Create If Writing

Create If Writing is a weekly podcast for writers and bloggers dealing with authentic platform growth. Kirsten Oliphant interviews experts to find out how they are building email lists, connecting through Twitter, and using Facebook groups. These practical episodes are balanced out with inspirational interviews from successful writers and bloggers who have made it big and want to share the struggles, the creative process, and tips for reaching your goals whether you are an author publishing books or creating an online presence through blogging.
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Now displaying: October, 2015
Oct 28, 2015

Lately we have had a lot of obstacles in my household. Namely: stomach flu and then pneumonia and vacation (which was fantastic and is only an obstacle in terms of work productivity). These got me thinking about the four literary conflicts we all learned in school and how those might translate into the modern world and our modern work. Before I dive into the seven conflicts that keep us from our work, a few quick things. 

1. Sign up for my email list if you haven't already! I have a sweet giveaway coming up that you don't want to miss. 

2. Subscribe to my live training because I have an AWESOME one coming up. Two words: special guest & bundle. 

3. If you haven't listened to the last five episodes, I have had STELLAR guests. Here are some quick links to those. 

how to cultivate your perfect audience Facebook



list-building Facebook

leverage Facebook groups featured

Now, let's talk obstacles and conflict! 

My Publishing Journey 

The long and short of my story is that I went to graduate school and got my MFA in Fiction, left with a mostly completed novel. Got an agent who loved the manuscript and sent it to publishers who loved the manuscript...and then they didn't buy it. This is basically the death toll for a manuscript in terms of traditional publishing, but the publishers did want to see more from me. 

My first agent got pregnant and passed me off to a second agent who also got pregnant and retired and convinced her husband (also an agent) to read my work. Which...I still haven't sent him. He is still out there, waiting, and I touch base with him every so often. But because of two obstacles, I haven't worked on my newest manuscript, which is 80% done. Those obstacles? Kids and the mental space they take away from my ability to really write fiction and FEAR. I've already gotten so far in publishing and had all these things line up only to fall apart. It makes me a little gun-shy. 

This got me thinking about conflicts and obstacles. It brought back memories of the literary conflicts---you know the ones! Man vs nature, man vs society, man vs man, and man vs self. Some of the conflicts I thought of fit into those categories, but I decided to make my own that are a little more specific to our modern life. 


The Seven Conflicts that Keep You from Your Work

1. Man vs Relationships. For me, this is my kids. I DO have enough time to work, but it's more that I really dive down deep when I write fiction and it's hard for me to surface and be a decent person and mom. This could be friends, a spouse, or some other relationship that cuts down on your work productivity.

2. Man vs Distractions. For me, this is Facebook. I open my computer and if I even glance at Facebook, I snap back to attention two hours later, unsure of who I am, where I've been, and what's happening in my life. I also get sucked into trying to watch TV and work at night. Not REAL writing, but scheduling things and photo editing. I can do those things while watching the Vampire Diaries, but I am not nearly as effective or fast. 

3. Man vs Technology. Though both distractions I mentioned were technically technological, I mean here things like your computer crashing, your phone screen breaking, or programs failing to work correctly. I feel sometimes like all my tech conspires against me. 

4. Man vs Ability. Often I run into something I want to do online, but CAN'T. Then I'm faced with the choice to either hire someone or learn it myself. An example of this is launching the podcast. I literally launched from conception to first three episodes in two weeks. (Read how HERE.) But every time I edited and produced, I ran into issues that I couldn't fix. So I went from YouTube videos to hiring an editor to taking a session with Meron Bareket that solved all my problems. But it took TIME. Sometimes we dream and just don't have the ability to achieve our dreams. Just ask all those tone-deaf American Idol hopefuls.

5. Man vs Busyness. Do I need to explain this one? We are busy people. The end. 

6. Man vs the Bank. Sometimes we have the flexibility to work undeterred by the need to pay bills. I am in a great position in that I don't HAVE to do the work I do. I would LIKE to make a full-time income, but for the moment, I can work in the off hours while my hubby brings the bacon. And the eggs. And the coffee. No, we don't have a huge budget, but we have enough. This can be a big issue for people who are side-hustling while working a full-time job. We have to eat. And live places. So the bank matters and can be a legit conflict. 

