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Three Tips for Novice Bloggers

Over the last several weeks, I've had the chance to connect with some really terrific teachers right here in my own county.  That's been a refreshing change of pace for me simply because the majority of people that I've connected with over the course of my time in social spaces have lived hundreds and thousands of miles away.  What I'm digging the most is that many of my newest peers are just beginning their blogging journeys.

As a guy who has "been there and done that," I've been offering tons of tips designed to help them find the same satisfaction that I do as a blogger.

Here are three that are worth sharing with all y'all, too:

Quit Calling it Blogging.  Start Calling it Reflection.

Let's start with a simple truth:  Blogging takes time.  I sit down once a week -- usually on Friday nights or Saturday mornings and bang away at the keys for anywhere from 60-90 minutes.  Carving that time out of my daily schedule isn't any easier for me than it will be for you!  There are plenty of times when I am blogging that I would rather be on the couch with my kid!

So how do I do it?  How do I commit to blogging week after week and year after year?

Perhaps most importantly, I've quit calling it blogging -- which feels like some kind of self-centered, silly act reserved for people who make their living by selling their ideas -- and started calling it reflection.  After all, that's what I'm really doing every time that I write here on the Radical.  Taking ideas that are mulling around in my mind and working to put them into coherent sentences and paragraphs depends on thinking deeply about what I know about teaching and learning.

Blogging is something that I'm willing to skip when I'm tired or discouraged.  Reflection feeds me and challenges me and makes me a better practitioner.  It's something I'd NEVER skip.  By recognizing and naming the reflective value of writing, I've turned it into a priority -- even a pleasure -- instead of a chore.

Quit Thinking about an Audience.  YOU are the Audience.

Here's another simple truth:  The VAST majority of educational bloggers -- including ME -- are never going to develop a super impressive audience.  Heck -- most of us will be lucky if our entries generate 25-30 views on a regular basis.  That's not because we are awful writers with nothing important to say.  It's because we live in a world where (1). people are busy and (2). there are TONS of ways to spend our spare time.  Standing out in someone's already crowded information stream just ain't all that easy.

That's why we have to STOP talking about "the power of audience" in motivating bloggers.  If we're counting on feedback -- views, likes, shares, comments -- from an external audience to motivate us, we're going to quit as soon as we spend hours crafting a thoughtful reflection that no one reads.

But there IS an audience who cares and who learns and who grows every time that you write.  Want to find them?  Look in the mirror. Once you recognize that you aren't writing for someone else -- that you are, instead, writing for yourself -- then page views won't leave you discouraged even when they are lower than you'd like them to be.  After all, the only audience that ever really mattered was you to begin with!

Quit Writing.  Start Commenting.

Here's a final simple truth for you:  Social spaces aren't very social anymore.  People don't interact with each other.  Instead, we spend our time consuming.  We check our Twitterstreams, clicking on links, reading posts, bookmarking sites and then moving on.  Rarely to we pause to acknowledge the contributions that content creators make to our learning.  Sure, we might retweet or like or favorite something that we liked -- but even that can be a selfish act designed to build our own networks or organize our own set of killer finds.

So break the cycle.  Set time aside to leave comments on the blogs written by other people.  Doing so is a simple act of gratitude -- a way to say thank you to the folks who are taking risks by giving us a look inside their professional minds.  That alone makes commenting worthwhile.

But commenting has a ton of additional added value for you as a writer, too.  Most importantly, each comment that you add is first draft thinking that you can turn into a blog post later.  In fact, I copy and paste every comment that I write into a folder in Evernote so that I can find it and use it again when I'm struggling for a topic to write about here on the Radical.

And if you really do care about building an audience, leaving a comment for someone else makes a ton of sense.  Here's why:  Odds are that the people that you leave a comment for will stop by your blog and check out your writing, too.  That's because there's often an intellectual symbiosis that develops between people who are thinking together.

So whaddya' think about my recommendations?  More importantly, what suggestions would you make to novice bloggers?

