“Travel becomes a way of life and a comfort zone”
“Travel becomes a way of life and a comfort zone”
By Caitlin Kelly
I started this blog in July 2010, dubious anyone would ever show up. (I had been blogging for a year at True/Slant, paid, but it was sold from underneath all the writers who built it. Nice!)
But you did show up, and you keep arriving — readers from Ireland, England, Scotland, Australia, Canada, India (hi, Ashok!), several African nations, New Zealand and, of course, the United States.
I’m amazed and amused and grateful at the variety of people who come to Broadside: artists, teachers, students, business owners, consultants, singers, fashionistas, fellow journalists and writers. There are high school students, college students, fresh graduates and retirees — an unlikely but welcome mix of perspectives and life experiences.
I’ve published 1,650 posts, blogging usually three times a week.
I really appreciate those of you who make time to visit and comment so thoughtfully and consistently, including:
Steve, a contractor in Pennsylvania; Charlene, traveling the world taking photos; Leah in Arizona; Ksbeth, a schoolteacher in Michigan; Kathleen, a schoolteacher in Germany; Jonelle, a consultant in D.C., Katie, whose blog name (The Stories My Suitcase Could Tell) is perfect; Ohio State student Rami; fellow journalist CandidKay; artist/writer Emily Hughes; fellow athlete/blogger/journalist Caitlin, (who blogs at Fit and Feminist), MuddyRiverMuse, CricketMuse, Robin in Vermont, Michelle in Saskatchewan…
We’ve somehow managed to keep trolls at bay, to enjoy some lively, candid, civil and moving conversations. I look forward to hearing your thoughts, which makes writing here — which I also do for a living, for places like The New York Times, Cosmopolitan, Marie Claire, Quartz.com and others –– the most enjoyable.
If you, too, are a writer, I also offer individual coaching, editing and six specific webinars; I no longer schedule them for specific times, but find a mutually convenient time to work with you by phone or Skype. Details here.
Here are some of my favorite — and most-discussed/liked — posts from the past few years:
This post is now a bit of journalism history — in it I interviewed the late Michael Hastings, who was killed in a fiery car crash in Los Angeles in June 2013. This post is an interview with two terrific male journalists about the reporting that broke their hearts.
Here’s a fun one…how well do you speak Canadian?
By Caitlin Kelly
It was a sad, sudden shock to read this from a fellow blogger recently:
It’s raining, and the sky is overcast. I cried.
I woke up to an empty apartment. The water leaking from the ceiling is hitting a tin bucket, sending out an echo. I cried.
Today, I am not strong. But I’m giving myself permission to feel it all. And I’m not so sure that’s weak, either.
It turns out, losing what feels like home is much more difficult than I thought. Buddy. Georgia. They were my home.
I respect him and what we had far too much to shell out details to a semi-faceless-web, but I feel that to move on, I have to say this “out loud”; Georgia and I have gone our separate ways.
The blog, Key and Arrow, written by a young schoolteacher in Austin, Texas, has been a source of pleasure for me for a while now. Every Monday, she posts “Seven Things”, a recap of seven pleasures from her past week, charming and inspiring, with lots of photos of meals, her man, her dog…
Now the man and dog are gone and I, too, feel a little bereft.
The Internet is odd that way, all this uninvited intimacy with strangers, people we will likely never meet in person, but whose children and pets and lives become a part of ours for a while, possibly for years.
Some people disclose a stunning amount in their blogs, as I have occasionally as well, including infidelity, mental illness, family strife and addiction. The Internet sometimes feels like a safe place to park difficult and complicated feelings, hoping against hope that someone else out there will read you and say:
“You, too? I thought that was only me!”
Admitting publicly, especially to strangers, that your life is actually complicated and difficult takes guts. We’re not all perky and shiny all the time, and blogs that reveal little of the writer behind it quickly lose me. There’s plenty of that faux fabulousness on Facebook already.
But doing so also means trusting that others will read you with compassion and empathy — not schadenfreude and voyeurism. (It happens.)
It takes trust.
I like that it demands trust, as when intimacy is met with kindness, friendship blossoms.
In the past few years, I’ve become friends with several readers of Broadside and plan to finally meet and visit with two of them, both living in England, this winter; both moved from reader to new friend after I posted this very dark and personal piece about my mother.
