You choose your audience.
You choose your topic.
You choose your theme, your plugins, your widgets.
You choose when to write, what to write, and how to write it.
You decide all of those things because you’re the boss, and you answer to nobody.
But let’s face it; few endeavors are as independent-spirited as blogging.
And that’s why, as the holiday weekend approaches in the US, we’re delighted to showcase a collection of outstanding posts created by bloggers who truly embrace that spirit of independence by sharing their ideas, on their terms, with a waiting world.
Some are beginning bloggers tentatively taking their first steps; others are experienced bloggers who continue to hone their craft.
But regardless of where you’d place yourself on that spectrum – or even if you’re only now thinking of launching a blog – you’ll find plenty here to motivate and inspire you.
The True Meaning of Independence for Bloggers
When independence and blogging are mentioned in the same breath, they often conjure up an image of a location-independent blogger building an internet business while hopping from one exotic location to the next.
But while that lifestyle is the dream of some, it’s a narrow view of the independence afforded bloggers.
More important is their freedom of expression – independence from anyone else’s rules or predetermined agenda.
And whether you blog from a beach bar in Belize or a basement in Baltimore, the fact that you can reach a global audience with your uncompromised, unfiltered ideas gives blogging a rare power.
But having that potential reach and not doing everything you can to capitalize on it is like having the freedom to travel but never leaving your home town.
You owe it to your ideas to give them the best possible chance to spread, and that means seizing every opportunity that comes along.
One such opportunity is the Serious Bloggers Only quarterly contest.
The “Serious Bloggers Only” Summer Contest 2015
As you probably know by now, Serious Bloggers Only is our membership program for readers who see blogging as more than just a casual hobby.
Since we invited members to submit their posts and guest posts for our first contest at the end of last year, hundreds have entered, and dozens have appeared in our winners’ line up, earning wider recognition and that prize beloved of all bloggers – more traffic.
This is our third contest, and we continue to be surprised by the range and quality of the entries. More proof (though none is needed) that our readers rock!
Congratulations to all our winners and to everyone who entered (because if you entered, it means you’re getting in the game.)
And if you’re not a member of SBO, that’s fine too, but keep looking for ways to put your ideas in the spotlight.
So here they are, organized by category, our official selection of the best entries from the Summer Contest 2015.
And The Winners Are…
Category: Most Inspiring
Winner – Doug Hay – Rock Creek Runner
Most of us can’t conceive of running 100 miles in a week, let alone in a single day. Yet runner (and blogger) Doug Hay somehow makes us want to. His gripping account of the physical and psychological challenges of participating in a 24-hour ultramarathon are hugely inspiring, not least because of the window it gives us to the friends and family that support him through the entire event.
Runner-up – Sarah McKenna – Bombshell Bling
This post is a love letter to mother-daughter relationships everywhere. The happy photos of Sarah and her siblings with their mother – even during tough times – are moving. For me, the post shows how a parent’s love can transfer from one generation to the next and inspires us to remember that incredible relationships are within reach of us all.
Highly Commended – Sandi Lerman – Wing Builder
Another powerful story of mothers and daughters – this from the perspective of a mother who adopts a deaf child. In this post, Sandi brilliantly pivots between the challenges of raising her new daughter to those of being an entrepreneur. She manages to do this without us feeling we’ve fallen victim to an emotional bait and switch.
Category: Most Valuable
Winner – Anthony Smits – Aretezen
What I love about this post is that it takes a topic – influence – that’s more often discussed calmly and coolly in the context of corporate leadership or authority building and gives it the kick-ass motivational treatment of a personal development post. Anthony writes with a lot of attitude and passion and packs a ton of insight and value into this long post.
Runner-up – Scott Sind – Activate Thought
Expert roundup posts are commonplace these days, but what’s remarkable about this one is the sheer caliber of the participants. Guy Kawasaki? Check. Pamela Slim? Check. Chris Guillebeau? Check. As a result, many of the answers shared by Scott via this post are truly valuable – hard-won insights from genuine high achievers.
