Doing something kinda different this week for post number fifteen in our “taking the scary out of blogging” series. And yeah, if you want to play catch-up (no obligation, of course), links to the first fourteen are hidden way down at the bottom this time.
Anyway, instead of working on emotional stucknesses and what-iffery (no worries, we’ll be back to that next week), I wanted to touch on some practical bits.
But first I have to wax philosophical (and type a shockingly naughty word).
If you don’t blog, you have my permission to think about this stuff we’re going to be talking about in terms of general writing and useful communication skills. But it’s also even more than that.
Naomi said the other day that — excuse me, I’m quoting directly here:
“Marketing is the shit you do that makes people buy your shit.”
And that is why we are madly in love with Naomi. My I’m-a-yoga-teacher-with-a-duck version of that is:
‘Marketing’ is the art of helping your Right People find you and feel safe enough to receive from you, so you can live your crazy helper-mouse mission.
We can talk more some other time about “marketing” and why it (the word, the concept, the application) doesn’t always have to make us want to run and take a shower.
For now I just want to throw it out there that the way you write blog posts (or anything, for that matter) can make it easier for your Right People to say yes to you. And that is useful not just for you but for them.
Learning from my mistakes.
I’m going to give you a challenge and draw attention to something embarrassing I wrote just so you feel better about yourself because that’s how nice I am.
Let’s dive into the archives here, shall we?
In Blogging Therapy #13 when we talked about finding your voice, I made the following suggestion:
Go to the archives of a blogger you admire, go back to the very, very beginning and read the very, very first posts … What you’re doing is discovering (or reminding yourself) that even the best blogging voices are not born that way.
So then I had the brilliant idea that this would make a terrific homework-ey exercise dinksbumps* for everyone taking my Blogging Therapy course.
The assignment was this.
But imagine that you’re listening to this assignment being transmitted over a crackling radio connection and that it’s coming from someone who addresses you and your partners as “Angels” and also that there’s cool ’70s theme music:
Someone left me a comment this week on a very, very old post. It’s actually from before I started blogging. Because when I started the blog I put up a bunch of old noozletter articles so I wouldn’t feel lonely. And — every once in a while — someone discovers one of them.
Reading it again now made me realize that 1. wow, there’s some good stuff in here (yes, that surprised me!) and 2. there are a lot of ways I’d change it if I were writing it now.
Then it occurred to me that some of these “here’s what I’d do differently” bits would be useful for you guys.
So here’s your challenge:
And then … try and guess what changes I would make if I were writing it now …
Obviously my writing voice has changed quite a bit since July 2007 … and there are aesthetic considerations as well. Give it your best shot!
Right. So I’m about to share the answers which means …
If you want to try and guess the answers yourself, you might want to not read below this little dotted line thingy until you’ve taken a swing at the homework.
Yes, that is what the dotted line thingy looks like. Wait, I’m putting another one in so you can’t say that you missed it. 🙂
Okay, heading into “answers” territory … spoiler alert activated.
Ready? A whole bunch of things to consider.
One of the women in the Blogging Therapy course wrote:
“It’s like looking for the find-a-words when you don’t have the list of words to work from. If this were a crossword puzzle book, I’d turn to the back page right now to find out the answers. Instead, I have to wait. Oh, darn!”
So yeah, it probably wasn’t a fair assignment. Also, I got carried away with the fun and fascinating the stuff we came up with in class, and totally forgot to share the answers. Oof.
Let’s take a look.
Thing 1: Shorter paragraphs.
By a lot. Space breaks are your friend.
The most important thing you can do in your blog is have insane amounts of space breaks. Because people skim and their eyes get tired and it can be hard reading blogs.
If you help them by creating more space they’re more likely to actually read it.
When in doubt, throw in more. If I were re-formatting that semi-embarrassing post, there would be at least twice as many breaks. Probably more.
Thing 2: Headers.
Best way to break up text and draw attention to things.
