The Beautiful Blogger

I’ve touched on the subject about why we blog, once already, but I wanted to take some time to evaluate some of the more esoteric reasons we do so from a blogger’s perspective. This might seem unusual, because it probably appears as though I’m new to blogging, but this is not the case. I have authored many blogs in the past, but never been satisfied with the results and after a time, I wipe the slate and start again. That may end up being the case with this current incarnation as well, but I don’t think so. I believe I have found my stride because this time, I examined what I wanted to accomplish and why I was doing it, before I approached the endeavor.

You want to share with the world.

Most bloggers enjoy reading and are budding authors. The may not have an idea vast enough yet to start writing their first novel, but they likely have a desire to do so. For most, it’s a desire to create some work of fiction or non-fiction that shares their love of the written word.

Others want to teach. I have taken this approach with my wiki and indeed, some of the entries I’ve posted here already are instructional narratives. I still maintain the wiki as my main project, because I do love teaching, sharing knowledge and resources with others. I am also a bit OCD when it comes to organizing my life.

There’s more to it, though. I want to do more. I want to share not just my knowledge, but my creative side, as well. I am not musical. I am not a very good artist. I am intellectual and love intelligent discussions with like minded people. I want to learn and grow, These are essential qualities for successful bloggers. They want to share their ideas with the world and see what others have to say about it. The desire to gain feedback provides them with validation, perhaps a sense of companionship, but also a sense of accomplishment, because they were able to catch someone’s  interest, to make them think and respond. In doing so, the blogger finds their reward.

You value honesty.

This is an aspect of writing that many people don’t acknowledge. When you’re writing a book, the world doesn’t see it until you’re done. You won’t know if you’re a success or not until you get a letter of acceptance or denial back from the publisher. Even then you have to wait for it to go to print and see if it sells.

Book writing may not have changed dramatically in that sense, but blogging is different. You can take a few minutes or even a few hours writing an entry and you will know very quickly whether or not your efforts were worthwhile, but remember that the Internet is cruel.

Even if what you wrote is magnificent, there will always be detractors. You need to accept that. Accept criticism. Learn what to ignore and what provides value and adapt, accordingly.

With the entire world of knowledge at everyone’s fingertips now, you have to be honest. If you don’t know something, don’t pretend that you do. Admit your shortcomings and talk about what you know. Otherwise, you will be called to task.

Recently, I read a couple articles by other bloggers, who have summed it up, nicely. At The Imperfectionist I read

If you let them see you, unvarnished and real, they’ll realize how incompetent you are.

Many bloggers spend hours second-guessing themselves, because they want to make sure they put on their best disguise, that they make no mistakes, that they cannot be criticized, but is that honest? Sure, you want your work to be clean and well organized, but be yourself. Write honestly.

Examine your own thought processes as you do and write them down. Whether that means you create a point form draft or a descriptive narrative of what goes on behind the scenes, reveal how you came to know your subject. The Saltwater Twin said

We buy our meat at Safeway and our clothes at the Gap. We don’t see the slaughterhouse or the sweatshop; mostly we don’t want to see. The willingness to look, to bear witness to what is frightening and wonderful, what is unjust, what it is to be afraid, to be petulant, hypocritical, compassionate, in love, what it is to be alive on this planet, that is a radical act.

In doing so, she revealed her thought process, helped make the connection between what she sees and what she recognizes about herself and the world in which she lives, giving context to her material. You need to recognize that in your own works. Examine the reasons behind what you’re writing and expose them to yourself and to the world, through your writing.

If you’re honest about what you write, you will be passionate and in doing so, you will be able to express what you need with greater conviction.

You love the written word.

Most bloggers are avid readers. I am not, at least not in the traditional sense. I don’t read a lot of books, because I’m too ADD to sit through an entire novel. As such, I’ve only read about 20 books in my life. I do spend hours each day reading, though. I read online. My news reader has almost 100 different feeds. I consume dozens of articles every day, most of it is edutainment. Sites like ListVerse and io9 teach us while providing us with endless hours of trivia and knowledge.

As a teenager, I read hundreds of comic books, usually Batman. I loved the Fighting Fantasy books by Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone. I read a few classics by Jack London and a lot of fantasy novels. J. R.R. Tolkien and Robert Aspirin engaged my imagination. As I got older though, I spent less time reading.

