Wednesday, May 29, 2013

What Your Blog Says About You: Part One -- Personality

As with many writers I know, I was advised that starting a blog would be a good way to gain readers for my recently finished book (this was back in 2011), but I had no idea how to go about doing that. Basically, the one thing I did know was that I couldn't have a blog that just said "buy my book" every time I posted something. I mean, I wouldn't read that blog, and I was pretty sure that no one else would either. Heck, I don't actually think I could even write that blog if I tried.

Which left the question: If I'm going to have a blog, what do I blog about?

The obvious answer, as a writer, was writing. But that seemed to me, on an ongoing basis, to be boring. I mean, I wouldn't read that blog. Well, maybe occasionally, if there was an interesting topic, but it's hard to make gerunds interesting. Still, writing seemed like a good starting place. And things related to writing. And reading. And, well, you can see what I decided on by looking up at the top of the screen.

Still, having content is not the same as having personality, and it's the personality (or the way that you talk about the content) that's important. Why? Because, other than when you're talking about yourself (which you have to do if you want to sell your book), there is no topic that you can choose to talk about that someone else isn't also going to be talking about. If I did (and if I ever do, please smack me) want to do a post about gerunds, it would not be a topic that some other blogger hasn't already done, so the only thing I can bring to that is, well, me.

Of course, when I was first starting out, I hadn't thought about it like that. I hadn't thought about the personality of my blog at all at that point. I had just kind of gone with it. The most I knew was that I would talk about the things that I like to talk about, and, to that extent, it would convey my personality.

About a year into blogging, I was confronted with it, though. I'd decided to do the a-to-z thing, and they were pushing short posts. I get the whole short post thing; I really do, and that wasn't the first time I'd seen people saying that the best way to get followers is to have short posts, but, see, that's not me. For one thing, I don't tend to like short posts. Either they don't say anything to begin with or, about the time the blogger is beginning to say something, the post is over. Why would I want to write in a style I don't like? But, more importantly, I felt it would be like lying. If I was going to have a bunch of new traffic to my blog, I wanted them to see the way that I blog, not some false front for the sake of pulling in followers only to go back to my actual style once a-to-z was over.

To put it another way, I realized that I had established a particular personality with my blog, and I wasn't willing to subvert that temporarily just to gain followers. Who I was on my blog was important to me.

And the blogs that I like most are all ones that have a particular personality that comes from the blogger. Maybe, it's a total facade for the sake of the blog, but that's okay, because the blog is the interface, so it's the personality presented through that interface which is important. I find more and more that I have no interest in blogs that are devoid of any type of personality. And, specifically, I like best those blogs which promote thought. Thoughts. I like what I read to make me think. And that's the kind of blog I try to have, too. So, even when I'm talking about writing or reading or even pop culture, I try to do it in a way that will make people think. Or see things from a new perspective. I'm just not a bandwagon kind of guy.

I also realize that the personality of my blog is not what anyone could say is a popular one, but I'm okay with that. I'm not, after all, trying to fit in.

All of that to say that I think the first thing you should do as a blogger is to figure out what kind of personality you want your blog to have. Yes, you can choose that, because the personality of your blog doesn't have to be related to your own personality. That's the fascinating thing about blogging. And, if you have more than one blog (which is CRAZY, but I know some people do), each blog can have a different personality. Amazing, I know.

But, wait, you say, "I've been blogging for three years, and I've never given my blog a personality!" Well, actually, you have, because you can't get away from that. Your blog projects some kind of image about who you are; it just might be that it's not an image you would have chosen if you'd thought about it. The good thing about it is that you can always make that decision and implement it. And, if you plan for your blog to be interactive in any way, I'd say that it's a necessary thing.

So, sit down with your blog today if you haven't already done so and help it to figure out who it wants to be. The overprotective big brother? The crazy, inappropriate uncle? The insane aunt with too many cats that wants to pinch your cheeks? The grandfather that slips money to the grand kids when no one is looking? Oh, no, wait, the class clown! [Yeah, that's so not me, even though I wish it was sometimes.] Personality is the first step toward a successful blogging career.

