Talking about the what

In our last entry, we touched on the need to figure out what to say, to whom it will be said and why it needs to be said in the first place. This time out, let’s look a bit more closely at the what component.

Whatever we read – newspapers, magazines, web sites and, yes, blogs – we do so because the topic interests us. The same thing applies to the folks who write all this stuff: they take the time to write it because it interests them.

Writing about something that interests you is probably the most important thing when you decide to launch a web log. If you’re jazzed by the topic or subject area, you’ll be motivated to share everything you know about it. The fact that you’re jazzed about it will come through in your writing. Passion sells, after all. Don’t fall into the trap of trying to write something that’s of only passing interest to you, as you’ll quickly lose interest…and so will your readers.

If you’re the go-to person among your friends for a particular issue, that might be a good place to start. If you’re still wondering, go sit under a tree for a while and think about what it is that you want to say. Don’t come back until you’ve answered the question honestly, and are confident that you’ll have lots to write in the months and years to come.

I’m not kidding about the tree, by the way. It works. You’ll have to trust me on that one.

Once you’ve decided what you’re going to say, you’ve got a bit more homework to do before it’s showtime. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Is it unique? Read other blogs, looking specifically for sites that may have similar themes to the one you’re working on. Are you repeating what’s already being said or can you add to the discussion? Don’t scuttle an idea just because other, similar blogs may already exist. You can still succeed if you say it better, or slightly differently, than everyone else. Just make sure you take the time to know what’s out there
  • Can I write dozens or even hundreds of entries on it? Try listing some potential blog entry titles to give yourself a sense of how easy it will be to keep the content coming. If after a week you’re still struggling with this, find a new topic
  • Is the topic hot? Advances in manual typewriter technology may no longer captivate the public’s interest, and may not be compelling fodder for blogs in the 21st century. Steer clear of dusty topics that don’t show up on search engines. Look for those that stand a reasonable chance of being discussed at the water cooler
  • Does research material exist? If the topic is relatively current, you’ll be able to find content out there that you’ll be able to fashion into future blog entries. Great blogs pull interesting bits out of the regular flow of online discussion and turn them into items of conversation: if you can’t Google your chosen topic and find good fodder for possible future entries, you may want to switch topics
  • Do my friends care? Talk through the proposed topic with people you trust. If your loving spouse doesn’t want to hear about it, will complete strangers take the time to read you? Don’t look for cheerleaders: seek out people who will give you honest opinions, even if they risk hurting your feelings a bit in the process

We’ll dig deeper into the who and the why in subsequent entries. For now, your challenge is to start thinking about that one topic that fascinates you above all else. Happy choosing!

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