my past self expects me to push to the limit — and i do

It was a night like most others. 2 am. Cold. The only light was streaming in through the blinds from outside. No electricity. I couldn’t bring myself to leave my house and go to the office to take care of the shut-off notice, so I had no light – no heat.

I’d bought two cartons of Marlboro Reds earlier in the month, so at least I could smoke in the dark.

I hadn’t showered in at least two weeks, and it wasn’t happening tonight with cold water, so I had to live with the smell coming from under the blanket. Fomunda – that’s what we used to call it when it was a joke.

The noise was unbearable, but my neighbors couldn’t have heard it because the screaming was in my head. The bastards in charge had spent the better part of the day and night trying to get me to slice open a vein with the razor blade I had been using on my upper arm.

For the most part, I wasn’t listening. In my mind, I was hiking up a cliff above a fjord in Norway. The view was breathtaking and a credit to the imagination who had created this reality for me, so I didn’t have to deal with the pain, blood, darkness, and fear in my real life.

“If I get through this, I’m going there someday.”

I survived each new day with the promise to myself that when things got better, I would travel and visit places like the ones my broken mind had fabricated.

Over the years, my mind had taken me to the beaches of southeast Asia, the craggy mountains of Norway, the cloistered streets of the old town in Estonia, the rivers and peaks of Switzerland, and the streets of Paris where I ate croissants and spoke terrible French. Each day was a new place to visit, and by the time I was able to fall asleep, I felt like I had explored every nook and cranny of these manufactured realities.

I was going to visit them all for real one day.


Fast-forward – twenty years later – and although I have walked the beaches of the Philippines, I haven’t been anywhere else. It’s not that I forgot about the promises I made to my past self those nights sitting in the dark; it’s that right now, even if there was no pandemic, I couldn’t afford to go anywhere.

A little over two years ago, I decided I wouldn’t let my illness keep me from my dreams. I hadn’t worked in over a decade, except for a few freelance jobs, but I had spent so much time learning ways to cope with my episodes of psychosis, depression, and anxiety that I felt I could take on a bit of a career in writing.

At times it seemed as if I would make progress, only to push myself too hard and end up fighting the voices in my head and those pesky suicidal tendencies. But I would always bounce back, and each time would jump into writing with an enthusiasm unmatched.

For two years, its been a cycle of intense work and focus, and then a period where I would lick my wounds and recover my strength.

I do this to myself because I can feel the Jason from twenty years ago pushing me to be better than I was the day before. He wants to see Norway and France because I promised and he won’t let me forget.

I push myself both because 30-year-old me demands it, and because I want a better life for my family. If I drive myself hard enough and I can afford to travel the world, you can imagine that my family would be well-taken-care-of as well.

My dream is to travel, but it’s not my wife’s dream. If I can travel though, I can afford to finance her wants as well. I can put money away for the time when my kids want to spread their wings and experience all that life has to offer. I want to help my aging parents live out their life without wanting for anything, and I’d like the boys I raised to be men to be able to count on me if they ever need anything.

It’s not just a selfish desire to take my past self to exotic places, it’s also to make sure every member of my family is safe and cared for.

I have big dreams, and I must push to reach all the goals I set for myself.

Everyone is counting on me. I depend on me.


Here I sit. 2 am. The air is cool, and the electricity is on. Like every other night, I am working – writing, building blogs and brands, and battling the demons that seek to engulf me.

I push myself hard, but not enough that I topple from my perch above the darkness. I don’t push myself too hard because I can hear the voices screaming my name, deep down where I locked them. They look for any opportunity to break out, so I have to be careful not to leave the keys lying around.

I run harder and harder because I can see the finish line in the distance. I am at the precipice of a breakthrough that will give me everything I want and need and allow me to take care of my family.

I push harder, but I am strong, and I know I can run forever.

I move forward because my past self wants a croissant.

3 secrets i use to write remarkable blog posts

My blog contains links to products and services I promote, and if you buy, I receive a commission. It’s not enough for an iPad, but I can get a large Caffè Americano every day if I want. These links don’t cost you anything, but they mean the world to me because they allow me to continue running this blog and provide free content to my readers. See the Affiliate Disclosure.

The experts tell us we should write useful and engaging blog posts, but a lot of us don’t even know where to start. Maybe we are under the mistaken impression it’s because we are not a good enough writer, or perhaps, we just can’t come up with any decent ideas, to begin with.

I know the feeling all too well. I sit and stare at my computer screen and type a few hastily-written sentences, and then I blank out.

Nothing.

Crickets.

It’s a horrible feeling.

But, if we know what we are going to write about and how we are going to write it beforehand, this rarely ever happens.

At least, it doesn’t happen to me anymore.

Here are a few tips from my arsenal of secrets that help me write incredible blog posts every time.