Highly Commended – Elle Sommer – Live Purposefully Now
In this beautifully written post, Elle offers a defense against the paralyzing power of perfectionism with simple wisdom persuasively argued. I particularly liked the idea of tiny choices, which seemed to me to be a kind of “compound interest” for personal intention – the effect over time becomes hugely magnified.
Category: Best Storytelling
Winner – Dan McGuire – Bako Heat
Dan’s childhood tale of two entrepreneurial pals collecting worms to sell to local fishermen (and making a small fortune in the process) charmed the pants off me. Details like the late-night trips to pluck “big fat juicy night-crawlers” from the greens of a local golf course and his mother’s pithy one-liners make this read like a Stephen King short story.
Runner-up – Jason Zinzilieta – The Victorious Writer
This simple story condenses nearly ten years of missed opportunities into just a few paragraphs, but by the end, the sense of loss is palpable. Too often procrastination is discussed in the abstract, but by chronicling its cumulative effect, Jason achieves a much more profound result. The message – there may not be a next time.
Highly Commended – Pamela Burke – Can. Will. Done.
Pamela’s post reminded me of the “Choose Your Own Adventure” books from childhood. She takes a true story and, through a clever shift of perspective, puts the readers at its heart, asking “What would you do?” at key moments. Her cliffhanger ending has us eagerly clicking for the next installment.
Category: Most Personality
Winner – Gigi Wolf – Chez Gigi
Gigi’s writing oozes personality, and her post achieves the rare feat of being laugh-out-loud funny from beginning to end. Her distinct writer’s voice brands every sentence, and by the time I finished, I felt myself developing an addiction – I wanted to hear her hilariously rant about another topic.
Runner-up – John Yeoman – Writer’s Village
This post was a strong candidate for the Details and Examples category; it’s so rich with both. But it’s John’s ability to bring personality to his writing without sacrificing one note of authority that landed him as the winner of this category.
Highly Commended – Daisy Luther – The Organic Prepper
This post is a masterclass in audience bonding. Daisy uses a personal story and her natural, conversational style to make her readers feel she’s just like them, and if she can do it (disaster preparation), anyone can. By the end of the post, you can almost imagine Daisy by your side, helping you shovel that snow and chop that firewood.
Category: Most Fearless
Winner – Cylon George – The Change Blog (Guest Post)
Revisiting painful childhood memories is brave; doing so on a popular blog is braver still. Here Cylon uses his childhood stutter as the starting point for a post about embracing our imperfections. Through his generous sharing, we benefit from the insights of hard-learned lessons without having to experience the pain Cylon suffered firsthand.
Visit Cylon’s blog here: Spiritual Living for Busy People
Runner-up – Casey R. Alexander – The Good Men Project (Guest Post)
A refreshing and bold pragmatism fills this post about rekindling the spark in a long-term relationship. Casey isn’t afraid to challenge popular advice and even give unexpected tips (like, it’s okay for your partner to look at other women) that might win her more friends on the other side of the gender fence. But this is unvarnished advice for the real world that feels like it would actually work.
Visit Casey’s blog here: Casey R. Alexander
Highly Commended – Ashley Trexler – Scary Mommy (Guest Post)
Admitting you’re a less-than-perfect parent takes courage, particularly when others make a show of doing a great job. In this post, Ashley proudly waves the banner for parents who kick back now and again in the name of their own sanity. Sharp, funny, and provocative – the web needs more posts like this.
Visit Ashley’s blog here: Lies About Parenting
Category: Most Practical
Winner – Christie Vanover – Girls Can Grill
I can’t imagine how anyone could better execute this post about common grilling mistakes. It has a wonderful conversational tone, mouth-watering images, and some genuinely useful tips that transcend the typical commonsense advice. The problem-solution layout fits perfectly, and the troubleshooting angle is a refreshing twist on the recipe format we expect from food blogs.
