Blogging to Start Writing
Keeping a Blog
I like to recommend journaling, or keeping a diary, as an approach to getting comfortable with writing. Journaling makes writing a habit. And once you're into the habit of turning nothing into a paragraph or a page of writing every day, it's much easier to sit down at a blank screen and start writing a college assignment, a business memo, or the next great novel.
One of best things about journaling is that it doesn't put any pressure on you. If you're keeping a diary for yourself, you don't have to worry about what anybody else will think.
On the other hand, one of the weaknesses of a private journal is that we don't all feel like keeping diaries for ourselves. I feel funny writing down something that nobody else will ever read, and that I might never read again. I'm not always interested in what I have to say.
That's why I really like the Internet blog (short for “web log”). It's basically a diary that you publish to the Internet. You can write (“post”) a new entry as often as you like—hourly, weekly, or whenever. I think the blog has great potential to help us write for two reasons:
- Anyone can see what you write, so you're not really writing just for yourself. When you set up a blog, you get your own Internet address. (An Internet address is also called a “URL,” something like www.MyDiary.blogspot.com.) Anybody in the world can bump into your writing by typing your URL into her browser. Anybody might randomly stumble onto your blog. You can share your address with friends, of course, or you can keep it a secret. But it's always possible that someone will see what you write, so you tend to write as if someone else is there.
- Your blog can be anonymous. Since my name isn't going onto my posts, I can be a bit reckless about my writing. I have the freedom of keeping a diary just for myself—I don't have to worry about what anyone else thinks. This helps me fight Problem #1, by Just Doing It.
Knowing someone else might be reading helps me fight Problem #2: it encourages me to Think about Every Word.
I would like to encourage students in ENG101 to try blogging. If you start a blog, I'll offer 1 “Optional Exercise” point for every entry—with a few requirements. The entries must be made on separate days (no more than 1 point per day), and the entries must be at least a paragraph long. (Page 26 of our Wyrick text recommends writing a half-page at least three times a week, but I'll leave the frequency up to you.) All you have to do to receive credit is submit your blog's URL into the Assignment Drop Box before the due date, along with the number of points you hope to earn (the maximum is 20).
I realize that you're giving up your blog's anonymity by sharing the URL with me, but I can't think of a way to preserve anonymity and award class credit at the same time.
(Keeping a blog is optional. If you're not interested in blogging, you will have a chance to earn some or all of the 20 Optional Exercise points by doing exercises out of the textbook and other assignments. But if you're curious about blogging, please give it a try.)
Starting a blog can be intimidating, but there are several sites where you can sign up for free. Most of these have tools that walk you through the process of setting up your own blog. Here are two, but you can find others on the Internet:
Blogger / Blogspot.com. I've used this one and found it pretty straightforward, so this is the site I recommend. Look at the tour here: http://www.blogger.com/tour_start.
LiveJournal. This is a popular, free blog site with features to let you find other blogs by people with similar interests: www.livejournal.com.
Here's an encyclopedia entry with more background on blogging:
And here is a popular blogger's history of blogging:
If you have any questions or advice about blogging, please post in the Questions from Students or Notes discussion groups on WebCT.
I'm a little afraid to encourage blogging, because I'm not an expert in it myself. Setting up a blog doesn't require a Computer Science degree, but all these blogging sites assume some familiarity with the Internet. Since the sites let anybody post pretty much anything, you can expect to find offensive content if you browse around them enough. If you look at somebody else's blog, you should probably assume that you're at the same risk for viruses or spyware as you would be when looking at any unfamiliar website. Please don't hold me responsible for anything you bump into!
On the other hand, blogging is kind of new, it's fun, and I hope it's a great way to practice journaling.
© 2005, Michael Hardt