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

23 thoughts on “Three Tips for Novice Bloggers

  1. joanieso

    I’m just about to work with a group of educators who will be blogging, and your comments will be extraordinarily useful to them. Long ago when I was learning to use VoiceThread, your Darth Tater work inspired and guided me; now your blog is doing the same thing. Thank you–you’re great at helping people thinking about how tools and spaces can be meaningful.

    1. Bill Ferriter Post author

      Hey Joanie!

      First, thanks a ton for the kind words about my contributions. I’m always jazzed when people think that the content and ideas I share have value.

      And second, so cool that you know me as Darth Tater! That made me smile….

      Be well,
      Bill

  2. Chris Tuttell

    Bill,

    Thank you for this post. You have transformed my thinking.

    This part spoke to me,
    “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.”

    I am taking your advice and carving out some time on Sunday mornings to read and comment on blogs. Thank you, thank you, thank you for being a guiding light in WCPSS and beyond – we are all better for it!

    Chris

    1. Bill Ferriter Post author

      Glad you are doing that, Chris!

      Believe me — you’ll be a better blogger and our blogging community will be stronger as a result of that commitment! It’s totally worth it.

      Looking forward to seeing you in person again someday,
      Bill

  3. Kirsten Hund

    Thank you for this post! I have been a lurker and a learner for a long time, and have a great blog running inside my head. I am a very reflective learner but hesitant to actually put my thinking out there in more than 140 characters or maybe a FB post. The perspective of a reflection instead of a blog may just be the nugget to get me there. I clicked here thinking there would be technical tips to get started and how to write a blog, but found so much more. Many thanks for sharing your insights and ideas with us.

    1. Bill Ferriter Post author

      Hey Kirsten,

      Here’s the thing about lurking: The only person it hurts is YOU!

      The act of trying to put your ideas into words is the refining fire that polishes those ideas and cements them inside of your mind. It’s deliberate — and the best reflection is always deliberate.

      Now find friends to blog alongside. When you are cheering one another on, it’s easier to sustain momentum!

      Good luck,
      Bill

  4. Valerie Zemaitis

    Excellent reflection. This is a horrible comparison, but reflecting is like losing weight. We work hard toward a goal and get disappointed when we don’t see the numbers go down on the scale or when people don’t notice and comment. In the end it was all about feeling better about ourselves and not about those external things not connected to your goal in the first place. And this is how I reflect (blog) – making a connection to something I know to make sense of something shared that was inspiring. Keep on keeping on and see you in the reflection/blogging world.

    1. Bill Ferriter Post author

      Hey Valerie —

      Your weight loss analogy is PERFECT!

      Weight loss isn’t about external validation. It’s about being a better person.

      Same with blogging. The results don’t have to be visible or quantifiable in order to be worthwhile!

      Good luck,
      Bill

  5. Kyle Hamstra

    Well-thought, Bill. I especially like the part about the external audience. Many educators are more concerned about marketing themselves than learning and improving. An “authentic audience” PLN is incredibly under-rated. I like your emphasis on consistency and routine. I would like to develop this habit. It will take some self-discipline and an intentional focus on reflection.

    1. Bill Ferriter Post author

      Hey Pal,

      And you know how I feel about that “marketing” stuff. It’s totally changed how we see social spaces. When we turn our networking into transactional relationships, we stop caring about each other. Readers see bloggers as professionals offering a product. Content is that product. It’s a cold relationship. You offer nothing to me and I offer nothing to you.

      To me, that’s ruining the powerful learning that these spaces can offer us.

      Totally going to keep pressuring you to be consistent! Consistent means you’ll get consistently better — and that the work will get consistently easier for you!

      Trust me on this one. It matters.

      Rock on,
      Bill

  6. Peggy Visconti

    Bill,
    I sincerely appreciate your post because I have been considering blogging for some time and always get hung up thinking that I don’t have anything to say that may be of interest to others. Re-framing that perspective to make “reflection” primarily for my benefit rather than being concerned about others is just the fresh look I needed to get started. I have a long way to go, but I just wanted to thank you for the jump start today!
    Peggy

    1. Bill Ferriter Post author

      Hey Peggy,

      You got it! Blogging has nothing to do with other people. It’s about YOU.

