Blogging habits

Being a blogging addict, I can’t but take up another blog challenge, this time coming from the mind and pen of Zhenya Dnipro. In her recent post, inspired by Vedrana Vojkovic’s questionsZhenya planned to reveal some of her blogging rituals, and she invited other bloggers to do the same. I immediately fell in love with the idea and left a lengthy comment on Zhenya’s blog, thinking I was finished. However, later I discovered that Ljiljana Havran and Sirja Bessero had shared their blogging habits in more detail on their own blogs, so I thought it would be a good idea to give it a try as well. So in this post I’d like to address some of the questions I came across in the aforementioned posts, plus I’d like to answer my own question too. 

The first question that comes to mind is: What is blogging for me? It’s definitely an activity pursued outside my regular occupation which I engage in primarily for pleasure. However superficial it may sound, I consider blogging my hobby. But it’s more than just an activity that occupies my spare time – for me it’s an object of an intense desire and enthusiasm. In short, blogging is my passion. Unfortunately, like most hobbies and passions, blogging is terribly time-consuming and thus inevitably gets on other people’s nerves. It eats into my family time and I confess that sometimes I lose control over my passion completely. Despite all this, it’s also a kind of therapy for me, so my family will have to endure this whim of mine from time to time, I’m afraid. 

I should stress that by blogging I mean the highly stimulating process of writing a post but also reading other people’s blogs and leaving comments on them. This is an equally fulfilling activity which I love as much as producing my own blog posts. I believe that commenting and replying to other people’s comments can sometimes be more interesting and challenging than writing up a post. Taking part in the dialogue created between the blogger and the readers requires responsibility, diplomacy, attention, focus, empathy, and lots of other skills. You can edit and delete anything on your blog, but it’s not so easy to withdraw a comment once submitted. Also, when reacting to somebody’s ideas, one has to make sure that their reaction is clear and unambiguous. It took me some time to learn to interact with fellow bloggers with confidence, so I believe that this is something that can and should be learned.
I’ve come to realize that apart from refining my communication skills, blogging is a good way of polishing my writing skills. I’m not only talking spelling, grammar and vocabulary now, which are obviously areas I practise a lot through frequent posting; I’m talking about the way a coherent piece of writing comes into existence. The need to come up with a suitable opening paragraph, a good title, or convincing ideas helps me refine my thinking skills too. The mental exercise I take every time I write a post keeps my brain sharp, which definitely comes in handy in my challenging profession.
Regarding my writing techniques, unlike many bloggers, I never take notes when an idea springs to mind. If I feel a flash of inspiration, I simply sit down at the computer and write and edit. If I’m not at my place, I try to retain the idea in my memory and come back to it later when I’m home. Sometimes I have no clue where I’m headed, but I usually manage to get to the point that was hidden somewhere at the back of my mind. A lot of my posts are inspired by what I read on other people’s blogs, and some of the inspiration comes from my own teaching experience. I usually have a single idea which I kind of wrap up in context or the other way around; I have the context and analyze it in an attempt to get to the core. 
The opening and final paragraphs are the most challenging parts for me. Maybe it’s a myth but I heard that it’s not good to mention the title in the very first sentence, and this is a rule I try to stick to, if possible. A friend of mine, an amazing discourse analyst, who occasionally reads my posts and gives me feedback, always reminds me of the fact that a powerful conclusion is the key to a successful piece of writing. I try to keep her advice in mind, but I suspect that this is one of my weaknesses – after getting things off my chest I impatiently hurry to finish off, and I hit the publish button despite having that nagging feeling that something is still missing. 
As far as the structure of my posts is concerned, I like to keep the paragraphs approximately the same length; I feel that this visual symmetry makes reading easier for the visitor of my blog. Whenever I’m not sure if the paragraphs are logically connected and thus my post appears somewhat incoherent, I try to imagine the classic exercise where students are asked to put the jumbled paragraphs in the correct order. I always keep in mind that each opening phrase should have some logical connection to the previous paragraph, and thus the order of the paragraphs should be clear and possible to work out.  
And finally back to the general; I’m happy if my post is between 800 to 1000 words long. To me, this seems to be an ideal number of words for posts of this kind. I believe that my regular readers are used to seeing posts of a certain length on my blog, and thus (perhaps subconsciously) I want to fulfil their expectations. As a rule, I always include an image. In the past, I used to have more visuals in my posts but now I think one is enough. Words have probably become more important over time. Anyway, the images I choose always relate to the key ideas of my posts, no matter how remotely. I consider them to be metaphors rather than direct representations, though.
 
