New media pioneer and entrepreneur Darren Rowse — creator of both Digital Photography School and ProBlogger — joined me to chat about the opportunities that 13 years of blogging have provided, his new podcast, and the importance of having the right mindset as a writer.
This sage blogging veteran and educator has blazed an inspiring path for enterprising online publishers.
His step-by-step blog series — 31 Days to Build a Better Blog — went from zero to viable business in no time, and now it’s a podcast every content creator can listen to … for free.
In this file Darren Rowse and I discuss:
- Why You Should Write Like You Talk
- How a Book Deal Was Born from a Blog Series
- How Writing Offline Can Boost Your Word Count
- The 3 Types of Writer’s Block All Bloggers Eventually Face
- How Public Accountability Can Light a Fire Under Your Ass
- Why You Need a Balance Between Dreaming and Doing
- How to Get the Maximum Impact From Your Writing
Listen to The Writer Files below ...
The Show Notes
- Digital Photography School
- Darren Rowse Speaking at WDS
- Problogger: Secrets for Blogging Your Way to a Six-Figure Income by Darren Rowse and Chris Garrett
- 31 Days to Build a Better Blog
- Problogger Podcast
- Problogger on Twitter
- Kelton Reid on Twitter
How ProBlogger’s Darren Rowse Writes
Voiceover: This is Rainmaker.FM, the digital marketing podcast network. It’s built on the Rainmaker Platform, which empowers you to build your own digital marketing and sales platform. Start your free 14-day trial at RainmakerPlatform.com.
Kelton Reid: These are the Writer Files, a tour of the habits, habitats, and brains of working writers, from online content creators to fictionists, journalists, entrepreneurs, and beyond. I’m your host, Kelton Reid: writer, podcaster, and mediaphile. Each week, we’ll find out how great writers keep the ink flowing, the cursor moving, and avoid writer’s block.
New media pioneer and entrepreneur Darren Rowse, creator of both Digital Photography School and ProBlogger joined me to chat about the opportunities that 13 years of blogging have provided, his new podcast, and the importance of having the right mindset as a writer. The sage blogging veteran and educator has blazed an inspiring path for enterprising online publishers. His step-by-step series, 31 Days to Build a Better Blog, went from zero to viable business in no time, and now it’s a podcast every content creator can listen to for free.
In this File, Darren Rowse and I discuss why you should write like you talk, how a book deal was born from a blog series, how writing offline can boost your word count, the three types of writer’s block all bloggers eventually face, and why you need a balance between dreaming and doing.
If you enjoy The Writer Files podcast, please do us a favor and leave a rating or a review in iTunes to help other writers find us. Thanks for listening.
Darren, thank you so much for joining me on The Writer Files. I really appreciate you stopping by.
Darren Rowse: You’re welcome.
Kelton Reid: For listeners who may not be familiar with your incredibly inspiring story, who are you, and what is your area of expertise as a writer?
Darren Rowse: Yes. I’m Darren. I live in Melbourne, Australia. I’m a dad — that’s probably the number-one thing in my life at the moment. That’s one of my major defining parts of me, I guess.
In terms of the writing side of things, 13 years ago, I wasn’t a writer at all. I would have said I was a communicator. I did some public speaking, but had never really written before. I stumbled upon blogging after a friend shot me a link to a blog and just fell in love with the medium. That was November 2002, and within 10 minutes, I knew I needed to have a blog even though I had no idea what one really was. I muddled my way through setting one up, and so that became my journey of writing. I discovered that my love of communication extended into that written field.
Why You Should Write Like You Talk
Darren Rowse: But I came to it with no experience and no real expertise in anything, I would say. That first blog was a personal blog. I wrote about anything and everything and just gradually over time found my voice. I don’t really know what my voice is, but I found it and began to realize that people were responding to me writing like I talked — in a very conversational tone — and I also discovered that I love to teach people and help people to learn and to find their potential in different areas.
That personal blog began to transition into me writing tutorials on anything and everything and on a whole heap of different niches. Gradually, over time, I grew an audience. For one reason or another, people seemed to connect with what I was doing and began to break out those topics onto separate blogs.
I’ve been blogging for about 13 years, but it transitioned into a number of blogs, two of which remain today. One’s ProBlogger, which is a blog about blogging, which is sad, but it turns out a lot of people wanted to learn about that.
