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How Blogging Gets to the Heart of Things

The practice of blogging helps:

  • To hone our writing so we focus on what matters and what counts
  • To find or to recognise the patterns and meaning that lie at the heart of our words

Bold claims I know, but it’s what I’ve learned from experience, over and over.  (Have you?)

How does it work - where does blogging get that power from?

Well it’s got something to do with:

The writing habit: Blogging gets you writing. It builds a writing habit and whether that’s sharing a post daily, weekly or monthly it gets you into the habit of shaping, crafting, creating, editing and sharing.  It strengthens the writing muscles.  And that keeps you writing, even when it’s hard, when the purpose eludes you and the patterns are unclear.

The chance to experiment: A blog gives you the freedom to experiment, to try out different styles, forms, formats, topics, content, voice.  It’s the chance to stretch, play and see what happens when you go in different directions.  Which words, which styles, which tone of voice is the one that resonates, that gives you that ‘aha’ moment or the shivers going down your spine.

Reading online: Blogging (in my book anyway) includes reading as well as writing.  Reading online changes the way you think about length, and tone, and how to make your words short enough, simple enough, to the point enough that your readers will stop, and connect, and stay around for more.

The frame: This is what first attracted me to blogging.  I was travelling in Mexico, and wanted to share what I saw (heard, felt, noticed, wondered at).  I started to write through the medium of a blog, and from there, I started looking for frames - the hooks, the opening lines, the prism, the frame through which I could invite you in and look.  That’s changed the way I think, and travel, and notice, and write… for good.  I think it’s for good anyway ;-)

Your archive: It’s all there in the archive.  Sometimes I find this deeply frustrating - the feeling that I’ve written just the thing I need to find, or refind, or learn or relearn, if I only had the time and the patience to rake properly through my own archives.  Whenever I take the time, I find a gem, not necessarily a gem of a post, but something that has meaning or significance, that tells me something essential, that helps me get to the heart of what I’m trying to say (teach, learn)

Learning from feedback: You can learn, always, from the feedback you get from your readers - from what people notice, comment on, from words that jump out and speak at them, from the way they respond to your words.  Sometimes they can see the essence of what you’re writing even when you can’t.

It’s a work in progress:  You don’t need to see the whole picture before you start to write a blog. You can set out with the intention to explore, to share, to work it out as you go along.  It provides the chance and the opportunity, if you’re brave, to share some of what you don’t know as well as what you do, what you’re learning, what you’re exploring, what you’re figuring out how to make happen. And perhaps that’s the only way we can find the essence - not by ‘knowing’ it in advance, but allowing it to emerge as we go.

I’ve been blogging in one shape or form for nearly three years now - but I’m still learning about its power.  Fortunately I know a whole lot of blogging maestros who can help me get to the heart of this question :-)

So it’s over to you… What would you add to this list?  What other ways can blogging help us get to the heart of things?  Are there other times that blogging gets in the way of you writing what ‘really’ matters?

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  1. Barbara Ling, Virtual Coach says:

    I like how you can look back and in black and white (and multicolor!) just how you have grown as a blogger as well.

    The stuff I wrote back in 2006 - starkly different than how I write now.

    Blogging is in a sense a profound journal of your life as you grow….even if you never put a jot down about your personal life.
    .-= Barbara Ling, Virtual Coach ´s last blog ..Today’s Make Money Online Tip – Schedule Your Helpful Tweets =-.

  2. Deborah Sudul says:

    I found this all very useful! Although I had come to a few of the same realizations already, your post clarified and elaborated on them in a way that encourages and motivates me to continue to develop my writing through blogging.

    Having a blog has given me the incentive to finish and polish my essays instead of leaving them to languish on my hard drive. The pleasure and satisfaction I get from this kind of writing - a new form for me - and the subsequent discussions generated have a spillover effect on the fiction writing that I do. Probably the best thing about it all has been that my sense of isolation has lessened and I feel like a part of a bigger writing community.

