Satan’s Guide to Blogging
I (devilbloggger) started blogging as something of an experiment — would the medium function for the message? Would the message get lost in the unorthodox delivery?
Hopefully it comes as no surprise to all my faithful readers that my purpose was to glorify God, advocate for truth, and generally encourage Christians while also getting them to think critically.
And non-Christians, atheists and other n’er-do-wells? Well, I just like pulling their chains, highlighting their foolishness, and satirically calling out their absurdities. But, in fact, I harbor a hope and prayer that they, too, might run into a truth or two here. Shhhh!
After a year of blogging hard I have great respect for those who consistently deliver quality blog content for extended periods of time–year after year. For those who haven’t tried blogging, it’s not easy. It is a lot of work and takes a lot of time. I committed myself to blog for one year, giving my best to writing posts that had two purposes: (1) to glorify God by highlighting his truth; and, (2) to be serious, deep, but at bottom, entertaining writing for Christians.
In short, I hoped my blog might be a fun, encouraging, God-honoring blog for Christians.
Have I been successful? My goal upon starting was to average over 1000 visitors per day after six months, and upwards of 5000 visitors per day after one year. Maybe my goal was completely unreasonable, but I did not reach that goal.
But I had fun, and I learned much. For example, I learned that I need to be charitable and realize that while many, many people who call themselves Christian are not, there are many whom I don’t agree with who are. Example? Catholics. I am an “evangelical” protestant with reformation theological leanings (as in Martin Luther’s reformation). I lean Calvinist. Some of my very early posts were anti-Catholic in tone. One post in particular explicitly criticized Catholics, the Catholic Church, and the Pope; it’s the only post I removed from public view.
What I found was that many of my readers were Catholic, and as I explored their websites and blogs I became challenged to rethink my prejudice against Catholics. I realized that while I may have serious theological disagreements with Catholics, Catholics are not the enemy. I found Catholics stubbornly holding the line on issues important to God: abortion, same-sex marriage, homosexuality, and historical, orthodox Christian belief (e.g., the deity of Christ, the Trinity, the virgin birth). Individual Catholics, just like individual protestants, may or may not be true Christians, but it is not their Catholicism that determines their Christianity. It is their heart-belief and faith in Jesus Christ. And I realized early on I was wrong to make Christian Catholics the target of my “Christian humor” any more than Christian protestants. Which is to say I was wrong to disparage Catholics.
I’m currently re-evaluating my “experiment.” Should I continue for another year? Should I change the format? It takes on average about an hour, sometimes more, to finish a typical post in the current format. Last year I posted 252 posts–that’s 252+ hours spent writing. That’s over six weeks of 40-hour work weeks spent writing this blog. I’m prayerfully reevaluating whether this is how God would have me spend my time. I’m considering fewer posts in the current format, and perhaps several shorter posts in between. I may just go to one post a week. We’ll see.
In any event, for any would-be bloggers out there, here is Satan’s Guide to Blogging:
1. Have something to say.
This may sound elementary, and it is. But since I started blogging I have seen many blogs start off with a strong post or two, maybe even a week or two of a post a day, and then taper off to once a month, and then to nothing. Here’s my theory: blogs are written by three kinds of people: (1) those who use the blog as a convenient way to let friends and family keep up with their distant goings on; (2) those for whom a blog is merely a public diary and they vainly believe everyone else will be thrilled to read their daily musings; and, (3) those who have a clever view on a topic, an insightful take on a particular issue, and a few “zinger” comments on a current event or two.
Blogs of the Category 1 types serve a great purpose, and tend to last as long as necessary (e.g., until the blogger comes home).
Blogs of the Category 2 type don’t last long because after a few weeks these bloggers realize it is a lot of work to make a blog entry every day. And except for friends and family who may read, no one else reads or cares about that wild and crazy night out last Friday night. So unless a few close friends and family are the intended audience, Category 2 blogs usually don’t last long.
Blogs of the Category 3 type also don’t last long. While these people are sure the world must enjoy their brilliance, the excitement wanes quickly as they realize that no one is reading their witty eloquence. These blogs end from a convergence of two forces. First, the writer who started off with what may have been true insight, and perhaps even brilliance, realizes after about three posts that there’s no more. Most people can write about 3 to 5 posts of witty observations, trenchant one-liners, and deep insight. After that, the well is dry. Second, the stat counter of popular blogs like WordPress blogs can be brutal; unless you are famous or have an existing pool of followers, a beginning blog has ZERO readers.
Therefore, before you start a blog, make sure you have more than two or three day’s worth of material. Focus on a theme, or an area of passionate interest that can be delved into daily or weekly with fresh insight. Or key off current events and news items, as Satan’s Blog does. You have to withstand the brutality of a merciless visitor counter that at first refuses to move from zero.
So be prepared to give an encore performance every post, even if no one will read it. This may sound illogical, but I’m convinced the best performers, writers, bloggers, radio hosts, etc., are those who hit a home run every day/show/performance. When they started they were like a beginning blogger: no audience. But they delivered the goods every day, week in and week out.
It’s hard. I’m telling you. But it’s impossible if you don’t have a steady stream of inspiration for something interesting to say.
2. Think about how to get five feet off the ground.
A “rocket scientist” friend once described his job as “ensuring the rocket gets five feet off the ground.” There are unique challenges to getting a rocket from a stand still to five feet of the ground. Once it’s going, it’s relatively easy to gain velocity and continue in its trajectory.
A blog (or a new store, restaurant, magazine, etc.) experiences similar dynamics. Just as a new, unknown, restaurant will open for business to no customers unless it is in a place of natural foot traffic, or advertised, most new blogs are sure to get zero visitors in the first post. And the second post. And the third.
Unless you are a celebrity, have name recognition already, and/or you are featured on a popular online venue (like a restaurant opened by a celebrity and/or in a popular pedestrian district), you will get no visitors to your blog. There is hardly anything as de-motivating as putting your heart and soul into a blog post to have no one read it.
To get the word out you will have to network through Facebook (Facebook’s Networked Blogs is a place to start), use Twitter, and other social media. Leave comments on other blogger’s sites. Leave comments on news sites and other blogs with links to your blog.
And don’t forget old fashioned advertising. That’s what I did. I used blogads to find two “religious” websites that accepted ads at a reasonable cost. I advertised at Creative Minority Report and God Web for several months to get “five feet off the ground” with a base of readers. After all, you can’t get “word of mouth” without at least one mouth to spread the word.
3. Keep writing.
As I mentioned above, after the “fun” wears off, blogging can become plain hard work. Just like any other activity that starts off “fun” like exercising, school, a new business, at some point the daily “grind” becomes work. While I truly enjoyed writing each post of Satan’s Blog, I must admit that often I had to force myself to sit down and write.
And I discovered some interesting things about writing. First, I found that some of my most-read posts were posts on topics that didn’t particularly interest me. I wrote on them because there was a certain truth point to be made, but it wasn’t a topic or subject that otherwise interested me. But apparently others found it interesting. So don’t ever underestimate the interests of others.
Second, I found that is I just start writing–anything–the rest of the p0st would follow. It might take some cutting and pasting, but if I just started writing words and sentences the post would evolve into something coherent and interesting. So if you are stuck, or have writer’s block, just start writing anything. One of my favorite sayings is, “There are no good writers, there are only good re-writers.” I think that is true.
If I think of any more brilliant insights, I’ll be sure and post them.
For now, thank you again for reading. And stay tuned for the new, better, Satan’s Blog!