Secret #1: Know the Topic and Plan a Strategy Before You Write a Blog Post

When I am not typing something, I am constantly thinking of new ideas and interesting topics to write about. In fact, I am always writing. Whether I am in the shower or driving to an appointment, I am taking mental notes about what is happening around me and generating ideas.

The first chance I get, I record them in the Evernote app to keep track of everything that runs through my brain.

I never know when inspiration may strike. I used to keep a little notebook with me, but Evernote makes it so much easier, and I can add detail, so I have more material to work with when I sit to write.

Most of the time, unless I am in the zone and the words are flowing freely, I like to write a short outline—how I want to present my information and specific points I want to make.

I write down sentences that serve as the main ideas for my post, which turn into headings and subheadings in the finished post.

Then, I jump on Google and look at what others have written to get material to fill in the spaces between my ideas.

Don’t get me wrong; I am not telling you to steal someone else’s work. Summarize what they have written and rewrite the facts in your own unique style, and more importantly, make it better.

After you have done this, you have the first draft, and it will be much, much easier to do the hard work of creating something inspired and great from that.

If you do this enough, you will get to a point where your experience and knowledge will start to fill in the gaps in your writing, and you won’t have to search for inspiration on Google. Sure, you will still need to research, but eventually, you will write in flow and forget about being blocked.

Secret #2: Show Empathy

One of the least known secrets to a good blog post is to show empathy when you write. 

I must admit: this is not my idea, but one learned from Jon Morrow at SmartBlogger.com. He is a master at writing with empathy and credits his success in blogging in part to learning how to empathize with his reader and show it in his writing.

Empathy Versus Sympathy

Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of others. It is a much different thing than sympathy. To show the difference, watch this great video from Brené Brown:

Empathy is staying off a high horse and getting down to our reader’s level and showing you know how they feel because you’ve been there before.

Try to avoid sympathy because it makes what you write sound hollow and disingenuous.

After you have established a common ground, you can offer solutions to help them get through whatever situation they may be struggling with at the time.

This commonality between you and the reader will shine through in your writing and make it much easier for you to create a blog post on a topic which you are passionate about.

Secret #3: Tell a Story

Storytelling is a lost art but one that is very important to learn if you want to connect with the audience in your writing

When I first started blogging, many, many years ago, I had some success because I was always honest and I told stories about my life and the things I was dealing with at that moment. People connected with me because they felt many of the same things I did. 

I didn’t know it at the time, but I was doing two things right: showing empathy and telling stories.

The writing may not have been the best, but people related to my stories and always came back to read more.

You can spice up even the most boring subject by telling stories. Think of the authors who you would consider the best writers, and I bet they are great storytellers whether they write fiction or not.

When you are planning your posts, pepper them with stories, whether they are personal or the stories of others. They could be about something you heard or read or a scene from your favorite TV show that relates to what you are writing about in the blog post.

A few stories here and there will turn a good post into a great one.

Where Do You Go From Here?

Of course, there is a lot more to good writing than these three things. Other tricks you can easily find on the internet will help you get unstuck and able to inspire others.

If you start at the bottom (everyone does) and improve over time, you will eventually be able to write effectively and with ease. Don’t try to do or learn everything at once. Start out using one or two elements and get better at including them in everything you write.

No one is a great writer when they first start. It takes time and practice to get all the basics right and write something truly stirring.

I don’t see myself as a great writer, but with each story or article I post, I get better. If you seek to improve each time, you will get to a point where people will come back, again and again, to see what you have written.

Have a little patience. Be honest and genuine, and always aim to tell a good story.

What tips do you have that you use to write remarkable blog posts? Add them to the comments below!

How to Write a Blog Post Your Readers Won’t Be Afraid to Share With Their Friends

My blog contains links to products and services I promote, and if you buy, I receive a commission. It’s not enough for an iPad, but I can get a large Caffè Americano every day if I want. These links don’t cost you anything, but they mean the world to me because they allow me to continue running this blog and provide free content to my readers. See the Affiliate Disclosure.

I built my first online journal in 1996 before they were called blogs or even weblogs. I have been coding websites before there was WordPress, and CSS was a new technology. Now I spend my time writing blog posts for my travel blog, The Frightened Traveler, and publishing stories on Medium.com, and I’ve learned a thing or two. There is a formula that works best for creating these pieces.

Good writing is good writing no matter where you post, but if you genuinely want to get ahead of the game, follow the tips below.

Steal All the Best Topics – But Research Them Yourself First

Don’t ever kid yourself that anything you can think of will be unique. Everything you envision is a product of what you have been exposed to in your life and the experiences you have had. Don’t try to reinvent the light bulb, copy the light bulb, and create your own spin on it.

For blogs, I like to do a search on Pinterest for a topic and scroll through the pins that come up. Look at the headlines, and if something jumps out at you, read it. Take notes and figure out how you can do something similar, but different. You want to put your own spin on it. Plagiarism isn’t cool, but trying a new turn on an idea is the highest form of flattery.

