Why get on the blog?

You might have noticed that I haven’t blogged for quite a while. And the reason? I’ve been extremely busy. So busy in fact, that I haven’t had any time to write for pleasure.

And, believe it or not, that’s what I write this blog for – pleasure. Mine, and hopefully yours.

It’s one of the drawbacks of writing for a living. You spend all of your day (and quite a bit of the evening and weekends if you’re a freelancer like me) writing. So when it comes to writing a blog, you really have to want to do it. Otherwise, what you write feels stale and uninteresting. And if it feels like that to you as a writer, what will your readers make of it?

So, there needs to be something that sets you off.

And today, that something was actually three blogs by three other professional writers, Andy Maslen, Tom Albrighton and Alasdair Murray. They reminded me of another blog I wrote last year about what seem to be an unwritten law that you should be writing a blog two, three, or even more times a week.

Now each of them have a slightly different take on whether a writer should be writing a blog. And, to be honest, they each make points that I agree with.

Andy’s main argument is that writers only write blogs to avoid doing other more important stuff. Like getting on the phone and selling their skills. It’s a comfort blanket, disguised as marketing – you’re sitting at your keyboard, producing beautifully crafted sentences, just like you do every other day.

Tom, on the other hand, sees your blog as a showcase for the full range of your writing skills. His view is that it’s a valid marketing tool. And it seems like it’s working for him.

Alasdair is less inclined to see his blog as either a comfort blanket or a showcase. Instead, he uses it to raise issues that matter to him when something sparks his interest.

So, what’s my view? Well, I can see that each of them has a point. Andy’s argument that the blog is just an easy way for writers to avoid actively marketing themselves by calling and even meeting potential clients is a valid one. But, if you’re a writer, as Tom says, it can also be a shop window. I’ve known writers who have been far more eloquent on the page than in person, so why shouldn’t they use that talent to market themselves? After all, that’s the skill the client’s buying in the end.

So there’s an argument for blogging to advertise your wares – although it shouldn’t be the only way you market your skills. But I think Alasdair nails it. As a writer, your blog should be about things you’re passionate about and have a valid opinion on.

I chose this as my career because I actually enjoy writing. And doing it professionally means I spend the vast majority of my time writing about stuff that other people tell me to write about. So, when it comes to writing my blog, I’m only likely to do it when I have the time. And I’m going to choose a subject that matters to me. Sometimes that subject might relate to my professional work. At other times, it might be about a news story that’s caught my eye or my favourite football club (Chester FC, in case you were wondering).

But today, it was about this.

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Get off the blog occasionally

The general opinion on blogging seems to be that you need to put something out there every one or two days. If you’re not telling the world your opinion about everything from the colour of Kate Moss’s pants to the likelihood of Romney beating Obama to the American presidency every 48 hours, the consensus is that you aren’t a serious blogger. Because you haven’t got much to say.

There’s also a school of thought that says when you do blog, that you should give people value. Not in the quality of what you have to say, but the number of words you write. Again, I’ve seen some bloggers say up to 700 words is OK.

I have a problem with all this. Firstly, because many of the blogs I read (and I do read a lot of them) seem to either repeat themselves or repeat what others have to say.

Then there are the bloggers who follow a formula and try to shoehorn their opinions into it. One common theme is to choose the latest big news story or celebrity and attempt to show how they can teach you and your readers something about your industry/interest/personal bugbear. So you get blogs with titles like ‘What Felix Baumgartner can teach HR professionals’, ‘Superstorm Sandy: a lesson for FMCG’ or ‘Strictly Insurance Assessment – take the right steps’.

Why? Just so they themselves have something to say. Every 48 hours. Like they’ve been told.

Scraping, bottom and barrel are the words that spring to mind.

Now, I have to say there are a lot of very interesting and informative blogs out there that are well worth a read. But there are also a lot that are, quite simply, a waste of space.

Nobody has the time to read every blog out there. So let’s be a bit more selective in what we blog about. And if you are going to blog, try to keep it short and to the point.

And yes, I’ll try to do the same.