughts about life and my walk with the Lord can actually bless others in the process.

  • http://www.positioningstrategy.com Linas Simonis, PositioningStrategy

    “Blogging helps me to clarify my own thinking.”. That’s why I encourage all CEOs to start a business blog.

    I think that in the future most of the CEOs will blog. Because the CEO is the best spokesperson of the company and because it helps the CEO to think about marketing strategy.

    I want to point Michael’s words to all the readers in his recent comment: “The days of the lone CEO figuring it out from the ivory tour are gone.” You are right but this truth in most cases can be seen only by those CEOs, who are in real (not through market research company)touch with customers. And one of the best things to achieve this is to start a business blog.

    For those CEOs I even wrote an e-book “The New Rules of Business Blog”, you can freely download it from my blog http://www.positioningstrategy.com.

  • http://www.LinksUnlimitedMall.com Clay Strong

    When I first began writing blogs, I was so negative that when I’d review them later, it was embarrassing. Then I realized that I was writing for my own self-gratification, without consideration of how it might affect the reader. I now begin each blog with a clear idea of how I hope to make the reader’s life better in some way. And, in many ways, it has made my life better. Michael Hyatt, you do that for others. Thank you.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/human3rror human3rror

    this is awesome. thanks for this mike!

  • http://www.john-gallagher.blogspot.com John Gallagher

    I am still an infant in the blogging world as I started in late 2008, but I find it to be a way to ‘journal’ my thoughts and my story. I have a long way to go before being published, though! Thanks for sharing, Mike.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/michaelpokocky Michael Pokocky

    Well we have something in common with respect to writing. You have written for the internet and thus what you have learned is a certain wisdom that only comes with someone who is passionate about what they do.
    For me I am a diarist and have been since a very young age. Although I have been on the internet for 5 years or so and have had several blogs I was never ever comfortable with writing online. But I am keeping a journal.
    What I have learned about being a diarist is similar with respect to no.1 in your post. However keeping a journal [see http://www.moleskinerie.com/2008/04/the-notebooks... ] all these years makes writing easy for me just as blogging has for you.
    I share this with you because I think both are important for writers over the long term with surprising results. Don't you agree?

  • http://www.deanaohara.wordpress.com Deana O'Hara

    Great post Michael. I originally started blogging in 2004 as a way to keep my family up to date on what was happening in our lives. I've since deleted that old blog and started over again about two years ago when we opened our Mission Start.

    For me, it was about getting my thoughts and ideas written down and out of my head. It's a great forum to clarify ideas and find direction. I want to be a writer, and writer's write. Blogging is a great venue to practice that art and develop those skills. It's also a place to save my smaller stories that I eventually pull together for the larger picture.

    In blogging, I'm learning how to point and not ramble and paint as much as I used to.

    Thanks for reposting this article.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/michaelpokocky Michael Pokocky

    Thank you Deana! I visited your site http://deanaohara.com/ and you are going great there!
    I liked your description of your use of a blog very much too in your comment to me.
    As for learning, the day we stop learning we might as well give in to the couch and a bag of chips. Life without learning is not creativity in motion. That's the way I feel about what our real purpose is.
    Cheers and you might want to join my group on twitter @thecalvenigroup for writers and publishers at the intersection of technology. Trying to find a better way for all and there are many voices there. Pass this along to someone you care about enough to share this blog here by Michael Hyatt as well.

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  • http://www.oncarriesmind.blogspot.com Carrie Partridge

    #1 and #3 really hold true for me. I have been blogging for a little over a year now, and I actually just posted about my genuine need to write. It helps me figure out a lot of things; it is a great outlet for me; and it is a very healing and satisfying artform. Thanks for encouraging all of us to pursue the craft of writing.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/patalexander patalexander

    I'm still relatively new at blogging. So I am still learning. After a year and a half I am finally beginning to get feedback and more interaction. The reasons I began blogging were to share my perspective on social media, best practices and agency culture as I see them in the insurance industry. I am striving to continue to expand my base for more interaction so that I can learn how insurance agencies are thinking about and using technology and social media. Thanks for share with us Mike.

  • http://ronllane.blogspot.com/ Ron

    In the 5-6 months that I have been blogging, I have realized that I am writting for me. Whether or not people decide to read it or comment, I am able to write my thoughts and clear my mind.

    It has also given me a new creative outlet. I used to choose golf or playing music, and still do, but blogging gives me another way of expression.

  • http://www.mymuneca.org James L

    I have learned how to communicate more concisely, especially with written communications. Big help with emails..
    I am learning that not everything I think to be profound really is.
    I have become more open as a person.