I’m also a fan of the blockquote tag as a way to say “Hey, I’m making a point”, so I’d probably also use some of that.
Thing 3: Help people hear your voice.
You’ve probably noticed that I italicize quite a bit.
Partly it’s to break up the text again and give it a little life, but it’s also to help you hear what this is sounding like in my head.
Being a real, live human being like Betty Boop told you to is useful and important. So I’m always looking for things that will help me get the “me” across.
Thing 4: Not boring people to death with the headline.
I’m no headline expert.
And, to be honest, those biggified blogger articles about “Ten ways to get people to read your headline” are usually so stilted and self-congratulatory that I can’t even get through them.
So don’t take advice from me on this.
I’ll just say that if I were rewriting that post, the first thing I’d change is the headline. It’s painfully dull. Plus sooooo not google-able.
Instead of “More ways to work on your patterns” (seriously, what was I thinking?), I’d probably do something to make it sound as though it weren’t written by a self-help robot.
Maybe “Change your patterns. But first, you have to catch the train.”
Or “How I got a clue (literally!) and stopped being late to work.”
I don’t know. Those aren’t good either. But I’d sure as hell come up with something better than “More ways to work on your patterns.”
Thing 5: Maybe a graphic.
I’m not (as you may have noticed) a follower of the popular “have a lot of bright pretty pictures” school of blogging.
It’s partly because of a severe handicap that results in me only being interested in words. And partly because I spend so much time writing these things that I really can’t be bothered to do anything else with them.
It couldn’t hurt.
Thing 6: Not being a pain in the ass.
As Diana so perceptively pointed out in her response to my “homework”:
“Fewer imperative sentences.
I don’t know if you’ve changed your writing style because you are blogging or if you are mellowing with age, but I don’t think you would say “Get going!” now and certainly not with an exclamation point.”
Yes, I’m mellowing with age.
A phrase which — applied to me — hits me straight in the funny bone.
So probably not that. I think it’s more that I gradually realized that expertise alone just isn’t sexy.
When I read blogs where the writer wraps herself in this big cloak of “Hi, I’m an expert and I am so totally over having your problems”, I lose interest.
The blogs I love to read are written by people. Like Naomi. I’m much more inclined to take her advice because she doesn’t present herself as someone who knows everything.
Yeah. I definitely wouldn’t say “Get going!” now.
In fact, I take it back. You most certainly do not have to get going on anything.* That would be ridiculous.
*Unless of course you happen to feel like it for reasons of your own.
Thing 7: Where is Selma???
I know. Not everyone has a duck.
But the fact that I wrote an entire post and didn’t even mention my business partner who deserves sole credit for my fame and fortune and general well-being?
Especially since she was absolutely with me on that walk to the train station. Gah. I don’t know.
I guess it took me a long time to realize that even though some people would (and do) think it’s really screwed up that I have a duck, the people that get it are so totally my Right People that it doesn’t even matter if everyone else thinks I’m not all there in the glove compartment.
That’s it. Enough with the expert-izing.
Hope there was Something Useful for you in here today. Next week back to more Blogging Therapy of the emotional stucknesses kind.
Tomorrow: pure, unadulterated goofiness.
Oh, and as promised, the links to the other Blogging Therapy posts in the series:
Part 1. What if people are mean to me?
Part 2. What if I throw a party and no one shows up?
Part 3. Why even bother when there are already other people doing it better?
Part 4. What do I saaaaaaaaaaaaaaay?
Part 5. Help! Perfectionism! Gaaaaak!
Part 6. But I’m not an EXPERT!
Part 7. Don’t make me be vulnerable!
Part 8. I just don’t have the time!
Part 9. What if someone READS what I wrote?
Part 10. But I’ll never be popular!
Part 11. De-shouldifying.
Part 12. A bunch of questions.
Part 13. Finding your voice.
Part 14. Worry. Worry. Worry.
Yes, that is a lot of Blogging Therapy. And no, you don’t have to read any of it if you don’t feel like it. See you tomorrow …