Then the other one’s on photography, so Digital Photography School. It really started out as me teaching my friends how to take better photos with these great cameras that they had that they never switched out of automatic mode. I just began writing really simple tips and tutorials on how to hold cameras and what ‘aperture’ is and what ‘shutter speed’ is.
I’ve really focused my writing on how-to content and in those two fields. Although, I’ve transitioned those two blogs into me really being more of a publisher than a writer because I feature a lot of writers now on those blogs, too.
Kelton Reid: Yes, as well-known as those sites are — and I’ll point, obviously, to both in the show notes — I’ve heard you speak at Authority Intensive with Copyblogger, and just your starting, as a mindset, it’s truly inspiring I think for writers. Writers should always seek out those sites. ProBlogger, obviously, has been a pioneering voice clearly. It speaks for itself.
But also, I think your speaking should be sought out as well. I found some of your replays, which I will also post in the show notes, from some of your speaking engagements, and I think for writers, those are also a true inspiration. I’ll skip on as I’m hoarding the mic here.
Where else can we find your writing in addition to ProBlogger and Digital Photography?
How a Book Deal Was Born from a Blog Series
Darren Rowse: Yeah, so they’re kind of my home bases, but out of those two blogging experiences, other opportunities have come to write, and I never would have expected some of the things that came along.
The biggest one, and one of the earliest ones, was an opportunity to write a book. I got an email one day from a guy who claimed to be at Wiley in the US, and he said, “We’d love to publish a book with you.” I really thought it was a joke, because I’d never had book writing on my radar at all, but that was true, and it was real.
It felt a little bit big and hard for me to write a book, so I coerced Chris Garrett, who is now at Copyblogger as well, to write it with me, and so we co-authored the ProBlogger book. That’s probably where you’d find the biggest chunk of my writing in one place, although Chris wrote half of it as well. I didn’t really enjoy writing it, but it was a great experience, and it’s now had three editions, so it seems to have connected well.
Then the other places that I’ve written would be in ebooks, and this is the other opportunity that came out of both sites was to initially update and collate a lot of the content that I’d created into one volume in an ebook on ProBlogger called 31 Days to Build a Better Blog, which really emerged out of a series of blog posts. Then on Digital Photography School, I also wrote a portrait ebook, which is no longer on the market. I got actual photographers to write our new portrait books, but that was I guess my first foray into ebooks on that site. To this day, we’ve published about 30 ebooks as well, but most of them have been written by other authors who have expertise in particular topics.
Kelton Reid: That’s cool. I know that the story behind 31 Days to Build a Better Blog is a pretty amazing one, which will kind of dovetail into the next question, which is what are you presently working on?
Darren Rowse: It did emerge from a series of posts that I wrote in 2007, and it really led to a lot of life for the blog. I repeated it in 2009, I think it was. My readers started to basically say, “We want you to put it into a book for us, because we love this series of posts, but we want to keep going over it again and again.”
I designed it as a very practical ‘here’s something to learn, but here’s something you can do today,’ and it was really about developing habits of blogging and good blogging. I put it into that ebook, and I was really dubious about whether anyone would buy it because it was all on the blog for free. I updated it a little and added a little content, but it sold thousands of copies every day for the first week that I launched it.
It really opened my eyes to this new way of communicating through ebooks. That was back in 2010, I think. So that ebook, we updated it in 2012. And more recently, I’ve turned it into a podcast series, so that’s probably the main thing that I’m working on this month.
There’s a whole heap of other things that are always on the go for us. We run an event here in Australia as well, so that’s six weeks away now, for 700 bloggers this year. That’s kind of on my mind as well. I’ve always got these little preliminary stages of thinking for books and other projects as well, so I’m not writing a whole heap this month, but there’s dreams and thoughts there to write again on a larger scale.
Kelton Reid: Very cool, and the podcast itself is fantastic, I will say. Congrats on the early success of that. I have checked out the first week or so of it, and it’s inspiring, so writers should also seek that out.
Darren Rowse: There’s some good writing challenges in there for people.
Kelton Reid: Absolutely, and anyone who wants to take their blogging game to the next level.
Let’s talk a little bit about your productivity. As a truly prolific blogger and online publisher, how much time per day would you say you are reading or doing research?
Darren Rowse: I would say at the start of this year, that was an area that had been suffering. For me, I’d become so busy that I wasn’t really filling my cup and staying in touch with the industries that I was kind of working in because I was producing so much, and it started to impact my output, and also my health as well. I was so busy.
