Virtual Brilliance: How To Write A Blog Post (That Doesn’t Suck)

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A Professional Writer’s Tips for Quality Blogging

We moved out of the caves, we killed all the dragons, we have electric can-openers.

We’ve arrived: we have The Internet.

Now anyone can publish a blog, a book, white paper, podcast, and get it out there. We can all taste the delights of being ‘a writer’ (whatever that means), one of those rich and clever people who make the books we see everywhere. Wonderful!

With one problem. No more than maybe 1 in 20 internet writers can actually write.

Beloved brethren of the Earth and of the keyboard – allow me to impart some tough love.

A list of your breakfast items; top 237 recommended activities to do in Bangkok (available from any guidebook, written by better writers); or soulless ‘top ten tips’ for attracting more business, lifted from someone else’s website and ploddingly rejigged with disdainful ennui – these things add as much enjoyable value to the human thought-pool as a fart in a crowded lift.

And, dear bloggers, an inarticulate and bitchy analysis of the “funny way” your girlfriend looked at your friend, then went to Pizza Hut and didn’t reply to your texts for 2 hours (and you have the ‘flu’, your left knee feels weird, and now your ‘phone battery has died)… this may be mesmerising for you and scratch some dull itch on the periphery of half-arsed existential query, but it adds to the world not a jot.

The central consciousness of our distracted and misled species is clouded with toxic detritus. You are not addressing it, you are adding to it.

But fear not! With the following tips, this odd person you have never met and who uses the word ‘ennui’ will now put all that badness to bed, and guide your dreams so that your pen-hand wakes up tomorrow aggressively sentient, and as fertile as a fothermucking randy Chihuahua. And with a bit of luck, you’ll be one of the 1 in 20.

Talk Rubbish

An accomplished writer has both the confidence and the ability, to employ the art of relaxed play in his writing. To loll about, for an acceptable period, in his own reverie. He can mention dragons in a respectable internet writing guide. He can give risky and slightly misleading subtitles to its advice segments because it amuses him, and so will likely amuse others too.

He can say “didoodoodoo” if he damn well wants. If it’s good enough for The Police, it’s good enough for me. After all, we are but children of various ages. Show me an ‘adult’ who doesn’t long for occasional constructive nonsense to ease the flow of a potentially dry topic, and I’ll admit I’ve got it all wrong and run naked through the woods (again) to press the reset button.

The prose’s proving is in the stamina of the readability, not the impressive poetry or complex technical correctness of every sentence.

But – linger too long in the formless void, and you’ve lost the reader. If you do not consider an alienated or bored reader, that is exactly what you shall have. And if the colourful tangent is too irrelevant to the writing’s comprehensive aim, or too self-absorbed, it’s also bye bye Mister Readingman. Employ well-placed illustrative or restful diversions, and don’t let them drag on.

Laugh or Die

Please, if you are a person who still believes that others absorb facts better – or will continue to volunteer their time to your writing – without the medium ever being funny, kindly return to the teacher’s desk of my Catholic secondary school business studies class where you belong, and die.

With such a dry and lightless approach to life, death will surely be merciful and swift.

I assume you are above such an archaic and hideous misconception, so shall continue without issuing further wishes of corporeal destruction.

We all know there is disturbing darkness in the world – some people sell films of themselves stamping on puppies’ heads for God’s sake. So if a piece of writing requires you to embrace a meaty issue, do so head on, then get the hell out of there before it sucks you – and all who look upon it – limp. Then, after not too long a wait, do your utmost to flush the paragraph with laughter, that warmest of temperers.

Strive to exist in that beautiful pendulum rhythm, swinging balanced between the exhilaratingly thought-provoking, and the refreshingly mindless and amusing. This can be applied to everything from a blog on our approach to business, to a romantic novel.

Reward Strangers

Why would anyone read your blog? Why would any human read any writing? Because they want something, or need something. We externalise our inspiration, our therapy, our entertainment, even our introspection. We often look to others to think for us. If you do not provide these humble seekers with some sustenance, you have done them a disservice.

If you write for yourself, put it in a private diary. That’s what it’s for. But if you’re publishing in a public blog, you are stating that what you have to say is of value, and asking for interaction with strangers, including feedback on this value. If you have not considered those strangers, not given them something from the heart that adds something to their life, don’t be surprised if you’re shot down as a waste of good reading time. “I’d rather nail my eyelid to a moving train than read another post from this cheese-dick”, or words to that effect. And you’d deserve it.

The already savage world of internet comments is bursting to tear even half-decent writers to shreds. People are often merciless when they know they’re anonymous.

Compromise

No artist is utterly, unreservedly proud of their work. If they are, they’re probably not very good. Mama’s vegetable soup was a profound metaphysical experience. It was so good it made me smile. Something about it – beyond its organic, untainted, skilfully handpicked ingredients – made it exhilarating. Maybe it tasted of love.

But every time she made it, Mama would – without exception – denounce it as “too sweet”, “too creamy”, “too bland”, “too green”, “too…  carroty”. Yet she served it up, much to my pleasure. She was a culinary genius.

Any writer worth their weight in pen nibs will share this healthy self-depreciation. Given a chance, a great writer will quickly decompose into a twitching neurotic mess of doubt and infinite re-edits, locked alone in a darkened room, aching and dribbling for an hour over which is the most complimentary adverb.

But the divine vegetable soup must be served. It’s good. It might not be perfect, but people like it.

So just do a good, solid, proofread job, with heart and with humour; swallow; and get it out there. You don’t have time to achieve the ultimate prose. It’s probably impossible anyway. Yes, you have a responsibility to spread quality, but you also – if you’re any good – have a responsibility just to spread. Better something you’re 80% happy with than nothing at all.

Leo Jux is a more-or-less upright Homo sapiens. He travels the world with his lady and a succession of orphaned animals, engaging in eating, looking, feeling and existential query. He is also a freelance writer and editor and has been an advisor to the BBC and various charities.