4 Reasons to Blog (and 4 Reasons NOT to Blog)
This post is part of a recurring series about blogging and the art of writing. Check out more here. ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Back in August, a friend on Twitter posted the following question:
Several folks offered good advice, but the question made me think about why I started blogging and what I've learned in the process. Here's a more extended answer to Abi's question:
I started blogging in July 2011. At the time, my husband and I were in a period of underemployment, using food stamps, and living in a 950 sq. ft. apartment with three young children. Not exactly the most prodigious setting to launch a writing career. Looking back, I realize that God used this time to provide direction for me. Because of financial constraints, I needed a marketable skill; this meant either returning to school for a technical degree or pursing writing. So I made a deal with God: I would commit 2 years to learning the industry and developing my skills if He would confirm that this was His leading in my life. Since then, He has. But it started with small steps of faith like setting up a blog and pushing “publish.” In fact, the process of blogging was invaluable because it gave me:
1.Accountability: Writers are notoriously unstructured and unscheduled. For all the books that people have inside of them, only a fraction of them actually make it out. (What is this “deadline” that you speak of?) I knew that if left to myself I would have a very difficult time actually pursuing writing. I would think a lot about it. I may even write up responses to other pieces. But without structure, I’d never really progress. A blog provided both an audience and accountability.
2. An Opportunity to Create an Online Portfolio: If you have a blog, publishers and editors can easily read through your work to determine if you are a good fit for their publications. It also shows them that you are a self-starter. Writing isn’t simply a pipe-dream for you; you are committed and have already invested time and effort to pursuing it. At the same time, using a blog as an online portfolio means that you’ll need to privilege quality over quantity. Not every post must be stellar, but you must remember that people will actually read your writing.
3. Practice: Blogging allowed me to explore ideas and become a better writer. When I look back at my first posts, I don’t exactly shudder, but I do have a healthy appreciation for what three years of consistent writing has done. Every post forced me to think better and to communicate more clearly. Especially when I wrote on more controversial topics. The bigger the issue, the more carefully I had to choose just the exact word or make sure I truly understood the issues at stake.
4. To Fill a Gap: Another reason I blog is because I want to promote ideas that have been neglected in the broader conversation. You only need to spend a few minutes on Sometimes A Light to know that I’m passionate about women finding their identity in God’s identity. Some of this passion comes from personal experience, but most of it comes from listening to the prevailing conversations and realizing that we’re missing a huge piece of the puzzle. Having a blog allows me to spread a truth that transforms how we speak about womanhood, discipleship, and service in the Kingdom.
At the same time… Blogging has also taught me that there are as many reasons why you SHOULDN’T blog. Among them are:
1. Insecurity: If you blog because you need to be heard, stop. Right. Now. Too many of us—writers, pastors, and counselors included—minister out of our own neediness. We need to be respected. We need to be affirmed. We need to feel like we are good people. And we use other people’s needs to solve our own. It’s true that using your gifting will bring a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction, but our gifts were never intended to fill a void that only Christ can. In fact, if you do this, you won’t be a very good writer. Or a very good person. But when Jesus fills your emptiness, you’ll find that you’re free to serve and to serve well.
2. Escapism: In many ways, blogging is an easy form of “ministry.” As messy as the internet can be, online relationships are a whole lot more manageable than those in real life. If someone annoys me, I can simply unfriend him. If someone sends me a nasty email, I can simply block her. And if someone praises me, I can return to that comment whenever I need to re-affirm my own sense of importance. Relationships in real life are a whole lot messier and a whole lot more demanding. I do not get to choose the issues that I want to address; I do not get to control the problems that come my way. I do not get to rely on praise to maintain my emotional stability. Loving a person I see day in and day out is always harder than loving someone I do not. But these “in real life” relationships are precisely how God intends to make us like Himself.
3. Anger: Do not blog to work through your past. This is what a diary or the counselor’s office is for. Certainly, our past hurts lend us insight and the ability to write more deeply about certain issues. But don’t foist your angst on your readers unless you also give them the solution. Do not infect them with your anger and discouragement unless you also offer them the freedom and joy that is found in Christ.
4. Marketing: In the last several years, the blogosphere has been dominated by “building platform” and ‘gathering your tribe.” Writers use social media and marketing tools to promote their voice and their message. I get this. I really do. If God has given you the gift of writing, you need to make certain that your message is heard. Don’t hide your light under a bushel, etc. But for too many bloggers, building tribe has become an end in itself. We start to prioritize platform or amassing a readership over serving our readers well. And in the end, everyone suffers: readers, writer, and message. Remember: If you are gifted to write, you serve your readers best when you do just that: Write.
In the end, Abi did end up starting a blog with this lovely first post: A Handful of Broken Treasure. Also, if you've been blogging for a bit and feel the weight of staying consistent, you might enjoy this group post about why some blogs tend to "go cold." It's written specifically to women bloggers but the concepts transcend gender.