But don’t let this deflate your enthusiasm. Blogging is ultimately a fulfilling quest, and I wouldn’t trade in my profession for any other. But there are vastly embellished misconceptions surrounding blogging as a profession. So first, I aim to strike them down, then—so long as you still want to hear it—I will share with you everything I’ve come to know about the art of blogging.
I can tell you these things because I run a high traffic blog. A blog that I believe offers distinct and tremendous value. And a blog, that most recently, landed me a major book deal. I promise to share further details on that last bit when the time is right.
Largely, one thinks of blogging as a professional escapade of the most delightful and lackadaisical sorts. That it grants immense freedom—the ability to take to the roads as easily as a vagrant, and make off for the hills to write your next post in a state of nirvana under some lofty oak.
This may be true for some, but not for most bloggers I know, and most certainly not for me. Really, if you’re to find me anywhere, you can find me at Panera Bread gently roasting beside the fireplace.
Yes, blogging offers the perk of mobility, and a blogger, if he so chooses, may roam where he wishes. What I’m saying, however, is that after a while you’ll rarely want to go anywhere anyways. What you’ll find is that most projects demand you back to base where you can put forth your most focused and intensive efforts, and, from time time, look out the window.
Truth is, I’m scarcely more mobile now as blogger than I was as a squirming fetus in the womb.
But still, the uninitiated with their hungry eyes look onto this profession as if it’s as riveting as a day in the life of James Bond himself. That we bloggers live a fuller life—one that full of explosive, non-stop action. And wild sex. But really, writing is a mostly solitary act. In fact, it’s quite lonely. And at more times than most, ever so goddamn frustrating.
My favorite misconception, however, comes from those who have no frame of reference whatsoever. This mob is mostly comprised of my friends and family who really haven’t the slightest idea of what I actually do. They think what I—what we—do as bloggers, is easy. They think that writing is easy. They think that thoughts flow as effortlessly into words as ink does onto paper.
And there is an element of truth to this. Because writing is easy. But writing well is not. And that’s really what I want to talk about today: On how to go from writing to writing well.
Can what I’m about to present be taught? I doubt it. But I bet it can be learned.
Now good writing, if you ask me, is born out of good thinking—so if your thoughts are muddled then your writing cannot ever possibly be clear. So when someone asks me on how they ought to go about becoming a better writer, I tell them they ought to go first about becoming a better thinker.
Writing is a medium for language, and language is a medium for thought. These are far from perfect mediums, I admit, but one must learn to work with what one has.
The first purpose of writing is, and always will be, to communicate a thought or an idea. And it is your duty, as a writer, as a blogger, to communicate as clearly as you can. So if your thoughts on a topic are jumbled, then what you write will amount to mush—no matter how elegant you are with a pen otherwise.
If you cannot think you cannot write. Please do not avoid this simple advice; because it’s the best I got.
And do not think for a second that a larger vocabulary will help you either. Many hunt through the wordbooks, looking for a pretentious substitute for an already suitable word. They believe that the employment of words like bacchanalia is a mark of a master. But they are wrong.
Now look, I like a good bacchanalia as much as the next fellow, but we ought to call an orgy like it is.
Small words are often better than big words I think, and so I advise you to scarcely worry about expanding your vocabulary. It’s mostly fine how it is. And you probably already know all the words that you need to know. Believe me.
It’s not about choosing the most elegant word anyways. It’s about choosing the most appropriate word: The word that fits.
Just the other day, for example, I caught a writer using the word beauteous, which I now believe is a sharp, archaic, and downright wretched word to describe beauty.
“She was beauteous”, he said.
So Mr. Writer, I ask you now to think: Was this woman really beauteous? Was beauteous really the best word to use? Or were you just trying to be clever…and not succeeding?
That writer, by the way, was me.
So now I must also admit there are times, plenty of times, when I throw out a word that is perhaps a bit more stylistic than it need be—just to see if I can make it fly. Sometimes I can, and it soars beautifully, as if it were on the wings of a dove. Other times, it falls as hard and as flat on its face like Wile E. Coyote when he clips to hastily off a cliff.
And while I’m at it, I should mention that there are two other lessons to be learned from Wile E. Coyote on writing, and they are, (1) that most of the harm that ever comes to us as writers comes in the form of humiliation, and (2) that the only thing that can truly bring about this harm is our own God-given ineptitude. This is to say that gravity is a coldblooded bitch. And if we get the impulse throw out something wild, but it fails to fly, then we must look up, wait, and watch as it falls back to bonk us on the head. When this happens—and it will happen—my best advice is to take your licks with a grin, and laugh it out best you can.
The lesson that I’m trying to impart here is that the quality of anyone’s writing will rarely improve in any relation to the size of their vocabulary. Some of the most beautiful writing is made from the simplest words, just as some of the most beautiful music is made from simplest melodies.
Let us see if we can ride this musical analogy just a little further and say that if we employ too much fancy technic, jargon, or vernacular, then we may run the risk of writing jazz. And while jazz may dazzle through sheer convolution, it’s rarely warm or familiar. It’s admirable, no doubt, but must of it is too complex to be intimate. And all writing—all good writing, that is—is at root, an intimate exchange.
Most of the music we relate too, that comforts us, is a unique stringing of simple melodies and simple rhythms. It’s the ordering and the pairing that matters, and the same goes for writing. It’s how we put the words together that matters most. More so than the words themselves.
Let’s take a look now at what is perhaps the world’s most famous lead:
“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.”
Powerful stuff, really. Yet so simple.
Now I don’t know the fellow who crafted this sentence, or if it was a group of fellows or perhaps even a lady—but I suppose whoever it was could just as easily put it together like: “God created the heavens and the earth in the beginning.”
But that lacks potency, and the original, if you ask me, rings a bit more assured and authoritative—like something speaking of the divine should. What’s funny though is how the remake contains the same number of words; the exact same words, actually—yet it fails to invoke the same emotional response. It’s weak.
So then, what's the secret to the ordering and pairing of words—the secret to making simple words stir great emotions. Well, the answer, I think, is something that God alone only knows, and that you’d probably be better off asking Him than me.
And like I said, I do not believe it can ever be taught—at least not by any human anyways. However, I’m sure as hell it can be learned.
And it is learned, my friends, by reading and by writing—diligently and uninterruptedly—as much as we can, as often as we can—everyday, of every week, of every month, of every year until we are led beside quiet waters, made to lyeth down in green pastures, and all that other crap.
On Part 2:
Here's what to expect in part 2 (perhaps even part 3):
- Finding your voice
- Content creation
- Overcoming writers block
- Who are you writing for?
- Marketing your blog
- Monetizing your blog
PS - Chronicles Of Strength Newsletter goes to print next week. CLICK HERE to learn more.