All Posts Tagged ‘writing

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Focussing on practice

I was reading Chris Bowler’s most recent email newsletter today. In the intro to it he makes the comment:

It has simply been a matter of waiting and looking for the right things to write about. And maybe to focus on practicing more than preaching (always a good thing).

I can identify with both searching for the right things to write about, and especially the focus on practicing rather than preaching. I did go through a period a few years back of literally preaching in church, and often my blogging has been somewhat preachy. My current phase of life one of trying to concentrate more on the practicing aspect.

I am reading the Bible more than I was a year ago, am absorbing what is taught at church rather than arguing with it, and am searching for what my role should be over the next five years or so.

As far as blogging or writing goes, I’m still finding my way. Obviously I’ve not written much over the last few months, instead I have been reading and slowly making a balsa wood toy boat for my son.

I’ve been learning a bit about science writing and creative nonfiction, a potential direction that makes sense of my background and training. However, deep down I would also really like to write fiction so I’m still not sure which direction to move in. I guess the sensible thing would be to do the best I can at one or the other in order to gain practice as the experience can be used whichever way I finally go in.

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Book learning

As I’ve been reading and researching information about writing for the web, I realised that it will save me time to find a book on the topic by someone who already knows about it. After a bit of indecision and largely based on reviews on Amazon, I have chosen the book Writing for the Web by Crawford Kilian.

The author of this book spent 40 years teaching at community colleges and from what I’ve read so far appears to know what he is on about. In fact, just reading the introduction I learned a new concept for me, the difference between hypotaxis and parataxis, and the idea that hypertext relies more on parataxis in which ideas stand alone without being linked to the previous idea.

I’m wanting to learn without my existing biases getting in the way so it makes sense to carefully read through this book (and possibly others), putting what I learn into practise and also following through with further reading and research where I can.

More information about hypotaxis and parataxis:

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On editing harshly

I came across an interesting little post about how to write (and edit) a blog post which is fairly realistic about how the process really happens. I’m not quite as rigorous on the editing now that I’m trying to put something out each day.

Randomly think of a thing. Let it bump around your head a bit. If the bumping gets too loud, start writing the words with the nearest writing device. See how far you get. The more words usually mean a higher degree of personal interest. Stop when it suits you.

How to Write a Blog Post by Michael Lopp (Rands)

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Changing my writing routine

I’m trying to change my writing routine so that I get back to drafting my posts in a notebook and later transcribe this (with edits) into WordPress. Today’s post is currently en route to the notebook.

Another change I’m making is avoiding using a computer or screen after 10pm. As you can guess, this means that what I’m writing this evening will not be published until some time tomorrow. Once I get this routine established posts should be published on a more regular schedule.

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Daily blogging is good

A little confirmation that daily writing is a good approach for a personal blog:

The hobbyists (and one prominent pro — Seth Godin) profess that it’s the opposite that has the most positive impact on your life and mental health: short-form writing, and just getting your ideas out there. They’re correct. (CJ Chivers)

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A self-guided writing course

I had been hopeful that this year I might be able to study a course in science communication at university, but due to an already stretched income and now added financial constraints (I need a root canal), I’m having to postpone that idea.

However, I still want to become a better writer so intend to use this blog as an outlet and accountability for this task. In reality the real learning from tertiary study comes from practise rather than attending lectures so my intention is to continue with my goal of writing something every day. I will also read around the topic and find ways to put that reading into practise and try forms of writing I’m less comfortable with. So much material is available online now that I am sure it won’t be difficult to cobble together a curriculum which will train me in what I need to learn.

An advantage of publishing my own website is my progress (or lack of) will become clear as the year ticks by, and it is a public record so I cannot fool myself into thinking I’m doing better than I really am by keeping my work hidden. To help me learn, comments and feedback will be much appreciated because it is difficult to spot my own mistakes, especially when something I’ve written is hard to follow or too technical. I already know that one of my weaknesses is understanding a topic in my head but not getting the full story into writing so that the text does not flow and skips crucial concepts for the reader to know.

