The Art of Graceful Blogging
Thankfully, there are those cutting a different path. Bloggers who defy convention and still have loyal readers. Bloggers who wrestle with the brokenness of this life and still walk away with joy and contentment. Bloggers who may doubt their own ability to love God as deeply as they should, but who are confident in His love for them.
One of these bloggers is Ann Voskamp. In this recent interview, Ann shares how she broke all the blogging rules and still ended up as a NY Times best-selling author. There’s a lesson here for us younger bloggers. A lesson not so much about the mechanics of blogging, but about the art of writing well. Of serving your readers, of bringing light to the darkness. What Ann’s writing embodies that so many young bloggers lack is simply grace. She writes with courage, conviction, authenticity, and most significantly, humility; she writes in such a way that her words embody the very grace she is writing about.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how brash, how self-absorbed, we young bloggers can be and I think we need to take a page from Ann’s book .We need principles for graceful blogging--principles that will let grace form, not only our theological positions, but our very style of communication. So in no particular order, here are mine:
- Don’t use vulgarity in your writing. It will make it… well, vulgar. Meaning common, unexceptional. When you are writing about the exceptional, when you are communicating the miraculous, you must rise above the small, easy choice of a four-letter word. You must be truly counter-cultural by not being vulgar.
- Speaking of being counter-cultural, take the time to think well and think deeply. Blogging by nature is geared toward the quick, one-off response. You must resist this temptation; you must always, always choose quality over quantity.
- As a corollary, don’t simply repackage someone else’s ideas. Do the work of creating your own. If I want to read So-and-so, I’ll go to their blog. You must have enough faith in God to believe that He wants you to think and write like yourself--not like Ann Voskamp.
- Don’t be afraid to tackle difficult subjects. If you are wrestling through something, if it is weighing on your heart, more than likely it is weighing on someone else’s too. Share your brokenness as well as the grace that you are daily receiving.
- And yet, don’t build your blog on negativity. When people are broken and hurting, you don’t help them by simply rehashing all that is wrong with the world or your particular Christian sub-culture. You help them with grace and truth.
- Don’t create blogging wars. Nothing in life is simple. And certainly nothing on the internet is either. Falling into an “Us. vs. Them” paradigm will make your writing one-dimensional and limit your ability to effectively speak to the real problems at hand.
- Instead, read and interact with blogs outside your comfort zone. Listen to people you disagree with. Blogging offers untold opportunity to engage in honest conversation and attempt to understand opposing positions--even if you don’t accept them in the end. Be quick to hear and slow to speak.
- Recognize that your conservative upbringing is not the greatest evil in the world. Sort through your baggage, throw out the trash, but have the maturity to keep what is good and beautiful and valuable.
- Recognize that the conservative church is also not the answer to the problem of evil. Don’t mindlessly parrot specific organizations, leaders, or conferences. Sort through your baggage, throw out the trash, and keep only what is good and beautiful and valuable.
- Use your blog to “learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, [and] plead the widow’s cause.” Because you have a voice, because you have a public platform, you must use it for the benefit of those who don’t.
- But remember that causes célèbres, by definition, won’t fit everyone. Simply being a woman, doesn’t mean that you must blog about women’s issues. You may not be called to fight human trafficking or support World Vision; you are called to fight the darkness that God commissions you to fight.
- Look past your own context. Do not be so consumed with your own sphere of life that you don’t communicate the universal truths that undergird your daily life. Remember that the universal is manifested in the particular. Your story is only as important as it allows readers to see how God is working in their story.
- At the same time, stick to your strengths. If you don’t have a theological education, don’t pretend to. You may gain readers through sheer controversy, but you’ll end up looking amateurish and muddy the waters. Remember that you share your experience because God is in it--not because your experience credentials you to define who God is.
- Respond to criticism with grace. Answer every angry comment and every angry blogger with softness. When reviled, revile not again. Because in the end, it won’t matter how much you blog about grace, if you don’t actually practice it.
- Realize that blogging in a privilege. No one has to read what you write. In fact, most of us should be very, very thankful that anybody reads what we write. Be humbled by the opportunity that God has provided. Because as controversial as it sounds, you did not build your blog. God did.
- And because He has, accept it with humble responsibility. Your blog is not simply a place to blow of steam, to pout, or to pursue your own name recognition. Your private issues may tap into readers’ angst, but they will not propel them past it. You must use your writing to push readers beyond themselves, to push them to love Christ and their neighbors—even those who have hurt them.
Ultimately we all must rely on God’s grace to blog gracefully—if it is not flowing in us, it will never flow out of us. So that like Moses, we must acknowledge that the One who formed our mouths is the same One who gives us the words we need to speak. And because He does--because of who He is-- we can be confident that when He gives us those words, they will be full of life and they will be full of grace.