Monday, February 16, 2004

Advice to a Friend

Dear Friend,

I see that you are struggling with your new blog. I have some words of advice.

What should you write about? I’m assuming that you don’t want to make a blog of links, but would like to offer content.
- Write about what you did today. Write about what you read or watched on TV. Is there some issue that keeps you up at night? Any weird interests or obsessions? Perhaps an odd configuration of moles? It’s all food for the blog.
- Take apart the littlest moments of your life: feeding breakfast to your kids or preparing for class. Don’t get too ambitious. It might just be one paragraph a day. Some days, you’ll have some big point that you would like to make. Other days, the big point will come after you’ve written for a while. Some days, no point.
- If you have some world view that guides your life (I don’t), good. But instead of stating it outright, demonstrate how you live by this philosophy. It’s much more interesting that way.
- Read other bloggers and respond to ongoing discussions.
- Write often.
- Never write anything bad about family or friends. They’ll find it.
- Please, no cat pictures. Thank you.
- Read bloggers who do it well and copy them. I am a big fan of James Lileks.

Your voice. I noticed that you worried about adopting a “persona.” Yes, some bloggers adopt an alternative personality in the hopes of appearing cool to their readers. One of my favorites is the suave man about town. A man who is cultured in matters of bourbon and brandy, who analyzes the intricacies of Bush’s latest speech, who can parse science fiction TV shows. A James Bond who attends Star Trek conventions. Another favorite blog personality is the tough talking chick who smokes and curses and drives her Honda real fast. Please avoid doing this. Just pretend you are talking to your closest friends who know that you are full of shit.

Why blog? There are several acceptable reasons: to improve your writing style, to keep a record of your life in 2004, to network with like minded souls, to share your insights with others at a similar point of their lives, to try out new ideas, to rough draft future writing projects, to vent. Unacceptable motives for blogging: fame and fortune.

Your readership. Set up a free counter from sitemeter to find out how many people visit your site. It is a mistake to get too caught up in the numbers. If you worry too much about hit counts, you can drift away from your original mission or get frustrated. But it is nice to be read. The The Invisible Adjunct said a couple of weeks ago, “...after all, who the heck sends stuff into cyberspace for anyone and his dog to read without hoping that anyone if not his dog will indeed read it? ” Also, hit count can be a gauge, though a clumsy one, about the quality of your work. In addition, knowing that someone is reading you can be a good motivation for writing. Those beautifully bound blank journals last a week or two on my desk and then end up forgotten. I’ve been at this for 6 months.

And just have fun. Writing a blog is an opportunity to be creative. Experiment with different styles and topics. There are no rules. I’ll be keeping an eye on your progress.

Flea at One Good Thing (2/6/04) wrote this about starting her blog:

It's been almost a year since I started writing this blog. I wanted to keep a record of what the kids were like when they were little, true, but I also needed an outlet for the extreme stress that Steve and I have plunged ourselves into with trying to start a new family and a new business at the same time. It's often a despairing, overwhelming task, an effort to get up in the morning, to keep remembering to breathe in and out, to wonder what the hell else could go wrong. I wanted to write to remind myself that even on the shittiest of days, there was always one good thing that happened, and if I could just remember what that one good thing was, I could string them all together like Christmas lights and drag that string behind me, occasionally looking back to see how beautiful it all actually was.

Sources tell me that studio executives have canceled Angel. What shmucks. Some really brilliant mind has decided that we need more Fear Factor and King of Queens, and less quality TV shows about vampires. What kind of a sick world do we live in?

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