7. Man vs Self. This is the big one. Some of the others we cannot change. We can't control if our computer crashes. We cannot choose when or how our kids get pneumonia. We will always need to pay bills. But we DON'T always have to be subject to our own fears or our self-doubt. Even though we do have control here, I think this is sometimes the BIGGEST conflict or obstacle to our creative work. 


YOUR TURN! What are the conflicts that keep you from your creative work? Which of these seven is your main conflict with getting your creative work done?

Related Links

Claudia Emerson's Late Wife
Michael Parker's If You Want Me to Stay
Craig Nova's The Good Son
The NaNoWriMo Site
Danny Nguyen Photography

Oct 22, 2015

Everywhere I turn, I find people touting programs designed to multiply your email list. But is the key to a healthy email list found in numbers? In this interview with Paul Jarvis he talks about his email, the Sunday Dispatch, and why engagement trumps numbers alone.

If you don't know Paul, he calls himself a freelancer evangelist. He is the type of person who split-tests his profile picture and who also talks about unicorn farts. With a 20-year career as a freelance web designer he is also a prolific writer on sites like Forbes, Fast Company, NewsWeek, and BuzzFeed. You can find Paul on his site or on Twitter, and but where you should really connect is through his email list, The Sunday Dispatch. Oh, and he is co-host of Invisible Office Hours with Jason Zook and he has his own podcast, the Freelancer. Here are some of my favorite Paul pieces:

Audience Growth
What Do You Do When the Trolls Come Marching In?
Whose Playground Are You Playing In? 


NOTE: The podcast episode will be up momentarily! Having some issues this morning with...well...all kinds of things. If you are here from my weekly email, know that this will be up by the end of the day.


"People don't realize they can cultivate an audience of people they want to have in their audience."

Big Ideas

  • Paul sends a weekly email called the Sunday Dispatch. It includes articles that will later appear on his blog or in syndication elsewhere, but they come to subscribers FIRST.
  • He aims to be interesting and valuable to his audience. Many people send what is interesting and valuable to themselves, not to the audience.
  • To figure out what's interesting and valuable to THEM, Paul listens. To make it interesting and valuable to himself, he puts his own spin on the content. This also has the effect of being interesting to the audience as well. There is no shortage of articles & content, but people read and identify with his because it's unique and personal.
  • Paul uses humor to help get to the ideal targeted audience. He cultivates the exact type of people he wants in his audience and doesn't worry about the rest.
  • The numbers on your list are often vanity metrics. It's the ENGAGEMENT that matters. You want people who support you and your work. This is much harder to measure than simple numbers alone.
  • Paul unsubscribes people who are rude or mean in responses to his emails. He will also look at how many people have not opened over a quarter and will delete those people.
  • When you delete people, you are saving yourself money (once you get to that point of paying) but you are also increasing your engagement and open rate.
  • To test content on his blog Paul uses Optimizely. (Yep, he even split tests his photos.) But he will split test his email subject line using Mailchimp's A/B testing every time he sends. The winning headline is the one he uses when he posts that content on his blog and other syndications.
  • Guests posts worked well as he was building and now he doesn't do guest posting as much but will put his posts up on Huffington Post, Inc, and Medium. If you are posting on quality websites, don't worry about duplicate content hurting your SEO. Google gets it.
  • For Paul, the point is to get people on his list, not just get hits on the blog, so everything links back to the sign-up for his list.
  • Depending on your revenue model, your focus might be different. If you are selling ads on your site, you need page views (or opens & clicks on your list if you're selling ads on your site). If you are selling products or services, your mailing list might be your best place to sell.
  • Things are so saturated right now, that it gets hard because of all the noise. Disruptive revenue models are the ways to find new and unique ways to create content.
  • If you are genuinely excited about the thing that you're doing, people see that come through and they get excited with you. Plan well, but continue to be excited and keep that moving.


