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Whatever Else Blogging Is, It Ought to Begin by Being Personal

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

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:

Thirtysomething and Never Been Kissed? Getouttahere!

And if I’d followed the no-Imemy 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?

  1. Tuesday, May 3, 2011 2:11 am

    Yes I blog I have a book blog but I am a reader not a writer and no intention of being a writer,
    I post reviews, blog tours and interviews on my blog so not alot of me. but I did post about my trip to Hawaii, when we suffered the flooding and earlier on bushfires I posted about them and recently about the tornados. So occasionally I post things that are not book related but not alot.
    Oh I have posted about cricket when I met my favourite player again and was on top of the world.
    This year I am trying to post a review for all books read and I think people reading my blog know my style and my interests from it. they also know I am a supporter of authors and want to help introduce authors to readers.
    This year I am now committed to promoting Australian authors around the world and to Australians as we have so few published and its hard to find there books even in Australian bookshops. (I still love the American books as out of 39 books this year only 5 have been Aussie so far).
    As a reader I do like your blog as its a variety of posts again being a non writer I appreciate the different topics each day. Readers love to know how a book is created etc but we also like the fun posts and I each day.


    • Tuesday, May 3, 2011 1:23 pm

      I think book blogs are great—especially when the blogger isn’t afraid to be open and hones about her true feelings and reactions to the book. There are certain book bloggers’ blogs I won’t read (and this goes back to last week’s post) because I know all they’re going to say is how wonderful the book is and that everyone should read it.

      Even book blogging should begin by being personal—and, yes, the way you write reviews can reveal to your blog readers who you are and help them get to know you better.


  2. Tuesday, May 3, 2011 10:11 am

    Thank you for this post. It was reaffirming for me. I am a wanna-be author, but I’ve felt stupid every time I sit down to write about writing. I’m not an expert at this, I’m here to learn.

    Instead I blog about my life. My joys and struggles. I post interesting pictures I’ve taken and lessons I’ve learned.

    I’ll have to think on question #3. What could I do to make it more personal? It’s fairly personal now, so maybe not much. I think I need to work more on what the reader wants to read.


    • Tuesday, May 3, 2011 1:27 pm

      I think a lot of us, when we’re just getting started out, feel like we must blog about the craft/industry of writing for two reasons: (a) because it’s what we’re personally focused on studying/learning and sometimes it’s fun to share concepts we’ve just come to understand or know; and (b) because that’s what all the other writers seem to be doing.

      Making our blogs “personal” doesn’t necessarily mean it has to be a full-on diary of our daily lives and our innermost thoughts and secrets. It just means let’s blog about stuff we’re truly interested in. My top-five all time most visited blog posts here are posts about movies (my favorite medieval movies, favorite movie costumes, Pride & Prejudice…). Those don’t have anything to do with writing, but everything to do with me and who I am—so it’s personal, in that they express my personal favorites, but it’s also something that readers can participate in and enjoy because it’s a shared interest.


  3. Tuesday, May 3, 2011 10:58 am

    I have been blessed to be in a group blog, Inkspirational Messages. There are 10 of us, and we take a topic and each of us expounds on it, but we can go anywhere we want with it! We’ve talked about writing, certainly, since we’re all either published or wanting to be published, but we also write devotionals, pieces like “our favorite characters,” etc. It’s fun, and sometimes they’re more personal than others. I love that quote from “You’ve Got Mail.” EVERYTHING is personal, and it’s time we admitted it. My daughter blogs and gets very few hits. But she blogs about what she loves – television. I tell her it’s like “Julie and Julia.” Sometimes only her mom commented on her blog, as well, and look where THAT led! πŸ™‚


    • Tuesday, May 3, 2011 1:28 pm

      With ten people blogging on the same topic, do you ever find that by the time it gets around to those who are the last few to post, the topic has pretty much been exhausted—that others have already said what you want to say about it?


