Whenever I mention that I blog to non-bloggers I get two responses. The first is to ask why and the second is to wonder how I have the time.
The second is easier to answer than the first. The truth is that it doesn’t take long to do. My working week is at least 65 hours with quite a bit of thinking time in the car. In an evening I have maybe three hours to do whatever I need to do to relax. If blogging took too long to do I wouldn’t be able to do it. My prime writing times are limited to after 9pm in the week and in the early mornings on Saturday and Sunday. I have an irritating body clock which is accustomed to getting up at 6am and won’t bend for weekends.
I find the writing process relatively straightforward. In my job I spent years writing punchy, precise sales proposals against deadlines and I guess this has stayed with me. Although I’m not a touch typist I’m pretty quick on the keyboard as well which helps. Non-bloggers don’t understand that blogging isn’t essay writing or journalism and there isn’t a teacher who is going to be marking it. There isn’t, generally, an audience of critics out there waiting to pounce on your every word and ridicule it. For me the most important thing about a blog is that there is a truth and an interest to it and my experience is that actually there is an audience of people wanting to laugh, be touched, inspired or even cry!
I try to make most pieces around 1000 words but I start by thinking of ideas I want to write about. These can be virtually any subject. I have a couple of themed blogs with difference audiences but blogging is as much about getting to know the author through their words as it is about what they write about. Let’s face it, I am never going to be the world authority on either where I live or Social Media but what I do have is ideas and opinion and few readers are looking for just a teacher. The majority of the ideas need to be on-topic in some way but it is important to dance around the theme and choose different ways of treating historically, case studies, personal experience, images and even poetry. I save ideas as they come to me and this means I generally have a few unstarted options if I’m ever struggling. I think of many more ideas than I write and reject a lot because:
- I can’t think how I am going to explain myself
- I don’t think anyone will be interested
- I can’t think of the angle
- It would take too much research
- They could offend someone I don’t want to offend
- It’s a bad idea after all
- It’s been done by someone else
Then I start typing away on my IPad. I prefer the iPad to the PC because I can do it anywhere and still be in a family setting. I use a couple of apps to help me: Werdsmith is good at storing ideas, keeping track of progress and prompting me to write while Pages is the best all round word processor. I chop and change between the two. I don’t flesh out a structure because hopefully I’ve thought it through sufficiently in my head. I won’t start writing until I’ve thought through the first paragraph which needs to have interest and impact. I also need to have some idea of the ending. With those caveats I think I can write a first draft 1000 word blog, from having no idea, in around 30 minutes.
I then try to do just one edit which takes about five minutes to do. Generally this will be removing superfluous words, correcting mistakes, looking for – of some phrases and making it punchier. I will take a little longer if I have a really good idea for the blog and I think I am truly proud of maybe one in ten of the blogs I post. If I don’t feel like writing I won’t do so but I try to put out at least one new blog per week. The next part is to walk away from it. I try to have ten or so ‘works in progress’ and so I pick the one to revisit just before publishing. One final read normally elicits a couple of tweaks. I then email to myself so that I can publish on the PC because WordPress is quite clunky on the iPad.
I don’t believe anyone who says they don’t have the time. I find it slightly insulting because the inference is that they are so busy (and I’m not). I’d much prefer someone to say “I wouldn’t want to do that”. Everyone can spare 45 minutes a week for something they enjoy.
And this brings me to the second point. I blog because I enjoy doing it. I like writing – it’s a dying art in the world of email. I think in a very scattergun way with lots of half-ideas, concepts and daydreams. People who know me will know that I will seem to change the subject in conversation because my mind has been wandering off from the topic through strange connections. I can see the link but those around me may not. Writing brings the discipline of being able to express things concisely. I learn from the process. If it can’t be written down it either isn’t worth thinking about or it is unfinished.
I also like the danger of blogging. I hope I write honestly and I like the idea of being judged by an audience – even the small one which blogging at my level affords. I like the way that social media brings people together around subjects and the way that Social Media debunks the party line. I will stand my opinion up against anyone else’s. If so-called experts can take diametrically opposing views backed up by evidence then why can’t I join in with equal validity? We all know that sometimes you can be too close to something to see the blindingly obvious. If only more 50000-feet observers had spoken up about the Financial situation and drowned out the nonsense of the so-called professionals who had a vested interest which tarnished their view! Through blogging I have been constructively criticised by teachers about my views on education, by Planners on planning, by house-buyers on housing and this is exactly how it should be. I learn and change my opinion on things – to some extent my blogs are trying to say “tell me why I’m wrong about this because otherwise I think I’m right”. How else am I going to get an opportunity to tap into the range of views? That interaction and the willingness to put forward ideas used to be far more prevalent in recent history. These days the media is far more skilled at propaganda and opinion concealed as news. If the BBC can have a correspondent with free air time to merely speculate on what will happen why on earth can’t you or I? If the tabloids turn out hate stories on a daily basis to sell newspapers surely there needs to be something which reflects everyday happy and friendly life in Britain (and if just one of my opinions or ideas is on the mark I will have evidence to say I told you so).
I suppose that sums up (as the 1000 words approaches) why I blog and tweet. I believe that Social Media is reflecting a deep-seated need to be open and to share and I want to be part of it. It is a wonderful counterbalance to all the negativity and violence which has taken over our mainstream media and it gives a voice to millions of people like me.