So I made a concerted effort to change the daily structure that I had, and that included putting a walk right into the middle of my day for at least half an hour, sometimes as much as an hour. That’s an area where I’ve filled up with listening to podcasts and audiobooks, and that’s really new for me. I hadn’t listened to a book ever before those walks, and podcasts, I’d only ever listened to a few. That’s probably where I’m getting most of my research and input at the moment.
I do read quite a bit during the day of blogs, but not so much in terms of books. If I’m doing a new project, or if I’m preparing for a presentation or a new ebook, that’s when I do a lot of my research. I tend to batch my research. I don’t tend to be someone who’s just researching for the sake of keeping up with things. I tend to be someone who needs a purpose for that research. I need a problem that I’m trying to solve, and that’s where I go into research mode. I quite enjoy it, but not just for the sake of doing it. There needs to be a reason.
Kelton Reid: Before you actually sit down to write, do you have any pregame rituals or practices that help you get into the flow?
Darren Rowse: Coffee is a big part of that, but that’s just to do anything, really. I don’t have a whole heap. I would say I probably like to have a clean desk, so that’s one thing that I tend to … It’s not clean at the moment, so I obviously don’t have a big project. But a clean desk, a clean white board, and a new notebook probably are the three things that I like to have. I do tend to procrastinate until those things are done. I have also been known to faff around a little bit and look at what tools and apps are out there and chop and change those a bit before I start writing. But I don’t really have any rituals as such.
Kelton Reid: I think I know the answer to this next question, but I’m going to ask anyway. Do you write every day?
Darren Rowse: I would say I probably don’t write every day anymore, and that’s something I have some regrets around. I tend to be someone who writes, most days, something, whether it be short blog posts or articles. I do tend to batch my writing. So Monday mornings are a time where I write quite a bit, and I try and write multiple blog posts for the week.
If I’m writing a larger, like a book or an ebook, I tend to put aside a week to write it and clear everything else out, and that’s what I do with the podcasts. I set aside a week to record 31 episodes. I have a fairly short attention span, so I find if I’m writing for a year, I lose interest too quick. So I need to really chunk out a lot of stuff quickly. I do write something every day — emails — but yeah, it’s not on those projects. I tend to chunk it a bit more.
Kelton Reid: I see. So do you commit to a certain amount of time, then, excluding that social media stuff, which I know you’re in kind of constant contact with that stuff, but … ?
How Writing Offline Can Boost Your Word Count
Darren Rowse: Yeah. I tend to write offline when I can. So I do go to a café quite a bit to write if I need to do that, and they don’t have Wi-Fi. I could get on with my phone, but I tend to avoid doing that unless I have to. I find that once I get in the zone of writing, I can go anywhere from an hour to four hours without any problem and almost get lost in it.
I love that space. I love being in that zone and just firing. It does get a little awkward when you’re not drinking coffee in the café. Typically during the day, I’ll work in 50- to 60-minute bursts, but I go with the flow if it’s firing.
Kelton Reid: Nice. Are you a morning person, or do you like to write at night?
Darren Rowse: Creativity-wise, I’m very much a ‘writing in the morning’ person. However, I have noticed around 4:30 in the afternoon, about half an hour before I’m supposed to get back with the family and stop working, that’s often a time that I get inspiration bombs. I don’t whether it’s because there’s that looming deadline — and I do work well with deadlines — but that’s often another time that I just need to put aside a little time to just vomit out anything that’s in my head that I need to get out.
Kelton Reid: Yeah. Do you like to listen to music at all while you’re writing, or do you prefer the silence?
Darren Rowse: I enjoy music, but not while I’m writing. I love white noise, so the cafe’s a place that it just flows for me a bit more. They do have music there, but I don’t notice it at all.
Kelton Reid: Yeah.
Darren Rowse: It’s just in the background. It’s just there.
Kelton Reid: There’s something about that coffee shop noise that seems to work very well for writers.
Darren Rowse: Yeah. I think it’s also being around people — and I’m not looking at the people — but just being aware that there are other people, for me, makes me aware that there are people that are going to read what I’m writing as well.
