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7 Searching Questions to Ask Your Blog

As we enter the last few days of a year we inevitably find ourselves not just looking forward to the promise of the new year but looking back at the ups and downs, the highs and lows of the year that’s just coming to a close.

Bloggers are no different and the blogosphere is awash with looking-forward posts on predictions and goals for the year ahead and and looking-backwards pieces highlighting the ‘best of’ the 12 months that are drawing to an end.

There are lots of blogging benefits to a backward looking piece, of course.  Hauling out well-crafted posts from your archive and getting them back into view.  Consolidating  your network of internal links.

But there’s an important learning benefit too as we look back at what we’ve written in the year gone by - the chance to learn from our own words, thoughts and ideas.  As I get ready to look through my own writing archives for the year gone by I jotted down the questions I would ask myself - or rather, ask my blog.  A note of the things that I would be looking out for, that would help me to learn.

These are the 7 searching questions I came up with:

#1  Aha Look out for the pieces that gave you an ‘aha’ moment at the time of writing, or that give  you an ‘aha’ feeling when you read them again.  That jolt of recognition is pointing you to something significant

#2  Stretch Where do you notice the stretch in your writing as you tried something new - a different style, or broaching a new and perhaps challenging issue.  How did taking that stretch help you to grow?

#3 Next time When you find the things you wish you’d written differently (or not written at all)… take a deep breath and move past the cringe.  What can you learn from this?  What will you do differently next time?

#4 Reactions Pay attention to your own reactions when you re-read  your writing - the pieces that make you smile, that bring tears to your eyes, that create a physical reaction.  It might be the hairs going up on the back of your neck or a tingling sensation in your skin - they’re signs from your unconscious mind, your creative source, your muse, that something important is going on.

#5 Connections Look out for the writing that created the greatest sense of connection with your readers.  There are blogging tools to measure this of course (number of hits, peak in reader numbers, number of comments received) but how about quality of the connections you made?  Which pieces of writing led to the most interesting conversations or the longest-lasting blogging friendships - and what can you learn from that?

#6 Source There are times when our writing can seem a little… superficial maybe, or formulaic.  Other times when we look back and think, yep, that was a good piece of writing.  Times again when we read our own words and recognise that there is an important truth being told.  It’s as if the words have come from some place outside of our selves, that we recognise as our own but have a deeper, clearer, more honest place as their source.  When you find them: notice them.  Treasure them.  Learn from what you are telling yourself.

#7 Journey “Writing is an exploration” said Doctorow.  “You start from nothing and learn as you go.”  As you look back on the last year in words what do you notice about the distance traveled?  What are the key turning points that jump out at you?

What are the patterns and threads that help you make sense of the exploration - where you’ve come from, and where you might be going next?

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  1. Robert Hruzek says:

    Joanna; this list makes a good basis for creating future posts, don’t you think?

    For instance, once you’ve identifies which posts connect to which points - write one or more follow-ups and share what you learned.

    Hey, thanks for the publicity, too!

  2. Jim Murdoch says:

    I’d like to comment on ‘Connections’.

    One thing that I’ve noticed myself is where our readers come from. Over the last five months I’ve seen a swing towards the search engines and a lot of my older blogs are starting to get more attention. Even though I have only a sketchy understanding of how search engines work I now have a working blog to analyse I’m starting to see how choosing the right words will get you readers, granted these readers may only glance at your site but even those random clicks add to your site’s kudos. Then again, some stay.

    Topicality is important too. Google Trends will tell you what people are searching for. If you can wangle a few of these keywords into your article then you stand a better chance of finding new readers. The other thing is tags (not meta tags - that’s another issue) but the tags you add to each blog. If you’re registered with certain blog directories these can make a real difference. Content is king IF it’s the right kind of content. Just writing a quality blog is no good if you can’t attract readers. It’s NOT quality that attracts people, quality is what KEEPS readers.

    Comments are nice but making comments on other people’s sites is paramount. My core audience has come simply from finding sites like this where I can say something more constructive than, “Cool blog,” and supporting my fellow bloggers. “What goes around comes around,” as my wife is fond of saying.

  3. Guy Hogan says:

    Yes, these are all good points. And thanks for thinking about this. I certainly never thought about it.

  4. Writing the Cyber Highway says:

    I’m going to ask myself these questions as I gear up for my new and improved blog. In 2008, I plan on writing better posts, maintaining a loyal readership, and being an inspiring, encouraging, as well as informative asset to the variety of writers out there.

    Here’s to a successful 2008!


    P.S. I linked to this post in today’s entry, over at my own blog.

  5. Joanna Young
    Twitter: joannapaterson

    @ Robert, always happy to publicise WILF challenges. And thanks for the stumble - win-win for both of us I hope :-)

    @ Jim thanks for those reflections and learning points. I’m interested in what you’ve learned about key words, tags etc. Do you find that affects the way that you write, or your motivation to write at all? I’ve been working on headlines for the same reason (as an attraction strategy) but as you say the quality needs to be there in the post or readers will leave disappointed.

    I’m glad your commenting strategy has been working, and thanks for your thoughtful contributions here.

    @ Guy my pleasure. I wanted to make a checklist for myself so figured it was worth sharing

    @ Michele, thanks for the feedback and the link. Those are worthy goals and I wish you all the best with them in 2008

  6. Rebecca Laffar-Smith says:

    I love the way you’ve broken these ‘questions’ down for us. I’ve reflected on some of these points in the past but you’ve included some ideas I hadn’t considered before.

    I love going over my archive (and not just of the past year) because I can see the growth. On a day to day basis we often feel stagnant but when we look back, when we reflect, we discover that there are leaping bounds of forward momentum.

    All these, “What I learnt from 2007″ posts are inspiring me to dig deep and discover my own 2007 writing lessons/experiences. Thank you!

  7. Joanna Young
    Twitter: joannapaterson

    Hi Rebecca, thanks for stopping by. I’m glad you liked the post, I enjoyed trying to work out what kind of questions I ask myself to find the things you’re talking about - those moments of stretch, growth and discovery. It looks like you’ve been doing plenty of your own at your blog in 2008!