I believe that to become successful, a writer/blogger needs this innate ability called talent. However, writing skills can undoubtedly be improved by lots of practice. Maybe it’s also useful to read those how-to-become-a-great-blogger tips from time to time, but the truth is that too much of a good thing is not always to the good. As blogging is primarily about interaction, one needs to attract visitors, those who will take the time to read, comment and promote the blog on social media. I’m grateful and happy to have so many amazing readers who visit and come back, willing to support me and my passion for writing and communication. They are one of the main sources of my motivation. Thanks to them I’m writing this post and I hope I will write more. 
 
 

 

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About Hana Tichá

I'm an EFL teacher based in the Czech Republic. I've been teaching English to learners of all ages for more than 20 years. I love metaphors and inspiring discussions concerning teaching, learning and linguistics.
This entry was posted in Blog challenges, Blogging, Professional development, Writing. Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to Blogging habits

  1. venvve says:

    Hi Hana,

    Nosy me is loving the way this is turning out – a chance to sneak a peek into the blogging habits of those whose posts I enjoy reading. :-)

    You say it took you some time to develop the confidence necessary to interact with other bloggers by commenting on their posts. For me confidence is easier to summon up if I perceive that the author will welcome the interaction. Perhaps willingness would be more appropriate than confidence, actually. I may be totally wrong – in fact, it probably is just my impression – but some people’s posts seem to be phrased in a manner that doesn’t exactly invite comments. I’m also more likely (willing) to put in an effort to share my thoughts if I see that the blogger regularly responds to his/her readers. That doesn’t necessarily mean that each and every comment should be answered – some comments clearly don’t require a response – and some are occasionally answered by other readers.

    I found this sentence in your last paragraph interesting, “As blogging is primarily about interaction, one needs to attract visitors, those who will take the time to read, comment and promote the blog on social media.” Maybe those who don’t seem to invite interaction find that for them blogging is about something else?

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  2. Hana Tichá says:

    Hi Vedrana,

    I will respond to the last bit of your comment first. Well, yes, it was probably too narrow-minded of me to say that blogging is primarily about interaction. I should add: *for me* it is so.

    Like you, I prefer commenting on blogs where I can expect some kind of response. But as you say, it definitely depends on what kind of comment it is. The great-post-thanks type of comment doesn’t necessarily require an answer. But if I extend the conversation and share some of my personal feelings, I do expect some reaction. I’m a rather self-conscious person so if the blogger responds, I definitely feel better. But that seems to be my problem, doesn’t it? 🙂

    I rarely explicitly invite interaction in my posts but I think that by replying to other people’s posts regularly, I actually create a comment-friendly environment. At least I hope so.

    Thanks for your comments and for being nosy 🙂

    Hana

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  3. annloseva says:

    I always suspected there's something uncanny (in a good sense) about your blogging – interesting, honest, polished, frequent. Now it's all clear. You're a genius! I can't see how it would be otherwise possible to write blog posts in one go without notes remembering to keep the paragraphs about the same length, gripping openings and closings, well and deeply presented issues and insightfully tackled problems. Not possible unless one is a sheer genius. =)

    Thanks for writing this. There are people of exceptional talents in my PLN, how lucky I am, wow.

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  4. Chewie6577 says:

    Well done, Hana.
    I've always looked forward to reading your posts. Your idea of a post being between 800 and 1000 sounds about right. Or maybe perhaps the length of a newspaper editorial? I've never been one to fixate on word count, for page length always seemed more relevant, especially when word counts end up driving people to overwrite and use too many little words. But anyway, sometimes things need to be long and sometimes things need to be short. Thanks for another thought-provoking piece of writing!

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  5. Zhenya says:

    Hi Hana

    Thank you for the wonderful sharing – like Vedrana, I am grateful that there is a chance to have this conversation and learn how the authors I admire and respect come up with the posts on their blogs. It seems to me that the initial idea to share a couple of blogging habits grew into something bigger: thinking and reflecting on our blogging philosophy and style (is it just semantics, or does it feel deeper to you as well?) I am so excited to read and learn from my PLN!

    Great to read that blogging is a (passion and) hobby for you: I started writing thinking of it as a PD tool only, and I think treating blogging this way limits the joy and fun that come along, if you allow interaction and real communication to happen. This leads me to another idea I agree with: taking part in a dialogue is very important to me in blogging (and in life?). I remember when I first started writing I was wondering if readers would ever respond to what I am saying. I think I am still working on making my style of writing 'more welcoming' so to say. (thank you for visiting and commenting Hana!)

