I am surprised and pleased that my first post on this topic yesterday received such a thoughtful and diverse response. Thanks to everyone who read and commented on that article for making me think harder.
I realize that blogs (or any type of media) are not one-size-fits-all. There is, after all, a reason why my title for yesterday’s article included the word “usually.” My goal was not to say daily blogging or heavy reliance on the link-only posting format are always counterproductive for every blog.
That said, I honestly do believe that in most cases these practices tend to harm the overall appeal, quality, and usefulness of the blogosphere. Worse, they just tend to make the act of blogging much less fun.
DAILY WRITING NEED NOT EQUAL DAILY PUBLISHING
Some people who have commented on my posting yesterday observed that daily writing helps make them better writers. I agree with this, and I appreciate that goal partly because it indicates a desire to serve readers better.
However, that doesn’t mean you should necessarily publish every single day. In fact, if you’re writing daily mainly to hone your writing skills, you probably shouldn’t publish every day.
I’ve trained a lot of writers, helping people discover their own personal ideal writing process. Across the board, there’s one truisim I’ve found: Good writing results most consistently from clear thinking and lots of editing. Personally, I think that people who post daily to their blogs in order to become better writers tend to overlook the value of both.
If you want to write daily, that’s admirable and helpful. I honestly don’t want to deter you from that. However, I think you’ll develop more effective and versatile writing skills if you save most of your postings as drafts and edit them over the course of a few days. Revisiting your work with fresh eyes and making improvements is an important part of any writing process. It’s very difficult for most people to clarify their thoughts in one raw draft.
A DEEPER LOOK AT SELF EXPRESSION
Of course, not everyone strives to be a great writer, or to reach a specific target audience, or to use their blog to achieve other coherent goals. Many people blog purely as self expression including expressing their desire to share and connect with other people. Mark Vande Wettering said this well last night in his Brainwagon blog posting, Why Daily Blogging Is A Good Idea:
“I have simply no idea who [my blog] visitors are. Given that I donâ€™t know who they are, how could I possibly judge what pieces that I choose to write about are of value? So instead, I write my blog for me.
“…Most of the time I have no idea what posts are going to tickle peopleâ€™s fancy. Some of the things that I most enjoy gather nary a peep from my listeners. Some of the things that I barely care about seem to generate the most traffic to my site. I simply canâ€™t tell when I first get an idea for a posting what category they fall into. So, Iâ€™ve stopped trying, and merely post everything that pops into my head.
“…Trying to sculpt or optimize my blog entries to chase some popularity points ultimately bores me. Even the relentless pursuit of quality ultimately bores me.”
“…My philosophy of blogging is simple. Blog if you want to. Blog when you want to. Blog for whatever reason you want to. When someone says â€œdonâ€™t blog if youâ€™re not willing to do Xâ€?, then ignore them. Somebody in the long tail will find something interesting in what you have to say. Donâ€™t make it harder for them to find it.”
Those are great points, Mark. Personally, I like much of what you write in your blog, although I don’t read your blog often. (I do listen to your podcast more often than I read your blog, I probably catch about every fifth show.) You are a remarkably clear thinker and communicator, and generally a very thoughtful, creative, and intriguing guy. I respect and appreciate your personal blogging style and goals.
That said, I think that the quality of content Mark generally produces through his “post everything on my mind” approach is far better than what I see coming from most bloggers who follow that philosophy. This is probably due to the quality of Mark’s intellect and clarity of his thinking. Most people simply aren’t at his level.
Clear thinking takes a lot of hard work, practice, and (yes), talent. No, I’m not saying most people are stupid. I’m just saying that clear thinking and good communication don’t come naturally to most people.
Mark is right: It is not absolutely necessary to care about writing quality. No one is going to get arrested, evicted, or executed for spewing vast volumes of slapdash, poorly considered blog postings. (Well, probably not…)
That said, most bloggers I’ve spoken with who cite self expression as their main reason for blogging actually have a deeper reason, once you really get into that topic with them: They really want to connect with people. They do care whether they have an audience, and whether their readers generally find the experience rewarding. They may not know or care who their readers are but they want to reach out to people and make connections. Mark’s article indicates this desire.
In my experience, most people who keep blogging past an inital foray hope to have an effect on others. They want to contribute their voice and value to the public conversation. We’re human, we have a fundamental urge to communicate, which is simply a way to feel connected, to be part of a greater whole. That’s central to our nature, and it’s honorable.
Failing to connect adequately with readers may be a big reason why most blogs get abandoned. (I’m just guessing on that.) Mark’s article indicates that he does indeed care very much about sharing and connecting with people. He simply prefers to accomplish that through intuition and serendipity, rather than conscious planning and editing. He’s one of the few bloggers, IMHO, who can pull that off.
INFORMATION OVERLOAD: BE FAIR TO READERS
I strongly disagree that the “post anything on my mind” approach to blogging is generally a good way to share and connect with people. What’s the main complaint about the blogosphere? That most postings are trivial, poorly thought-out crap.
Many devoted bloggers and blog readers tend to dismiss this criticism with a blithe, “Well, you just have to take the time to find blogs that you like, that meet your needs and make you think.” I’ve even said that myself. However, upon further reflection I realize it is ultimately not fair to put the burden for discovering quality entirely on people who read (or who might start reading) blogs.
Most people have too much going on to spend lots of time wading through crap. For too many people, diving into the blogosphere feels like swimming in mud. That’s not because it’s so difficult to find blogs that offer topics and perspectives that they’re find worthwhile or appealing. Rather, it’s generally because so many blogs post mostly trivia and crap. I’m sorry to say it, but it’s true.
Content overload is a kind of pollution. It make it harder for us to thrive in our mental and social environment. We all bear a common responsibility toward our environment if we hope for it to continue to sustain us.
Often, the blogging crap geyser is powered by the common, erroneous compulsion to post daily, or even several times daily. It’s just too much for anyone to follow.
HAVE SOME FAITH IN THE BLOGOSPHERE
Millions of people are writing blogs. Let this take some of the pressure off you to publish daily. Don’t feel that you have to say everything, or that you need to keep talking/posting all the time. Have you ever been cornered at a party by someone who only talks about herself and won’t shut up? Ugh….
Why bother being the 500th person to link to some hot new site or article unless you truly have something original to say about it? How rewarding do you really think ubiquitous link-only postings are on a regular basis?
If you blog daily, consider this: Would you want to read everything that you post, every day? Be brutally honest about this. If your answer is no, even a little bit, then you and your readers might enjoy and value your blog more if you focused less on quantity and schedule and more on quantity.
Of course, if you really do blog well on a daily basis, then fine. Go for it. You may indeed be one of the rare exceptions.
But if you’re not sure, ask your readers what they prefer. You don’t have to totally kowtow to your audience’s tastes. However, you probably will find blogging more rewarding if you solicit readers’ opinions and take them into account to some extent. Also, ask your friends what they think of your approach to blogging. And most importantly, ask yourself.
Life’s too short to spend significant time and energy on things that just don’t matter. Why blog daily if your individual postings don’t matter much? Try publishing only when you really have something significant to say. Just see how it feels. You might like it better.