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Monday, October 3, 2011

Blogging - just do it

This is a shameless post to encourage you to start blogging.

Blogging is incredibly rewarding.  It will develop skills such as writing, communication, planning, layout, visual design.  You will learn far more than your readers, even if your intent is to educate.  It will make you a better thinker, analyst, communicator, and planner.   It will develop skills such as layout and visual design.  It will force you to consider opinions and views that are contrary to your own world view and might lead to some very interesting revelations about yourself and how you view your world.

I've barely even scratched the surface and haven't even gotten to the best part.

It's free.

Oh sure - you can buy a domain name, build your own blog design from the ground up, but it doesn't have to be that complicated.  There are many platforms out there that are free and only take moments to set up - later you might decide to spend a little money and get a domain name and apply it to one of those platforms (to take "blogger" out of the URL, for example), or you might be more ambitious and do domain hosting for a bit more money.

But all that's really beside the point - because the majority of the blogs I read either are free through Blogger or Wordpress, or started that way.

"I journal, I don't need a blog".  This is the most common thing I hear from others, when I talk about blogging.

I think the most common misconception is that blogging = journaling.  I journal on a regular basis too.  One is not like the other.  The most successful and interesting blogs I read are those where someone has picked a certain aspect of their life and explores it - and while sometimes things come up that are painful and intensively emotional, the point of the blog isn't to discuss Mel's life, it's to discuss her horse life.  While someone may not be able to relate to me in all aspects - fiddler, student, vet, runner, puppy owner, anxiety disorder (yep - got in formally diagnosised) - that doesn't matter because all they have to share is their love (or interest) in horses and BANG! - there's a connection.

A connection, I will point out, that would not have been made without the blog.  Oh, the people you will meet, the friends you will make, and the opportunities you will have.

Unless you ARE blogging with the intention of making it like your journal (and perhaps have the privacy settings set so only you, or select readers can see it), likely you are writing for an audience.

I will admit that it's awfully lonely and feels very "fake" in the beginning.  After starting 2 more blogs recently (one of which is public right now) I got re-introduced to that feeling.  No one is reading and you are desperately pretending that you aren't talking to yourself.....But the concept of an audience is an important distinction between blogging and journaling.  An audience makes me look more critically at my ideas.  I develop my ideas more fully and evaluate more critically than if I was writing strictly for myself.  The assumption is that you are blogging about something that you are passionate about, and perhaps are trying to do well - as such it matters that you critically think about concepts related to that passion.  In journaling, when talking about great-aunt Agatha and her annoying habit of blowing her nose at the dinner table, there's no need to critically evaluate (except perhaps, as an exercise in empathy and personal relations) and you are free to complain away to your little heart's content.  In blogging, what's the point about great aunt Agatha's rather disgusting habit (not to mention it involves using a cloth hanky that is put back into her pocket)?  Did it inspire your new 100 mile strategy? Give you a novel idea?

I have exactly 5 minutes to publish this and then get ready for school, so don't have time to fully explore why you should start your blog today but I think you get the point!  I'll end with a few bullet points of how blogging has impacted my life.
  • I am a much better, and more confident writer.  Blogging has allowed me practice using different "devices" and play with formatting while watching it's impact on my audience in "real time".  
  • I credit blogging for the quality of my personal statement for vet school.  Blogging about events in real time preserves the emotions of an event much better - even better than journaling, since you are forced to write in a way that is coherent to others, not just put some blubbering on a piece of paper (oh yes, sometimes I journal in lines and pictures and incoherent sentences...).  Thus, when I had to explain why I wanted to be a vet and make some sort of interesting narrative story about it, it was relatively easy to both recall events, and then WRITE the essay using techniques I had learned in bullet point 1.
  • I've made friends.  This is HUGE.  I've always been a loner and rather anti-social for most of my life, even though, paradoxially I crave companionship and personal connections.  I have very few friends (more, now that I'm in vet school, but that's a different post) and the friends I've made blogging are very dear to me.  
  • It was instrumental in helping me to achieve my goals.  I'm a 100 mile rider with 1,000 competition miles.  I'm very proud of this fact - I consider this one of my most prized accomplishments of my life - even considering getting into the UC Davis vetmed program.  I could not have done this without blogging - both for the support I received, the connections I made with other blogs and groups, and how it FORCED me to critically evaluate my program and plans.  
  • It keeps me motivated to continue to pursue my passions.  It's normal to have periods of time when you are more and less motivated - but blogging is a way of both sharing those high points, and keeping me going during the low points.  Blogging keeps me accountable - without the guilt.  If I'm not doing the activity, it's difficult to blog about it!  It's a positive reinforcement to continue. 
  • Blogging is my part time job - it's a lot like being self employed.  It's almost impossible to hold a job in vet school, not because of the time commitment, but because my schedule is so variable from day to day.  I've ALWAYS had a job and I'm better for it - so I've decided that for the next 3 1/2 years my part time job is blogging, which is why I'm starting some additional blogs.  
  • It gives you business practice.  Branding, design, publicity, how to get readers, how can I use social media.  It's not for "real" for most of us - but it's a learning experience unto itself and important.  Who knows what I will do in the future? - and I might be very happy I took the time now to learn the ins and outs of all that "other stuff" besides the mechanics of writing posts. 
  • It forces you to learn "other" stuff that you would never never never pursued on purpose - but you should have.  things like HTML coding, and twitter and social media, compressing photos, the ins and outs of website design, domain hosting, and how to hyperlink stuff. I was literate with the computer before blogging, but my eyes glazed over once you got into any jargon whatsoever.  Now I can actually write some basic HTML, and edit existing HTML.  Amazing!
  • You can take it as far as you want, and invest as much or as little time as you want. As your life changes, your blogging can change - but I firmly believe that it can always be a positive influence. 
If you are starting a blog, have a blog, or are thinking of starting a blog - please comment.  Feel free to include links.  Why did you start blogging?  Has it impacted your life in a positive or negative way?  Any personal significant growth because you blog?  How many blogs do you have?


