One common misconception I find many of my Loft blogging students have is that they believe their blog is like a book written in real time, with each chapter building upon the last. I have to point out to them that unlike a memoir, where you read from beginning to end, with each post you attract new readers who don’t know you or your story.
I also point out that many first-time visitors will not arrive at the front door–your home page or most recent post–but through a back door or side window. Through referrals or links or search engine results, some curious individuals will come across old posts of yours. Your hope is that they like enough of what they see that they stick around and start reading your new posts.
“So how do you write a post that keeps drawing readers years after it’s posted?” When asked that question I’m tempted to respond “Write compellingly on an intriguing topic,” but given that is my recommendation for every post, I actually find myself at a bit of a loss.
To help educate myself, I conducted a forensic analysis of some of my most “sticky” posts. I ignored the two posts featured on Freshly Pressed, because I know being promoted by WordPress has given them legs. I applied the same standard to a post that was featured on Huffington Post. No, these five posts started out like any other post, drawing the same type of readership and comments. Yet, somehow, they didn’t fade away. Readers kept coming. And they still are.
So what can I learn from each of these posts?
- Do Women Simply Write Differently than Men? January 31, 2012: I’m pretty sure I understand the appeal of this post. Has there ever been a comedian who didn’t have a riff on the Mars vs. Venus debate? But I’m looking for lessons here for future posts. Should I keep focusing on gender differences? Well, I’d grow weary of a comedian whose only material focused on male/female stereotypes, and I think I’d have the same feeling for a blog with that same narrow focus. That said, should I come across new research on gender differences in creative thinking, I definitely think I’ll blog about it.
- The Importance of Creativity in Education, February 19, 2013: As someone who has long worked at the intersection of creativity and education, I know this is a subject of great passion for many. What I also know is that there are a great many talented and knowledgeable people writing in this field. When I try to figure out what makes this post stand out, it’s possible that it involves a movement still somewhat under the radar, a focus on STEAM education (adding arts to science, technology, engineering and mathematics), a subject I’ve written about for other publications as well. So perhaps the secret is to find the under-reported angle of a topic and establish yourself in the search world on that topic as its popularity grows.
- 5 Steps to Subconscious-Driven Creativity, May 25, 2011: It’s worth noting that this is the only one of the five posts that follows the “formula for success” in a blog post, a bullet list of helpful tips. I don’t think this is evidence that the conventional wisdom on the value of that formula is incorrect; it reflects more that for whatever reason, I seem congenitally challenged when it comes to writing in that style. I’m glad this post has legs, however, because it contains advice I want to share with the world, namely how I’ve learned to use my subconscious while I sleep to problem-solve creative projects. (The concept for this blog post emerged to me with this process.)
- What Defines an Artist? Self-Taught vs. Trained, April 25, 2011: Every creative has reflected on this topic. For years I was a self-taught creative; I read books on writing and creativity and practiced my craft, but had no formal training. Then, in mid-life, I sought an MFA. On the question of which is better, the good news is the answer is it depends, on who you are and what you are doing in your life. Like the creativity-in-education post above, I think a lot has been written on this subject, but I’m glad this one is in the mix with search engines because it highlights two of the artists I interviewed on my 2010 cross-country road trip, contrasting two great successes who took different paths.
- Is Creative Genius Inherited or Learned, March 27, 2012: In a way, this post is an amalgam of many of the ones above. Like “What Defines an Artist?” this post hits on a long-standing debate in the creative community, namely to what extent artistic ability is innate. Those of us focused on promoting creativity in education believe we are all inherently creative, and we want to unleash that in children. That focus is on formal education, the “trained” side of creative growth. In my subconscious-driven creativity post, I’m seeking to help those already creatively inclined to tap into that creativity even more. It’s fair to say I want all of us to maximize our creative potential. It’s hard, then, to acknowledge that it’s possible some people’s potential exceeds others in certain fields or endeavors. Thus t’s not surprising that a topic like this would continue to be of interest to readers long after it was written.
So what have I learned from this exercise that I can apply to future posts? I’ve learned it’s okay that I don’t always write posts featuring bulleted how-to lists. I’ve learned that there’s merit to finding a new angle into a long-standing debate. What I’ve learned most of all, perhaps, is that I should write about topics about which I am passionate. Each of these posts addresses subjects I have thought long and hard about. They are topics in which I didn’t have all of the answers; by the way, I still don’t have them now.
So if something keeps nagging you, and you’ve formulated some theories or notions around that pestering thought, articulate them in a blog post and share them with the world. I’d love to join you in the discussion.