From the home office in Pella, Iowa. Here are the Top 10 chapter-a-day posts from 2019:
I quietly reached a milestone in my journey as a blogger yesterday. With my post Time, Distance, and Perspective I have blogged my way through the entire Bible twice. Along with posts that are basically diary entries about me and my family’s life journey, I have been posting my personal thoughts about one chapter of the Bible roughly every weekday for over twelve years.
Along the way I’ve learned some important lessons about blogging. I’d like to share five of them for any aspiring bloggers out there for whom it might be helpful. First, a little background is in order.
In March 2006 I began my blog and called it Wayfarer. A wayfarer is one who is on a journey, and my blogging journey began with only a sketchy sense of where I was headed. You’ve probably never heard of me because twelve years later the number of subscribers and followers to my blog is less than a thousand and the vast majority of those followers are simply other bloggers and businesses following me in hopes that I will follow them back. The actual number of faithful readers I have might be enough for a decent summer picnic and a pick-up game of whiffle ball, but that’s okay. My blog is called Wayfarer because it’s about the journey and there’s much to be learned when you keep trekking for twelve years.
The primary motivation for me starting my blog was simply to have an on-line journal for family and friends to keep tabs on me and the fam. If they want to know what we’re up to, they can simply check out the blog. While Facebook might accomplish the same thing, I control my blog and its content, not the algorithms and social media gatekeepers. I like owning my own little acre of the internet.
It’s also important to know that while I’ve blogged my way through the Bible twice, I don’t consider my blog a religious blog. I don’t represent any church. I’m not out there trying to convince anyone of anything. My “chapter-a-day” posts have their roots in my relationship with my good friend, Kevin. Kevin and I are both followers of Jesus and years before I started my blog we came to an agreement to help each other be better followers. We decided to read one chapter of the Bible every weekday. Because we both had jobs that required a certain amount of windshield time we simply called each other and shared with one another whatever we got out of that day’s chapter.
As I began my blog I thought it might be cool to simply transfer the chapter-a-day journey Kevin and I had already been on for years from the phone to the internet. “Wouldn’t it be cool,” I thought to myself, “If we had a record of the chapter we read each day and what it made us think about?” That’s where it all started, and I’m still going.
So what have I learned along the journey? Here are my top five lessons:
Your Motive Matters
There are literally millions of blogs on the internet. My blog is on the WordPress platform, and WordPress reports that there are over 500 new sites started on their platform daily with a total of over 76 million sites and 15 billion pages of content.
If your motive for blogging is to get discovered for the talented writer you know you are and to become a famous celebrity blogger then you need to know that you are playing the Powerball of on-line popularity. Your blog is a very small needle in a ginormous global haystack. It’s been said that as many as 95% of bloggers who start a blog abandon it after a short period of time. So, why do it?
There are all sorts of legitimate motives for blogs and sites. Some are built simply to drive traffic and sell ads. Some are businesses trying to make a profit. Some are people trying to build a brand. There’s nothing wrong with any of those motives, but I found that it is important to know what your motive is for starting a blog. You should define “This is why I’m doing this. This is what I’m trying to accomplish.” It helps define what you need to do and how you invest your time and resources.
I’ve also found that a clearly defined motive can keep me going when I occasionally spy the meager handful of views that my brilliant post received and I ask myself, “Why am I doing this?!”
Have Something to Say
I think most people start a blog thinking they have something to say, but sitting down at the keyboard on a regular basis and getting it out can be a daunting experience. Once you get out those three or four posts that you’ve had mulling over in your head for years you find yourself asking, “What now?”
A couple of reasons I’ve been able to keep going for over 12 years goes back to the two motives I outlined when I started. I wanted to create an on-line journal of life, and life doesn’t stop happening. I can blog about our kids and grandson living with us this week as they prepare to live in Scotland. I can blog about the role in the play I’m working on or our latest trip to the lake. I also wanted to record my “chapter-a-day” thoughts. That alone has been a built-in content engine. I read the chapter each week day, and then I write my thoughts.
