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Focused, fragmented or ... ? Blogging advice

If you have an identified narrative that you’re trying to convey through your blog, each post should work toward supporting that narrative. Once you start writing to support that narrative people come to expect (whether consciously or not)  that your posts will fit with that narrative. Some narratives are obvious. If you’re setting off to sail the world and blog about it, then you won’t have trouble picking a narrative to support with your posts. Other narratives aren’t quite so obvious and that’s where most of us are with our blogs. ...

People generally subscribe to blogs for one of two reasons: to be entertained or to learn something that benefits them.When I look at my blog subscriptions (currently 250+) 90% of them are blogs that share things that can help me in some way. The other 10% are just for fun. I’m subscribed to zero navel-gazing, personal stories blogs. My guess is that your ratio of blog subscriptions is similar to mine. Richard Bryne The Blog as Narrative, Worms in the Fridge

Richard, the hugely popular author of FreeTech4Teachers and nice guy, offers a little advice on his new "Worms in the Fridge" blog for beginning bloggers. Having had lunch today with a young man who wants to write a blog and a book, his suggestions came at a good time.

Unlike Mr. Byrne, I follow a paltry 76 blogs. And while I don't expect them to be useful in a practical sense, I do ask them to be in some way enlightening. I like being challenged. I like being informed. And I do like a few "navel gazing, personal stories" blogs - especially those written by teachers who are working internationally.

I had been publishing professionally for 15 years before I started blogging. So perhaps I came at this practice bass-ackwards. Here is how I described the purpose of the Blue Skunk when it first got going back in August 2006:

... serves as a sounding board for ideas I am currently thinking/writing about. You may see some Blue Skunk entries as parts of a published article or book.*

As it's turned out, I've continued to write simply because it has been so dang much fun. I amuse myself on a fairly regular basis, and if when doing so I amuse you as well, so much the better. I love the comments - both contrary and supportive. And I enjoy the simple freedom of having no editor other than one's own conscience.

The advice I give beginning writers is always to write first for yourself. If you aren't having fun writing, chances are readers aren't having fun reading either. And when readers stop enjoying your work, they stop paying attention.

Have a topic or a theme or a purpose (a narrative, if you will) as Richard suggests, but don't limit yourself - explore. To me the most interesting posts (and creative) are those in which two unrelated subjects are used to illuminate each other. Say something outrageous now and then. If you aren't making your readers mad sometimes, you probably are playing it too safe. Oh, pretend you're an expert. If you're lucky nobody will catch on before you actually become one.  

One last tip: Don't take advice from bloggers. We're an unreliable bunch.


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Reader Comments (2)

Hi Doug,

Thanks for sharing your thoughts. These are my thoughts about your thoughts.

"If you aren't having fun writing, chances are readers aren't having fun reading either." That's a great point and it's part of the reason I started yet another blog. Creating the blog and writing for a slightly different audience is a new, fun challenge for me. has grown to a point where I can't significantly change the narrative without abandoning a slew of people who've come to expect a certain style.

I don't think there's anything wrong with writing the personal narrative / navel-gazing blog. But the audience I'm hoping to write for on is one that is interested in learning how to build a bigger following (we can debate the merits of that in another post) which is why I've been encouraging people to keep in mind that many of the blogs with the biggest audiences tend to answer the question "how does this help me?"

The blogging advice that I offer and the advice that you offer may be more a reflection of our personal styles than anything else. I wish I could write in the entertaining-while-still-informative manner that you can. Your style works. Mine works too although it rarely has humor like I find in your posts.

And in the's all just pixels on a screen...I hope someone is keeping track of all of them... :)

January 21, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterRichard Byrne

Hi Richard,

I am delighted you've started this blog (with even a weirder name than Blue Skunk) and I look forward to learning a lot from you. I appreciate this reply.

Happy blogging!


January 22, 2014 | Registered CommenterDoug Johnson

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