Blogging requires focus! Before we begin each blog post, we need to have a clear and focused idea of what we want to say. For instance, let’s imagine for a moment, that we are starting a blog about buttons. Let’s say, we have decided that our intended audience members are button collectors, and that they are interested in antique handmade buttons as well as buttons made from natural materials.
Developing our imaginary scenario a little further, let’s imagine that we have recently taken a trip to Indonesia, where we visited antique stores, second hand stores, and village markets, and we have arrived home with a new-to-us collection of a little over a thousand buttons. Before we start writing, we will have to decide where to begin the story and how to focus our blog post.
When writing as activists, we have much the same task. We have already discussed the ideas of defining and imagining our audience, coming to terms with that they need to know first, and arranging our essays in a way that puts what needs to be first, first. We further have looked at developing credibility, making introductions, and using hypertext to help educate our readers.
To further improve our blog posts, we need to check our focus. If we were writing about buttons, perhaps we would be focusing on wood buttons from Jakarta. It might be easy to get distracted, in our enthusiasm, and include information on wood buttons from other areas. And once we had ventured into a new area, we might find ourselves writing about some of the fabulous carved and polished bone buttons we found there. Then, as one thought lead to another, our essay might wander across a broad range of topics and places. Our readers might be entertained; however, they would not be much wiser on wood buttons from Jakarta.
As blogging activists, in our first drafts, there may be ideas, words, phrases, whole sentences, and even entire paragraphs that veer away from our focus. Sometimes those distracting elements are actually the best writing in the draft. Even when they are brilliant, however, they need to be cut. Don’t despair, they can be pasted into a new .doc for use in an essay all their own.
In my own writing, I ask myself repeatedly, “What are you trying to say?” This helps me keep some focus as I compose. Then as I start the self-editing process, I repeat to myself over and over again, focus, focus, focus. Sometimes that means, cut, cut, cut; rewrite, rewrite, rewrite.
Further, focus is also something that we need to keep in mind when we seek feedback from friends and collaborators. If they aren’t experienced writers themselves, they often won’t understand the need to focus. They may come to the process with an agenda of their own, and in trying to promote their own agenda they may seek to direct your essay in a whole new direction. This can be awkward, but it can be managed. Let them know ahead of time what the focus is and what you are trying to accomplish.
If someone should persist in their desire to steer you off your focus, one possible response is to tell them they have a brilliant idea, and that the two of you ought to get together and collaborate on it in the near future.Then remind them that for this blog post the focus is on wood buttons from Jakarta, or whatever the case may actually be. The end result, hopefully, is a blog post that is informative and educational, and leaves the reader feeling that they learned something interesting and useful.
In our case, in the case of activists who use blogging effectively, the end result may be an understanding of what is necessary to create a better world. And that, of course, is our ultimate goal.
Our steps continue to develop:
1. Imagine your audience.
2. Ask what they need to know first.
3. Draft your post, putting first things first, remembering your focus, and checking facts and collecting sources as you go.
4. Make certain that you have adequately introduced the people you are quoting, paraphrasing, or discussing, and that you are prepared to make necessary hyperlinks.
5. Read and reread your draft, cutting, revising, and rewriting as necessary; with an eye and ear out to maintain your focus.
6. Seek constructive criticism from someone who is either a member of your audience or who understands them. Be clear with them about your focus.
7. Rewrite as necessary.
8. Repeat steps six and seven until you have it dialed in.
9. Gather any additional needed documentation for establishing or maintaining your credibility.
10. Stay tuned. More tips are forthcoming.
Questions and constructive criticism welcome!
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