There’s something about that social environment without actually talking to anyone. As an introvert, I kind of enjoy that connection without being intensely connected, and I think that infects my writing in some ways as well. A lot of people reflect back that they feel like I’m talking to them, and sometimes I do look at the people around me and pretend that they’re the person I’m writing to. There’s something about that I haven’t quite defined yet, but it’s really important for my writing I think.
Kelton Reid: Do you believe in writer’s block, Darren?
The 3 Types of Writer’s Block All Bloggers Eventually Face
Darren Rowse: I would say that I’ve suffered from something maybe like writer’s block, but as I’ve thought about it over the years, I’d say there’s three types for me.
I’d say I get ‘ideas block,’ which is where I can’t work out what to write about. I think many bloggers who’ve been blogging for a year or two feel, one, “I’ve written it all before,” “I’ve got nothing left to say,” “What could I write fresh today?” or “Everyone else has already written about it. I haven’t got anything unique to say.” So that blockage of finding a unique angle and a freshness to your topic, I think, is one thing I’ve suffered.
The second type for me is ‘writing block,’ and that’s where the words just aren’t flowing. You’ve got the idea, and you know the topic you want to write about, but you just can’t make it come out in a sensible way.
Then, for me, the third one is ‘completion block,’ and that’s where the first draft’s done, but I’m just so distracted or on the next thing that I’m really into, or I’m too tired, or I’ve lost the passion or interest for what I’m writing about to complete it. That’s probably the area I’ve struggled with the most over the years is that lack of revision and editing, so that’s why I hired an editor to basically oversee that and crack the whip for me in that.
I think for me — writer’s block — I don’t know what that is, but for me there’s those three things. For me, the key is to work at which one of those three things I’m suffering right now and then to make appointments with myself to put extra time and energy and to get help in those areas. Ideas block I had probably two years into my blogging, so I just built into my week time to brainstorm ahead of time when I wasn’t supposed to be writing. So I have now got a bank of ideas sitting there, and I also involve my team in that brainstorming time. I haven’t had ideas block for quite some time because I’ve built that into my week.
The writing block, again, regularity of writing helps with that as well. Making appointments on Monday mornings when I do a lot of my blog post writing, that sort of helped to unlock that. Then the completion block, I have times in my week, usually in the afternoons, where I set aside time to edit and revise because I don’t need to be quite so creative there, but I need to be a little bit more analytical.
Kelton Reid: Wow. Let’s talk about your workflow a little bit. What hardware or typewriter model are you presently using?
Darren Rowse: There’s not been a typewriter in my life for many years, but I just use a MacBook Pro when I’m out and about and an iMac on my desktop. I just love the fact that they talk to each other now with iCloud and Dropbox and all those wonderful tools that connect them.
Kelton Reid: Yeah. I’m a huge fan myself. Do you have some favorite software that you use for writing?
Darren Rowse: I try to keep things pretty simple. I’ve tried a lot of the writing tools. I can’t even remember the names of most of them, but these days I tend to write a lot of my stuff in Evernote. If it’s a larger project, I’ll set up a notebook for that and then break it down into sections or chapters in different notes and then have other notes for outlines and to-do lists and all that kind of stuff. I find it’s pretty simple to use, and a lot of the other tools, it got too complicated for me. Evernote seems to work quite well, and I like that I can share it with my team as well to be involved in that process.
For blogging I use a little tool called MarsEdit as well, which is kind of like a document creator that you can put your images into and format everything in the app, and then you can upload it to your blog and don’t have to edit it in the blog.
Kelton Reid: Interesting. I’ll have to get that link from you. Do you have any organizational hacks?
Darren Rowse: Evernote has kind of changed things for me on that front. I tend to whiteboard in the early stages of a project. I like to be able to visualize it. I occasionally will mind-map using a little tool called MindNode. I also have been known to use Post-It notes spread out all over my floor, so whatever it takes to visualize how things fit together.
I think in terms of the organization of my writing, I had some training 20 years ago in public speaking, and it was all based around breaking your talk down into two-minute modules and to really creating modules that chop and change and take people through different phases of what you want to present. I think that’s flowed into my writing. I tend to write in very small, short, sharp sections, and a module might be a metaphor or a story or a teaching point and then sort of chopping and changing those. I tend to visualize my writing in that sort of style.
They’re probably the tools I use the most. I would say I also use Wunderlist as an organizational tool as well, so I’m very big on lists and setting myself to-do lists to check off during the day.
