Posts Tagged ‘the art of blogging’
Every now and then, someone tells me they would like to blog more, but feel intimidated. They don’t know what to blog about, feel like it’ll be a time sink, things like that. So I thought I would share to four main reasons why I blog.
Blogging Makes You Smarter
Well, not really. But it does cause you to put to concrete words vague thoughts you have. I talked about this this the past, about blogging half-ideas and the like.
Most of the time when I blog, I have some topic that’s either popped into my head or I’ve verbally talked about while working on a project. So I figure “can I wrote 800-1000 words on that? Maybe less, maybe more?” And then as I sit down, I think “holy shit, I didn’t realize I knew/thought that.”
This makes me, in some ways, my primary audience for my blog. In many ways, this is my personal master class on game design and text design, much like how (and this is just me thinking aloud) Vincent Baker’s blog is his personal master class, useful for him.
As a personal class, comments from others are super helpful — they help me understand where I’m misguided, where I’m not going deep enough, things like that. So having something public adds to this. After all, I am not as smart alone as I am with a dozen people discussing something critically.
(As a side note, that’s part of what I love about conventions.)
Blogging Makes You Quicker
I’m at the point that I can take a topic and write 800 words on it fairly quickly. Most of that is from building skills when it comes to informal essay writing, but it’s helped me learn the art of writing and being comfortable with being wrong. When you’re constantly writing first drafts, you get used to writing them.
I don’t give myself much time to write a post. At most, for a meaty one, an hour. After that, if it’s not done, it gets shelved for a future date — and sometimes those don’t even get published, because I have already taken away quite a bit from making concrete in text my vague idea. And there’s always a new vague idea to explain. But because of my time constraint, I work to produce quickly. I sometimes outline, writing headers first — and I guarantee you that outlining is a tricky skill to master.
Blogging Gives You Material You Can Use Later
Sometimes when I write a post, I’m forming ideas for something I’m going to use later. Pretty much every horror gaming post is that, for a game I’m dying to sit down and make. It’s a place where I can test out little ideas and (potentially) see how people react to them. Some of my Fate posts are working their way in Fate Core, for instance.
Now, I know the whole thing in fictionland about how you shouldn’t publish short stories on your blog because they you can’t resell them, as that counts as first publication. So if that’s a concern for you, don’t publish those. It’s not a concern for me, because I’m not putting my fiction on my site (and frankly, I’m my own publisher when I want to be, so that part doesn’t matter).
Blogging Can Start Your Mental Engine
I’ll get to a point during my word day when I’m staring at something I’m suppose to be working on, something that’s on deadline, and I’ll be drawing a blank. Could be writing, could be editing. And I’m just frustrated at absolutely zero progress. My brain isn’t in that working gear, and not every task comes with a font of inspiration.
When that happens, I stop and turn to my blog. I use writing here to get me into a working frame of mind. It’s like getting a cold engine going — by the end of the post, I’m generally warmed up and ready to tackle the thing I couldn’t figure out. Sometimes I’ll write about what I’m working on: subject matter, text issues, style concepts, something related. Sometimes I’ll write about whatever seems to be distracting me from doing the work, just to get it out of my system
(I’ll also try working on something else, rather than blog. Whatever will get me started.)
Blogging Makes You Known…But Not Right Away
I said four reasons, and here’s a fifth. But it’s not a fifth reason to actually blog, it’s just a reason many people start to in the first place.
Here’s the thing: it takes longer than you think to build up an audience. Longer to get them to comment, and learn what they’ll comment on. Most visitors either read and nod, read and close it because they don’t agree or don’t care, or they click on a link and let it languish as a browser tab or in Instapaper, not actually reading it because other stuff comes up.
So if you’re blogging in order to get people to see your genius, I guess that’s cool. But expect a long road of disappointment…or come up with personal reasons that add to your life beyond fragile Internet micro-fame.
I started this blog because I watched Rob Donoghue get even sharper as his blogged every day. So I wanted to grow similarly. I’d say I’ve done pretty well so far, but the road ahead is long. And it’s awesome.
I have a number of friends who are starting up blogs, and I’ve been giving the same advice over and over. So instead of repeating myself, I decided to make a post I can just point to. I talked about this when talking about my blogging goals for the year, but here’s something more concrete.
Less is Metal
I’ve said before that “500 words is the new black.” This is not just a cute idea. Start with short posts. It’ll get you used to blogging regularly — learn to climb hills and lesser mountains before you take on the Everest that’s a 3000 word post.
One Topic Per Post
You might have a dozen ideas that are related, but if you put them into one post, you’re giving folks commenting too many things to respond to. That way lies disjointed comment threads and people who feel too overwhelmed to comment. (I call this tl;dc — too long, didn’t comment.) Stick to one core point, and maybe three or four supporting points.
The side effect of this is that when you get to doing that, breaking that rule because a noteable moment.
Headers are your Friends
If you ignore the “three or four supporting points” bit, like I’m doing today, use headers. I still make sure there’s one core point for the supporting bits I’m writing, but then it becomes my job to easily segmented them. A trick I’ve learned by watching Chuck Wendig blog about things like yelling at writers’ bullshit.
Man, I cannot say this loud enough. Blogging often makes you a better article writer. This is something Rob Donoghue once mentioned, and lately I’ve been feeling it as well. I submitted a proposal for the upcoming Cortex Plus Hacker’s Guide, and was able to turn around a couple thousand words pretty damned quickly–something two years ago I would have spent too much time overthinking before sitting down to write.
And every post you do gives people reason to read the post before. Blogging is like playing the supplement treadmill game. New posts gain new readers, some of whom will read your older stuff.
Fuck Up Aggressively
It’s okay to be wrong about stuff. Post anyway. Do not treat yourself like a guru on top of a mountain. You’re among people. You have commentors that’ll call you on your shit. You’ll change your mind as you get new data and perspectives. So don’t let the fear of being wrong get in the way.
As I said on Twitter a couple months back, “Failure is metal. Not failing due to paralysis is not metal.” Same applies here.
Focus on Topics
I suggest everyone starting out focus on two or three overall topics for three months, and see what ends up sticking — both with what your new readers like and (more importantly, to be honest) what you like writing about. I started with “RPG design talk,” “Social Media thoughts,” and “Podcasting.” I don’t talk about podcasting much anymore, and have added talking about editing, critiques of games as products and as text, and being a new creative professional in general (like this post).
I also have to occasional humorous post, another trick I learned from Chuck. But that’s a whole ‘nother blog post about brainhacking. :)
Edit After Publishing
So you’re done writing your post. Awesome. And you want to give it a once-over…for the second or third time.
Stop. Click “Publish.” Look at it on your site and not in the editor.
Then go back and revise. This will get you in the habit of two things:
- Knowing how your posts will look to others while you’re writing it in the editor
- Becoming comfortable with posting something flawed.
These are blog posts, not professional articles. I only ask people to read articles prior to publishing these days if either it needs a subject-matter expert to check my facts or it’s a post that might be cockbitish to publish.
Above All, Experiment
Try new things. See what you like. If my advice doesn’t work for it, tell it to fuck the hell off.
Be welcoming. Get people to engage with you. That’ll help you be a more awesome writer, blogger, overall human being. It also helps get word of your blog out, as more people talk about it.
What Am I Missing?
I know a lot of bloggers. Old hats, tell me what advice you have for newbies!
Happy bloging, friends.
 Which I won’t be linking to until that’ve got a few posts and want more exposure.
 Follow the Almighty Penmonkey.
 “Bloging”? “Blogging”? “Bloggggggggggggginating”?