Seven Lessons in Seven Years

'Seven' photo (c) 2009, Melanie Hughes - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

Tomorrow marks seven years of blogging. In seven years, I’ve learned a couple of things about this process.

Here are seven lessons about blogging that I’ve learned over the past seven years.

  1. Keep proper perspective. Your writing is important, both to you and to your readers. But it’s still a blog. This world will keep on going if you need to take some time off. And you will keep on going if you need to take a break every now and again. In fact, you’ll probably be better if you sometimes don’t post. Which leads me to number 2…
  2. Know what healthy blogging looks like for you. There will always be people telling you how many times you should check your stats or how often you should post or what topics you should write about. And there is some good advice out there. Refreshing your stats every couple of minutes is not going to bring more visitors to your site, but regular posting tends to mean regular readers. And you may find that narrowing your topics can help build traffic. But you also need to figure out why you want to blog and pursue the ways that make it enjoyable. When it’s a burden, that’s not healthy. Unfortunately, the only person who can figure out how to avoid that is you, so these first two are pretty essential to one another.
  3. Tell your story. There are some really amazing stories out there. People who have overcome incredible odds, people who have had fascinating or horrifying experiences, and when we read them, it can be difficult to see how our regular lives are worth writing about. Fred Rogers wrote, “It’s very dramatic when two people come together to work something out.” That has always stuck with me, because there is drama, even in the seemingly mundane things in our lives. And the only person who can tell us about that is you.
  4. Use your voice. This is one of the hardest things I’ve had to learn as a blogger. I still often want to be one of the pretty writers. Folks like Sarah Bessey, Shawn Smucker, or Addie Zierman make me crazy because I long to be able to write that gorgeous prose. But that’s not what my writing voice (or actual voice) sounds like. More than simply beautiful writing, I want to hear the real person’s voice in their writing, so I sigh over their lovely words, and then write my own, because I assume that’s what people are showing up to read. I realized that I was getting better about this when a friend quoted something I had written on his Facebook page on Twitter and a mutual friend of ours said, “That sounds like something Alise would say!” It wasn’t eloquent, but it was me.
  5. Writing the truth is not the same as writing the truth in love. Authentic writing is important. Our stories need to be told honestly. However. There is always a way to do that which respects the people involved. I have messed that up a few times and it is never, ever a good feeling. The best way to avoid this is to…
  6. Take your time. Blogging time is much faster than regular time. The consensus is that if you want people to read your post about a given topic, you have to be the first to write it. Pastor says something stupid? Write a post right then! Major scandal happens in politics? Get a jump on the other bloggers! Somebody pisses your off in the grocery store? Get to your computer now! Because blogging requires you to be on the lookout for material all the time, the temptation is to get that material down as fast as possible. But the truth is, if you have something good to say, A) you likely need a minute to organize it and B) people will read it because it’s good, not because it’s first. My most popular posts have not been because they were the first ones written on a given topic, but rather because I took my time in putting them together.
  7. Be generous. This is probably the best thing I have to say about blogging. Honestly, it’s probably the best thing I have to say about living. Selfishness is easy and usually goes unnoticed. Most people won’t know if you tip the bare minimum. Most people won’t know if you take the bigger slice of cake. Most people won’t know if you don’t let the car pull out in front of you. The same is true of generosity. It probably won’t be noticed by most people. But neither of those things goes entirely unnoticed. The same way that small acts of selfishness start to add up, small acts of generosity also add up. I have a bit of a reputation for being generous around my corner of the internet. Please know, this is not because of some grand gesture, but rather because of various small things that I have made a habit of doing. I hope I have a similar reputation out in the real world, and I know that it is achieved by similar means. Small acts of kindness and generosity.

If you blog, what would you add to this list? Be sure to leave a link to your blog so we can check it out and if you don’t blog, leave a link to one of your favorites. And thanks for reading along!

  • Christie @ Random Reflectionz

    Love this post. Really great tips. I can be so easy to get caught up in the competitive nature of blogging (stats, lists, etc.) that we can forget that it is enough to reach just one person. To have made a difference – however small – in another’s person’s day or live is truly a gift. I especially like tip #5 about writing the truth in love. Happy blog-iversary!

    • http://www.alise-write.com Alise Wright

      I think I generally get #5 right, but when I don’t? That’s really not cool. And yup – no matter who you reach, it’s a joy.

