Whatever Else Blogging Is, It Ought to Begin by Being Personal
I’ve been asked several times recently about blogging by people who are at a point in their writing journey at which they’re starting to think about beginning to build name recognition through their online platforms. A few have said that they’ve heard (from whom, I want to know!) that they shouldn’t use the words I, me, or my much, if at all, in their blog posts. Most have been blogging for a while—pretty much about stuff they enjoy: music, knitting, travel, sports, etc. But, they tell me, now that they’re getting serious about pursuing publication, they know they need to stop blogging about that stuff and start blogging about writing related stuff. But they don’t want their blog to be just like everyone else’s blog. So what are they to do?
Well, first let me pull out one of my favorite quotes from You’ve Got Mail:
Whatever else anything is, it ought to begin by being personal.
The best way to make sure you have just another generic writer’s blog is to make sure that you don’t use the words I, me, or my or make it in any way personal.
Most writers believe we must blog about writing, incessantly, before we’re published—that we must document everything we learn about craft, about the industry, about the writing life. We must do writing series. We must quote from the experts. We must host other writers to also talk about writing craft topics. (I don’t know if you’ve noticed the dates on each of the series on my Writing Series Index—the majority were written before I was published.)
And sure, some of us do build audiences that way—of other writers. But are other writers really the ones we’re trying to reach out to? And, besides, how many times do we really need to read an explanation of Showing vs.Telling or Point of View or Dialogue or all the different technical elements we break the craft of writing down into? And once you are published, if you continue to write only about writing, you’re going to actually be limiting your blog’s reach, because readers who aren’t writers might visit once or twice, but they aren’t going to keep coming back.
I don’t know where people have heard not to talk about yourself on your blog, but being open and personal is the best way to get people to come and to keep coming back. One of the most visited and shared posts on my blog, out of 1,200 posts over more than five years is this one:
And if I’d followed the no-I-me-my advice, I would never have written it. But it’s through having written posts like that one that I’ve been able to connect on a deeper level with my readers—and connect with new readers who might not have otherwise ever picked up one of my books. And if that’s not an I-filled post, I don’t know what is.
Your blog can be about whatever you want it to be about. The question to ask yourself is why you’re writing it in the first place. Are you writing it because it’s something you want to do, or are you writing it because it’s something you’ve been led to believe you should do? If you take it on as a task, as a duty, that’s what it’s always going to be. The most important thing your blog should be is a representation of you.
If you want to write about music, write about music. If you want to post gluten-free recipes you’re experimenting with, then go for it. If you want to post poems or song lyrics you’ve written, do it. Is knitting your hobby? Then write about it—and post pictures of your progress with your current project(s).
But, you argue, those topics don’t have anything to do with writing YA Urban Fantasy.
So what? I say. For the most part, when readers visit an author’s blog, it may be because some subject matter in the book interested them—but what they’re really looking for is to get to know the author better, not research that subject matter. And if you think about it, the things that interest you enough for you to blog about them are going to be the things that are going to make their way into your fiction in one form or another anyway.
But if I just write about the topics I enjoy, or tell stories about me that I think might in some way connect with others, I feel self-indulgent and narcissistic.
You feel self-indulgent telling stories and trying to connect with people??? I think you’ve been listening to some very bad advice. Because that’s exactly what you should be doing with your blog. Writing a blog by its very nature is self-indulgent. Putting any words up online and believing anyone is going to read them is an act of extreme narcissism—just like sitting down at a computer and writing a story thinking it’s going to get published someday is. Just like singing at an open-mic night is. Just like writing music is. Just like reaching out and trying to make new friends is. It’s putting my SELF out there, believing that someone else is going to find something of worth, something of value, in me and what I have to share.
So what part of your SELF are you going to put on your blog? What do you want people to know about YOU? What is important to YOU? How do you want to connect with others—what topics do you want to connect with them through? And what do you want to write about? That’s what you need to take into consideration when thinking about writing a blog.
Do you blog? What do you blog about? What else could you blog about that would be more personal—more of a reflection of you and who you are as a person?