The funny thing is you see this a lot around the newly published, both self-published and professionally published. Did I say “a lot” in that last sentence? Good, because I meant to say “a lot.” And usually on these newly minted blogs there will be a few posts about their book, their experience writing it, and a few helpful suggestions and then… nothing. The internet is littered with the remains of these kinds of websites, something akin to a field after a rock concert. The party is done, but no one bothered to clean up the mess from the show.
Frankly, what the beginning blogger doesn’t realize is that it takes guts and stamina to write a true blog and to build a readership for it. A blog is more than a marketing tool, it is a new writing platform (and in my opinion could become its own powerful writing medium right alongside writing for plays, books, television, etc.), and if you don’t see it as such, you won’t be able to use it to its full potential. Yes, you can fill it up with advice and your opinion, but for people to come back again and again, there has to be something in your blog that is not available anywhere else on the internet…
I’m talking about you, by the way.
Become a Character
Remember how I said it takes guts?
We writers are a collection of introverts. Writers were not the popular jock in school, they were the quiet kids reading the torn paperback on the steps of the school. Writers didn’t have lockers filled with pictures of friends and people they dated; no, their lockers had pictures of movies, books, and artists they respected. In other words, we writers did more living “inside” than “outside.”
Well, to write a blog that has to be changed. And, based on my own personal experience, it is like being pushed into a cold pool. Are you going to sink or swim? Are you even going to have the courage to make the leap?
There were two moments when I started this blog when I realized the true gravity around “becoming a character” and at both of these moments, I had a choice whether to move forward or not. Not to ruin the surprise, I moved forward and I believe I am a better writer and blogger for the experiences.
The first was related to my family. Both of my young kids were in day care and came home with mites from the school. My wife was busy at her job (she is a teacher), so it became my job to fix the problem and while I was experiencing the emotional impact of the experience (and trust me, it is scary, stressful, and difficult), I also began to realize the comic implications of the experience. So a debate started in my head- Do I write about the experience? I did and I think I ended up with a good and somewhat comic article on parenting. (That article is called “My Time With Mites” and can be found here.)
The second article was more personal to me…. Well, as personal as it can get. See, this article was about my vasectomy. Okay, laugh… Done yet? Okay, I’ll wait.
See, now that reaction you had to laugh while also feeling a little uncomfortable (especially my fellow male readers) is natural, but it is what led me to write the article in the first place. I was teased after I had the operation by people (even family), and I realized that that bothered me. This was my experience, my choice, and people laughing at me or the fact it was done belittled what I went through that day. Also, as my wife wisely pointed out, I’m definitely not the only dude out there that has experienced the “operation,” but has anyone else written about it? In a way, through writing the article, I took back my experience. (“A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to My Vasectomy” can be found here).
The fact is neither of these articles were easy to write, but they both had one thing in common- they were honest. Yes, it was scary to write about both of these experiences, throw them out there for the masses to read, but it was also liberating too… and that is what a blog is.
By sharing such personal experiences, a reader gets to know me more and might return, even when whatever advice or article they read on the site that drew them there in the first place has disappeared into the archives.
Ground Things in Experience
“But I only want to share my advice?” I can hear you cry, my fellow introverts. “I don’t want to talk about my personal life.”
I hear ya, I really do. But that is an editorial, not a blog you are talking about. That is a one off thing, not a continuous thing that people might return to again and again. You want to truly write something like that, find a magazine or a specific website to publish it; don’t bother putting it up as a blog. Chances are, it will be lost if you attempt the road of a blog.
That is not to say a blogger can’t write advice. I do it all the time (for example, the article you are reading now), the difference between this piece and a piece I might write for a writing magazine, for example, is my voice.
Yes, there is advice here, but it is grounded in my natural speaking voice. And while in an editorial I don’t need to back up my points, per se, here I do with experience.
See, a blog, when done right is a story. It is a narrative between you and the masses that might find your blog out there. So is there something you want to say about, I don’t know, brainstorming a plot for a book, take the reader through the experience of how you figured it out, don’t just throw the advice at them. What were you feeling before you figured it out? What did you feel afterwards? Also, I’ll put my money on this too, the more you share around your own experience the more your advice will stick.
You make your blog real, and how real it is really comes down to how real you want it to be. (You can find examples of many of my writing editorials via this piece “Writing About Writing About Writing About Writing”.)
Embrace the Heavy
The pieces I have written that have gotten the biggest response from readers have always been the ones where I didn’t shy away from my experience as a fellow human on this planet.
We are all humans, which means each of your readers has experienced all the good and bad life has to offer just like you. Yes, they have been dumped too, fallen in and out of love, lost loved ones, been embarrassed, etc. Your human emotional experience is not unique to you; we all have experienced dimensions of it. I’m not diminishing your experiences on this mortal coil; what I am trying to express is more heartwarming- you are not alone.
When I learned my high school was disappearing as part of a school merger, it inspired my most popular piece on my site, “The Fall of the Vikings.” As my brother happily pointed out to me, I had the equivalent of a decade’s worth of ENTIRE graduating classes from that school of students read the work. I was getting e-mails from around the country around it. Fellow “Vikings” found something in my piece to latch on to. It meant something to my readers, because I made sure to share how much it meant to me.
Here is a more difficult to discuss example, this year I lost my grandfather. My grandparents have been amazing influences on who I am as a person, and losing that voice in my life was hard for me (still is). I wrote two pieces about the experience. The first was around when I knew he was dying (“Writing My First Obituary”), and the second was a few months after the funeral, coming to grips with the experience (“Life’s After Thoughts”). Frankly, they are some of the best stuff I have done on this site in my opinion. Of course, I might just be saying that because I needed to write them.
So how does this relate to your blog, well, to be honest, this might relate more to your advancement as a writer. See, I am a better writer for writing these pieces, because I found ways through my art to express my feelings; which means as a novelist when I take on the heavier moments in my work I don’t feel as a stressed as I once did. I know I have done it before. In regards to the blog though, this is part of the honesty and the buy-in you want from your readership.
This is life, we all experience it, but in a blog you experience it for others to follow as well. These moments are sadly universal. Your readers will respect you for this, trust me.
Okay, as much as I argue for sharing your life, you can still be smart about this, and you should be. So, for example, don’t share your bank account balances, addresses, kids’ names, etc. There are limits and you need to find them for yourself.
Yes, writing a blog can be scary and sometimes frustrating (I’ve discussed that previously in this editorial), but there is a lot to gain from the experience. I am a better writer today for having a blog, I believe the same can be true for you as well.
All you need is the guts to jump into the cold pool.
If you liked reading the editorial, why not check out some of my published books? I had four novels published in the last few years, the new A Jane Austen Daydream, Maximilian Standforth and the Case of the Dangerous Dare, My Problem With Doors and Megan. You can find them via my amazon.com author page here; or as an eBook for Doors and Megan on Google eBooks here. Thanks for reading!
Need an editor? Dream of finishing that book but need some help? Learn about my editing services by visiting this page on my site. Or you can contact Rebecca T. Dickson and request to work with me by clicking the image below.