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5 Ways Blogging Can Make You a Better Writer

Today freelance writer Jenny Cromie shares 5 areas in which blogging can help you to improve your writing.

Several years back, a friend of mine started a blog and e-mailed the link to me and a bunch of her other friends. I didn’t *get* her blog or anyone else’s. In fact at the time, I thought most blogs were self-indulgent, boring, and poorly written. And as someone who puts a high premium on privacy, I couldn’t get past the idea that my friend was willingly broadcasting intimate details about her life into cyberspace. It was as mystifying to me as the people who go on the Jerry Springer Show and spill all.

Another turnoff was the fact that every blog I encountered seemed like the electronic version of a hard copy diary that should have remained tucked away in a box in the back of an out-of-the-way closet—embarrassing content, poor writing, and all. Why were people spending all kinds of time writing online drivel that no one really cared about? And furthermore, why were people spending all that time writing blog posts that they’d never even get paid for?

I could only come up with one explanation. In my mind, blogging was just a socially acceptable way for bad, wannabe writers to go mainstream with their poorly written rants and diatribes about things that made no difference to anyone else but the writer, a handful of family members, and other poor captive souls who loved the bloggers enough to read all their bad prose. In fact, if someone mentioned that they had a blog, my mind would click into sleep mode like my MacBook does after 10 minutes of inactivity. I’d think: Oh, one of those self-indulgent wannabe writer types. Where’s the nearest exit?

In short, blogging just seemed like a waste of time and effort. And I guess I had a snobbish writer attitude too—the idea that real writers didn’t need to blog because their writing was good enough to get published through more legitimate, mainstream ways. In my mind, push-button publishing was for the wannabes, not the real McCoys.

Fast-forward a few years. Now, everyone who is someone seems to have a blog these days. And if you’re a freelancer and you don’t have a blog, people sometimes wonder how you can bill yourself as a professional writer. Blogs aren’t just popular among individuals anymore either. Big companies have blogs. Mothers with babies have blogs. Teenagers with pimples and braces have blogs. And I wouldn’t be surprised to find out if some dogs have blogs too.

So this past year, I finally succumbed to this thing called blogging. I decided that since I was billing myself as a serious writer and freelancer, I needed to join the blogosphere. I started writing my own blog about freelance writing. And then one thing led to another and I eventually became the editor of The Golden Pencil, a b5media blog about freelance writing and how to build a successful freelance business.

The transformation from non-blogger to full-fledged blogging enthusiast was short—less than a year, in fact.

Now, I wonder what took me so long. I write a lot of things on a daily basis, but it’s the blogging that I enjoy most. That said, I’m not getting rich or pulling in six figures (yet anyway). But I’ve learned a few great things along the way.

My most surprising discovery? Blogging has made me a better writer. It has helped me:

1. Discover my voice

I know this sounds odd coming from someone who has written for most of her life, but you have to understand that up until this blogging thing, most of my writing was been functional. What I mean is that I write business and HR stories for various online and print publications. Throughout my career, I’ve also written newspaper articles, technical training manuals, employee handbooks, policies and procedures, press releases, and marketing materials. But what I stopped writing a long time ago was anything in my own “voice.” Blogging has helped me find that voice again, the one that got lost in between all the same assignments, projects, and stories that have thankfully paid the bills and kept the lights on month after month. See, when you blog, you’re writing about a particular topic, armed with all the facts that you’d be including in a typical news story. But I’ve learned that good blogging also means that you toss in your own observations, experiences, feelings, and unique perspectives. You create dialogues with your readers and make the consumption of information more personal—something that often makes what you have to say more relevant to the reader than just a straight here’s-the-facts-and-nothing-more news story. And I’m happy to report that since discovering my writing voice, I’ve also started to write other things. Things like that novel that I’ve continued to transfer from one New Year’s resolution list to the next for the past several years. More importantly, I’m starting to write for the pure joy of writing again—something I attribute largely to blogging.

2. Connect with readers

If you’re like me, sometimes you write stories and you think,“Gee, I wonder if this is going to help anyone?” And one of the main reasons I started writing for a living was because I wanted to help other people. I love writing service-oriented articles that help readers. But the problem is, if you write straight news stories, magazine articles, or service-oriented pieces for online outlets, you sometimes never find out whether you’ve really helped anyone or not. But for me, one of the most satisfying and gratifying parts about blogging is having the opportunity to find out when I’ve really helped someone. I love it when I write a post and then later find comments from readers who tell me that they’ve learned something or that I’ve helped them in some way. I really enjoy it when a dialogue starts between my readers and I. And it’s that potential for dialogue with readers that distinguishes blogging from any other type of writing.