  • http://www.kellyjyoungblood.com/ Kelly J Youngblood

    All good advice. I know the one that I have a somewhat hard time with is the take-your-time one. Not because I don’t take my time, but because I do. I often feel like everything I say is “after-the-fact” because I simply can’t post things right away. Not just because of issues w/ having time, but because I really like to think something through first. I have one post that is partially drafted and has been partially drafted for MONTHS. It’s a topic that isn’t exactly going to go away in our world and tons has been written on it, but I want to make sure I cover it carefully and thoughtfully. So it’ll probably end up being posted at a time when it isn’t the biggest topic of conversation but that’s ok with me.

    • http://www.alise-write.com Alise Wright

      Yeah, I am never first out of the gate. But I think that has been good for me. I’d so much rather say something substantial than just say something. Also, waiting often gives me a chance to see what hasn’t been said yet. There’s usually some angle that is worth exploring that hasn’t necessarily been brought up in the first rash of posts.

  • http://writingwishing.com/ Alison

    Seven years is amazing, happy blogoversary!

    I love this post. Especially #7. Kindness and generosity are things that are small and easy, and I hope I practice them as much as I can online, and offline.

    • http://www.alise-write.com Alise Wright

      Indeed. I definitely want to apply that to real life even more than blogging! And thanks for the congrats!

  • http://www.kellyjyoungblood.com/ Kelly J Youngblood

    Oh, also, I just checked when I started blogging, cause I was curious after thinking about it last night, and it was 2006. In 2006-2011 I wrote 55 posts. In 2012 I have written 140. So to anyone who is struggling with it, really pay attention to #1 in that list because you CAN take time off and come back to it.

  • http://sarahaskins.com Sarah Askins

    Congrats on seven years, friend!

    I think finding your voice is the most important thing any writer or blogger can do. Only slightly less so, don’t get caught up in the clique mode of blogging. I have seen too many bloggers that I admire go from supportive and interested in their readers to y’all are just my fans. Then I stopped reading. It should never matter how large or small a blogger seems to be–she/he is a person and deserves respect.

    I blog here: http://sarahaskins.com

    • http://www.alise-write.com Alise Wright

      Thanks, Sarah! I think that’s good. Obviously someone who has a huge blog may not be able to respond to every comment, but I do like to see big bloggers still interact with their readers. That makes me feel like they care.

  • http://twitter.com/chicagomama Brenna D

    Happy Blog-oversary! And thank you for not only sharing yourself these past seven years, but by sharing what you’ve learned. Eshet Chayil!

    • http://www.alise-write.com Alise Wright

      Thanks, dear!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=752783805 Suhanti Wisanto

    congrats on seven years. It’s really a good sharing for a new blogger like me. Thanks for the advice. keep writing.

    • http://www.alise-write.com Alise Wright

      Thanks! And good luck to you with blogging! It can be a lot of fun.

  • http://bohemianbowmans.com/ Jessica

    I concur times seven.

    • http://www.alise-write.com Alise Wright

      I’ll take it, especially from a blogging mogul like you!

      • http://bohemianbowmans.com/ Jessica

        Phaw!

  • http://rawfaithrealworld.wordpress.com/ RawFaith

    Congrats! I am so proud of you for taking the risk to share your truth here. I appreciate the people who comment here too. You go girl!

    • http://www.alise-write.com Alise Wright

      Thanks, Linda! I love the folks around here too.

  • Laura Greene

    I often find it hard to blog, almost chore-like, and yet when I do I feel an overwhelming sense of pride in what I’ve done. I love your advice and I will certainly take it all to heart.

    • http://www.alise-write.com Alise Wright

      Thanks, Laura! There’s definitely a good feeling about anything we create.

  • http://www.bethanysuckrow.com/ Bethany Suckrow

    Gosh these are good. Numbers 1 & 2 are the ones I’ve been wrestling with lately, so thank you for giving us permission not to do it the way we feel pressured to. You are awesome. Thanks for sticking around for 7+ years. We love your voice, Alise. :)

    • http://www.alise-write.com Alise Wright

      Thanks for the kind words, Bethany! I think there are things to learn from the really successful bloggers and I don’t want to ignore that advice. But I also think that we do our best work when we do what works for us.

  • http://www.leighkramer.com/ HopefulLeigh

    Congrats on 7 years, Alise! I feel your writing is only getting stronger. Excited to see where you go from here!

    • http://www.alise-write.com Alise Wright

      Thanks, friend! I so appreciate that!

