I don’t spend too much time trying to figure out what people want to read about. Sure, if I find a topic that people are reading and sharing more, I at least consider the possibility of writing more on the topic. But I prefer to write what I prefer to write about.
Still, I decided to look at some tips online about better positioning oneself in the meat market that Internet browsing tends to become. I won’t name the particular sites since they were Page 1 on the Google Search results. They speak a LOT about finding the popular keywords, SEO, and writing on topics that people tend to focus on.
All of that is fine. My problem with that is that I have minimal passion for the topics that are most common. I simply don’t really want to write about leadership or cooking.
Then there are a lot of aids in how to share one’s posts through social media, emails, and other conduits.
And that is fine as well. But this aspect works better with following the advice of the first part. If one researches to the topics typical readers are interested in, then it makes a lot of sense to advertize to typical readers. There are processes that allow one to connect to the narrow band of people I am typically writing to… but I am not sure, at this time, that I want to go through the grief of setting them up… especially ones that include a price tag.
Another direction is to spend less focus on the numbers. This does not mean ignore them. But it does mean that numbers don’t necessarily control the content, nor the evaluation of success.
Preachers often will say that don’t choose topics to “tickle the ears” of the congregation, but simply share the message that God has given them. I must say that I have a lot of doubts about this. I certainly can see how it is tempting to suggest that everything that comes out of one’s mouth is directly from God. Regardless if that is true, I am pretty sure this doesn’t apply to me. I feel that blogging (and perhaps preaching) is more about self-discipline than about prophecy. (I will admit that when a preacher tells me that he must preach twice as long as a typical sermon because he must “share what the Lord has put on his heart,” I suspect the preacher has not developed discipline.
I feel that for me, the following guidelines are best. (Some of this I got from Carey Nieuwhof in partaining to blogging).
- Write what you are passionate about. Sure… if you are a chef, you need to cook what people want rather than what you want. However, unless you are financially dependent on your hitcount… you may as well write about what you are passionate about. Ultimately, blogging for most of us is a hobby. “A hobby is something you are willing to do badly.” That doesn’t mean you must do it badly. Neither does it excuse doing it badly.
- Discipline MAY be more important than passion. Ideally, you have both. But passion without discipline tends to end up with blogs that are left empty, often after a quick and active start. Discipline without passion is not ideal… but it establishes a pattern from which passion can grow and bear fruit.
- Writing inspires more writing rather than leading one to run dry. Writing more makes one better at writing, and aids thought and inspires new ideas.
- Let it flow. I must admit that although I mentioned the importance of a level of discipline, I don’t force a strict schedule. I do go 4, 5, or even 6 days without a post at times. But then sometimes, I suddenly have many ideas that hit me at the same time. Essentially, discipline is important, but discipline should not take away that fun. As the saying goes… “Moderation in all things, including moderation.’ Okay, I suppose that I am not using that saying in the right context… but it feels right, and sometimes that is enough. Let it flow.
- Discuss what people are asking more than what clever thing you have thought of. I am guilty of this. I think of something really clever… and I put it in to a post—- and it just lies there. Later on a read it again, and I wonder why I thought it was so fantastic. Instead, it is better to discuss questions that have come up in class. If some students think it is a good question, it is likely others do as well.
- Periodically read your old posts, and edit. Grammar is important (you probably would not guess I believe it from the way I write at times), so it is good to reread it, not just before publishing, but even months later. One reason for rereading is to learn. Things worth writing down once may be worth reviewing and relearning. I have read some of my old posts and feel very inspired by them. Some, well, do not. Review and reediting is part of the iterative learning process.
- Don’t write to be popular, famous, or rich. Write because you want to help others… including yourself.