Thursday, August 19, 2010

The One Thing Your Blog Must Do

I see a lot of postings, linked from Twitter and elsewhere, about the Five Things Your Blog Must Do or the Twelve Things Your Blog Must Contain or the Ninety-Eight-Point-Six Things that Every Blog Must Have. The ones I’ve read are not bad advice per se, but I find that every single one of them misses what I consider to be the sine qua non, the raison d’ĂȘtre, the single absolute imperative that simply must be reflected in your blog and in every post you make to it:

It’s Gotta
Make You Happy

That’s it. That’s the single thing that your blog must do.

It may do other things, too—inform, entertain, infuriate, I don’t care. But, again, whatever other things it might do all point back to the prime directive: It has to please you.

Everything I read on the subject of blogging is geared toward maximizing the number of readers—or, more correctly, hits. It’s all about traffic; it’s all about counting beans, or eyeballs. There’s nothing intrinsically wrong with that—and let’s not kid ourselves: visits to this little blog of mine typically number in the double digits, every so often in the low triples, and I’ve never made a dime from it, so if a big fan base and/or money is your blogging goal, we may well be talking past each other here. But I have always maintained, in the books and stories I have written as well as my various fledgling online excursions, that, well, it’s all about me. If I like what I’m doing, there’s a better than even chance that someone else will, too.

But if I don’t like what I’m doing—if I’m writing for The Market or The Demographic or The Least Common Denominator—I’m convinced that that always shows through and that the reader will pick up on the cynicism of it, sooner or later (probably sooner), at which point he or she will prove to have exactly the same low level of interest in the undertaking as you have, and move along.

The great John D. MacDonald once said, “My purpose is to entertain myself first and other people secondly.” In my previous house, I had that quotation pinned over my writing desk. I consider it the single most important piece of writing advice I’ve ever encountered.

I would rather be read by a smaller number of people who enjoy what I’m doing (for the most part: they can’t all be gems) because they know that I enjoy it.

But of course that’s just me, and I have never claimed to march to any well-known drum beat.

I recommend you find your own beat and march to that. Some will follow, some not. But I think you’ll find the march more enriching.

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