  1. A absolutely second you! It took me a while to get started and sort out what kind of blog I wanted, and what I wanted it to be about, but I'm enjoying it so much now that I'm rolling.

    So far it has only had a positive impact. It's motivating and encouraging - and I have found the horse blogging community to be welcoming and supportive.

    I have two blogs (one is in hibernation - I intend to pick it up again once I've established my primary blog more), and ideas for a couple others. All quite different but all horsey. I guess you could call me an early-stages addict ...

    Go blogging!

  2. Yes, yes, and yes! Blogging has been an incredibly rewarding experience and has also helped improve my riding! And as a blogger, I've discovered that I love to read many other blogs which in turn has provided a new level of learning opportunities. But, I think we're preaching to the choir! :0)

    Karen - proud owner of

  3. Kelly of RGF - too funny to see you here! Just like Mel said - oh, the people that you'll meet!

    :0) Karen

  4. All that stuff you said: DITTO.

    Blogging has made me a much more fluent writer (although my spelling still leaves much to be desired, sigh). Writing an "essay" every few days has taken ALL the stammer out of getting words on the (virtual) page...and the blogging practice I've gotten in the past three years has led to getting a LOT of articles published in the last two. Many, many, MANY of my published articles started life as a blog post.

    ("don't quit the day job"...yet...)

  5. "don't quite the day job"

    LOL - oh so true. Besides the small amount I get from adsense (a whole 3 dollars last month!!) this is strictly an exercise in entertainment and self improvement! I've never had a job writing - it's all been volunteer - so I'm not even sure I would LIKE writing as a job. I've made it no secret that I would like to write a psuedobio that based on real events, while having the license of fiction some day (I'm thinking as a retirement project?). So that's as far as I've gotten as "writing as a job". There is a TON of writing opporutunities as a vet I guess no matter what happens in the future, continuing to write regularly will only help me.

  6. I fell into blogging like you'd fall into a pit of vines. I sort of hacked my way out and kept my spirits up by poking fun at myself. I started as a commitment to write something every day. Not publish :) write. I am finding the distance to the publish button gets much shorter the more frequently I write.

    The best part? "Meeting" people, hearing other ways, thoughts, takes, interests, has been incredible. I feel part of a community of cheerful, wise-cracking, soul full, earnest, funny, serious horse people - of all disciplines. SO interesting and fun.

    You're right. Anyone lurking? Blog. You don't have to share, but you might discover the idea of sharing sounds pretty good!

    Great post.

  7. Oh yes, I forgot the most important parameter about blogging - poking fun at oneself. LOL. So very true...

  8. I totally love this post. Very well written and quite convincing.
    If I didn't already have a couple blogs, I'd surely start one after reading your post!


  9. Ha ha! Love that you mentioned the "lonely & feeling fake" stage, because that's exactly where I am! Good to know that it's something that everybody goes through. ^_^

    I started the Princess Witchface blog partially as a way to sort out my feelings surrounding my fantabulous horse, & partially to introduce the world to my fantabulous horse. Interestingly, it's turned into more of a "my opinions about all things horsey" blog, with my fantabulous horse almost as a minor character.

  10. RaggedyAlice - Yeah - if you go back and read my first month or so of posts it's almost painful :). It was torn between wanting to have readers and not wanting to have readers. I had never written for other people before, so I had initially dedicded that I wouldn't tell anyone, they would just have to find the blog on their own. I think I caved after a couple of weeks and sent out a mass email to friends and family letting them know.

  11. Great post - Reading yours and others blogs are part of what encouraged me to start my own. But the real motivation was keeping in touch with friends and family during a crazy time in my life: applying to vet school, leaving my job, moving and then starting vet/grad school. I wanted to share details with those I loved and they wanted to know them, but I also wanted a record of this crazy time in my life to look back on and remember what I was thinking about and how these changes affected me. So my blog is a journal in a way. It helps me organize my thoughts sometimes, and I dare-say I often feel better after posting about an agonizing decision (ie: having to rehome my horse).

    As thing settle out, I'm hoping to reach out more to other newbie students or people considering grad school to share my experiences, in the hopes of offering some perspective they might not have considered.


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