My first ever “week of lists” wraps to a close and I’m going to give you yet another navel-gazing meta-style post about blogging — because, if for no other reason, there is a lot of bad blogging advice out there. See, the thing is that most bloggers who blog about blogging (I’ve looked high and low for counter-example, but found very few) give advice on specifically the topic of blogging for money. In other words, their goals tend to be that you (sort of) learn how to write articles that attract lots of search traffic and thus ad-click revenue. While I, having been blogging for over eleven years and making little attempt to earn money at it, have a less revenue-driven approach. I want you to blog to tell your story so that I have something to read. In other words, I want your humble attempt at penning an auto-blog-ography, and I really want you to:
1 : Write What You Know About
…because while this is probably the most common piece of writing advice around, it’s multiply-times true when you are writing about yourself. And honestly, you’d be really surprised what kind of knowledge you have lurking around that skull of yours that the rest of us would be interested in reading about. Take this list for example. After looking around the net for blog topic inspiration I came to two conclusions: (A) that most other people giving advice are probably hiding the good bit and (B) those that aren’t really hiding their best material don’t have really stellar material anyhow. I don’t know how this ranks me, but I do know that as far as blogging goes I’m about as close to a self-taught expert as you’re bound to stumble across today… and these are the kinds of posts I think make up a well-rounded autobiographical blog.
2 : Write What You Want to Know About
… because you don’t know everything and unlike those posts where you hang out your shingle as a topic expert, posts proclaiming your ignorance on a given topic are both more humbly readable to a lot more people, and also seem like they would be more welcoming to a comment-based discussion. Why? People don’t always like to read your bragging (despite what I wrote in a previous list) but also — I find — most readers are generally good and helpful people who will offer insight and want to explain the topic to you if they can. On a longer timescale writing about your learning aspirations is also an interesting post to come back to a few years later: it gives you a sense of where you’ve been and where you’re going, a great outcome by any measure for a living autobiography.
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3 : Write a Public Letter to the Future
…because not only will writing beyond the transient and temporary timeframe for existence that your blog actually has make it feel like a longer term document, but letters to the future have this interesting way of congealing your thoughts into a sense of “bigness” and “grandness” beyond what will quickly seem like your more mundane ramblings. I write an annual birthday letter to my daughter intended to be read later, whenever, but at some point in the future. That has wider implications, of course, but the point is that in this, my largely autobiographical blog, I force myself on occasion to step out of the immediacy of right now and think, reflect, and write for a bigger purpose. And I really enjoy writing those letters, too.
4 : Write About What You Did Long Ago
…because unless you started your blog in utero, you too have a history, a background, a story about how you got from there to here and what interesting stuff happened in the meantime of which we readers are blissfully unaware. Reflective “when I was a kid…” or “back in high school I…” or even “I remember when…” stories also have the advantage that you’ve (presumably) had years to ponder the string of interesting events that you are about to turn into an historical anecdote and have unraveled — or at the very least — identified the tangled knots of implications, lessons learned, impacts, and life-altering consequences falling out of that story. On another blog — where I write “profession-related” posts — I have a theme that I call my “Friday Flubs.” I write (as non-specifically as possible) on former projects I’ve worked on where I’ve since identified I screwed up… but also what I learned from it and how it made me better at my job now. Those posts are some of the most trafficked posts on that site.
5 : Write About Where You Just Went
…because literal or metaphorical trips — from global travel to down-the-rabbit-hole one-of-those-days — are adventures that add spice to life. Recently I’ve taken advantage of delayed-publication-date posts for my travel writing (because I’m paranoid about back-home security) and done a lot more recording of my vacations and adventures. But the kinds of posts that view life as a kind of “guess what happened when I stepped out my front door this morning” have a compelling and engaging quality that draw readers into your life. I mean, don’t go overboard and mistake yourself for an action hero or confuse your life with a a slap-stick comedy sequel to a low-budget Hollywood movie, but find that sweet spot somewhere between that and “Another Day on the Couch Pwning Noobs” via a high speed Internet connection.
6 : Write an Update for a Chronicle of Your Progress
…because most readers will start to care. Heck, as much as I hate Facebook, its entire business model is based around the idea that your entire social circle wants “updates” about your life. Social media, in essence, is little more than a string of “…now I’m doing this…” and “…now I’m reading this…” and “…now I’m thinking about that…” but with far less cohesion than is possible in a blog post. I like to keep my social circles updated on my running progress, for example — because a few of my readers and connections are actually exclusively interested in that aspect of my life — but rather than posting “Brad just ran 12 km in 27 minutes!” posts over Facebook or Twitter, I take a few more minutes and write a small, reflective post often summarizing the recent training, plotting virtual maps for distance, and adding a dash of anecdotal running adventure stories for good measure. Deep down it’s the same thing as a Facebook update at its core, but in the end I’ve got a series of posts and stories chronicling my running instead of some drizzled data on some social network database somewhere.
7 : Write a List
…because there really is nothing wrong with a list. A list of your thoughts, opinions, ideas, bits of knowledge, or any of the things I mentioned in the previous six points of THIS list is nothing more than a good way to add structure, read-ability, fore-thought and a well-rounded account of your chosen daily topic within the post. And, like I wrote waaaay back last week when I was starting this: people like lists. They are easy to read, chunked into neat and orderly sets, and … kinda fun to write, too.