When I went back to school to become a teacher at the ripe young age of 36, I joined a growing wave of what became known as ‘re-entry students.’ Our particular wave was comprised of young men, business folk and young moms like myself. Our credential program consisted of getting a four year degree then embarking on the California state-mandated ‘fifth year’ training.
This fifth year included intense study in all manner of things educational, intern time in classrooms and the opportunity to put all the nuts and bolts of what I’d learned into actual practice. I finished that year with a 6 month stint Student Teaching in Kindergarten and lived to tell it. Then they handed me my credential and said I could go change the world.
I may not be changing the entire world, just the one right in front of me. Five years ago this week I sat in my study staring out the window at the snow that had trapped most of the world inside for 5 days. School was cancelled—yippee!–and I got to figure out the world of blogging. I queried the internet universe—“just what exactly is a blog?” and after noodling around, was drawn in particular to some very kind folks at The High Calling.** Lo and behold, they each wrote me back. I took their advice and dove in
Here are 5 things I’ve learned as I head into year 5:
1. IT’S PEOPLE, NOT PLATFORMS The best way to build blog readers is to build relationships. When I began this journey (and trust me, I didn’t know what I didn’t know…) Glynn Young (Faith, Fiction and Friends) was one of the kind souls who encouraged me to visit other bloggers and comment on their posts. This practice has stood me in good stead.
If I participate in a weekly link up, my practice is to always say a virtual ‘hello’ to the folks who’ve posted links on either side of me. These online friends tend to read in the same circles and I enjoy their familiar faces.
As a result, I have built bridges and made connections with strangers who have become friends—either virtual or in person. The community of blogging has been as real to me as the folks in my congregation at church.
I also subscribe to a handful of blogs and comment on them as regularly as I can. There’s a world of words out there and I make it a point to encourage where I can. It’s just plain nice to be noticed. “Why, someone read what I said! And it touched them!” Imagine how thrilled you are to find that about your own work—you can do the same for others that you are drawn to. Find someone to bless that doesn’t have a lot of comments on their posts. It’ll make their day.
2. I’D RATHER GO DEEP THAN WIDE Having said that, for my own sanity and focus I am always making my world a little smaller, blog-wise, culling emails in my inbox and—shhhhh….unsubscribing from blogs from time to time. Not that I don’t just love everyone out there, but God has called me to a small and close circle of friends. I do best in groups where I feel like I’m having a cup of coffee with someone, knowwhatImean? So…..after about a year or so, I pulled way back from my involvement in weekly link ups. I felt like I was obligated to read each person’s post and some of the groups had over 100 links in them and….I don’t have that kind of time. You probably don’t either.
: For convenience sake (and to theoretically keep me from spending SO much time on Facebook) I posted many of my favorite blogger’s links right on my blog page. When I open my browser, Three Way Light
is the first page to come up. Voila! The folks I want to hear from are right there on the sidebar where I can click on the link without falling into the virtual hole of Facebook. Sometimes….)
3. DO IT WRONG—The first year I started blogging—2012—I entered 143 blog posts. By the end of 2015 I had written 85 blogposts. I’m not awesome at math, but that’s almost 40% less than when I started. When I began, I was feverishly trying to keep up with weekly link ups that were so popular at the time and listening to all the advice out there about how to ‘do it right.’
Every year I’ve been blogging I’ve written LESS than the year before and I have more people reading and responding. Go figure. The results from this ‘less is more’ approach might be explained by the fact I’ve cultivated relationships via real time and virtual time with my readers. Again, going deep, not wide.
4. CONSISTENCY IS HIGHLY OVERRATED. YOU DO NOT HAVE TO POST ON YOUR BLOG TWICE A WEEK. You don’t even have to post regularly. Really.
Putting myself on a schedule to write IS not only grueling but feels insincere; I end up writing ‘fluff’ instead of substance, filling the space for that week or time because I have to. And here’s the reality—I am a Random/Abstract thinker. There is nothing regular or sequential or consistent about the way I work or process things. I am consistent about only one thing—I want to make Jesus look good through my words.
That being said, I DO have a couple of series I post in regularly–something new, a ‘Favorite Things’ round up, always on Friday, but not every Friday. And my “Just Because” posts–a Scripture and a photo–always on Thursdays. but not EVERY Thursday. (and last week I posted it on Wednesday, because, you know-life.) ‘Sporadic’ is probably a better descriptor of any blogging ‘formula’ I have. Bottom line–I want to listen to God’s voice in me and through me to write what feels real and true in my spirit, not because the experts say I ‘should.’
(Sidenote-it’s imperative you decide for yourself what God has decided is ‘successful’ for you. What are your goals for blogging? To write a book? To be well-known? It’s a LOT of work….but it can be done. It’s just not for me. Small is definitely better.)
5. WRITE REAL AND BE YOU (see ‘insincerity’ above). The first six months I was in the Christian blogosphere I poured on the churchiness and Christianese. Why I would dazzle with my brilliance, shine with incomparable spiritual knowledge, impress with mighty metaphors. My first posts were embarrassingly long. What’s my point? To paraphrase, I believe, Mother Teresa, “People don’t care how much you know, they want to know how much you care.”
The words that have resonated the most with readers are those where I write honest and real about where I’m at. Where what I believe about Jesus is making a difference in the way I think or feel. Sometimes the world is gray, sometimes the world is beautiful, sometimes it’s just hard.
BONUS: Writer’s block dogging you? HAVE FUN or Take a Sabbath Go for a walk, unload the dishwasher, take a shower (the most remarkable revelations come to me in the shower or under the bathroom faucet!) Sort the laundry, go pull some weeds. Your brain does so much better with some exercise, fresh air, some fun—blow bubbles, sit outside and watch the birds, dance by yourself, dance with a partner…the list is endless.
~Live your life then write it down~
L.L. Barkat, Laura Boggess