Kelton Reid: Procrastination, the beast of procrastination — do you find yourself leaning into that or do you have some other kind of best practices?
How Public Accountability Can Light a Fire under Your Ass
Darren Rowse: I find I do procrastinate, but it’s not just a lazy kind of, “Eh, I’ll get it done.” It’s more of a prioritization and listening to my energy levels as well. I tend to work best when I’m excited about something, so I tend to listen to that more than I used to and go to the places where I’ve got energy. But I also work very well to deadlines. It stresses me out when something’s looming, but I know that that’s when I’ll do my best work, so that’s important.
The other thing I’d say with procrastination, for me, and getting things done, is that accountability is a big thing. I respond really well when other people have an expectation of me. It’s not just an internal expectation of myself. I don’t really respond well to that at all. I respond if other people are waiting for something. So if I really need to get something done, I publicly announce when it will be ready, and I’ve done that quite a few times. I Tweeted with the podcast that I just launched. I publicly announced that it was coming on the first of July before I had recorded an episode, and that motivates me a lot, because I don’t like to be seen missing a deadline.
Kelton Reid: That’s right. How do you unplug at the end of a long day there?
Darren Rowse: I have to stop working at 5pm. That’s just a family rule, and so that helps as well, and I find the shenanigans of family life pretty much force me out of work mode at that time. I do work once the kids go back to bed, and our kids are fairly young, so I can get back to work at sort of 7:30. But I tend not to do creative stuff at that time because I find if I allow myself to try and get creative at night, I don’t sleep. If I do more admin logistical stuff in the evenings, social media scheduling and all that kind of stuff, I find that almost puts me to sleep. I also always try and give myself at least half an hour between the last work I do and bed just to decompress a little, and that usually involves TV.
Kelton Reid: Just a quick pause to mention that The Writer Files is brought to you by the Rainmaker Platform, the complete website solution for content marketers and online entrepreneurs. Find out more and take a free 14-day test drive at Rainmaker.FM/platform.
Let’s talk about creativity some. I know you just mentioned creativity, inspiration, finding your passion and your energy. How do you define creativity?
Why You Need a Balance Between Dreaming and Doing
Darren Rowse: I think creativity for me is the process of turning a new, imaginative idea into reality, so for me, it’s got two parts. It’s about thinking and doing. The problem I see many people falling into the trap of is that they focus on one or the other. I think we all probably have a tendency to focus on one or the other, but we need to work on the other one.
So for me, creative thinking and idea generation is what I love to do. I could sit there all day brainstorming, coming up with ideas, and dreaming of what could be, but for a while there, it didn’t really translate into doing a whole heap. So that’s the area that I have to work on. For me, it’s about completion. Again, that theme that came up earlier. I can think of ideas all day. I can start them, but not complete them, so that’s the area that I need to work on.
For other people, I think they’re doers, and they don’t give enough time to the thinking and the dreaming and the imagining of what could be, so they end up doing and creating things that perhaps aren’t as imaginative as they could be. For me, creativity’s about finding the sweet spot between creative thinking and actual implementation and doing.
Kelton Reid: Yeah. It’s interesting. You brought up before that you have a team that helps you get to that completion phase, but not everybody has both spheres, do they?
Darren Rowse: No, and for me, until three years ago, I didn’t really have a team at all. One or two people I occasionally outsourced stuff to, but that was a big tension. Now I guess the tensions are that I’ve got to manage people, and that’s not a skill that I really have and I need to grow as well. It really came down to just forcing myself to be organized and making appointments with myself to do those things I needed to do, which didn’t come naturally for me as a creative, airy-fairy kind of guy.
Kelton Reid: We may have covered this already, but when do you feel most creative?
Darren Rowse: I think there’s a number of things. Conversations with people often stimulate a creative moment for me, whether that be me having conversation with a friend, but also online, I find any sort of social media discussion stimulates ideas and creativity. Often when I do a webinar or even a podcast like this, I find, even preparing for this podcast. I had ideas and that creative thinking. I found myself going off on tangents in my thinking, so I think conversations are a big part of it for me. Getting input from podcasts and blogs and that type of thing.
I also find that it’s when I’m not thinking about my work that I’m getting the creative ideas as well. So the shower — I know a lot of people say they get their best ideas in the shower. That’s me, but what I found is I was having my showers sandwiched by kid time. My kids would be there, and then I’d have a shower, and I’d get an idea, and the kids would be there. So I’ve started having showers later in the day so that I can then go and take those ideas that I have and implement them straightaway.
