Blogging in excess can be as harmful as other addictive pastimes. Or it can be something that’s enjoyable and you do for fun. I want to make the case that blogging can seriously help your career
Blogging has become a significant component in the communications game. Blogging can scoop the professional news media, and its whistle-blowers have already scored some notable hits.
A recent example in the UK was reported by the BBC
Blogger Guido Fawkes has claimed the internet’s first ministerial scalp with the resignation of Peter Hain.
As this post was being prepared, we learn how a blog ‘outed’ Prince Harry and ended his stint as a military officer in Afghanistan.
The Boston Globe reported on civic officials and their blogs.
Catching the blogging bug
It’s been just over a year since I caught the blogging bug, with the full addiction following shortly afterwards. At first, I was intrigued by the possibility of a new way of sharing ideas. Later I realized that it was helping me change the way in which I teach and research.
Blogging has brought about the most significant change to my teaching practices since I reluctantly abandoned the paraphernalia of the OHP and transparencies a few years ago.
When I began writing the posts for Leaderswedeserve, the original idea was to take a contemporary issue and summarize it in a single- post, with a few pointers to follow-up sources for student use.
I found that a convenient length for each post was about 800 words. That gave me enough freedom to provide adequate content, and something I could complete at one (or at most two) visits to the keyboard. While there are full-time bloggers able to generate copy each day, a target of three posts a week seemed manageable, and avoided the trap of blogging regardless of whether I was adding some personal insight in every post.
Giving up something else
Each such post now takes me about two to three hours, resulting in 800 words that I’m happy with. I still use preview and edit facilities a lot (these can become compulsive actions).
I now spend about twelve hours a week blogging. As a consequence, I gave up another web-based hobby for a while (playing internet chess), although I am now getting back into playing quick chess as well as blogging.
If I am likely to be away from home-base for a while I prepare a few ‘nearly ready’ blogs in advance, and try to post at least two a week.
How has blogging changed my working life?
One unexpected payoff is that blogging provides an unusual level of serendipitous findings which can be applied elsewhere.
An example: I have a long-running research project into charismatic leadership. From time to time there is a need to prepare a talk or lecture on leadership.
In the past, I would try to set aside some research time and augment this in hotel rooms or during long-distance travelling for reading and thinking and for keeping up through journal subscriptions. Lecture material tended to be generated too close to comfort as a deadline approached, under increasingly urgent reminders from anxious course director or administrators. The main sources of news were early morning newspapers and radio bulletins, and late night catch up (Newsnight, while becoming increasingly strident over the years, at least remained a reliable indication of the media preoccupations of the day).
Now I find I am much more up-to-date in everyday discussions with colleagues, not just on current affairs, but on professionally relevant ideas derived from the secondary investigations triggered. I find myself re-reading the classic articles of organization studies as well as those dealing with leadership.
A draft blog is somewhere to store the various references you found valuable. This work-in-progress turns out to be easier to pick-up and take forward than happened when reference materials were scattered around in notebooks, post-it slips, diaries, and assorted annotated stuff.
Developing writing skills
Another outcome of regular blogging: It’s a great way of honing your writing skills. If you have to produce reports, dissertations, or even books, you are likely to need fluency in producing material on a regular basis. That fluency can be developed by regular practice to practical time constraints. The quality and style can also be improved, but you need constructive feedback. At very least you need to be a good critic to your own work, neither too lenient, not too critical of work in progress.
Making money from blogging
This post is not about making money from blogging. It is possible for part-time hobbies to become money earners. A business model is emerging for such bloggers to study.
This post is directed at to encourage beginners. I found a lot of help and advice via WordPress FAQs.
Rule of thumb: know your commitment level
Level one: You find spend a minimum of three quality time slots of at least an hour preparing your blog each week.
This will be enough to produce one post, including revisions.
Level 2: Minimum of three quality-time slots of one-to two hours, and additional fill-in time to produce two posts every week, and some ‘work in progress on a third. Time needed is likely to be ten to twenty hours, which most people will have to manage around many other conflicting time demands.
Level 3: Becoming a professional. I have no ambition in this direction, as I can see the effort and skill required. I’m sure it will require daily efforts, and maybe demanding weekly hours on a par with other professional disciplines (say fifty hours a week minimum).
Can a blog become a book?
Yeeees. Just about. Technically it’s quite easy. One or two bloggers have claimed to be en route to a traditional book. A few best-selling authors are experimenting with blogs (just as musicians are experimenting with web-based production models for distributing their work).
A regular blogger might be expected to generate some hundred thousand words a year, which is the scale of a 300 page text-book. You will have built-in tags to the blog posts, and these provide the raw materials for a good index system . So in principle, a blog can be turned into a book.
An interesting possibility is team blogging, in which a group of authors co-edit and write the blog which then is turned into a collection of chapters in a traditional edited text.
But why go down that route to produce a traditional book?
Regular blog posts are not dissimilar to the old-style diary, sometimes written with more than one eye on eventual publication. Furthermore, blog posts are easier to cut, paste, revise, annotate, than most first drafts. Even final drafts submitted to publishers often do not reach the level of revision required for coherence, and style, regardless of intellectual rigour.
In summary, the work you put into a blog post is a useful discipline towards the content of a first draft of a book. It also means you are not under the same pressure from a publisher to work to a deadline until long after you have most of the material to hand. However, it helps if you have been writing a blog with the intention of turning it into a book. That way you take different planning decisions about what to blog about.
Much blogging is personal therapy. You can argue it as personal development. Or exhibitionism. Sometimes it can be compulsive. Or tiresome. Or seriously disturbed and disturbing. Sometimes reading a blog leaves me with those feelings produced when I find myself watching celebrity reality shows. And, anyway, as with the shows, you can always click out of the scene and do something else …
Blogging and your career
I have hinted how blogging may trigger a compulsive side of a personality. On the other hand, like music, love, mathematics, chess, sport, and toad watching, it has the power to make you happy.
But can it seriously improve your career? Maybe you are a superstar waiting to be discovered by the blogging world, and through that revealed as an exceptional talent in ways that enhance your career. But let’s get real. One in a zillion authors becomes best-sellers. It is more likely will find a lot of pleasure from blogging, or you will move on to something else.
There are exciting career opportunities through blogging. Perhaps you be among their number.
On the other hand, blogging may seriously damage your career. (Although it seems to me that some of the whistle-blowers and moles may be at some level wanting out, and wanting to be outed.
The following from WordPress guidance for bloggers:
Best Bloggers hook you. They have drawn you in from the first sentence. That can happen in as many ways as there are imaginations, but it never, ever means this sort of beginning: Sorry I haven’t blogged in so long, but I’ve been busy. Or Not much to say, but I don’t have anything else to do but blog. A Best Blogger has got something to say, and they make you want to hear it.
Best Bloggers know how to use the tools at their disposal. Mostly, that means they’re good at the language in which they blog. Their writing is clear and sharp, they can punctuate, they proofread, and they sound like the smart people they are.
Best Bloggers are generous. They know there’s room for everyone. They know that another great blog in no way diminishes them. They link to people they admire, regardless of whether that other blog is bigger or smaller than they are.
To friends, colleagues, and the blogging community. Special thanks goes to black-belt social networker Paul Carruthers, who got me started.