3. Get feedback

I just wrote a big piece for a business trade publication, and while the magazine has a large circulation, I won’t ever know what readers thought of the article or whether it helped them or not. Like most freelancers, I like to get feedback every once in awhile. And I have to say there’s nothing more gratifying to me than getting a “Good job” “Funny article!” or “Great read!” from the people who matter most—my readers. I remember after my second or third post over on The Golden Pencil, I received a nice compliment from one of my readers. It was completely unexpected, it came at the right time, and it literally made my day.

4. Get disciplined

Blogging is a commitment, and the daily discipline of posting every day during the week over on The Golden Pencil has really helped my writing. Granted, I was writing every day before that. But blogging is much different than simply reporting on a story—it’s a more creative process. And what I’ve learned or relearned through the daily discipline of writing blog posts is that inspiration doesn’t always precede good writing. To be honest, some days I don’t feel very inspired at all when I first start writing a post. But I know that I am accountable to my readers who depend on me for fresh content every day during the week. And regardless of how sluggish I feel some mornings, inspiration always seems to meet me somewhere in the middle as my writing picks up momentum. So here’s the lesson: if you’re a professional writer or full-time freelancer you can’t afford to wait for inspiration to show up before you start writing. Otherwise, you’ll go broke. And speaking for this writer, blogging helps me make creative writing a part of my daily schedule.

5. Write faster

Many times, I write my blog posts a day or two in advance. But there are some mornings when I don’t have anything in the hopper and I have to start from scratch after fueling up with a triple expresso skim milk latté. And while no one on b5media tells me when or how often to post, I impose a daily deadline on myself. I’ve missed the mark a couple times, but I try to have a new post up by noon Eastern Standard Time every day during the workweek—no matter what else is on my schedule. My blog posts vary in length, but generally I write between 750 and 1,500 words per post. So that usually means there’s no time for slow thinking or writing. It’s amazing how much your writing process speeds up when it has to! And as someone who can sometimes get stuck in that perfectionism trap, the need for speed helps silence my inner editor so that my cursor continues to move forward instead of the write-four-words-delete-three problem that sometimes crops up.

So how have you improved your writing through blogging? Comment below or drop by The Golden Pencil and tell me all about it!

Written by Jenny Cromie, a full-time HR/business freelance writer, editor, Twitter convert, and recent author of “8 Sure-Fire Ways To Tick Off the Twitterverse” on TwiTip. Jenny also is editor of The Golden Pencil, a b5media blog about freelance writing and how to build a successful freelance writing business. Please feel free to say hello on Twitter too: @JennyCromie.

About Darren Rowse

Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

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Comments

  1. I agree with these five points so much, I feel like I could have written them myself.

    Oh wait –

    When Writers Blog

    Don’t you just love coincidences?

  2. arshad says:

    iam a young blogger and have just got things related to it.What i have been benefitted from blogging is that i have acquired the ability to make everything very clear to everyone – that is because since i blog about blogger platform and other blogging tools , i make sure every reader [ranging from beginners to experts ] understands my blog post.So i write clear articles so that even a starter understands what i mean.i have acquired that patience by blogging.I also try to use apture.com to show wikipedia articles to show more details about important terminolgies.

  3. reflux says:

    thanks for great information…. now very easy getting good and useful information about how to be successful blogger…. yes, just visit daily to problogger

  4. Antonio de Torre says:

    I absolutely agree with the author of this article. Reading her text has been as revisit the first days of my still short life as a humble blogger. I am currently in the phase of impose myself the authodiscipline of writting every deadline, although nobody will pay me for it.
    My blog has an posting extension of ONLY 100 WORDS, which means for me an added effort of “freeze-dry” contents. I consider that readers of “opinion” blogs have not too much time to waste among myriads of pages.
    That’s why I thought that only 100 words could be a good approach. A couple of minutes of calmed reading are enough.
    http://100palabras100.blogspot.com

  5. Thanks so much for this article, it’s really helpful.

  6. I agree with Elizabeth, practice is crucial and blogging kind of forces you to write if you want your blog to stay relevant. The thing I’m always debating is whether or not it “counts” as writing practice in terms of my fiction writing.

    I feel like I’m neglecting it when I blog but others try to be kind and say “You’re writing something every day, that counts as practice.”

    I’m still not sold at the idea, because I feel like fiction activates a whole different part of my brain…

  7. Excellent post! Like you, I was skeptical of blogging but thought it was going to be a necessary evil to support my business. Instead, for all the reasons you enumerate, I’m really enjoying it.

