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So, You Want to Start a Blog?

blog-art-withmouseI’ve been blogging for more than eight years. At first, my blog was really just an electronic version of my journal. It was truly a personal blog. I wrote as though no one else was out there — which was fine, because no one was. :)

Today, this blog is read by people all over, and is syndicated or reposted by others in such a way that far more people read it through other channels. I’m great with that — and am happy with how the blog has evolved over all this time.

Today, what has become New Vintage Leadership is not a personal blog; it’s a ministry and leadership blog (though “Friday Stream of Consciousness” posts are a bit of a remnant of the personal blog days). I’m thankful for everyone who takes time to read this blog. Your time and thoughtful dialogue are a treasure house.

Every so often, someone will tell me they would like to start a blog and ask my advice on how to get started. Here’s what I say:

1) Be honest with yourself about why you’re blogging. Knowing its real purpose — not the one you think you’re supposed to have — is what will fuel you on the days when you’d rather get that vasectomy than write another word. My own blog is a place to share observations about ministry and leadership. That gives me a target, and targets matter in the world of blogging.

2) Choose a topic for your blog that you find insanely interesting. You’re going to be writing a lot about this, so you might as well pick something you enjoy. Ministry fascinates me more than any other subject on earth — probably because it’s interdisciplinary. It involves communication, business, theology, sociology and other “-ologies.” It isn’t hard to find subject matter that interests me. That’s why the blog is rarely a drudge.

3) Be gut-level honest with yourself about whether or not you care if others read it. If you do, you need to do three things: 1) Post consistently, 2) Know why people read the blog, and 3) Post primarily in that stream of thought.

4) Know that what you write “sticks.” It’s in ink, not pencil. Yes, you can pull posts down or edit them, but it’s hard to make people unread something. Mean what you write, or make sure people understand it’s a stream of consciousness — or somewhere in between — in the context of the post.

5) If you’re in ministry, be aware of how your posts impact others — your family, your elders and so on. For some reason, it’s easy to think that because you write personal thoughts on your blog, it’s just you talking to your friends. You really are putting yourself out there to nearly anyone; if it isn’t explicit, people might assume the opinions expressed on your blog are shared by your church, elders, spouse or staff. The opinions expressed on my blog are mine alone; I don’t speak for anyone else. Nevertheless, some will believe I do. I try to be at least a little sensitive to that reality.

6) The blog was made for people, not the other way around. Make no mistake: It takes massive discipline to blog well over time. However, if you aren’t careful, the blog can take an undue place in your life. It took me a while before I learned this lesson.

Be consistent, but don’t become a slave to your blog. Have set times when you write, and set limits on how long you’re going to spend — unless it’s a topic you know is going to bring some heat your way. I try to write such a post once a month only, if for no other reason than I don’t have time to deal with the traffic that generates.

I’m not a full-time blogger; I’m a full-time minister who blogs in his spare time as an extension of his ministry.

7) It takes years of consistent, good blogging to build a readership. So, if you’re looking to build a readership, ask, Am I willing to post at least three times every week for three years? That’s nearly 500 posts. Assuming a length 500 words per post, that’s 228,000 words — roughly 50,000 more words than in the entire New Testament.

If you’re not up for that, it’s going to be hard to build a readership. It might be better to stick with a personal blog that allows you a place to journal your thoughts and you can post at your own leisure. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.

However, if you’re looking to build a readership, think in terms of years, not weeks. I hope that doesn’t discourage you, but it’s generally true.

What other things might you add? Those of you who blog, what have you observed?

Tim-Spivey-bloggerTim Spivey is lead planter of New Vintage Church in San Diego, CA. Tim is also an adjunct professor of religion at Pepperdine University and purveyor of New Vintage Leadership, a blog offering cutting-edge insights on leadership and theology. He is the author of numerous articles and the book Jesus, the Powerful Servant. This post is adapted from a prior post.

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