If you’re thinking about blogging, ask yourself: “What is the engine that’s going to keep giving me fresh content to write about?”
Views and Followers Don’t Correlate to Quality of Content
I read[/caption]I read a humorous article yesterday in Wired magazine about a woman whose young son was obsessed with fans. You know, the rotary blade, move the air kind of fans. Imagine her surprise when she discovered the her son was watching another boy on YouTube doing nothing but talking about fans. His videos talking about fans had hundreds of thousands of views. As does the video of the teen girl in Boise talking about her acne. As does the video of the guy falling off his skateboard.
One of the reasons bloggers fail is that they obsess about their stats. They slip into the comparison trap and fall prey to the injustice of the on-line world. I write a brilliant post about how to better cope with life in hard times and it gets read ten times (eight if you don’t count my wife and mother). Meanwhile, Fan Boy has hundreds of thousands of people listening to him talk about the virtues of the Lasko Model 2527 pedestal fan.
Number of views and followers does not correlate to quality of content. Embrace it.
You Never Know What’s Going to Land
I’ve written some really good stuff over the years. Yeah, that post about the eleventh chapter of Leviticus? Killer. But, I published into the blogosphere like a sower casting his seed and it died on the vine. So did most of other posts that I wrote. Sometime I hit that “Publish” button feeling like a post is really going to resonate with people…until it doesn’t.
Back in January of 2012 I was on my way home from a week-long business trip to Texas. In the plane I was thinking about all of the great experiences I’d had with my client that week, and it struck me that being a theatre major at Judson College had uniquely prepared me for my job in ways I couldn’t have fathomed at the time. So, I got out my iPad and in twenty minutes I wrote a post: 10 Ways Being a Theatre Major Prepared Me for Success. When my plane I landed I published it quickly (I didn’t even proof it), and thought no more of it.
Two weeks later that post went viral. That one silly post I’d hastily typed on my iPad brought in over 30,000 views in one day (FYI: reaching a hundred views in one day is a stellar day on my blog). I had comments pouring in from actors and producers in Hollywood and Broadway. At one point I counted more than twenty colleges and universities who have my post linked on their department websites.
You never know what’s going to land.
I can’t count the number of times that I squeamishly hit the “Publish” button thinking that my post was the most worthless piece of schlock ever written, and then later that day I hear from a stranger saying “This was so good! You have no idea how much I needed to read this today.”
No. I didn’t have a clue. I’m just a sower scattering my seed one post at a time.
The Rewards Aren’t Necessarily What You Think
At this point, it might seem as if I’m being really discouraging about this whole blogging business. I certainly hope you discern between realistic and discouraging. There are all sorts of amazing rewards I’ve received from blogging that this Wayfarer would never have discovered had I not embarked on the journey and stuck with it.
I’m a way better writer than I’ve ever been in my entire life. You know that guy who wrote that it’s not about talent, but about doing something for 10,000 hours? Yeah, blogging thousands of posts across twelve years has improved my writing, my creative flow, and my self-discipline. All I have to do is go back to read one of my early posts (and then fire down a quick shot of Pepto Bismal), and I know how far I’ve come.
I’ve gotten to know some amazing people and have enjoyed sharing the blogging journey with them. A few I’ve even gotten to meet in real life which has been awesome.
While I may not have hundreds and thousands of views of my posts, I’m continually humbled and encouraged when that “I really needed this” comment comes through or is casually mentioned by someone I would never expect. If my motive had to become popular then I would done things way differently.
What were my motives?
I wanted to create an on-line journal and archive of life. Mission accomplished.
“What year did we go to the ballet in Kansas City? Hang on, it’s there in the blog.”
“Oh my goodness, I’d totally forgotten about that time we did the ‘host a murder’ party at the winery!”
I wanted to create an archive of my “chapter-a-day” thoughts. Mission accomplished. All the way through the Bible. Twice.