    Keep it up!

  8. JOE GELB says:

    Very good post. Blogging really does change lives. Its all about the writing and not the money that is at least what I tell myself.

  9. L says:

    Thanks for the post I am one of people who share to much and I am learning while the world is reading to be a better write. I think this was a good post and it has encouraged me to continue knowing that in a few years I will be a much better writer.

  10. KatieC says:

    “Great read!” I really enjoy reading your posts and always take something from it that I can use in my own blogs – thanks

  11. SEO Tips says:

    I totally agree that blogging can and has in my case made me a better writer which is majorily beneficial not only in the world of virtual internet but also in real life education and my University course.

    When it comes to doing essays I have improved so much by writing articles for my blog.

    Another one of those great blogging advantages I guess.

  12. Hi
    Thanks for this post. I started with my first post a long time ago, and all you say is true. Now, I made a promise to write at least one post per week, and it’s what I’m doing. Besides, I started 2 books, but writnig in my blog it’s what I most like, because I can have the feedback from the readers.
    I’ll keep reading your posts!

  13. Josh says:

    I started blogging on my MySpace page about a year ago. I always thought of myself as funny so I started writing a little personal style humor blog. I really never fancied myself a writer, until I started having people comment and tell me how good I am at it. Now, writing is something that I want to try and make a career, though mine is more for entertainment than any kind of reference or information… It’s also slightly vulgar.

  14. With all the writings down here, i remember when i first join an essay writing contest. Im proud to say i got the gold medal thinking that i even dont have any experience on writing. I just blot down what i have felt and experienced with my daily life as a working student …..and there it was! Since then, exactly what all of you have said…..writing and accepting feedbacks builds confidence and makes you more than a writer.

  15. Dear Jenny,
    Your blog really resonated with me. I have the same goals …to help people both through my products (UV umbrellas and hats) and through my blog where I specialize in the truth, the whole truth, about what is dangerous for your health and what is not.

    Through just my last few blogs, I have experienced what you’re talking about. My writing has continued to improve, as well as developing my voice.

    Thank you for this insightful blog.

  16. Tiggy says:

    I write every day but I don’t post – sometimes what I write just isn’t good enough! I wouldn’t suggest forcing yourself to post everyday. Quality is as important as quantity!

  17. Danielsmonde says:

    Nice post, thanks Jenny. I’ve started my own blog in dec 2008(30 december). so I’m pretty new in this blog thing. I have to admit I never really was a good writer. I started my blog mainly because I kept hearing about blogs here, blog there and I was curious to try it myself. It has become almost a daily habit now.

  18. No matter how many posts you write, connecting with the readers is the most important thing, which helps you make them loyal readers.

  19. I agree with you that blogging makes you a better writer.
    For one making myself write something every day has definitely improved my writing… something about practice making perfect.
    But beyond that, hitting publish on a regular basis makes the whole process less terrifying. If I feel good enough about my writing that I’ll let the world (or whatever tiny portion of the world that logs in semi-regularly) see what I have to say every day, then it’s not such a huge stretch to feel like maybe magazine editors might not sneer at me.
    On top of all that lies the fact that blogging is a great way for “new” freelancers to build a body of work that they can point to when trying to break into new markets. Blogging regularly shows ability to adhere to deadlines, and ability to produce consistently decent content, two things that I’ve heard magazine editors look for.

    I’m glad blogging has joined the mainstream and that people’s eyes no longer glaze over when I mention I have a blog. I’m proud of what I write and I hated having to hide it!

  20. Jen says:

    Great post, Jenny. I always wanted to be a writer, but I always got the advice to buy a journal and write it in daily. I hate writing longhand, so I have a lot of really cool empty journals.

    For me, a blog was a way to do the daily writing thing using a keyboard. I’m embarrassed I didn’t think of it sooner!

  21. Blogging keeps you in the practice of writing while being judged by others.

  22. JeepnDave says:

    Enjoyed your post here Jennie. Especially the observation about becoming a faster writer. Trying to post a blog post with substance at least once a day in the middle of all my other activities is quite a challenge. Keeping that type of deadline definitely helps to keep your thoughts organized.

  23. #5 is so true. I have learned to write super fast, and with higher quality from blogging. It has really helped my writing, and expression.

