a peek inside the fishbowl

27 May, 2013

The art of blogging

Posted by andrea tomkins in: The business of blogging

I think it’s really interesting that blogging means so many different things to so many different people. For some people it is a journal, a catharsis, a means of connecting with the world. For others it’s about coupon clipping and deal-getting. A blog might be a scrapbook, or gainful employment, or a way to find support.

For me, blogging has primarily been an artistic endeavour, albeit one that leans into all of those other categories from time to time. I know this is an abstract way of thinking, but that’s how I see it in my head.

Is blogging an art form? I think so. If art is defined as self expression, I think it can certainly be argued that blogging is art. There is, after all, an art to blogging. Just like someone can pick up a brush and express themselves with paint on canvas, I can do the same using digital tools to weave a picture out of words, sound, photo, and video. And it’s a picture that grows a little bit every day.

I think that if you pour yourself into something, and it’s truly the work of your hand working in tandem with your head and your heart, it must be art. If an artist took a giant canvas and painted something on it every day for the rest of her life, is it art? What if she decoupaged the odd receipt or bus ticket or photo in there. Is it still art?

Some of you may already know that I’m hosting a roundtable at Social Capital Conference this weekend. (There are still a few tickets left. You can pick one up here!) I was on the steering committee for the first two years – and had a variety of responsibilities in that capacity – but I had the most fun as roundtable host so that’s what I’ve returned to in the 2013 edition.

I’ll be taking a few pages out of my blog coaching gig and heading up the discussion at the Blogging 201 roundtable. I’ve done something similar in past conferences and it’s always a great conversation and a huge learning experience for all involved, including myself. I’m thrilled to be able to share the secrets of my successes and failures with others.

Perhaps I am scooping myself here but one of the points I’d like to make at the Social Capital on Saturday is there is truly no wrong way to blog. I think too many bloggers worry that they’re doing it wrong, when they should just be DOING. You know what I mean?  There are “best practices” and tips and tools that might help you reach your goals, but it’s too easy to get bogged down in what the experts say. For example, that

  • every blog post needs to have a photo
  • every blog post must clock in under 600 words
  • every blog post must be posted on a weekday around lunchtime

If you spend too much time worrying about the details, you’re not spending the time and energy being creative and creating content.

There are good blogs, and there are bad blogs, but this is totally subjective. It’s only my opinion whether a blog is good or bad or pretty or ugly or inspiring or a total snoozefest. I might not follow your blog because I’m not interested in giveaways for diaper creams and baby toys, but other people do. Who cares what I think?

When I’m wearing my blog coach hat I ask my clients if THEY like their blog. Do they like the appearance? The way that the information is presented? The image they are formulating of themselves with every post? This is really all that matters.

There is no wrong way to blog or to be a blogger but you know what sucks the joy and life out of me? Petty jealousy, grandstanding, ego, and drama. What a waste of time and energy, and it makes me feel drained and disenchanted, and I don’t take time out of my life for it anymore.

Although there is no wrong way to blog, I think there is a GOOD way to blog. But as I sit here I wonder whether it bears repeating because it’s just so darn obvious. Is it worth reminding people to be kind and respectful? To treat others as they would like to be treated? To understand that everyone is different and that’s why it’s a good idea to refrain from judgment? To be happy for other people’s successes instead of being envious of them?

A GOOD way to blog is to be true to yourself. If you are true to yourself you will be happy and productive. If you force yourself to be someone you are not you will start to feel empty inside and it will show in your writing, and if you’ve worked hard to grow your audience you will slowly see it seep away because you’re too busy being a pretender as opposed to being The Real You.

What do you think? Anyone care to chime in on this one? :)


12 Responses to "The art of blogging"

1 | Shauna

May 27th, 2013 at 11:50 am

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I was thinking of going to Social Capital, because there’s always more to learn, but I am hesitant. I really like where my (itty-bitty nine month old) blog is going, the community it’s created, and the looseness of the art form (as you so aptly put it).

I also really, really do enjoy the trial-and-error: the fistpump feeling when you connect with people, the shamelessness of experimentation. I like planning, and being savvy about it, but I don’t know if being so calculated as to go to a conference makes sense (though being a veritable fetus in the blogging world, I would LOVE to meet locals with similar projects, ideas and attitudes).

To me, blogging is a real journey of honesty, patience, and expression. I’m also realizing that I blog not because I know HOW to, but because I really don’t know how NOT to do it–writing and the social life of the internet are just a natural part of my day. :)

2 | Natalie

May 27th, 2013 at 12:03 pm

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Hear! Hear!

I’ve been blogging off and on for 5 years now. The blog started as a collection of funny and not so funny dating stories. To the trials, tribulations and joys of being in a relationship. To talking about personal growth and my passion of working with kids in sports psychology.

A blog is an organic thing, it grows and changes along with its author. It’s a space I can go to share my reflections, lessons learned and hope.

Thanks Andrea you’ve been my inspiration in starting my own blog :)

3 | Lenny

May 27th, 2013 at 2:37 pm

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Thank you for sharing your art. I’ve enjoyed many things about your blog.

