Pro Blogging and Life Lessons

I learned about a new profession about half a year ago, Professional Blogger.  The tie-in to professional photographer is amazingly similar and the concept is simple: You write about stuff that people on the internet want to read about in such a way that they continually check-back to your site, you sell advertising space and make money, enough to quit your day job.

I find pro blogging interesting because it’s a prominent example of how the internet has changed the way advertisers and the modern economy enable individuals to form economically feasible escapes from the traditional workforce.

Much like with professional photography, there appears to be a tendency for people to quit their jobs and put their energies into their blogs with the hope of pulling in six-figure incomes from writing stuff on the internet.  With blogging, as with any easy-entry market like photography: some might succeed, but many will be barely sustainable or just flat-out flop without a clear understanding of the market and a sound business plan.

Blogging is an even riskier industry to enter than photography since the number of possible imitators increases dramatically.  Now it’s not just every person who picks up a DSLR and puts in the time to learn, it’s also anyone with an internet connection.  The start-up investment is essentially just time, you can get a free blog from a number of sources and start publishing immediately. is one of the most popular and no-doubt economically successful blogs on the internet today.  Problogger is successful because it publishes information about the niche that so many bloggers on the internet want to read about: Making Money from Blogging.  Everyone goes there to learn how to make a 6-figure income from typing on cyberspace.  In my view, it’s similar to photography, in that the best way to make money in a creative industry such as photography or blogging is to show other people how to take photos or blog.

Consider, it probably has the largest wealth of quality information related to photography on the internet.  I started out my technical photo education there.  The primary author, Michael Reichmann is a successful professional photographer based in Canada.  However, a great deal of his success seems to be tied to producing video tutorials on photography and organizing photo workshop tours around the world, which is all promoted on his website.  The power of his words when it comes to cameras and photo equipment is impressive, but I don’t think he would be the icon that he is if it were not for the position he has very smartly put himself in – A Photo Guru of the Internet Age.

Another rising Internet Guru Star in this regard is David Hobby from Strobist.  As a photographer for the Baltimore Sun, he obviously knows his craft, but it’s the position he’s put himself in as the Off-Camera Flash Guru which will for sure provide an excellent platform for his future success.  Plus, he can create waves.  If he mentions a new flash, like the Vivtar 285HV, or the Westcott double fold umbrella reflector, there’s a good possibility that Midwest Photo Exchange will get a large number of orders almost overnight.

What about those that just blog, without it would seem, any specific niche?  The thing I like about RT Cunningham is that he doesn’t really have a niche, he just writes and people read it.  The interesting thing about is that in general, it doesn’t tell you how to make money or fulfill any creative ambitions, but it’s ranked high and I can’t stop reading it.

In the past year that I’ve started doing the American Peyote blog on a normal basis I’ve learned many things, which aside from making money on the internet, I find very applicable to many facets of my life.  Producing blog entries keeps my mind moving and my writing skills primed.  Exploring money making opportunities from photography or blogging is exposing me to the marketing and economic realities you don’t learn about in engineering classes.

I gotten a better feeling for how information is digested in the internet world.  As a consequence, I started to more effectively disseminate the knowledge gained from my PhD work.  Turning my PhD into a website means more exposure to more people for my work, since normally the number of folks who read your dissertation is extremely small.  There’s no money to be made, but I have faith in smart materials, and the prospect of exposing more people to this technology just seems like a cool thing to do.

I also discovered something else, one of my biggest visitor days was March 24th 2007, the day that I gave a presentation on Photography and Writing for Blogs at BlogCamp Zurich.  Despite the power of internet communication and high-speed connections, Technorati and BlogJuice, it was the act of physically giving a presentation to a group of real-live people which increased my blog exposure in Switzerland.

I don’t know if I’ll ever make a real go at monitizing the American Peyote blog or entering the stock photography game, but the things I’ve learned from studying these possibilities has greatly contributed to my success as a smart materials researcher and will no-doubt play a roll in my future adventures in life.

