Five things I’ve learned from Blogging by Jody Collins

I'm a writer clock

“All things great are wound up with all things little.”  Anne of Green Gables, L.M. Montgomery

     When I went back to school to become a teacher  at the ripe young age of 36, I joined a growing wave of what was known as ‘re-entry students.’ Our particular wave was comprised of young men, business folk and young moms like myself. The 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.
     It’s been 25 years since that credential–now I’ve decided to change the world one word at a time.  Here are 5 things I’ve learned as I begin Blogging, Year 5:

  1.  IT’S PEOPLE, NOT PLATFORMS The best way to build readership is to build relationships.

If you participate in a weekly link up, make it a practice to say a virtual ‘hello’ to the folks who’ve posted on either side of you in the Link up.  Over time, they may click back on your comment and come by to your site. You’ll begin to recognize certain ‘voices’ and the writers whose words resonate with your own.

You may also find some remarkable connections with strangers who become friends–either virtual or in person.  In the last 5 years I’ve found the community of blogging has been as real to me as the folks in my congregation at church.  It has bee a real treat to meet actual people for coffee or lunch or at a Writer’s Conference and add some flesh to the friendship.
I also subscribe to a handful of blogs and comment and encourage them as regularly as I can.  It’s so 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 whose words you are drawn to.  Find someone to bless that doesn’t have a lot of comments on their posts and drop a line or two.  It’ll make their day.

  1.  DO IT WRONG-WRITE LESS, NOT MORE —The first year I started blogging—2012—I entered 143blog 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.  I also have deeper relationships with my readers, choosing that over going wide and shallow. (see #1 “People, not Platforms’ above).                                                                                  3. CONSISTENCY IS HIGHLY OVERRATED**YOU DO NOT HAVE TO POST ON YOUR BLOG TWICE A WEEK. Being sporadic is okay. Putting yourself on a schedule is not only grueling but feels insincere; you end up writing ‘fluff’ instead of substance, filling the space for that week or time because you have to.  And here’s the reality—if you are Random/Abstract processor and thinker (as I am) there is going to be nothing regular or sequential or consistent about the way you work. Personally, I try to be consistent about only one thing—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.  ‘Sporadic’ is probably a better descriptor of any blogging ‘formula’ I have. Bottom line–trust God’s voice to guide you, trust your own voice to write when and how you feel prompted. You don’t have to do everything because the experts say you ‘should.’ (see #2 ‘Do it Wrong’ above).

  1.  WRITE REAL, NOT RELIGIOUS (see #3, ‘insincerity’ above). The first six months I was in the Christian blogosphere I poured on the churchiness and Christianese. I wanted to dazzle with my brilliance, shine with incomparable spiritual knowledge, impress with mighty metaphors. My first postswere 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 resonate the most with your readers will be ones you write honest and real, a ‘Day in the Life’ of how you walk out what you know about Jesus. One week I could be talking about my sparkly Sunday shoes or the day Jesus gave me a Conga drum. Or I might write a blog post about my daughter’s miscarriage. Sometimes the world is gray, sometimes the world is beautiful, sometimes it’s just hard. God is a part of all of it.

    5. SMALL MIGHT BE JUST RIGHT.  Maybe blogging is a part-time interest for you, as it is for me. Or maybe you’ve got time to pour all your energies into it.  It’s imperative to define what your version of ‘successful’ is.  What are your goals? To build readership to 5,000 followers? To have 1,000 pageviews a week? Write a book? Be well-known? It takes a LOT of time, energy, attention and commitment, but it can be done. Sometimes small might be better.

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~

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Here’s what poet Luci Shaw has to say on the idea of disciplines in writing–an Interview with Ruminate Magazine
NOTE: The above is an edited version of this original post.

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jody collinsJody Collins served as the volunteer coordinator of the 2015 Faith & Culture Writers Conference. Find her work here: Jody Collins