'There's No Rules With the Amish, That's Part of the Problem': A Few Things About Blogging Awesomely in Amish Country, with Bryan Allain
Bryan Allain is the latest fascinating individual to be featured here in the new brandonsneed.com series "A Few Things About..." He's excellent at blogging and hiding under laptops. He graciously agreed to talk blogging, sports (as the former author of the now-nonexistent Prayers For Blowouts blog), humor, Amish people, and why he keeps blogging even when it makes him like, no money.
I stumbled across him via his "The Noah's Ark According to the Office" post sometime last year, and have been following him ever since. He's also been kind enough to interview me on his podcast, The FreshPod, even though my younger brother plays for the Yankees and he's a Red Sox guy. That's love just like Jesus, I would imagine.
And I don't actually "know" him, except through the magic of the Internet. He lives up in Intercourse—yes, Intercourse—Pennsylvania, where he does something for some boring company and blogs in his free time. In the meantime, he has to deal with Amish people, their transportation-by-horse-and-buggy way of life, and thus when he jogs, he has to dodge the patties their horses often leave in his path.
Sorry. That was gross.
Anyway, I'll let him do the rest of the talking. I'm glad he decided to swing by ... although honestly, I'm not real sure why. Whatever the reason, it's always a good time. Enjoy.
A Few Things About Blogging Awesomely in Amish Country
with Bryan Allain
(On living with Amish people) They don't live in my house, but they're all over town. I'll be honest, I'm annoyed by their buggies and horses. Enough is enough already, you proved your point that you can hold out. Now move up to a fleet of 1970s Toyota Tercels and ditch the animals.
There's no rules with the Amish, that's part of the problem. And as for the road apples, let's just say that since I started running around these parts I am also an expert hurdler.
I had Kansas winning it all so my brackets got screwed by VCU, but that being said, I was rooting for VCU hard core because I have a soul. It's all about the underdog in March Madness.
(On his old sports blog, Prayers For Blowouts) I lost interest. Not in sports, but in trying to have an interesting take on sports. The blog was about the collision of sports and faith and after a while it just felt like I was writing out the same take over and over again.
At the same time … I was falling more and more in love with humor writing. I kept getting great feedback on it too, so that helped.
I started blogging in 2002 because I enjoyed sharing my thoughts on things. But it wasn't until the last 3 years or so that I did become disciplined with it. That's when I realized I enjoyed writing and knew it would be important for me to build a platform. And while it has helped me grow a small fan base, what I've gained the most from it has been how it's helped me hone my voice as a writer. Through all the blogging I've focused in on my sweet spot more than ever, and hope to continue to get better and better.
I'm sure there's plenty of people out there who think that [I’m not funny]. People will give feedback on specific posts or videos that they didn't think were funny, and that's fine. You can't hit a home run every time. But as long as the handful of people I truly respect continue to enjoy my work, I don't put too much stock in the fringe opinions.
The number of comments readers leave is a good indication for me. With the size my blog is at now I know that less than 10 comments means it wasn't very compelling, and more than 30 means it resonated. There are other things too. You can see if people are sharing the piece on Twitter or Facebook, and sometimes folks will email me. But ultimately the number of comments and what people are saying will let you know. That's what makes blogging so great. That immediate, direct feedback.
The average post takes about 30 minutes.
[The ones about, say, Noah’s Ark by the cast of The Office] Can take 2-3 hours, which is why I don't write them too often. They key for those is the editing. Unlike an average blog post, I'll go through and edit those big ones 2 or 3 times to get as many jokes in as possible and to really tighten up the writing.
I've made a few hundred bucks through advertising over the past few years, but I've got a lot to learn about making money with my blog.
My current day job is working in the Quality Assurance department at a Biopharmaceutical company. I'm at a desk most of the day writing and reviewing technical documents. It's about as fun as it sounds.
