As inconsistent and distracted a blogger as I am, I am hardly a great blogger. But as someone who runs a network of arts blogs, I do have some observations.
- Great bloggers don’t just get you interested in a post, they draw you into a topic. They stake out that topic, pick away at it, play with it, make you care about it. No one post explains who they are; you only get it over time, as they develop a relationship with you. They don’t try to explain everything in a 2000-word essay; they prefer the drip drip drip of a faucet.
- Great bloggers have a point of view, a lens through which they see the world. To “get” them you have to be drawn into their passion. Which of course means they have to have that passion to begin with. Too many blogs are generic information lacking point of view. A bigger problem is too many blogs with too much passion without relevant information. One of the complications of passion is that it can slip into dogma.
- Bloggers who have been on a topic for a while can become dismissive of other viewpoints and ideas, ridiculing those who haven’t “kept up” with the conversation. Yes, blogging is a kind of conversation, and it can be irritating when someone comes in late to the party. You probably DO know more than the lunkhead who just wandered in and fired off a Big Opinion in the comments section after thinking for all of 15 seconds about something you’ve spent years trying to understand. Resist the urge to flame that lunkhead. Trolls aren’t going to change their minds so why bother trying?
- Frame your argument quickly, then get out. You might have ten things to say, but try to say it in five while people are still reading. Think about your post as an opening argument. Then wait for a response (if any) and extend your ideas in a subsequent post. Make sure you have a snappy headline and if possible be provocative. In my opinion, the Master of the must-click headline is Norman Lebrecht. He gives just enough away to make you click for more. More? Sorry to say: lists work. The fact that they do suggests something about how you need to organize posts even when they’re not lists.
- Be generous. Link out to others when you can. Engage in other people’s arguments. They’ll engage back if you’re thoughtful. Guaranteed. If you want to pontificate and you want others to pay attention to what you’re saying, then pay attention to what they’re saying. The goes triple for social media.
Blogs are a terrific way to get your ideas out, discover others who care about things you care about, and learn from a network that will become increasingly important to you. But don’t expect that just because you have an Important Opinion, everyone should pay attention to you. In the end, if you want to sustain a blog, it has to be enough just to get the ideas out there.