8.05.2011

To Blog, or Not to Blog?

That is the question....

My friend Carrie recently did a post in which she was having an, "Is anybody even reading this thing?" moment... I can relate - I think everyone who writes a blog feels the same way at some point. Whether it's from the lack of massive numbers of followers or comments, or simply from the frustration of trying to come up with regular, interesting content that will keep your readers coming back for more, it's easy to start wondering if blogging is worth the time and effort.


Photo Credit: http://www.despair.com/

(Incidentally, I do read Carrie's blog regularly and think it's great - be sure to stop by and check it out!)

So that got me thinking...

What exactly do I look for in a blog, and why do I enjoy the ones that I read regularly? I've come up with a list of what I like, and also what I don't like... partly to answer Carrie's question, but also partly to brainstorm a little with all of you on what kinds of things you'd like to see here, and what you could do without. So, here we go...

First of all, some basic, essential elements for any successful blog (in my humble opinion):
  • Great photography - your writing can be excellent, you can be hilarious or helpful or really brilliant and wise, but if your pictures are crummy, it's just not a fun experience. Photos are the "first impression" of a blog - make sure they're great, and make sure you include some in every post, even if they don't necessarily go along with what you're talking about - they simply make it more visually interesting and break up the text a bit. Here are some of my favorite photo tips, if you're interested.
  • Good grammar and correct spelling- while it's fine to be "conversational" in your posts, it's also important to follow some basic grammar and spelling rules to avoid confusion. Use spell check, but don't rely on it completely - it might catch misspellings, but it doesn't catch malapropisms or grammatical errors. We are all guilty of an occasional typo. However, knowing the difference between the proper usage of "your" vs. "you're," for instance, not only makes your blog more readable and user-friendly, but also keeps you from looking, well, dumb. :o) So, break out the ol' grammar books and do a little refresher course, or get a word-nerd friend to proofread for you! Along the same lines, dOn'T DO a LoT of....really....ODDLY-dOnE, caPilitIZatioN or.......strAngE puNctuAtioN!!! It's hard to read! ;o)
Found this on Pinterest.

  • Kindness - this goes a long way, both in blogging and in life in general.
  • Also from Pinterest
  • Authenticity/Humility - I appreciate bloggers who are honest about their struggles and shortcomings. So many bloggers out there present "amazing super-woman" facades to their readers - you know, she's running a business; she's got ten billion readers; she posts 5 times a day; her house is being photographed for Better Homes and Gardens next month; her 10 children are well-behaved, sweet, and are 5 years ahead in their home school; she grows, cans, and artistically serves all of her own food (organic, of course); she spends only $10 a year on groceries and household supplies because she clips coupons and organizes them in a special binder system she invented and is offering to YOU as an e-book for a mere $19.95!; and speaking of books, her third book is being published next month; and she somehow still manages to run five miles a day and hit the gym after her three hour quiet time she began at 4 this morning, while you - SLUG! - were still snoring in your bed! .... Maybe there are people out there like that, but I don't know any of them.... and chances are, if they're painting themselves in that sort of light on their blog, it's not reality. Nope, while I do appreciate seeing people working hard and having successful moments, I also find it reassuring to know that I'm not the only one whose plans for the day got totally waylaid because my dog had explosive diarrhea all over the carpet or that I completely blew something by sticking my foot in my mouth and will have to just try again tomorrow...
I found this on Pinterest when I was random internet surfing.
  • Humor - not so much the slap-stick, banana-peel kind, but rather the clever, witty, ironic kind. If you can deliver that and do it in a way that isn't rude or malicious, I'll always be back.
So those are the basic elements I like in any blog... Next, I'll give you a list of specific types of blogs/posts that I find most interesting. Now remember, this is purely my personal taste and does not necessarily mean that you're not a great blogger if you aren't doing something included in this list . This is simply what appeals to me.