Someday my grandchildren, my great-grandchildren, and perhaps even multiple other generations will be able to read through my daily thoughts and the things I pondered. Who knows what they might find meaningful, and funny, and perhaps even helpful in their own respective life journeys. That’s a reward that can’t be quantified.
So those are just five lessons from twelve years of blogging. Another milestone has been reached, and I’m still going. The journey continues. Who knows where it will take me. One post at a time.
See you tomorrow.
A Few of My Other Posts on Blogging
On “Remember When Wednesdays” I look back at a post from yesteryear and re-blog one for newer readers. In almost 10 years of blogging I’ve had two blog posts that have gone viral. This was the first and it happened back in August of 2011 when WordPress reblogged this post on their “Freshly Pressed” page.
Speaking of life changes. There is, perhaps, no bigger change in life than the ones you make during adolesence. I recently found my Jr. High and High School I.D.s in an old album. Check out the righteous mullet I had going my Junior year! The only problem was that my hair was so curly when it grew out that I couldn’t get it to hang straight down the way it was supposed to. True story: When my mullet was at its longest I went to the bank one day. I opened the door for an elderly gentleman who was shuffling slowly into the bank at the same time. “Why thank you young lady,” he said to me. I got my hair cut that afternoon and never looked back. C’est la vie.
Obviously, I’m not trying to win the approval of people, but of God. If pleasing people were my goal, I would not be Christ’s servant. Galatians 1:10 (NLT)
In the wee hours of this morning I was up praying for and responding to an e-mail from my daughter. Earlier this week she and her husband crafted a well articulated blog post about the journey of relational and behavioral they have been struggling through in the past three years. As happens whenever you offer up intimate details of your life for public consumption you are bound to receive diverse reactions and responses. The kids have been struggling through some particularly negative, personal feedback.
I thought of them as I read the opening of Paul’s letter to those following Jesus in Galatia. In the early years after Jesus’ resurrection, there were all sorts of quarrels and schisms between the growing number of believers around the known world. Paul was a fiercely independent person and I get the impression that he had a very strong, fiery personality. Because Paul was not one of the original group of disciples, because he had once hunted down and executed Jesus’ followers, and because he didn’t not easily fit into the organizational structure of the emerging group of believers, there was a lot of controversy surrounding him and his work to share the good news of Jesus with the Roman provinces in Greece and southern Europe.
In today’s chapter, Paul makes it clear that he is doing what God had called him to do. He did not seek nor solicit anyone’s permission. He did not beg anyone’s leave. He had an audience of one, and that was God alone. He did not care what anyone thought about him or his work. He was not answering to them nor responsible for their reactions to him. He was not out to please people. He was working to please God by being obedient to walk the path he’d been given.
Unlike Paul, God gave me the personality of a people pleaser. I want people to like me. It makes me uncomfortable when people take issue with me, my words, or my actions. Yet, I have learned along the journey to accept the criticism, harsh words, and negative reactions that sometimes come with public speaking, blogging, and performing. I can’t keep people from judging me, criticizing me, or condemning me. What I can do is continue to walk the path God has laid before me, step-by-step, to the best of my ability, and to keep my focus on the audience of One who ultimately is the only One who counts.
My daughter shared with me some of the outpouring of people who have been touched, encouraged, moved and motivated by their blog post. People who thought they were alone in their own pain now have someone with whom they can identify. Opportunities are opening for them to help others through the painful struggle of their own brokenness. Despite the criticism of a few, many are benefitting from their courageous honesty, openness, and transparency. They have no need to waste emotional energy on unimportant criticism and the judgment of others. They need that energy to be channeled in love, grace and encouragement towards the precious ones who are coming out of the wood work to say, “Help. Me too.”
I’ve been blogging since March of 2006. I blog because I have a quirky love for it and the discipline of writing is good for me on many different levels. I’ve never blogged to get big stats. I admit that I have pipe dreams (like most bloggers) of having a lot of followers and making my mark in the blogosphere. I find it interesting to look at my meager stats. Nevertheless, I find myself six years and a couple thousand posts in plodding along with about 50 followers and and average of 20 or so views on any given day (thanks mom and dad!).
