Death By Pen

6 Things I’ve Learned About Writing [600th Post]

Jose Vilson Jose 9 Comments

Death By Pen

I honestly can’t believe I’ve written 600 of these essays. I went from a little blog somewhere in the atmosphere to getting a nice pat-on-the-back from the hundreds of you who read me weekly. I’ve learned so much, I just had to write it down. I’m at a point where I’m bombarded with requests for advice (sure), web design help (depends), and enough spam to fill an inbox (yikes). Furthermore, this blog’s given me a platform for my ridiculous but very serious opinions, and, unlike other platforms, people can’t flag or unlike my stuff.

You either love me or hate me.

And that’s the approach I’ve taken with writing on this platform. I hope the following tips will help anyone just starting a blog or looking to revitalize their current blog.

Write For Yourself … With Others In Mind

These days, very few blogs find success, and success has so many definitions, the only one that inevitably matters is yours. While we may think blogs with 20-30 comments are successful, the bloggers themselves may not think so. I know some bloggers who don’t average high page views, but their content is so rich, they’re included in speeches, books, and videos. I know other bloggers who have tons of friends and comments, but never get considered for anything more than a blogger party. None of these make any sense if you don’t belief in the work you’re writing, or see the potential in your work. Even “entertainment” bloggers have to believe in their site’s content.

Also, feel free to set a schedule. If you can post once a day, then go for that. If you can post 3 times a week, go for that. As long as you’re consistent with your schedule, that’s what your readers will expect. If you say you’ll write daily, and you don’t, you’re losing people’s confidence in you, and that’s no bueno.

Get Your Own Site

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve said this to prospective bloggers, but using Blogspot, WordPress.com, or any blogging site can help propel your writing into the blogosphere’s consciousness, but may not do you any favors in the long run. Consider the case of a Blogspot blogger, who, after offending just one person, was flagged and thus was given a screen prompt with a warning label for their site. In other words, visitors to your sites already feel strange about your material since you’re getting screened by Google, but they may leave since they don’t want to be bothered with another click. Readers’ attention span is small.

With your own site, you can hit them hard. And with speed.

Make It Reader-Friendly

Make sure that, whether you get a free site or a self-hosted site, the site looks aesthetically pleasing. Make sure images are as sharp as possible, that everything loads as it needs to, that the title actually sounds good when read aloud along with the web address, that the site has little clutter around the content, and the grammatical and spelling errors are kept to a minimum. Every title should make sense to the content, and the paragraphs don’t have to extend longer than 3 sentences. That depends on your subject. The language has to be geared towards your audience, too. If you’re aiming for college-level students, keep it at that reading level. Even if you’re writing for yourself, it’s also writing with a conscious reader who’d like to know what the hell you’re talking about.

Build Relationships With Your Readers

Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn have made it too easy to think you’ve built a relationship with your readers / subscribers. Not true. People who comment should get a reply where warranted. Let the audience give you feedback, ingest it, and see if those are the types of reactions you want to your writing. If you intend to annoy the hell out of someone, see if that worked. If you intend to get people excited, see if that worked. If it confused the hell out of someone, it probably means you forced the writing when you need not to. All the social media sites help you do is get more reactions and allow people to share and converse around your piece, a plus if it’s great material, a minus if it sucks.

Don’t Get Gassed

Readers aren’t fickle per se, but your audience is a set of people. For every 100 people who pass by your blog, 5 may stay on average. So if you get 20+ commenters on one post, it won’t mean they’ll stay there waiting for you. Your favorite blogger(s) work hard to write what they do, even when they make it look easy. They’ve taken time to build what they did, and you will, too. Also of note, just because one person likes your blog doesn’t mean the others will. Don’t get discouraged, either. The fact that someone likes it means that he or she might be your audience. Take the criticism well, learn from it, and keep it moving.

(Almost) Never Apologize

I probably offended a slew of people over the last 599 posts. I wrote too long. I wrote too little. I skipped a few Thursdays. I didn’t write about them. I did write about them but not by name. I wrote about ideas in general and people thought it was about them specifically. I don’t write much about love and relationships. I write too much about education. I’m too left. I like Spongebob. I don’t want legislation controlling what women can do with their private parts.

