history pragmatic historian writing

Thoughts on Blogging in 2021

I am creeping up on my 15th blog anniversary, come September 8, 2021. Fourteen-plus years! I can’t believe it’s been that long or that I’d still be in love with this format after all this time.

(Here’s where I started.)

Periodically over these years I’ve done a bit of naval gazing about the topic of blogging, usually triggered by something I’ve read. Such is the case with this post. I recently read a great blog post by Austin Kleon, “a writer who draws,” whose work I keep an eye on because I find it so inspiring.

Easy to Fix Mistakes

His post “Blogging as a forgiving medium” has me thinking about what attracts me to the form. Part of the attraction is exactly as he indicates: “Blog posts can be edited, added to, improved upon. If you missed something, you can fix it.”

It is too easy to make a mistake when writing, even with careful editing work. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve found spelling errors in texts and Twitter posts that I was sure I had read over and corrected. Frustrating.

With blogging, correcting these inevitable mistakes is easy. If there’s a spelling or grammatical error, I can zip in, make the change, hit “Update,” and I’m done. If there’s a major update or I got something completely wrong through poor research or analysis, I can add new material to an old post. When I do this, I call attention to the changes with a label of “Note” or “Addendum” or “Update” in bold and usually add the date.

Dated Posts

The automatic dating of posts within blogging apps is another feature I appreciate about blogging, particularly as a historian. The dates on posts make it easy to see the progression of a blogger over time and creates a diary for the blogger. In fact, prior to blogs becoming a thing among journalists and other professionals, they served as personal online journals and the larger public decried them as revealing too much information.

Old blog posts can continue to generate readers, which is a delight when someone dredges up a piece you forgot you wrote. But, you’ve got a date on it, so at least you know *when* you wrote it.

Visuals That Reflect Blogger’s Personality

As an artist who likes designing websites, I appreciate the visual aspects of blogging. Yes, I can be excessively wordy when writing blog posts, but I also have the option to create blog posts that contain mostly pictures. These sometimes take me longer to create than regular blog posts because, ever the historian, I try to write complete labels for my photos. In addition to the visuals that can be added to blog posts, the overall look of a blog can be formatted and embellished to reflect the blogger’s personality.

The Immediacy of Blogging

When blogging first hit the internet scene, it was hailed as this new publishing format that could give voice to people who did not have access to traditional publishing sources. Individuals could quickly publish a post and find readers without having to go through publishing gatekeepers. This remains true about the form today. Once your blog is set up, you have an immediate way to communicate with the rest of the world, though there are now so many avenues for expression online that it’s harder to get heard.

The potential audience for my blog posts, just the promise of having *someone else* read my work, is a major reason I love the form. Even though my audience is small, there are at least a few people checking out my blog every day.

The Collegiality of Bloggers

At the height of blogging’s popularity among individuals, in the pre-Facebook age, there was a fabulous collegiality among bloggers. To get your blog noticed, you read and commented on other blogs and struck up an online friendship with blog writers, sharing links to each others’ posts to drive traffic to one another. Because of the professionalization of blogging, this doesn’t happen so often anymore, though the practice still exists. I follow The Craft of Clothes by Liz Haywood and my cousin John Ingalls’ blog, How to Finish Well. I recently discovered a lifestyle and travel blog called Leesa Lives by Leesa Kelly.

(See what I just did there? That’s what bloggers used to do all the time when blogging was at its peak, mentioning and linking to other blogs within blog posts.)

Now, instead of being inspired solely by the posts of other bloggers, there are more avenues online to find inspiration for blog posts (Twitter is a big one for me) and bloggers drive traffic to their blogs using social media.

Blogger as Media Personality

I have not yet achieved the status of “Blogger as Media Personality,” though I often hope for a larger, dedicated following. I’m in awe of bloggers who can pull this off and make money through their blogging. Often, they are highly focused and take on titles like “Mommy Blogger,” “Food Blogger,” “Travel Blogger,” or “Lifestyle Blogger.” Blogging becomes their identity.

My lack of focus, my inability to make my blog about one thing, makes it difficult to achieve “Blogger as Media Personality.” Y’all, I just can’t pin me down. The closest I’ve gotten is describing myself as “Writer, Artist, Pragmatic Historian,” which isn’t terribly focused. My blog is called “Without Obligation” precisely because of its topical all-over-ness.

If I had to give myself a blogger-related title, I’d call myself an “Observational Blogger” or a “Creativity Blogger.” And, you know, rereading my very first blog post on Filter & Splice in 2006, I see I said the following:

“Here’s the deal: I’m enamored with creativity – what makes people creative, how they can enhance their creativity, what is the nature of creativity – stuff like that. Creativity for me is about filtering all of these vast experiences that come hurtling at me and then splicing them together to create something new. Hence, Filter & Splice.”

So, I was all about creativity from the very beginning, which is what binds everything together on my primary blogs over the years (Filter & Splice, The Woo Woo Teacup Journal, and Without Obligation.)

Keeping a Blogging Schedule

One of the things writers complain about is staying dedicated to a regular writing schedule. They really want to put their butt in a chair and get writing, but even with the sincerest of intentions, they can have trouble achieving that. Blogging forces you to write on a regular basis because you have an audience, no matter how small, waiting for your next post. That’s good motivation.

When you consistently keep that blogging schedule, you learn how to write on the fly. In the earlier days of blogging, bloggers were encouraged to post EVERY day in order to boost where their blogs showed up on search engines. The more you blogged, the higher your search engine ranking. Keeping up with that pace meant learning how to continually generate ideas. Blogging every day, however, is almost impossible to keep up with year after year after year. Life inevitably intrudes.

I have found that I can consistently write at least one blog post per week. That may not sound like a lot, but one blog post a week that averages 1,000 words is 52,000 words per year. That’s a short novel or a NaNoWriMo goal.

Blog as Online Home Base

Another benefit of having a blog is that it serves as my online home base.

Muwhahahaha! — A writing universe of my own design!

Outside the control of Facebook or Twitter!

Sweet.

One Thing I Don’t Like About WordPress.org Blogs

There’s one thing I don’t like about blogging and it’s very specific to WordPress.org blogs. WordPress.org blogs are those where you install WordPress on your own server and control every aspect of adding plugins and keeping everything updated. The other options is to have a WordPress.com website, wherein you start a blog that WordPress.com maintains. It’s a good option if you don’t want to fiddle with the back-end architecture of a website.

WordPress.com blogs have an option to allow people to subscribe to emails that let them know when you’ve added new content to your blog.

WordPress.org blogs do NOT have this feature unless you install a bloated plugin with lots of stuff you don’t want or you find a plugin that makes you pay an annual subscription fee for this specific feature.

Nowadays, bloggers are being pushed to have a separate newsletter and get people to subscribe to that. I’m not opposed to newsletters per se (you can subscribe to my monthly newsletter, 3 O’Clock Punch! here), but it annoys the crap out of me to feel forced to have a newsletter because it creates extra work that would be unnecessary if WordPress would simply add the old subscription tool back to the program. There is no reason to needlessly complicate tech.

There you have it, my thoughts on blogging as I make my way toward my 15th anniversary. It’s a practice and form that I find great joy in and miss when life takes me away from it.

P.S. As to the forgiving nature of blogs, I’ve revised this post 19 times prior to scheduling it for publication.

Thoughtful comments welcome.