Until this week, my biggest blogging day was back in August 2010 when WordPress, my blogging platform, decided to place my post on their “Freshly Pressed” page. I had posted a picture of my middle school and high school ids and they thought it was unique. I had just over 2,000 people stop by and take a gander at my adolescent evolution. I then quickly dropped back down to my 20 or so views a day with the occasional jump up to 40 or 50.
So, I was surprised on Thursday night this past week when I noticed that I had a couple hundred views on a post I wrote a couple of weeks ago called “10 Ways Being a Theatre Major Prepared Me for Success.” I thought it was pretty cool as some comments started getting posted to it. I wondered if I might hit 1,000 views. It was only half the views of my famed school i.d. post, but still pretty respectable without help from the blogging powers in the hallowed halls of WordPress.
Friday morning I was in my home office early, as usual, to tap out my regular morning post. I clicked on my stats. It was then I knew something was going on. While I’d stopped just short of 1,000 views on Thursday, I’d already had 1,000 views early Friday morning. More comments poured in and I spent a good part of Friday afternoon and evening responding to comments and tweets. By Friday night I was wondering if I might hit 20,000 views for the day (I fell just short at 19,226).
Yesterday, the post continued to be viewed at a crazy rate. Saturday morning I received a comment that told me that the post was making the rounds of the Chicago theatre community. Saturday afternoon a different comment said that it was getting passed around Broadway. Another comment from Hollywood. An interview request came in from the Netherlands. More comments from Austria and Australia. Just over 30,000 views on Saturday. More than 50,000 views of the post in two days.
My first blogging coach told me to simply keep writing because you never know what will strike a chord, and you’ll probably be surprised when it happens. I’ve written so many great posts that I felt were well crafted, full of wisdom and should be wildly popular – but they all died on the blogging vine. I hastily jotted “10 Ways” on my iPad on the plane returning from a business trip because I was bored. Who knew it would be the post that went viral.
Obviously, it struck a chord. Doing a little self analysis of the hundreds of comments and tweets I’ve received the past few days I’ve determined that the post resonated with four, make that five, groups of people:
- People like me who were theatre majors or were active in theatre and who have realized how invaluable the education and experience has been in our eventual careers in business, military, education, parenting, etc., etc., etc.
- Educators who have long known the truth of what I’ve written, and who’ve tried to ceaselessly tell students and their parents. They seemed grateful to get a witness to what they’ve been preaching all along.
- Current students or recent graduates who have questioned whether they’d made the right choice, usually based on the snarky comments or questions they’ve received from others. They seem to have been encouraged to know that a fellow theatre major experienced a little success in life and connected the dots back to being a major.
- Parents whose kids are currently theatre majors or are thinking about being theatre majors. They generally appreciated hearing me give testimony that it wasn’t a waste, and actually set me up for success outside of the business.
- Finally, there are those courageous members of the “business” who not only studied it, but stayed the course and are making it (or still striving to make it) on stage, in film, or in other areas of the industry. They seemed to appreciate and confirm the truth of the post, even as they are walking in faith on a daily basis.
As of this writing “10 Ways” has received almost 60,000 views in the past three days. I’ve given permission for it to be passed out to classes, to be reprinted in other publications, and Southeast Theatre Conference (SETC) mentioned they’d be passing it out to those who participate in their professional auditions.
Wendy and I have enjoyed sitting here on our couch in Pella reading the comments and watching it happen. In a day or two I’ll be back to typing out my few hundred words each morning for my usual 20-30 views a day. I’m blown away, however, by the power of the blogosphere. A random little post hastily written and posted in the middle of Iowa can “get legs” and end up striking a chord with so many people in so many places.
I guess what I had been told is true. Keep writing. You never know what will strike a chord, and when it does you’ll be surprised by what it was.