I'm teaching a bunch of classes on blogging later today at a local university.
So I've spent the past 24 hours immersed in "the art of blogging."
One of the great things about teaching is that it forces you to reflect on all that you've learned about a given topic, cull that together and impart it to your students.
I've written before about five reasons I love to blog.
But in reviewing my material for today's lectures, I've also reflected on what it takes to be a great blogger.
To wit, five traits of successful bloggers:
1. Curiosity. Contrary to what people may think, you don't need to be an extrovert to be successful blogger. Susan Cain is a case in point. But you do need to be endlessly curious. The best bloggers I know -- Gretchen Rubin of The Happiness Project comes to mind -- never run out of material to write about because the they never run out of things that fascinate them. And they are able to transmit that sense of wonderment onto the page. Don't believe me? Read this post by Gretchen on cultivating a sense of smell.
2. Perseverance. If I had a dime for every friend or acquaintance who told me that they were starting a blog and then never followed through, I'd be a rich woman. I was combing through my blog subscriptions in my RSS feed just the other day and realized how many of them had gone dormant. This isn't a bad thing, necessarily. Blogging is a huge commitment and it's not for everyone. But there's no question that you can't succeed at it if you aren't willing to go the distance. Which is probably why even most blogs that do launch don't last more than a few months. I point this out because most people who balk at starting a blog are concerned that they aren't technically up to speed. But take it from me, the technical part is the easy part. (If I can do it, anyone can.) What's hard is committing to your audience -- and yourself -- and persevering week in and week out.
3. Generosity. There's no question that blogging is a more narcissistic activity than straight up journalism. But the best bloggers are those who not only get that blogging is all about community, they actively practice it. One of the things I'm emphasizing in my classes today is the all-importance of the hyper-link to blogging. Sure, it takes awhile when you're just getting started to figure out which Online community/ies you belong to. But once you've identified that space, you need to be actively linking to that community: through your posts, through your comments, through social media. This isn't just a practical strategy for building an audience. The dirty secret of blogging is that it's when you're generous in crediting the work of other bloggers, it's actually loads more fun.
4. Humility. Related to #3, the best bloggers are also humble. If they're smart, they let their work speak for itself, rather than relentlessly and shamelessly self-promoting. I'm personally always wary of bloggers who only show up on Twitter or Facebook when they have their own work to share. It gives the impression that they're just too self-involved. Another way to demonstrate your humility as a blogger is to own your mistakes and to not be afraid or unwilling to accept criticism. Time and again, I've been surprised and delighted to discover that when someone dumps on something I've written online, if I just "show up" in the comments section and address them personally -- taking their criticism seriously but also reasserting my own point of view -- we can respectfully work through it, or at least agree to disagree. I think readers really appreciate it when bloggers take the time to acknowledge that they may be wrong or why they feel they're being misconstrued. The This American Life episode, "Retraction", that I linked to last week, is a great case in point.
5. Voice. I've written before about how important it is to set a tone when you blog. There are lots of different ways to do this, but basically it's about conveying your personality on your blog and letting that shine through your writing. The reason voice is so important is that as a reader, it's what connects you, emotionally, to the content at hand. One of my favorite bloggers, Colleen Wainwright of Communicatrix, recently took a short leave of absence from her blog. And when she returned after several months, I heard her voice again and realized how much I'd missed it while she was gone. That, to me, is the sign of the truly successful blogger.
How about you? If you are a producer and/or consumer of blogs, what do you think makes for a successful blog?