    Kenney
    The Work From Home Secret

  24. Marty says:

    A writing schedule and daily routine are great suggestions Jenny! I’m one of those “I don’t have the time” and “type 6 words” erase 4 kind of person so blogging doesn’t come naturally to me. I want the end result to be meaningful and if I can find a few hours a day to write something I’ll be in good shape come 3-6-12 months down the road. I guess I just have to do more of it to get better at it. Thanks for sharing such great advice, you really write well! Is your penmanship as crisp? :)

  25. I agree that many still don’t ‘get’ blogging. however they are great way to limber-up before starting work ( writing) and for me are a cross between self indulgent musings and passing on great info and sharing with others.

    as well as being on blogspot – check out my most used and well-read blog, kiwitravelwriter.wordpress.com

  26. Mollybob says:

    I totally agree with your post. I actually started a blog to help my writing for uni as sometimes I feel words don’t come easily enough to me. I can’t say that I’ve made any major breakthroughs, but I am slowly feeling more comfortable expressing myself verbally.

  27. Great post Jenny! I was also one of the individuals who didn’t see much value in blogging and looked at it more as an intrusion into privacy. Over the past year i have started blogging and i use this as a tool to improve my writing skills and my thought-leadership. In fact i love blogging these days!

  28. Max says:

    Great advice. I often found myself struck with some great ideas but couldn’t put them down fast enough. As a result, the ideas were simply lost. So I definitely need to establish a daily routine and learn how to write fast.

  29. Its amazing how much information one can gathe while writing articles. My writing skills have improved no doubt and I am really amazed by the amount of knowledge I have absorbed in the past 5 months I have been blogging.

  30. LOL, with all the writing us bloggers have to do, it is hard not to become better at it.

  31. Takumi86 says:

    Hi darren its nice to see this tips as i myself are still learning to improve my writing skill. i really don know for how long i can improve it but time will tells

  32. After stuggling over a year to at least temorarily set aside my old print journalistic & bricks and mortar writing, it was breath of fresh air in a crowded Strassenbahn (tram), to read this post.

    In fact I held my breath as you had the calm audacity to spread out your introduction to the five points of the title – across over nearly two text pages!.

    I feared Darrren would have been spinning in his grave (or wherever he’s gone since New Years), to see the letters swirl across the page with nary a bold headline or paragraph-space to slow the flood of personable, personal prose.

    Golly, there go some adjectives, which I had learned to prune out courtesy of 100 helpful books and assorted snake-oil salesmen (gurus) who have harranged me for two years.

    Remarkable and what a relief. I have come to HATE BOLD TYPE and ******* dotpoints since starting back on the internet in 2007.

    And although the tram was jolting a lttle and I could not check closer as I read, there seemed to be very few so-called keywords – killing off the living and breathing prose. True or were they craftily hidden? Joy of joys; real, and not synthetic, writing.

    Thanks so much. There IS hope for us lonewordsmiths.

    One quibble: there was a glitch which may have been the fault my new Firefox upgrade – but there were a lot of phrases in my printout that were glued together where they needed spacing..

    But I digress.

    Oh wonder. Digress. Aaah.

    Thank you and please send more of that yummy stuff. Look how many happy comments already!

    Neil McPherson

  33. Thanks for this post. I struggle with reading (and writing) on the internet. Did you see the Atlantic Monthly article about how the internet is making us all stupider? Or the new book called “The Dumbest Generation”? I agree with what you say here but I also think our collective attention spans are getting troublingly shorter and our collective writing getting blocky, bullet-y, and sensational. I’d rather spend two months researching a magazine piece than two hours surfing the Web for links for a blog (that I will then get paid for based on the number of hits it receives). But Web writing and blogs seem to be where we are heading, and perhaps that’s not entirely a bad thing, as your post explains.

  34. Soulwriter25 says:

    I loved your post! I can totally relate to losing my own voice in the sea of clients and demands over the last 10 years. I finally took the blog plunge in January 2009, and notice I feel happier and more creative in all areas of my life. I also find it so much more fun to write about a topic I am inspired by in the moment.

  35. One thing I forgot to mention in my LinkedIn response: Regular blogging develops writing discipline. If you’re committed to updating regularly, you will find your weekly word count rising almost magically. I love this benefit!

    Janice Campbell
    National Association of Independent Writers and Editors
    http://www.NAIWE.com

  36. The wonders of blogging indeed!

    Another benefit that I get from blogging is that it really helps you be more creative, fluent and coherent in your general writing skills.

    I’m still in school, so when it comes to my English exams and assignments, I find it’s a lot similar to writing a blog posts.

    The coherency that is needed for both, blogging and say an English essay is quite similar. As a blogger you get more constructive criticism than perhaps at school – so I’ve seen it help my general writing skills greatly too.

