I have been asked several times this past year for blogging and writing advice. I have been an active blogger since 2005, and while I am no expert, surely this means I am at least experienced. So I want to spend a few posts and explore and explain what I have learned as I’ve attempted to communicate with others through this medium. Let me start with how it all began.
My blogging story – I began blogging very innocently, not knowing at all what I was doing and with no expectations or aspirations. We were getting ready to leave for Germany as student workers with the IMB and I wanted to keep my mom updated on what we were doing. That was pretty much it. My first blog Beyond the Water’s Edge, began as a travelogue, with stories and pictures of our adventures. It was a way for me to record and share the amazing life we were living. Then, along the way, I realized there were a lot of people reading, including our students. As our journey grew from just living in another country to experiencing God deeply in our context, what I wrote about began to morph. I mixed telling stories with linking those stories to universally understood connecting truths and their spiritual underpinnings. Basically, I started writing about where God and His truth was meeting my life. I got bit by the blogging bug and have been hooked since.
When we returned home after several years overseas and with another baby in tow, my mom suddenly died. With so many changes in my life all at once, it seemed like a good time to transition to a new blog. I began What Box? with the tag line, “There’s nothing wrong with boxes. I just don’t always see them.” Those who know me catch the inside joke about my unorthodox approach to life and stuff. Looking back, this was a transitional blog (and time of life) for me. I still used it to update folks on our lives, but I also began exploring writing about deeper, spiritual themes.
Then, my life sort of fell apart. We had been in the process of trying to return to Europe when family responsibilities here made that impossible. I was heartbroken. In the fall of 2009, I traveled to Norway to visit a friend and say goodbye to the life I thought I was going to get. I needed some time to walk the streets there and to give God a chance to speak to me about what was next. To my surprise, He spoke quite clearly. He said, “Create. Something. And put it in my hands.” It was obvious I was to start a new blog, to begin the process of creating and being creative and offer it to Him. When I got home, I sat in front of my computer for about 3 weeks straight and the first 6-9 months of this blog popped out. I haven’t stopped writing since.
As I look at the tone and topics I write about now, it follows a trajectory I’ve been on for several years. I’ve found a writing voice, a style and a niche that totally works for me.
What are some of the higher level lessons have I learned as a result of this journey? My thoughts will begin in this entry and continue weekly for a while…
1. Writing something is better than writing nothing. Pr. 25:14 says, ” Like clouds and wind without rain is a man who boasts of gifts he does not give.” One thing I know about the creative process is that if you don’t create something, you create nothing. And you don’t improve without creating something. It is sort of like the saying, “God can’t steer a parked car.” I look back at some of my early writing and it was pretty ugly. But I wrote it, learned from it and still have the record of what I did, was thinking, experiencing at the time. And I know something of how my stories have influenced others. As ugly as it might have been, it is still better than if I had created nothing. Lots of people think about doing something and never get around to it. If you are thinking about blogging or writing but aren’t sure of the details of what you want to write, just get started with something. Even writing about nothing is better than not writing at all. Because…
2. The only way to improve as a writer is by writing. Writing ability is like a muscle and it only gets stronger with exercise. I would encourage anyone who wants to improve to set goals for yourself like writing so many words a day, or writing so many days a week or establishing a posting schedule for your blog to force yourself to write regularly. It may start out rather rough. But it is a start – and putting one foot in front of the other is the only way to make progress.