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Related Radical Reads:

Lessons Learned from a Decade of Blogging

The Digital Equivalent of Strip Malls

Three Tips for Classroom Blogging Projects

12 Comments

mellisa adams commented on December 15, 2016 at 2:25am:

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Nice thought. well when we get in touch with others definitely we learn something.may be good or bad. blogging is the best option to show our thoughts about the specific ,either educational or social. checkout my blog on http://millennialmagazine.com/the-most-efficient-science-backed-productivity-strategies

jenniferJ LindaL commented on December 15, 2016 at 12:00pm:

There are more options where

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Theo Kastanos commented on December 15, 2016 at 12:26pm:

Reflection, that's it!

Thank you Bill! I've been asking myself whether I should engage in writing some sort of blog about my own experiences in education, but never thought it was really worth it. Till I read this post. Your three simple points have changed that for good.

It's exactly as you say: reflecting IS important, and doing it for yourself, and that counts a lot.
Thanks for these simple tips.
Cheers,

Theo

Dave Cohen commented on December 15, 2016 at 12:47pm:

I like this. I like that is

I like this. I like that is has to be intentional. I have often thaought about starting a blog and this is just more fule to do so.

Caleb Pahl commented on December 15, 2016 at 1:16pm:

Hi Bill,

Hi Bill,

Thanks so much for sharing this information! I am new to blogging. I decided to launch my blog earlier this year to reflect on my experiences as a first year teacher in Panama City, Panama. Your post has inspired me to keep writing and has given me a better perspective about my writing. 

Jessica Cuthbertson commented on December 15, 2016 at 2:23pm:

Commenting & Reflecting...

Thanks for this post, Bill, and for these tips that I would argue are not just for novice bloggers but for any writer hoping to reconnect with their "why" and/or who has writing resolutions for 2017 and beyond :).

I'm going to share this post and think more about your tips in a few ways:

  • First I'm sharing this with CTQ's recently selected fantastic group of seven roundtable leads in our Facebook small group space -- they are already thinking about how they might support novice bloggers and new voices in 2017 through thematic discussions. 
  • Next I'm going to think more about your audience tip. The English teacher in me spent so much time facilitating discussions with students on the importance of purpose and audience in writing that this tip has me re-thinking my own blogging processes...I've written several posts with a specific audience in mind (many on topics or issues I care deeply about) but never felt I could give myself permission to blog publicly for a primary audience of -- "just me." I'm going to try this approach and see how it changes my writing -- my gut says I'll get a lot more reflective and conversational and a lot less formal and tentative...
  • Third -- I'm going to reframe blogging as reflecting -- I reflect (in my head) all the time and sometimes on paper (usually in journaling format) and I love the idea of encouraging others to blog by describing the act itself as one of reflecting vs. blogging/writing. I think that makes it so much accessible to practitioners.

May the writing muses continue to visit you in 2017 -- and may readers comment generously and often! 

Brian Curtin commented on December 16, 2016 at 9:48am:

Reflecting on Reflections

I'm a novice blogger, but a seasoned "reflector," so I really appreciate how you put it in those terms.  It's really powerful to connect with others who are thinking and reflecting on the same ideas.   Being consumption-heavy and contribution-light does not always lead to the best kind of community collaboration that leads to meaningful conversations, progressive instruction, and success in the classroom.  Thanks for reminding us of that important lesson!

Pat Hensley commented on December 19, 2016 at 7:09am:

Comments are important!

I have to admit to being part of your audience but I don't always comment. You are so right that comments are important. I think the conversation helps to make me a better teacher. But the conversation needs to be meaningful and not just platitudes of "I like this post..." I like to hear from people who don't agree with me which makes me either clarify what I wrote or makes me adjust my thinking. This helps me to grow personally and professionally. 

Andrea Roda commented on December 22, 2016 at 9:43am:

great tips

Thank you, Bill. I may just start a weekly written reflection, too. :-)

William John commented on December 30, 2016 at 2:03am:

Reply

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Kevin Hansen commented on December 30, 2016 at 5:02pm:

Tips For Novices

I found this very helpful, direct, and quick.  I am a SEO Blogger, and I'm fairly new to the field.  I appreciate your article!

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