I find these web-created friendships sustaining, as sometimes people thousands of miles away better comprehend us than our own families, colleagues or neighbors.
Do you feel close to anyone whose blog you read?
Or to your blog followers?
By Caitlin Kelly
I had an interesting conversation recently with another journalist, who writes columns and features. She wondered if some people see what she and I do for a living as impossibly difficult, something you just have a talent for, or you don’t.
Here’s an image that may, or may not, comfort or surprise you:
It’s what fiction writers love to call their WIP — a work in progress. This is one page of a story, a narrative memoir, I was recently commissioned to produce by a major American women’s magazine.
This is the revision I was asked for by the first, of several, editors. I’ve never met her or spoken to her beyond a brief conversation about this piece. That’s typical, these days. At my level of experience, I’m expected to know exactly what’s expected of a “narrative memoir” and how to produce it to deadline. Which, of course, I did, as I did with this revision.
Which was still deemed “not there yet.”
Magazine journalism — especially some genres — is a team sport. I have to be ready for even more editors’ questions and comments.
What I’ve shown here is my own second or third revision of the second version, before I cleaned it up and sent it in.
You’ll notice a few things:
— I tightened and shortened a few sentences, cutting every possible excess word. I worked for a year as a reporter for a tabloid newspaper here in New York, 2005-2006, and it changed my writing for the better, forever. I try to use as few words as possible to convey my ideas. I also have a tight word limit for this piece, 1,700 words, encompassing my life from age 14 to today, multiple decades. Stuff has to go!
— I joined two sentences into a paragraph. Sometimes they just flow better. Or not.
— At the start of one sentence, I cut a word and inserted one later there.
— That crossed-out sentence at the bottom of the page, an after-thought, clearly, felt like a great metaphor — until I double-checked the meaning of the word I thought I wanted and I was wrong. Then I re-thought the whole idea and discarded it as intrusive and distracting, no matter how lovely a phrase it was. And it was; had I more room, I might have included it. But I don’t. This is called “killing your darlings. ” You get really good at lexical assassination if you stay in this game a while.
The reason I’m sharing this is to show the process, which no one ever sees.
By the time we read anyone’s work — no matter the medium — it’s been polished, revised, edited and re-edited.
So the final product, for most writers, is that of a tremendous amount of prior conceptualizing, framing, thinking, reporting, researching, interviewing, analyzing, re-thinking, writing — (look how far down in the list this is!) — re-writing, editing, re-editing, revising, revising again.
(This post, by the way, went through six revisions before I hit “publish” — the last one, about New York, went through 15.)
Even when I edit myself, I’m always applying three filters, three editing styles, all at once and unconsciously:
— Structural. Does this piece flow? Does it have rhythm? Does the beginning pull you in and keep you? How do I feel about the ending? Should some sections (as my editor suggested, and I did) be moved much higher in the story?
— Line-editing. How does this sentence sound? Is it too short? Too long? Does one paragraph transition smoothly into the next? When and where am I choosing to use a line space? (Helpful for marking transitions in time or place within a narrative. I learned this on some of my very first paid stories, while in college.) Am I repeating words, phrases or ideas — and to what effect?
— Copy-editing. (Should that word have a hyphen?) Looking for spelling and grammatical errors and making sure I have names and numbers correct.
Great writing — (even crappy writing, after it’s finally published) is an iceberg — you’re only seeing the final, visible 10 percent of it!
By Caitlin Kelly
I began offering writing, blogging and freelancing webinars in October 2013. They went really well, with students arriving — via Skype — from places as far-flung as New Zealand and Australia. One webinar included students in Los Angeles and London. So cool!
Feedback was super-positive.
I love teaching and helping other people reach their goals. I really enjoy knowing my skills have been helpful.
FEB 1, 2PM EST, BETTER BLOGGING
FEB 2, 2PM EST, YOU, INC: THE BUSINESS OF FREELANCING
If you’re still wondering if they’re worth it…
Q: Why you? There are plenty of other teachers and classes out there.
With 30 years’ experience writing for the world’s toughest editors, I know what they want and need. I write frequently for The New York Times and am constantly conquering tough new markets, this year adding Cosmopolitan, Good Housekeeping and Ladies Home Journal to my client list.