  • http://www.swanrange.blogspot.com Carol Buchanan

    In my two years in the blogosphere, I've learned that I can always learn more from other people about things I thought I knew about, that differentiating my blogs from other people's will take more time than I thought it would in the beginning. I have a small voice and millions of people are shouting to be heard. So it'll take more time for the people who want to hear me to find me. I constantly work to make my blog more valuable to other people and how to mix good humor with good information. And not to begin all my sentences with "I".

    Thank you for being a good teacher!
    My recent post What Happens in Scene 29?

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  • sharonsjobs

    I love your blog & definitely am with you on #1 – I blog about career/resume advice because people were constantly asking me, "What's the secret to getting a job in this lousy economy?" – and writing about it has helped me clarify it for others, and for myself as I screen for positions as a recruiter – what does set someone apart? How can you tell someone is talented on paper? These were not questions I could have quickly answered before I started blogging.

    One additional thing I'll add – I've learned that blogging can bring fulfillment. I'm surprised how happy I am to write and share my knowledge, and love seeing spikes in my view stats. It's like volunteering for a good cause without leaving my living room. Puts a smile on my face in a way that I didn't expect.

  • http://www.kallmeyer-naturheilpraxis.de Andreas Kallmeyer

    I agree totally on your first point: it helps clarify your thoughts.

    And it is a way to give something back – at least in my area.

    Nice post.

    Andreas

  • http://alexforrest.blogspot.com Alex

    At the top of my list, blogging is an outlet for me to write, since I'm not currently able to do that anywhere else. And I love to write (even if nobody reads it). In addition to the personal release this provides, I'm a firm believer that you must write to get better at writing and stay sharp.

  • danisedelights

    I am a relatively new blogger (less than a year). Originally, I started my blog to post weekly notes for a Bible Study that I teach. I hoped it would be an encouragement to others and was surprised to find that blogging has been a great encouragement to ME. An unexpected bonus!
    Danise Jurado

  • http://www.makeithappenmoment.com Gary . Borgstede

    Dear Mr. Hyatt, I'd like to thank you for sharing your thoughts on writing and blogging. Because of your blog posts encouraging authors and writers to develop a writer's blog of their own along with my Pastor's encouragement as well, I was motivated to take the plunge and figure out how to do it. Although it took me a while to figure out the basic WordPress application, I'm glad I took the time to dig into it and develop my own blog for faith-based leadership development at http://www.makeithappenmoment.com As a result, I am excited about the new opportunities I have through The Make It Happen Moment ® faith-based leadership education blog to reach people and unleash their extraordinary God-given potential to make a difference in life! Thanks again and have a blessed day!

  • aangron

    i super agree with number 1. writing in any form definitely brings about clarity. the mind gets too cluttered with our ideas sometimes and writing in a way sorts it all. seeing the ideas written, as words on the screen or on paper provides a new perspective, which sometimes is just what we need.

  • http://alexmarestaing.wordpress.com alex marestaing

    Blogging has allowed me to be more transparent, and that transparency has caused people to get to know me better. Very cool.

  • http://www.imperfectpeople.net Katie

    I'm still a rookie but i certianly agree with the first post. It helps me make sense of all the thoughts and ideas in my head.

  • Suranjansoans

    Mike, These are great thoughts. For me–I an relatively new and it has been less than a year since I began playing around with the social media–some of the benefits I gleaned have been:
    1. Learning –It is also free. :) I learn a lot!
    2. Helps improve my communication.

  • http://rachelolsen.blogspot.com/ Rachel Olsen

    I too write to discover and clairfy what I think. And watching my readers’ responses shows me what they think, feel or need. That’s invaluable information.

    I glean lots from your blog. Tips about leadership, new technologies, productivity helps and the publishing industry. But I also just enjoy your well read, experienced, thoughtful perspective on whatever you happen to write about. Thanks for blogging!

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Thanks, Rachel. I appreciate your loyal readership!

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  • http://www.samluce.com samluce

    Michael,

    Really love your stuff. I find your posts thought provoking yet you always seem to add practical steps for people to apply what they have just been inspired by. Thanks for making your blog public you, your company and must of all of us who read it are better for it.

    sam

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  • http://www.thegiftofmondays.com/ colleen laquay urbaniuk

    the best part of blogging to me is that you can write something today that will still encourage someone days, weeks and months from now.  somehow, through the details put in a search engine (and of course the grace of God) a person can find hope, light or the courage to go on at any time of day or night.  i love that part.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      I love that, too. Thanks.

  • rachaelebner

    I’m looking forward to starting my own blog this week! I just started following yours last week after my friend sent me the link for your Life Plan article and eBook. 

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Awesome. Welcome!

  • http://blog.rumorsofglory.com/ Lucille Zimmerman

    Blogging has made me succinct writer. It helps me distill my thoughts into essential words and forces me to clarify my thoughts.

