What is your blogging approach?

Yesterday I received an email asking me what my blogging technique was. Apparently, “it is clear that [I am] doing something right” according to my sender, and he was interested to know what it was.

A conglomeration

I think blogging is a combination of many things, not the least of which is writing. When you come down to it, blogging is writing, but on a very different platform. So, when I was asked my blogging technique, I was at a loss of words.

Then I began to think about it systematically. When we talk of a blog, we talk of a post. So I would define blogging technique as the process of transforming a post from an idea, or an inspiration, or an opinion — generally, from something only existent in the writer’s mind — to something that is shaped and formatted in a way that a large number of people will like to read.

So where do we start?

The idea, uncatalogued

An idea strikes anytime. While conversing, while reading a book, while playing my violin, while sprawled on the swing, while playing with my dog, even while eating. You’ll never know.

But it would be crazy to get up and type an entire article. It is possible, but that would be a shoddy job.

All blogs start with a clean sheet: use it wisely, you will never get that chance again.
Photo courtesy: Flickr/guudmonring!

Secondly, I make it a point to read the writings of those around me. I have a friend and a handful of acquaintances who blog. Perhaps their reader base is smaller than mine (or they are lying to me!) and perhaps they are not the authority on anything on the planet, but I still make it a point to read what they write. I follow all their blogs, almost immediately know what updates they put forth and will definitely make some time to read their articles, word-to-word, start to finish.

Most times I’ll even leave a comment. It may not be a rambling one, but it’s a gesture. It shows I care, it shows I read, it shows the blogger they may be an individual, but they’re not unimportant to somebody else. This also helps to keep better perspective, fuels my own desire to blog and, maybe, I’ll even learn a thing or two in the process.

Catalogued and filed

Once an idea strikes my mind, I make note of it, because I write my articles at a set time and day and schedule it. Writing everyday may not be feasible. Break the habit one day and your blog starts to dry up.

Also, I do not believe in writing everyday. I no longer even believe in publishing x times a week or month. Having joined the slow blogging movement, I have come to view blogging increasingly as a responsibility rather than a hobby. But not responsibility in terms of regular publishing; rather, responsibility in terms of better thought out articles.

That is not to say my older articles were not well thought out. Had that been the case, individuals, larger tech blogs, universities and my own subscribers would not have been linking to my work from time to time. But I decided to choose between dividing my attention between a bunch of articles and a single one and now, the latter seems to hold more appeal.

Screenshot_2013-12-10-10-04-38
I was out when I received Greg’s email (I’ve mentioned Karen’s email at the end again) so I made a draft straight into my dashboard: no other app or transferring of notes involved. I can access the draft when I sit to type my articles later. This is just a simple, not very time consuming approach I use; you might like to adopt it as well.

Write

That is the biggest secret there is. Sit down and write. Your writing voice may be strict, formal, thrown about, uptight, lazy, comedic, stiff, sarcastic, honest or vague. It does not matter. All styles have followers.

Nearly everybody I have met has described my style of writing as formal (or some word that intends to mean formal). I do not try to write formally; that is my voice, how I speak, how I think. And you cannot be trained to think in a certain fashion.

So write how you will (wrong language/grammar is still no excuse) and what you will (again, slander/libel cases are a dime a dozen against bloggers, so tread light). People will read. The blogosphere is such that, like it or not, a few people will stumble upon your blog everyday. Maybe even 10 will come, or 50, or 100. None of that matters.

True dat.
Image courtesy: Flickr/DonkeyHotey

Your traffic isn’t your traffic

When you start blogging, remember that 100 man traffic you used to get? Well, about 20 of them never read anything, 10 of them had no idea how they came to your blog and another 10 very likely blocked you. Whenever I get my daily stats, I therefore cut out 40% from it. So on a gloomy day, my 10-15k visitors may be the remaining 60%. On a particularly good day, and on a particularly good article, the number may double.

The biggest change in such traffic is your own writing and it features heavily in my blogging technique/approach. People will contact you by e-mail. Yes, a lot more people do than you think, and it’s very rewarding. Why else to large websites declare that they do not interact to email queries? Because so many people do it. Conversely, I love to interact via email. It feels more personal than some lost cause comment at the bottom of a page nobody is going to scroll to.

So when you blog with a lot of readers, you get more criticism, hate, appreciation and responsibility to not waste others time. That is one of the reasons why, as a blogger, I highly value the formative years of my blog (as well as my website) when my readers were my friends and family. Only.

Wash your hands once you’re done

After I write an article, I forget about it. Some will tell you not to do this ever, but I say go for it. What good is an article in your head after it is out for the world to see? All you really need is to remember you wrote on such and such a topic, so when you need to cross-reference (or when you get a faint doubt) you just have to look back and you will find it.

David Weinberger at the Edelman Blue Hour Blogging
Photo courtesy: Flickr/Udo Herzog

Take time to write as well. Formatting may not be important enough to command even half-an-hour a day, but its importance cannot be underestimated. Use headings, spaces, embolden, italicise, underline, strike through and whatever else you can think of to make your point clear.

Use images as well. Mention living, breathing, existing people; it will make them shy away as a spotlight always does, but that is part of acknowledgement. So, as a last piece of sound advice, learn to acknowledge. Did somebody inspire you to blog? Say it on your blog, it will not belittle you. Did somebody’s harsh words prompt you to write a blog post? Write it and then discard it. On the long run, when the fury has died, you will wish you had never published such articles.

Such things happen. Years of blogging experience tell you a thing or two. And, lastly, remember, people know large tech blogs because they advertise, have a team of writers and throw out tens of articles a day. But the blogging scene was always built around the single blogger and we command 434% greater indexing. Doubt me? Check it out yourself. And the next time you think of skipping a blog, ask yourself if you are being moved by branding.

The biggest gems are found with single, personal blogger such as you (?), me (serious) and this guy (weird) and this lady (funny). Embrace it.


P.S. I had received another email much before this one, which I had, unfortunately, forgotten to attend to. I was reminded about it because of its similar nature. So probably in another article on another day I will address the issue of the tools I use to actually write an article and how I make the process less time-consuming. It focuses on WordPress, so if you are interested, drop me a word and I’ll write the article earlier than planned.


 Cover image: Flickr/Bombardier  VHBsign

The writing habit

In all the years that I have been writing, I have seen many achievements including getting a novel finished up to the very last chapter and then starting a new one, writing a short quick drama for kids (the topic is of everybody’s age, and I was actually commissioned to write it,) and writing a number of well-received short stories and to top it all, being nominated for an internationally recognised award in english writing after a tense ten day camp and having discussions with prominent authors in Delhi, India. And all this led me to formulate five very important points that I believe any writer should incorporate. Perhaps some have already done it, perhaps some have not and perhaps there are some like me who preach them all but practice little. And as I explain to you those four points, I shall learn alongside you and adopt them. There will be change, gradually; you will see it. Continue reading