It could be argued I’ve only been blogging for a while, but that’s not really the case, because, really, a blog is just an essay. At least that’s how I regard it. It possesses a hook, an introduction, body paragraphs, and a conclusion. And I’ve been writing (and teaching) essays for a very long time. I’ve had a number of people ask me about this topic lately, and thought it was time I shared a few thoughts on the art of blogging in answer to their questions. So without further ado:
Who to write for? Well, that’s simple: anyone who will listen, and I try not to limit it to just the writing community.
How often? Once a week is optimum for me, and that’s tied to the fact it typically takes me a couple of hours or so to write a post. I start with an idea, and just kind of let it flow from there. So obviously with that kind of format, I can’t be blogging every day. It would kill my writing output altogether, and I’m busily working on the sequel to my first novel, which is where the purest essence of creative joy lies for me.
Where do you find ideas? Well, listen to people. They’re saying things to and around you all the time. Granted, some of it --- sometimes far too much of it --- is just sense-free random noise. Kind of like a great deal of social media tends to be. (Crap, what happened to the concept of thoughtful, intelligent conversation and discourse? On my gloomier days, my answer is: social media killed it.) But every once in a while, depending on the type of people you associate with, someone will let loose a little gem, sometimes completely unintentionally and without awareness of it. Because it may not be a gem to them, but to you... ah, it sparks that flash of divine creativity you’ve been seeking. And that spark can unleash an entire post. Or I look for something that happened to me during the week, or something I saw, or heard about, or watched. Regardless, I usually attempt to come up with something applicable both to writing stories and real life, because not everyone who reads my blog is really interested in the minutiae of the writing process. Widening the scope to stuff that’s relevant to as many people as possible is just common sense.
How much? I usually tend to shoot for something between 750 to 1000 words. Ish. Sometimes it’s more. Depends on what I want to say, and how loquacious I’m feeling on a given day. (Like most English teachers, I am sometimes guilty of why use one word when six will do?
How does one write an essay? Don’t feel you have to set thoughts down in perfectly logical, sequential order. I sure don’t. Whether we’re talking about a blog post or a speech to a group, I often start just putting thoughts down on paper. Order and coherency can come later. Of paramount importance is my need to catch those thoughts before they disappear forever into the ether. (Roald Dahl used to say the same thing about story ideas. When he came up with something, he had to write down at least a one-word reminder of the idea, no matter where he was, no matter what time of day it was. Otherwise, it could vanish like a candle flame. He related how an idea once came to him while he was out in his car. Having nothing to write with or on, he stopped the car and wrote a single word with his finger in the dust on the rear bumper. And it was enough.) Also, of course, with the advent of the computer for word processing, it’s become easier than ever to juggle blocks of text around. And while beginnings are critical, the main thing, as I constantly tell my students, is to start. Get some words down. You may hate what you’re writing, but as the creative juices get fired up, things will begin to flow, and you can always go back to what you started with and change it.
Why? This is really the penultimate question, isn’t it? Why blog? Well... there’s a couple of possible answers. The first is the most mercenary, so let’s dispose of it quickly: if you’re trying to market yourself and encourage people to visit your website and just possibly decide your writing is the most breathtaking stuff imaginable... so they might want to purchase your novel... you need to blog. You need to have content --- new content --- for them to look at on a regular basis. A reason to visit your website. But there’s more to it than that... has to be if you don’t want to look and feel like some huckster schmuck. (I really don’t like it when I follow someone on Twitter and almost instantly receive what is obviously an automated Direct Message tritely thanking me for following and then, in the next breath, suggesting I should buy their stuff. Um, wait a minute. I followed you because I was interested in something you said, or wrote, and I wanted to continue and build on that relationship.) The simple truth is that I actually kind of enjoy churning out a new essay once a week on diverse topics. As a career English teacher, I’m not short of opinions, and tend to have few qualms about expressing them.
Just ask my students, bless their little captive audience hearts.