My blog turned two years old this weekend!
I’m shocked that I’m still blogging. (Have I turned into a blogger?) I’ve started and abandoned oodles of other blogs. I’d write a single post and then quit the entire project. Blogging felt difficult and unnatural. And who would read my writing anyways?
Blogs aren’t quite the rage that they were when they first started. Twitter (which is really just micro-blogging) seems to have supplanted writing actual blog posts. A huge number of bloggers abandon their blogs, as blogging isn’t as easy as it looks. Few things are sadder than an abandoned blog. I still find blogging difficult. I struggle to produce regular posts. I wonder when I’m going to run out of things to say. (As if this has ever actually happened to me.) I fight with the length of a blog post, often too long for a tweet or Facebook post and too short to be a full-fledged article.
People sometimes ask me about starting a blog. Blogging can be complex. People smarter than I have all kinds of advice about getting more blog traffic, reading complicated analytic reports, and monitization strategies.
I’m not very interested in any of that. (I’m a historian. Maths terrify me.)
Keep it simple:
- Make friends with other blog writers.
- Be consistent.
- Write about the things you care most about in the world.
- Posts don’t have to be perfect.
- Above all, be YOU.
The blog has become my favorite writing project. It has provided some unexpected lagniappes.
Without the blog, my writing practice might have shriveled up and died for lack of attention. Aside from my dissertation, the blog is my longest and most consistent writing practice. After finishing the diss, I had no idea how or what to write next. The blog has improved my writing more than any writing group or workshop I’ve ever attended. I’ve thrown out passive voice (mostly), needless adjectives and adverbs, and learned to write with more active verbs. My writing remains a work in progress, but blogging regularly forces me to try to write better.
I’ve also found my public writing VOICE, which feels like a major discovery. The work of regular writing makes me think more closely about how I write and what my writing sounds like. Only after writing many blog posts did I figure out what I really sound like in written form. I still have an academic writing voice, which comes out when I’m trying to write something Very Serious. But my blogging voice most closely resembles what you’d hear if were were talking in person (complete with occasional snark). As William Zinsser reminds us, writing is really just talking to someone on paper.
The blog has also shown me where I’ve been and where I’m headed.
Year One of the blog was about sharing my writing process. I started the blog to promote my freelance editing services and build some public credibility as a writing person. I honestly thought that I’d write posts in which I’d give people sage and valuable writing advice. I found out much later that most people don’t actually want or need writing advice. My huge discovery was this: people want to feel better about themselves as writers and as people. When I wrote soul-baring posts about how mired in shame I felt about my writing, people responded with empathy. I came to understand that most (all?) writers feel like shit about their writing. What most (all?) of us really need is someone to share our writing struggles with us. Seriously, we’re all in this together.
During Year Two of the blog, I got a new non-academic job and an identity crisis. The non-academic nature of my job threw me for a loop. Was I an academic? Did I have to give up my research? Was I even still a historian? Could I teach outside of a university? I’ve spent the last year working out answers to all of these questions and more. (For the curious: yes, no, yes, yes.) Blogging helped me understand who I was without the academic identity that I’d devoted years of my life (and thousands of dollars) to building. Like my writing, its a work in process and progress.
I’m really looking forward to Year Three. I’ve been thinking about what I want to write about now. For the last few months, I’ve found my thoughts wandering towards how to make space for creative work in my life. Making that space seems all the more important now as Creating Important Knowledge isn’t in my current job description. Nevertheless, the soul yearns to make and create things. I’ve been thinking about doing more personal and freelance writing (maybe I will finish one of my novels in progress?). I’ve been also thinking about how to do some more non-academic teaching and help people create their own new knowledge of the world around them. I’m also thinking about community building, as creating and making stuff never happens in a vacuum, but results from interactions with other people and their ideas and creations. Stay tuned.
What possibly shocks me even more than the fact that I’m still writing the blog is that people are still reading it. I get tweets and emails from people every now and then telling me that they liked or learned something from my blog. And I’m so incredibly grateful and thankful for everyone who has taken the time to read, comment, and share. It’s awesome to feel heard. Thank you.