Top Five to Do While You Live

1) Hit Rock Bottom

When all is gone to shit and there’s nothing good left in your life – there’s nowhere to go but up.  Hitting Bottom generally results from a combination of the notions that your life is pointless, that you’re unloved, your career plans have all failed, your significant other has left you or your favorite dog-cat-goldfish has died.  It could be worse.  Often Hitting Rock Bottom can be looked back upon as a marker in life, that point when you refused to continue taking things as they were presented and decided to find your own way.  Like many of the great experiences in life, you can’t "try" to hit the lowest of the low points, you have wait until your life gets so bad that there’s nothing else to call it.  It’s not the act of hitting bottom that means anything, it’s how you crawl out of the muck that’s important.

2) Go Nowhere, Do Nothing

I did this in Europe for a month and it was fantastic.  The premise is simple, clear your schedule and take off somewhere.  It’s hard to do nothing and go nowhere in the same location that you live your normal life.  I opted to take the night train to Vienna and then jumped around Eastern European cities until making it through Germany to Berlin and eventually back to Zurich before catching a flight to Detroit.  I only visited one museum and traveled with a backpack full of film and cameras, just one change of pants and a few shirts.  I had no purpose, just a universal train ticket that allowed free travel on any train in Germany, Austria, Poland, Czech, and Slovakia.  I traveled where and when I wanted, walked around photographing and writing in my journal with visits to a few friends here and there.  The experience can never be duplicated and I wouldn’t want to try – but once you’ve done it there will be no regrets.

3) Accomplish a Feat

Ulysses was the first to make these popular.  In this context, a feat can be anything that you didn’t previously know how to do.  Make a website, paint a picture, build a house, bake a cake, write a book, make soap, build a bike, run for public office, teach a class, whatever you’re interested in.  My feats have mainly included mountains.  In reality one of my first and most important feats was driving from Michigan to Colorado during Dec. 2002 to climb up Mt. Elbert.  It was only my second mountaineering experience. For a long term resident of sea-level Michigan, the climb was a crazy amount of physical exhaustion and an adrenaline hit like no other escaping the avalanche that was released during the descent to my base-camp at about 8:30pm on New Year’s Eve.   The point is that it should be new to you and a challenge.  Otherwise it’ll just be another day doing another job.

4) Confront Our Legacy

If you Go Nowhere and Do Nothing in Europe be sure to check out Krakow.  It’s a beautiful city with quiet streets, cheap beer, and awesome pierogi.  Sometimes we know via books and stories about the horrors humanity has perpetrated and think that we understand it.

Words don’t mean anything if there’s no connection to something tangible.  That’s the way we humans are most of the time.  If we don’t form a mental imagery connection to the words, then they might not really mean anything tangible.

You don’t know what tall is till you climb a mountain and the tern vast is just another adjective until you walk through the gates at Birkenau and look at the train tracks stretching out into forever.

Most of the place is gone and burned.  The razor wire fence is still standing and it stretches into the horizon.  If Auschwitz is an example of simplicity then Birkenau is a testament to vastness.  You walk the razor-wire corridors and break down and cry and you don’t know why.

At the end of the train tracks is the crematorium.  There’s a monument to the victims.  Read any basic history book and you’ll get the feeling that the Holocaust was the story of Nazi Germany exterminating the Jewish people of Europe.  If this is what you take away, you’re missing the point. 

"Never Again."  Is what we say.

"Never again" will the industrial machine of humanity seek to exterminate our brothers and sisters and neighbors like was done at Auschwitz.

We say this and we remember and we miss the point.  This is our history.  It’s not a collective failure to be laid on the heads of German History.  It’s not a deep wound to be eternally nurtured by the current generation of Jewish peoples.

It’s our history.  What’s our present?  What’s our future?

5) Become Vulnerable and Find Love

Few things in life are harder than letting go of inhibitions and fears and the emotional wall you’ve built to protect your tenderness.  I can’t imagine how one person could fall in love without letting down their guard fully and completely.  And I can’t imagine what a drab exercise in boredom my life would be like without love.

If you allow yourself to be vulnerable then love will creep into your life.  Love for a person, a painting, a piece of cake, a movie, the sunrise, the sunset, the beach, a song, a cat, a dog, your unborn children, a stranger, a sister, a brother, your parents, your in-laws, and everything else in between.

It’s the strongest power that exists and with it we have the ability to define our legacy and to save us from ourselves.