Blog Like a Person, Not Like a Cyborg
I don’t often agree with Robert Scoble, but when he wrote that blogs have become boring and lost their humanity, well, I found myself nodding along right there with him. And that made me sad.
Even though Susan thinks I come to work to daydream and make her life more difficult, this blogging thing is hard work. And it’s becoming increasingly difficult to stay motivated and dedicated as competition increases. It also doesn’t help that us bloggers often feel like we’re being talked over, that we feel like no one cares what we have to say, and that top bloggers often seem less concerned about growing their community and more interested in getting picked up by TechMeme. Sometimes, it makes the rest of us just want to phone it in too.
And though it may be easier, the "phoning it in" mentality really is detrimental to this industry. Perhaps what you do on your own blog shouldn’t affect the greater blogging community, but it does, because we’re all connected. When you mundanely blog, it zaps all of our excitement and our humanness.
I’ve noticed that I’m becoming increasingly sad as I go through my feed reader these days. My favorite bloggers are taking the TechMeme bait and writing about topics they don’t particular care about just so TechMeme will find the link and pick up their story. We’re all guilty of that from time to time, but it doesn’t exactly help foster conversation or make you more human to your readers. If anything, it kills the conversation and makes you sound like a robot. And while we’re all looking in the same direction and talking about how smart we are examining the stories seated over there on the right, we’re missing all the excitement that’s going on over on the left. It’s like that stuff never happened. We’re just a bunch of blogging cyborgs.
Do everyone a favor. If you’re going to call it in that day and not be you, just don’t blog.
You may have noticed (and I know you did because I got emails…) that we let last Thursday go by without a single blog entry. I know, it was shocking, but we all survived. There was no opinion and no insight. Hell, there weren’t even any cracks at Susan. Why?
Well, to be honest, I was a bit down on the industry and not feeling the blogging mojo. I could have picked a story off TechMeme and commented on it, but would that have benefited anyone? Would readers have gotten anything out of that? Would I have brought any realness to the blogosphere? Probably not. So, instead I focused on some of the other projects we have going on around here and took a day away from the blog. And on Friday (and after another Red Sox win), I was feeling a little bit better. And now that a weekend has passed and I was able to run around outside and pick pumpkins, I’m actually feeling light years better and a whole lot more inspired.
Sometimes you just need a day or a weekend to rededicate yourself to your blogging and to achieving the things you have set out for yourself. What do you do to recharge your blogging batteries when you’ve hit a dry spell? How do you re-claim your mojo? How do you keep bringing a level of humanness to blog and stop sounding like a robot repeating what it heard on TV the night before?
Here’s some stuff that has worked for me:
Read Old Blog Posts: And, unless you’re fairly new to the blogging game, I’m not talking about the stuff you wrote last month or even two months ago. I’m talking about the old stuff. Go back to the beginning of your blog and reread the topics you were writing about when you were full of passion and excitement. Remember what it felt like when you had so much to say that you did something insanely crazy and actually started a blog to share your insights with the world. Remember that spirit. Also, see how crappy those posts were and give yourself a pat on the back for improving as much as you have. You rock!
Write for Your Community, Not for Its Overlords: You started blogging to serve the community around your niche, not the A-listers. When you were a blogging n00b, you probably didn’t even know about TechMeme, nor were you obsessed with making today’s list of top blog entries or appeasing your industry gods. Why start worrying about those people now? I’m in no way devaluing things like TechMeme or those lists that go around touting who’s in and who’s out, but when you make appearing there the entire focus of your blog, it changes how you write and you end up missing out on a lot of the great stuff. It also increases your chances of sounding cold to your audience. You want them to see you and to fall in love with you. Ever notice how no one develops a crush on news reporters? It’s because they’re vapid robots with dead eyes. [Except Anderson Cooper. --Susan] – I watch Anderson Cooper at the gym. It allows me to stare at the pretty without having to listen to him speak.
Act Like A Writer: You never know when you’re going to have an idea for a blog entry, who you’ll meet or when your muse visit, so act like a real writer and bring a notebook and pen wherever you go. This is one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned over the last year. Often the best entries happen when you’re away from your desk. When you’re having drinks and talking about work with friends, when you’re stuck inside Google Docs screaming that the formatting sucks, or when you’re on a long hike and you finally decipher the secret code to Google’s algorithm.
Brain Dump: If you’re the type of person who can write now and edit later, do it. I hear this is a great way to inspire creativity and let you sound like yourself. Personally, I’ve never been able to do it, no matter how many times Susan tries to force it on me when we’re 6 hours away from a newsletter deadline and I still don’t have an article topic. She tells me just to start writing and I tell her if she tells me that one more time she’s going to get my Ask.com pen straight through her chest. [Lisa, you may have noticed, is something of a violent perfectionist. --Susan] — It’s what makes me stand out.
Take A Vacation: The best way to lose all excitement with your blog is to be stuck looking at it everyday. This is why people cheat on their partners, because after awhile they become boring. I’m not saying it’s right, I’m just saying. It’s okay to cheat on your blog sometimes. Take a day off and do something else. Go hiking, take a day trip, knit a sweater, talk to the little people living in your house (they’re called "children"). It’s important to turn the computer off every once in awhile and get the rest of your brain charged up.
Robert Scoble is right. The blogosphere has become a whole lot less human lately. We’re not writing for our readers or even ourselves. We’re writing to appease the gatekeepers of this industry and burning ourselves out in the process.
It’s time to take a step back. Re-familiarize yourself with your blog and re-find your blogging mojo. If you still can’t find it, go outside and give yourself a day. You’ll be back to normal soon.