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Friday, February 02, 2007

Becoming a Blogging Maestro: Composing Beautiful Blog Music




How do I write? I've been asked by Brian Grenier and Wes Fryer to share how I develop posts for my blog. They asked it to be succinct! ;-)

Blogging is like performing music. No matter how pure and vivid a solitary note of music is, no musician would be asked to come to Carnegie Hall because he played one singular beautiful note! No, Musicians are honored for skillfully playing beautiful compositions -- for giving the audience an experience to remember. The great musicians play with technical precision, variety, purity, beauty, and passion -- that is what makes the chill bumps arise and tears flow.

Likewise, I believe that a great blog has all of the aspects of a performance by a great musical virtuoso. Just like my picture at the left emerges not by looking at one character, but by looking at the entire piece together, I truly look at my blog as an entire composition with the individual posts only being notes!

I compose my blog while focusing on these five things:

1) Truth (Purity)

What is true? I keep notes in my planner and all over the house about my “Ah ha” words or phrases that will add emphasis to the thoughts I’m pondering at the moment.

Whether a topic is pleasant or not is irrelevant to me. Is it true? Does it need to be discussed? Does a well educated person in my field need to know about it? Is it professional? And most importantly, is it true? Some bloggers fabricate fantastic fantasies to get readers. Eventually, people will figure out that you cannot be trusted if you do that. If you focus on posting the truth, you become trustworthy and whether people agree with you or not, they can count on you to tell the truth as you see it.


Additionally, I must be introspective with every post and ask myself: what are my motives in blogging it? Am I pure in motive? If I am upset, I do not write or post: dirty laundry belongs in the hamper not on a blog. I also view my blog as a place to respond when the media invariably misquotes or puts an inaccurate "spin" on things I have said or done. I look for genuine, honest bloggers to read and I work hard to be one.

2) Variety

Monotone speakers (and teachers) are boring. (I think of the funny "bored meeting" cartoon here.)


For my blog, I like to vary the topics to include: specific how-to information, anecdotal observations, big picture observations, inspiring thoughts (see point 4) and stuff that is just plain cool! My audience is those who care about educating children. No monotone blogging with just one viewpoint/ topic -- we all know "one note bloggers," we may read them every so often, but not every day.

3) Passion

Kathy Sierra talks about inspiring passion in the users of software. I seek to instill passion in my students and in the readers of my blog. When I write, I literally allow myself to experience the emotion of what I'm writing about.

It is a lot like when I sing in front of an audience -- I am a better musician when I feel my music. I am a better writer when I feel what I am writing about. Life is short and time is short -- I want to spend my time and blog writing about the things I am passionate about. Sometimes I am exhausted after writing emotionally charged posts and as I collapse onto the couch, my husband will remark, "It must have been another good post!" I pour my genuine passion into my posts. The more passion -- the better the post.


4) Inspiration

Teaching is a high burn out profession. It is easy to suffer from "hardening of the attitudes" (as Zig Ziglar says.) I struggle with it to and surround myself with inspirational books, readings, and listenings to keep myself positive and moving in the right direction. I love Dale Carnegie because he motivates me decades after his books were written. I want my blog to do the same for future generations of my family and teachers!

I believe that blogs have not yet gained the stature they deserve, and that eventually bloggers will have more staying power than many traditional book authors because of the virtual relationship that emerges when a blogger is truly inspirational. What if I could have read Dale Carnegie as he learned every day and shared?


There are enough whiners, naysayers, and bad attitudes out there. I think of the pioneers -- blazing the trail out west was difficult work. They were alone, misunderstood, persecuted, and suffered greatly. Most great accomplishments in this world are made by the men and women who are brave enough to do what is right amidst a world of wrong. I read people who inspire me and I want to be inspirational. If one person can say that their life was made better through my words, that means I am a successful blogger.

5) Technical Precision

Great musicians have great technical prowess. Additionally, there are rules, conventions, and netiquette to follow when you blog. I have outlined most of these in my posts 10 Habits of Bloggers that Win and How to Comment like a King (or Queen.) One of my pet peeves is when someone writes something about a blog or source and does not hyperlink - it is BAD BAD netiquette. Bloggers also need to "ping" technorati so that they can effectively join in the conversation. The small details make a big difference in blogging as can be seen by the ranking I currently have on Technorati. There are many talented edubloggers out there -- some much more than me but I make sure that I follow the technical conventions that will get me noticed.

The importance of Rests


All this being said, there is one important thing about blogging to remember. It has to do with the rests in between blog posts.

Since I am using the analogy of music, musicians will know that most musical compositions have rests. These rests or pauses are important and allow for the musician to not only move their hands and but more importantly they add emphasis, flow and rhythm

. The rest itself is not music, but embedded between notes, it becomes part of the musical composition itself. Rests in a blog allow a blogger to move their thoughts and sometimes to add emphasis. (If I am particularly proud of a post, the best way for it to get noticed is to wait a little while and not bury it under other ones. Write a great post and rest a moment-- give your readers time to find it in their RSS.)

Rests also allow me to recharge and listen to others voices. I have so much to learn, but in order to listen I have to stop talking! Some people write three posts a day because they read somewhere that good bloggers write three posts a day. I disagree. Perhaps it hurts my ranking (but I'm here to make a difference not be #1) but I think that good bloggers write when they have something that fits these five criteria.

The Composition

I believe that blogs with truth, variety, passion, inspiration, and technical precision are those that stand head and shoulders above the rest. Some people value the spontaneity and love just "throwing together" a post and I sometimes do that.

However, as my readership has increased, I take my responsibility of the day very seriously. Blogging rankings are very much a popularity contest and few blogs have the staying power to remain at the top. (Just watch the top 100 and you'll see weekly changes.) So, while you have readership, use your opportunity wisely to promote the things you are passionate about, to tell the truth, to bring inspiration to the lives of others. For to me, that is indeed the true beauty of blogging.

Will you share?

I am going to tag a few of my favorite bloggers in the hopes that some of them will give the rest of us insight into their thought process. (We teach children to share, why shouldn't we?) I'm ready to learn more and I think sometimes we spend so much time writing about our subject that we could also benefit from sharing our method of writing about our subject.

The Pros
I'd love to hear from innovation sleuth Michael Arrington at Tech Crunch, Beth Kanter at Blog Her, Kathy Sierra at Creating Passionate Users, educational expert Stephen Downes, perpetual business guru Guy Kawasaki and amazing leader Lawrence Lessig. (I can dream, can't I?)

Some of my other favorites:
I'd also like to hear from some of my other favorite reads: Casey (one of my students), Karen Romeis in England, librarian Doug Johnson, Jeff Utecht in China, Sylvia Tolisano at Langwitches, Anne Davis at anne.teachesme, Stephen Rahn at Stephen's Untold Stories, Marshall K, Julie Lindsey - pioneering educatator and friend in Bangladesh, the guys at SEGA Tech, and my WOW2 partners in ephiphanies: Cheryl, Jen, and Sharon.

You
I have so many people that I read -- how can I name them all? I also read the blogs of commenters and others, so if you are reading this, consider yourself tagged. How do you blog? Count the five ways!

Remember, when you link to me and Ping technorati, I read it! (I try to comment too!) So, join in the conversation -- this is a great topic!
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