  3. Tom Wanek says:

    Insightful. I agree, blogging helps you flex your writing muscles in a way nothing else would. My writing has improved. My style has changed. My ideas have grown. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Dave Doolin | Website In A Weekend says:

    I have to agree, blogging is a tremendous tool for writing!

    Writing can be difficult at times. Now that I’m in the habit, NOT writing is downright painful!

    I’ll be looking for more material on “frames” and “prisms” in the future. Not familiar with these concepts.
    .-= Dave Doolin | Website In A Weekend´s last blog ..WIAW Week in Review: September 26 – October 2, 2009 =-.

  5. Brad Vertrees says:

    Great post! I especially like what you said about the writing habit. I’ve been blogging for almost 3 years now and it has forced me to write regularly. It has also forced me to improve my writing by ‘tightening things up’ and carefully editing my work before hitting the Publish button.

    Thanks for posting this and keep up the good work!
    .-= Brad Vertrees´s last blog ..Friday Link Love 10/2 =-.

  6. Fred H Schlegel says:

    I get a real kick out of how pulling together a post can really organize your thinking around an issue. What has surprised me most since I committed to getting posts out semi-regularly is that the deadline and act of publishing frees that space in your brain to build on the thoughts - take them to a new level. It’s almost as if ideas are happy to wait in a line that is only so long. If none of them get through the gate they wander off. Hitting publish pushes ideas through the turnstile.
    .-= Fred H Schlegel´s last blog ..When Trails Of Science and Art Cross =-.

  7. Kate says:

    This article provided many insights that struck a writerly cord with me. I especially appreciated your comments on how blogging creates a habit, provides a frame and offers a wide scope of reading material. I have just begun blogging and I find all three of those observations to be so true. I also think that having a blog (of one form or another) offers up an image of our own mind for us to reflect on with more clarity. It’s freeing and frightening to see my thoughts in print.
    .-= Kate´s last blog ..Doubt =-.

  8. Cathy says:

    I thought this post was fantastic. For me it summed up what blogging can do. First and foremost is that it gets you writing, as you point out first of all. And that is what I really wanted to do more of, hence why I started a blog.
    .-= Cathy´s last blog ..Home among the gum trees =-.

  9. Joanna
    Twitter: joannapaterson

    Barbara that’s a good point - I can see huge shifts in my own material too and how much I’m willing to share. Like you, it’s not personal to my life, but it’s hugely personal to me, and yes, it serves as a profound journal of your life as you grow. Actually that makes for a great definition of blogging - something I’m always searching for!

    Deborah hello and welcome :-) The community aspect is very important - it helps to keep us going, keep writing, keep sharing, keep smiling… and I think that helps us get to the heart of things too. I’m glad it’s helping your own writing.

    Tom hello and welcome, and thanks for jumping in. So many unexpected benefits - and so hard to explain to those who don’t blog! My writing has definitely improved too… though I do find it very hard to break out of blogging mode and write anything else…

    Dave hello, and welcome :-) Your comment is spot on - however hard it is to write, it’s much harder not to! I feel really out of sorts sometimes if I don’t get the chance to sit and write it out. I’ll try and do something on frames and prisms as part of the series… once I figure out a way to explain what I mean

  10. Joanna
    Twitter: joannapaterson

    Brad hello and welcome :-) It’s good to know there are readers out there who’ll enjoy what we write - that’s a great motivation and incentive to keep writing and publishing. I do believe, like you, that blogging helps to tighten up our writing. I’ll have a few posts on that next week.

    Fred that’s a brilliant image of the ideas waiting in line and then wandering off if it doesn’t move fast enough! I think there must be a post in there for one or other of us ;-)

    Kate hello, and welcome. So nice to be saying all these welcomes! I’d never thought of a blog in this way before

    “an image of our own mind for us to reflect on with more clarity” but it makes perfect sense - it’s definitely part of what makes blogging so important to us, so valuable, and so personal. Thanks for sharing those reflections…

    Hi Cathy and welcome. If blogging gets us writing it’s done its job :-)

  11. jan geronimo says:

    “Sometimes they can see the essence of what you’re writing even when you can’t.”

