Monday, October 12, 2015

Finding a Focus

photo credit: Betsy Barber

Most advice for bloggers says that you need a focus for your blog. You pick one thing, and do it really, really well. You find your one subject, and you cover it really, really thoroughly.

And I get that. I follow blogs like "Cinnamon-Spice & Everything Nice" because she consistently posts good recipes. I follow blogs like "Query Shark" because I know every post is going to teach me something about selling books.

But I also follow bloggers like Melissa Wiley, and Elizabeth Foss, and Anne Kennedy, and Simcha Fisher, just because I know that whatever they talk about, I'm likely to enjoy hearing them talk about it.

And they each have topics they circle around frequently. Melissa Wiley is likely to talk about books and writing and homeschooling and drawing. Elizabeth Foss is likely to talk about mothering and running and prayer. Anne Kennedy is likely to talk about the Bible and cooking and church. Simcha Fisher is likely to talk about Catholicism and parenting a crowd and current events.

But I don't read Melissa Wiley just because I want to learn about drawing or homeschooling. I want to hear her think through drawing or homeschooling. And it's similar with Elizabeth and Anne and Simcha.

I started thinking about these two different types of blogs - call them "the subject focused" and "the voice focused", maybe? - when I ran across this interview with Nina Badzin. In it she says:
 I’ve had a blogging identity crisis since I started my blog 3.5 years ago so at least that is consistent! I set out to write about parenting at first, but instead ended up writing my first post about how much I love Twitter. Next I wrote about marriage. Then I had some posts about the novel I was working on at the time. I quickly got sick of writing about writing so I blogged about motherhood for a post or two. I mixed in some book reviews, then wrote about a 3-week challenge to eat less sugar. 
You get the idea. I had no focus and still don’t. Sometimes I worry that my blog should be more niche, but in my own way I’ve landed on some themes. I tend to circle around the same seven topics: parenting, marriage, friendship, reading, Judaism, and occasionally health and social media tips. You’ll never find me blogging about a DIY house project, crafting, photography, or design. The visual world is not in my skill set.
I loved her honesty. And I thought: I do the same thing!  There are a few subjects I circle 'round all the time. Mothering, marriage, writing, editing, Christianity, books, liturgy, knitting, homemaking. These are the things I never get tired of thinking about, and so I never get tired of writing about them.

But it's not the focused blogging that the "how-to" articles tell you about. It's not subject-focused blogging, because my blog isn't about any one of those things. My blog is me posting what I'm thinking about, and it's just that I'm probably thinking about one of those eight things, most of the time.

And I'm ready to be honest about that. I don't want to pretend to be a subject-focused blog when I'm really a voice-focused blog.

And not that I'm the blogger I want to be, not yet! I'm not anywhere as good a writer as those four voice-focused bloggers I mentioned above. But the more I think about it, the more I know that that's the kind of blogging I want to do. I want to imitate what I love.

I want to write about the things I enjoy thinking about.

Or rather, that I can't stop thinking about.

As Sayers says, how do we know when something is of overmastering importance? When it has overmastered us.

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell


Kate said...

I started out blogging on Livejournal when blogging was just a new thing, so I'm used to a more rambling sort of blogging that encompasses big thoughts and life updates and memes (I kind of miss the memes).

Kate said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rebecca Jones said...

Jessica, thank you for your candor. If it makes you feel any better, I confess I feel just as lost most of the time. For so, so long, I been trying to figure out what my "thing" is. My niche.

How to put myself in a neat little box.

I vent to my poor husband and he laughs and thinks it's all a bit ridiculous. He thinks we all worry too much about branding and focusing...which I agree with, to an extent. Something in me whispers that I should listen to him. That he's right...

Then again, he doesn't know this industry. He isn't being preached the PLATFORM gospel. ;)

Ah. I feel you, here!

Jessica Snell said...

Kate - I hear you, and I don't see any reason why you should stop doing the kind of blogging that attracted you to blogging in the first place. Maybe you can even bring back the memes! :)

Jessica Snell said...

Rebecca - oh, man, thank you! "How to put myself in a neat little box" <-- that's it! exactly! I'm not sure it can really even be done, so why are we trying?

I get having boundaries. There are things I wouldn't post online, not because they're not authentic, but just because they're private. But somehow that doesn't seem to be the same thing, you know?

Anonymous said...

I hear what you're saying. But while I love each of the blogs you mentioned, I have taken breaks from reading them simply because their voice is so consistent, I think I know what they're going to say. The other piece of the blogs I read faithfully is the story line. I love following the story of their lives with its ups and downs.

jen said...

I've been blogging for 15 years and my schtick is that I blog on whatever is interesting me. So... that would be college, my wedding, marriage, pastor's wifery, pregnancy, my NICU baby, preeclampsia/HELLP Syndrome, autism, and... whatever else is going on in my life. Lately, it's me whining about how much I hate giving up gluten. :)

Jessica Snell said...

Annie, I can see that. Thanks for pointing out that side of voice-blogging - it's something I'll have to think about!

Jen, I've been following your gluten-free trials! Can't say I envy you . . . but I appreciate the interest-led blogging you do.