As many of you know, I am relatively new to the blogging community. Though I have been writing for years, I am entering my 5th month as an official “blogger.” It’s been a fun experience and to my surprise, I have received a good bit of feedback (over 450 comments) on the 61 posts I have written thus far. (As an aside, writers LOVE feedback. If you “like” what you read, let us know. If you have time to leave a comment, please do! If you think others need to read what we have written, forward it on! Writing is a very personal art form and since we are putting ourselves “out there”, we love to know it is being read/received, appreciated, etc.)
I seem to get asked a lot of the same questions by readers of my blog. Whether they know me personally or not, the following questions are consistently reoccurring so I thought I would just answer them in this medium, once and for all.
Q: How do you come up with your blog ideas? It really varies. I have received “inspiration” while driving. Sometimes a conversation with a friend or family member sparks an idea. Other times, a comment made during a sermon will get me thinking. Or a song lyric. Or something I read from a book. Or something that happens in my week. Since I have a difficult time turning off my brain, ideas come at all hours. I have even awoken from a vivid dream to write down a blog idea. I always have a pen and paper nearby so I can jot down the idea and remember it for later. Though some ideas get tossed, most ideas eventually turn into something you read.
Q: How long does it take to write one of your blogs? That really depends too. There are some that take months for me to finish. I might get the idea, jot down a few bullet points but then save it for another time. Other blogs take an hour or two. The most popular blog I have written was finished in 90 minutes.
Q: How many people read your blog? One of the most fun things about writing a blog is how you can see the stats of your readers. While it doesn’t tell me where you live (exactly) or even reveal your IP address, I can tell how many are reading each particular page. I can even see what countries are accessing my blog. At this point, over 31,000 have read my blog in 113 countries. I also have over 800 that subscribe to my RSS feed. By contrast, only 154 have “liked” my Facebook fan page, “Rod Arters, Writer“. The numbers matter to me for one important reason, my future conversation with publishers. Publishers like to see if you can attract large numbers of readers as that can translate (one day) into more sales for them. So, every time you forward my blog to others or endorse it on your Facebook page, it helps that readership grow! Thank you!!
Q: How does everyone learn of your blog? Some people see it from one of my personal Facebook page updates. If they aren’t signed up to receive it via email when it publishes, most people see it after it was forwarded to them by a co-worker, friend, relative.
Q: What is the most popular blog you have written? “The Dark Knight Rises Indeed” based on the movie massacre tragedy in Aurora, Colorado a few months ago.
Q: How do you organize your thoughts or decide how to word it? I don’t know how to answer this question other than to say – it just comes to me. I really don’t spend a lot of time wrestling with the order (or flow) of the blog. I begin writing and it comes. When the flow stops, I stop. Sometimes I’ll stop for a minute. Other times, I’ll stop for weeks. It really just depends on the thought process and the time I have allotted to sit in front of a computer and type. Some blog ideas (like when I address a current event), I make it a point to finish in a 24 hour period. The other blogs that are not time-sensitive, I generally take my time with.
Q: Why don’t you write a book? I’m actually working on a few book ideas. In fact, many of the individual blog posts you read will one day, Lord willing, turn into chapters of a future book. Though I intend to be published one day (in book form, not merely magazine columns), I am also trying not to rush the process. Writing is an outlet for me and I would love to do it full-time one day.
Q: How many blogs do you write at the same time? I probably work on four or five at a time until one becomes ready to publish. Right now I have over 35 articles sitting in my WordPress draft folder. I also have another 100 or so on my computer at various stages of progress. I have at least 50 previously published articles when I was writing for a magazine column that I have not transferred to this current blog. So, I’m not short on material. I’m only short on time.
Q: How do you handle the negative comments you receive? Any time you do anything “public”, you run the risk of someone not liking your work. When I address some controversial subjects (like abortion, politics, religion, etc) I expect opposition. I have learned to take criticism seriously but not necessarily personally. I realize that I can learn from every critic and I try to really understand someone’s point of view before writing off their complaint. St Francis of Assisi (11th century Catholic monk) once said, “Seek first to understand, then be understood.” I have really tried to do this with every person who has ever disagreed with me. Fortunately, I don’t receive a lot of negative feedback. As a general rule of thumb, I try to respond to every comment made – even if it is in disagreement to what I wrote.
Q: What is the hardest part about writing a blog? Figuring out how to communicate what I want in a way that is honest, clear and graceful. I really have to make sure that each word and sentence is understandable and furthers the overall theme of that particular blog post. The most frustrating aspect is when I have to “nuance” a sentence and add so many disclaimers so that the reader will truly understand what I am trying to say. So many people are easily offended and can misinterpret an entire thought because I chose the wrong word or wasn’t clear enough in a certain sentence. Also, sometimes I use a dry, sarcastic sense of humor in my blog post and that is not always easily conveyed, particularly if the reader does not know me.
Q: What is the best part about writing a blog? Without doubt, the stories that come from all over the country of how my blog is making a difference in people’s lives. People I have never met are telling me they feel closer to God because of my blogs. Others are challenged to consider a different viewpoint on a particular subject. I have had Pastors tell me that my material has been used from their pulpit and in their Sunday School classrooms. I had an organization recently ask for permission to use a particular blog entry in an upcoming fundraising banquet. I started writing as an outlet for me. Any benefit beyond that is a blessing I never aimed for or anticipated.
As a blogger, I try to put out fresh content two to three times a week. As per my mission statement, I aim for thought-provoking content as I attempt to talk about life, mistakes, faith, hope and grace. My ideas for a blog begin in my head and travel down to my heart where I dip it in experience. Once dipped, I strain the thoughts and experience through the sieve of Scripture to make sure that only truth comes out on “paper.” Then I arrange and rearrange words for clarity and impact and sit on it for an hour, day or week. Like an artist reviewing his work, I will read and re-read a particular blog post 10 to 15 times to make sure it says what I want it to say and in a way I want to say it. As I read, I do so with the broadest spectrum of an audience in mind. How would a teenager read this? Could he understand it? How would an atheist read this? Is it written in such a way that he could relate to it? Though I am a Christian, I do not want to write in Christianese, a language I am fluent in. Will this post unnecessarily offend someone? Is there anything in here I will regret saying? The internet is a powerful medium but it can be an unforgiving one too as Google tends to remember every syllable you ever write.
There may be other questions that arise but these are the main ones I seem to answer more frequently than others. If you are still reading at this point, thank you! Your consistent reading and following of my blog means a lot to me. I have a few coming soon that I think you will really enjoy!
– Rod Arters