Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Five reasons why blogging makes you a better writer

Apparently there's only one reason to write a blog – to build a 'platform', which you can then convert to customers to buy your 'product'.

Right.

Aside from the fact that anyone who thinks of their potential readership in those terms doesn't deserve anyone's time or money, thinking of your blog in terms of 'platform' is a little like obsessing about how to get published before you've learned to write.

So before you start putting the cart before the horse - or worse, giving it up before you even start - here are five reasons to write a blog even if no one else ever reads it.

Regularity

Having to produce something of quality regularly can be quite a challenge, but it's an excellent habit for a writer to form. Whether you blog daily, weekly or monthly blogging requires discipline to compel yourself to do it – and that discipline rubs off elsewhere.

'But I already produce 5000 words a day. I don't need more discipline' says the failing writer. Ok, but there's a big difference between producing 5000 words of drivel no-one is ever going to read and a taut 500 words that will be published online and possibly read by everyone.

Consistency

You're only as good as your last piece of writing.

Regular blogging instils the need to keep producing consistently readable stuff, and with that need you are compelled to develop skills that improve consistency: style and voice, the ability to make the mundane interesting, the obvious less so – all of which is useful wherever and whatever you write.

Relevance

Once you start publishing blog-posts for others to read, you start caring about your readers – what they want, what they like, what interests them and what they respond to. You start to realise that your headline not only needs to be attention grabbing, but that it also needs to indicate the content of the post. You start to understand that writing isn't about pontificating about what you think you know, but about what you can say and how you can say it in such a way that your readership actually gives a shit.

And how the hell to you know when you're starting to succeed at all these things? When people start (and keep) reading what you're saying.

Idea Generation

Probably one of the most useful things about having to find something to write about regularly is that you learn to germinate ideas rapidly and repeatedly. This coupled with the skills outlined in point 2 means that everything starts to become potential subject-matter. It can seem daunting to have to come up with post ideas all the time, but for a writer to be in the position where she doesn't know what to write about it or how to write about it is never a good thing – regular blogging helps you get over that.

Thought Cohesion

There's nothing like realising how little you understand something the moment you try and explain it to someone else. There's nothing like realising how badly formed your ideas are when you start to articulate them in writing - you learn to smarten your ideas up pretty quick. Blogging doesn't mean you have to be the authority in the area you blog about – you can use it as an opportunity to develop your knowledge and skills in a subject you'd like to understand more about. You want to know about early nineteenth century armadillo racing? Then do some prep and write a blog-post about it – and do it in such a way that's interesting and compelling.

Isn't that exactly what writing is all about?

18 comments:

  1. Thanks for the kick in the pen!

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  2. Well-said James! Right on target as usual, interesting and compelling :)

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  3. @Tressa - pleasure's all mine ;)

    @Gene - thanks, Gene - you're a brick. Keep coming back - you're most welcome here.

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  4. Well said. Especially the last one - thinking out loud often helps you formalize those thoughts, or to separate what you know from what you haven't yet learned.

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  5. Yep Tony, the last point is probably the most useful thing I've learned from maintaining a blog. I've had to learn about the things I've wanted to learn about in order to post about them. Can't be a bad thing. Thanks for reading and commenting.

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  6. I enjoyed this post. I enjoy blogging too, my primary reason for doing it. But you're right about it being good for my writing skills.

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  7. I have been a tardy blogger of late - but this has given me more reasons to be a regular blogger.
    Great post as ever, James.

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  8. You have a fabulous blog! I want to award you the Brilliant Writer Blog Award for all the hard work you do!

    Go to http://astorybookworld.blogspot.com/p/awards.html and pick up your award.
    ~Deirdra

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  9. @L.J. - thanks L.J. - glad you enjoyed the post

    @Hemmie - I've always loved your blog, Hem - keep it up.

    @Deirdra - thanks for the award :) very much appreciate it.

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  10. Simply marvelous, James. Excellent points that resonated with me in concise, precise words. Thank you!

    Thank you too, for the humor. I read "regularity" and just burst into laughter. My first thought was, "That's why I put fiber in my coffee!"

    Very well written.

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  11. Fantastic! I believe all these points as well, and you've done a great job at explaining each idea. :)

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  12. Yeap, I love it. Sometimes people think that blogging's about writing some sort of diary. Yeah right. Like you said, one gets to see what people like, exercise their writing/editing bones, and learn more about the thing called social media. All good things for a writer. I believe that the revolution is a good thing. And blogging's one of them best tools. :)

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  13. This is a great post and I agree -- there's very little I don't like about blogging: it gets me writing everyday, people are actually reading what I write, and I meet other writers. What's not to like? My biggest concern is that it takes up the time I would be spending writing fiction...but the truth is I probably wouldn't be doing that during my blogging time anyway. Great post!

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  14. @Narratus - thank you, Narratus, and welcome to the blog - hope you find some other stuff here that's useful to you.

    @Jami - thanks, Jami :)

    @Lyn - exactly, Lyn, blogging is a great place to develop writerly skills and to keep learning in.

    @Julia - thank you Julia - I appreciate you taking the time to read and comment - I'm glad you liked it.

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  15. You've almost convinced me... though I do still think there's something of the emperor's clothes about this apparent NEED to blog, tweet and basically do the job of the publisher's PR team in advance of securing a book deal.

    But, yes, what you say here is valid - certainly in terms of the consistent dedication and the becoming aware of/caring for the readers.

    Still... I write enough each day - words in the current ms, words in (long) emails to writer friends... and sometimes it's difficult to drum up energy - or justification - to then write on a blog and tweet too.

    But, as always, a great post.

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  16. Just the sort of reasoning I was going with when I finally dove into the world of blogging - thanks for reaffirming it.

    Now, if only I could get people to start providing me with feedback on my blog...

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  17. @Sandie - you have a great blog, Sand. I agree with you about the perceived NEED to blog before securing a book deal etc. and like you I don't buy it, although it certainly won't do any harm.

    I've found the blogging a self-perpetuating thing. I started it when I took time off to write, and it made me feel a lot more professional about myself - sort-of act the part, be the part. It's like having a gym routine now - I feel guilty if I don't do it, but like a gym routine it does feel like I'm keeping my writerly muscles toned as I do try and post about what I think I know and what I feel I've learnt about writing - hence all the points I make in the post. Hopefully I don't come across too much like a pompous arse, as the whole thing is a learning exercise for me too.

    @becsmog - oh that will happen, trust me - particularly if you hang around and keep commenting on this blog ;)

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  18. I totally agree with what you said about only being as good as your last piece of writing! We are always changing and as human beings we are not static, every moment and every lesson learned, we become a little different and are changed. Every person we come into contact with changes us in some way for the better or worse. We cannot allow our writing to stagnate either, we need to do everything we can to always improve it for the better. Even if it seems like "bad writing" it is something we have learned from, just as we all can say that we learned from a "bad" experience.

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