And if you want to know more about the Creative Class (which I can tell you firsthand is an awesome investment!), you can read more about that HERE.

Oct 14, 2015

Find the full show notes at! 
Follow Kirsten on Twitter!

In episode 18 I got to talk with Darren Rowse of Problogger and this week I'm talking with Demain Farnworth of Copyblogger. I loved this conversation where we talk about being introverts, what unique things we can bring to the table when there ISN'T anything really new, and what drives us crazy about the world we're in right now. You can find Demian at the Rough Draft podcast, The Lede podcast, writing on Copyblogger, writing on his blog The Copybot, and on Twitter.

Here are some of my favorite posts/episodes from Demian:

Shakespeare's 5 Rules for Making Up Words to Get Attention
The Perfect Anatomy of a Modern Web Writer
A Creative Email Trick for Becoming a Plain Spoken Writer


"I think the internet is particularly built for introverts." <- AGREE!!

Big Ideas

  • The internet is particularly built for introverts because it requires less of the draining in-person connection and it also easier to send an email and face that possible rejection than an in-person one.
  • The hedgehog idea is what is your passion, what is economically viable, and can you get better at doing that passion. You want to find something you love to do and can improve.
  • Damian does a lot of experimenting, asking "I wonder if?" about his content. He tries things to see what traction he can get.
  • You have to adapt and see what works and where you go organically and find what works for YOUR audience. No two audiences are the same.
  • My goal is to find and deepen the relationship with people who want to follow me and go all the places I go.
  • You probably aren't going to bring anything new to the table except for YOU and your voice.
  • The only thing that really changes over time is the filter: we take information and themes and express them through our voice and our perspective.
  • It's getting easier and easier to be publishers of content, which is an exciting thing. It's easier to create and to consume content. There are so many tools for us to do that in unique ways.
  • Trying some of the new formats like Periscope or Blab or podcasting is all about finding a new audience and connecting in a new way.
  • The downside  internet can really bring out the worst in people. People read 1/10th of something and respond as though they know.

Relevant Links

Quiet by Susan Cain
How to Move Your Audience from Infatuation to Love - The Lede Podcast
Why Introverts Make Good Writers

What I Want to Know from YOU: 

Are you an introvert or extrovert? How does that impact (or does it?) your creativity and your work?

Oct 8, 2015

Is blogging dead? It seems this question keeps resurfacing. I know what I think about this, but in this interview I get to hear what Darren Rowse of Problogger and Digital Photography School thinks about that question. Like many he has had a winding journey to get where he is today. And by winding, I mean he has had 40 blogs. (Yes, that is the number I meant to write. Want proof? Listen to the interview!) Being a part of the blogging world as long as he has, Darren has some unique perspective about the ever-changing blogging landscape and how you can stay afloat with all the changes.

Find Darren on TwitterBlabPeriscope, and Facebook. Find the show notes at Create If Writing and you can follow me on Twitter or join in the Create If Writing Facebook Group

Quotable: One of the best ways to stand out in a noisy room is to whisper in someone's ear.

I cannot TELL you how much this quote spoke to me. Love it. If you want to get a free 31-day series in your inbox all about going deeper with your peeps, JOIN ME. A few of the ideas came from this very interview! 

