Blogging has gone out of style. But for writers, it’s as current as ever.
I don’t care if you post on WordPress, LinkedIn, Medium, Substack, Twitter threads, or even Facebook. The key is to regularly write moderately long (at least 400 words) chunks of prose about ideas and post them where you can get feedback.
You should be blogging. It will make you a better writer, improve your ideas, and increase your visibility.
Writers with more experience are better.
When you write a lot, you develop your craft in all sorts of ways. You learn to express an idea economically. You learn to tell stories. You learn to experiment with the form, using tools like long and short sentences, bullets, rhetorical questions, and straw man arguments.
There is no better way to do this than to practice it a lot. And there is no better discipline for that than blogging on a regular schedule.
You might think journaling is a good substitute. I disagree. Posting means others will read what you write. That improves your discipline. And you’ll get feedback. You’ll see what works and what resonates, and also what kind of errors you make and which of your writing fails to get traction.
Writing for an editor will give you more focused feedback, but no one can afford an editor for everything they write. When you blog, the world is your editor.
Blogging is also a good length to practice with. A blog post is long enough to capture an idea. It has a beginning, a middle, and an end. When it succeeds, it makes people think.
Blogging is low-effort. It takes an hour or so to write and post 500 words. The interval between thinking of the idea and writing it down can be short. There’s no time for writer’s block to intimidate you; you just think, write, and post.
Every time you post, you should also self-edit. Read what you wrote and make it better. Identify and fix mistakes like typos, repeated words, and overuse of weasel words or exclamation points.
Writing is a craft. When you exercise the writing muscles, they get stronger. Blogging is like the ten-minute workout you can do every other day, which is a lot better for those writing muscles than a massive flex-fest once a month.
2 Testing ideas
If you are a writer, you are probably thinking of assembling your ideas into a book, or pitching them to be published somewhere that pays. That’s work. And are the ideas any good?
You can test those ideas with a colleague or friend, but everyone has biases. They may reject your best ideas (or embrace your worst ones) for idiosyncratic reasons.
You should develop the reflex: have an idea, then quickly write about the idea and get feedback.
The simple act of writing about the idea will force you to think harder about it. Ideas that seemed awesome in your imagination reveal their weaknesses as you write them down. This forces you to gather evidence and strengthen your case.
Based on the feedback from your blog readers, you can decide if the idea you post is perfect (unlikely) or how you can improve it.
If you’re writing a case study story, you’ll figure out how to reveal a person’s experience in a way that has a lesson. You’ll get practice on what to leave in and what to leave out. And you’ll see which stories resonate with readers.
How do you get that feedback? Once you post, use social media or email to let people know there’s something to read. Your friends and followers are not objective, of course, but collectively, their regular feedback is way better than no feedback at all.
You may wonder, if I publish my ideas in a blog post, will they still be fresh enough to include in a book? Sure. Most of your audience is not reading every blog post. You can put the same ideas in a book, having tested them in your blog, and they’ll still be fresh to 99% of your readers.
3 Build an audience
“I’ll write a book. Then everyone will know who I am.”
This is exactly backwards.
They’re more likely to buy the book if they already know who you are. And they’ll know who you are if you’ve built an audience.
There are a lot of places to build an audience these days, like Twitter, TikTok, YouTube, or podcasts. But blogging doesn’t require any particular media skill, as podcasting or video does. If you do ten posts and one or two resonate, you’ll build an audience naturally. Starting from that, if you do ten more posts and one or two resonate, you’ll increase that audience. Blogging creates growth.
Some authors imagine that they should write first, then build their audience. It’s a lot more efficient to build the audience as you write. Then it will be there when you have something to promote, like a book.
Just do it
Decide on a platform. LinkedIn is easy. WordPress is flexible. Twitter threads are effortless. Don’t worry too much about what that platform is. Better to start with an imperfect platform than to dither about technology choices.
Write the first post. Write about anything, so long as it is an idea. When you have an idea, write.
Observe what worked and what didn’t.
Now do it again. Don’t let more than 10 days pass without blogging again. Put it on your to-do list.
Figure out what cadence is best for you. Do you write every Monday morning? Three times a week? Every other Saturday? Make it part of your routine.
Do that a few times, and you are a writer. And that’s an awfully good start to becoming an author.