      If others learn from you, great. If others comment, great. But if they don’t, you’ve still learned.

      That’s a message we need to share with student bloggers, too. They get discouraged if they don’t get tons of page views — but that’s unrealistic for student bloggers.

      Good luck!
      Bill

  7. Jasper Fox Sr.

    I love the honesty in this post Bill, and I agree the most important audience for educational writers is themselves. It is an added bonus that sometimes other educators benefit from our reflection. I have struggled with this quite a bit on my blog as I had discovered how to write for search engine optimization earlier this year. After incorporating some of these techniques, I noticed how homogenized my posts became. I have since abandoned this technique and feel like I am writing from the heart again. My advice for novice bloggers is to ignore the site stats, I recommend removing any dashboard widgets relating to hits or page views in fact. This way, one can focus on internal motivations rather than the superficial, external motivations that site stats provide.

  8. Karen

    Thanks Bill! I always thought of blogging as being a bit egocentric. Why would anyone want to read what I have to say. I have had a pretty blog all set up for months and it’s still sitting there waiting for me. Changing my mindset to see it as reflection might just give me the push to have a go.

    1. Bill Ferriter Post author

      Do it, Karen!

      Egocentric is a little bit accurate, too! It IS all about you!

      Even if no one else ever reads what you write, your blog has had an impact on learning.

      Drop me your address when you make your first post!
      Bill

    1. Bill Ferriter Post author

      Yup. You are right, Aaron.

      Comments are a super important and yet often underestimated form of interaction with one another. That’s discouraging to me — and I think we do our social spaces a disservice when we ignore the value of commenting.

      Looking forward to checking out your post,
      Bill

  9. Robert Schuetz

    Hello Bill, years ago my reflections were imprisoned within the walls of three-ring binders, valuable to me and interesting to revisit occasionally, but isolated and of no use to others. I agree with your premise that the writing / commenting process holds significant learning value. I’m also interested in the work of Stephen Downes and George Siemens. Their cutting edge research is exposing the value of constructing our own learning processes through networks and organizing the information that’s derived from them. So, blogging addresses the personal and social aspects of self-determined learning, a balance of autonomy and interdependence.
    Like Meg, I appreciate you creating this welcoming forum.
    Bob

  10. alimcollins

    Thank you so much for saying this. I worried for a while about getting an audience and realized I was never going to get thousands of likes like some other blogs might. Every once in a while I’ll hit a nerve, but a lot of time my posts mostly resonate locally. That said, I have been surprised at times to find educators and parents I’ve never met DO read my posts. I’ve even made a few new friends this way!

    But, overall, these are added benefits. Mostly I write for myself. My blog is a space to process ideas to hold resources and tools I’ve come across along the way.

    Thanks for your posts. I really appreciate your musings.

  11. Meg Ormiston

    Hi Bill, I am taking the time to comment and share how grateful I am for all you do for your students and educators across the globe by sharing your authentic self through your writing. I am lucky enough to know you personally and even though I live across the country from you we can learn and think together. I love how you push my thinking, challenge, my ideas, and give me a Y’ALL just when I need one!

    By the way I just sent the first draft to Solution Tree for my fourth book in the five part series I am writing with 27 co-authors. Now that process is something I am going to ask my team to reflect on and write about over on our neglected blog! http://nowclassrooms.com/about-the-project/

    See, you inspired me again!
    Merry everything, thanks for the inspiration!
    Meg

    1. Bill Ferriter Post author

      Hey Meg,

      I totally dig our friendship and only wish that we connected in person more often! You are the perfect example of a person that I just plain enjoy learning from. The fact that digital spaces connected us first is the greatest.

      Looking forward to crossing paths again sooner rather than later,
      Bill

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