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 questions, Zhenya 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.