Interview with Ali: Guest Blogger Extraordinaire & Prolific Writer

I am happy to introduce you guys to Ali Hale from Aliventures. She is a fairly prolific writer and if you read some of the more popular personal development blogs out there you will eventually read some of her writing. In fact, she just did a recent article for Problogger called “How to Improve Your Blog When You Don’t Have Computer Access.” So without further ado, here is Ali…

Hi Ali! Welcome to Insight Writer. Let’s get started with some of the basics. When did you originally decide to start blogging?

I started blogging in January 2008, and made the decision around November 2007 (that’s when I purchased the URL for!)

I did have personal blogs before this, but never kept them up for long.

Why did you originally decide to start blogging?

I’d recently started my first full-time job, after finishing university. I felt that a lot of diet and health advice in magazines wasn’t very helpful for people working in an office: it’s often aimed at mums at home with their kids. So I wanted to share some of the things I was learning about fitting a healthy lifestyle around a typical office workday.

Who or what inspires you to blog?

I’ve come across countless wonderful bloggers who keep me enthused and inspired — Tim Brownson (a wonderful Floridan life coach) and Crabby McSlacker (a funny, snarky and honest health/fitness writer) are two whose blogs make me want to bring something similarly unique and wonderful to the blogosphere.

I’m also hugely inspired by the desire to make a difference, however small, in other people’s lives — it means a massive amount to me to get an email or comment on a blog post where someone’s been helped by what I’ve written.

On the more selfish side, I love to write, and to have an audience for my writing.

I think making a difference is the reason a lot of bloggers write. And they do it for the sheer enjoyment of writing and seeing someone benefit from it. What do you enjoy most about the things you do today?

I’m grateful that I can make a living from writing (a lot of it from staff blogging). I’m also enormously happy to be studying an MA in Creative Writing — something that’s been a dream for several years. I enjoy being a student and having access to all the university’s facilities (I’m sitting in my college library as I type this!)

I like to feel that what I do in the day has some significance for other people, and I truly believe my blogging and writing allows that.

Who is your current audience and why should they visit your site/s?

On my own blogs, my current audience is split between people wanting to live a healthy lifestyle but without a lot of spare time (The Office Diet) and students who want to get the most out of their time at university (Alpha Student). I don’t think there’s a huge amount of overlap!

I hope the benefits for them of visiting are that I write well, I post regularly, and I give wholehearted advice based on my own experiences. And I personally think everyone should visit Alpha Student just because we had so much fun working on the design — it doesn’t look at all like a traditional blog, and I love it!

Alpha Student does have a pretty cool layout. So tell me, why have you decided to be a guest writer on so many sites?

I’ll answer this in two parts, as my role is different on different blogs…

1. I’m a staff writer on five blogs. This means I write regularly for them and I get paid. I do this partly because these sites have a FAR bigger audience than mine, so my ideas can reach and impact more people — and partly because I need to pay the rent somehow. πŸ˜‰ Neither of my own blogs bring in more than a few pennies.

2. I’ve written guest posts for a range of blogs. I love doing guest posts, because they’re a chance to write in a slightly different style (I try to adapt my style to the “voice” of the blog), and because they can be a way to give something back to a blog that I’ve gained a lot from: I’ve written a couple of guest posts for ProBlogger, for example. I’ve also found that guest posting helps make readers aware of my blogs!

What do you think is the biggest benefit of blogging for society as a whole?

Blogging breaks down the traditional barriers between readers and writers and lets conversations and multiple points of view emerge — across nations, social groups, ages, and other boundaries.

I really do love meeting fellow bloggers. It is a great community of friendly people. So for people just starting out, what are your top 5 tips for new bloggers?

1. Be clear WHY you are blogging: is it for personal enjoyment orΒ  with career/business aims? (Or to put it another way, do you want to just have fun, or do you want to make money?)
2. Read ProBlogger and Daily Blog Tips, if you’re aiming to make money.
3. Use Feedburner and Google Analytics from the start — you’ll be able to see whether your actions are having an effect.
4. Conversely, don’t get obsessed with checking stats. Most of your time should go on writing quality content, either for your own blog or for guest posts on other blogs.
5. Enjoy it! Don’t force yourself to write posts on a topic that you think will be popular or easy to make money from … choose something that you’re passionate about and very interested in. You’ll be writing (and reading) a LOT about it…

Who are your favorite bloggers that you read often and why?

I’m tempted to just give you a list of all the ones in my Google Reader. πŸ˜‰ Here’s some of my favourites who aren’t nearly so well-known as they deserve:
1. Tim Brownson, from The Discomfort Zone. I read his posts cos he’s a fantastic, funny, genuine guy with a really unique style of posting. He says profound stuff in a way that’ll have you snorting coffee into your keyboard. (I HIGHLY recommend his book “Don’t Ask Stupid Questions? – There Are No Stupid Questions“, too, and in fact follow him around the blogosphere telling everyone how brilliant it is.)
2. Crabby McSlacker and Merry Sunshine, from Cranky Fitness. The blog is a wonderful blend of in-depth, insightful stuff — and funny posts. If you’re interested in fitness but you’re, at heart, lazy (and aren’t we all?), you’ll absolutely love it.
3. Liz, aka DaMomma, from Motherhood Is Not For Wimps. I’ve been reading her blog since summer 2005. She is an absolutely fantastic writer; her posts have moved me to tears on several occasions. When I have kids, I’ll count myself a success if I can be a tenth as bit as good a mum as she is. Her blog is an example of “personal” blogging at its absolute finest.

