One thing that appeals to people about blogging is that somehow, by doing it regularly, people figure out what it is that will make them happy in their lives.
Not everyone. Not always. But often enough, for people who really commit to blogging on a regular basis, whether they do it for personal or professional reasons, blogging has the effect of making you gravitate toward your real passions (a little part of me died inside writing that last word, just so you know). It has something to do with the act of writing down stuff every day — in the process of doing that, you sort of figure out your own story. You figure out where you fit into your own narrative.
Now, if you want to be a professional blogger, it’s not really enough to just meander around and get to your story when you feel like it. You’ve got to have your story ready to go right away, or at least act like you have it ready to go right away. And you cannot really make your story super complex and multi-layered, with a bunch of sub-plots and multiple dreaming sequences that require elaborate waking mechanisms like that movie with DiCaprio and the spinning top. Or rather, your story can be that complex, but you need to have an easy version ready so that everybody can remember you in the short term, before they have time to get to know you and all of the many different incarnations of special snowflake that make up you.
When you are a professional blogger, trying to reach people, you need to make a story that is really easy for people to understand. One of the things I was telling a consulting client last week was that all of the bloggers who are known have some kind of “thing” that is theirs. And that maybe it’s not such a great thing, but whatever, they own it. In the best cases, this thing isn’t the only thing they are, but it is the thing that allows them to be remembered. For Il Duce , it is “the first woman who was fired for writing about her job on the internet.” For Pioneer Woman, it is “the city gal who found love and moved to a cattle ranch.” I am “the mommyblogger who says what other mommybloggers only wish they could say.” Now, none of these things comprise the whole of our identities as bloggers — in fact, some of them are not even true, strictly speaking. But they are easy to latch onto. They are things.
Every blogger needs to figure out what their thing is going to be — what their short version story is going to be so that potential readers can grab onto it, and take it away with them easily. The thing becomes like a virtual business card for you, and even if the first person who takes it away is not your ideal reader, they might take it with them and give it to somebody who is — they might hear your name mentioned and then say, “Oh, she is the one who ____________” within earshot of just the right person. How do you go about developing your story? I can tell you that in my own case it was not intentional — it happened as a result of interacting with the community, of always feeling like I was standing in a room where there was something crazy happening and nobody was saying anything about it, and feeling compelled to say something. But the process reminded me of some ideas listed I read awhile back in a post by Anil Dash that dealt with one-line bios. The majority of the post is about some tech dude who invented RSS . . . blah blah who gives a crap, when are you going to get back to the part that pertains to me . . . ahh! Here: he featured Conan O’Brien’s Twitter bio as a particularly fantastic example of a story conveyed through a one line bio:
Dash’s advice for writing a one-line bio, which might be thought of as a quick way of expressing your thing, your story, to people who are quickly passing by, is as follows:
In that way, one-line bios strike me as offering some important lessons about the architecture of meaningful things on the web: They should be brief, and structured just enough to give you a starting point without constraining your creativity. They should pack in enough meaning that they have value on their own, but be useful when annotating a larger work. They should be portable enough to work on almost any kind of website. And they should be useful enough that they can succeed even if the ego of their creators is modest enough to not demand credit.
And you? What do you have to say of yourself?