It has been almost five years since I started blogging. Here is what I have learned.
1. Loneliness because of the “Blog Lobe”
This one is a joke with a bit of truth. My friends are sometimes scared to talk to me because they know that in the back of my mind there is a new “Blog Lobe” section of my brain. It is there . . . I promise. You can do an MRI and see it. I will upload pics later and blog on it. The blog lobe is that part of the brain that is unique to bloggers that is perpetually and involuntarily writing a blog out of every circumstance and conversation. I have a permanent disclaimer tattooed to my forehead that says, “Warning: this conversation has a very good chance of turning into a blog. Proceed at your own risk.” My closest friends just don’t want to talk to me anymore. My pastor is always scared about what I am going to broadcast about his sermon. My wife…well…Ahem. Moving on.
2. Count the cost: It takes a lot of time. . . a lot of time.
A blog can eat your lunch. To get one started, you really need to post often. If you are an original content type of blog, like this blog (not simply pointing people to others’ content) and you want the content to be meaningful and good (don’t we all?), it takes a big commitment of time that most people don’t have. Count the cost here.
3. Blogging provides some good accountability or “The Angel on Your Shoulder”
If you are a teacher, you know that it is pretty easy to pull the wool over people’s eyes. Those who are being taught normally give you the benefit of the doubt that you know what you are talking about. In a small audience of 10 or 20, you can scope out how smart others are and then adjust accordingly. If most are uneducated in the topic of discussion, you can get away with quite a bit. Believe me, I know. A blog—this blog—has really helped to keep me honest and careful in every venue. I know that there are people out there in the blog world that know what they are talking about. I can count on the fact that there will be some who read my posts who know more than I do about the subject. I know that they will publicly give me a whipping if I try to pull rank. You never know who is going to show up.
There are four solutions for this:
a) Don’t allow comments on your blog. I don’t ever suggest this since it is an immediate signal that will communicate to some that you are not confident enough to be challenged.
b) Hope that you never gain much of an audience. That is pretty easy to pull off since there are millions of blogs out there and it is easy to never get noticed.
c) Write a traditional blog where it is merely your thoughts and opinions, not the proliferation of ideas. Then it does not really matter what you say.
d) Take your topic very seriously and be very careful. But then you must consider again #2.
This accountability is a good thing.
4. Be ready to pull out your hair (if you have any) or “The Devil on Your Shoulder”
Since I don’t suggest turning off your comments, you need to be ready for the troublemakers who are only there to challenge you in public. I have a lot of those. It is hard enough to find time to keep up with the blogging, but having to respond to every challenge is even harder. Here is what I do:
I delete every comment that makes me look bad. I rely on my audience to be able to give an answer. If that doesn’t work, considering that less than 10 percent of blog readers even read the comments, I evaluate whether it is a serious and valuable challenge and whether a response will benefit the audience. Also, I have built a culture where most of my readers know that I rarely engage in posts that are more than two days old. It is hard enough to get me to comment on the post of the day!! (As a side note: I normally do read about 10% of the comments).
5. Blogs perpetuate their own kind (but this does not make you cool)
This can be a great curse, as people who should not be teaching can, if done “right,” gain an audience who will listen. Let me repeat this: anyone can gain an audience if they know what they are doing. But just having an audience does not mean that you should be writing. Some of the biggest blogs, like some of the biggest churches, should not be allowed to exist. I have learned that the size of a blog audience does not necessarily mean that you are writing in a way that glorifies God. I could give some examples, but see #3.
6. There is a temptation to post only to gain an audience, my foolish friend
And then there’s THAT. Bloggers want an audience. Why else would we be blogging? Controversial posts will always attract the most people. Once you have one of those posts that everyone is linking to, you feel the pressure to do the same with the next, and the next, and the next. When the subsequent blogs do not gain the same attention, you go into “blogger depression.” This is not good; however (ahem), there are doctors who will prescribe a specific anti-blogger-depressant for this.
In reality, there is nothing wrong with controversial posts here and there. Simply space them out over time. Don’t worry about how big the audience is. Spend your time writing about what you are really interested in and gifted to write about. The audience will come and go—and grow—over time. Just because people don’t link to it does not mean it is not valuable.
(please link to this blog post)
7. Writers block for bloggers
Blog about blogging.
8. Bloggers networking (straight from hell)
This is the underground necessity of blogging that most people who don’t blog don’t know about. You should find a way to network with other bloggers. A good first step is to link to them here and there in your posts. Having them in your blogroll used to be significant, but not anymore. Blogrolls don’t count in blog rankings. You have to link to them in your post. Pay special attention to the big bloggers who check where all the links are coming from. Your hopes are that they will one day link back to you.
In truth, I am not good at this at all. But I do have a lot of bloggers whom I really do consider friends. The network creates a sense of healthy obligation to opine to their needs. But you need to be wise and strategic about this: no blog can ever expect to grow without networking, but don’t let the networking dictate the content of your posts. It can be rather obvious and distracting.
9. Create a footprint, my son
As I mentioned before, you need to blog according to your area of giftedness. Create themes and blog series based on the areas that are unique to your blog. Keep them coming and allow people to get familiar with them. I have been doing a series that I will probably contribute to forever about dealing with my depression. People know what to expect on my blog for the most part. This “footprint” creates a needed and welcome sense of familiarity.
10. Take off the mask
It is a blog. Respect the venue and show a bit of you. Be authentic, but don’t slobber. Let people into your life, but not in every post. If you gain an audience, it is because people are attracted to you, not just to what you are saying. Let people know about your struggles, when your dog died, and when you are not so faithful to the ideals of your posts. This will draw people in and help you keep your audience. It will let people know what they need to know…that you are one of them.
Oh, there is one more thing that, out of necessity, did not make the list. Create lists of ten and put it in the title as a “Top Ten.” People love to read top tens (but not top elevens).
…and worrying about speling and grammer is overreighted. Ok, I done now.
In the end, like I said, I started blogging five years ago this month. Though I do it more for me than anyone, I’ll be honest: I wouldn’t be doing it without you. I do appreciate all of you who have supported this blog for the last five years. Thank you.