Oh, and, yeah, go buy my book!


  1. It took me until the first Challenge to find my groove as a blogger and what I even wanted to blog about and by the following year, I'd nailed it.
    Sorry, not going for deep. Once in a while I throw something out, but not going for deep thought or controversy. I'm more about the entertainment - the movies, the music, the books, the pop culture. And that's all wrapped around supporting my blogger buddies.
    But who I am as a person I think shines strong through all of that.

  2. Never thought about personality in a blog. I must think about it.


  3. Oh gawd... I think my blog is the schizophrenic cat lady who dumpster dives at the No Frills downtown.

  4. That probably explains why I don't have more readers.

  5. I'm afraid to ask how our blog personality comes across. Also, I should mention that it's actually not a facade. We are both really like this, and if you ever sat in on one our post-creating sessions, it's... pretty intense. There's a lot of beer, a lot of profanity, and a lot of laughs.

  6. Yes, personality does come through and a reader either likes it or doesn't.

    If you try to suit too many other people, then the blog isn't showcasing you. Honesty, friendliness and support should come through via what you do and say. Know yourself first.

    How would you describe the blogs you like, Andrew?

    I look for content, photos, interesting perspectives and someone who comments to their readers or reaches out in some way.

  7. I find the whole blogging personality thing to be my biggest weakness. Possibly because I think of myself as a rather boring person, a bit too intellectual to be relatable to most people. I too can't really address any subject I care to talk about in short bits. Which is what keeps me from blogging more often. It takes too long for me to write anything I want to post because I think about it too much. If I explore a topic I want to do it well and I want to make sure anything I say is as true as I can make it.

    And I have no idea what impression my blog gives to people or what impression I want it to give. Even after redesigning it recently.

  8. This makes so much sense! Nice post.

  9. Personality wise, I have dibs on "the brother who only shows up at family gatherings to borrow money from people."

    I agree 100% with what you say. I recently follow-backed an author on Twitter. (I followed him because he retweeted one of my links to help that teen.) ALL he ever tweeted was "buy my book." That was ALL. I got bored seeing it in there.

    Some of my tweets/posts/links are promotional. I do paid ads on blogs, as people soon realize. But not ALL of it is, and even the stuff that I get paid to do, I put some thought and creativity into, to try to make it worth your while.

    So I'm not against promotion, and I'm wholeheartedly in favor of ads, but if that's ALL you do, it's like having an entire channel of nothing but Burger King commercials. Even if it's the best commercial ever, you'll get sick of seeing it.

    As for my personality, I think that comes through pretty well. I long ago stopped caring about people who said my posts were too long. Read it in installments. Download it. Don't read it. I don't care. If you don't want a long post, you won't like my blog. So now, when I do something shorter, like my 250-word stories, it's mostly for MY entertainment, not others.

    So I agree with you that a blog should have a personality. And when I find myself reading others' blogs, I can almost immediately decide whether or not to get their books. When I see a well-written blog -- yours, PTs, Michael's, Rusty's (those being the four I like best)(not in any particular order, settle down everyone) -- I figure their other writing would be worth checking out. That is, if they're interesting on their blog, their writing might be interesting, too.

    I've gone to some author's blogs and found the writing to be poor, or boring, or annoying, and I have never yet bought one of those author's books.

    The other thing I liked that you said was the idea that you have to have a point. That's something I've always tried to do. Like you said, almost everyone is talking about it. I'm not a reporter, and I've never "broken" a story. So I try to only talk about things that I have some sort of (I think) unique perspective on, or something to add to it, if only to have a little fun with it.

    My favorite blogs, by the way, are the ones that talk about the people, themselves. Writing blogs are a dime-a-dozen. Blogs by writers who have interesting things to say -- you, Offutt, et al -- are rarer, and I like those the best.

