Last Friday, I asked you who’s in your blog reader.
A lot of you shared a lot of blogs. Blogs that make you laugh, cry, inspire you. Even some blogs that you look up to as bloggers.
I call those the “Blog Idols.”
Those are the blogs you wish you were writing. They give you something to look up to. But looking up to blog idols often leads to blog envy, and then blog insecurity. Suddenly, you’re not just enjoying a quality blog. You’re cursing the heavens, wondering why you can’t write a blog as good as that one. It’s really something everyone does whether they blog or not. Why can’t I be as tall as that guy? Why can’t I make as much money as that person? Why can’t I have a body like hers? Why can’t my wife have a body like hers? Why can’t my kids be as above-average as those kids? People are never happy with what they have. So even if you don’t blog, listen up.
Speaking of blog idols, I just have to share with you one of my highlights at Catalyst was getting my copy of Anne Jackson’s Permission to Speak Freely autographed by Jon Acuff…and then Anne Jackson. Opening bids on eBay are $375, with all of the proceeds benefiting me.
The idea of “blog idols” was brought up by commenter Sonny last Friday, and it’s something I know well. For a long time, I read the “big boy” blogs, the blogs that everyone read. It was depressing. I’d come back to my humble blog and wish upon a shining pixel that Jeff, the patron saint of blogging, would sprinkle the same magick silicon fairy dust on my blog. (Notice I spelled it “magick,” to show you how serious I was. None of that fake Disney Tinkerbell magic.) Failing that, perhaps I could steal the identity of my favorite blogger, commandeer their online persona, and then I would be happy, and all will be right with the world.
But of course, neither of those things have happened…yet. Rather than getting down on yourself for not writing a blog that’s as good as your favorite blog, here’s what I suggest.
Three Things for Blog Idolators to Do
Write a Better Blog
That makes me smile just to write that. Note to self: be more talented.
Seriously, everyone’s got room for improvement. So look at what makes your favorite blogs good, and learn from them. Don’t moan and wail that you can’t write like someone else. Just pick out what it is that makes you connect with that blog, and use it. Looking back on what I was writing a year ago, I can’t believe anyone was reading that garbage. But even a perfect person like me can become perfecter. I thought I was writing brilliant stuff when I first started…well, maybe not brilliant, but at least decent. Now I can’t read my posts that are over a year old without dry heaving.
It’s the same with everything. Fashions change, opinions and knowledge changes, and everyone dry heaves while looking at old photos of themselves.
I’m going to spend a post talking about how to improve your blog’s content, but for now the lesson is to just promise yourself that you’re going to get better with practice.
Don’t Try to Write Someone Else’s Blog
When I say “learn” from someone else, we all know that “learning” doesn’t mean copying. That’s just being a cheat.
It’s pretty lame to write a copycat blog. Do you want to be the generic “Always Save” version of your favorite blog? Do you want to be the cheap knock-off brand with the garish label and the ridiculous name that people know isn’t as good, but they’ll buy it when the church is doing a canned food drive because they assume poor people won’t be able to tell the difference? Because that’s what copying makes you…a big yellow bag of “Fruity Hoops” with a frightening and soulless cartoon character on the label. I guarantee that you won’t be as good as the person you’re emulating. Every once in a while, I’ll come across a blog that’s obviously riding the coattails of a much better endowed blog, and it’s just obvious that the author is compensating for his own inadequacy.
Look, you’re the only person who is you, and you have interesting things to say. So say them! I can’t tell your stories. Don’t deprive us of yourself because you’re too busy emulating someone else.
Talking about “success” in blogging kind of grinds my gears. It makes blogging feel like a corporate enterprise. But, blogs are maturing as a mainstream medium, so I guess we have to talk about it.
There will always be people who are better than you, write a sexier blog than you, and have a sexier visitor count than you. Equally frustrating is the fact that there are a ton of blogs whose authors seem to put next to no effort, and yet they inexplicably have a million zillion visitors. They’re like the Paris Hiltons of blogging. No one knows why they’re famous, except for being famous. I read blogs that the author could not have spent more than ten minutes on, and they have a trillion comments. You read some of these blogs too. It grinds my gears. But I have to get over that. I can’t slack off and have that success. I have to work hard and take what I get.
Besides that, you should just know that the internet is huge, but you’re competing for a very small piece of it. The fact that my numbers can be where they are, and I’m within striking distance of the most popular Christian blogs says to me that it’s a very small pie to begin with. On the other hand, the fact that there is such a huge gap between me and the top also indicates that for most of us, the pie is very small. If Tim Challies’ blog is Wal-Mart, then I’m the crappy little hardware store down the street. Most people are just going to keep going to Wal-Mart.
Your success isn’t going to look like someone else’s. When you define success as “beating” someone else, you’re going to fail. When you define success as improving your craft, you always win.
All right, fess up. Whose blogs do you idolize? Who writes the blogs you wish you were writing? What does “successful” blogging look like to you? Have you looked back recently on what you were writing a year, or even a month ago?