The Big Takeaways

  • In the early days his blogs relied on ads & affiliates for income, but he has moved towards creating his own products to sell and more diversified income streams.
  • Many people stop learning when you've been blogging about blogging (or anything) for a long time. You have to stay current and watching to see what people are experimenting with and what is working. But you can't JUST experiment with everything all the time.
  • Podcasting is one of those new things (definitely check out the Problogger podcast!) Darren is trying. The connection with an audience goes to new depths and it's a much less crowded space than blogging, so this is a good time. (Include Blab & Periscope in this as well!)
  • In the first few years Darren's blog growth was one-by-one. He visited other blogs and left comments, emailed people who left comments, and other small actions that showed he was paying attention to the people who WERE coming to the blog.
  • He also utilized in-person connections like teaching in-person camera classes. Online, this looked like taking part in forums and being helpful where possible.
  • When you really look after those readers, they become big fans and share your work with their friends and things can grow exponentially.
  • As he started, any time someone left a comment, he used to respond in the comments, then send them an email to let them know he commented back. Some of those people still read the blog today and have brought other readers alongside them. He started conversations
  • Now that he has a much (MUCH) wider audience, it's hard to bring that type of contact to scale. Doing things like Periscope and podcasting have brought more interaction with his audience in a whole new way. You can still whisper and be personal, but it may not look exactly the same as you grow.
  • Guest posting has become very normal to do, but putting ideas on other people's blogs is still a great way to connect with new readers.
  • Doing challenges is another fantastic way to bring community to a group. It's an intense period of doing something together and doing things together brings community and engagement. It gives people a sense of belonging.
  • Another great idea is to repurpose and repackage old content to give it second life. The first 31 days of the podcast was a repurposing of an old series. Creating evergreen content helps you to have content to repurpose.

Is Blogging DEAD? 

People are constantly saying this and Darren has heard this for the last ten years. People tend to say this whenever a new medium comes along or when someone large leaves blogging. (Read this great interview Darren did with Heather Armstrong of Dooce about this very thing!) The reality is that blogging is shifting and has always been shifting. As hard as this may be to believe, when blogs to having comments (because they didn't at first), many people thought blogging was dead. Keep evolving and be open to the new movements.

One thing Darren has been doing a lot of lately is Blab, so you should definitely follow him on Blab to get notifications when he goes live!

Relevant Links

Reading Roundup: What's New in Blogging Lately
The Problogger Podcast
SuperNiching: The Dirty Little Secret of Bloggers Everywhere

Oct 2, 2015

When I heard Maritza Parra speak this summer on list-building at Podcast Movement, I knew I wanted to have her come on the show. You guys know how I feel about building email lists. (If you don't, you should read this or this or this.) Maritza shared in the session how she sold her first product to a list of 800 people and made $30,000. Now you're REALLY geared up for this interview aren't you?

Maritza hosts the Easy Online Marketing Podcast and you can find great value on her site. I would highly recommend signing up for her email list, where you can get a freebie with SO MANY ideas for freebies that are working right now to give away as incentives for email subscribers. SO helpful!!

"The whole point of a list is building relationships."
Big Ideas

Give free content BEFORE asking people to op-in.
You want to move people toward taking action.
Maritza has subscriber appreciation days where she will have her readers sign up for a phone call or mini session with her so she can really connect.
Super targeted lists of very passionate people can be VERY successful. This allows you to be super specific in what you offer and lets you zero in on those pain points for your audience.
Consider doing real-life meet ups where you can connect with people in person. Have a Q&A and make notes of what things they want to know and learn.
Don't take unsubscribes personally!
When is the best time to send something to your list? When you have something important to say, THAT'S the time.
You teach people how to treat you, so if you hesitate or second guess who you are or your product, that lets other people know they don't have to take you seriously.
If you are giving great content, you should be able to offer paid products without feeling bad.
Add a story to what you are selling. Frame it well and as an experience.
Maritza said she has had more failures than successes, but those failures taught her more than the successes. When you fail, celebrate and try to see how you can push through.
Keep separate lists. Know why people signed up so you can speak to specific pain points.
Your freebie whole be a list-specific product, but doesn't have to be huge. A 1-2 page PDF would be great.

Do you suffer from list-building stage fright? Don't be afraid to email your list or sell to your list. If they signed up, there is something they want from YOU.
How to Involve Your Audience in Your Products

Involve them in the process. Ask what they want in a survey or give them two choices and have them hit reply to tell you.
Have a webinar or live training where you can say, "The results are in!" This lets them know that THEY were the driving factor.
Launching before you create your product allows you to know that you have an audience and a need for that product.

I loved this interview because it made me feel like I can do this. I can get over myself and my stage friend and email my list. I love the ways that Maritza connects with her people via phone calls and face to face. What is YOUR big takeaway from this? Let me know in the comments!

The post List-Building Secrets for Success with Maritza Parra appeared first on Create If Writing.