You passionately want to be a “real” writer.
A writer whose work is an authentic expression of your true self.
The problem is, you feel disconnected from everything you write. It’s like you’re the ghostwriter on a project nobody commissioned.
And sometimes you wonder if you should just give up on the idea of starting a blog.
After all, if you were destined to be a writer, it wouldn’t be this hard, would it?
But in truth, it just means you haven’t found your groove.
More specifically, you haven’t decided what kind of writer you want to be.
The firebrand? The storyteller? The visionary? The guru?
Successful templates abound, but you’re unsure which (if any) is authentically you.
And you’re making a mistake if you believe that question can be answered by careful thought alone.
In fact, if you’re serious about finding your stride as a writer, the answer is a little unexpected.
You must immerse yourself in the writing of others.
The “Serious Bloggers Only” Autumn Contest 2015
If you’ve followed Smart Blogger over the past year, you’ll know that we periodically celebrate the best work of the members of our Serious Bloggers Only community.
For past winners, being recognized on Smart Blogger has not only been a validation of their skills as writers and bloggers, but it also drove valuable traffic to their blogs.
And in previous contests, even those entrants who didn’t make the final list reported that entering inspired them to push their writing further than ever before.
If you’re not a Serious Bloggers Only member, you’d be forgiven at this point for wondering:
What’s in it for me?
Why should I care about the results of a contest I didn’t enter?
In response, let me ask you:
How often do you read posts outside your niche? How often do you read the work of unfamiliar writers?
If your answer is “rarely” or “never,” you’re missing the opportunity to discover a post that just might put you on the path to becoming an authentic, confident writer.
As you read the winning posts that follow, try them on for size and consciously look for a post that feels like the work of the writer you were meant to be.
So here they are, the winners of our latest contest, organized by category.
Most Epic Post
Epicness, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. What’s epic to you may be commonplace to someone else, and vice versa. Even so, some posts possess certain qualities that naturally attract this description. This first category recognizes posts that – through their scope, detail or sheer ambition – set themselves apart from the pack.
Winner – Camilla Hallstrom – 99 Smart Ideas
What I love about this category-winning post is that the impressive size of the list is just the starting point. This post quickly suggests a writer determined to push every aspect of the post to the maximum. The descriptions that accompany each entry are thoughtful and interesting. The formatting of the entries and section headers is slick and visually appealing. And each featured blog is augmented by three example posts as suggested entry points into that blogger’s work.
Runner-Up – Kim Owens – Wise Bread (Guest Post)
What makes this post feel epic is its comprehensiveness – we can only imagine the research that lies behind it. A reader could start the post knowing little about cashback sites and finish it feeling like a topic expert. Kim gives a helpful overview of the sites but also uses a consistent set of attributes to make it easier to compare different options. This kind of post attracts links because it feels like the definitive take on its topic.
Visit Kim’s blog here: Money Under The Cushions
Highly Commended – Ben Levesque – Webrunner
This post feels epic not by virtue of having a large number of individual points, but through its patient and thorough treatment of a large and complex subject. Ben takes the time to set the stage for his discussion of guest blogging and then walks readers through each stage of the process, providing practical tips at each point. It’s a great way to get a solid overview of an important topic in a single sitting.
Most Original Idea
Sometimes a post rests on a single bold idea. Posts like this are often the easiest to write, but the hardest to devise – such “tent pole” ideas rarely arise. But when they do, our job as a writer is to get out of the way and let the idea shine through. That’s what these writers have done.
Winner – Thijs Harteveld – Critical Cactus
At the heart of this short post is a single striking idea about living spaces. (I won’t spoil it – read the post to find out!) What seems like a crazy notion at first becomes more seductive the more you think about it. Thijs grounds his idea with strong reasoning, and soon we wonder why more people don’t do it. In a niche where creative ideas abound, this still manages to feel fresh and interesting.
