Thursday, January 10, 2013

More reasons to blog

kw: book reviews, nonfiction, blogging, advice

For generations people have kept diaries and written journals. Those who were more ambitious also kept "commonplace books" into which they copied text from books that interested them and notes of all sorts. Those of an experimental bent kept laboratory notebooks (and professional scientists are often required to do so). Today, we have blogs, formerly and very briefly known as web logs or weblogs.

The notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci would make a fine blog. He diligently kept track of ideas, experiments, and sayings, and took notes alongside trial sketches for his paintings and other artworks. The fact that they are in mirror writing shows he wanted to keep some secrecy. In the blogging world, you don't have to make your blog public, but nearly blogger does.

As a pre-teen, I kept two journals, one in clear text that I was OK with others reading, and one in a kind of code similar to the one in Dr. Hudson's Secret Journal by Lloyd C. Douglas. Now, I blog for the public and keep more private writing in Google Docs.

I got into blogging after reading about how easy it is (very!) in a book that just devoted a chapter to it. My focus has been 50% book reviews and 50% anything else that interests me, though I very seldom mention religion or politics. I have no interest in making it a business, but I couldn't pass up the chance to read Blog, Inc.: Blogging for Passion, Profit and to Create Community by Joy Deangdeelert Cho. One never knows.

With nearly half a billion English-language blogs already running, and millions more in many, many languages, blogging is clearly something nearly anyone can do. If you are on the verge, Blog Inc. will help you over the hump. In 7 chapters that include 18 interviews with successful bloggers, Ms Cho helps a beginning blogger get started, find a subject and voice and viewpoint, understand blogging etiquette (like honoring copyrights), and for those so inclined, turning it into a business or a business driver.

The book is heavily focused on design blogs, and 16 of the 18 interviews are with women. I got a little green when reading how quickly most of them attained readership of thousands daily. The Polymath-at-Large blog receives from 4,000-8,000 page views monthly, so I am clearly not even close to their league…and I suspect most of my page views last a second or two.

The key piece of advice: Follow your passion. If you are excited about something, your writing is more likely to connect with others who share your passion. Like any other type of writing, expect to learn as you go. I would also advise you to make it your first goal to produce a million words. That is usually enough to bring some polish to your writing style. A million words takes about 400 hours for a 40 wpm typist. (I have written 1,700 posts with an average 500 words, so I am getting close). The first 100,000 words (40 hours at the keyboard) will make a significant difference, and you will keep getting better.

I might have done a few things differently had I had this book available seven years ago. But in the main, it is common sense, and reading the book will confirm that you are not that different from others, so if they can blog, so can you. What is different about each one of us is a unique viewpoint that nobody else has. Share it, and find out who else likes what you have to say.

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