A former reporter for three major daily newspapers, I’ll make sure you’ve got the fundamentals of traditional journalism tailored to how we all work now — fast-paced, highly competitive and ever-shifting.
My two books of national reporting are well-reviewed; the first called “groundbreaking and invaluable” and the second “clear-eyed” by The New York Times.
A generalist, I’ve written on almost any topic you can name. Whatever your specialty, I can help.
This blog has grown to more than 9,000 followers worldwide, adding new ones every day. I’ve also had six posts chosen for Freshly Pressed.; come learn 30+ tips for yours!.
Q: What happens in these webinars?
I offer an hour of curriculum: practical, specific, time-tested ways to get the job done well and efficiently, whether interviewing, reporting or essay-writing, plus tools and resources you’ll find useful later, from helpful listservs to great conferences.
Q: Is there time for my questions?
Of course! We’ve got 30 minutes for questions. I want every student to leave feeling they’ve received the help they seek.
Q: Why are they priced so high? Some competitors are a lot cheaper!
Class size is small, a maximum of 10, more likely three or four people, offering the kind of individual attention hard to get from a larger class, panel or conference. Former students say they received tremendous value. Fast-paced and information-rich, these classes offer a lot for your money.
Q: I’m a total beginner. Are these too advanced for me?
No. Take and use what you need right now: the basic principles are the same, whether you’re just starting out or decades into a writing career.
Q: Are you focused only on print or do you also address how to write for digital media?
My own work has appeared on popular sites like Quartz, reuters.com and the Harvard Business Review blog. The essentials remain constant, no matter what medium you’re writing for: accuracy, strong voice, solid sourcing, diverse sourcing and an understanding of your audience.
Q: I can’t make it at the times scheduled. Now what?
We can work individually, at a time of your choosing. It’s more expensive, but you’ll have my undivided attention.
THE FULL LIST OF WEBINARS IS HERE.
I ALSO OFFER INDIVIDUAL COACHING; PLEASE EMAIL ME AT LEARNTOWRITEBETTER@GMAIL.COM
By Caitlin Kelly
Many of you are also blogging — whether for fun, for visibility, to improve your writing, to make friends. Maybe to evangelize for issues you care deeply about, like feminism, faith, education reform, fitness or social justice.
Some of you run a business — music, cooking, coaching, photography — which a well-written blog can also help, by conveying your visibility, authority, credibility and personality to potential clients.
Some of you have also had your work chosen by Freshly Pressed, WordPress’ daily pick of nine posts from 400,000+ blogs on the WP platform. If you’re not reading them regularly, I urge you to visit now and again.
I started blogging here in July 2009, and, now with 1,500+ posts, have been Freshly Pressed six times; here’s one of mine they chose, from August 2012, about why it’s so important to say thank you.
I blog three times a week — frequency is one essential key to building and growing an attentive audience.
If you’re eager to gain more readers, boost engagement or have your blog catch the eye of an editor or agent I can help!
I hope you’ll sign up for my next webinar, Better Blogging, on Saturday Feb. 1 at 2pm EST. The webinar is via Skype, costs $125 for 90 minutes and will offer you more than 30 specific and practical tips to improve your blog.
I can also take time, before we begin, to look at your blog and read a few posts to get an idea of your tone, design and content and offer you useful, constructive feedback, if desired.
Here’s a former post with specific tips, a taste of what we talk about in the webinar.
Here’s a testimonial from Jonelle Hilleary, a blogger in D.C. who took this webinar last fall:
I have to say that since that time, after thinking carefully about what we learned and discussed, I have sustained a 644% increase in new readers over the last 3 months- at least many are seeing my work and coming back, according to the data. So for others who may be weighing commenting, this is a great opportunity to make a new acquaintance with some awesome knowledge.
Sign up here!
Questions and concerns? Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Caitlin Kelly
Maybe you’ve been following this recent firestorm?
The one in which Salon, a popular American website, called The New York Times’ former executive editor Bill Keller, and his wife, Gilbey’s gin heiress Emma Gilbey, despicable?
Both of them wrote about cancer patient Lisa Adams, who has advanced breast cancer.
Lisa Bonchek Adams is a mother of three living with Stage 4 breast cancer. She blogs and tweets about what she is undergoing and the decisions she is making about her health; she does so frequently and to a large audience that’s rooting for her. And to a prominent husband-wife pair of journalists, she’s somehow offensive.