Runner-up – Alexandra Campbell – The Middle-Sized Garden
I love the way Alexandra uses a childhood book to inspire a super-practical post about how to make a neglected garden shine again. The tips are valuable but not too obvious, and she backs them up with interesting quotes and insightful tips from other gardeners. Gently inspiring and interesting even to those of us who don’t have a garden.
Highly Commended – David Ruiz – Torrevieja Translation
David’s guide about travel safety takes a fun analogy (pickpockets = zombies) and uses it to fuel a humorous romp through the various mistakes tourists make when visiting Spain – mistakes that make them prone to “attacks.” This unusual framing brings energy to a potentially dry and sombre topic and acts as the sugar that helps the medicine go down.
Category: Best Use of Detail and Examples
Winner – Anthony Metivier – Fluent in 3 Months (Guest Post)
Anthony is a professional memory trainer and uses this guest post to apply his techniques to the sphere of language learning. What makes these abstract ideas accessible to a general audience is the careful detail, from a colorful story of the origins of the “memory palace” technique, to the specific examples that show how the reader can make the technique their own.
Visit Anthony’s blog here: Magnetic Memory Method
Runner-up – Debashish Das – Pick the Brain (Guest Post)
Too many self-improvement posts deal with broad principles and fail to show the reader how they might apply them to their specific situations. But not this post. For each of his three “simple ways,” Debashish gives specific examples that will dramatically increase the likelihood of people putting his advice into practice.
Visit Debashish’s blog here: Quit Be Free
Highly Commended – Bryan Collins – Copyblogger (Guest Post)
This slickly executed post about interviewing is peppered with the kind of practical detail that only comes from real-world experience. Bryan effortlessly weaves his valuable tips together with expert quotes creating a highly readable how-to post that significantly raises the game for all but the most experienced interviewers.
Visit Bryan’s blog here: Become a Writer Today
Category: Visually Awesome
Winner – Sumitha Bhandarkar – A Fine Parent
The best infographics communicate information more efficiently and engagingly than pure text ever could. In this wonderful example Sumitha takes principles from a third-party and repackages them (with full acknowledgment) in a way that’s easily digestible and beautifully on-brand.
Runner-up – Tony Messer – Pickaweb
When bloggers incorporate graphical elements in their content, they usually focus on function over style. Either the graphic stands alone to convey the required information (as in the case of the infographic above) or it supports the content, like a screenshot or a diagram. What’s much rarer is the use of design to simply make the content more beautiful, like Tony does in this gorgeous resource list. With neat graphical touches and a meticulous attention to layout, he transforms a simple list of links into a visual feast.
Highly Commended – Helen McCarthy – Addicted2Success (Guest Post)
This is a simple idea, beautifully executed. We’ve all seen quotes overlaid onto attractive background images shared on social media, but this post extends that idea by creating an entire collection of quotes. Helen gives each one a distinctive visual style, any of which would be handsome if shared in isolation, but the effect as a collection is rich and inviting.
Visit Helen’s blog here: Blog with Confidence
Bonus Category: Most Epic
Winner – Tor Refsland – Time Management Chef
Tor’s post takes the expert roundup to a new level with a full 80 experts contributing to his truly epic post. Productivity is a topic that interests us all – we all want to get more stuff done, regardless of what our particular flavor of stuff happens to be. I found this post to be delightfully moreish – no matter how many valuable tips I learned, I was always hungry for another.
How Will You Celebrate Your “Independence”?
If you’re in the United States, enjoy a fabulous holiday weekend.
If you’re not, why don’t you use that extra day to get a headstart on those blogging colleagues who are?
In either case, make sure you spend a little time thinking about how you’ll take full advantage of the independence that blogging gives you.
We live in an age our ancestors could hardly have imagined – an age where ideas published in one corner of the world are almost instantly accessible from every other corner.
You’d be crazy to squander an opportunity like that, right?