What may start as a fun, hobby-based or stress-relieving blog can often serve as the foundation for a best-selling book. Look at the success of Julie Powell’s Julie and Julia and Tim Ferris’ 4-Hour Work Week.

The same happened for the humorous personal memoir writer, Jenny Lawson. Lawson is the blogger behind The Bloggess, an award-winning blog containing dark humor and personal stories of mental illness. In 2012, her first book Let’s Pretend this Never Happened: A Mostly True Memoir, debuted as #1 on the New York Times bestseller list. Many of the book’s chapters stemmed from moments shared on her blog.

This summer, Lawson presented at Des Moines University as part of the Des Moines Public Library’s Authors Visiting in Des Moines (AViD) series, reading from her new book, Furiously Happy. After giving a fair warning that she would curse, Lawson proved that she has a unique, enviable ability to move an audience from laughing out loud one minute to clutching their hearts in sincere emotion and empathy the next.

Lawson joked about how long it takes her to write–11 years for her first book–and how much an editor changes and develops your work.

“Think about how different you are now from when you were a baby,” Lawson said. “That’s what an editor does for your book.”

Here are a few takeaways from Jenny Lawson on successfully blogging and writing:

  1. Read blogs with similar tones as yours. Leave comments on other blogs and connect with the bloggers. Provide something useful in your comments. Being active in the public discussion on your topic will allow you to make a name for yourself in your niche community.
  2. Find your specific voice. It took Lawson 11 years to feel comfortable in her voice when she completed her first book, but only half the time to complete the second. Having found her authentic voice and style, writing her next book came more naturally.
  3. Write something you will want to have some day. Lawson wrote her first book for the child she believed she’d never have. She didn’t think it would get published, but that didn’t keep her from writing it. Either way, she knew she would get satisfaction out of it. I love this tip! We writers often put high expectations on our books, wanting them to go far in the world. Really, it’s the subject matter that we are the most passionate about. Knowing that we’ll have something meaningful at the end seems like a more powerful driving force to get it done.

If you’re looking for a lift, a laugh, or to get out of a funk, check out Jenny Lawson’s Furiously Happy and her blog, The Bloggess.

Do you have a blog that you’re working on turning into a book? Tell me about it in the comments below!

Jenny Lawson: Tips on Writing and Blogging
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