I think the other part for me is just being healthy. This year I’ve really worked on my health a lot, and I’ve found myself being much more productive, but also much more creative. So I think all those factors play into when I’m most creative.
Kelton Reid: Would you say that’s your creative muse at the moment?
How to Get the Maximum Impact from Your Writing
Darren Rowse: Yeah, I think so. I tend to get into little obsessions with things. So at times it’s photography, and at times, it’s health and walking, or those types of things. I think I need to keep mixing up that thing that I’m into, and when I do have a thing that I’m obsessed by, that often sparks and brings … I guess it just makes me feel alive. And when I feel alive, I’m more creative. It’s not that I do those things to make creativity come. It just is a byproduct.
Kelton Reid: Just going back to the procrastination piece, Austin Kleon talks about productive procrastination and having multiple projects going all at once so that when you’re procrastinating on one project, you’re really being productive on another project. It kind of melds in with that thinking.
You’ve seen so much writing, so much online writing and online publishing. What, in your mind, makes a truly great writer?
Darren Rowse: I guess it depends on the medium and the style, but for me, I really respond to writers who are taking me on a journey, and I feel like they have thoughtfully taken me from one place to another. In my writing, what I am always trying to think about as I sit down to write is, “What change am I trying to bring about in my reader?” Whether that be a change in the way they feel, they think, whether it be giving them a new skill, giving them a sense of not feeling like they’re the only one, or a sense of belonging, or some new insight.
I don’t want my readers to come away from the things that I write in the same state that they were when they started reading it, because that’s just wasting their time and mine. But if they go from point A to point B, that, to me, is success for my writing. I guess I’d translate that into most formats of writing, whether it be fiction or non-fiction. If I’ve changed as a result of reading a great book, then that’s great. That’s success. The same goes to how-to content that I focus on or other mediums. You want to be changing people, take them on a journey.
Kelton Reid: Yeah. Do you have some favorite authors right now?
Darren Rowse: To be honest, at the moment, I’ve not been doing as much reading as I should because I’ve been focusing more on podcasts. But I guess those audio books that I’ve started to listen to, it’s been an interesting journey. I’m still not sure whether I enjoy the audio format or not, but I’ve reading — or listening to — Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning, and I’m enjoying that. I’m still towards the beginning, so I’m not ready to talk about it yet.
Another book that I’ve been listening to is Tom Rath’s Fully Charged, which is all about having a full charge for your life, and that’s been interesting.
This year I’ve also gone back. I’ve tried to make this year a year where I go back to books I’ve read before that have had some impact upon me. So I’ve gone back to Malcolm Gladwell’s Tipping Point, which started the journey for me, I guess, in some of my thinking.
Then also, a book by an Aussie author, Gregory David Roberts, called Shantaram, which is sort of a fictional biography of his journeys as an escapee from a prison and went to India and had all these adventures, and no one really knows how much of the story’s true and how much of it’s not. It’s a whopping, massive book. It’s huge, but I just can’t wait for him to bring out a sequel. Although it’s been 20 years now, so maybe it’s not coming.
Kelton Reid: You pull some really, really great quotes for your speaking engagements. Do you have a best-loved quote at the moment?
Darren Rowse: Yeah, probably the one from the last year for me that I just keep coming back to and do use quite a bit in my speaking is John Schaar’s, “The future is not someplace we’re going, but one we’re creating. The paths are not to be found, but made. The activity of making them changes both the maker and the destination.” I’ve been using that quite a bit to encourage people to not just let their future happen to them, but to chase their dreams and take steps towards making their dreams and their futures a reality — the futures that they want rather than just falling into a future that maybe isn’t what they want.
Kelton Reid: All right. Let’s do a couple fun ones. You may have already answered this. Do you have a favorite literary character?
Darren Rowse: I’m not sure I would call my favorite literary character’s great works ‘literature,’ but the ones that came to mind were all children’s characters. I don’t know if you ever came across the series called Biggles. It was a series of books that I read when I was probably eight or nine, and he was a pilot flying Sopwith Camels in World War I and World War II. There must have been heaps of these books, but he was always on an adventure. For me, that was probably my first experience of reading that just fired my imagination. Tintin — I don’t know if you ever came across Tintin?
Kelton Reid: Oh yeah.