  • Anonymous

    I too have been blogging before I discovered the term “blogging.” I wrote articles online and would share them vie email to friends. I discovered blogger.com in early 2005– right before I had my son. I had just quit my job because of a high-risk pregnancy and I was at home resting. Instead of “just resting” I began writing more. 

    I love blogging. I have two on my website right now for women– one where I write devotionals for moms and business women and another for single women where I discuss relevant topics from a Christian woman’s perspective. That’s my most active one.

    Blogging does everything you mentioned for me too. I love engaging with my audience about facts of life. It’s so wonderful to get comments and even prayer request from many viewers.

    It also helps keep me accountable too. It’s a great way for me to stay in the bible, since my aim is to encourage women from a godly angle. I love it!

  • http://www.reformed-health.com Mischelle007

    I have been blogging for about a year to help promote an inspirational novella that my seventeen  year old daughter wrote as a fund raiser for college. The book is called ICU.

    In addition, I just started a new blog called reformed-health.com because I can see that there are so many Christians who are suffering needless ill health.

    http://www.icubook.wordpress.com promotes ICU

    http://www.reformed-health.com promotes health from a biblical perspective

  • http://barrypearman.blogspot.com/ Barry Pearman

    I have only been blogging for the short time of about 6 months but I have found that blogging has enabled me to get some of my thoughts and ideas out there to a wider audience.

    I have a passion for helping people with Major Mental Illnesses. The Blog has enabled some of them to have a voice. So blogging has been very empowering. 

    Blogging is a place where you are given the right to speak and be heard.

    Thanks for the great posts Michael.

  • http://twitter.com/stickymex Steve Morgan

    I have found that blogging helps me slow down and metabolize what I am reading and thinking about.  I blog mostly about five things that are the focus of my personal mission:  Live well. Love deeply. Learn continuously.  Lead courageously. Leave a legacy.  So this helps me also keep on track with my life mission.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1419226621 Eva Pauline Scott

    I started blogging as a way to focus on something other than my home business. Now it gives me a way to reach goals and make them public as well. I agree that it helps clarify my thinking, and it also helps me to clarify the way I present my ideas in other places besides my blog.

    Your blog has been very helpful with ideas in so many areas besides just writing. Thanks!

  • Lori Stanley Roeleveld

    I expected blogging to connect me with people I don’t know but have been surprised at how it’s connected me with coworkers and local  acquaintances. The conversations that begin with people on my blog as they read my posts are often continued in person when they come to me with a deeper interest in my faith. In fact, a series of posts I did about why it’s hard for some Christians to talk about homosexuality, opened a fruitful dialog with a gay coworker that played out online and in person. What started, admittedly, as a vehicle for “building my writer’s platform,” has turned into a place where I can transparently express my quirky perspective on faith, an outlet for my creative energy, and a surprising door-opening vehicle for this remedial evangelist.

  • http://levittmike.wordpress.com levittmike

    Blogging is a great way to write about anything and everything.  It allows us to connect with people we would likely not have encountered.  Thanks again for all that you do!

  • http://missmolliesmusings.blogspot.com/ Mollie Lyon

    Being fairly new to blogging, just under a year, I find the clarification is a major part. I started the process to keep the family stories alive as much as possible after my mother, the true historian, passed away. I find it is also my writing  journey.  And a lot of fun that brings joy to my readers.

  • Kathleen Trissel

    I’ll say one thing I haven’t learned, and that is how to navigate traffic to a blog or how to have it come up on a search engine. I know it’s a technology issue, but I can’t get past this. I wonder if there’s a Dummies resource for this.

  • Sean Heritage

    I love learning from, with, and through you on a daily  basis.  Thanks for the knowledge you share and the inspiration you give so many!

  • Mark Leach

    Just today I was wondering how many words would it take for an average length book. Thank you for providing the answer based on how many words you’ve blogged and how many books it would fill. Having written 87 posts for my blog, averaging around 800 words, seems like I already have a book!

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      Yep. You do.

      • Mark Leach

        I’ll have to first do the Get Published Now program. Thanks.

  • http://OneBoldMove.com/ Frank Gustafson

    Just started my blog a few weeks ago. I am looking forward to the journey. So far I have learned that this takes some discipline. When I get started… I am in heaven… getting “started” is the challenge. Thanks for the great example Mr H… following your “Platform” system.

  • http://momentsandinvitations.com/ Dana Butler

    Michael, I’m another lurker, tentatively poking my head out here today. I’m actually in the midst of writing a series: “What I’ve Learned in 1 Year of {serious} Blogging.” Since you asked, just thought I’d share: http://danalbutler.com/what-ive-learned-in-1-year-of-blogging-the-series/

    So appreciate your blog. I learn so much here.