Wednesday, October 24, 2012

A Blog About Blogging

This Friday, I’m going to talk to the freshman writing class about blogging. Since I know myself, I am fairly certain that I’ll have too much to say and not enough time. Therefore, I’m going to say almost everything here and just tell them all to read it. (As my fellow writing major put it, “How technologically impersonal of you.”)

I like lists of seven. Seriously, sometimes when I’m writing a To-Do list, I combine two items, add an extra one, or decided I really don’t need to do a few of them just so it can be a list of seven. This year, the orientation group I led was Yellow 7, the first (and so far, only) 7 group in the history of Taylor. So that was a big deal.

But next to seven, three is the next best, and since I didn’t want to add too much unnecessary information, I’m going with three lists of three that will pretty much sum up everything I know about blogging, since I’ve only been at it for a year now.

Three Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Blog
  • 76,221 Words and Counting: It’s hard work. I’ve written a novel’s worth of words in all of my posts combined (although the posts are shorter now than when I started). Consistency is especially hard—coming up with stuff to say twice a week can stretch my creativity, which is the excuse I’ll use if you think one of my posts is terrible.
  •  The Ugly Truth: You will find weaknesses and self-deceptions you didn’t know existed. And I’m not even talking about the content of the blog, although I wrote a whole post about that on Saturday. The process itself teaches you things about yourself, such as when I had to stop myself from constantly checking stats for personal validation, or the months when I didn’t have a computer and was stressed because I couldn’t follow through with posting twice a week. Once, I started a series of posts making fun of certain writing attitudes, but it was so sarcastic-borderline-mean that I withdrew the idea.
  •  Hypocrite Alert: You can be held to a higher standard. Especially because I write about my faith, I am very aware that I should be living up to the kinds of things I’m telling other people to do. Thankfully, that doesn’t mean I have to be perfect. But I do know that a lot of the people who read this blog are also watching my everyday life, and they’ll notice if things don’t match up.
If I haven’t persuaded you to stay away from blogging forever, congratulations! You made it to the next list of important information.

Three Reasons Why You Should Blog
  • Sunday School Teacher Dedication (and Payoff): Most of the time, your blog won’t take off and make you famous. You’ll be putting in a lot of work to speak to a relatively small group of people, just like a Sunday School teacher. Sometimes, though, that more personal approach can have the greatest impact on others. I have a file called “Encouragement” where I cut and paste emails and Facebook comments where people have told me something specific that they learned from or appreciated about one of my posts.
  •  Honing Craft: Blogging has helped me develop a tighter writing style. If it hasn’t made me better at thinking, it’s at least made me better at communicating what I think. The practice can’t be beat—I know I’m going to write about 2000 words a week.
  •  Spiritual Growth: God has used it to teach me things. Lots and lots of things. Some of them you’ll find in the content of the post, because I realized I believed something as I wrote it down, or resolved an issue or incongruity that had been on my mind for a while as I processed it in writing. Other things are outside the writing process or get edited out so I don’t feel like I’m giving you a rambling spiritual journal. (If you still feel like that’s what you’re getting, come throw rocks at my window or something. I love feedback.)
Three Practical Tips for Blogging

  • The Dental Floss Principle: Know what motivates you. When I tell my dentist I’ll floss, I do it every day. If I don’t tell my dentist this, I rarely floss because I just don’t care enough. My word of honor means a lot to me. Knowing this about myself, the way I am motivated to post twice a week without fail is because I decided to do so. I told people I would, and by golly I am not backing down. This isn’t the only way to do things. Just make sure you match your writing goals to your motivation. For example, if blogging is going to be a fun way to practice writing and rigid deadlines aren’t fun for you, then don’t tie yourself to a once-a-day writing schedule. If you need other people to hold you accountable to post once a week, ask them. If you need to set up some kind of reward system for yourself (treating yourself to dinner out if you post consistently for a month), then do it.
  •  Live a Life, Not a Content Generator: People are not there to generate content for your blog. This is a mindset thing. There’s nothing wrong with getting ideas or thinking, “Hey, this could make a great blog post.” But don’t make your life a direct-to-Word-Press blog feed. Along this theme, I was talking to one of my Bible professors about how, as a writer, it’s hard not to read the Bible without looking for ideas for devotionals or articles. He gave me an idea that one of his mentors had given him—take a Secret Day. Dedicate one day to God and spend an extended time in prayer and reading the Bible…but commit to not using any of it. Not in a blog post. Not in a Sunday School lesson or devotional. Not even to share with your small group. I found this discipline really helpful to do from time to time.
  •  The Vault: Little known fact—I have a file on my computer with a page of blog post ideas, as well as about a dozen or so completed blog posts. I wrote six of them before I started my blog and added a few whenever I had an extra idea. Because, let’s get real here, people: I’m a college student involved in five extracurricular activities. On the weeks when I have two exams and a research paper to write, I pull out my blog post from the Vault, like a homemade meal put in the freezer. Works every time.

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