Runner-Up – Barry Gold – DivorcedOver50
Almost a pick for the “fearless” category, this post tackles a difficult topic – divorcing after a long marriage – with reason and wisdom. But it’s Barry’s coining of the term “di-curious” (to mean a person considering a divorce but unsure whether it’s the right path) that provides the post with its original hook.
Highly Commended – Vanessa Anderson – Diverging Roads
The web seems littered with posts about the self-improvement benefits of travel. But this post recommends travel not as a horizon-broadening tonic for the young, but as a way to maintain a healthy brain into old age. Providing a refreshing alternative to the more typical “complete a jigsaw” or “take a long walk” advice on keeping dementia at bay, this post is backed up by the author’s experiences moving to mainland China.
Great posts can inform, persuade or entertain, but a truly practical post inspires readers to take action and gives them everything they need to succeed. This category rewards posts that give their readers real-world results.
Winner – Jeffrey Romano – Scheduit
This post has a wonderful, empathetic opening that speaks to the frustration of failing to wring full value from a networking event. Jeffrey successfully demystifies an activity that many people find opaque and intimidating, and his down-to-earth tips give even nervous networkers a clear sense of purpose for their next events. Better results will surely follow.
Runner-Up – Victor Tan – Spirit On Stage
I loved this post’s central premise – that something will almost certainly go wrong with your next presentation but that’s okay. In fact, the idea that perfection is not only highly unlikely but actually undesirable should comfort anyone facing a public performance. And that’s why this post has real, practical value. Reading it will actually increase the chances of a calm, polished performance.
Highly Commended – Ellen Bard – Tiny Buddha (Guest Post)
Self-improvement posts often set their sights on huge changes. But many of us are not looking to reinvent ourselves, just to make incremental improvements. Ellen’s practical post shows us how to create a life we love – even if life is basically okay right now. It gives us permission to want a little more, and by making realistic promises it’s far more likely to deliver on them.
Visit Ellen’s blog here: Ellen Bard
The success measurement for this category is simple. To what extent is the world a better place (even in a small way) because of the existence of the entrant’s post? To what extent will it improve the lives of those who read it?
Winner – Ashley Trexler – A Fine Parent (Guest Post)
Valuable posts usually start with big ambition – and Ashley’s post has this in spades. She has a long-term goal – that the next generation will grow up a little less closed-minded and judgmental than the last. And even if she only reaches a few people, imagine the ripple effect over many years and lives.
Visit Ashley’s blog here: Lies about Parenting
Runner-Up – Tom Schueneman – TriplePundit (Guest Post)
This post brings together two important issues of our times – the mountains of waste caused by consumer electronics that quickly become obsolete and the struggle that ex-offenders go through in finding work after incarceration. Tom doesn’t allow the seriousness of either issue to affect the post’s readability, and by promoting practical solutions to these problems he’s making a genuine difference in the world with his writing.
Visit Tom’s blog here: Global Warming is Real
Highly Commended – Quinn Eurich – The Change Blog (Guest Post)
For those suffering from anxiety, the feeling of powerlessness as emotions take over can be overwhelming. Here Quinn uses her experiences with anxiety to contextualize the practices she finds most effective in dealing with this “sneaky tyrant.” The result is a valuable case study of dealing with anxiety that greatly benefits from the author’s willingness to share the details of her journey.
Visit Quinn’s blog here: Quinn Eurich
Any decision to put your ideas in the public domain is an act of courage. But some posts, by virtue of their topic or the author’s willingness to be vulnerable, are more fearless than most. This category celebrates brave bloggers.
Winner – Shelley Sandiford – Next Scientist (Guest Post)
If you’ve spent most of your adult years engaged in study, it will be difficult to hear that you’re most likely unsuited to a life in academia. But that’s the central message of this brave post. Shelley doesn’t shy away from hard truths that might sting at first but could save her readers a great deal of heartache in the longer term. And she isn’t afraid to subject her academic life to those same tough measures.
