I’ve considered myself a reader my entire life.
I distinctly remember reading an entire chapter book during a 45-minute “silent reading” time in 2nd grade, to the complete bewilderment of my teacher.
I considered myself a reader throughout high school, even though reading the novels assigned to the class was more of a chore than a pastime.
I considered myself a reader throughout college and my first years of full-time work, even though I rarely got the time to read anything – for pleasure or for enlightenment.
Now, as a freelance writer, I’m incredibly excited with the idea that reading is an incredibly large part of developing as a professional. I feel like the guy in that episode of the Twilight Zone who finally has time to read everything he’s always wanted.
Perhaps the best part about reading being a necessity is the usability of everything I’ll ever read for the rest of my life. As a writer, every single thing I read has the potential to be a springboard for a blog post or thinkpiece. As long as what I’m reading generates a reaction or response within my mind, I’ve provided myself with more material to cover in my writing. Pretty sweet deal!
So it makes sense that, for day three of the Daily Post’s Blogging 101 course, we were tasked with discovering some new blogs to follow. I decided to seek out blogs that would fulfill one (or more) of the following criteria:
- It would expand my horizons, or was otherwise outside my normal range of interest
- It would expand my skills as a blogger and writer
- It would build camaraderie with other bloggers
Outside of My Wheelhouse
So many people operate with the idea that they know what they like, and so they never stray from their interests. Why waste time engaged in some activity that doesn’t interest you, right?
I’m sure you understand how silly this line of thinking is.
I recently listened to a friend poke fun at a guy he knows for going to a painting class with his wife. As if, because painting doesn’t interest him at all, it’s completely baffling to him that someone else would actually enjoy it.
Sure, if I were to bet on it, I’d imagine the man in question went to the class because his wife wanted to do it. I doubt it was his idea. But I’d also bet that, once he was there, he actually had a pretty good time, and he and his wife created a physical monument to a memory they’ll share for the rest of their life. And who knows? Maybe this guy hated every second of it, and will never paint again. But maybe, after trying it for the first time since grade school, he actually enjoyed himself, and will continue to pursue art as a hobby.
So what’s all this have to do with my writing?
I’ll be candid here: If it weren’t for this assignment given by the Daily Post, I would never have read the article I just read by Claire Vaye Watkins. On Pandering describes Watkins’ experience with a well-known author that…doesn’t quite turn out how she expected. Her meeting with the author, and his subsequent written account of the encounter, opens Watkins’ eyes to the reality that we all hold certain prejudices, and we too often don’t even realize it.
Could this article have reached me at any better time? The point of the exercise was to expand my horizons. In doing so, I found an article that specifically discusses the pitfalls of seeing from only one perspective and allowing your own experiences to blind you to the overall picture you could be seeing.
There is so much to experience in this world. Why shut out something because you don’t know if you’ll enjoy it?
I’ll be the first to admit that I have a lot of work to do to become a more successful blogger and writer. Luckily for me, there are hundreds of amazing resources out there to help me improve.
But for this exercise, I came across two articles from separate blogs which offered lessons that I will definitely keep in mind throughout my blogging journey. While the sites discussed above offer specific tactics and actions to take to improve your blogging skills, the following articles were more geared toward the overall outlook and lifestyle of an Internet-based writer.
In Defense of Academic Writing, posted on the Judgmental Observer, discusses in great detail the idea that, in a (virtual) land ruled by listicles and short-sighted (or grossly misinformed) op-ed pieces, longform academic writing is more important than ever.
If you’ve checked out the rest of my blog, you’ll likely recall my inaugural post, Making the Transition from Academia to Creating Valuable Content. In hindsight, that title is pretty misleading. In no way did I mean to say that academic writing isn’t valuable – it is. I guess, at the time of writing that first post, I had fallen into the trap of black-and-white thinking. What I learned from the Judgmental Observer is there is a time and place for quick-hitting content that gets right to the point, and there is also a time for the longer, more “unpacked” longform articles that truly get to the heart of a more nuanced matter. There’s no reason both can’t coexist.
I also checked out an interview with writer Alec Nevala-Lee by Cheri Lucas Rowlands. Nevala-Lee offers tidbits on how writing at least 500 words each day for a blog post (on top of his other writings) has kept him disciplined, focused, and proud of his work. He discusses how his blog evolved as it grew, how he used old posts to discover new ideas to write about, and how certain “behind-the-scenes” aspects of blogging (such as formatting) constantly come into play.
Not only was this article a great one to have read for this exercise because it gave insight into Nevala-Lee’s inner workings, but it also shed light on another aspect of writing which I’ve yet to delve into: creating interviews. Rowlands created questions for Nevala-Lee that anticipated answers and flowed into one another. They certainly weren’t robotic, but they weren’t overly conversational, either. Rowlands clearly knew just enough about her subject to be able to ask questions that would elicit meaningful responses.
When conducting interviews, keep in mind that everyone on this Earth has a lot to say. You just need to ask the right questions.
Getting in With the Blogging Community
One of the most rewarding parts of working through the Daily Post’s course is hearing from other bloggers who are either just getting started or aiming to take their blog to the next level. It hasn’t even been a full week and I’ve already met some awesome people to share ideas with!
But this isn’t a one-way street. I can’t just post up a blog and watch the comments roll in. I mean, I guess I can…but what’s the fun in that?
So I set out to read at least one article this morning with the sole purpose of posting a meaningful comment to the author. Appropriately enough, I found an article titled Writing is My “Real” Job, written by Jamie Lee Wallace for Live to Write – Write to Live.
Wallace discusses the notion of calling yourself a writer, even if it’s not your full-time gig. What you “are” or what you “do” shouldn’t just refer to your 9-to-5 job; it should refer to your pastime, your passion, your calling.
I’ll let Wallace explain the rest, since she does such an amazing job of doing so. For the purpose of this post, I’ll just say that her words conjured up a ton of ideas in my own mind, some of which I shared with her in the comment section.
And, awesomely enough, she replied to me within an hour! What could have been a one-off, faceless interaction consisting of me reading her article and moving on with my life will likely now lead to much more. I’ll be sure to check out her other posts, and will also likely become a “regular” commenter on Live to Write – Write to Live. By taking the initial step of commenting on one article, I may have opened a door to a potentially long-standing professional relationship with the variety of writers the blog has to offer.
All it took was one comment.
With millions of ideas being transmitted worldwide on a daily basis, the sheer volume of knowledge and information available to us all is unfathomable. As a writer, why would you not read as much as you possibly can?