      • Tuesday, May 3, 2011 2:03 pm

        I have worried about that – especially when it’s a tough topic, anyway. But you know, I usually write it on Tuesday or Wednesday, post it late Wed. to come up on Thursday, and it just fits. We may have some repeats, but ten women are certainly going to find ten different avenues to reach any topic! Oftentimes Brenda (who is right before me) leads in perfectly, and then Kav (who, bless her heart, is always last!), wraps it up and ties it with a bow. I love it. It makes me be more creative, less “Sunday School Answer-ish,” to have to come up with a twist on what eight other people have already written about!


        • Tuesday, May 3, 2011 3:41 pm

          I second that, Regina. It’s a joy seeing the diverse perspectives on Inkspirational Messages. It shows how unique God made each of us.


  4. Tuesday, May 3, 2011 11:28 am

    I recall thinking the idea that anyone would want to read about someone else’s everyday life and thoughts was ridiculous. So, yes, of course I blog. πŸ™‚
    I bought into the idea that to be a successful marketer of your book (even if you haven’t sold one yet…) you must have an internet presence. Here I am!

    First rule is that I don’t bore myself and after that…I have found that what we read blogs for is to feel like we are sitting with that person over a cup of tea or coffee and sharing on a topic. War or Beatrice’s bonnet. It doesn’t matter much. It’s the companionship and mental stimulation.
    And if no one reads it but half my blog mates and a couple friends… then oh well. It was still good for me to put one word after another and practice making at attempt at see rule #1.

    I read your blog because it’s personal, fun, interesting and I love your fiction, Kaye.
    So, what’s this about never been kissed?


    • Tuesday, May 3, 2011 11:31 am

      might as well add – I’d never do this if I had to depend on myself to fill a week or a month. I’m in a group blog too== Inkwell Inspirations, and that is a blessing in itself. Thanks for asking!
      We don’t really blog about the writing process, though it obviously seeps in.


    • Tuesday, May 3, 2011 1:30 pm

      Debra, you bring up a great point—the practice of blogging is good writing exercise, if we take it seriously, truly think through what we’re writing, and take the time to edit/revise it before posting—instead of just jotting something down and throwing it up on the blog in its raw, unproofed form.

      As to the never-been-kissed thing . . . yes, I’ll be turning forty at the end of the month, and I’ve never been kissed, never had a boyfriend. So I live vicariously through what I write!


  5. Tuesday, May 3, 2011 11:34 am

    I want to make my blog more personal and bring it back to life. But, I’m in between two milestones and can’t fully make that step yet. But I’m looking forward to making it!

    I’m sure there are lots of little ways that I could start doing stuff, so I need to look for those. I do want to do a few posts about all the crazy cotton stuff I’ve learned. Stumbled across some ridiculous laws in Alabama about cotton gin restrictions and where you could dump excess seed.


    • Tuesday, May 3, 2011 1:33 pm

      I think it would be great for you to use your blog as a place to share tidbits of your research. They don’t have to be long. Interesting little snippets and maybe even how you think you might be able to use them in your story would be great.

      You could also blog about the milestones you’re reading with the amazing word count you’ve been achieving recently. While that is blogging “about writing,” it’s still personal, because you’d be blogging about your writing.


  6. Tuesday, May 3, 2011 11:49 am

    If “metacognition” is “thinking about thinking,” would this be “metaBLOGnition?” πŸ˜€


  7. Tuesday, May 3, 2011 12:33 pm

    I have a group blog, Damsels in Regress, that has helped us connect with authors and readers of historical fiction. It’s been great fun, and while it is personal because it’s about something we all love, it’s pretty limited on the details of our daily lives (unless we take a trip somewhere cool and blog about the historical sites). That’s fine for us, but lately I’ve been thinking of starting a blog that’s just mine, that can delve into other parts of my life besides just writing and history. Thanks for the push, Kaye–I think I just may do it:)


  8. Tuesday, May 3, 2011 12:43 pm


    This has been a helpful and encouraging post. Most of my bogging has been personal…although sometimes I write about tea. However, I have visited other author’s blog sites and often they write on the “craft of writing.” I am unpublished at this time, and do not feel I have anything worthwhile to say on that subject.