My favorite types of blog content:
  • Art - I love seeing what other artists are creating - finished pieces or "works in progress."
  • Beautiful photography - it can really be of anything (as long as it's appropriate!): travel, portraits, flowers, home/garden, kids, pets, nature - I love seeing great photos.
  • DIY/Tutorials - I love learning new things, and blogs are a wonderful source for instruction. I like tutorials on: 
    • art techniques
    • crafts (and by crafts, I mean real handcrafts - like making baskets or tatting or some other traditional craft... not so much anything that involves popsicle sticks or hot glue guns, although posts like that probably great for people with kids.... just not my thing.)
    • furniture building or refinishing
    • home renovations/projects
    • home decor knock-offs
    • paint techniques or murals
    • sewing, knitting, crochet
    • homemade cleaning products or cosmetics
    • gardening or farming (especially if you're giving me good tips!)
    • bee-keeping or other animal-keeping
    • living off the land / herbal medicine / survival type stuff - I hope to never need it, but it's good to know, nevertheless!
  • Humor - funny stories or pictures (again, as long as they're clean!); witty, wry commentary on everyday life and events 
  • Inspirational posts
    • Spiritual growth
    • Lessons learned in life or through Scripture
    • Encouragement
    • Gratitude for what God has done in your life
    • Experiences of missionaries or people who are serving others - being God's "hands and feet."
  • Book reviews
  • Great quotes
  • Entertaining ideas - party & holiday decorations, food presentation ideas, neat gifts (especially homemade ones)
  • Helpful tips - how to organize things, brilliant solutions to everday problems, etc.
  • Good "finds" - books, movies, products, places, recipes, shops, etc. that are worth sharing
  • Travel/culture blogs- I enjoy seeing what life is like in other parts of the world, and I LOVE seeing photos of unique and beautiful places.
  • Opinions/editorials - tell me what you think about something - what you really think. I may not agree with you, but I enjoy hearing a thoughtful, well-presented argument on a subject about which you are passionate.
  • Personal stuff - you'll notice this one in every category.... there's a fine line between being "real" with your readers and giving them "too much information." - I enjoy personal stories if they're funny, encouraging, or facilitate "getting to know" the writer a bit better. More on this topic below...
Stuff that is perfectly fine but less interesting to me:

(Let me stress again that I don't have ANY problem with blogs that feature this type of content.... they're just not my personal interests. If you write or enjoy a blog that focuses on one of the topics below, go for it! That's the beauty of blogging - there's something out there for everyone...)
  • Fashion - I appreciate classic and pretty clothing, and I enjoy an occasional outfit idea, but I'm just not that into fashion or shopping. Probably because most of my clothes wind up with paint on them anyway. :o)
  • Cooking, meal planning, or freezer/pantry stuff - I know this is a popular blog topic, but again, just not my thing. I do like an occasional recipe, and I like learning good "tricks" - like how to get bread to rise when your house is cool, or how to keep your guacamole from turning brown, etc.
  • Couponing/bargain shopping - again, I know a lot of people love it... I just get overwhelmed when I try to keep up with the concept of "extreme couponing," and I wind up buying stuff I wouldn't have bought in the first place just because I'm trying to get "great deals."
  • Blogs about blogging - I find an occasional helpful article on blogs like this, but in general, I steer clear of them. If I spend too much time there, I start feeling pressured to "turn my blog into a blogging business," and that's really not what my goal is. The posts on this type of blog feel very repetitive to me as well. (I guess this post could fall into this category, but this is an anomaly for me... :o)).
  • Personal stuff (see comments above) - again, this can go either way. I enjoy "getting to know" different bloggers, but too much personal information is just....too much (this would include things like personal finances, lengthy newsletter-type posts on the daily activities of every family member if I don't know any of the people in real life, etc.)
  • "Mom" or "home schooling" blogs - these can be wonderful resources - I'm just not in that season of life right now. I do appreciate thoughtful posts on parenting - better to learn beforehand, right? But I don't really keep up with blogs on baby products, kids' crafts, or home school ideas for now... Maybe later...
  • I'm sure there are a gazillion other topics that other blogs cover that just don't interest me much- for instance, body building, surfing, computer programming, sports, etc. I won't bore you with a list....
Total turn-offs:
(Please note: this part isn't meant to be snarky or malicious. I'm as guilty as anybody of indulging in some of the following blogging-behaviors... However, these are turn-offs for me when I come across them in blogs, and I annoy myself when I realize I'm doing any of the following on my own...)
  • Narcissism - Social media in general feeds this trend, and therefore most of us are guilty of it to a certain degree. However, while I enjoy seeing the personalities of my favorite bloggers come through in their posts, there's nothing charming about bloggers who ramble on and on about their own idiosyncrasies. Gag.

