George V. Reilly

On Blogging

Blogging: An Extension of Craft

Blogging has been on my mind lately, as I’ve just set up an en­gi­neer­ing blog at work.

I gave a speech about blogging earlier tonight to my club, Freely Speaking Toast­mas­ters. I no longer write speeches be­fore­hand; I ex­tem­po­rized my speech from a mindmap that I had prepared yesterday. This post is a more coherent and expanded rendition of my points.

As Toast­mas­ters, we give speeches about topics that interest us, when we want to share or inform or entertain. A live, in-person speech reaches a direct audience at one point in time. A written blog post can reach a much larger audience. Toast­mas­ters have something to say, whether in person or in print.

A blog can be a personal soapbox, allowing us to talk to people around the world. Not so many years ago, the best that most of us could hope for would be to send out a badly mimeo­graphed newsletter at in­ter­mit­tent intervals. The select few might have a newspaper column or have written some books. Little dialog was possible with the audience.

A blog allows us to build personal or pro­fes­sion­al brands. A blog lets us air our political views, show off our knowledge, teach some hard-won skill, expound upon our insights, inspire others, share stories about our family, fight for a cause, build an audience for our business, chat about our hobbies, talk about our travels, journal our lives—or many other purposes.

Writing a blog forces us to write, to clarify our thinking, and to craft our words. It imposes discipline upon us, especially if we post regularly. Writing is com­ple­men­tary to speaking.

Writing can help us build an audience and a network. A blog can serve as a résumé.

A few bloggers—a very few—make sig­nif­i­cant income from blogging, though most seem to be little better than multilevel marketing. "Pay $39.95 for my book on blogging secrets!", where the secret is to sell books on blogging for $39.95.

Some writers, like John Scalzi and Charlie Stross, not content with writing best-selling books, also write popular blogs with sig­nif­i­cant com­mu­ni­ties. These blogs un­doubt­ed­ly help sell their authors’ books, but they also provide another outlet for their thoughts.

I contribute to three blogs: my personal blog (this one), where I write about whatever strikes my fancy: politics, technology, book reviews, pho­tog­ra­phy, travel, etc; my technical blog; and the new en­gi­neer­ing blog at work. I also set up another en­gi­neer­ing blog at my previous job. The en­gi­neer­ing blogs provide a forum for the en­gi­neer­ing teams to talk about technology, to give back by sharing knowledge, to hone writing skills, to improve the writers’ personal brands, and to tacitly recruit other engineers.

Find something you want to write about—be it your travels, your business, your cancer, your favorite TV show, your hob­bies—and start writing. Keep a notebook and jot down potential topics as they come to you. (I give the same advice about making speeches.)

To get started on your own blog, try out one of the free services, like Tumblr, Blogger, or WordPress. Choose a theme that reflects your style and per­son­al­i­ty. Write a few posts.

If you like blogging, register your own domain name, like georgevreil­ly.com or joeys­jaun­tyjin­gles.net. This will give you more presence. If you ever decide to move to a different blogging platform, migration will be simpler if neither the domain nor the blog post links change. Consider paying someone to host your blog.

Don’t paralyze yourself over­think­ing the blog. Get started and write something.

Everybody has something to say, both in speech and in writing.

Some further reading:

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