Continuing on from yesterday, I’d like to ramble on a bit about something that I get asked quite often.
Namely, “Hey, I’d like to start a blog of my own, do you have any suggestions?”
No. No, I never have any suggestions. I live my life without holding a firm opinion on anything, and on the rare occasions when I am forced into a corner and have to adopt a position, I never share it with others.
Just kidding, just kidding.
I’m a blogger. I have suggestions and opinions on everything.
When it comes to starting your own blog, I have one major suggestion for you; think about what it is that you’re trying to say. What is it that’s important to get across in your post? What’s your point? Focus on what you MEAN, what idea or ideas you are trying to get across. Nail down what it is, in your head, that you’re trying to say before you start writing.
In general, or in particular posts, the most important thing is to communicate your idea, and get your meaning across.
Once you know what the point of the post really is, you can play around when writing, meandering around and having fun, making digressions, dancing around with wordplay, whatever, as long as you continue driving towards your point.
If the things you are saying in your post all pertain, in some way, to your main point, then it’s going to be fine.
Now, about that meaning.
You’ve got to focus on your meaning, your point, the reason you’re firing off a blog post, but you’ve got to do it in your own voice.
A blog is different from other forms of media in one very important aspect; the core of a blog is that it is a very personal expression of your specific opinions.
When you are writing, when you are presenting your points and expressing your meaning, always keep in mind, people who know what a blog is about are coming there specifically to get YOUR opinion on whatever it is you are talking about.
No matter how impartial someone tries to be, everything you think or say or write comes through the filter of your experiences. If you’re lucky, you are well aware of that, and aren’t under the delusion that you and you alone are tapped into “universal truth”.
When you write, the posts you make are what you think about things, and not necessarily exactly how reality really works. It’s how you think it works. Never lose sight of that.
Don’t try to smother your opinions or personality or attitude to fit your view of being “professional”. Be yourself, and by that, I mean write in your own voice. It’s why people are coming, they know that this is your opinion, and they want to get to know the person behind the words. They will get a feel about you from your voice in your writing. Hide it, and your writing will suffer. Badly.
One way to develop your voice is to write, and re-read what you’ve written, while thinking the words aloud in your head, or even saying them aloud after they’re on the screen.
What you write should flow naturally, just as you would say them yourself.
If, when you re-read your own writing, it sounds natural to you, then it’s you. You’re good. Have fun finding a way to phrase something you like better, if you wish. But you’ve gotten it to sound how you think you sound. It comes across as being you. Score!
If it sounds stilted, or confused, or isn’t what you’d say… fix it.
Everything on your blog is your opinion, your observations, and your understanding of how things are and how they work. Don’t try to hide that fact by being all monotone and clipped. Be yourself, and by that I really do mean, write as an expression of how you talk normally. Or, through the magic of having the time to think up the perfect phrase, how you’d LIKE to talk.
“But wait!”, I hear you say. ” What if I screw up! What if I get things wrong! I’m out here on a limb, damn you, and now you’re telling me to be the real me, honest and true, and if someone goes off on the real me, it’s gonna hurt!”
That’s true. If you are being yourself, and people go off on you, then you’ll feel it personally.
But if you are being false or hiding behind a mask, then if people like that person on the blog… well, it’s not you they like, now is it? If that’s a big concern for you, then you might want to rethink your reasons for writing a blog. It’s damn personal experience. If you’re not prepared to deal with the idea that some people will like you for who you are, and others will hate you, then you might want to find some other means of personal expression. Like origami.
Also, inevitably, you will make mistakes. Accept it. Write about your own experiences and ideas, and then read all the comments your readers leave, looking for new ideas, information and points of view. If you’re lucky and open-minded, you’ll learn as much from your readers as some of them may learn from you.
An example. The internet is a crazy place. Crazy Cat Lady x1 beeellion.
Somewhere out there on the internet is an expert on everything.
Someone who, shall we say, has devoted their entire life to the study of the mating cycle of the middle-American fruit fly.
They started studying at the age of 12, and have spent every minute of the last 43 years obsessing over that one thing. Fruit flies.
They’ve grown 100 generations of fruit flies in controlled environments, under varying atmospheric pressures, and measuring extremes in gas content percentages.
When that person sees your throwaway post about the fruit fly, accept the fact that they are going to be outraged, tee off on your audacity for daring to write about it, and then spend the next 4 paragraphs correcting you.