Darren Rowse: Those were sort of graphic novels, I guess, in some ways, those comics are. My son has just started reading Tintin, and he is obsessed with it. I think Spielberg made the movie.
So they’re probably two characters that come to mind because they bring out memories in me, but I can now also see the same thing happening in my children as they begin to read those books.
Kelton Reid: If you could choose one author from any era for an all-expense-paid dinner to your favorite restaurant, who would you choose?
Darren Rowse: Gosh. This is the third time this week I’ve been asked to have dinner with someone that I’ve wanted to meet. I always struggled with this question, but probably the one that comes to mind is one that I suspect you’ve not heard of, but another Aussie called Anh Do who wrote a great book called The Happiest Refugee. He’s a comedian, an Aussie comedian, one of the best-known Australian comedians. He comes from Vietnam originally and came to Australia as a refugee.
I think he’d be pretty funny to have dinner with. He’s also just written this powerful story of overcoming challenges and doing some really amazing things. He’s also written a children’s book of the same topic, and my kids have really been impacted by that book. I’d love to sit with him and spend some time with him and hear his story from his mouth, and I guess, more so feedback the impact that he’s had on my kids learning about some really important lessons of life.
Kelton Reid: Nice. Where would you take him?
Darren Rowse: He’s got a Vietnamese background, so I do enjoy that food, so I’d let him choose some nice Vietnamese restaurant.
Kelton Reid: Let me ask you, who or what has been your greatest teacher?
Darren Rowse: I’d say my dad, probably. Dad was a pastor of a church, and so he spoke every week, and I saw him get up in front of people and communicate. He really didn’t have any agenda in self-promotion or anything other than really trying to serve people and make their lives better. I think that’s probably come across.
I’ve picked that up in a lot of what I do. I’m perhaps not quite as humble as him, at times, and it’s hard to be in the social media environment where it’s me, me, me and promote yourself, promote yourself. I certainly didn’t see any of that in my father at all, and so that is a nice reminder to be a bit more grounded, perhaps. I try to live that. His heart for trying to help people and make people better through his communication is something that I try and live out as well in both my speaking but also writing.
Kelton Reid: Nice. I skipped a question, which I’ll circle back to. Do you have a writer’s fetish at all?
Darren Rowse: I don’t know that I really do. Most of my fetishes are probably more camera-related than writing. I like the look of all those typewriters that people have, but for me, I don’t have room on my shelves because I’ve got cameras everywhere.
Kelton Reid: Got you. Can you offer any advice to fellow scribes on how to keep the ink flowing and the cursor moving?
Darren Rowse: Yeah. I think for me, it’s about practice. You improve so much when you do. The rhythm of writing regularly — as much as I’m not in a daily rhythm at the moment, I think having certain times in the week where I write and edit and come up with ideas certainly is important for my writing and output.
Write something meaningful to you that you know has the potential to change someone’s life. For me, that’s as much about being an effective communicator, but also it comes into the writing process as well. If I know that what I’m writing has the potential to really help someone, then I’m bringing much more energy and creativity to that process.
Then fill your cup. If you’ve just got to keep giving input if you want to produce and so don’t let yourself get dry. Find the inspiration that you need in all areas of your life. I think the better your life is going, the better your output. Unless you want to be a poet or write angsty stuff. Maybe you need a bad life to do that. I don’t know.
Kelton Reid: Where can fellow writers connect with you out there?
Darren Rowse: I think probably the best place is ProBlogger, on Twitter @ProBlogger and then ProBlogger.com has all the different aspects of the ProBlogger brand, so it’s kind of a portal into the rest of the podcast and the blog and the ebooks and the different aspects of what I do.
Kelton Reid: I do encourage writers to find the podcast, and it is available on iTunes and other reputable podcast publishing platforms.
Darren Rowse: That’s right.
Kelton Reid: Very good. Darren, thank you so much. You’re a huge inspiration to me and I know to lots of other writers both online and off, so thank you so much for taking the time to chat with me and do your Writer File.
Darren Rowse: Thanks. Nice to chat with you.
Kelton Reid: Thanks for tuning into The Writer Files. Now, go turn some of those crazy dreams into something that we can read.
For more episodes of The Writer Files and all of the show notes, or to leave us a comment or a question, drop by WriterFiles.FM. You can always chat with me on Twitter @KeltonReid. Cheers. See you out there.