I love how unique all those blogs are. I especially like Cranky Fitness and added them to my blogroll. So how many hours a day do you spend blogging? (Give us a day in the life of Ali.)

This varies massively. Some days it’s none, some days it’s seven or eight, and my routine’s quite variable due to classes and sporadic childminding!

Over the past couple of weeks, a typical day without classes etc looks something like this:
7.00am – At my desk, writing something (ideally some fiction)
9.00ish – Usually head into uni, grab a computer in the library, spend the morning writing blog posts and checking email (I have four different email accounts…)
12.30ish – Sit around eating sandwiches, drinking tea and usually reading something tenuously related to my Creative Writing course.
1.00ish – 4.00ish – Varies, possibly more blogging; today it’s an “interview question answering” day πŸ˜‰ If I’m at home, I might do admin things like invoices, answering longer emails, or formatting and uploading blog posts (sometimes I spend longer finding a picture and getting everything formatted nicely than I spend writing the post.)
4.00ish – Go to the gym
6.00ish – Back home, checking emails, catching up with RSS feeds, commenting, etc. … Dinner at some point, and usually watching an episode of Supernatural or Heroes … I’m trying not to check emails after 9.00pm but that doesn’t always happen!

Some days are totally different though (yesterday I did some blogging first thing, then spent most of the day in London – tour of the university’s main library followed by coffee with someone I met through a post I wrote for The Change Blog!)

Do you have any mentors?

I have a good writing friend from a writers’ group I used to belong to when I lived in Oxford, who I consider a mentor. We’ve been emailing back and forth for years, and we meet up for lunch when I’m in Oxford, and his advice and encouragement on my (creative) writing and career aspirations has been invaluable.

What do you credit your initial success to?

I’m flattered that you think I’m successful! πŸ˜‰
I’ve spent years and years writing and I think having strong writing skills really helps in the blogosphere, especially if you want to get paid as a staff blogger.

I’m also quite a “driven” person and tend to throw myself into projects that I’m passionate about, like The Office Diet and Alpha Student.

Getting clear about what I wanted from my life also really helped me: I left my full-time job in tech support at the end of July 2008, because I realise I could make a living from writing (blogging and other types of writing) and some website creation — both things I love. It meant a drop in income but I have absolutely no regrets — apart from the regret that I ever had a full-time office job in the first place!

Well I must say, it’s hard for me to visit some of my favorite personal development blogs without seeing the occasionally guest post by you. I would consider that successful. πŸ˜‰ So what do you think will help you to succeed even more in the future?

I want to get better at focusing on one thing at a time. I tend to take on too many projects at once, and then end up feeling that none of them get the attention they deserve! I want to focus more on my creative writing over the next couple of years, so I’ve been deliberately cutting back on my paid writing.

What is one personal growth tip you can give our readers?

Don’t settle for doing things that are easy. Step outside your comfort zone, and push yourself to be the best person you can be — in whatever way that means for you. (Part of this means reading Tim’s The Discomfort Zone blog on a regular basis ;-))

Ali runs The Office Diet and Alpha Student, and staff blogs for a number of other sites. She’s a postgrad Creative Writing student in London, in the UK, and pays the rent through writing and website creation. In her down-time, she likes long walks, good meals, and great sci-fi shows.

Also, check out my last interview which was with Yan of Blogging for Beginners.

13 thoughts on “Interview with Ali: Guest Blogger Extraordinaire & Prolific Writer”

  1. Thanks, Michele, both for the comment and the Stumble! I was really touched to be asked to do an interview (Jeremy’s request was the first I’ve had!) and I hope what I wrote can encourage other fairly new bloggers like me — it really is possible to have a lot of success AND fun blogging. πŸ™‚

  2. Thank you both for being a part of Insight Writer. And Ali, I think we are both encouraged to do a lot more and better blogging. I personally would like to start writing a lot more guest articles. I better get on that! πŸ˜‰


  3. Thanks Yan! I’m glad my passion for writing came across so strongly, I agree it’s one of my best assets — not only because it helps me write good content, but because I’d struggle a bit with my life if I hated writing πŸ˜‰

    And being able to write for ProBlogger — well, I just wrote the best, most in-depth post I could on a topic I’d have liked to see ProBlogger cover, and then I took a deep breath and sent it to Darren! Why not have a go yourself?

    Ali Hale’s last blog post..Keeping a time log (part one)

  4. @ Ali – That is a good question. What was your very first post for Problogger?

    @ Yan – I think you have an awesome message on your blog. And I think that message can easily be taken to problogger. If I may suggest it, start writing maybe one guest post per month in your niche. After maybe 3-5 guest posts approach Darren with a great idea for a post. If its good he may take you up on the offer. πŸ˜‰


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  7. Ali,

    i just stumbled into your web page while checking some information on healthy eating and exercise,read about this young lady making a difference world wide.I was really impressed after reading your interview with Jeremy Day, i feel inspired and motivated to go out and give the world my own quoter.More grease to your elbow.



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