3 Terrible, Stupid Things I Used to Do on My Blog

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I’ve been blogging since 2005, and that means I’m sort of an expert… at least an expert on what not to do. As I’ve tried to figure out what works and what doesn’t work, I’ve seen that I tended to make some really big, terrible, stupid mistakes because I fancied myself a pure, idealistic writer who does not bow to the conventions of the blogging world.

After changing a few things in my approach to blogging, I thought I should confess my mistakes so that you can avoid making them too.

 

Titles Don’t Matter for Blog Posts

I used to think that writing was all about writing amazing stories and sharing super-helpful ideas. If you spelled out the basic ideas clearly, the discerning reader would SURELY recognize my genius, brilliance, and value. These savvy readers don’t demand click bait. In fact, they’re most likely sitting by their computers right now just waiting for me to post something amazing.

But oh gosh, if Buzzfeed has taught us anything, which I highly doubt, it’s that people LURVE click-bait headlines. I should have totally titled this post: “You won’t believe what I used to do on my blog!” or “I teared up after reading the second sentence” or “This is better than tap dancing kittens on YouTube.” You get the idea. You were probably clicking all over those fake headlines just now even though you knew I was making them up and they didn’t have any hyperlinks. Admit it.

While we don’t have to give in to the Buzzfeed headline writing buffoonery that is ruining the Internet for the sake of advertising clicks, titles still matter a great deal. Every serious blogger I know spends a lot of time on their titles. These days I begin my blog posts with a title that plainly states the focus of my post for the sake of personal clarity, but then hack it to pieces and work through a bunch of different options before picking one.

Here’s the thing, there’s a ton of stuff out there on the Internet, and you really, really can’t afford to put up a bland headline that’s something like: “Musings on Stuff I Like.” First off, never, ever use the word “musings” ever again on your blog. In fact, WordPress developers, we need to add a mandatory plugin to the next build that automatically deletes blogs that use the word “musings” in contexts other than Greek mythology. But back to my point, please, for the love, spend some time writing a good blog post title. If you love your little blog posts as much as you say you do, then you need to give them good titles. Otherwise, very few people will be tempted to read your precious little posts.

 

I Don’t Have to Be Vulnerable on My Blog

Blogging used to be about ideas for me. In fact, it was all about ideas for about the first six years or so. I’d rant and rave about things from time to time, but I spent so much time believing that people just wanted to read my little nuggets of wisdom that I rarely inserted myself or my “feelings” into my posts.

I don’t know how I could have missed this for so long. I mean, yeah, people want to read smart ideas, but it would have helped if I wrote with the voice of a real person and share a little bit from my life.

Having said that, I also feared being one of those bloggers that shares all the things from his/her personal life online. I’m not quite in the Ron Swanson school of personal privacy where I’m tossing my cell phone in the sewer and burying gold bricks in undisclosed locations, but I find it really hard to determine when I’ve crossed the line from being authentic and real (in the sense of, “Keepin’ it real… yo”) into overdramatic over-sharing that violates the privacy of my family.

I can see now that vulnerability is essential for writers. Writers really do have to face our demons and set down at least part of that battle on the page.

Writers have to take risks. We don’t have to over-share or compromise the privacy of ourselves or loved ones, but we have to take big, vulnerable risks if we want people to care about our work. We have to work on stepping up to that line that divides authentic vulnerability from over-sharing, wherever it is, and give it a firm poke—just like old school Facebook.

And even if you aren’t particularly vulnerable, you have to at least care a lot about your topic. I’ve labored for hours over posts that I thought had tons of great ideas, only to see a passionate post I’ve dashed off in 20 minutes become the most popular post on my blog for all time. I’ve you aren’t personally invested in your writing, then your readers probably won’t be either.

 

Announcing “Here’s My New Blog Post” on Twitter

No one cares that I’ve just posted a blog post. No one. Probably not even my mother most days, especially if my titles are terrible. And yet, I used to complement my vanilla blog post titles with tweets that I plunked down like dry, crumbly, bland wafers.

One day I saw someone quoting from my blog post on Twitter, and I was like, “That’s awesome! I should try that!”

Now, some bloggers go a bit overboard with the Twitter quotes. They highlight the tweetable parts of their posts in bold, set up “Tweet this” links on their posts, or create little lists of tweetable quotes.

OK, I’m not here to judge anyone. This is personal confession time, and I’m confessing that I’m terrible at tweeting from my blog. Do whatever you like. I’ll just say that I saw some folks doing that, and I was like, “Oh come on! Just write something good!”

What can I say? I was born in the wrong age. I’m all “Get off my lawn!” with these new fangled marketing tactics. Even using a typewriter feels a little edgy some days. But back to my main point about the Twitters…

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TWEET THIS –> “Even using a typewriter feels a little edgy some days.” @edcyzewski

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I’ve still seen that people want to share helpful little quotes. Even if I tend to think in 1,000 to 2,000 word chunks, it won’t kill me to share a quote or two from my latest blog post if folks could find it helpful. Mind you, I don’t write for Twitter and may God banish me from all NHL arenas for life if I ever do. I’ve just realized that my resistance to posting a blog post quote on Twitter wasn’t all that smart of me

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TWEET THIS TOO!!!  –> “I don’t write for Twitter and may God banish me from all NHL arenas for life if I ever do.” @edcyzewski

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In conclusion, I’ve made some really huge, terrible, stupid mistakes as a blogger. These are all pretty basic, simple, run of the mill blogging tips that you can find all over the Internet. And still, there are tons of bloggers like myself who have resisted them. It’s time to get with the program. Adopting a few best blogging practices won’t hurt… too much. We may even get a few new readers along the way.