I’ve never apologized.

I learned not to apologize six years ago when another blogger thought my ramblings on my site would never be validated, as his were read by his college professors. My writing would never be taken seriously, according to him, and he never had to thank his readers because they were going to read anyways. Years later, I’m still writing on mine, and he’s still waiting for a comeback. It’s not personal, but everything we write, if it makes sense to you, if we’re passionate about it, if we do it with purpose, then why apologize?

Apologize only if the message wasn’t clear. If the message is clear, then you’ve written well.

Jose, who still has a long way to go …

Bonus:

In order to become a better writer, become a prolific reader. Read as many blogs as possible, comment on those, ask them for help or advice, and take it from there.

About Jose Vilson

José Luis Vilson is a math educator, blogger, speaker, and activist. For more of my writing, buy my book This Is Not A Test: A New Narrative on Race, Class, and Education, on sale now.

Comments 9

  1. Tara Betts

    Thanks for sharing this advice on blogging, especially when I need a reminder to stay on top of blogging myself! I do think all types of reading can fuel your blogging, but looking at other blogs will help you discern different formats you might want to use.

  2. Post
    Author
    Jose

    Well said, Tara. Maintaining the blog is the hardest part of all. They say the only way to become a better writer is to write, but the more that you write, the more you gotta make time to write. It’s rather simple, but it takes dedication. Which I’m sure you’re familiar with.

  3. teachin'

    Nice post, Jose. I’m still at the point where I get, like, REALLY excited if I get three comments on a post (honestly, even one is pretty sweet). And I do still use Blogger. But in general, I try to do the blogging thing pretty much the way you described it. No matter what, though, I’m having fun with it all!

  4. Maegan la Mala Ortiz

    Sometimes it really is about a return to the basics, of which we all could use some reminding.

    Gracias for this

  5. Post
    Author
    Jose

    teachin’, that’s exactly how you do it. With fervor and awe. The minute you lose that is the minute you take a break. Believe it, your readers will, too.

    Maegan, you’re welcome. The basics are the basics for a reason. I still need to remember that, too.

  6. Manny Perez

    Congratulations, Jose on your 600th blog!
    And thanks for the great advice!
    mmm…. I just opened my blog on wordpress, so I guess I’ll change that soon! :-)

  7. pre_k

    let me say congrats for having the will power to make it this long. Like I always told you.. if it was easy everyone would be doing it. 600 blogs and counting.. of course i am waiting for a manuscript of some sort but i know you have a lot of irons in the fire. i know i don’t comment as much but believe me i come through and read often. keep up the good work. I also like blog entry snippets (insert technical term in here some where) that you have on your page. one of these days i may try to get some advice on what to read in order to develop my own site.. but i think that is a while off.. anyway.. goodluck in all of your future endeavors.. piece and blessings..

  8. Jenny Kanevsky

    Thanks for this Jose. I am ready to switch over from using wordpress (www.jennykanevsky.wordpress.com) to hosting my blog on my website http://www.jennykanevsky.com. The issue I have for you is this: My current site/domain is my name. I have name recognition in my fiction readers, friends, and as I continue to try to grow my audience. My current web site (not WordPress) needs updating and maintenance, it’s been way too long since I touched it. It needs a complete graphic and content overhaul. So, advice on that would be much appreciated, In addition, my name is not necessarily memorable but it’s unique. I’m no “Cher” but I’m no “Jane Smith” either. I’m toying with the idea of going with a catchy name that doesn’t include my actual name but in my gut, I keep rejecting that. (Trust your gut, right?) I am my name and don’t want to be “bloggrrrl” or something fadish. I wonder your thoughts on that. I love your “The Jose Vilson” name. “The Jenny Kanevsky” isn’t me, and I do have my name simply as my domain. I’m happy being “Jenny Kanevsky” but wanted to hear your thoughts. Is that enough? I assume the content speaks for itself and the more I get my name out there, the more it will be remembered whether it’s Cher, Jane Smith or Jenny Kanevsky.
    Thanks for being a mentor in abstentia.
    Jenny

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