By Andy Jonak
This will be a very different post from any other blog post that I have written. It asks the question, “Are blogs important”? I am perhaps a bit biased in this regard, so I would have to answer yes, but my answer of “yes” isn’t enough without some details, so let me explain it a bit this month. Let’s get introspective while explaining how the proverbial sausage is made, while I break the 4th wall here.
Some background first: We all read blogs, and many of us have written them as well. I believe they are a great way to be informed on a variety of topics, from a variety of different people, with a variety of views. For me, IT is where I’ve been for 26+ years. I’ve been writing a blog on IT—in some fashion for—for over 7+ years and 85+ articles. I try to write a blog post once a month—no matter what, my self imposed deadline—and put it out to the world.
I write something at least once a month and put it out to the world on my website (www.andyjonakblog.com), our company’s website (www.vicomnet.com/blog), as well as publish it as an article on my LinkedIn profile (http://linkedin.com/in/andyjonak). For those of you who follow and read my work, you know I cover the IT world and what I feel is meaningful for me to talk about in any given month. My posts are heartfelt and mean something to me each time I write them, and I hope they mean something to you as well.
But here’s the thing: I hope they mean something to you, but if they don’t, that’s OK. My blog posts mean something to me, and I feel compelled to put something out there each month.
I am a big believer that if you are a (purported) expert in your field—which we all are BTW—then you should be putting out some content to the world (in some way) that supports that. My posts are obviously about the IT industry because that’s where I live and breathe, and it’s what I want to talk about that month. Creating a blog is not hard (get a website and domain, and you are all set or sign up for Medium or others—so the logistics of it aren’t hard), but creating content is everything. If I’m supposed to be an expert in IT, wouldn’t you want to work with someone who has been in IT a long time—and continually puts out content to the world that helps support their expertise?
I believe it shows credibility. If you are checking me out and are considering working with our company and me, and you’ve seen that I’ve written and published 85+ blog posts over 7+ years, doesn’t that help bit in your decision? For me, it would. BTW it doesn’t mean that just because you put stuff out there, that everyone will agree or like what you’ve created and published, your content must be good.
For me getting something out there is an opportunity to disseminate my thoughts and words out to those that have given me the privilege of following and reading my blog each month. Since I live an breath IT—just like most of you reading—I want to write about something each month that is on my mind, that I’ve observed, or that I’ve experienced and has affected me in some way. I feel I am in the trenches, just like all of you, and I want to talk about it. I feel if it’s affected me, it might mean something to you as well. It’s simple as that.
As I mentioned above, what’s essential to blogs is good and compelling content. It can’t just be written for the sake of writing, just so something is out there each month; it needs to be relevant, timely, and mean something to your readers, and be something they can relate to. But above all, it must be good content and well written. And good content as you the writer sees it. If you see it as compelling and you feel your posts are well written, then they probably are (but not always), and there is probably an audience for them.
But here’s the cold hard reality of a blog that you can’t get around: your content MUST be good. People will expect it to be good, and if they expect it to be good, good becomes the normal. It’s just like a website. Most firms have good websites—design and content—and since everyone does, people barely notice. But if a website is not good—bad design and poor content—then everyone notices. The same is true with a blog. It’s expected to be written well, and when it is, people tend to barely notice, but if it’s not written well, that’s when people really notice. It kind of sucks, but that’s just how it is. Great content is what keeps you competitive and makes people remember you. Crappy content makes people remember you as well, but not in a good way, and if that’s the case, they won’t continue to read your blog—no matter how much stuff you put out.
Where does the content come from? Well, everyone has a different source of inspiration, but for me, there is something that generally sticks out for me each month. A customer or vendor experience, something I’ve read or hear about, some meeting or call I’ve attended—something from these might hit me with an idea. It could be some recurring things I’ve heard throughout the month (what’s hot, popular, concern, etc.), but it’s something that hits me and I find an overwhelming need to write about it. I can get that inspiration at work, but many times it happens outside of work. I’ve even had a case where my teenage daughter asked me about something in the IT industry, and while I was explaining it to here, I thought, here is something that would make a great blog post. So I did.
Some of my content talks about solutions, some about technology, some on how firms are using it, or a combination of some or all of those things. The central idea comes to me—as I mention above—then I create a title, then my outline is created for where I want to take this thing, and then I write the first draft. After I write the first draft, I have to let it sit for a day before I do my first edits. I have to do that because when you are writing something, you think you are putting down what’s in your head, and you think it’s compelling, but when you read it a day later, you’ll have a better perspective on it. Those who know me hear me jokingly talk about how, when the first draft comes out, you feel like you are writing Shakespeare, but when you read it the next day, it reads like a cheap romance novel—no offense to cheap romance novels, but they aren’t my thing, hence the pun. It needs to sit for a bit. So I leave this completely unedited, not even doing spelling or grammar checking.
After at least a day, I revisit it and do my first set of edits, which include grammar, spelling, and the first round of edits. I estimate that I change around 10% of my content after the first round, where the words become more in line with my actual thoughts and ideas and to make the writing better. After I go through my first round of edits, I go through another full round of edits again. So for me, I write an article, and then I need to do 2 full rounds of edits before I get it out to the world. I need to make sure it written well, reflects what I am trying to convey, and is error-free. God bless those that can do it one shot—write it, edit it, and publish it immediately. That’s just not me. Even when I do this and reread things after I post them, I still see something I’d like to change and catch the occasional error. Oh well.
For me—and many who write—the setting and environment where I am writing is essential to allow the content and inspiration to come to fruition. I need a quiet place to write, with some great scenery, if I can find it, and sometimes headphones or a speaker with some inspirational but not vocal music. All of that helps to be in the right state of mind to put ideas on paper, and interestingly enough, I have a hard time writing my blog posts at my office, but not all of the other things I write. I can edit there, but not write. For some reason, my thoughts come better together in a non-office (work) environment.
A blog post—and I believe anything you write—must be an extension of you as a writer somehow. If not, why would you bother writing it?
The picture below is from the vacation house we rented this July, where I’m sitting outside overlooking the sunset over the Catskills mountains. This picture also shows my iPad, and my “setup” where I’m writing the first draft of this blog post you are reading now. Not a bad setting for inspiration and writing, don’t you think? Talk about seeing how the sausage is made.
I’ve talked about how and what blogs are all about, but let’s answer the title question: are they relevant today, with everyone (trying) to put out useful and relevant content? I absolutely believe so. I relish the opportunity to disseminate my thoughts out to you every month, and I take the responsibility of this very seriously, so I work hard to put out the best stuff that I can. The best ideas and writing that I can.
Writing is something I do for myself, where I feel I need to get content out there, but strangely I don’t consider it work, but something I need to do. Perhaps it’s some primal need for me. This is why I feel that blogs—in all industries—are relevant and will continue to be so. Hearing different people’s perspectives is critical. That’s why I really like writing even (or especially) when I am away on vacation—even up in the mountains like now. It’s that important and means that much to me. I don’t consider it work for me, but more something I need to do and enjoy doing.
Each word and post I put out there means a lot to me. It’s how I feel. I hope that what I write has the same effect and says something to you or is something you can relate to in some way. If so, then I’ve done my job. If not, that’s OK, I’ll keep writing anyway.