4 | Lynn

May 27th, 2013 at 7:04 pm

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I absolutely agree that a blog is art, and that bloggers are artists. There is just so much greatness out there – great stories, great words, great photos – that are being shared with the world through the most amazing self-publishing platform ever invented.

And I also completely agree that “good” blogging means being yourself. It means putting yourself out there – putting your own personality into your posts – and also, talking about things that matter to you, in an honest way. Even if you are doing sponsored posts or promoting your business, blog posts must come from a place of sincerity.

Loved this post – it would make a great read at Blog Out Loud. JUST SAYING.

5 | andrea tomkins

May 28th, 2013 at 9:42 am

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Thanks guys!
This is something I’ve been pondering more than usual this week. The WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN question comes and goes with me as it does every other blogger I suppose. :)

Popeye said it best: I YAM WHAT I YAM. And I think that applies to bloggers just as much as it does seafaring cartoon characters. And who can argue with that?

6 | Ross Brown

May 28th, 2013 at 9:59 am

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I have enjoyed reading your “art” over the past few years. Keep those creative juices flowing.

I totally agree that a blog must reflect who you are. Most readers are smart: if they think you’re being phony, they won’t follow you for long.

I constantly break the three rules that you listed: not all of my posts include photos. I’m primarily a writer, after all. Some posts don’t need illustration: if I can use words to put a picture in your head, I’m validating my craft.

I often go over the 600-word guideline. Again, I’m a writer, that’s what I do. I don’t do it often, but people still read.

I typically publish my posts at midnight. I have friends in Europe, who like to read my blog in the morning. But I use social media (Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook) to announce new posts at various times of the day, including noon.

Great post, Andrea! Good luck with the round table at Social Capital.

7 | Ginger

May 29th, 2013 at 2:39 pm

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I love blogging. I don’t sit to do it as much as I did when the boys were smaller and certainly before they were even around. I am struggling with my blog lately and it makes me uncomfortable. My blog has always been my journal. It isn’t for money or fame…but I do like the comments just like all bloggers. Only I know that not as many people read my blog anymore because I don’t write regularly, and honestly, the interaction makes blogging fun. I like knowing that people are reading even if I am not purposefully trying to get tons of readers so I can earn money through blogging. On the other side of the coin, I used to be an avid blog reader. Now I have deleted most of the blogs off my reader and I only visit a handful. I miss it but I don’t have time for it right now. Plus I think my values and interests have changed and I have yet to find new blogs that fit with the new things in my life. I do have time scheduled this summer to reestablish my blogging life!

8 | Laurel

May 31st, 2013 at 11:24 am

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I’m a writer that blogs. I do what I want in my own space:) There’s lots of space for all as we spoke about, right Andrea?:)
Thanks for making us think!

9 | Jane

May 31st, 2013 at 11:47 am

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I like your advice about being true to yourself. but I also think many of us starting out in blogging tend to get paralysed trying to find our ‘real self’ or authentic voice. thankfully we can also find our true selves through blogging, by treating it as evolutionary trial and error process where we gradually move towards something truly unique and true to the self

10 | Sandy

June 2nd, 2013 at 7:01 pm

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Thank you so much for such a wonderful Roundtable discussion yesterday at Social Capital Conference, Andrea. You made many good points, and I took away some great advice. I really enjoyed the discussion…and I love how everyone stayed through to the end of session two! No one wanted to move. You know you have a good discussion going when that happens. I agree very much with your blog here. While I think it’s great to read what the experts are saying and use whatever advice you think will help you, your blog has to come from your heart. It has to be what works for you and what feels right. If it isn’t, it becomes forced, and in my opinion, fake. Your best work will come from what you are passionate about, and what works for you. You are right, you can’t get too hung up on all the little details, something we all need to remember. Thanks again, Andrea!

11 | coffeewithjulie

June 5th, 2013 at 3:24 pm

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I am finding it more and more difficult to feel “true to myself” … there are so many things I would like to write about but I find myself doing self-censoring. I used to feel like I was writing for myself and to express myself and now I feel like I am trying to avoid controversy and offending people in my “real life.” Honestly, I’ve considered closing shop. But I really do think I’d miss it.

12 | Is blogging an art form? | Real Lawyers Have Blogs

November 8th, 2013 at 4:54 pm

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[…] a veteran blogger and managing editor of Capital Parent Newspaper in Ottawa, asks “Is blogging an art form?” I think so. If art is defined as self expression, I think it can certainly be argued that […]

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The Obligatory Blurb

My name is Andrea and I live in the Westboro area of Ottawa with my husband Mark and our dog Piper who is kind of a big deal on Instagram. We also have two human daughters: Emma (20) and Sarah (18). During the day I work as a writer at The Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre. I am a longtime Ottawa blogger and I've occupied this little corner of the WWW since 1999. The Fishbowl is my whiteboard, water cooler, and journal, all rolled into one. I'm passionate about healthy living, arts and culture, family travel, great gear, good food, and sharing the best of Ottawa for families. I also love vegetables, photography, gadgets, and great design.

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