When I’m stuck, frustrated, and not in the mood to write, what helps the most is reading author blogs.

Not writing blogs, mind you, the kind where it’s all about “7 Ways to Write Better Characters” or “Are You Making these 10 Common Writing Mistakes?” Writing blogs have never done much for me.

The difference? Writing blogs are all about instructing you in the art and theory of writing. Useful once in a while, but actually sitting down and writing beats tutorials on writing 99 times out of 100. Plus, since most of the writing advice you’ll ever need can be condensed down into a few simple points, a lot of writing blogs end up repeating themselves and sounding kind of preachy.

On the other hand, the author blogs aren’t about teaching you how to write or telling you what you’ve been doing wrong. They’re about what it’s like to be an author. They’re personal, and engaging, and funny, and honest. They talk about making mac and cheese after hitting #1 on the NYT bestseller list or whether their characters could beat up that other guy’s characters. The kind of stuff that makes you go, “That’s so cool! I want to do that when I grow up!”

I guess there are a lot of lessons you could read into this post, which might not really be about writer’s fuel anymore.

One lesson might be that sometimes, the best encouragement isn’t encouragement at all – it’s taking another look at the goal you want to achieve. Hearing “Don’t give up” is nice, but seeing a picture of the finish line? Getting a peek into what life might be like once you get through this rough patch? That’s way better.

Another might be that people are less interested in the theory of something and more interested in what it’s like to actually do that something. Don’t give me “4 Reasons to Travel the World”, tell me what it’s like to do the traveling. Experiences speak for themselves. I think that’s a good lesson for anyone thinking about blogging: your real experiences, however mundane, are a thousand times better than your best generalized advice.

Finally, when it comes to the dispensing of advice, you can always tell the difference between someone who’s been there, done that, and succeeded (say, an author who’s actually made it big) and someone who’s giving well-intentioned but mostly shot-in-the-dark advice. When people write or speak or teach from experience, they exude a confidence and authenticity that you don’t find anywhere else.

If you’re interested in checking out some authors’ blogs, I highly recommend Patrick Rothfuss’ blog. Brandon Sanderson’s blog is also good, but the real treasures are his in-depth, chapter-by-chapter annotations to his own novels – there’s a man who loves what he does.

Or, if travel’s your thing, Chris Guillebeau’s stuff is excellent, as is Colin Wright’s.

For business and entrepreneurship, it doesn’t get much better than Signal vs. Noise, Chris Brogan, and Jonathan Fields

If you follow anyone who’s doing something interesting (doesn’t have to be revolutionary, just interesting), I’d love to hear your recommendations. Anyhow, sorry for the monster post. I hope you got something useful out of it. Now I’m off to write. My best to you all.