After you have a list of possible ideas for blog posts, open your Google keyword planner, and see if people want to read what you want to write. If enough people are searching for the topic, it’s a good bet that your post could generate some traffic.

Consider Your Audience, or Consider Them Gone

I can’t stress enough that if you find a topic you are interested in, you check to see if the blog post has a lot of likes and shares. Most blogs will have a bar that shows the number of shares to social media. If people are sharing, you know they care enough about the subject to read more.

Use Buzzsumo. If you can afford it, it is an indispensable tool that will tell you if your topic or idea has merit. It will tell you if others who wrote about this topic got any traction with it. If they did, it’s your job to do better and improve on what they have done.

Consider what your readers want. Do your homework. There is nothing worse than publishing and having no response.

Put a Personal Spin on the Story

Whatever subject you are writing about, make it a point to add something about your personal experience. I’ve found that adding a personal touch to a post gives it that something special that will make people read and share more readily.

There is a point where you can be too personal.

Sometimes, in particular niches, people only want information, and adding too much personal information will turn the reader off.

You’ll know when you’ve crossed a line. If you do, fix it the best you can and don’t make the same mistake again.

Put Some Serious Work into Your Headline

I wouldn’t be wrong if I said the most critical part of your post is the headline or title. If you don’t make an impact in the beginning, your post will never be read and acted on.

Write several headlines and see which ones work the best. On blogs, I’ve found longer, more descriptive headlines work best.

One of the best tools I’ve found when it comes to checking the effectiveness of headlines is the ShareThrough Headline Analyzer. You will get a headline quality score, among other things. I ran my headline through the analyzer, and it came out above average.

It was good, so I ran with it. Try it for yourself and see if it improves your headlines.

The Opening is an Opportunity
After your headline, your introduction is the most important

When you get a reader’s attention, you want to drag them into the story and give them no choice but to find out what happens next.

The first line is especially important. You want to grab the reader by the shorts and don’t let go until they read and share.

Quotes, facts, shocking details, and questions work very well in your introduction.

Headings Make the Heart Grow Fonder

The worst thing you can do is have one long page of text.

You want to break it up with headings that introduce what you will be talking about in the section. Don’t be boring, try to generate some interest and lead them down the page.

Don’t be afraid to use different levels of headings to break information down even further. Headings, when used with formatting techniques like lists and quotes, will add visual interest to an otherwise dry experience.

Using Bold and Italic

Don’t be afraid to use bold and italic sparingly in your posts.

Use bold to call out unfamiliar or essential words. You don’t want to use bold too much. Like anything, use it in moderation.

Bold can also be used to highlight the first sentence of a long paragraph. I always tend to use shorter ones, but sometimes a topic needs to be discussed at length. You may need to make the paragraph longer and more involved. The bolding helps to introduce what you will be discussing.

Google Considerations – SEO is Your Friend

Making content that Google loves will also create content that readers love. Both are looking for the most exciting and engaging information on a given topic. Design your content for both, and you will never go wrong.

Embed Links When You Can

Google likes links. They want outbound links that connect to sites of authority. You can find a lot of information on the web about the kind of websites Google likes you to link to in your posts.

Google also likes internal links to pages within your own domain. It helps them index your site and creates a better experience for the user.

Keywords are King

You should use keywords, especially in headings and the first paragraph of your post. Keywords and keyphrases help Google figure out how to best rank your pages in the search results.

Try to shoot for longer keyphrases (long-tail keywords) as it will be easier to rank higher for them. It would be tough to rank on the first page of Google for most single keywords.

As much as you want to sprinkle keywords throughout your post and headings, don’t overdo it. Google hates keyword stuffing, and so does your reader because it sounds forced and unnatural.

Closing Like a Champ

After you have created an excellent post, don’t leave the reader hanging. Summarize what you’ve talked about and make an impactful closing statement.

An engaging conclusion is as vital as an attention-grabbing introduction.

Editing and Proofreading – Always Do It

After you’ve finished your first draft and before you publish, go back and edit where necessary. If you have sections that need more explanation, add to it and make it more robust. In places where you are too wordy, remove the filler and make it easier to read.

Proofread your work checking for spelling and grammar errors. When done, check your work with Grammarly to ensure you’ve missed nothing obvious.

Read your work aloud and fix any areas that don’t flow properly. Spend as much time polishing your work as you did creating it.

Your reader will thank you.

Publish Your Masterpiece

When you are happy with the work you have done, it’s time to publish. Make sure you reread your published work to make sure that it is formatted correctly.

Many little things make a good post. But, if you pay attention to these big things that we talked about, you will come out with a finished product that your readers will rave about and share.

Don’t leave it up to chance. Do these things every time!