  10. Alex: Well, you know, not everyone can go deep. There's also a lot to be said for skipping stones.
    I'm not sure that analogy works, but I'm going with it.

    Jo: okay

    Cathy: I'm okay with that as long as you're not talking to the cats.

    PT: I think your old blog had a more focused personality.

    ABftS: I totally misread that "post-creating" part. And, now, I've completely lost what I was going to say.

    D.G.: I tend to prefer blogs that have insight and provoke thought. Blogs that feel like I've sat down with the blogger for a discussion.
    Beyond that, it's easier to point out the things that I don't like.

    Sarah Mc: That's something that's cool about a blog, though; even if you think of yourself as a boring person, you can project something that's not that boring person.

    Gina: Thanks!

    Briane: Are you gonna share any of that money with me? Wait, are you borrowing money for your latest get-rich-quick scheme? How many does that make, now, anyway?

    Beyond that, I agree with you agreeing with me.

    And I read even your paid ad pieces, because they almost always have some quirk of your personality in them to make them worth reading.

    (And, by the way, especially on the weekends when I'm being interrupted frequently, sometimes your posts do take me a while to get through, but I will leave it open on my computer for hours if I need to until I have time to read it. I've never been sorry for doing that.)

  11. Excellent post. I agree with you 100%. In fact, I was lucky enough to be blessed with a mind that really thinks of these things.

    So when I started my blog, I decided before I wrote a word what I was going for.

    This is mainly unchanged, although I have adapted my style a little over the years and split the blog in two later on.

  12. Misha: It's good to have a mind that thinks!

  13. It's funny that you are blogging about this today. I don't have much time lately for visiting blogs so my visitorship has been way down. I decided to stop by yours and a handful of others because (quite frankly) a lot of the blogs I follow are boring and all talk about the same stuff. I admit, sometimes I come here hoping there'll be some outrageous controversial review that's spawned a hundred comments, mostly because I like to see a train wreck (as long as it's not my train wreck).

  14. Michael: Well, technically, I haven't had a hundred comments, yet, but I know what you mean.

  15. Your blog is one of the ones I always read because it always has something interesting to say. Post length doesn't matter. Content, style--personality--does.

    I'm not sure I always succeed with mine, but it says what I want it to. But maybe I should try for a more interesting personality. Maybe class clown. That sounds like fun.

  16. When I started blogging, I wasn't sure what to expect, and didn't think it would be a format capable of building connections with people. But I was wrong. Much to my surprise, when bloggers let their personalities shine through, actual friendships can develop.

    You inadvertently gave me a chuckle. I'm not 100% sure, but pretty sure, that you wrote a post a while back in which you went on a bit of a rant about using a comma after the word "so" at the start of a sentence. I knew I'd done that quite a few times in my book, but rather than panic, I did some research about that pesky comma. Turns out, as best as I could find, the comma is optional... but not wrong.

    So how did you make me chuckle? In this post, you started a sentence with "so"... followed by a comma.

  17. Jeanne: I think your blog is pretty good. I stop by and read all of your posts except the etymology ones. Some of those I read but not all. Unfortunately, if you're going for class clown, you'll have to drop those.

    Susan: Oh, man, I sure did! That's a mistake I don't often make. Here's the thing with "so," though: If you're using it as a conjunction, a comma never goes after it unless there is a dependent clause before the independent clause (and, then, not always then).
    If you are using it as an adverbial phrase at the beginning of a sentence, it does take a comma. I could make the case that that is what I was doing--if you substitute in the word "now," the sentence still makes sense--but I probably wasn't doing that when I wrote it.

  18. I have a wide range of interests and a wide range of blogs I like. Humour, deep thoughts, shallow thoughts, origin, philosophies, just regular people talking about their regular lives...they're all good. Provided a blog is semi well written and interesting to me, I'll probably read it. There are really not many I read regularly though.
    I find most blogs about writing read like stereo instructions.
    As for my own blog, I found it much easier to write as soon as I stopped trying so hard and just wrote kind of 'in the moment', if that makes sense. Don't really know how to peg the personality of my blog. I would hope it makes people laugh, or chuckle, or even guffaw under their breath...but never chortle. I'm against chortling on emotionally outraged grounds...(my entire family was once attacked by a herd of torch-bearing wild chortlers)...anyways, my goal is usually to make someone laugh, except for the occasional 'thoughtful' post, or experimental fiction piece.
    I've thought about having more than one blog, each for a different style, or different topic, but that would probably mean that I'd have to devote every spare moment to blogging and I'd have no time to work on my GCN, (Great Canadian Novel)
    Interesting topic.

  19. Eve: So you're trying to say without saying it that you're trying for the class clown blog?
    I'd have to give up any other type of writing if I was going to have more than one blog.

  20. I with what you say and I think I tend to write posts in the way you've described. I like reading short posts that convey strong content, but I find it difficult to do. For that matter I have a hard time keeping comments short sometimes.

    You definitely come across with an identifiable style and I enjoy it. I can usually count on your posts being something that I can think on. I'm sure you're aware that's what I lean towards in my writing and that's what draws me regularly to certain blogs.

    I've seen some of those blogs that were only about buying an author's books. That gets old quick. And there's only so much I want to read about writing. If I want to get a book I will, but sometimes I just want to find out about who an author is and books don't always tell me that.

    A Faraway View
    An A to Z Co-host blog

  21. Lee: I tend to find that short posts have little content. They tend to talk about talking about the content rather than actually doing it.

  22. Kinda like voice in writing. If a blog has no voice, it just doesn't work. We can get the facts anywhere, but when they're given in a certain personality, it makes all the difference. Part of what you mention here is consistency as well. Find the personality and stick with it so readers no what to expect.
    Great topic!

  23. I think who I am comes through at my blog because I really don't hold anything back. I whine, I celebrate, I contemplate, I share my opinions, though not always mainstream or popular, I tell true stories, I write fiction (though rarely) and poetry (when the mood strikes). The purpose of my blog is to practice writing, so I feel like the content can be anything.

    I'm certainly a chatty chick, and have to work REALLY hard to keep my posts around 500-600 words. I read all kinds of blogs, and all different lengths of posts.

    It's the person behind the blog who matters to me. If we haven't made a connection, I probably won't spend a lot of time trying get your attention. If my comments go unnoticed, I probably won't stick around. Not because I'm expecting a return comment, or your thanks, but if you don't respond, you probably don't need me. And that's totally fine. I've met so many wonderful people, I'd rather concentrate on those who are in it for the connection like I am, and leave the follower-collectors to their thing.

    All that leads me to why I stuck you in my sidebar: I advertise for those whose blogs I think are really good, and I want others to know about them.
    Tina @ Life is Good

  24. Pk: Yeah, consistency is important, too; I'm not sure if that will get its own post or not.

    Tina: Why work so hard to keep them that short? I've found that my comfort zone is generally around 1000 words or so. Maybe 1200.

    Interaction will be coming soon. Probably part 3.

    I didn't know I was on your sidebar; thanks! :) I need to set that up on mine at some point.

  25. I just finished part twenty-two, and I had a thought:

    It may be expensive to get people into it, if they have to shell out as much as $22 to get the book in serial form. I know you offer free copies from time to time, and I don't know how many of those you get, but you might want, for the next one, to put parts 1-22 together for a low price, to encourage people who maybe haven't started to get into it. (Alternatively, you could put it as a download on your site, using something like Scribd.)

    I don't know the numbers you're getting, or anything. I just thought "If I was just finding this now, it might be kind of expensive to get the whole thing."

    Another thing: Amazon will let you list a blog on there and subscribe for as little as ninety-nine cents (I did that once, and I think mine are still on there.) So you could post these as a blog and have people subscribe, too.

    Just some thoughts. I think your stuff is great and should be read by everyone.

  26. Briane: Actually, I have stuff coming up about this in Monday's post, so I'll be addressing this concern then.