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Keep a notebook

Keep a notebook. Travel with it, eat with it, sleep with it. Slap into it every stray thought that flutters up into your brain. Cheap paper is less perishable than gray matter, and lead pencil markings endure longer than memory.

From “Getting Into Print,” by Jack London

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Becoming a better faith blogger

The PDF for today is one I downloaded as a freebie for subscribing to Ed Cyzewski’s blog a few years back. I’ve followed his blog on and off since around 2012. This same ebook is available on Amazon and NoiseTrade. The ebook is short, 47 pages of content. It is divided into sections so I will use those as headings in this summary.

In explaining why he has written an ebook focused on faith blogging, Ed states:

The goals for Christian blogs can become quite murky at times since we aspire to physically live out our faith. Thinking and writing about it simply won’t do for serious followers of Jesus.

I think of this from another angle: Because I’m seeking to live out my faith, my goals for blogging are strongly influenced by what I believe. This probably amounts to the same thing but is easier to get my head around.

Go Deep

In this section Ed extols the virtues of being succinct and to the point, then also recommends writers at least occasionally take the time to go deep on a particular topic.

Invite Guests

Don’t be afraid that inviting others to contribute yo your blog will make you look like less of an expert, it will probably make you look better.

I do wonder how this can be applied to a personal blog like mine? A basic premise of my approach is that this blog is mostly about stuff I am interested in rather than being a ‘niche’ blog. Though, asking people who I’m curious to learn more about would be an obvious way to include the contributions of others. This is worth some consideration.

The Essentials

Becoming a better faith blogger begins with zeroing in on the essentials for a blog post

Ed points out how easy it is to ramble on about our faith, obscuring the message by telling too much detail in the stories we share.

Make your point. Tell your story. Keep. It. Moving.

Read and Link

By reading other blogs and noticing what they do well, we begin to improve our own writing. Follow other bloggers in your area of interest, know what is being discussed about a topic, be informed.

I also note that Ed specifically recommends reading high quality blogs. Just as the people we hang out with influence our thinking, what we are reading will influence both the content and quality of our writing.

We read other blogs in order to share our unique perspectives with existing conversations or to start new conversations that aren’t happening already.

Be Yourself

Don’t try to pursue some abstract ideal of what a ‘good’ blogger should be. Write in a style and voice that is your own. This means finding a sweet spot between stiff formality and brash oversharing. A blog is not an academic journal, but neither is it drunken commiseration with your best mate.

… real life experiences, if shared with discretion, can be truly powerful.

A good question to ask in the context of being yourself is:

What does this look like to me?

An Unbound Niche

This section is a bit hard to sum up so I will just quote this one paragraph:

While we can’t always write for everyone, we can write for a niche in such a way that our work has its own integrity and power so that our niche is open and unbounded by insider jargon or divisive language.

Paint a scene

This is clearly an art, one which I have not mastered. The idea is to carefully paint a scene for the reader that draws them in and pulls them along. The big challenge is to engage readers in such a way as to make them care about what you are saying.

What Are You For?

Be a writer who builds up rather than tearing down. Twitter holds plenty of examples of folks tearing others down, don’t go there. This is a section that I think definitely applies to Christian bloggers – I’m baffled by the way supposedly Christian people write about other Christians in scathing and nasty ways. Disagreeing does not need to be nasty.

What Ed seems to be saying on this topic is to write about what you are wanting to build up and just leave behind the stuff you might be against. This enables you to write positively instead of standing in opposition to something you don’t like.

Self-Deprecating Humour

Ed recommends using humorous stories about ourselves to let others see us at our most cringe-worthy, embarrassed and vulnerable. People are able to relate to these sorts of stories.

I’m not even sure how to attempt this. Perhaps this shows it is something I need to try for myself and practise?

Summary

Ed uses examples of Christian bloggers to show what he means with each go the topics covered. All the links to these blogs are working in the version currently available via Noisetrade, except for the link to ‘Then I Like Being Naïve’ by Preston Yancey. Oddly the links to Ed’s newsletter sign up and his old blog at inamirrordimly, including the ‘women in ministry series’ which he mentions are broken.

Despite the examples of Christian bloggers, the ebook does not go into much detail about much that is specific to faith blogging, something I was looking for.