    Janith
    http://www.blogussion.com/blog

  37. seosoeasy says:

    Amazing article and i was impressed a lot.I learned that blogging is a great experience not only in gaining profit but also to gain knowledge and writing power.Thanks for your effort.

  38. writeasrain says:

    The thing about blogging is that it encourages you to explore your creativity; and, it expands your ability and your opportunity to connect with the world around you. I find that I learn something new everyday.

    What is amazing is how addictive it can become and how I find ways to nurture my blog. I really feel that it helps me to grow as a writer; it allows me as well, to have the freedom to do a little freestyle thinking. That truly opens the doorway to new avenues as a writer…while building confidence in yourself, at the same time.

    Like anything that you strive to do, and do well, blogging is something that can be improved upon in a variety of ways. It all comes down to what your goals are…and, discovering the information that you need to bring those goals to fruition.

    Thanks for sharing your personal and professional growth with your readers. http://www.writeasrain.wordpress.com

  39. This is an great post, these facts are as accurate as they can get. The more you write the faster you get, and the more fluent you can type out a new post, from weekly than to daily.

  40. Jen Singer says:

    I’ve always said that blogging is like breastfeeding: The more you do it, the more you can produce. It’s helped me find the discipline and speed to produce 5 books.

    It also gave me the volume to prove to a paying gig with a magazine that I could keep up the work for long periods of time. Finally, it got me a book deal; three of those books are part of a series branded to my blog.

    Finally, it made writing a cool thing to do for everyone. And that’s a good thing.

  41. Great post! Thanks so much for this article, it’s really helpful.

  42. Kerry Dexter says:

    another thing blogging has helped me learn is how to write for both specialist and non specialist audiences at the same time, and still keep it engaging and useful. usually I’m writing for one or another in my other work (I write about folk and Celtic music), and it’s been fun to find new ways to think about this.

  43. Hi again Darren,

    Here’s one thing I mus improve this year. Being a non English writer makes things much more complicated….well, I’ve never been a good writer as I am a good speaker… so I need to follow this leads in order to improve myself.

    Told this, you can imagine how helpful is for me this kind of posts.

    Thanks,

    Alcides Fialho

  44. I definitely agree with blogging making you let go of perfectionism in order to write faster. This is still something I work on, as I write longer articles just like you. Great points!

    Danelle Ice / Homemaker Barbi

  45. Jenny Cromie says:

    Hello everyone,

    Thank you so much for all your thoughtful feedback and for sharing your experiences with blogging. I’m glad that so many people enjoy it like I do, and that a few of you found this post helpful.

    And Jen Singer, your thoughts about how blogging has helped your writing and how it ultimately led you to a book deal is very encouraging and inspiring.

    Happy blogging everyone!

    -Jenny

  46. Suzette Wickham says:

    Hello everyone, I am

  47. Suzette Wickham says:

    Sorry about that.
    Hello everyone. I am a teacher who has been striving for excellence in my profession in everyway possible. Hence, I have decided to improve on my academic building.
    My blog is that there are students in our classroom today who are not achieving at a high level. This can be as a result of many reasons to which domestic problems is one. What are your views and additional information?

  48. Ron says:

    I appreciate all the hard work that goes into the info here on these blog post , trying to keep my own blog fresh is hard , but the tips and pointers here really help.

  49. Suprieta says:

    I’ve only just begun to blog. Well, not exactly true… I had a blog on Xanga for about a year and posted personal thoughts and feelings about my family and life. Now, I am interested in pursuing a venture in internet writing, including blogging and other types of writing. To this I am new. Anyway, I am writing this comment to say that discipline is the most challenging thing for me. I am sometimes slightly intimidated to sit down and write and create something worthy of reading. But, it helps to hear that you sometimes have the same sluggishness in an effort to “move the cursor.” It helps me to hear this. I will try harder to write past the perfectionist in me also and just get it onto the page. I can edit later.

    Thanks for sharing!

    http://www.aspiretograce.wordpress.com

  50. Mel Menzies says:

    Hi Jenny – I’m afraid I, too, felt like you. I was definitely not going to be one of the saddos who spent their lives ‘relating’ to a keyboard, and neglecting the real people around them. Why would they want to, I asked myself. So on your behalf (if you don’t mind?) and mine, I’ll apologise for the two of us.
    I’ve been blogging for seven or eight months. As the author of self-help books, biographies and novels over a number of years, I’ve never shied away from sharing myself or anecdotal material if it helped me to help my readers.
    I’ve totally changed my tune and love the immediacy of blogging, as well as the instant response from readers. I now Twitter as well – you can catch me on http://twitter.com/MelMenzies. Thanks for your honesty.