8 Ways to Imagine Your Role as a Blogger
Terms like "blogger" and "writer" are non-descriptive. They tell what a person knows how to do - communicate via the written word. But those words leave out what is being communicated, to whom, and why.
That's where new bloggers often get stuck creatively. Since they know their role as "putting words on a screen", they can easily get lost, confused, and stumped when it comes to figuring out what words to put on that screen. So to help with that feeling of confusion and writer's block, I think that what helps is: re-imagine your role. You can still give yourself a traditional, Linkedin-friendly label like writer, blogger, or content-creator. But in your head, maybe you think of yourself as more like a travel guide. Or a critic. Or a museum curator. Or an explorer. Hey, it's your mind, you can be whatever you want to be inside it. So here are some ways you can re-imagine your role as something beyond the confines of "blogger".
This will help you with:
- Writer's block.
- Figuring out who your audience is, and what they want.
- Getting motivated and excited about what you're writing - a critical component of good writing. No one else is going to be interested in what you're writing if you're not.
A Tour Guide
What good bloggers do is provide people with helpful information about something that helps them maximize the fun they get out of their experience. Sounds like a tour guide to me - you are someone who guides readers through their challenges and leads them around dangers and obstacles. And all without having to schlep around any climbing gear!
How do you visualize yourself as a tour guide? Do what they do by:
- Showing that you've done your homework and are someone readers can go to as a trustworthy source of information about your topic.
- Write what is most practical for people - what do they need to know to navigate possible setbacks, issues, and things that just plain mystify or scare them?
- Dispelling common misconceptions and stereotypes about your topic. Gently but firmly, set the record straight.
A tour guide has the expert knowledge of an academic, but he or she knows how to frame that information in a more fun way than an academic. See the movie My Life in Ruins for an illustration of what I mean. You're delivering information, but also entertainment. You're also connecting with what your audience's needs and interests are.
Tour guides do not just randomly spew facts and figures - not successful ones anyway. They give information that answers common questions their audience might be thinking when they go somewhere. For example, how did they build the pyramids? Why was the Louvre built? Who were the first Europeans to settle Florida? Those are the kinds of questions a tour guide answers. They pique their audience's curiosity, and then they satisfy it. As a blogger, you can do that about your topic.
Practice saying it:
I am (Your Name), your guide to the world of (topic)!
You might also be inclined to see your blog as a performance, and you as the entertainer. Like I said before, blogging is not about writing in a dry, formal tone - that will put your readers to sleep, or make them click away from your page. Readers are busy people with short attention spans. To make your content exciting, maybe see yourself as a performer.
Your stage: The site hosting your blog.
Scenery: The visual layout and pictures you use.
The Script/Lyrics: What you're writing about.
So when you think of it this way, blogging is the act of performing or delivering your content. You could see yourself as an actor - the play has a script, but your creative interpretation of the script according to your personal identity will be what makes that script truly shine and the performance as a whole really stand out. Lots of people do Shakespeare, but not all of them are great. Likewise with blogging - lots of people talk about shoes, fitness, personal finance, beauty products, dieting, etc., so you have to make your performance special to stand above the crowd.
Talent agents connect people who want to make a movie with actors that want work. Similarly, a successful blog connects people with a certain specific question, problem, or need with an answer or resources to help them with their area of concern.
For example, a blog post entitled 20 Great Dresses to Wear this Christmas is OK, but an even better title would be What Do I Wear to a Formal Christmas Party? is better, because it uses your knowledge (in this case of fashion) to fill a related need or question someone might have.
To envision yourself as a talent agent, it works like this:
- Movie makers = your topic of expertise, the information you want to share, and companies or brands involved.
- Actors = the people you think are likely to be interested in your topic, or who might have questions related to your topic.
Your role, then, is someone to facilitate connections between the two. If the target audience is Googling how to find the right bra size, point them to companies who you know do great bra fitting work. If they're searching for how to bake a gluten-free pumpkin pie, write a recipe that satisfies that need specifically.
The point here is to get you to stop being egocentric (thinking about just what you want to say and how you want to say it - yawn!) and start thinking of yourself as a mediator between two parties; people and ideas.
Maybe you're not the acting or performing type, but you can see yourself behind the camera. That's fine too - this metaphor is like being a performer, but you have a lot more creative control over the final product. Blogging is a lot like directing. You choose what content to publish, where, when, how much, and so on. You can be as perfectionist or as lazy as you want, and the results reflect the amount of effort you put in.
