What the best authors can teach us about blogging
A guest post by Kayleigh Alexandra.
Traditional writing and blogging are like cooking different recipes with the same ingredients. Any of these writers can invariably turn their hand to the other — not immediately, but much more adeptly than someone who is just starting out. Therefore aspiring blogger can take lessons from both bloggers and best authors.
Advice from best authors is particularly fertile because there’s just so much of it. And because the principles are tried and tested over thousands of years. It’s easy to forget because it feels so established, but blogging is still new in the grand scheme of things. We’re still figuring it out.
To take our blogging to the next level, we’d do well to learn from the old masters. Here’s what some of the best authors around (living or dead) can teach us about how to blog:
You must find your own schedule
Though his work wasn’t appreciated in his lifetime, H.P. Lovecraft is now considered one of the most influential horror writers in history — but would he have conjured up such stirring imagery if he hadn’t burned the midnight oil?
After all, he once said the following: “At night, when the objective world has slunk back into its cavern and left dreamers to their own, there come inspirations and capabilities impossible at any less magical and quiet hour.”
If you haven’t tried writing at night, he contended, you simply can’t rule out your potential as a writer — but the point applies regardless of the specific timing.
Blogging can easily be pursued at any time and in almost any circumstances (you can take a laptop wherever you go). So instead of feeling obliged to type between 9 and 5, you can experiment until you discover a working pattern that suits your style (just be sure to protect your eyesight).
Productivity demands concentration
At a high level, blogging can be as demanding as working through a novel. Demanding in a different way, admittedly.
Instead of battling to get through one solid page of a complex narrative each day, you’re trying to hammer out numerous disparate pieces. Each must meet SEO and reader requirements without leaving your hands as a bloody mess.
Zadie Smith once offered the following tip: “Work on a computer that is disconnected from the internet.” Is this practical for a blogger? Well, no… you really need to maintain an awareness of what’s going on in the broader blogosphere.
But the principle of staying away from the lure of boundless exploration is still worthy of action. That’s where focus tools come in: they can help you block particular sites, slow your browsing, and get your mind into a good blogging rhythm.
Clarity is essential
In explaining how to start writing a book, Harry Bingham of Jericho Writers makes a point about writing for children that also applies to online audiences: “Whatever else, write clearly and economically.
“If your style isn’t immediate and precise, children won’t have the patience to keep with you. If a chapter doesn’t drive the story forwards, you’ll lose them. If in doubt, keep it simple.”
For children, substitute readers — in the creative sandpit of the web, we all have the attention span of children. Online content can reach anyone, so you’re best served making it optimally accessible.
Think about the prospect of nesting the most complex content. Touch upon the simple things first, and leave the tough things available for those who can understand them.
You get good through iteration
No matter your talent level, degree of expertise in your chosen field, or even general writing skill, nobody starts out as an expert blogger. This dissuades many people.
Having produced nothing but mediocre pieces, you can start to think that maybe you’re not cut out for it. This is a great deceit — in the end, no one is inherently cut out for it. It’s a decision.
Katherine Mansfield put it well: “Looking back, I imagine I was always writing. Twaddle it was too. But better far write twaddle or anything, anything, than nothing at all.”
Even if you’re writing twaddle, you’ll get better. It’s near-impossible not to improve if you just keep trying. Any slick blogger you care to imagine has put in the time to get that good.
What have the best authors taught you as a blogger?
Find a working pattern that suits you, cut out distractions, write with clarity, and — most importantly — keep trying.
It’s a set of tips developed from the best authors that will slowly but surely hone your blogging skills and help you find your voice. Sometimes the old lessons are the best!
About the author
Kayleigh Alexandra is a community writer for Micro Startups — a site dedicated to spreading the word about blogs and small businesses of all shapes and sizes. Visit the blog for the latest biz news and inspiring side hustle stories. Follow us on Twitter @getmicrostarted.
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