A Blog Breakdown

This week, while waiting in a doctor’s office, I stumbled across an article in a magazine. The title caught my eye: “The Five Rules of Good Blogging“. Being new to the blogging world, I was curious, so I read on.

The article gave these tips:

1.  Keep your pieces short. Limit them to one page of a Word document. Your reader should be able to read your post in 30-60 seconds.

2. Tell a story. Use the word “I” to keep your posts personal, and draw your reader into a connection with you.

3. Use numbers in the title. People like things that are measurable. This also helps the reader to remember what you write.

4. Post regularly. People will come to know the rhythm of your postings and come to expect them.

5. Notice the trends. Watch the numbers and pay attention to when your blog gets the most hits and make note of when your audience is captive, and which traffic sources are the most effective. Adjust the when and where of your postings to your findings.

I read the list several times before putting the magazine down. I sat in the waiting room and thought about my blog. I started my blog on a whim and did no research before diving in. Every one of my twenty-something posts have broken all of these rules. I was shaken up. I felt like a fool.

Then, for the next few mornings, as I was trying to draft a new piece, I was blocked. I couldn’t get the words to flow, couldn’t focus my topic, couldn’t give structure to my message at all. Though the page before me was blank, my mind was filled with questions, doubts, and rules.

I went for a walk to clear my head. After a block or so, I started to breathe again. I walked and talked with God for a long time.

On the walk that day, I asked myself for the millionth time, “Why am I writing?” The answer is always the same:

I write because it helps me process life. My mind is always at work to take my experiences, emotions, and wonderings, and paint them on a page with words. Journaling has continually given me an arena for the things that I can’t speak. It’s my hobby. I don’t knit, garden, or cook. This is what I want to do when I have time. I love it.

Then, I asked myself for the thousandth time, “Why am I publishing my writing?” Again, a recurring answer…

I publish for three reasons. First, I want to be known. My writings are a window to my soul (cliche, but true). Most people know only my “witty”, or “fun” side. Often, when I say something profound, people will laugh…thinking that I’ve made a joke. They aren’t used to it. Publishing allows me to reveal this part of me. My funny side gets lots of attention and praise. I would be lying if I didn’t want those things for my serious self, too.

Secondly, having an audience helps me improve my craft. It forces me to step up my game and makes me grow.

Thirdly, and most importantly, I want others to know Him. Most of my writings serve as “altars” of times when I’ve wrestled with God and He’s revealed Himself to me in some way. I want others to know Him better through my testimony. I want my readers to read my honest confessions and feel braver, bolder, and encouraged in their own journey.

Finally, I asked myself a new question, “Who do you want to read your writing?”

This one took a little time. The answer came after some soul-searching. Honestly, I want my friends and family to read it. I hope, through my writings, that my people are encouraged by God’s faithfulness in my life. I also imagine friends of friends who are in the midst of their own wrestlings to stumble across one of my pieces and find Him there.

Experts about blogging, writing, and marketing have studied trends and made note of what gets the most attention. The “Five Rules of Good Blogging” is a result of that. It’s very sound, time-tested advice. 
But it’s not for me. 

So, call me a purist, a temperamental artist, or even foolish, but I’ve decided not to follow the rules that I found in that magazine article. At the end of my walk with God that day, I made my own list:

The Five Rules of My Writing

1. Say what you need to say, no matter how many or few words it takes. Not everyone will have time to read it, but that’s okay. 

2. If you have a story to tell, tell it. If you have a metaphorical piece, write it. If poetry comes to you, draft it into a rhythm. Take risks, be creative, and explore different genres and formats. Whenever possible, shift the focus off of yourself, glorify God, and draw your reader into a connection with Him.

3. Title your piece with something that’s interesting and/or mysterious. Include numbers…or not. 

4. Write when you need to write, when you can’t concentrate on anything else because of the words won’t stop jockeying for position in your brain. Write in the middle of the night or in the heat of the day. Then post when you are brave enough to put it out there. Pick the time that feels right for each piece. 

5. Stick to the rules you made a couple of months ago about the numbers. Don’t obsess about the stats overview page, and take the “Blog Views” counter off of your blog. Don’t get caught up in the “likes”, “shares”, or “retweets”, because frankly, you can’t handle it. If one person reads it and is encouraged, then the numbers are good. If you glorify the One who created you, then the numbers are great. 
My rules are perfect for me. If you are a writer, they may not be for you. You might want to take a walk with God and make your own list.
I’m not the best thinker or writer, but I do it anyway. And the words are flowing again.
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