Sometimes I get emails from people who are just starting a blog, and they ask me for blogging advice. The first thing I do when I see these emails is laugh. A lot.
Because I’m no blogging expert. I have been blogging for five years, and I have learned a lot in that time. But, I always feel like I ought to be referring them to someone more qualified, who is more technologically inclined, who is less wrapped up in being a pastor’s wife and a mom to three. Yet, I try to pass on what little I know in hopes that they can avoid some of the mistakes that I have made through the years.
So, in the spirit of being helpful, I thought I would post some advice that I commonly give to new bloggers.
1. You can control what you write, but you can’t control what people see when they read it.
When I first had some posts go viral, I would spend days wringing my hands, trying to figure out how readers got THAT out of what I wrote. I would talk to my computer, explaining to the screen that people had missed the entire point of the post. My intentions were drowned out by the experiences and perceptions of the people who were reading, and it just about drove me crazy. But, as time passed I started to realize that this is a common theme in blogging. In fact, I recently wrote a post about things that I want to teach my daughters, and on a completely unrelated note, a debate about breastfeeding in public broke out in the comment section. It’s impossible to predict every objection or weird singular experience that people bring to the table when you write about any given topic. So, write what you have to say, and then if some readers miss the point, don’t let it bother you. You know in what spirit you wrote the post, and some people will get it.
2. Don’t argue with people in the comment section.
I learned this one the hard way. I used to work so hard to interact with and explain myself to unreasonable anonymous people who were attacking my point of view. But, now I write what I have to say, and if there is controversy about it, I let the readers duke it out, and I stay out of it. It makes for a much more manageable and enjoyable blogging experience.
3. Don’t let strangers’ personal criticisms upset you.
I have written a few posts that made me feel like the most hated person in America for a few days. People have personally attacked me, said they feel sorry for my children because I am their mother, have called me names, and have laughed at me. The first time these things happened, I was fairly devastated. I wanted to retreat back into my life that’s filled with sweet people who know and love me. And, then it dawned on me: those people who know and love me are the only ones whose criticisms and opinions carry weight. There is simply no reason to allow people who don’t know you and don’t want to know you make you feel like you’re back in sixth grade, being bullied by the cool kids. It’s still not fun when people mock me or even disagree with my viewpoint, but as long as I keep in mind that they don’t know me, I can handle the comments, and usually just laugh them off.
4. Publish most comments, even those that disagree with you.
Blogging is the beginning of a conversation. You say your piece, and then, if you allow commenting, it’s essential that you give room for differing opinions in your comment section. Posting only comments that agree with you is intellectually dishonest, and it skews the conversation. If you don’t want to post comments that disagree, then you should close all comments. Say what’s on your mind and leave it at that.
The only stipulation I have on my comment section is that I don’t post comments with cursing in them. If the person is trying to make a legitimate point (instead of just yelling profanities at me), I email the reader and ask him to resubmit the comment without the cursing. Usually readers will comply. If a comment is just someone calling me dirty names in all caps, I don’t post it.
5. Don’t use your blog to rant about things that will mess with your real life.
Writing on the internet isn’t like keeping a diary. We can’t spew all of our feelings at the moment and then later take the pages we wrote and burn them. What we post here is forever. So, write only what you would be proud for your family to sit down and read someday. If you don’t feel like you have a temperament that will make you restrain yourself when you want to blast your spouse on your blog, you probably shouldn’t be a blogger. If you look back at your Facebook statuses and realize a good portion of them are you complaining about your spouse or kids or job, then that is probably a good hint that blogging isn’t the best option for you.
I once had a young pastor’s wife ask me how she could blog without getting her husband fired. It turned out that she was angry with their church and was going to have a hard time keeping that anger from spilling out on her blog. It probably wasn’t the best time in her life to attempt a blog. I don’t ever want my family to be hurt by what I write here, and I don’t want to cause my husband problems at work. Use discernment when posting about touchy subjects, and when in doubt run the post past a trusted judge to make sure that it’s ready to go out into the world.
Blogging will do lots of things for you. It helps you think. It helps you grow a thick skin. It helps you learn to articulate your thoughts and opinions. But, most of all, it provides a forum where all voices can be heard. Where minds are changed and hearts are touched. I’m pleased to have been a part of this crazy club for the past five years, and I pray that God can use me to point others to His goodness, right here, in my little corner of the internet.