    Love this as this is so spot on. It’s when writing can only give us that faint shape of what we truly want to say and can go no further and then - alas! - our readers come to our rescue with their insights. We usually sweat it, digging up inside ourselves for something we can share, but sometimes it’s the readers who give us the gift of their insights. Almost magical, don’t you think?

    Love Fred’s analogy of the turnstile: freeing the brain of your ideas so you can build on them. Isn’t that just so insightful? “,)
    .-= jan geronimo´s last blog ..Giving Good Loving To My Top Follow Friday People =-.

  12. George Angus says:


    Brilliant! Yes, blogging develops good writing habits. As well, it is a kind of sanctuary, a place for me to visit to work things out in my head.

    Great post.

    .-= George Angus´s last blog ..Here’s Your Chance to be a Writer For a Day! =-.

  13. Carla says:

    I have looked over some of my early blog posts and realized that I have grown as a blogger since I started. The more you write, the more you improve. I have edited and rewrote some of my older posts, but I wish I kept a copy of them.
    .-= Carla´s last blog ..My Tipping Point =-.

  14. Naoko says:

    Blogging helps trim away the fat and gives you clarity.

    I find that blogging helps me distil things down to their essence. After writing a piece down, I step back and reread what I wrote. Quite often, as I write, I find blogging helps me peel away everything that’s not necessary, sometimes even finding new connections/threads of thoughts while writing.

    And of course, it helps when you get feedback too.
    .-= Naoko´s last blog ..Movies List =-.

  15. Janice Cartier says:

    Interactive, organic workouts…that’s what writing in blog format seems to be. At least for me. This is a wonderful framing post you’ve come up with. I am going to savor it some more and see where the thoughts take me,but I think you’re right. I think the very nature of it has some inherent benefits that other more private ways of writing don’t. Unless we are blessed with the best of all editors in the world. And even then, that would by-pass all the interplay, and relationships that make it so much more than just writing.

  16. Bo Mackison says:

    I like blogging because even though it’s a big commitment as far as time and effort, it’s done in teeny steps.

    I have an outline done for a book, probably 250-300 pages, on a topic I’m really excited about. Do I write a few pages of that book every day like I know I should? Noooo!

    But do I get my blog post written almost every day? Sure. It’s a bite I can chew and swallow without choking on the enormity of the project.

    Now, thinking about that book, I better make a plan that involves some teeny steps…

    .-= Bo´s last blog ..Dingmans Falls =-.

  17. Ben says:

    I agree. Blogging is the best. I identify most with your second point. I’m an experimenter for sure. I love doing research on different topics and finding out new things and topics to write about. It’s great fun!
    .-= Ben´s last blog ..Comment by Benjimester =-.

  18. Alex Fayle | Someday Syndrome says:

    If I didn’t write in my blog several times a week, I doubt I’d be a productive with my fiction writing. The themes I cover in Someday Syndrome make me accountable to all my readers and so I get more fiction written and stay true to the message I deliver.
    .-= Alex Fayle | Someday Syndrome´s last blog ..Dealing with Negativity: The Lab Rats Look for Naysayers =-.

  19. Karen Swim says:

    Joanna, I agree with these and would add it takes the fear out of publishing. Blogging has taught me to create and then release the creation. Before blogging I would never share my writing with anyone, so hitting publish was a huge step. While there are still days that I have to breathe deep and schedule before I change my mind, I have definitely grown as a writer through blogging.
    .-= Karen Swim´s last blog ..Crazy Colors, Level Doors and Life Lessons =-.

  20. Joanna
    Twitter: joannapaterson

    jan yes, it is magical, and it’s saved my bacon so many times. Thanks for all your own insights here :-)

    George I love the idea of a blog as a kind of sanctuary. However much we share it with others, it still remains our space where we can create, experiment, test and explore.

