Pat was alarmed when her son wasn’t crawling by age one. So, like any good mother, she took him to see the doctor.
After a long examination, the doctor diagnosed baby Jon with spinal muscular atrophy (SMA). That meant instead of getting stronger as he aged, Jon would get weaker. Eventually he would get pneumonia and die.
The doctor, who said he was being generous, gave him until two years old to live.
Pat, however, would have none of that.
She — and a cadre of medical staff, family, and friends — fought to keep him alive.
Jon did get pneumonia. 16 times. But because of their hard work, he survived, and at 31 Jon is one of the oldest people alive with SMA.
As you can imagine, Jon is infused with his mother’s warrior spirit.
The warrior with a strong voice
Jon graduated high school at 16 with honors. He nailed a 3.921 GPA in college (though he confesses he wishes he hadn’t). He’s asked for $500,000 in seed money to start a software company. Brokered million dollar home sales.
Because he can only move the muscles of his face, he gets things done with his voice … and his voice alone.
Jon is best known, however, for blogging. Viral content, to be precise.
He got his start with On Moneymaking, a site he grew to respectable heights before it leveled off. He then watched it rocket again when he published a guest article on Penelope Trunk’s blog.
That exposure eventually led to a gig as Associate Editor here at Copyblogger.
From there, Jon launched Partnering Profits, Guestblogging, and he is the founder and CEO of Boost Blog Traffic. He’s also written some crazy popular articles on sites like Problogger and Copyblogger.
Jon’s mission is pretty simple: empower the little guy and gal to earn a living from their blog.
By the time we’re done, you won’t be a spectator in the battle for attention, squeaking out your posts and praying for a couple of retweets.
You’ll be a warrior, armored with marketing know-how, brandishing your perfectly-crafted content, sending spammers scampering by the thousands as you claim your rightful spot at the top of the web.
Thankfully Mr. Morrow took time out of his busy schedule to talk to us about his weird pre-writing ritual, the secret to climbing to the top of any field, why his disability has been both a curse and a blessing, and the special tools he uses to write.
About the writer …
Who are you and what do you do?
Did you have to start with the hard questions?! You couldn’t do an easy one first?!
I’m Jon Morrow. The last time I checked, I’m the CEO of Boost Blog Traffic, LLC.
What is your area of expertise as a writer?
I’m a blogger. More specifically, I’m known for writing viral blog posts.
Where can we find your writing?
The writer’s productivity …
How much time, per day, do you read or do research?
Well, I read 2-3 hours per day, but every moment of my life is “research.” I use all of it.
Before you begin to write, do you have any pre-game rituals or practices?
I often read Stephen King for 5-10 minutes. Out loud.
Weird, I know, but it’s better than insisting on carrying around miniature pairs of doll underwear like James Joyce. Or refusing to wash your clothes like Beethoven.
Do you prefer any particular music (or silence) while you write?
Silence. Good writing has a rhythm. If I listen to music, it makes it harder for me to “hear” the words.
How many hours a day do you spend writing (excluding email, social media, etc.)? What is your most productive time of day?
(sigh) Not enough.
One of the unfortunate side effects of becoming a fancy-pants CEO is I have a lot less time to write than I used to. Where I used to spend 5-6 hours a day writing, I’m lucky if I get 1-2 now.
Not that I’m complaining. Being the CEO also pays a hell of a lot better.
In general, my most productive times a day are between 10 AM and 12 PM, and between 8 PM and 10 PM. I don’t know why. Those are just times when my creativity seems to light up.
A side note: because I know that’s when I’m most creative, I’ve asked my staff to never schedule meetings during those times. Instead, I spend the time working on a blog post, writing sales copy, or creating instructional videos.
Do you write every day or adhere to any particular system?
I used to be more rigid than I am now.
For years, I wrote a minimum of 2,000 words a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. I never, ever took a day off. Not Christmas. Not my birthday. Not even when I was sick.
Is that extreme? Yes, I suppose, but I wanted to be the best.
Point to the top person in any field, and you’ll find someone who went to extremes to get where they are. So, I did too.
It’s no coincidence that’s when I created my best work.
Do you believe in “writer’s block”? If so, how do you avoid it?
I believe it exists, yes, but it’s never happened to me.
Sometimes I get burned out on a particular topic, but I’ve never reached a point where I couldn’t write anything at all. That would be horrifying.
The writer’s creativity …
Creativity (n): a word people use when they want to sound smart talking about a really abstract subject.
Me? I prefer to avoid abstractions.
Who are your favorite authors, online or off?