    I appreciate your blog as you offer not only personal and writing insight, but you connect with those who follow you. I enjoy the comments and your response. Most bloggers don’t seem to have time to respond to any of their followers.


    • Tuesday, May 3, 2011 1:38 pm

      I read a lot of unpublished writers’ blogs—and so many of them are blogging about concepts in writing that I’ve covered in depth here in the writing series. It’s so tempting for me to leave long comments explaining the concept from my viewpoint—or to leave links to my series on the topic (or even to correct the author when they’ve explained something not-quite-right). But I’ve had to learn not to do that because it comes across as condescending or patronizing or as if I’m trying to draw that person’s readers away to my blog. Which is one of the reasons why I switched to reading all of my blogs in Google Reader, because it’s so much easier to remember not to leave those kinds of comments when I have to click over to another webpage to do so.

      I was thrilled when WordPress instituted the nested commenting so that I could reply to each comment. Back when I was unpublished and I was actively visiting and commenting on blogs, I eventually stopped visiting the ones on which the blogger would never interact with the commenters—even when the commenters would post questions.

      It’s my feeling that if someone is going to take the time not just to read my post but also to leave a comment, if at all possible, I should respond, even if it’s just to thank them for visiting the site.


  9. Tuesday, May 3, 2011 12:49 pm

    Another great post, Kaye. You make some very good points. Your blog has such a good mix of writing related and reader related topics that I enjoy coming back to day by day, something I wouldn’t do if it was all geared toward the writer. I don’t always comment but I’m usually lurking as you know by your stats, I’m sure. Personally, I view blogging as a ministry and try to make my blog about my readers, not just other writers. There are so many writing blogs out there that I feel I can’t add much to that. Readers want to connect with authors as people who struggle and have life issues, thus the call to be personal is so important. Thanks for this.


    • Tuesday, May 3, 2011 1:42 pm

      I hadn’t really thought of the “reaching writers” versus “reading readers” thing before I went to a marketing seminar at Barbour last fall. Rob Eager, from Wildfire Marketing, came in to talk to us and he’s the one who brought this to our attention—that most writers who blog start out blogging about writing and building a readership of other writers. But that once we’re published we need to figure out how to transition to other topics so that we can reach readers who aren’t writers.

      So that’s why I did some experimentation last year—with the costume-drama posts—and why I’m doing the featured writer interview and giveaways on Mondays (plus, it’s a great marketing tool for those other writers as well as for me).

      With three days a week that have “standard” posts (Monday’s Writer’s Window, Open Mic Wednesday, and Thursday Thought Provoker), at a time like this when I’m up against a deadline, I can still blog five days a week without it eating hours out of my working time—because three of my five posts each week are already done.

      Oddly enough, it’s the Fun Friday posts I’m having the most trouble coming up with these days!


  10. Tuesday, May 3, 2011 1:34 pm

    I like Debra’s first rule – about not boring yourself. I think that could be a cornerstone of my blogging life that I never verbalized before. πŸ™‚ More than I book blog I guess mine would be classified as an “entertainment” blog – books, movies, TV shows, music, etc. It’s proven to be a nice outlet for talking about what interests me and finding like-minded people to discuss fun things with! While I don’t blog very often about strictly “personal” things, I do try to be personal in my posts and honest if something doesn’t work for me, no matter the medium of the project I might be discussing at the time. So I hope that comes through.


    • Tuesday, May 3, 2011 1:44 pm

      Ruth, your blog is a prime example about how you can blog about things that are shared interests and yet inject your personality into it so that you become a trusted resource for those of us who might be on the fence about a book or a movie or a TV program.


