Skip to content

Why You Should Keep a Blog (Part 1)

Start a free blog at

Start a free blog at

You should keep a blog. And, yes, I mean you personally.

If you’ve already got one, pat yourself on the back and then read below for advice on getting the most out of it. If you’re absolutely certain you don’t want to keep a blog (whether it’s a time thing or a lack-of-content thing or even a privacy thing), give me three pages to try to convince you.

On Thursday, I’m going to dedicate Part 2 to convincing my storytellers and creative writers about the benefits of blogging to their craft, but today’s post is for everybody. Today’s post is about the benefits of blogging to casual writers just trying to get simple ideas across. Today’s post could just as easily be named, “How Not to Look Like an Idiot.”

Looking Like an Idiot

I wrote an email a couple years back for work. One of my colleagues had asked for an update on a project I was working, and a week later he had to catch me in the hall to ask again. I went straight back to my desk and sat down to compose his email. I started it, “Hey, sorry, I’m an idiot. Here’s the information you requested.”

After that I put on my Technical Writer hat and dove into my project report. I gave an efficient but effective analysis of the state of the project, including what our roadblocks were and a practical projection of the project’s ultimate implementation. I got through to the end, wrote a really great conclusion and then (as is my habit), went back to the top to reread the whole thing before hitting Send.

By then, having spent half an hour in Technical Writer mode, that introduction struck me as extremely out-of-place. “Hey, sorry, I’m an idiot,” while a noble sentiment, did nothing to establish the topic or conversation for the rest of the email. More than that, it sounded extremely unprofessional in the context of the formal report that followed. So I cut it out, wrote a proper introduction, and sent it off.

Six months later I got an email from my boss detailing project schedules and work assignments and as I worked my way down through all the Forwards and Copieds and REs, I blinked in surprise to see my own quick status report as one of the emails in the chain. And three names above mine in the Forward chain was the Secretary of the Department of Transportation. How do you like that? I was seconds away from telling the big boss that I’m an idiot.

Publishing Your Drafts

You may be surprised to hear it, but I don’t necessarily think like a Tech Writer every time I go to write an email. The fact is, I’ve been writing correspondence for a lot longer than I’ve considered myself a serious writer, and I’m just as lulled by the convenience and simplicity of email (and chat, and all the other online communications) as the rest of you.

So it’s easy for me to jot off something unconsidered, unstructured, and essentially uncommunicative, but most of the time there comes a point somewhere in the process where I stop and remind myself to think like a writer. More often than not, that’s the moment before I click Send when I force myself to stop and reread it first.

And that habit comes more from blogging than from email. I started my first blog back in 2005, and it was supposed to be a place for me to post essays on all my weird philosophies. I jumped right in, ranting about religion and politics, and you’d better believe that got some comments.

I certainly didn’t mind the discussion, but it was infuriating to see how often the argument was about something I’d said wrong, rather than about something wrong that I’d said. I’d put hours into building an essay, a complex and detailed argument for my personal viewpoint, publish it to the world, and then watch as all of the conversation centered on one minor aside I’d made where I’d failed to clarify the exact focus of a pronoun.

I could edit my posts, I could fix the mistakes, but by the time I did that my first readers’ interest in the topic was usually exhausted, and anyone coming to the conversation later found comments that didn’t relate to the actual post, so it was hard to join in. In a very short time, I learned a deep respect for the Publish button.

That’s a powerful lesson you don’t get with email, because email lets you send your work away. Blogs keep it close at hand. Emails are seen as containers of information, whereas blogs are seen more as methods of expression. In other words, you’ll get held accountable more for how you say things in a blog than you ever are for emails.

And that’s a good thing! My coworker wouldn’t have cared if I’d said I was an idiot in the opening line of my email, because he would have taken the comment in the manner in which it was given. As that document wound its way up the corporate chart, though, further and further from my original target, how I said things became more and more important.

Thinking Like a Writer

Honestly, I could use that anecdote to promote this whole website, but when it comes right down to it, my articles aren’t going to save you that embarrassment. Oh, sure, thinking about good writing practices will help, it’ll make you a little bit better all the time, but you’re not going to be able to write good, effortless material until you’ve got some sort of Writer hat you can put on.

For me, my saving grace was the Technical Writer hat. I know that I’m a writer, so I hold myself accountable for the things I write. The problem many of my coworkers run into (and, I’m guessing, many of you), is that they don’t think they’re writers, so they don’t hold themselves accountable. Any one of them could have ended up in the same situation I did, though. Any of you could. The casual writing we do every day is becoming more and more permanent, and more and more public.

Because of that, it’s vital that you learn to think of yourself as a writer. You don’t have to go back to school, you don’t have to enroll in community college Creative Writing courses (although, of course, it wouldn’t hurt), but you do need to find ways to improve. You need to make yourself accept it, and start holding yourself to the same standard the big boss will.

The easiest way is regular practice. That’s why I’m posting weekly writing exercises. You need to spend time stretching yourself as a writer in a way that’s essentially harmless. Trying to write a better email when your boss asks for a self-evaluation could land you in trouble. Trying to write a better business letter when it’s a fake letter to Santa, though, gives you a stress-free sandbox. You can stretch your limits, you can see what works and what doesn’t, and nobody’s going to judge you for it.

That’s exactly how you should view your blog. It’s a practice area. It’s a workbook. It’s a chance for you to spend time realizing you’re a writer (and holding yourself accountable) without risking the real, information-bearing writing you have to do in your regular life.

Starting a New Blog

One thing you should keep in mind, as you consider this advice: Starting a new blog is a chance to experiment, and get better. It’s a chance to learn your weaknesses, which is an incredibly valuable thing, but it’s probably also the number one thing holding you back.

Your blog doesn’t need to be awesome. Your blog doesn’t need to be fascinating, or attract a thousand followers. I’m working on those things, with this site, but as I said, I spent five years working on the boring, “Here’s what I had for dinner last night” sort of blog before I ever got here.

Every word counts. Every page you write makes you a better writer. If you’re concerned about looking like an idiot, make your blog private. It’s easy to do with every type of blog software I’ve ever used, and it restricts your posts so they’re only visible to people you directly invite.

I started with Xanga and then moved to Blogger when all my friends did. I’d love to push Blogger, because I have a massive crush on everything Google, but if you’re going to start a new blog I’d recommend going with WordPress. It’s probably the easiest to use free, full-featured blog software out there, and if you ever decide to make your own web page, chances are good you’ll end up using WordPress to build it. Might as well start learning now.

It’s easy enough. Click this link to make a new account on WordPress. Choose a username (which will also become your web address, so choose wisely), ask for a blog, and start posting.

If you’re having trouble coming up with stuff to write about, check back here. At the very least, you’ll have a ready-made post or two every week as you hone your skills with the writing exercises. That’s what they’re there for.

2 Responses to “Why You Should Keep a Blog (Part 1)”

  1. Trish Pogue says:

    Wow, now I want to blog more! If this doesn’t get people writing, nothing will. Good job. You are super talented. Love ya!

  2. Aaron Pogue says:

    Love you too, babe! And thanks for the comment. I’m really excited about this week’s material, because I think it had a ton to offer and it’s an easy sell.

    I’d love to see you blogging more, too. You’ve got some fascinating stuff to share, on both sites!