    When you mentioned word count and the length of your posts I realized I am keeping mine lower (most of the time, under 1000 words, sometimes even under 500) I like that you are aiming at more or less similar word length and that you are thinking about the readers and their expectations. I think it will be the next step for me.

    (Just smiled thinking that a comment like this might well be a length of my typical post?)

    Thank you for the great blog post, please keep writing!
    Zhenya

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  6. Hana Tichá says:

    Hi Anna,

    You really made me laugh. Well, if writing a post in one go means spending five long hours writing it then yes, I am a sheer genius. I should stress that during those five hours I struggle to find the appropriate words and grammatical structures, I delete, edit, feel frustrated, feel hopeless at my English, you name it. Nevertheless, every time something is eventually born out of all this mess.

    You also say my posts are polished. Hmm, I believe it is but a proof of my clumsiness and imperfection – one polishes what’s coarse and rough on the surface after all.

    I was really amused by your choice of the word to describe the way you feel about my blogging. I immediately remembered Mike Griffin’s post in which he talked about the *uncanny valley* effect. What can I do? As I’m an almost human-looking robot, I will always seem overly “strange” to some human beings 😀 😀

    Hana

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  7. Hana Tichá says:

    Hi Chewie,

    I’ve never planned my posts to be the length of a newspaper editorial but it’s interesting that you mention this. I wouldn’t say that I fixate on word count either; the idea of an ideal number has evolved gradually. I think my posts were much shorter in the very beginning when I wasn’t confident enough to produce longer stretches of text. This discussion reminds me that at school I often ask my students to stick to a certain number of words in their writing assignments, and I subtract points if they exceed the limit (or don’t reach it). When they complain about this irritating habit of mine, I always tell them that it’s a useful technique for practising their writing skills; it makes them think about the choice of their words carefully. When they exceed the limit, they are forced to edit and delete and this helps them become more aware of the overall structure of their writing as well as about the grammar and vocabulary they choose to use.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts here on my blog again. I really appreciate it.

    Hana

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  8. Chewie6577 says:

    “I think my posts were much shorter in the very beginning when I wasn’t confident enough to produce longer stretches of text.”

    Good point! I sometimes forget that you're writing in L2 and I'm in L1 because your writing sounds natural. Writing's hard enough in itself!

    “I always tell them that it’s a useful technique for practising their writing skills; it makes them think about the choice of their words carefully.”

    Yes indeed! Word choice and phrasing matters. Writing's a process. I suppose that with blogging, it's a bit different because it's easy to open Blogger, type out a few lines, and hit “Publish,” but even then…it's been my experience that shorter stuff is harder to write because every word matters more than it does in a longer piece.

    Rock on.

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  9. venvve says:

    I just had to respond to this – yes, yours is a very comment-friendly environment. 🙂 A great way of describing it, I think!

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  10. Hana Tichá says:

    Hi Zhenya,

    First of all I’d like to thank you for all the inspiration you’ve recently passed on so many ELT bloggers. I guess I had always wanted to write about the topic but some other topics kept getting in my way and so I kept letting the idea of writing about my blogging habits go. You were the catalyst and I’m happy that there are people like you out there.

    I’d say that every writer/blogger has specific habits which they are sometimes unaware of until they dig deeper. When I read your first post, I thought: ‘Well, I just sit down and write a post, that’s it’. Unlike other bloggers, I didn’t think there was a certain time of day, a certain place or occasion which I preferred. But when I finally got to writing my thoughts down, I discovered there *are* some habits and routines after all. Not that they’re anything groundbreaking or worth babbling about for too long, but they’re definitely unique and worth a thought.

    Like you, I’m fascinated by all the various styles bloggers use – some write in a poetic way, some are very pragmatic, and some experiment and come up with a different genre every time they blog. This diversity, and the variety of topics, is simply amazing, and we can learn so much from each other.

    There’s one more aspect that I find interesting about this challenge: I believe that when you read people’s blogs, you gradually make a bigger picture of what they are like. You get to know them better – just from reading their thoughts and interacting with them. When you read about their blogging habits, it’s another step forward and deeper; it’s like verifying or disproving your previous observations.

    Thanks again for giving me so much food for thought.

    Hana

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  11. Pingback: Walk a mile in their shoes | How I see it now

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