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Are We Blogging for Gold? (Why Blog?)

I received a forwarded email and note of encouragement from a good friend the other day. The title of the message proclaimed that 95% of blogs are abandoned. The following information was featured prominently on the page:

Blogging is tough. It’s hard work. And it’s never ending. But is it really worth it? It’s a constant commitment to… Consistently read new content. Uncover the key influential blogs in your space. Accumulate new ideas for the posts that will intrigue, educate, inform, or enrage your readers. Publish on a regular, pre-defined schedule. That’s why so many people jump off before(95% according to Technorati) they realize any significant benefit from blogging. It’s understandable. People are busy and many senior level managers are still unsure if this maturing medium really ‘holds the gold’ that it promises for those willing to do the hard work necessary to realize the benefits.”

The advertisement also included an interesting piece by the New York Times titled “Blogs Falling in an Empty Forest” http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/07/fashion/07blogs.html

This article reminded me of a couple of world-class bloggers I follow. One is Jon Acuff, author of Quitter, who writes under the moniker “Stuff Christians Like” (which boasts an unfathomable number of readers). I had the opportunity to talk with Jon once and he explained the tedious process of gaining readership and landing on an idea that worked. The success of Jon’s blog has led him into speaking and writing professionally (and doing it all quite well with his great sense of humor). I also follow the religion professor and writer Scot McKnight, whose blog is titled after his bestselling book The Jesus Creed. McKnight manages an unbelievable schedule (complete with weekend posts) and does a wonderful job engaging his readers in the most pertinent issues of the day. I have to admit, following those guys gives me the same sensation I get on the court at the YMCA when I am schooled by some 6’5″ twenty-something (it happens more often than I would like).

When I first began the blog, I was incessantly checking my analytics, obsessing over how many people had read which posts and at what time and from what part of the country! I wanted a platform. I celebrated my first week of fifty readers and felt like I was “on my way” when the blog received a thousand hits for several consecutive weeks. But something happened as when time went on. I stopped watching my analytics. I struggled with what to write. The schedule began to weigh on me. I began to question why in the world I was even bothering.

This summer, I was chatting about books with a friend of mine who is a book publicist; she commented that publishers seem to be obsessed lately with finding authors who already have a “platform.” The problem with this thinking is that a great book idea and good writing is all the “platform” an author truly needs. I returned to my blog pondering her thoughts. I might as well have been sailing the Titanic.

I grew up playing hoops. The court at my house was a sanctuary. It was the place for my 500 jump shots…the place where I could try to dunk far away from the ridicule of teammates. Blogging serves as a similar practice space — a venue for exercising my discipline of writing. I think it is healthy and necessary to recognize and identify our motive, true purpose and the ultimate worthiness of our routine as writers. The greater benefit of course is that “we,” all of us junior varsity bloggers, are able to add a necessary voice to the conversation about spirituality.

Writing is a discipline. It requires the same day-to-day practice that any other craft requires. Blogging consistently has allowed me a place to experiment with my work and my ideas about faith and culture, a safe place to wrestle with spirituality and how it should impact my life. I do enjoy reading (and often being challenged) by great e-mails I receive in response to a blog post. And I will probably go back and check my numbers on Google analytics at some point. Blogging is tough. It is never-ending, and it is hard work. For me, though, blogging is not about “finding gold” – it is simply part of the discipline of writing.

Before you type a word today, it might be helpful to consider why you are blogging. If you love to write – take heart — you are in that special 5%.

Originally Posted 8/22/11

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