Stephen King is my favorite. I also love Seth Godin, Jim Butcher, Robert McCammon, Chip and Dan Heath, Brandon Sanderson, Steven Pressfield, Neil Gaiman, Dan Kennedy, Jeffery Deaver, Gary Bencivenga, Lee Child, David Wong, and countless others.
I’m kind of a bookworm.
Can you share a best-loved quote?
Here are a whole bunch of my favorite quotes.
How would you like to grow creatively as a writer?
I’d like to go beyond being just a “blogging authority” and write about some mass-market topics. Maybe self-improvement and/or entrepreneurship.
That way, I get the chance to screw up millions of people, instead of just a few hundred thousand.
Who or what is your Muse at the moment (i.e. specific creative inspirations)?
David Wong. Don’t ask.
What makes a writer great?
A gazillion different little things.
If I had to choose one though, it would be empathy. If you can’t ride in the reader’s skin, you’ll never be a great writer.
The writer’s work flow …
What hardware or typewriter model do you presently use?
I have a few different PCs.
(And yes, I said PCs. In my opinion, Apple is nothing more than a Steve Jobs cult, and I refuse to be converted. And yes, I know that means I’m going straight to hell.)
The one I use the most is a Dell laptop with an i5 processor. Nothing fancy.
The fancy part is my VXI TalkPro UC2 microphone and my prototype lip-operated mouse. High-tech, baby!
What software do you use most for writing and general workflow?
Dragon NaturallySpeaking and Microsoft Word for writing. I’m a fan of Trello for workflow.
Do you have any tricks for beating procrastination? Do you adhere to deadlines?
Remember the scene in Fight Club where Tyler puts a gun to a guy’s head who wants to become a veterinarian, and he tells him he’s going to hunt him down and shoot him if he doesn’t enroll in veterinarian school?
Best. Procrastination. Beater. Ever.
The secret to being productive is finding metaphorical guns to put to your head. One of the best ones for me is I rarely do anything until someone has already paid for it. That makes me obligated to finish, so I do.
How do you stay organized (methods, systems, or “mad science”)?
I employ a professional nag … err … Executive Assistant. Her name is Marsha Stopa.
(PS: She’s going to kill me for calling her a nag. Goodbye cruel world.)
How do you relax at the end of a hard day?
Like most people.
I read books, watch movies, play video games, talk to friends, and lots of other normal stuff. No worshiping Satan or microwaving kittens. Sorry to disappoint you.
A few questions just for the fun of it …
Who (or what) has been your greatest teacher?
My disability has taught me more than anyone. It’s been just as much of a gift as a curse. Really.
What do you see as your greatest success in life?
Just being alive, dude. At 31 years old, I’m one of the oldest people in the world with Type II spinal muscular atrophy.
What’s your biggest aggravation at the moment (writing related or otherwise)?
Why, oh why, can’t people work for free?
AND WHAT’S THIS I HEAR ABOUT HAVING TO PAY THE GOVERNMENT TAXES?
Choose one author, living or dead, that you would like to have dinner with.
Since we’re talking fantasy, I would choose myself. Here’s why:
If I were able to have dinner with myself, that would mean somebody managed to clone me and there are now two Jon Morrows in the world. I would strap a bomb to his chest and get him to do all the work while I sit at the beach and read and wink at girls.
(On second thought, the other me would probably have the same plan, and we would end up coercing each other to do even more work than we did before. Damn. Never mind.)
If you could take a vacation tomorrow to anywhere in the world, where would you go (cost or responsibilities are no object)?
Nowhere. I’ve spent the last three years traveling, and I’m freaking sick of it.
Can you offer any advice to fellow writers that you might offer yourself, if you could go back in time and “do it all over?”
Here’s the thing about that question:
The most valuable things I could tell a beginning writer wouldn’t make any sense, because knowledge is viewed through the lens of experience. Without that experience, the knowledge is worthless.
So, I’d tell them to gain experience. In other words: write, a lot.
Please tell our readers where they can connect with you online.
And finally, the writer’s desk …
Every serious writer builds a shrine of some sort, whether it be picking the perfect table at a coffee shop, or carving out a quiet nook in your home, with which you hope to entertain the Muse.
Jon Morrow is no different.
Thank you for sharing a snapshot of your amazing open-air writer’s lair, Jon!
And thank you for sharing The Writer Files …
More Q&As are in the works from writers who inspire us, and if you care to sift through our archives, you can find more inspiration here.
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Now set some ambitious deadlines and get back to work! See you out there.
About the author
Demian Farnworth is Copyblogger Media’s Chief Copywriter. Follow him on Twitter or Google+.