I am occasionally (very occasionally mind) asked about the nuts and bolts of blogging. People usually want advice about how to set one up and how to maintain it so it actually gets read. Those questions are valid and, at heart, everybody looking to start a blog needs to ask and answer some pretty basic questions about what you’re writing for, who you’re writing for and why you’re writing it.
But sometimes, people just want to know how I do it. Many people assume that the writing itself is the hardest part. How do you find the time to keep writing when you’re also a pastor? Notwithstanding the fact that I just might not be a very good pastor, the writing really doesn’t take me very long. Whether its just a skill I have developed or the nature of the style of writing, predominantly being opinion and my general thoughts on things, I don’t know. What I do know is that, unless I am writing a piece that needs a lot of supporting facts and figures – or quotes from different sources to build a case – it isn’t that hard or time consuming to dash off my thoughts on this, that or the other. And, as with any such thing, you can take my thoughts for what they are – an opinion with which you are free to agree or disagree and consider credibly substantiated or not as you see fit.
So, the writing really isn’t all that hard. I suspect most people who get into the groove of blogging probably don’t find the actually act of typing out the words to be all that difficult. And (as you can probably tell), I don’t spend a lot of time editing my posts. I write what I write and then set it to publish. I suppose I could craft more careful stuff, with better stylised language, if I wanted. But I don’t have the time for that. And, to be honest, you get my thoughts as they are here. The reason you tend to get paragraphs of argument and (what I think is) logical reasoning is that is how I think. I often get laughed at for speaking in numbered lists when discussing an issue because it is how I order my thoughts. What you get written here is typically how I order my thoughts. Some people think in beautiful prose and speak in lyrical ways by their nature. I am not one of those people. I am a matter-of-fact kind of guy who thinks in some form of logical order. Again, because that is how I think, writing that stuff down really doesn’t take me very long.
For me, the single hardest thing about blogging is coming up with ideas. The key bit of advice any blogger would give someone looking to start is this: just write something! At the end of the day, until you start writing something, you will never get anywhere. In many ways, it doesn’t matter what you write – for most things there is an audience somewhere, especially on the internet! But unless you have an idea of what to write, you will never write anything.
That, for me, is what takes the time. Those days when ideas pop into your head apropos of nothing, and you dash off a post in 20 minutes, are perfect. Other days, it is as you are about other things that ideas come to you. They either need jotting down so they aren’t lost forever or writing up there and then. Again, that is helpful when it happens. But some days – and let’s be honest, lock down does not help us here – not much is happening, no ideas come and figuring out what to write becomes a real bind. As any creative will tell you, often trying to force ideas is even worse. But some days, nothing will come.
I find ideas to be the hardest part of blogging. Not least, when you have been blogging for a while, one doesn’t want to just say the same thing all the time. There may be lots of different angles on the same, or similar, topics. There may be things in the news that roll around time and again that warrant comment. But you can’t just say one thing, the same way, all the time. Getting new ideas, or new angles on old ideas, or anything at all, is by far and away the hardest part of blogging. The reason why so many people do not start is because they have nothing to write.
Of course, you’d imagine that the days where my ideas are about as thin and forced as it gets are the ones that people see through and get the least traction. My site stats would beg to differ. I am yet to figure out why some posts take off and others don’t. Some I spend a long while crafting get little traction whilst others dashed off in minutes blow up. Some where I have a clear idea and (I think) helpful insights are often viewed and shared much less than ones that I think are hazy and vague. By the same token, sometimes those ones that are well crafted and I think have helpful insights are the ones that take off. Some will say controversy takes off, but I have found that too is hit and miss. Some stuff that is controversial (not for the sake of it, but you know will divide opinion) really isn’t viewed much at all, whilst other things take off in exactly the way one would imagine they would. I still can’t pick it. Which is why I stick to just writing whatever I’m thinking about, or find interesting, and allow them to be whatever they will be.
But coming up with those thoughts and ideas is, by far and away, the hardest thing to do regularly. So, if you are thinking of starting a blog, be sure you are able to generate ideas. It doesn’t matter what they are, or how well formed you think they might be, it is the ideas that will get you writing and the writing, in turn, is what people will read.