Visit Shelley’s blog here: Sciconic
Runner-Up – K.J. Hutchings – K.J. Hutchings
Admitting that you feel uncomfortable with the relationship your partner has with his or her ex is not easy. This post reassures readers that such feelings are not just acceptable, but normal, and shares grounded, emotionally intelligent tips for dealing with them. But it doesn’t assume that the answers lie solely with the reader and is brave enough to suggest issuing an ultimatum if all else fails.
Highly Commended – Emma Carmichael – The Marvellous Mind
Inspired by the brave story of an elite soldier who sustained horrific injuries during a tour of Afghanistan, this post shares the positive lessons he drew from his long journey to recovery. But the author’s decision to reach out to the soldier directly also required a very real type of courage. Most bloggers would have kept the story at arm’s length and stayed within the confines of the soldier’s book.
Best Use of Detail and Examples
Often what separates an interesting post from a genuinely useful one is the level of detail and the examples the author chooses to include. Providing detail takes work, and choosing good examples demands more creativity than you might imagine. But the authors of the posts in this category understand the value of both.
Winner – Jacqueline Stone – Wise Stress Mastery
Habit change is a wildly popular topic in the self-improvement space. And unsurprisingly so. After all, adopting the right habits (and eliminating the wrong ones) can have a huge impact on your quality of life and the results you achieve. But what sets these battle-tested tips apart from the ones in other posts are the concrete examples that bring each point vividly to life, adding credibility to the claim that they “really work.”
Runner-Up – Cylon George – Marc and Angel Hack Life (Guest Post)
Most of us accept that some people are toxic to our mental wellbeing. But this post takes the idea further – stating that we might unwittingly be attracting them. What Cylon does brilliantly is to tell us specifically why this happens, how to recognize the early signs and what to do to fix it. In other words, he’s created a toolkit for identifying and dismantling toxic encounters.
You can visit Cylon’s blog here: Spiritual Living for Busy People
Highly Commended – John Anderson – Bible Money Matters (Guest Post)
Money issues, this post reveals, are the number-one cause of divorce. The post details the true cost of divorce and builds a persuasive case for tackling corrosive money topics head-on. And since he wrote it for a faith-infused personal finance blog, John also provides specific biblical verses to help maintain a healthy balance and respect around money issues in a marriage. The result – a thorough and valuable post.
You can visit John’s blog here: Simple Financial Fitness
Best Storytelling – Gail Gates – Aging Schmaging
There’s something beautiful and heartbreaking about this post, which would be equally at home in a short story collection as among the pages of the blog. It tells of a simple quest to find a relic of childhood, and although it’s a simple tale told in a minor key, it manages to evoke time and place wonderfully and tug at the emotions with great effectiveness. This is a simple story well told that lingers long after the first reading.
Most Virtuoso Performance – John Yeoman – Write to Done (Guest Post)
John’s writing is rich with the kind of detail that quickly establishes him as an authority in his field, which happens to be . . . writing! No surprise, then, that he’s been featured in the winners’ list of every SBO contest to date. He packs his post on bonding with practical advice, colorful examples and crisp, playful prose. Bravo!
You can visit John’s blog here: Writers’ Village
Best Visuals – Perpetua Neo – Perpetua Neo
This post explains the differences between three disciplines – psychology, psychotherapy and psychiatry – with the help of a series of simple images. The consistent visual style ties the post together and makes a potentially dry and academic subject highly accessible. And cleverly, by refining the readers’ understanding of these concepts, the author also moves them further along a path that could lead them to hire her.
What Type of Writer Will You Choose to Be?
Still struggling to find your place as a writer?
Don’t worry, it’s a common problem. But introspection is rarely the answer.
Instead, look for answers outside yourself.
Because somewhere, a writer is already producing work that will signpost your own path to confident and authentic writing.
And the key could be the smallest thing – a certain attitude, a particular rhythm, a distinctive way of expressing ideas.
But when you find it, everything about being a writer will become easier.
So immerse yourself in the best writing of others.
And don’t emerge until you know what sort of writer you should be.