      • Tuesday, May 3, 2011 2:26 pm

        Thanks, that means a lot. πŸ™‚


  11. Tuesday, May 3, 2011 1:57 pm

    I really like this post, Kaye. And I agree that your post about never being kissed relates to your romance readers more than a writing craft post ever would.

    My personal blog doesn’t talk about writing at all, but it does serve a purpose in establishing who I am and what I write, even if it doesn’t always explicitly talk about it. I think the perfect blog is one that lets the reader get to know us, but that also (a) creates a promise of the voice and style they can expect in our future books, and/or (b) extends the feelings and connection they felt from reading one of our books.


  12. Tuesday, May 3, 2011 5:45 pm

    I absolutely love this post. It is something I really needed to hear, because I’ve been struggling with my blog and feeling like I have nothing to say. When I first started my blog, it was to connect to other writers and learn, learn, learn. I blogged about my journey, personal stuff, and then I began to post about the writing craft. That’s when I began to dread blogging. I now blog about craft at The Writer’s Alley, but am struggling to get back into being free enough to just follow my heart. It could be because I feel overwhelmed at work and life during this last month of school. Who knows…
    I’m hoping to take the summer months to focus on me (selfish thing, I know) and really find the joy in my writing–blogging or book writing.

    I come to your blog because it is so varied. It is so personal and interesting and I love all the interaction between your commenters.


  13. Tuesday, May 3, 2011 7:52 pm

    Thanks for this post Kaye. A lot of wisdom.

    And along the lines with what Sherrinda said, especially on Wednesdays this place feels more like a discussion forum than a blog. That’s fun!

    Nested comments rock! I wish Blogger would follow suit.


  14. Tuesday, May 3, 2011 8:48 pm

    AMEN Kaye!! πŸ™‚ I completely agree with you. ~ I started a little blog several years ago because I wanted to – – and although I really need to post more regularly, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed writing the various posts. Mine have been about a “hodge podge” of topics: Reviews of books I’ve read and enjoyed, my family, my cats, ideas the Lord has placed on my heart, friends, etc. (AND I’ve “dedicated” blog posts to people too—including author Deb Raney on her birthday one year!). ~ Thanks for sharing your thoughts on blogging today. πŸ™‚


  15. Wednesday, May 4, 2011 6:44 am

    I belong to Alist bloggers club and the prevailing issue there is that you need a niche to blog about. As an aspiring author who may have a contract soon I am at odds at what to do. I don’t want to just write about my children’s book. After one post it would be boring and I don’t want to sound like I’m just selling my book. My readers aren’t even my intended market. I know I “should” be writing to my market but am not interested in just doing that and so haven’t built up one.
    So far I just blog about whatever strikes my fancy. Sometimes it’s more personal than others.
    I see what you are saying about aspiring writers writing about writing cause that’s what I’m tempted to do. Thank you for this post. It gave me a lot to think about. πŸ™‚


  16. Friday, May 6, 2011 1:16 pm

    Thank you so much for this post, Kaye! I apologize for being slow to reply. My Internet service has been “come and go” the past week, and then when it was up, I lost part of my 300 emails.

    You totally put my mind and heart at ease. All I really want to do is to be real and to connect and to lift up other people.

    You, along with your words, have made probably the most signicant impact on my life this past year.

    Thank you so much.


  17. Sunday, May 8, 2011 12:29 am

    I am not a writer by trade but I like to write and I am very passionate about life as a single person. I just started blogging about being a Christian single female and I have found that, even though the subject is really personal, I sometimes fall into writing AT potential readers more than ABOUT myself. Even in the handful of posts I have on my blog so far, it is really difficult to feel comfortable about being completely transparent because I worry that maybe a negative perspective or honest comment might impact a reader negatively. But then you can never know, the things that I am not worried about might be the very same things that readers might not like so I guess I should just be as transparent as possible within a certain personal boundary.

    I would love to have folks visit and give me some thoughts on what’s on my blog “” and whether or not it seems like I am truly sharing myself. I am trying so hard not to make might blog too preachy and more inviting.



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