The Matt Hall Questions: Blogging
If you are lucky – no, beyond lucky, blessed – you meet a friend in whom you are in perpetual awe of.
(So much awe that you just ended that sentence with four prepositions at once, and you’re cringing imagining what your mutual AP English teacher would’ve had to say about that.)
Mine is someone I’ll call Matt Hall. Because that’s what I’ve called him for 17 years. (I hope he doesn’t mind the use of his full name, but he’s used to my inability to separate his Christian name from his surname. I’m physically incapable of it. Always have been.)
Anyway, in those 17 years he has never once been anything other than completely honest, wildly successful, amazingly giving, hysterically funny, and phenomenally intelligent. It’s daunting to have someone like that as a friend. But I recommend it, because just by being, they challenge you to be like them, and that’s a wonderful task.
With that background, imagine my awe when he came to me with some questions. (One of his particular gifts is asking fantastic questions.) And so, we have the first in a series. His question; my answer. Here we go.
Some blogs have themes, some blogs have a mission, some blogs are witty observations about life. I can’t decide what to do with mine. I could try to focus it on my upcoming research. I could try to turn it into witty commentary but I don’t know that I’m that interesting. In the past I’ve tried to write as if I were a writer instead of a blogger. I can’t sustain it, mostly because I’m not that great of a writer. So, any thoughts on this? I’m curious how you decide what your posts will be, where inspiration strikes, etc. And how do you manage posting?
This is trite but true: I write about what interests me.
However. This bites me in the ass in several ways.
One, I frequently send myself down rabbit holes of research to learn about whatever’s interesting me. It’d be a lot easier to write about things I already know about.
Two, I worry that in so doing, I am acting as though I’m an expert about things which I patently do not feel expert in.
Three, it means that I have decided to have a blog about what interests me – not about my professional life, not funny stories about dating, not thoughtful essays about what I want to mean to the world, not about academic interests, not about martial arts or Jane Austen or baking or art – but a place that, from time to time, has elements of all of that. I’ve deliberately chosen to jumble all that up. That costs me focus, and I’m sure it’s cost me readers who don’t care about some of that.
With that said, I do focus a lot on social media. Honestly, I think, because this is an outlet where I can geek out about it freely. It’s not exactly the best conversation for a Saturday night out. (Depending upon who you’re with.)
Also, I’ve also chosen to give myself parameters. Coworkers, friends, boyfriends, relatives – they’re all reading. Probably more than I know about. And probably some potential creepies. So for varying reasons: no cursing, no sex, and no telling stories that are not my own to tell.
I guess the best way to put it is – my decision was to make my blog home. You come here and you see who I am. I may have straightened up a bit for you, but you’ll see what I do and what I care about.
I remember hearing a boss explain proudly their success in being a totally different person at work than at home. The idea repelled me. If I can’t be successful being who I am, that wouldn’t be success for me.
I am a girl geek. I am a scribbler. I don’t cut myself slack and I don’t cut anybody around me much either. I’m oversensitive, take-things-personally, super-competitive, distracted. I’m not proud of all that, but while I work on my faults, I don’t want to pretend I’m otherwise, either.
After seven years, this blog is part of how I think – the same way you water your plants, floss your teeth, pick your kids up for school, call your parents. Something happens and you just go “hmm, yeah, gotta write about that.” It’s second nature.
But social networking has changed how I blog. Annoyingly enough, it’s forced me to be more thoughtful.Â I can’t spin a blog post out of one pithy thought or quote or link anymore, because those go to Facebook updates or Tweets. My use of social networks is not conducive to lazy blogging.
When I do have ideas, I keep draft posts in queue in varying stages of completion. I have a Google Doc with ideas, I’ve texted and emailed myself, I’ve scribbled notes in my planner. Whatever gets your sparks down when you have them. I don’t know that a new system is necessary – just go to where you already are, and get it down there.
I don’t have a publishing schedule. It’s developed that Follow posts go on Fridays and Roundup posts on Sundays, but they’re not every week. Again, though, not having a more structured schedule may be costing me readers.
If the blog could be my No. 1 priority, I could be more systematized and prolific. But while it’s hugely important to me, it’s what I do around the edges – it doesn’t feed me or love me, and life being what it is, the things that do have to come first.
My advice, then, in summary? Don’t lock yourself into a topic right out of the gate. Just see what comes for the first few months. Maybe you’ll find your groove, maybe you’ll see you need three blogs, maybe you’ll see it’s just not your bag, maybe you need to be vlogging or podcasting instead. Who knows? Make yourself try to update a couple of times week, but have fun with it. Just play with it and see what happens. Don’t beat yourself up, don’t take yourself too seriously, and expect serendipity.
Those are probably pretty good rules for life in general, too.
I’d love to know if there’s anything that people would like to see more or less ofÂ around here. Perhaps a reader survey is called for. Hmmm. Project. But in the meantime, I’d love to know what you think… about this series, about what you like or about what you want.