It’s not that they hate YOU for making a mistake, it’s that they know a shitload more than you do about that subject, and when given the opportunity to share that knowledge, they are going to do it.
It’s rare that you’re ever going to get such expert guidance on any subject. Don’t feel like a failure that you got some facts wrong… seriously, feel grateful, because mistakes can always be corrected.
Just update whatever post you wrote that had a few mistakes, make sure you thank the person for correcting you, and be grateful for having learned something new. Your understanding of the subject, and the world in general, has just grown.
Don’t worry that, now that you’ve made a mistake, all those people reading your blog took off in disgust. Some might stop reading, sure, but if you thank the person that corrected you, update your original post, and show that you are the kind of person that reads comments and wants to know what is right or wrong, and are learning from your readers as well, most will stay around.
Your attitude, personality, and voice are yours and yours alone, and those are the reasons most people keep coming back.
Now, as far as your grammer and spelling….
Seriously, don’t even worry about it.
Will spelling mistakes and grammer errors drive some of your readers crazy?
Focus first and foremost on the meaning you want to get across, and in sharing it in your own voice. Conversational discussions don’t follow grammer rules, and you don’t write in the same voice as other people. Abuse triple dots for pauses all you want, use silly smily faces, care not for the worries of grammer nazis, and give of your thought more to the important things, like actually having a point to this damn thing somewhere, and saying it in your own voice.
Once you’ve got your post done and you’re happy with it, sure, use spell check on it. When you’re writing very, very well and in your own voice, you’re in the groove and things are flowing, then go start worrying about spelling.
Spelling is important, and so is grammer. People can be so immersed in a story or article that a sudden mispelling is actually jarring. It throws them out of the moment, and back into an awareness that, oh yeah, this is some schmucks’ blog. Having a moment like that broken by spelling mistakes sucks.
That’s especially true of writing stories. A lot of mine are posted long before spell check is done, and re-reading my own stories on the PBeM I can see how disorienting it is to be visualizing a scene and boom! There’s a horribly mangled word, right there, throwing me out of the story.
So sure, go back over your work looking for spelling mistakes, if you’ve got time. Do it while re-reading it to see if it flows in your voice.
But don’t worry about it, don’t allow your fear of grammatical and spelling mistakes to stop you from writing. That’s the real danger.
The meaning of your posts is what you want to get across, and the voice you are speaking with is one of the reasons people keep coming back.
Long after you’ve forgotten you wrote about something, one of your readers may have walked away thinking about things in a new light, because they’d never seen that one thing from your particular point of view.
That person isn’t thinking about the way you mispelled “Mangle” that one time, in band camp. They carried away, and are thinking about, your idea.
That’s what lasts.
I’ll share an example that matters a lot to me, of how spelling and grammer are transcended by meaning and ideas.
My favorite poem is by Richard Lovelace. I’m adding it here for you to see what I’m talking about.
Tell me not, Sweet, I am unkind
For, from the nunnery
Of thy chaste breast, and quiet mind,
To war and arms I fly.
True, a new mistress now I chase,
The first foe in the field;
And with a stronger faith- embrace
A sword, a horse, a shield.
Yet this unconstancy is such
As you too shall adore;
For, I could not love thee, Dear, so much,
Loved I not honour more.
I love that poem dearly, but the first time I read it, it didn’t exactly flow smoothly in my understanding. I had to work through it, figure out how it should sound aloud, see how the meaning tied together.
If it were analyzed purely based on modern spelling conventions and phrasing, I’m sure it wouldn’t be handled kindly.
But spelling and grammer have nothing to do with why I love the poem.
It’s stayed with me over the years for the meaning of the words, the power of the ideas, and how they resonate with me.
If you want to write a blog, do it. There are several “How to get started” articles and posts out there to help you through choosing software, modifying themes, picking a name, and getting your posts seen.
But when you’re starting out, forget about things like themes and stuff. It’s all about the writing you do, what you’re saying, and how you do it. Most people will use a feedreader and never see your pretty theme or fancy sidebar.
What they will see is your writing, naked on a page. Your ideas. Your meaning. And how you choose to express yourself.
Make sure when they’re seeing you stripped naked… that it’s really YOU. Your voice, your personality, all natural, no bullshit, and all original parts. :)
And drive your post towards your meaning!