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The Keys to Keeping a Blog

Much has been written about writing a blog. I started blogging in 2004 when the concept was very new, back when blogs truly were personal weblogs of the writer's experiences and musings. The first personal websites were blogs, and now--as we can see--they've come a long way. Writing to share your thoughts about life and the world is an extremely effective way to connect with people. So, naturally, marketers took notice and started using the blog format for marketing purposes.

Now most blogs, at least it seems, are used primarily for marketing. Whatever. It's fine. We don't have to sacrifice the personal touch to make our blogs more effective marketing tools.

As you can see by exploring, my approach to blogging is a little different than that of your average blogger today who makes a living off his blog. While I don't expect my blog to pay the bills, I still use it to develop my thoughts and connect with people. Making money is not the primary goal of my blog, so if that's what you're looking to do with your blog I'm sorry but you're not in the right place.

Please don't misunderstand. I'm not saying there's anything wrong with keeping a blog to make money. I'm just saying I don't think it should be the main reason for keeping a blog. The goals for anyone who wants to be successful should be to find something they're good at, something they love to do, and something they can make money doing. Wherever those three objectives intersect is a good way to make a living. For me, as a person who loves to write, I would argue that when keeping a blog the best thing to do is to love doing it and to put love of writing before concerns about money. That love will lead to the natural fulfillment of the first key to creating a successful blog:

Write every day

This is the number one most common piece of advice from anyone who gives you any kind of direction about writing, regardless of genre. Set a word count that you can manage. Carve out a part of the day wherein you can manage to write that many words. If thoughts are really flowing, for me at least, I have found that I can write 1,000 words per hour. If I recorded the idea beforehand, I can transcribe the recording in about three times the length of the recording--so I could type out a 15-minute recording in about 45 minutes. The editing and posting phases can come at a later time.

As with every routine, you will not only become more confident the more you write. Writing will also become easier because the daily practice teaches you how to become more efficient at it. On the other hand, if you're already confident about writing despite not writing everyday, I'm sorry to say it but you're probably not that good of a writer.

Read in the morning and evening

When I was first learning to write for a living, I read to learn how to write better. The different authors I read gave me new perspectives, and honed my writing style. Recently, reading has become more of a leisure activity for me. I now read when I have the time, and the only time I have is before and after work.

I read all day during work because I am an editor, but I don't consider that to be reading anymore---strangely. I consider it to be work. Distinguishing between the two has made a world of difference. When I choose something to read, I make sure the thought of reading it excites me. I make sure it keeps me engaged. Reading should always be an active experience. The words should move you. If they do not, then what are you doing? Why are you wasting your time? Read what makes you feel alive.

One might say, "Well, sometimes you just have to read instructions, or a contract, or a text book to learn a subject for an exam. How is that supposed to move you?" Well, that may be reading in one sense but it also is not reading in a more important sense because it's not leisure. It's work. The more I associate reading with work, the more I don't want to do it. So I stopped associating reading with work. As a result, I am now more able to bring into my work a candid, genuine love of reading. Think of reading as your time to unwind, reflect, settle down, and enjoy life--even in the morning . . . especially in the morning. Make reading as desirable and as relaxing as watching TV, and you will begin to see the effect this has on your writing. Lord knows we need to read more and watch less TV. A good book can be even more enjoyable than your favorite TV show or movie.

I stopped associating reading with work. As a result, I am now more able to bring into my work a candid, genuine love of reading. Think of reading as your time to unwind, reflect, settle down, and enjoy life . . .

If you do not enjoy reading, how do you expect to write things that other people enjoy reading?

Publish and share an article every day

Posting daily is a hard habit to keep. In fact, it may even be harder than writing every day. I could easily scribble some thoughts down each day, but to decide to push "publish" is a completely different endeavor. On top of that, to publish effectively, I have to share what I wrote on social media, create an email campaign, come up with good tags, and so on. It's never really completely done. In the days of the internet, publishing and sharing an article are just as involved as writing the article itself.

Still, it's so worth it. It helps build up your audience, and it helps you get into a routine. Search engines favor websites that are alive, websites that have new content every day. You'd be surprised how many other necessities for blogging fall into place when you simply publish something every day. Your blog will start to form its own structure. You will get motivated to continue as you see people interacting with your post. Great, relevant keywords and tags will come to you with less and less effort. Your blog will begin to take on its own personality, one that comes directly from you. The fruits of clicking "publish" outweigh the difficulties.

Don't write a whole article every day

You may be thinking this contradicts the above advice. It doesn't. The way you publish an article a day without writing one a day is by having an abundance of drafts. That way, you're not starting the article you write each day from scratch. This also provides you with the opportunity to see the article you're about to publish with fresh eyes on a new day. It's always good to let an article sit for at least several hours. Time has a way of giving you new perspectives, new words, new ideas. I have a very long back log of not only drafts but also recordings that I plan to turn into articles. It all starts with an idea, but that idea has to be cut and set like a diamond.

Editing is just as important, if not more important, than writing the first draft. The writer in you is the entrepreneur, the visionary who conceives the idea. The editor is the stark realist who brings it down to earth and gives it a form other people can digest. Remember, "Write like you're in love. Edit like you're in charge."

A clarification may be in order. When you edit your own work, you're still writing. So, when I say don't write a whole article in one day, I mean leave the editing portion for another day. If you feel you absolutely must finish an article in one day, at least start in the morning and finish it in the evening. When I have to write a whole piece in a day, I write my first draft in the morning and do all my edits at night.

It's good to be tired when you edit. Most editors are tired. They're tired of the pretentious assumptions of writers, the cliches and typical ideas writers try to make into original thoughts. They're tired of all the common grammatical errors and misspellings even good writers make. They're tired of how writers ramble on . . . never mind. The point is, it's good to be tired when you edit your own work because it helps you be more critical of it, especially if you wrote it when you had a burst of energy. Those great ideas you had tend to simmer down to mediocrity at night, and you can more easily see how unimpressive they really are. This is good. Your tired, critical eye will cut the superfluous parts out and refine the thought down to its core truth.

Clarity is Charity

Lastly, I know no one asked for my advice on how to keep a blog. Why am I sharing this, then? Because I'm confident that it is all true. That is the greatest joy of writing: When you write you receive clarity about the questions you have in life. The more you write, the more clarity you will receive. The more I think about it, the more I see that clarity is the main goal of writing. Whatever topic a good writer chooses to write about, the ultimate goal is to achieve clarity for himself on that topic. Then, once that goal is achieved, he offers that clarity to others in charity. Clarity is a form of charity. If you want clarity about something, write about it. Then, share what you discovered and composed because other readers will appreciate clarity on the topic as well.

Anyway, I hope some of this helps. The only thing I have left to say is get reading and writing. The world needs more good writers, and the only way to get better is to read more and write more.

Photo by Ylanite Koppens


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