 Please don't feed the narcissists!

  • Whining - we're all prone to an occasional vent-session now and then (hey, we're blogging, after all), but if you're blogging in the first place, there are probably about 6.5 billion people in the world who are a lot worse off than you or I will ever be. Suck it up. Count your blessings.
  • Bragging - there's a fine line here... It's fine to share the occasional triumph or success, but if your blog is a never-ending gloat fest of how successful / talented / amazing you are, how wonderful your life is, how many famous or "blog-famous" people you're rubbing elbows with, etc. - just, gag. I'm happy for you, but I'm still cleaning up the explosive diarrhea the dog deposited on my carpet, and I can't relate much to your perfect life. :o)
  • Rudeness/Arrogance/Elitism - never pleasant, whether on blogs or in real life...
  • Materialism - I'd rather read about what you're thinking or what you're doing or making rather than simply seeing the stuff you own or want.
  • Too-Personal stuff - yet again... some stuff simply does not need to be shared on a blog...ever. e.g.-personal vindettas, gripes about a spouse's shortcomings or other relationship problems, pictures of a child's first "deposit" in a big-girl/boy potty, or photos of that weird rash you've developed. Please.... :o)
So, there you have it. This list is by no means comprehensive, and of course, it's my personal opinion, but I hope you found it helpful (or at least mildly entertaining)....and now, I'd love to hear from you... What do you like or dislike in a blog? Is there anything I can do here (or should stop doing) that would make things more interesting? I'd appreciate your feedback.... (and if you get a chance, Carrie would like your feedback about her blog too!)

I hope you have a lovely weekend... Thanks for reading!

6 comments:

  1. Thanks for the links! Lots of good suggestions and ideas here (some made me go, "hmm" about my own blog). You're right about one person loving a subject (or simply being in that time of life), while someone else takes no interest in it. And everyone is different, so obviously we're going to write about different things. I think that's what I struggle with, trying to find ME in the blog and not getting caught up in copying what others do. It's a process.

    Also, amen to the blogs (or blog posts) about blogging! One blog I read (and find deals from) is doing a series on making money with your blog, and it feels extremely repetitive to me.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I've been toying with the idea of starting a blog and I think you just talked me into it! =) I've always loved to write but my only outlet for it for a long time now has been my prayer journal -- which is not a bad outlet! But sometimes I think I'm kind of wasting a talent God has given me (not that I think I'm some phenomenal writer but writing IS something I've always enjoyed and something I feel I do decently) by not sharing it with others! Anyway. I think I'm ready for the challenge. Thanks for posting this! Miss ya!! =)

    ReplyDelete
  3. Yep, Carrie - very true... You're welcome for the links... I hope you get some good feedback.

    Kaysi, I think you should definitely start a blog! I'll read it! :o)

    ReplyDelete
  4. Yes, Kaysi - start a blog! I'll read it too! :-)

    ReplyDelete
  5. Yay!! =) I'm going to... Just have to come up with a name!

    ReplyDelete
  6. well written Beth..100% agreement about blogs...and what i like to read..

    ReplyDelete

Thank you for taking the time to comment - I love to hear from you.

Nota bene: Comments are moderated and may take a while to appear. You are welcome to disagree with me, but I do ask that you keep this forum friendly and respectful. Comments containing foul or offensive language, personal attacks, or links to other websites will not be published. Thanks.