Good day everybody. Today, I’m going to talk about the blogging process by highlighting a bad post. There are a lot of challenges that come with writing, even when dealing with a non-professional work such as a blog or even a letter. I’d like to spend a few paragraphs today discussing a recent folly, and hopefully, if nothing else, I’ll learn something that I can pass along to you in terms of a better blog.
Let’s take a look at a recent post, my article on Kiss fandom and the relation with comic books.
When I started the article, I had a very loose idea and concept: I wanted to write something about Kiss. That was pretty much the only thing I felt confident that I did correctly. Picking a topic is the first way to ensure that you have thrown a lasso around the work and provides the basic foundation. Without a topic, you might as well be posting Facebook updates like “mmm coffeee” or “I’ve got a case of the Mondays.” Who cares, besides some avid coffee aficionados or calendar nerds? Creating a topic can sometimes be the most challenging part of the work, as has been documented over the years as Writer’s Block.
(Side note, some genius who was staring at a blank computer screen had birth of a great idea when they exclaimed, “I’ve got it! I’ll write a wiki on writer’s block!”)
So there I was staring an idea, and I tried brainstorming. I started to make a list of some obvious pieces of evidence to support my hypothesis, and it never quite moved past that. I had committed one of the laziest writing hack tricks, The List. We see these every day (one of my favorite iterations being the VH1 “I Love the ’80s” shows) where a media outlet will make an arbitrary list of related items, or ranked items, often to spur debate simply by making people argue over whether an item subjective listed as “#8” belongs higher or lower than “#7”. Rolling Stone is one of the most abusive outlets for this, most notable with the horrific “greatest drummers” which put Phil Collins at number 22. I’ve chosen to link the Listology.com article so RS doesn’t get any extra webhits, plus Listology is a GREAT FUN site to browse when you’re feeling uninspired or bored.
The trouble with an article based on lists is that you may have a common thread, but there is no story, no meat, and no real journey for the reader. You could start at the bottom or the top, but it is arbitrary, you will get the same questions and conclusions no matter where you go. This removes a very large piece of control from the author. As I was reading and editing my Kiss article, I started to feel a bit like a list writer, in that many of the paragraphs could be capriciously relocated anywhere in the body of the blog. When you are building a case, you don’t walk into a court room and throw up evidence pulled from a hat; you present a concise series of events so paint a picture for a jury so that they believe your account of events and argument.
During the process of forming your story, it is important to also control the tone. Everyone loves a good chuckle, which also can break up the monotony, but you really have to work at analyzing a joke’s placement and ask “Is this funny? Is this distracting?” over and over again. I felt that it was imperative to put Kiss’ Phantom of the Park into the blog, but I just got lazy. I couldn’t figure out the best way to approach it, or review it, and I tried to make a throwaway movie into a throwaway paragraph, then made it seem so inconsequential that it shouldn’t even been shown, and THEN I threw it back in via YouTube clip. I was forcing the joke, and when it didn’t really work out, I changed my tone.
At this point in writing the article, with its sing-song pace and voice, I was on the fence as to whether it deserved to see the light of day. Anything you work on in life, from relationships to home improvement projects to grocery shopping, reaches a point where you have to question whether you have succeeded or if you should abandon it. I was unhappy with the blog, and decided I had a few choices:
Publish it and be unhappy with the result…
Scrap it and be unhappy with the time spent on it…
Rewrite the entire blog and be unhappy with the time spent on it…
Publish it, and use it as a reference for my next post.
The last option started to become very appealing. I would be able to justify the time the spent on it, create a seed idea for my NEXT post, and be able to acknowledge my mistakes while turning it into a teaching tool for myself and any readers who happen upon the WordPress site.
THIS was a great idea. It gave me passion to write. It helped me find a topic where I could state a hypothesis, gather and analyze evidence, and come to a conclusion (the Kiss article lacked any kind of true conclusion, in my opinion).
I had found a story. I had a personal connection that exposed my vulnerabilities. I had a document laid out for me to dig through and build up into something relatable. I found my voice.
Writing can be very difficult for those of us who are not directly paid to put pen to paper or pound the keyboard. But for everyone who is scared to write, or feels embarrassed by what they say, you should be confident anytime you are expressing your own opinions. Being yourself will always, I promise you, make you into a more interesting writer as well as establish a clear direction for what you want to discuss. It takes practice, and you will fail from time to time, but being able to learn from your mistakes is how we gain confidence in our abilities and ideas. I work on it everyday, and working on this blog is just one of the many routines that make me happier with who I am.
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