AND - CUT!
Blogging is a lot like writing fiction, even though it's non-fiction writing. What makes them similar is:
- In both, you want to engage and captivate your audience.
- Good fiction and non-fiction follow similar rules and guidelines as far as the "craft" of writing and conventions. What's a good idea for writing in fiction usually carries over into non-fiction.
- In both cases, success comes when your ideas connect with your audience in a meaningful, emotionally impactful way.
I'm not encouraging that you lie, or even manipulate your representation of the truth. But by God, do not be boring about how it's presented!
This one is basically the role I take on in most of my pieces, whether they're about anime, movies, or even social and political commentary. What distinguishes a critic from a bully? A critic, in my opinion at least, should aim to be reasonable and helpful. They use their expert opinions to help people who are trying to make and do something do it better - not just spewing random negativity. I regret that sometimes, critics of the "spewing negativity" variety exist and are often successful, because people like abuse when it's not directed at them, and because their vitriol is funny and entertaining. But, to me, shock jock criticism is not the constructive critical style I'm going for when I write - I like to take content creators' feelings to heart and remember that everyone is only human.
In my opinion, the best critics:
- Tell it like it is, neither praising something mediocre nor bashing something good.
- Do not make prejudiced assumptions about a work before seeing it themselves based on hype, popularity, or how they feel about the studio, director, writer, etc.
- Have well-defined, objective standards for judgment, that take into account the limitations of creators.
- Have a good idea of what audiences want and expect. They're not just making judgments based on ideas and principles, alone. They're asking themselves, is the thing they're criticizing an enjoyable experience for viewers?
When you blog, you can see yourself as a critic for many topics. When talking about shoes, approach it from the viewpoint of someone who might be looking at and thinking about buying the shoes in question. What concerns them about the shoes? Do they want to know if the high price is worth it? Are they wondering if the shoes are comfortable? Maybe they want to know if the shoes are "in"? Critics probe the depths of products, answering possible questions and addressing areas of concern that the people interacting with those products might have.
The idea of champion warfare, in which two big tough guys from opposing armies fight each other to settle the score, is an old idea, dating back to the Iliad and ancient Hindu epics.
What the heck does this have to do with blogging?
Well, champions represented their armies, but these days we use the term "champion" to mean a passionate advocate for a cause or idea. You could say champion, advocate, or crusader interchangeably. What it means is, you're on your soap box and singing the praises of what you care about most. Or angrily decrying your ideological opponents. Either way, your voice should spill over with passion.
Wait - didn't I say a minute ago, don't talk about what you want to talk about, talk about what they want to read about?
Yes. That is important. I mean, obviously, you're only going to see huge numbers of blog traffic if you're up on what everyone is Googling in your field, and your blog answers the most commonly web-searched questions relate to your topic area. But that isn't the whole picture. What also gets you social media shares and word of mouth is having interesting content - lighting other peoples' heart on fire about something. To do that, be passionate. Do not use weak, passive language. Do not be afraid to say something controversial, as long as you mean it, and can back it up. If you're passionate about a cause or principle, and you write about it with that passion, that will ignite passion in your readers. Doing that is a critical part of blogging.
Teachers are wise sages who give their wisdom and knowledge to the next generation. They care about their audiences in a personal way. You don't have to tell most teachers to think like their audience and put themselves in their audience's shoes - they're already there. Real, inspiring teachers go to amazing lengths and make big personal sacrifices and risks to help their students succeed.
Obviously, the way the metaphor works here is, you are a teacher as a blogger and your audience are the students. Like a tour guide, you're presenting content in a fun way. But you're not just an entertainer-type out to razzle dazzle them - you want them to come away from your blog having learned something important. You want them to connect to your content in a more meaningful way. You want your content to give helpful, useful, accurate instruction about something your audience will find interesting. You're good at breaking down big concepts into smaller parts.
What kind of role do you take on as a blogger?
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I think when starting out, it's good to think of yourself in some other role than just "blogger" or "writer", because roles give you style, personality, voice, and a sense of purpose so that you don't get creatively stuck or intimidated by blank pages so often. I mean, of course, everyone gets writer's block, but identifying with some role, like teacher or performer, will help you identify what to make and how to make it, and how to use your distinct personality and talents to get your readers interested and satisfy them. Find the role you think is most suited to your personality and the kind of blog you want to make, and then you can use that as a kind of helpful foundation on which to build.