Bill Keller, the former executive editor of the New York Times, published an Op-Ed in that paper today indicating that Adams, in spite of the image of positivity and strength she generally broadcasts on her social media platforms, is dying and doing so in a manner somehow undignified; Keller draws a comparison between Adams and his late father-in-law. “His death seemed to me a humane and honorable alternative to the frantic medical trench warfare that often makes an expensive misery of death in America.”
That “trench warfare” has, for Adams, included a variety of medical studies; Keller indicates that Adams’ personal decisions about her health, and her expressing herself online, somehow detracts from people who choose not to undergo experimental treatments or who choose to slip under with less of what is traditionally known as “fighting.” He even finds a Stanford associate dean who is willing to say that Adams “shouldn’t be unduly praised. Equal praise is due to those who accept an inevitable fate with grace and courage.”
Here’s an analysis piece from NPR’s blog:
the piece enraged a lot of Times readers, according to public editor Margaret Sullivan, that she heard a great deal of negative feedback, and who herself said “there are issues here of tone and sensitivity.”
Boy … you can say that again. By closing the piece with a piece about a dean who “cringes” at Adams’ alleged embrace of a “combat metaphor” (unsupported by any quotes from her own writing) and salutes those who show grace and courage, Keller implicitly suggests that to handle your disease as Adams has is one way to go. The other way to go is with grace and courage. And that’s very unfortunate.
Adams herself says that Keller, along with his wife Emma Gilbey Keller, who also wrote a controversial column critiquing Adams’ handling of her cancer (that was in The Guardian and has since ), have misrepresented the basic facts of her medical status, and Keller has already admitted he got the number of kids she has wrong. These disputes have been pretty thoroughly inventoried in a . And writers at outlets including and have been sharply critical of the need to explain to a cancer patient how to handle (and discuss) having cancer.
This is an issue I’ve thought a lot about — how much to write or blog about one’s illness or surgery or medical issues — and how much to never share beyond one’s circle of intimates. People, in my view, who are the ones who are most likely to have actually visited you and your family in the hospital or come with you to the chemo suite, perhaps.
One woman I know, barely, professionally, shared a lot of detail on Facebook about the effects of chemo as she was treated (so far, successfully) for breast cancer. But there was a lot I wish she had simply kept to herself.
She got a lot of emotional support, which I understand — why she craved it and why people offered it.
My mother had a radical mastectomy in 2003. She is alive. She has survived multiple cancers, including thyroid and a meningioma, a form of brain tumor.
In other words, I already live in daily fear of my genetic heritage and have little appetite to read anything about cancer.
That is not a judgment of people who do, but the effect of knowing too much firsthand already.
I get my medical tests and keep a careful eye on my own body and that of my husband.
I’ve already stared down plenty of doctors and Xrays and seen too much and heard too much. I saw my mothers’ very large brain tumor on the Xray and had to give informed consent for her; here’s the piece I wrote about it for Chatelaine, Canada’s largest women’s magazine.
Who am I to complain when I, too, have written these sorts of stories? They can, I know, be helpful to others and provide comfort to the ill and to their families.
A friend my age died of cancer in January 2006 and several men in my apartment building are currently fighting cancer.
It’s not that I don’t care about people who are ill. It’s the reverse. Instead, I find myself worrying about people I do not even know.
For me, that’s not the best choice.
I have really mixed feelings about this sort of thing — none of which suggests I’m right.
How do you feel about someone sharing a lot of very graphic detail on-line about their illness?
By Caitlin Kelly
The first time I posted here — July 1, 2009 — I was shaking.
I’ve been writing for a living since university, and had grown very accustomed to attention and feedback for my ideas, photos and writing. Unlike many bloggers, this wasn’t my first attempt to gain eyeballs, just the latest iteration.
Would anyone ever show up?
Today, this blog has more than 5,400 readers worldwide, in Ghana, Malaysia, Lebanon, New Zealand, Canada, Germany, the Middle East, India. Crazy, but gratifying.
I’ve also been fortunate to have had my posts chosen six times for Freshly Pressed, which showcases a selection of WordPress bloggers every day. If you haven’t ever made time to read any of them, I urge you to. I always find something lovely or thought-provoking.
Every day, five to 15 new people find Broadside and decide to follow.
