I received an email this morning asking for some suggestions on blogging from someone who is just starting out with a blog. I thought about what I might write back, and decided that the question was one that was worth sending out to a larger audience.
If you have a few moments, and are so inclined, please share your ideas and suggestions on blogging in the comments below.
I consider my blog as a place which helps me learn, and thought that I might share some of the things that I find myself trying to learn.
Learn to Listen – It’s tempting to think of a blog as a place to write about your experiences and your thoughts on a topic, or on what you observe in the world, but it’s just as easy to consider it as part of a conversation, where you can publish your thoughts, and receive comments and emails and responses from others.
A conversation worth having is never one-sided. It’s just as important to listen as it is to speak.
Learn to Change – You may find yourself interested in writing about things on your blog that you didn’t anticipate when you first started blogging. Explore those interests and include them in your blog. This blog didn’t start out as one that focused upon search related patents, but I found myself paying so much attention to those that it made sense to start blogging about them.
I’ve been developing some other interests, and those may start finding a larger place on this blog in the future.
Learn to be Human – It’s your blog, and if you decide that you want to write about your cat, a song you love, a football game you just watched, or a memorable childhood experience, instead of the latest news from Google, or a new patent filing, or how to tweak a WordPress template, then go for it. You don’t have to be a professional writer to be a blogger, though you may see your writing improve as you spend more and more time writing.
Regardless of that, develop your own voice, and take some risks, have some fun, and let your personality show through.
Learn to be Humane – you may disagree with something that someone has written, you may disagree with the practices of business, of government of individuals, but when you blog based upon that disagreement, it’s possible to do so with compassion and concern to try to make things better, to offer suggestions, solutions, and ideas that transcend imposing hurt and suffering upon other individuals.
Following the golden rule, doing unto others as you would have them do unto you, means that you acknowledge the opportunity that disagreement may be replaced by understanding.
Learn to Build – A blog can be a platform that you can use to try to make the world a better place, to share your experiences and education and solutions for problems. Remember though, when you build, it’s brick by brick, one being put into place at a time.
If you set reasonable and reachable goals, and succeed on reaching those, you can build upon those successes.
Learn to Learn from Mistakes – One of my favorite stories is from Benjamin Franklin, who wrote a letter in his older years about a childhood impulse purchase he had made of a whistle. He spent much more than the whistle was worth, but had to have it then and there upon hearing it.
In the letter, he wrote that when he made choices after that, he would ask himself if he was “spending too much for that whistle.” We all make mistakes. What is important is that we learn from them.
Learn to Give Credit – When you come across an idea that you find interesting in another blog, in a book, on television, in a conversation with someone, or from some other source, and you find yourself wanting to write about it, give credit to the inspiration for what you are writing.
When I started thinking about this post, my thoughts turned to Rebecca Blood’s article Ten Tips For A Better Weblog and Mark Bernstein’s 10 Tips on Writing the Living Web, both of which I recommend for people who are just setting out with a blog, and both of which influenced this blog post.
Learn to Empower Others – Who is it that you are writing for? Are you sharing your thoughts and experiences, or are you showing them off? Do you try to engage your audience, to give them ideas and suggestions that they can take action on, or build upon? Providing others the chance to grow helps you grow.
A few years back, I taught a class on internet literacy for teachers at a local community college, and one of the main focuses of the class was on providing these teachers with information and techniques that they could take with them into their classrooms. In preparing lesson plans, in interacting with my students, I know I learned at least as much from teaching them as they learned from me, and they taught me quite a few things as well.
Empowering others may help empower yourself.
Learn to be Objective – When you blog, you’re sharing your perspective of a topic, and what you write is going to be subjective to some degree. But you can strive to be objective, to look at issues from more than one side, to understand that people may have different opinions from yours, and that those opinions may be reasonable ones.
There may be many sides to a topic – and trying to understand those different viewpoints may help you write a better blog post, and develop a better understanding on what you are writing about. Just as there are many blogs, there are many bloggers with differing opinions and perspectives – it would be a mistake to lump them all together as a group. Strive to see some of those other sides.
Consider including alternative viewpoints in your blog posts, even though you may disagree with them, and give your readers a chance to see more than one side.
Learn to Think Critically – It can be hard to approach something that someone has written, or some action that someone has taken without making unjustified inferences, or from a perspective that doesn’t take into account other points of view. Critical thinking is the practice of trying to put aside prejudice, bias, propaganda, and misinformation in trying to understand others, in raising important questions, in gathering relevant and material information, in coming to conclusions that are well-reasoned, in being open-minded to other ways of thinking about topics or issues.
But critical thinking goes beyond avoiding fallacies. It means to develop a level of rational skepticism, to be aware of some of the social constraints that surround us, to avoid mistaking parts of the truth for the whole truth, to not let ourselves overestimate our competence, to not base judgments upon coincidences, to understand that there are many shades of gray instead of just black and white, and to avoid basing our present judgments and experiences too much on past experiences in other circumstances.
Some Resources on Critical Thinking:
- An Introduction to Critical Thinking
- Critical Thinking Web – over 100 free online tutorials
- Critical Thinking on the Web – Online resources on the topic
- Fallacies – offers some ways to find some fallacies in your own writing, and in that of others.
Learn to Forgive – You may find that something that you have written may be the target of an argument from someone in a social network, or on a blog, or in a forum post. You may find that you are being personally attacked by someone from one of those sources. You should probably even anticipate that may happen. That person may have misunderstood something that you have written, may be unfairly associating you with someone else that they disagree with, or may just disagree with something that you’ve said or done.
There are often no clear and easy ways to respond to ad hominem or personal attacks, though a discussion with the person making the attack may sometimes lead to a resolution. Sometimes there just isn’t a way to resolve the differences.
Anticipating reactions to goods or services that you offer, or opinions that you express may provide you with the chance to make positive changes, to improve what you write, how you approach others, and develop a greater understanding for others.
Learn to Have Fun – Blogging should be fun, and should give you the chance to express your thoughts and ideas creatively, to discover more about your interests, to find other people that might share some ideas in common.
If you find that blogging has become more of a chore than something that you enjoy, examine ways to make it more fun, look at what others or doing, ask for suggestions from others, and consider exploring other topics with your blog that you have a genuine interest in learning more about.
What suggestions might you offer a beginning blogger?