Currently, I have a long drive to work, an hour each way and this allows me to listen to audio books during my commute. In the past year I have managed to consume a dozen books by Terry Brooks. I’m a captive audience this way and while it doesn’t compare to the feeling of holding a book, flipping through the pages, enjoying that new book smell, I am able to fully enjoy the story the authour has penned. As you can tell, fantasy is my entertainment of choice.

You love language.

Once you’ve read your first novel, most people are captivated by the way the words made them feel. When well written, language can flow with ebbs and tides that can manipulate the reader’s emotions. You can’t put the book down. You need to know what will happen next. The words and structure captivate you.

Poorly written books won’t accomplish the same thing. The authour may have a great concept, but if the structure or words are not well chosen, it will destroy the vision and fail to capture the imagination of the reader. So, the trick is to master the written word.

There are two aspects to this. You need to understand how language works, how grammar works. The written and spoken word are very different. Body language conveys more than words when you’re speaking to someone. If you can’t see them, you can still use your tone of voice to manipulate your message. Slang and dialect impact how you say what you want and the message is always far less formal than the written word, because it lacks permanence. So, starting a sentence with “And” or “Because” is acceptable. “Ending your sentences a preposition with” can also be accomplished, in most cases, without causing the listener to do so much as raise an eyebrow. In the written language, you want to avoid these. No matter how sophisticated you think your audience is, mastering the structural aspects of the written word will help you to have a far greater impact on your audience.

When you’re conveying a message through the written word therefore, you cannot rely on body language or tone of voice. You must use only your vocabulary and sentence structure.  Understanding the impact of grammar helps you to deliver your message more effectively. Short sentences are abrupt. Longer sentences take their time to explain an idea in a more relaxed method, often taking time to illustrate ideas and feelings. The words you use will impact the overall feel of your composition.

That brings us to the second aspect, which is vocabulary. I can pull random numbers out of the air like anyone else. A favourite expression of the Internet is that “99% of all statistics are made up on the spot.” The percentage you use to fill that statistic is obviously, random. So, while I’ve done research several times on the number of words the average person knows and uses in both verbal and written communication, the reports vary immensely. I will not therefore, lay claim that these numbers are in anyway accurate, other than the concept that they lay bare is the obvious disparity between what we know and what we use.

That being said, most people use under 1000 words in their day to day communications, with their level of education impacting this number to some extent. However, the average person’s vocabulary is many times that, with ranges reported anywhere between 10,000 and 30,000 words. Unsurprisingly, William Shakespeare was estimated to have had a vocabulary more than double that of the average person.

Therefore, the words you choose are the best tools you have as an authour to convey your message. If you’re providing instructions or directions, your message needs to be clear and concise and as such, simplicity is the key. You wouldn’t for example say “Switch on the forced air climate controller” unless you were attempting to be sarcastic or pompous. Instead, you would simply say “Turn on the fan.”

By contrast, you need to be creative in order to convey feelings.  “The dragon flew out of the well, breathed fire on all the heroes and killed them” does not capture the imagination or any sense of feeling other than possibly, humour. Instead, an authour would take their time to explain the scene, the sense of shock and awe the party feels at the arrival of this dreadful creature, the horror at the realization that their plight is hopeless and the sense of loss as their lives come to an abrupt end as a result of this nightmarish beast.

Expanding your vocabulary, understanding the etymology and history of language and using it to the your advantage are necessary lessons if you wish to increase the impact of your writing. Using a dictionary and thesaurus will help you accomplish this, by allowing you to choose words that better suit the purpose and atmosphere of your writing.

You are your own worst critic.

Of course, the best way to learn how to employ these tools is to follow someone who has mastered these techniques. Read. Read blogs, novels, classics, plays, text books. Whatever it is you want to create, see how others have accomplished it. Successful authours will employ all of these techniques in their writing. Watch how they do it and learn how to adapt it to your own writing style. Read and reread your own works as you create them. Ask yourself whether or not you’re conveying the full sense of what you’re trying to accomplish. Is your grammar correct? Do your sentences run on? Does the order and structure make sense? Can you simplify what you’ve said to accomplish the same thing? Do you use the same phrases and words too often? Is there a better way to convey a particular message? Move things around. Change words, reorganize and reread. Do so while you’re writing and once you’ve finished. Leave and come back before you publish it and reread it once more. Once you’re happy with it, then release it to the world and hopefully, others will appreciate the time and effort you’ve spent on your masterpiece. Even if they do not, you can.

I may not be a famous blogger yet, or ever, but that’s how I approach my work and regardless of whether or not anyone ever sees what I’ve written and appreciates it, I will.