I’m honored, and really enjoy the diversity of readers, and comments.
For those of you hoping to grow your audience, some things to think about:
What’s your goal?
If all you want is to create an on-line record of your thoughts and work, I’m not persuaded that’s a blog that will ever gain much traction or many readers, while LinkedIn is professionally useful for this purpose.
Some people say they want their blog to be a place to process their feelings. Which is fine — it’s your blog. But if your real desire is to attract lots and lots of eyeballs, you’ve got to be a little more focused. No one, I assure you, has time or energy to read rambling navel-gazing better suited to a long private conversation with a friend, or a journal entry.
Every time you post, consider the question — what’s in it of potential value to your readers?
How often are you posting?
The metric I’ve read is to post three times a week, which I’ve consistently maintained. Some people post every day, which is too much for me to absorb as a reader and too much to produce as someone — like you! — with a busy life and many other interests and commitments.
If you’re pooped trying to make it all up without help — use links and timely, much-discussed news stories as inspiration.
Are you showing other bloggers a little love?
I don’t follow a ton of blogs, but I look at the site of every single person who signs up to follow Broadside. I make it a point to visit the sites of people who “like” a post so I can “like” or comment on theirs.
Are you making your blog visually inviting?
I’m dismayed by how few bloggers seem to understand a basic principle — we’re visual creatures! We want something pretty or interesting or memorable to look at and think about, not just a big fat pile ‘o words. Zzzzzzzz!
Include photos, drawings, sketches, video to illustrate your posts. Since few bloggers bother to do this, yours will immediately stand out from the crowd.
How’s your punctuation, design sense, theme choice and layout?
I won’t read any blogger who simply throws down a huge chunk of copy, (especially white on black), without one single paragraph to break it up visually and intellectually.
It’s like yammering on without taking a breath. NO one anywhere in the real world gets away with that shit.
Are you living an interesting life?
If your life is pretty quiet and routine, are you still offering readers some fun, quirky or moving insights into it? What value are you adding to my day in return for my attention?
Elizabeth Harper, an ex-pat American from Georgia now living in Cornwall, posts some of the most beautiful photos I’ve seen on the web. I keep her posts in my email forever just to go back and look at them. They’re like 17th century paintings.
Do you reply, quickly and authentically, to comments?
I try to reply to every single comment. If someone has made time to read long enough to care, to care enough to comment, that’s a hell of a compliment. Replying is polite.
Are you funny?
We all could use a good laugh — and I don’t mean simply plugging in a pile of gif’s. I mean seeing your world, and sharing it, in a way that makes us laugh along with you.
Are you too angry?
I get it.
Believe me, there are many, many things to rant about. But it’s got to be balanced out by something lighter. If all your blog is about is yelling and screaming and bitching and moaning — even if your target(s) are 100% deserving, you’re not likely to grow your readership into the thousands, even hundreds. It’s just too tedious after a while.
Your blog can be whatever you choose, of course. But which voice? Meditative, poetic, sassy, smart-ass, challenging, wise?
One blog with a very consistent tone, is Truth and Cake, written by Rian, a 30-something American woman who married a Canadian man and moved to Vancouver. She’s wise but not dull, encouraging but not sappy, firm but not bossy. I love her choice of header photo — snappy pink heels and all.
Another is Under the counter or a flutter in the dovecot, by Australian writer Nigel Featherstone. I enjoy his meditative voice and gentle questioning of almost everything. Every time I read one of his posts, my blood pressure drops.
Are you obsessed with being Freshly Pressed?
Easy for me to say, right?
Yes, being FPed will boost your visibility, big-time, probably adding hundreds of new followers within hours. But it’s not the only measure of your blog’s value. If your readers are reading, commenting, talking to you and to one another, it’s working.
Some blogs are just never going to make the FP cut: they’re too specific, too sexy, too curse-laden, too shout-y. Be yourself, but be realistic about the mass appeal of what is more likely to get picked by the WP editors.
Aim for the intersection of personal and universal
This isn’t easy, but it’s what works best.
I’m not a widow, but I’m eager to read what Niva, a TV writer in Los Angeles, is writing at Riding Bitch; her header photo speaks volumes about her spirit.
