About this blog: All change
Smiles all around. I’ve had a bit of a wash and brush up.
I’ve had a bit of a think too – a long one – and come up with a few ideas. As a result, things are changing on this blog.
You may have noticed a few of the changes already. If you haven’t, this post will tell you what they are, some of the thinking behind them and give a hint of what’s to come.
Shortly before I went away on holiday, three comments about me were lodged in my brain.
“You need to be more insightful.”
“Be less emo about everything.”
“Thanks to @thoroughlygood for the witty remarks.”
The first comment was an observation – both timely and positive – given to me by someone senior at the BBC. The second, a similar part-jokey piece of advice from the other end of positive/negative scale.
Is witticisms all people think I’m good for? The problem with witticisms is that they have a shelf life so too those who spout them. That shelf life is significantly reduced if your background isn’t in comedy. Did I need to think carefully about doing something different?
I spent a lot of time on holiday thinking about all three comments. It was a strange experience. Lots of staring into the middle distance. There were occasions when I was so deep in thought I looked like I’d been parted from my teddy bear. When I saw one such picture (see above) I realised I had to come up with some solutions.
Here’s what I came up with:
It seems an odd place to start, but the strongest thought – ‘be more insightful’ – provides the starting point. My usual trick of self-deprecation mixed with occasional rants has to die. Humour in blogs is hard work. There’s only so much sneering, sarcasm and self-deprecation that can be thrown at any subject. Be thoughtful. Read a bit. Think a bit.
2. Blogging isn’t a competition
The Google-juice argument doesn’t feel as relevant as it did a few years ago. It’s not about being first anymore. Resonating is more important. And resonating requires some kind of peer review or a community to resonate in. So work on community building.
Big words huh? Yes. Yes they are. And if you’re a member of that community reading this you may possibly feel offended being referred to in such a callous way. Please forgive me.
As it happens, I’ve already made a start on this.
3. Avoid acting impulsively
Because I’m striving to resonate, there’s no need to act impulsively. Don’t fire off things too quickly. The internet is littered with such case studies. I’ve commentated on them already and (only last night in fact) even fallen foul of such actions. Pause before writing stuff. Let it resonate.
3. Aim for brevity
If responding quickly to an emerging story, then keep the point incredibly simple and deliver it in a couple of sentences. Then step away. Don’t worry about blank space on a page. Sometimes, brevity is refreshing.
4. Back-pedal on writing about myself
It bores me when I read it back desperately trying to work out why a particular blog post still remains popular months after Ive written it. Remember that key message: Be less emo about stuff.
5. Represent my personality
Represent my personality with the subject areas I blog about. It’s a less self-obsessed approach. And of course, by being less self-obsessed I’ll worry less about what I’ve written after I’ve published it. That’s a key thing. Enjoy writing. Worry less.
6. Get a better idea of what I’m interested in
What am I interested in? I’ve no idea. It sounds odd to say, but I’m not interested in one particular thing. I don’t want to be an authority on one particular subject. I don’t want to be a ‘news source’ either. So, what do I feel confident writing about? What subject areas present a personal challenge? Mix the difficult with the easy. Don’t let the categories box me in.
This was – in truth – the most difficult thing. I see lots of other hugely popular blogs around. I’m envious of them. Those blogs have a secret – they specialize in one particular subject. But do I really need to specialise? Im interested in quite a few things. Couldn’t I leave it to the ‘community’ to build up its own impression. Couldn’t the community help define me?
As it happens, I started on this process some while back. Good stuff too.
7. Use other blogs as case-studies
Pause for a moment and think about how others successfully write blog posts. Two examples rang out whilst I was on holiday.
One was Peter Faint (OK, so I know him anyway but even so …) whose blog posts always include one point delivered in his style. It doesn’t take me long to work it out and once I have got the point I still enjoy reading the rest of the post. That’s efficiency.
The other example was another friend – successful food writer chappy Philip who runs the Yellow Wedge cheese shop in Twickenham. He’s recently started up a blog publishing recipes. I like the way he takes something food related in the media, riffs on it, adds his special ‘thing’ to the subject and then includes a recipe. In short, he takes a ‘thing’ and tacks something onto it. It seems effortless. He’s efficient too. Nice.
Wrapping it all up
OK, so the list isn’t exhaustive. But it does represent the result of quite a lot of thinking and represent the longest time I’ve taken to think about a blog. And because of that there’s a weird enjoyment to be had hitting the publish button too.
The biggest challenge is taking a few steps back from the keyboard the moment I feel the impulse to type. There’s some personal retraining to be done there but when it works, it’s reflected in the finished product. That’s important. And I hope you can see it in the posts over the past two weeks. Because the past two weeks have been brilliantly satisfying … around about the time this brand new view on things started.
More handy, painfully and fully transparent blog posts to come. Just not too soon. They take for ever to write.
The picture above is cropped from a scan of a Docklands Light Railway leaflet from 1990. It was published by Flickr User Sludgegulper and is used here in accordance with the Creative Commons Licence. Be sure to take a look at his fantastic Flickr set of Dresden from the late 1980s – smashing stuff.