  • http://twitter.com/bodytheology Laura Cavanaugh

    Thanks for the wise advice,Alise. As a new blogger, your words are both encouraging and inspiring. I don’t think have the experience to add to the list, but I would say investing in others is a big part of blogging, which goes right into what you were saying in #7. Looking forward to another 7 years of your unique voice. – Laura

    • http://www.alise-write.com Alise Wright

      Yep, investing in relationships is always good. No matter where you are on your blogging journey, that is great advice. And it’s always good advice in real life.

  • http://www.emergingmummy.com/ Sarah Bessey

    These are all SO RIGHT ON, Alise. We’re blogging birthday buddies, too! My 7 years of blogging was this past July. Whew… people think of blogging as “overnight success” and really, that is so rare, right? Congrats on your success, and your beautiful community here. We love you and YOUR voice so much. xo

    • http://www.alise-write.com Alise Wright

      Thanks, dear one! It’s definitely a long haul, but it’s more fun when you get to do it alongside other talented folks.

  • http://www.inamirrordimly.com/ Ed_Cyzewski

    Number six is great advice. My general rule is to wait two days before writing about any scandal or flap. I either end up writing about something else or at least have enough time to understand things well enough to offer my own take… and to offer it with,hopefully, a little more love. In a sense, number six makes all of the other advice easier to do.

    • http://www.alise-write.com Alise Wright

      I don’t really have any hard and fast rules, but I rarely write about something immediately, mostly because I want to figure out what might be an interesting way to approach it. There’s usually some angle that is worth exploring, but I’m rarely going to see that in the first day.

  • http://howtotalkevangelical.addiezierman.com/ Addie Zierman

    Beautiful post (and thanks for the kind shout-out, friend.) I am very grateful for your voice in the internet. It’s strong and lovely and full of grace. Thank you…and here’s to the next 7!

    • http://www.alise-write.com Alise Wright

      Thanks so much, Addie! So thankful to have met you!

  • http://www.JanetOberholtzer.com Janet Oberholtzer

    Happy 7th Blogiversary!
    Wishing you many more years on the fun roller coaster ride of blogging!

    • http://www.alise-write.com Alise Wright

      It definitely is a roller coaster! And thanks, Janet!

  • http://twitter.com/NinaBadzin Nina Badzin

    I agree with every one of these. From the get go I only blogged once a week. It’s perfect for me, and for my readers too, I think. It seems hard to ask anyone to keep up with more. I also love your point about taking breaks.

    • http://www.alise-write.com Alise Wright

      I think that’s the important thing – just know what works for you. It’s a delicate balance sorting out how to write for our readers (who matter) and writing for ourselves, and that can even come down to things like posting schedules.

  • http://twitter.com/LisaColonDelay Lisa Colón DeLay

    Stellar advice!
    I’ve learned some of these same lessons also…usually the hard way!

    I’m not alone when I say, “I like Alise for being Alise.”

  • Lee Lueck

    Great ideas. Thanks. My husband and I are new to blogging (sketchesandnotes.com – he does the sketches, I write the notes), and I appreciate your encouragement to use my own voice and take my time. (I know there’s a holy connection between the pig butchering I saw last Saturday and the discussion I had Sunday morning on altars, but so far I can’t find the best way to express it.) Taking time also helps me to edit out unnecessary elements. Less is most often more.

    Another point I would add is my need to be patient as we find our focus. Right now we’re posting about all sorts of stuff, and I’m hoping as we continue, our focus will become clearer.

  • http://www.caryncaldwell.com/ Caryn Caldwell

    Great advice! I always struggle with all those “blogging rules” because they don’t fit my style. I much prefer your approach – write what is true to you, on your own timeline, with your voice. That’s what makes a blog unique.

  • http://somuchshoutingsomuchlaughter.com/ suzannah | the smitten word

    you’re a smart lady. seven years! to seven more at least:)

    discovering and writing in your own voice is a tricky thing–but so worth it. what have we to give if not ourselves?

  • Peter Zelinski

    Congratulations, Alise. Seven years is an accomplishment. I have just over 1 year at http://www.peterzelinski.com. The one thing I would add to your list is: Be brief! I don’t believe blog readers engage with a blog the way book readers engage with a book. Many blog posts (including, I realize, many of my own) are too long. You’ve shown one way to address that problem with your own post here … with the way you break your message into seven discrete and very brief sections.

  • Christian Healing Center

    Great suggestions! I always struggle with all those “blogging tips” because they don’t fit my style. Definitely I’ll follow your advice. Have a great day!

    http://www.homeforhealth.net/