What’s Different About Blogging?

Just as fiction and nonfiction are different, prose and poetry are different, and romance and science fiction are different, blogging is not exactly like any other form of writing.

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For the casual or non-professional blogger, those who aren’t trying to build a platform as a subject matter expert or make money from a blog, the writing in a blog will likely not conform to any particular style of writing.

Here are some of the kinds of writing you often find in blogs.

Journals. Many blogs are used as online journals. Bloggers record observations about life; events in their day; personal feelings they wish to share with others; and assorted photographs, memes, jokes, trivia, and perhaps random thoughts. But stream-of-consciousness or confessional style journals are not likely to be appealing to large groups of readers. No one has so interesting a life that others want to follow the minutiae – unless, of course, you’re an Arctic explorer, a circus acrobat, or a pop star. And even they have dull days sometimes.

Articles. Fact-based articles on various topics – food, sex, crafts, pets, children, aging, media, politics, literature, and even swearing – can be good blog fodder. But if you’re aggregating news and facts from other sources, that’s not the same as writing your own content. And while it’s possible that an expert on a particular topic might be able to write factual articles week after week or month after month, such a blog will likely appeal to a limited number of readers in the same field.

Editorials. Opinion pieces are the meat and potatoes of many blogs. The problem is that bloggers most often want their writing to reach an audience – and not everyone’s opinions are well-thought-out, well-expressed, or even interesting. And unless you’re a “name” blogger with a wide following and a certain amount of credibility, who is going to be interested enough in your opinions to keep coming back? I mean, who really cares what I think about the Flint water crisis or where Caitlyn Jenner should be allowed to pee? Even super-opinionated blogger Jim Wright (http://www.stonekettle.com) occasionally gives himself and his readers a rest with cat pictures and woodworking info.

Funny stories. Let’s face it. Few of us are capable of being reliably, consistently funny. Humor writing is a very specific genre and craft that only a few – Erma Bombeck, Jenny Lawson (http://thebloggess.com) – ever master and that many fall flat with. Again, if you’re writing your own material rather than aggregating humorous quotations and stories from elsewhere (and you are giving proper credit to the original authors, aren’t you?), humor blogs can quickly become limited to only the readers who share your specific taste in what’s funny and how to express it comedically.

So what kind of writing is best for your blog? You’ll have to figure that out for yourself. I recommend some mix of all of the above types. But achieving balance between two or more types of writing can be difficult. How much personal revelation is too much? How many dry facts are too many? How can they be blended into a cohesive whole?

I have two blogs that I play around in. One (obviously) is this one – what I call my general-purpose blog. In it I try to post mostly funny stories and opinion pieces on some topic I have experience with or strong feelings about. Here are some examples of each: “When I Say Shoes…” (http://wp.me/p4e9wS-c8), I Blame the Cats. Always. (http://wp.me/p4e9wS-1B), The Education Argument (http://wp.me/p4e9wS-6G), Post Feminism: Back to the Future (http://wp.me/p4e9wS-4P).

My other blog, Bipolar Me (bipolarjan.wordpress.com) is topic-specific. As such, it contains a blend of journal (personal experiences), factual information, and occasionally opinions. Again, here are some of each: I May Have Miscounted My Spoons (http://wp.me/p4e9Hv-g6), More “News” About Mental Health (http://wp.me/p4e9Hv-9L), A Response to the Dalai Lama (http://wp.me/p4e9Hv-9T). Even more occasionally, I include humor – The Depression Diet (http://wp.me/p4e9Hv-db) – or poetry – Sense of Self (http://wp.me/p4e9Hv-9O).

I experiment with styles of writing in an attempt to keep my readers interested, but also to keep myself interested. In particular, I don’t want Bipolar Me to be all gloom-and-doom or perpetually “what I did today.” Et Cetera, etc. was conceived of as a blog where I could write whatever I wanted on any topic I wanted – books, cats, family, humor, rants, and to a lesser extent social issues I feel strongly about – education, feminism, etc. Bipolar Me seems to be the more popular of the two, but Et Cetera, etc. has had some unexpected surges. (I have thought about changing the blog’s name, but haven’t found anything I like better.)

At any rate, my advice to the newly blogging is this: Mix it up. It will help you find your voice, attract new readers, and keep you from burning out. Unless your blog is very topic- and tone-specific, a little variety is a good thing.

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One thought on “What’s Different About Blogging?

  1. Hi Jan,
    I’m also a freelance writer/editor living with bipolar 1. I came across your blogs while searching for something else on my kindle and I love them. You’re funny, wry, and insightful on both. I also have two blogs; one is more personal and the other houses my professional life as a writer/journalist/photographer/young adult author/librarian. The main blog is on http://www.alexisazinkerman.com. My personal and mental health blog is at inkspillingtheblog.blogspot.com. It’s lonely out there as a writer so I’d love to chat with others doing the same. Feel free to send me an email at azinkerman@gmail.com.

    ~Alexis

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