I’m not an educator, but I enjoy reading Mindful Stew, written by Paul Barnwell, a thoughtful high school teacher in Kentucky. Terrific bloggers manage to find a way to make their concerns matter to the rest of us, even if we don’t share, and never will, their specific experiences.
Are you passionate about your posts?
One of the worst habits I see in many other blogs is the written shrug. If you’re really that bored, tired or distracted, why inflict it on your readers? Bloggers like this annoy me. They want attention, but haven’t done anything special to warrant it, sort of like the five-year-old at the playground yelling “Mommy, watch me! Watch me! Watch me!”
OK. I’m watching, already. Whatcha got for me?
Are you open to differing points of view?
I’m happy that we’ve had some pretty heated (civil) discussions here. A perky, chirpy echo chamber is boring.
How much are you willing to reveal about yourself and your thoughts?
Possibly the most essential element, and one that’s damn hard to do well! Too much emotion and it becomes grossly confessional. Too little, and we never really get to know who you are, just some coy cipher. Yes, discretion is important, certainly for professional reasons. But a tidy/polite/buttoned-up blog becomes a big snooze.
Have you given your posts time to cool down?
It’s rare I write a post and hit publish. Many are refined for days, sometimes weeks.
I’d skip sex, religion and politics. But that’s just me
I rarely post on religion or politics, and almost never about sex, (sexual politics, yes.) Most of the time, it’s not worth it to invite/wrangle trolls and craziness.
What do you think?
What’s working for you?
What do you enjoy here at Broadside?
Here’s my last post about how to blog better, with tips…it got 96 likes, so it might be worth a look if you’re new here.
You used photos, videos, drawings — visuals!
I’m amazed, and dismayed, by how few bloggers consistently add visual content to their posts. A sea of words is daunting and dull. Magazines and newspapers know they must seduce readers into their material, not simply subject them to an unbroken and wearying sea of type.
You thought more like an editor
When you write for an editor, your ideas, and how you plan to express them, have to pass muster with someone else, often several. They usually ask you to explain, a little or a lot, why you think this story is worth doing now. Blogging offers writers tremendous freedom of expression — please don’t abuse it.
You remembered that your readers are busy, easily bored and quickly distracted
Journalists are taught to use the “inverted pyramid”, in which the most essential information in any story is at the very top, usually within the first sentence or paragraph. We do it because readers are like very small tired children — they have short attention spans and wander off within seconds. Grab them fast!
You wooed me in with a fab headline
Magazine editors sweat over coverlines, the teasing short sentences they choose to put on their magazine covers, hoping to make you buy their edition over that of their competitiors. Newspaper editors know they need powerful, succinct or amusing headlines to catch our eye and pull us into a story. Have you ever studied some of the best heads? “Headless body found in topless bar” is a classic. This is an excellent headline as it immediately made me read the post — it’s bossy, very specific and focused on a place I know well. Sold!
You used lots and lots of paragraphs
Don’t force readers to scale a huge unbroken block of copy! It’s lazy and editorially rude. They’ll just click away, irritated. And I see this a lot.
You posted more frequently
A blog that shows up every few months is the sign of someone who just isn’t that into blogging. Yes, it’s a lot of work. Yes, it takes time. Your readers are there for a reason. They want to read what you have to say! Don’t disappoint them.
You posted less frequently
True, dat. Some bloggers, giddy with the delicious freedom of being able to hit “publish” after every little thought flitting through their head, post constantly. I know that some bloggers relish the writing challenge of producing a post a day, but do your readers have that much time or interest?
We’re not writing for ourselves, but our readers’ pleasure.
You had more of a sense of humo(u)r
The best blogs have some lightness to them. They’re not a laugh riot all the time, and can often be serious. But being earnest all the time ? We usually shy away from that in real life, so why would we choose to read it? Mix it up a little.
You remembered I don’t live nearby, and don’t get your points of reference
I live in a town north of New York City, and most of my readers also live in the U.S. But I also have readers in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Korea, India, places where a reference I might make to a local politician or cultural figure or news story may mean nothing to someone who’s never heard of them. Add a link to help your readers far away better understand what you’re talking about.
You didn’t mistake a public blog for a private journal
This is the single greatest mistake I see in too many blogs. I really don’t want to read someone whining: “I don’t know what to write.” A blog is a public document, visible in perpetuity to anyone who finds it — your friends, family, employer, future employers. Make it lively, interesting, compelling and intriguing.
