October 19, 2014 by Paula Reed Nancarrow
There’s a right and a wrong way to do everything, isn’t there?
Why should blogging be any different? So when I had the opportunity to enroll in a six week online blogging course, taught by an expert, I jumped at the chance. After all, if I’m putting this much effort into a weekly writing venture, shouldn’t that effort count for something? Don’t I want to do it right?
The course began last week.
It is sponsored by the Loft Literary Center, a unique institution in Minneapolis that fosters writers of all kinds. I have taken several courses on writing and memoir there, but “Becoming a Standout Blogger” from Patrick Ross is my first online course. Which seems appropriate for the subject matter.
Patrick writes a blog called The Artist’s Road: Creativity, Writing and an Art-Committed Life, and he has a book coming out on that topic this month. His blog has won a few awards of its own – not chain letter awards, like I’ve discussed in one or two recent posts, but awards like the 100 Best Websites for Writers award for 2014; Top Ten Blogs for Writers (2011, 2012), and Top Fifty Blogs for Authors. He has a page rank of 5, which is higher than mine by a factor of…umm…five.
I can – and will – learn a lot from Patrick Ross. Yet the question remains.
What makes a person go out of their way to find an expert, only to then disagree – or at least offer a caveat – to everything they say? I see it in my fellow students. I see it in myself. We ask for advice, and then we resist it.
A former boss of mine (who I naturally see as much more of an expert, now that he is not my boss) once lent me a book by Peter Block entitled Flawless Consulting. I was doing some freelance work at the time, but I think the main reason he lent me the book was that I needed to learn how to handle a perennial professional problem: being in a position to have influence over behavior and attitudes within an organization, but having no direct power to make or implement any changes myself.
Consultants are not the only ones who find themselves in this position. Teachers – especially continuing education teachers in courses with no grades – encounter resistance frequently, in ways that I know I would find very frustrating.
For most people, resistance to new or different ideas is part of the learning process.
The trick is figuring out when that resistance is coming from an emotional place that impedes growth, and when it is the result of a healthy skepticism that fosters growth.
Resistance that comes from an emotional place, as the aptly-named Block notes, often looks like this:
- Your assumptions/ premises don’t apply to me.
- You’re not saying anything I didn’t already know.
- I don’t have enough information to know whether or not I agree with you yet (and I never will).
- Your suggestions are nice but impractical.
- Sure, ok, great, whatever. (Accept, then ignore.)
Where resistance to blogging advice is concerned, it is easy to get stuck in any or all of these places, but I think number one is where there’s the most room for legitimate debate, as well as heavily invested emotion, especially when writing is a form of creative self-expression.
There are so many different types of blogs.
Patrick offers us a spectrum, from blogs which are essentially personal journals to blogs which do investigative journalism – and so many different motivations for blogging along that spectrum.
For example, watch this TED talk by Mena Trott, “the founding mother of the blog revolution” (if you can watch it; I found her moving back and forth at the podium distracting, so I just listened). It’s one of the introductory resources Patrick pointed us to.
Then watch this video by Darren Rowse from Problogger, which I came across myself:
With the exception of one reference to a friend who writes a blog on personal video recorders and supports his family entirely through ads, what do these two pieces have in common? Precious little.
Much of the advice available on blogging these days is professional, not confessional, in nature, and product, not process, oriented. Darren Rowse is still giving much of it. Mena Trott, as far as anyone knows, has gone back to sewing. (And she may have the better bargain.)
So what does it take to be unique in the blogosphere?
Is it genuinely possible to develop common strategies for being a “standout blogger” within such a broad spectrum? I guess I am about to find out.
If, that is, I can keep an open mind.
What do you think?