Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Blogging to Persuade




In the Science of Persuasion, the participants discuss 6 keys to persuading readers:

1). Reciprocity

2). Scarcity
3). Authority
4) Consistency
5). Liking
6). Consensus

In a blog, reciprocity is key; you have to have something specific to offer readers if you want readers to follow you and comment on your work. It can be a juicy secret, the key to dropping pounds quickly, a cure for beating anxiety, or one of a million other examples, but you must hold out the apple for the reader and hope that he or she will bite. 


I think the most successful blogs rely on consistency. Pick a theme and stick to it. I'm reminded of Julia Powell's blog; she had something new to share about her cooking project every single day. I think bloggers that are too scattershot tend to frustrate readers. Mandyfish varies widely in her topics, but she's always funny; her quirky sense of humor keeps readers coming back for more. Consensus plays a part here too; if I see a Facebook post from a friend who has posted an intriguing blog post, I'm much more likely to not only read the blog post, but to poke around the blog site as well. Social media helps to proliferate blogs (and a whole lot of other articles, ads, goods, services, etc.) like wildfire largely because of consensus.


Bloggers must develop a voice, and that voice has to be likable, for the most part. If, as William Zinsser notes, bloggers descend into the depths of whining and overexposure, they may see a spike in readers for a day, a week, or a month, but they will lack the longevity needed to sustain a blog for the long term. No one likes an Debbie Downer.



Authority is mostly irrelevant in a blog. Bloggers (like myself) often use pseudonyms, and the details of our backgrounds are obscured, invented, or buried entirely. I won't allow my students to use blogs for academic research because so often the blogger's identity is shrouded in mystery, and we have no way of knowing if he or she is credible. Without that ethos, I am always a bit wary reading a blog (at least for academic work).


Scarcity doesn't even apply to blogs. There are a million blogs about a million topics, and if you check out WordPress, they claim that 50,000 new sites are created every day. 


That last statistic really gives me pause. I'm just one lonely fish out here in a limitless pond.




GULP.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Finally!

"If the personal essay frequently presents a middle-aged point of view, it may be because it is the fruit of ripened experience, which naturally brings with it some worldly disenchantment, or at least realism." -The Art of the Personal Essay

We live in a world that is so laser-focused on preserving youth, it was incredibly refreshing to read that the personal essay benefits from a more, shall we say, seasoned outlook on life than that of the highly touted millenials.

I don't exactly have a "seasoned" picture of myself. I'm a goofball.

I'm nearing 41, and it has taken me a long time to get comfortable in my own skin. I skipped a grade as a child and felt like an outcast for most of my schooling. Even now, my excitement for Edgar Allan Poe, my penchant for dressing up in character, and my big personality often draw unwelcome attention. I no longer care the way I did in my teens and twenties. I don't remember if I cared much in my thirties, as they were such a blur - teaching, earning my master's degree, raising a toddler to her "tween"age years. I don't bother much with fashion trends and am happiest shopping at the Salvation Army for some hidden find. I'd rather be judged by my character than my dress size, and I try hard to be a good mother to my teenaged daughter. I'm never afraid to look the fool if it means that either my daughter or my students will learn something from it.

My life experiences have been intense. I am emotional, sensitive, and highly attuned to others; whether in moments of grief or joy, I have lived vicariously. I'm stubborn but open-minded; what I lack in patience I give in love. I care deeply about my family, my friends, my students, and my work. I bite off far more than I can chew and am never satisfied until a project meets my own exacting standards. I love researching in academic databases - it makes me feel a bit like Nancy Drew on the trail of a clue. I'm enthusiastic, joyful, fearful, and creative.  I am passionate about social justice issues and tend to side with the underdog. I believe strongly that we are all interconnected, all children of the Universe, and I am certain that it is my job to show my students, through literature, that we are so much more than we are told we are, and that we can become even more.

I say all of this because I think I possess tremendous power with my writing for so many reasons. As a woman, as a mother, as a teacher, as a researcher - the intensity I bring to my everyday life is the same kind of intensity I try to bring to my writing. I have been through so much in my own life, and, by a conservative estimate, have taught more than 3200 students in the last sixteen years. I have seen a wide swath of the cross-section of humanity, and I believe I have the ethos to write about the human condition with some degree of authority.

Most of all, I refuse to write about something unless I give a damn about it. And I give a damn about an awful lot.