You didn’t underestimate the power of a great blog
A few bloggers have won paid writing opportunities, or more, thanks to their terrific blogs. A well-written and illustrated blog, with smartly-chosen links and consistently compelling material, is a fantastic way to showcase your design, thinking, ideas and insights — far more effectively than any resume can.
If you’re a current high school or college student, fresh grad or work-seeker, consider creating a blog strategically. It’s your very own billboard.
You understood that it takes time to grow an audience
Some fortunate few find thousands of followers within weeks, but more likely this will take months or years. Broadside has almost 4,000 followers now, but it began in July 2009, has more than 1,300 posts, (archives help), and has been chosen for Freshly Pressed six times, each time bringing in thousands of views and new followers. (My best-ever day, thanks to FP, brought in 7,606 people.)
Tried using bold and italics once in a while
A sea of unbroken copy is bad enough. Readers need breaks! We need to know when and where to pay extra attention. Read books and magazines — even their on-line versions — to get a better feel for this.
Linked to and quoted others
Readers are hungry for well-curated content. What else are you reading or listening to?
You revealed more of yourself
Readers are hungry for authenticity. We don’t need all the gory details, but we want to feel we “know” the people who are asking us for our limited attention.
Some bloggers beat us to death with detail. Why is what you’re posting of compelling interest to others?
You introduced yourself
There are far too many blogs where the writer hasn’t even bothered to fill out the “about” page. Every single magazine includes an editor’s letter and their photo, in addition to “our contributors” pages, with their photos and mini-bio’s. In a world of competing voices, why should we listen to yours? Who are you? Where do you live? Have you any specific experience or credentials that add authority to your posts? Don’t be too cute or coy. The blogosphere is a public space and staying totally anonymous means I have no idea why I should give you my very limited time and attention.
You leave me wanting more
Don’t overshare. Many bloggers bury readers in minutiae, a level of detail about their kids or cats or classes, super personal stuff that’s too internal and not focused on me, your reader. Make me hungry to hear more, not covering my ears going lalalalalalalalalalalalalalala.
So I get this email a while back from Elizabeth Harper, an American from Atlanta who fell in love with an Englishman and now lives in Cornwall, and who writes the lovely blog, Gifts of the Journey: “I saw something that made me think of you and I’ve mailed it.”
I wondered what it might possibly be, while touched and grateful that a woman I’ve yet to meet or even speak to was kind enough to think of me and send me a present.
A pub bar towel. Thanks, Elizabeth! So fun!
The other night, barely minutes after I posted, I got an email from Michelle in Minneapolis, pointing out (thank you!) a typo I’d missed. How unlikely, and helpful, to have a sharp-eyed volunteer copy-editor a few time zones in the other direction.
She and I had breakfast there in October 2012 when I went out to give a speech at the University of Minnesota. We had a blast. It’s the oddest moment, these blogging blind dates, when you finally put a voice, face and body to the person whose writing you’ve been reading for months, maybe years. She writes The Green Study, in a voice that’s consistently clear, crisp and no-nonsense.
Plus, the woman served in the military as a Russian linguist!
Depending what you write about, a fellow blogger may come to know you quite well indeed, and vice versa. I felt immediately at ease with Michelle, and we quickly fell into deep conversation.
My first blog blind date was with Lorna, a young woman in Edinburgh who writes the blog Gin & Lemonade. I met her and her fiance, then beau, at a Manhattan bar.
On our recent vacation, we had a sudden family crisis to deal with and I knew, of all people, Elizabeth would know how to cope. It felt bizarre to fire a panicked email across the Atlantic, but she quickly wrote back a long and compassionate reply — a measure of her great kindness, as she and John had just survived a truly terrifying experience, a head-on collision. Here’s her post about it, with photos.
And then there’s C, who writes Small Dog Syndrome, which I’d been reading and enjoying for a while.
A few months ago, I needed a new assistant, someone really smart to represent me and my business interests. I need a challenging mix of charm and utter tenacity and wondered if she might be the one, and now she is. Thanks to her candid, tart blog posts, I knew we shared a love, and experience of, world travel and ex-pat life, and a stiff upper lip in the face of unpleasantness, personal or professional. You can’t intuit that from a resume!
Have you met or worked with any of your blog pals?
How did it turn out?