July 29th, 2007

Blogging on Blogging

I occasionally get emails from people who are beginning a blog and they want to know: What advice might I offer new bloggers? While I do not consider myself an expert in all things bloggy, I do have some experience with this mom-blog thing. So, since some of you asked, I will share 5 thoughts for wannabe mom-bloggers.

1. Be brief.
Blog readers (especially moms) have only a few spare moments to devote to your daily contributions. They do care about your daytrip to the ocean, but they care only as much as they can glean in a few short paragraphs. If you want to say that making an impromptu daytrip to the beach was a lovely family respite in an otherwise hectic week, leave out whatever doesn’t contribute to that main point. Forget how you stopped at the convenience store for cranberry juice, how the baby got a rash from the sand, how your husband got you all lost and refused to stop for directions, how your neck got sunburned, and how the 2 year old was afraid of the roaring waves. Try not to take this too personally — it’s just a cold hard cyber-fact: Your readers aren’t curled up on the couch with a good book; they’re parked in front of a computer screen. They care about your trip for only about 5 paragraphs or so. Go on any longer and they’ll be skimming and clicking away.

2.Be real.
Nobody likes a phony and most readers are smart enough to sniff one out from miles away. If the purpose of your blog is to convince your mother-in-law that you really are a genius and your parenting really is perfect after all, then by all means fake it. But if you hope to contribute anything worthwhile and real to the human experience, you’ve got to be real yourself. Share some of the bad along with the good. Don’t be afraid to admit that you have flaws and humbly share your less than stellar experiences for the benefit of others.

3. Be nice.
There really is enough ugliness in the world. There’s enough nastiness, sarcasm, and vulgarity. If you are putting yourself “out there” in a public sphere, rest assured: There will be weirdos who send you hate email, there will be strangers who write unfair things about you on their own blogs that they would never dare to say to you in person, and there will be people who take offense to your very existence and behave in irrational, hateful ways because of it. Trust me. I have seen it all. Decide now that when the inevitable happens, getting down into the muck with the nasty people simply will not be an option for you. If you can’t take in stride the public dissemination of your every word, thought, opinion, and experience, delete your blog. Or keep it private.

4. Be meaningful.
People will read your blog if you have something to say. It doesn’t have to be all deepness all the time (that too gets dull) but you do need to occasionally draw a conclusion or make a statement or focus on the bigger picture. If you just want to keep an online journal of daily events and family pictures, that’s one thing. But if you want to write for an audience and if you want your audience to be edified on occasion by the things you have to say, do not make your blog a laundry list of daily happenings: I took Joey to his eye appointment, I picked up pizza for dinner, I tried to find a babysitter for Thursday night, I folded a pile of towels … Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

5. Be careful.
Besides the usual advice about not disclosing too much personal information online, I would caution mom-bloggers to beware something potentially even more sinister: Imbalance. Do not let your self esteem become so wrapped up in your stats, the number of comments you get, or the number of links your posts garner that you neglect your real life. How many “LOL’s” do you need in your comboxes before you’ll start to feel good about yourself, anyway? Seriously. It’s just a blog. It’s just lights on a screen. But you? You are positively irreplaceable to the people standing right there in your own kitchen. And that’s where you’ll find your self worth.

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