Friday, January 05, 2018

10 things about writing and blogging that come to mind

I studied Sports & Remedial Massage at NLSSM and we have a Facebook Group for graduates and someone recently asked about blogging. It took me a while, but I eventually responded with some observations based on my experience of being an infrequent and frankly disorganised blogger.

Blogging, and bloggers, come and go. Some hang around for long periods, others drop in and out. Some blogs are focussed and specific, other are more rambling or personal.

For what it's worth, I've decided to try and put a bit more thought into the observations I made in responding to the question on the Facebook Group. Here's what I've come up with so far, in no particular order.

1. Be clear about what your purpose is for writing.

You are going to write differently for different purposes. This blog is a personal rambling sort of thing where I write about all sorts of stuff. It's a place where I share ideas, express opinions, post music I like, pictures that make me smile and where I rant about stuff that irritates me. I don't worry about likes and subscribers. I write for myself.

2. Decide on a frequency.

I'm very relaxed about my writing. It's mainly about me processing my thoughts. If anyone reads it that's okay, if they don't, well I don't worry too much about that. But if you're intending to use it more proactively then you need to post regularly. The key is not to assume that the 101 ideas you currently have in your head will all work and if you post too much too quickly you'll probably do two things. Firstly, you will run out of ideas and energy and you'll skim on research. Second, you'll overwhelm readers. Better to post once a month than post seven things today and then nothing for the rest of the year. With most platforms you can schedule your posts, so you can use a productive period to get ahead. See the next point!

3. Get ahead of yourself.

If you are going for regular postings, then plan ahead. Sketch out ideas and do your research. Always be one or two posts in front so you don't dry up.

4. Write well.

Always proof-read. Learn to spell. It doesn't stop errors creeping in, but hopefully you will catch most grammatical and other mistakes before you post. We all make typing errors, it's about keeping them to a minimum. You may not be bothered by ending sentences with prepositions, splitting infinitives or the nuances of the Oxford comma, but it's always worth the effort to make sure your syntax is good and that what you're writing has clarity. Read other stuff and ask yourself what makes it clear, what makes it readable? Then learn from it. Don't be afraid to "go back to school" and learn some basic grammar if you're a bit rusty or have simply never been taught it. It's not as complicated as it sounds.

5. Related to writing well is knowing your audience.

If you're writing technical stuff for technical people, then use technical language. If you're trying to explain something technical to the non-techs, then avoid it or at the very least define it clearly.

6. Keep it relatively short.

Blog posts are neither essays nor dissertations! You need to capture you reader's imagination early if they are going to make it all the way to the end. Ask yourself if what you've written will fit on a single screen or will the reader need to scroll down. If your asking folk to scroll down or even click through to a second page, it's got be worth the effort!

7. Be prepared to get criticised.

People will take issue with you, and that's okay. Some will be rude, that's not okay, but it's the way things are. The internet is not the most civil place in which to share thoughts and ideas. If you don't handle criticism well then learn. Always be civil in your responses. Disagree with respect. Do not get involved in self-justification, it's not worth the effort and you'll never win a critic over with it.

8. Use illustrations and pictures where you can and only if you have access to good ones. But don't clutter the screen with unnecessary photo's and illegible charts.

9. Edit.

Let things sit for a while. Re-read them. Don't be afraid to discard stuff, even whole projects. But don't throw out a good idea just because it's proving tricky to get the words down. I have drafts on my blog that might get posted one day but might not. It's part of the process. Use a tool like Evernote or Onenote to gather thoughts, ideas and research.

10. Review.

Every so often stop and look at the big picture. Is what you are currently doing still serving the purpose with which you set out. If the answer is no, what needs to change the purpose or the product?

Okay, so there's probably more, but this is getting too long as it is and I,have other things to be getting on with right now. (And it's cold in the house because the boiler has broken down and I need to find someone to fix it!)

No comments: