How To Get Back Into Blogging?

That’s a question I’ve asked myself numerous times over the past few weeks.

Sometimes I posed the question abruptly to catch myself off guard (as though such a thing were possible) and hear my knee-jerk response, some sort of subconscious truth. Other times it was more of a mediation. I interrogated myself as both good cop and bad cop, I pleaded with myself, and I even briefly considered a bartering with the Devil a la Dr. Faust. Needless to say, none of these methods proved very useful. My answers ranged from the practical (“I have a job now and less time to blog.”) to existential-crisis-inducing (“If I am a floating speck in a colossal cosmic accident, how am I supposed to blog?”). The only thing these answers all had in common was that none of them were enough to get me back into blogging.

I kept thinking the answer was out there, or rather, within me, and I was just not being totally honest with myself. I’m sure others have asked themselves the exact same question and wondered why the answer was so elusive, why it had that perpetual tip-of-the-tongue feel to it.

My big revelation was simple: it is the wrong question to ask. There is not a single correct answer to it. So I framed the question differently and once I did, I felt like I could begin to answer it. So now I ask, “Why did I get into blogging in the first place?”

Well that has plenty of answers, all of them true. All of them, I wager, can be distilled into a single word: perspective.

I started because I have a unique perspective, we all do. I have a dark sense of humor. I’m nostalgic. I’m sarcastic to a fault. I have strange opinions on everyday matters. Everyone, including me, has stories, thoughts, memories, and feelings that are contained within them and shape them as an individual.

The real essence of blogging comes from this perspective, the way that we as individuals encounter the world. On that note, I’d argue that blogging has two fundamental, deceivingly simply, purposes.

The first purpose is to put my thoughts out there so that I can see them from a distance, look at them from different angles, twist and turn them until I uncover something about myself. E.M. Forster once wrote, “How can I tell what I think till I see what I say?” Although I am writing for an audience, I myself am part of that audience. Only once I get these thoughts out of my chaotic about-to-derail train of thought can I begin to look at these thoughts and appreciate them for what they truly are, the most basic parts of my existence.

The second purpose then is to share my outlook with others who have a totally different worldview than me. True, your thoughts and my thoughts might overlap in places, but they are still distinct and separate entities. It is through blogging that we express and allow others to experience what it feels like to be us. To illustrate this point, think back to a time when you read something brilliant and the barrier between your own thoughts and the words on the page dissolved. The two lines, your thoughts and the author’s words, converged into a single stream of consciousness. To use a technical term, what you experienced was a “suspension of disbelief.” That feeling was the alignment of your perception with another’s perception. In effect you temporarily became what you were reading. You escaped and welcomed this escape.

There are a million reasons to stop blogging. Each time the circumstances are different but the solution is the same. Instead of looking at the ending, the fallout, look towards the beginning. You have a perspective. Put it out there to hear yourself speak and to share with others your remarkably tiny yet irreplaceable piece of the human condition.

10 Writing Tips I Was Reminded Of After Getting Torn Apart

1. Write What You Know

We all have a unique lens through which we view the world. We see things differently than anyone else; not better, not worse, just subjectively different. Some would argue that the ultimate aim of writing is to communicate this unique viewpoint in a way such that a reader can experience a suspension of disbelief, that curious thing that great writing does where we understand, if only for a fleeting moment, what it feels like to be somebody other than ourselves. This sense of walking in someone else’s shoes is conveyed through narrative voice. Finding your voice is a process of elimination as much as discovery. So, look for what doesn’t suit you, cut it out of your writing, and repeat this process until you have your own refined, authentic voice. 

2. If You’re Forcing It, Do Something Else

When you hit a creative wall, put your manuscript in a drawer. Save your draft and walk away. Don’t come back until you’ve done something other than read, write, or ruminate on your thoughts. Don’t force the pieces together. That’s being the writerly equivalent of that little playground shithead that jams a puzzle piece where it doesn’t belong and claims to have finished the puzzle. Don’t be a playground shithead. Instead, walk away so that you can view your work with fresh eyes and discover what is giving you trouble.

3. Read Your Writing Like a Reader Would

Going off my last point, when you come back to your writing, read it from the perspective of your audience. After every sentence, ask yourself: “if I didn’t know what I was trying to say there, would I be able to figure it out just by reading it?” This requires a blindness, a distance from yourself and your thoughts. You could even call it intentional ignorance. W.B. Yeats often talked about donning a “mask” so that he could read his works as a critic, not a poet. Strive for clarity. So, when rereading, ask yourself, “is it clear to the reader what I am attempting to communicate?” and then, “could it be clearer?”

4. Read Others’ Writing Like a Writer

I’m sure you’ve come across a sentence or paragraph that forces you to pause and stare at the page. For me, this always happens when I read The Unbearable Lightness of Being. Towards the beginning, the narrator writes that “in the sunset of dissolution, everything is illuminated by the aura of nostalgia, even the guillotine.” Until I explicated that line, I couldn’t understand where that sentence rived its narrative thrust from. Once I picked it apart, I realized that the internal theme of light (“sunset,” “illuminated,” “aura”) causes the words to glow, only to be cutoff at the end by an unexpected intrusion, an unwelcome reversal. Pick apart any and all writing. Good writing provides you with a how-to manual, bad writing provides you with a trouble-shooting guide. Both are equally helpful.

5. Understatement Is A Powerful Tool

An implication, when used correctly, is far more powerful than a direct statement. Take for example Hemingway’s “Hills Like White Elephants.” We know what they’re talking about (in this case, an abortion), yet their reluctance to outright state it builds suspense and makes us curious. Be subtle. Be slow to reveal. Don’t be melodramatic. This is why Mad Men is critically acclaimed and soap operas need their own Emmy ceremony.

6. Take The Time To Research Your Subject

Get curious about what you’re writing about, even if it is about yourself. Research adds depth and understanding that often counteracts and contradicts our preexisting notions. So don’t write based off assumptions. That’s presumptuous, and presumption in writing is achingly painful and boring to read at best. Whether it’s a memoir or a biography, researching your subject can only supplement the finished product. 

7. Substance > Style

Having pleasant prose that ebbs and flows is wonderful, but, as the expression goes, you can’t polish a turd. If a story lacks plot or an argument lacks structure, it cannot be remedied by tacking on even the most euphonic diction. “Halcyon diarrhea rolls off the tongue, but I struggle to find a context in which loose stool can be joyful or pastoral. In my article, I tried to patch up a navel-gazing argument with purple prose. However, putting makeup on a mannequin isn’t pretty, it’s still hollow and lifeless.

8. Rejection Doesn’t Hurt Unless You Let It

I’ve been called some nasty things by people that don’t like my work. But rather than take those to heart as insults, I instead viewed even the more derogatory comments as suggestions disguised as put-downs. They had a reason to call me out. My writing was weak and my argument suffered because of it. However, I was able to glean from the detractors a couple gems of constructive advice. (10 to be exact.) 

9. Revision Is Key

It’s exciting to finish a first draft. It’s less-than-exciting to go back through, word by word, and second-guess yourself. It’s even less fun to third-, fourth-, and fifth-guess yourself, but it is necessary. Cut large, sweeping swaths through your writing before you fix the little things. Consider rearranging, restructuring, and rebuilding your work to get the maximum effect. Perhaps add in a detail or two. This process can be tedious and even induce insanity in rare cases, but the final product will thank you

10. Reflect and Try Again

We encounter a new set of challenges every time we sit down to write. We stare at a blank page and try to turn ideas into words that can be turned back into ideas. It is amazing that this process works at all. When it doesn’t work, when there is a disparity between the author’s intent and the reader’s interpretation, it is up to you the author to try to determine how this miscommunication occurred. Once you have an idea of where you went astray, it is on you to try to fix it. Maybe it’ll work, maybe it won’t. If not, the cycle repeats itself until you and your readers reach a consensus.