When I tweeted one of my loyal readers yesterday–a memoir guru and creativity instructor–that my post on avoiding “truthiness” when writing about yourself had been featured on WordPress’ Freshly Pressed, she tweeted back that she already knew. She was subscribed to comments on that post, and her inbox was filling up with a tsunami (her word) of comments.
It’s a compelling metaphor. A tsunami wave rises abruptly from the sea, a giant wall of water jutting from stillness. That’s how the little hourly hits counter atop my WordPress dashboard looked yesterday after my post hit Freshly Pressed. I’ve now learned that there are more than 500,000 WordPress blogs, so being singled out like that will generate attention. But tsunamis bring death and destruction. I’m still looking for the right metaphor that will capture the joy I feel at the expansion of The Artist’s Road community.
I have also asked myself, “What can I learn from this experience?” And the WordPress editor who selected my post was there to help. She sent me a link to a useful article titled “So You Want to be Freshly Pressed.” The article itself adheres to many of the pieces of blogging advice it offers. It has a clean layout, with a visual element and no spelling or punctuation errors. It has a headline that gets to the point in a conversational manner.
Given, however, that one of my gigs is teaching blogging at literary centers both in person and online, I’d like to focus for a moment on their first three items of instruction, which address the content of the post.
- “WRITE UNIQUE CONTENT THAT’S FREE OF BAD STUFF”: My first challenge with this post is to not simply rewrite their post, right? It turns out their guidance here is basic. Give credit where credit is due, don’t plagiarize, don’t spread fear or hate. One thing I tell students is that the most powerful element of a blog is YOU. Even if your blog primarily is to educate about a cause or promote a business, we want to connect with the writer. One of the most powerful words in blogging is the personal pronoun “I.” Used judiciously yet generously, it captures us as readers and makes us come back.
- “HAVE A POINT OF VIEW”: I love this statement from the WordPress article: “Freshly Pressed posts make people think and provoke a response.” I developed my curricula for my blogging classes based in part on lessons personal essayists are taught. One of those is that some of the most powerful writing is when the author is working hard to understand the true meaning of something, and invites us in to that process before they have reached a “final” conclusion. Acknowledgment that you haven’t fully figured it out is humanizing. It also invites plenty of feedback. There’s a lot I haven’t figured out in life, so I’m never short of blogging topics.
- “DON’T BE AFRAID OF YOUR VOICE”: I’ve been blogging in various forms for nearly 20 years (yes, before the term “blog” existed), so I’ve come to understand that each blog should have its own voice, but that the voice also has to be authentic to the writer. I would add to WordPress’ advice, however, another important point I have addressed before, namely you must also not be afraid to allow your voice to evolve. Some bloggers feel they will lose their existing readers if the blog’s voice changes over time. In fact, you will recruit new readers while engaging your loyal ones, who will enjoy experiencing your growth with you.
Of course it is all well and good to be featured on Freshly Pressed, and enjoy that spike in traffic and comments. The key is ensuring that your new readers stick around. So while the advice WordPress offers gives guidance to the type of post they choose to feature, it’s good advice for each and every post. And that leads to one final piece of advice I give students when they ask what is the ideal schedule for posting. The short answer is you’ll get higher traffic with more posts than less. But the right answer is that you should post when you have something compelling to say and the time to say it compellingly.
I’ve outlined some of the things WordPress looks for in a Freshly Pressed blog post, and some of the things I encourage bloggers to incorporate into their writing. What do you look for in a blog? And if you blog yourself, what is one area–original content, point of view, voice, or something else–that you focus on to stand out from the crowd?