What I Learned: The Dead Blog Challenge Wrap

The Dead Blog Challenge, designed to kick my ass into writing again, ended on June 30th, even though I kept going for a few days into free agency.  Of course, that was part of the point, to get a writing habit started and to keep writing (which is going to lead to the next challenge).  But I learned a few things along the way, and wanted to get them out in the world, and see what you thought.

Daily Writing vs. Daily Posting -

I believe in being consistent with putting content out there, but at the same time, I don’t believe in posting just to have something to post.  A few times through the challenge, I didn’t feel like writing about hockey, and I’m sure it showed.  It was mostly when there wasn’t much happening, and I didn’t really have much to say, but still had to put out a post, because that’s what I said I would do.  Hey, it’s called a challenge for a reason.

Unless you are paid to do it, I can’t say I believe in posting every day just to have something out there.  Phoning it in publicly when you don’t have something to say is no way to use your voice.  That doesn’t mean you can’t just share a photo or video or something simple, but to really dig into something you care nothing about is no way to go.  That’s a recipe for burnout.  And what’s the point of that, if you want to keep your blog going?  Why look at your blog staring you in the face, and hating it, all so you did that one post you didn’t really care about?

That said, I do believe in writing every day, or at least every day that you possibly can.  Hey, some of us have to work for a living, and can’t do everything we want.  It feels a little counter-intuitive, to write something and not post it, but not everything you write is going to be gold.  Sometimes, it’s best to leave even good ideas on the shelf to make way for the great ones.

Editing –

When I first started blogging, I rarely went back and edited before posting.  That was probably the stupidest thing I could have done.  I bought into the hype, and was just happy to be posting.  Now, looking back at some of those posts, the writing is absolutely embarrassing.  There are posts that should have never made it to the blog, and others that should have sat in the draft folder until I had a better head for editing.

Going back and rewriting is a great thing, so long as you believe in the process.  And if you rewrite, your proof should be right there.  You should be showing yourself exactly why you rewrite and edit, because your work gets better.

I wish there were a universal editing service, where you could submit your post to someone who could act as editor, and they would give your post a once-over for you.  Having that kind of outside perspective would be greatly educational.  I would love to submit a weeks worth of posts to Wyshynski or Eric McErlain to go over with a red marker, and show me what they would do differently.  And believe me, we all have plenty to learn about writing.

Comments –

I turned off comments for a while during the challenge, and truth be told, I missed them a little bit, even though most posts don’t get commented on.  I felt bad about turning them off, but at the same time, I tried to bask in the freedom of not needing to think about what other people thought.  That’s harder to do than it is to say, but still, I wanted to try it.

I got an email from a drive-by reader – they came from another blog I had talked about and linked to – who said that turning off comments was just my way of preaching from my pulpit.  Which is what blogs are anyways.  He thought that without comments, people couldn’t challenge my ideas or thoughts.  As though that were what comments usually are.

Take a look at the comments at highly trafficked blogs.  Look at Deadspin, or Puck Daddy.  Get outside the genre of hockey and read some of the comments you see elsewhere on the more popular blogs.  How much thoughtful commentary is there?  How much challenging of ideas do you see?  I’d say 70% of my comments are either conformation or spam.  Drive-bys make up for another 20%, with 10% actually having something challenging to say, or even discussing what was posted.

People don’t leave that many comments.  I know I don’t do it as much as I used to, but the way I have read hockey blogs, as well as the amount I read, have changed over the years.

When I started this blog, I wanted to jump into the discussion, but blogs are rarely about discussion, within the confines of the site they occupy.  Discussion happens between blogs, and in places like forums (when they are run well), or on twitter or facebook.  This isn’t to say that it never happens – I’ve had some really good conversations in the comment sections  of this blog a few times – but it’s rare.  Comments are a broken system for having conversations.  It’s part of why I started a podcast.  The conversation you have when using your voice and ears is very different from the conversation you have when stopping by the comments of a blog post you may never get back to.

By the way, I wrote back to the person who emailed me, and never heard back.  To their credit, they did poke around my blog a bit before emailing me.  Still, I guess it’s hard to send emails from way up high on my pulpit.  Either that, or they just didn’t really care.  I’m going to guess it was the second one.

Those who took up the challenge –

Several other people took up the challenge with me, which made it easier for me to complete it.  I don’t know if I could have done it with out them.  Most of the people made it through the 15 day challenge, with one person making it through the entire month long challenge with me.  A few people didn’t make it, but hey, that’s why the call it a challenge.  It’s supposed to be hard.  I hope that those who tried and didn’t make it start their own challenge at some point.  When they are ready, they will do it themselves, and be better off for it.

A few people said thanks for doing the challenge, but the truth is, I didn’t do anything.  They did the hard work, which was sitting down and writing the posts.  They kept their commitments, and they hopefully reaped the rewards.  Putting the challenge out there for others gave me more motivation when I saw how well other people were doing with the challenge, and gave me some more fun stuff to read.  I will say, in the most humble and undeserving way I know how, you are welcome.  But really, if you did the challenge, don’t pat me on the back, pat yourself on the back.  You did the work, and you deserve the credit.  I really should be thanking you.

 

So, challenges.  I need to figure out a podcasting challenge for myself.  Because I need to kick that thing back into service again for the season.  More on that later.

But the offseason is in full effect, and there won’t be enough to write about for a few months.  At least, not for me, and not for plenty of other bloggers out there.   So the challenge has to change a little bit.  I do have something in mind, so stop back in a day or two, and see what the next one is.  I think you’re going to like it.

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