The blog formula

Filed under ramblings • Tagged: Ramblings

I have to say, there are a lot of duplicate blogs out there. I don’t mean they are being copied and pasted, but they do seem to be written according to the same formula.

The language and voice is overly-friendly and ‘yo’ and ‘heya’ and here’s 27 different pictures of me. The blog posts themselves seem to cover all the same topics, just in a slightly different voice, according to who actually wrote it. But really, anyone could have written it.

It’s as if a bot had been trained to talk about the same topics in a totally unobjectionable faux-upbeat attitude. A thousand blogs saying the same things. Nothing unique, no interesting questions. No style, no punch. Timid and tame.

The way the paragraphs are put together, the headlines—it’s formulaic and predictable. How to grow your audience, meditation tips, my strategy for instagram, my fitness journey, my mental health journey. The topics are evergreen, but the actual content is shallow. Just endless sentences strung together.

It made me realise that I care deeply about words and sentences. I am more allied to the craft of writing, than the activity of blogging.

As more and more people share their words with the world, there is an even greater need for people who can write well and tell the important stories, rather than recycling the same information with different headlines. I agree with my colleague Dumbledore that words are our most inexhaustible source of magic.

There is also a kind of rulebook that goes with these kinds of blogs: about targeting your content to your reader, the basic kinds of add-ons you have to setup, how to do social media. Again, it prioritises the process of publishing over the content itself.

The content itself gets a secondary mention as “original content”—literally just fuel for a search engine. That’s its function.

Did good writers of the past really do any of this? Is there still a place for good writers?

As I read the same recycled tips and guides, I wonder how much it would cripple the blog to ignore them and do what I want—to go further in the direction that is most like me. Less gimmicky headlines, doing as little social media as possible. Writing with real originality and depth on the same topics that are usually covered at such a superficial level.

That’s the point—these tips are practical. They are not about good writing, they are about building a platform. And I do want to build that. But I think I can balance things better.

I look to sites like Brain Pickings and The School of Life and wait but why. They are strong exceptions to the rules. Their content is so wildly refreshing, compared to your average blogger.

I do think the rebrand, the incorporation of the Greek element, could be a big differentiator. Starting with wholeness. That is radically different. But there is of course the need to make it accessible.

It’s an ongoing experiment. I finished my blog goals and rituals yesterday—I’ll share them soon. Needless to say, I want to get more systematic about some parts of the blogging process, and automate the drudge.

I think some other blogs actually do themselves a disservice by writing 100 guides on important topics. It’s overwhelming. If it’s that important and your guide is so good, why are there 4 different variations? Where do I even start?

My growth strategy at the moment could be summed up as:

All the other cruft that comes with the job repels me, but I will do what I need to do, and see what actually works.

Oh, and I am going to get the whiteboard up and running again. I am still struggling to stay on top of drafts and dedicating to publishing certain pieces on certain days. I hope the kanban layout will help with that.

The main issue is to keep momentum and schedule the release of new ideas. Otherwise they get started and then there is this deep ickiness at going back and finishing them. On that front, I also need to be less afraid of binning ideas that just don’t sound as good as when they first popped up.

I will crack this. But I will not dilute everything in the process.

—Dan Bartlett
10 Oct 2018

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