I guess [blogging has] become a part of who I am at this point. The internet has given me a chance to speak my mind and have others listen, and once you get a hit of that it's like a drug that you want more of. It's not really about gaining fame or thinking you deserve to be heard or any of that. There's just something powerful about connecting with other people, and for me to be able to do that by making people laugh or making people think, and for them to be able to respond directly to me and build connections that way...it's amazing, really.
A large majority of my blog posts are written between 6:30am and 7:15am on the morning they are posted. Occasionally I'll work on blog posts over lunch at work, in the evening once the kids are in bed, or on the weekend.
I'm a numbers guy, so I check my stats multiple times a day. Most people will tell you it's not healthy, but I think it's fine. I like to know how many people are coming and where they are coming from. Everyone has fluctuations, but I want to see that from month to month I am not losing a bunch of readers and that I'm slowly gaining more and more. So if my numbers are going up, that's a part of success for me. The other things that help define success are getting people to respond to what I'm writing, and also when I get a friend I respect to tell me something I wrote made him/her laugh. Nothing makes me feel better about my blog.
I don't think I've missed a weekday post in a long time, other than planned days off. Part of this is fear...fear that if I take one day off, it might start an avalanche of laziness. So I continue on. Truth be told, I rarely think of quitting my blog. I just enjoy it way too much and have put in way too much work to get it to where it is. I feel like I'd be letting my readers down if I quit because I feel like my daily doses of nonsense and inspiration have become a part of their days as well. Maybe that's misguided, but that's what fuels me.
I've made a little through selling ads and Google Ads, but that's it. I've also booked some speaking gigs through my blog, so that's been great too. Actually when I think about it, just about every writing gig and speaking gig I've had has come from the blog, either directly or indirectly, so yeah, it has led to some money and a lot of opportunities.
I love Tyler Stanton's blog, Ben Arment's blog, what Jon Acuff is doing at his new writing/leadership blog (jonacuff.com/blog/). I'm also a sucker for tech blogs like tuaw.com and engadget and pop culture sites likeVulture and SplitSider.
In 2007 I decided I wanted to write a book about sports and Christianity, which led to me starting the sports/faith blog in support of that. I spoke with several publishers about that through an agent, but no one bit. In 2009 I decided to take most of my stories from the book and turn them into a memoir called The Mercy Rules: Finding Faith, Hope, and Love in the Strikeouts of a Little League Life. I wrote a first draft of half the book and spoke with a few agents about this proposal. They liked the writing, but said there would be no publishers interested based on my platform so I put it on the shelf and went back to focusing all my creative energy on my blog. Best decision I ever made, I think.
I've been toying with the idea of helping other bloggers for almost 2 years now. Lots of people would ask me for advice and I loved giving it, so it seemed like a worthy venture to pursue. I came up with the name last year and finally put the idea out there. The interest in it was strong enough for me to keep going with it, so that's what I'm doing now.
I would love to publish a book someday, but it's going to have to be the right book and at this point I have no idea what that is. I also would love to write for a sitcom or contribute to some other comedy venture someday.
I've got a free 32-page eBook on blogging that I've giving out at BlogRocket.com
I'm not for sale. (But my 1999 Honda Odyssey is. $4000 and it's yours!)
[My blog] helps me become a better writer, it helps me find an audience for my writing, and it helps me connect with other writers who can help me out (and I in turn can help them out too).
[To get my name out there I am] going to conferences to meet people, speaking as much as I can to become a better communicator, writing and acting in videos when the opportunities arise, reading, and praying.
If someone could only read three Bryan Allain blog posts, they should be:
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Thank you, Bryan, for being here today. Well, technically, for answering the email questions I sent you the other day. But whatever. Point is, thanks dude.
What's that? You're new here, from BryanAllain.com or some other Bryan Allain affiliated Internet entity? Why, so glad to have you! Make sure to check out my About page, so you know who I am, and my book, The Edge of Legend, so you'll be tempted to buy it, so I can remain guilt-free by not having to steal food for a living.