    Carla we do grow even if we don’t notice it. It can be painful and embarassing to look back at some of those early posts - I know! - but it’s also a good way to see just how far we’ve come through the continued commitment to writing and publishing.

  21. Joanna
    Twitter: joannapaterson

    Naoko I find that too - do you thinnk it’s partly the format of writing for the web that helps you to trim the fat?

    Janice I love that - an interactive organic workout :-) I love the way our words and ideas become interwoven and interconnected over time too

    Bo I think that’s one of the beauties and also the curses of blogging - it tempts you in to write / publish / create each day in teeny steps… but it can also get in the way of you doing the other non blogging creative work that you want to do. That can be a conundrum at times. Hope you manage to get the project broken down into teeny blog sized steps!

  22. Joanna
    Twitter: joannapaterson

    Ben it’s definitely a medium that suits those of us who enjoy experimenting, with content, style and form. And there’s no point busting a gut over blogging, it really should be fun!

    Alex that’s interesting - although you’re coaching others through your blog it’s also partly an accountability mechanism for you. Or a way of staying congruent. Now that’s an important dimension of the essence of things if ever there was one…

    Karen that’s a good point - also that you can take the fear away bit by bit, gradually testing the water and gaining in confidence. And that in time gives us the courage and confidence to keep sharing the stuff that’s from the heart.

  23. Janice Cartier says:

    Me too. I love that it requires us to be present and active, not theoretical. That there’s a life to it. Well, you know how I feel about art and life and breathing…I like that this format has that same nature to it. And how we interweave. Greater potential there in the long run. IMHO. :)

  24. Alina Popescu
    Twitter: alina_popescu

    In nearly 5 years of blogging, I have to say I did experiment a lot! Styles, topics, lengths, frequencies, they all changed over the years, but I can still see the common thread when reading back. Blogging helps you learn about the world. It lead me to explore new cultures, new beliefs, new ideas, while also revisiting my own spirit and thoughts.

    And while at times it might seem blogging stands in the way of more productive writing, I know if it hadn’t been for my blog, I would have given up writing outside my business life. And I would have lost a very important and dear side of me, Alina the writer :) True, I have been lucky enough to meet wonderful people with inspiring blogs (like you and your blog), to fuel both my blogging and will to write something else, but yes, blogging in general is what helped me get to the heart of what I needed to do to stay true to myself and be happier :)
    .-= Alina Popescu´s last blog ..Now I’ve really had it! =-.

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    The Daily Reviewer

  26. Joanna
    Twitter: joannapaterson

    Janice oh I love that - the requirement to be present and active. Especially the being present.

    Alina how lovely to see you :-) Blogging has helped me learn, stretch and grow too, and meet some amazing people. Especially the budding novelist sort :-) I agree with what you’ve put here - it helps us to get to the heart of what we need to do. It can become a very powerful call to action, can’t it? I’m so glad it’s helping you to live your dreams and be happier.

    Angelina thanks for letting me know

  27. Naoko says:

    Joanna, I completely agree it’s the format that does it. The aesthetics also help too. A wall of text never looks pretty, after all. :P

  28. Dianne says:

    Dipping my toes back in the water …

    I have so missed blogging! What a great list of hurrays for blogging, Joanna, thank you!

    I’ve struggled for ages to start again and can really identify with your final point. Thanks to this post and all the inspiring comments, I will definitely keep it up.

    :o )
    .-= Dianne´s last blog ..A Work in Progress =-.

  29. Joanna
    Twitter: joannapaterson

    @ Dianne… so glad you’re getting back into it. And being present on Twitter - your presence brings a ray of sunshine to my day :-)

  30. [...] mentioned the concept of frames a while back in a post on how blogging helps us get to the heart of things. I started to write through the medium of a blog, and from there, I started looking for frames – [...]