I’ve been associated with a group of writers in Huntsville for a few months now, the Rocket City Bloggers. Now before I say anything else, allow me to make a confession: I didn’t always consider bloggers to be writers. In fact, I even hesitated (yet only for a few moments) to use the term writers in the first sentence of this paragraph. Old habits die hard. Fortunately, I snapped back to sanity and let the term remain.
The term bloggers often conjures legions of wannabe writers, many of them really bad writers, posting like, um, really really mundane, like, stuff — stuff that very few besides themselves and perhaps some very close friends and family would want to spend time reading. Of course, this view of bloggers has altered somewhat — quite a bit actually — though there are still many who misperceive the efforts of some very diligent bloggers out there in what we bloggers refer to as the blogosphere.
The activity of blogging has been around for well over a decade now. At first, it wasn’t referred to as blogging; it was simply categorized as personal websites or online journals until enough people began recognizing common characteristics of these particular forms of web properties and began referring to them as web logs. Soon after, the term web log — as happens with many online activities — was shortened to simply blog.
Even with the new moniker blogs still largely remained the province of a few select tech/geek writers, tweens, and teenagers posting mainly to keep their peers informed of their activities. As the popularity of blogs grew, marketers jumped in and posted and pitched their product(s) mainly by including more advertisements than useful or well-constructed content. When the media noticed the rise of blogging, they typically described blogs in the way they initially described (and still do on occasion) Twitter: meaningless drivel and mundane remarks better left unsaid or shared off-line (such as in personal diaries).
As better writers begin to take up blogging — both to improve and practice their writing skills and to demonstrate their potential to employers and/or publishers — and as “real” journalists began blogging, news organizations began to become less dismissive of blogging, eventually even adding their own blogs to their media properties. As a result, blogs began to become taken more seriously, eventually emerging as serious contenders to the traditional media outlets.
Blogs became mainstream.
Fast forward to today. Blogs are now essential to nearly every business, particularly if that business wants to communicate with their customers or offer some level of transparency (a business tactic which has become popular in recent years). Not only writers but artists of all types maintain blogs in order to share their music, visual art, films — every imaginable form of artistry — to their fans and potential consumers of their works. People post their writings online to aid them in achieving their goals, such as the woman who posts online to motivate herself to exercise. Others are passionate about concerns related to their profession, such as the teacher who blogs about his struggles communicating with his community’s school board.
And as more writers — whether professional writers or those taking up the craft for purposes other than writing for writing’s sake — took up blogging, some very excellent blogs began to fill up the blogosphere.
I probably first noticed blogs (or whatever they were known as) sometime in the 90s, but I must admit I didn’t think much of them then. I figured I could whip up a website that was just as good as or better than most of these journals I was coming across — and I probably could have at the time. It wasn’t until the turn of the millenium that I began to notice some truly remarkable blogs, as companies such as Blogger, Greymatter and Movable Type arrived on the scene with their blogging services. Forget about the writing for a moment; the blogs that came about due to these services were gorgeous. These new services offered a decent variety of attractive templates to choose from (which themselves were customizable), they had add-ons for features not previously offered, and they could be hosted on web hosts that made them essentially distinct from the companies offering the services — a feature the earliest blogging platforms weren’t offering.
It was no longer an immediately feasible possibility for me to whip up a website that could match the quality and features of these new blogs without learning a bit of programming beyond simple HTML and CSS. I would have to learn a scripting language such as PHP or Perl in order to produce a decent blog now, and I wasn’t yet in the mood to accomplish that. So I finally gave in and set up my first blog using Blogger. It was thrilling to have my first blog up within minutes and to be able to publish my first and subsequent posts without having to become a computer programmer. And thus, my passion for blogging began.
A few years ago I ran a few blogs at once, posting words and pictures and audio and video. Today I run one blog which I post to rarely (this one) but I also share my thoughts on Facebook, I post to the recently-released Google+, and yes, I tweet to Twitter. Some may have doubts about my referring to the content I post on the social networks I’ve mentioned as blogging, but trust me, my passion for writing on the web has moved from the traditional personal blog to more prolific posting to these various social networking sites.
There’s no doubt in my mind that what I’m doing on Facebook and Google+ (and even Twitter) is blogging (though on Twitter it’s rightfully referred to as microblogging). Though my tweets are tiny nuggets of information or personal thoughts, I carefully consider and craft my tweets so as to improve my online relationships and business opportunities (on one of my Twitter accounts, at least — another is reserved for personal, uncensored and off-the-cuff remarks). On Facebook, I often write essays that match posts like this one, and I certainly post at least one well-constructed thought or conversation starter on the network nearly every day. I do the same with Google+ but with one major difference: I reserve Google+ for posts that are entirely professional — that is, I leave my Google+ account open for anyone to read, and deliberately compose posts related to my career and relationship-building ambitions (whereas my Facebook account is closed to the public and full of highly personal posts I wouldn’t want potential employers to read).
Writing online — through blogging, tweeting, and simply posting on various social network platforms and even online forums — has become a serious passion of mine. I believe — in fact, I know — that all of my writing efforts online have translated into improved relationships, networking that has resulted in business opportunities, and ultimately improved my writing and even marketing skills. As I write this, I have in the back of my mind a new writing opportunity I feel all of my blogging experience has prepared me for: when the sun comes up today, I will began work toward a position blogging for a popular tech-oriented website, and my experience there will improve my portfolio for future writing jobs.
So if writing is your passion but you’d like to improve your skills in the craft, or if you’re satisfied with your writing skills but would like to exercise your craft in a different forum, or if you have a particular concern or a desire for self-improvement or you have artwork you’d like to showcase to a wider audience, you may wish to try writing online. You don’t have to be a talented writer nor an expert web developer to start up a blog or join a social network and begin writing and publishing your words online. If nothing else, the activity will improve your ability to communicate and — as happened with me — you may discover an unexpected passion for writing…online.