Today’s guest article comes from Dan Blank, Founder of WeGrowMedia.com. Dan was one of the people instrumental in helping me turn DIY MFA into what it is today. Dan especially helped me find my direction for DIY MFA and organize the online presence, including the blog.
Dan works with writers at all stages of their writing progress, helping them develop good writing habits and connect with their audience. In the publishing world they call this “building your platform” but I think it’s so much more than that.
The work Dan does is about helping writers create a writing life that incorporates business and marketing, but that’s also sustainable for the long haul. These days, with so many promotional options available and so many things writers “should” be doing, it’s hard for us to comb through it all and zero in on our True North. Instead, many of us try to do everything and end up burning out. This is where Dan comes in. He helps writers home in on those few essential tasks and skills so they can get the most out of social media and other online tools. Today Dan will share his insights on blogging with us and stay tuned because next week we’ll have a video interview with Dan about his take on social media.
Without further ado, here’s Dan Blank. Take it away, Dan!
Recently, social media seems to have stolen the spotlight from blogging. And while I am a huge advocate for writers engaging in social media, today I want to explore the value of blogging to help you improve your craft of writing and grow your audience.
Unlike Tweets, and Pins and status updates, blogs are often built with words. There are so many benefits for a writer to blog, but not all of them are obvious. I have blogged for years, and helped literally hundreds of writers not only get started with blogging, but turn it into the starting point for their writing career. I have found the following four things to be powerful ways that a blog can shape your life as a writer.
Blogging trains you to hit the “publish” button.
It can be hard to fit writing into your everyday life, one filled with other personal and professional obligations. As you explore the craft of writing, you may find that the journey to sharing your work becomes more distant. What you need is to get used to hitting the “publish” button. If you have ever been in a writing group, you have likely seen writers who hide their work from the world in endless rounds of revisions, afraid of ever actually publishing it. When you blog consistently, you slowly wear down the emotional resistance to publishing. You create, you share, you repeat. You build the habit of publishing.
Blogging makes you focus not just on writing, but on getting read.
When you consistently publish work, your attention shifts from not just expressing ideas, but ensuring they are heard. Blogging is inherently about communication. When you only wait for a big book launch to get feedback from readers, you are likely missing opportunities. By sharing smaller pieces of writing consistently, you learn how to connect with readers, and what they react to. Being heard is a skill that you develop, and I have found no better way for writers to consider the interests and needs of readers than by blogging.
Blogging gives readers more ways to connect with you.
When you consistently engage with a blog, you provide so many more touchpoints to connect with potential readers. Have you ever chatted with a bookstore owner, and found that you shared an interest in a certain genre of books, or a certain breed of cat, or both loved the same TV show? And then the next time you saw them, you felt they were more a friend than a stranger, even if they haven’t read your writing? A blog does the same thing with potential readers. They are able to find new connections with you. Give people a way in to your creative world as someone they can connect with, not just a book they can buy.
Blogging builds the habit of writing.
When you blog, you live the life of a writer. A writer writes. The trick here though, is not just to write, but to let the world know that you write. Too many writers hide away, and resist that identity. When their book is eventually released, and they announce to the world that they are indeed a writer, they feel like a kid sitting at the grown-ups table for the first time. Blogging allows you to proclaim that you are indeed a writer, and do so in the best way possible: by sharing your writing every week.
I believe in blogging because I have seen it help writers again and again, oftentimes becoming the driving force for growing their audience. In his book Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell talked about the 10,000 hours that someone needs to devote to any craft in order to master it. Inherent in this is the mundane task of establishing daily habits. What I love about blogging for writers is that it speaks to both sides of what you hope to achieve:
- Master the craft of writing, by doing it consistently.
- Master the craft of connecting with readers, by constantly understanding what engages them.
Finally, blogging in and of itself becomes a body of work, something that shares your journey as a writer, and provides nearly infinite ways to consider not just what you write, but why people will read it.
Dan Blank is the founder of WeGrowMedia.com, which provides writers and publishers the strategy and tactics they need to impact their communities and build their legacies.
He has worked with more than 500 writers, a wide range of publishers, and regularly speaks at conferences about branding, content strategy, social media, and marketing.
His new book A Writer’s Guide to Blogging is available at the We Grow Media website.