When I graduated from high school back in 1992, one of the gifts I received was a copy of H. Jackson Brown, Jr.’s Life’s Little Instruction Book. I’ve had the book on my bookshelf through many moves. Every few years I pick it up and read it. I’ve found that the strange mix of advice in it has weathered time well.
And, like any truly good advice, it applies across a broad range of situations. Even blogging.
Leave Everything A Little Better Than You Found It.
When I write, I think of the end result. Will it make my readers laugh? Try a new experience? Connect with me on a personal level? Contemplate important things about life? Improve themselves? Or will they regret reading?
I often miss the mark, I’ll admit. Sometimes I blog for myself instead of my reader (which only works for my mom who will read anything I write). In the back of my mind, though, is the reality that I want my readers to feel better for having read my writing. I want to leave them a little better off by the end of the last sentence than when they started. I want them to feel glad that they took the time to read, maybe even feeling a little bit of hope, or renewed energy and effort for the rest of the day.
Learn To Listen. Opportunity Sometimes Knocks Very Softly.
Where do you listen, as a blogger?
The comments section, certainly. Your readers will tell you a lot, and even if it’s done in a not-so-kind way, finding a way to really listen to what is said without taking it personally is important. There might be opportunity to improve, make a negative a positive, grow your network, or, in a worst-case scenario, learn who not to listen to. Identifying opportunity isn’t as obvious as you think. It’s often in a difficult disguise.
We can also listen on other blogs that we read. We can listen to what other bloggers are saying, what comments they receive, and consider how that fits into how and what we write. We get ideas, make connections, and learn from their mistakes. We must listen. We can’t always be talking.
Don’t Use Time Or Words Carelessly. Neither Can Be Retrieved.
If you’ve blogged for any amount of time, it is inevitable that you will write something you wish you could take back. It might be as benign as rough beginner writing, or as regretful as brash statements about others. Over time, if no one latches onto your writing, you might be fortunate enough that it fades away quietly. Or it might get snapped up, linked, republished, and turned into something you have no control over anymore.
When blogging, use the draft option. Write immediately and with immediacy to capture that fresh inspiration and raw emotion. Then save it as a draft. Wait before you publish, even if just an hour. Revisit, refine, and reconsider, especially if your writing is going to rock the boat. Let your initial anger settle down into a well-thought response.
Publish when you’re sure so you can stand by what you write.
Become The Most Positive And Enthusiastic Person You Know.
I have been known to comment that someone was “too happy”, meaning that sometimes it is difficult to be around someone who is overly upbeat and who seems to force positivity on everyone. That behavior only serves to emphasize the unhappy things we feel by comparison, or, at the very least, is exhausting after continued exposure. It is possible to write in a way that is positive and enthusiastic without being overbearing and fake.
Your writing doesn’t have to be peppered with quick-fix super-happy sound bites, but showing some enthusiasm and a determined attempt at a positive outlook helps your reader do the same. This is particularly true when you can acknowledge a challenge or difficulty and comment on it with a positive overtone. You don’t write to make your reader feel badly about not being happy; you write to lead them into it genuinely on their own.
Never Overestimate Your Power To Change Others.
You can’t write a blog post to change others. You’ll miss the mark if that is your sole goal.
You can write a blog post that connects with your reader, and you can write a post your reader enjoys. You can write a post that readers thank you for, and you can write a post that inspires your reader. You can write a post that teaches, helps, hopes, and encourages. You can write with the idea of bringing about change in others. But you cannot write with a focus on guaranteeing a change in others. Blog posts that have a goal of changing others polarize and divide more than anything. They solidify your reader against change.
Having said that…
Never Underestimate Your Power To Change Yourself.
…you can write to change yourself.
Ask any blogger, and you’ll often find that the process of writing usually ends up changing the writer. While trying to write for your reader, you find yourself understanding your own thoughts and reasons better. You grasp your personal philosophy. You realize what you hadn’t before. When you sit down with the goal of teaching or helping or encouraging your reader, you end up changing yourself.
How do you change the world with your blog? You change yourself. That changes the world around you. That’s your power as a writer and blogger.