What’s the biggest mistake you’ve made as a blogger?

 

This One Thing Hasn’t Changed Since I Published Coffeehouse Theology in 2008

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In preparation for the release of my first book in 2008, I decided that it was time to check out this new fangled internet site called “Facebook.” I didn’t really want to join, but the publishing magazines I’d been reading said, “Authors have to join Facebook and then everyone will buy all of the books and you’ll be an amazeballs bestseller overnight!!!”

So now I’m on Facebook for better or worse. I didn’t become an overnight amazeballs bestseller. In fact, very few authors became bestsellers thanks to Facebook. However, I at least managed to follow through on publishing that book, which remains my best-selling and most popular book with readers and reviewers.

I started the book with this simple question: How do Christians determine what they believe?

It wasn’t all that easy to answer.

After reading a good deal of scripture, philosophy, and theology, I wrote a readable little book called Coffeehouse Theology: Reflecting on God in Everyday Life that remains popular with college students and Sunday School classes.

Beginning with the relationship of cultural context and theology, Coffeehouse Theology roots the study of scripture in the church’s mission to advance God’s Kingdom. Far from dividing the church, theology unites the church in a dynamic dialogue about the presence of God, his revelation in scripture, and the wisdom of the historic and global churches.

We all want to read the Bible faithfully and responsibly, taking into account the ways its original context collides our contemporary context today and the traditions we’ve inherited. Coffeehouse Theology can help you do that—at least Scot McKnight said so in the Forward, so take it up with him if you disagree (and yes, I just named-dropped but it was terrifying to ask him to write the Forward as a new author, so there).

I was terrified that Coffeehouse Theology would immediately become a relic of its time and that readers who picked it up in, say, six or seven years would struggle to relate. I worried that I was writing a book that fit purely into the moment, a fad that I would never mention in the years to come.

I’ll admit, there’s a chapter or two that feel a little dated when I peek at them lately, but overall, I’m still really proud of this book. The central ideas still resonate with me:

  • If we aren’t aware of our context or the original context of the Bible, we will be at their mercy.
  • Theology should bring us together in order to learn and grow rather than to engage in battles over who is “right.” (This was the “coffeehouse” part of the book.)
  • Good theology should lead us to action and deeper spiritual formation.
  • We overlook the wisdom of the global and historic churches to our detriment.

 

Of course this book may not be your cup of tea. I admit, for as many readers who have enjoyed its accessibility, there’s no escaping the fact that it’s a theology book that deals with lots of ideas. If you’re new to theology, it will be a stretch. If you’re a veteran of theology, it will leave you wanting more.

However, for many of us who want to be aware of how we shape our beliefs without reading a mountain of books with tiny fonts and enormous words, Coffeehouse Theology is a good first step that I’m still proud to have written. For all that has changed (and failed!) since I entered Christian publishing, it’s nice to know that my first book wasn’t a complete waste of time!

 

Best yet, Coffeehouse Theology is $2.99 on Kindle for the first time ever this week.

Download it on Amazon now!

 

Can you help spread the word?

Here’s a sample tweet for the Twitters:

Download Coffeehouse Theology: Reflecting on God in Everyday Life by @edcyzewski for $2.99 http://ow.ly/GTlZb

 

And while we’re at it…

My second-most-popular book A Christian Survival Guide: A Lifeline to Faith and Growth, is on sale this week as well for $.99 on Kindle.

Download A Christian Survival Guide here.

 

Do you have another theology book that has been meaningful or accessible for you? If I had to list a favorite contemporary theology book, I think it would be Renewing the Center by Stanley Grenz.

Get 5 FREE eBooks with A Christian Survival Guide

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I’ll level with you. I’m a writer, not a book promoter. However, over the next two weeks, I’m going to be promoting my new book A Christian Survival Guide: A Lifeline to Faith and Growth.

I loved writing this book. I’m working on loving the promotion of it. Every author tries to talk up their books without overwhelming friends and family with updates. So here’s the plan, my publisher and I have put together some different offers that will appeal to different groups.

Each offer is about giving readers a chance to get the best deal possible on my writing, whether that’s just A Christian Survival Guide or it’s a bunch of books I’ve written. For instance, if you’re relatively new to my writing, this week you can pick up six eBooks for the price of one.

 

Starting today, August 11th: Buy A Christian Survival Guide from my publisher, and you will receive a link to FIVE free eBooks at the end of the day that includes: the TWO full length Coffeehouse Theology Study Guides, Divided We Unite, Creating Space, and Why We Run from God’s Love. The offer ends Friday, August 15th.

Not convinced? You can also read a two-chapter sample of the Survival Guide for free over at NoiseTrade books.

Can you help spread the word? 

Get 5 FREE eBooks when you purchase A Christian Survival Guide by @edcyzewski at Kregel: http://ow.ly/zR9b1.

 

And just a heads up, I have no idea about the precise time this offer expires on Friday the 15th (I assume by midnight EST). So don’t delay, but if you do hit any glitches, please drop a comment to let me know!