Pressure make diamonds, but does blogging under pressure make for a better blog and blog posts?
Joss Whedon, Creator and Executive Producer of the television series, Firefly, summed up the show in the season’s DVD extras in a way that reminded me of how many bloggers work under pressure to publish:
A lot of the pressure of being a show that might be canceled at any moment really helps you. It doesn’t help your digestion, it doesn’t help your marriage, but what it does help is your storytelling. Because you go back and say what is the most important thing I need to feel. What is the most primal story. What is the thing that is going to show how great this crew is, how funny they are, how brave, how disjointed – whatever it is you need. What do I need to get to the primal story?
A television and film under pressure of a time crunch and the threat of cancellation still has time to go back and “get it right” – clean out the clutter and time wasting words to really get to the point. Does a blogger have that kind of time?
There are a variety of pressures a blogger can be under. Time, timing, and word counts are the three key pressure factors I see most often at work.
The Pressure of Time
A blogger under the pressure of time is usually one who loves blogging and understands the power of the blog but doesn’t have a lot of time to waste blogging.
Many will write their blog posts in their heads when away from their computers, editing as they think the blog post through. Some only have time on the weekends, away from their “real jobs” to blog, Weekend Bloggers, saving up their mental blog post notes to write them on the weekend.
For the most part, weekend bloggers tend to write more thoughtful and thought-provoking posts. They have spent time with the concept and content in their heads, tossing it around from left to right, before they sit down and write it. The pressure of time is on the time they have to actually produce the post, not conceive it, which can make the post a diamond.
Others have the pressure of time based upon how being paid by the blog post. The more they publish, the more they are paid. The key is to get out as many posts as possible in a short time to maximize your income.
Paid bloggers will recognize a lot of what Whedon said. When time is of the essence, your head quickly sifts through all the chaff to get right to the wheat of the content. Some write very good, concise blog posts that make their points clearly, but it is a skilled blogging form and not everyone can do it. It’s pressure under fire that works best with experience.
The Pressure of Timing
I asked those attending WordCamp 2007 in San Francisco how many checked their feed reader when they got up in the morning even before they went to the bathroom. I was surprised at how many people raised their hands in the crowd. Getting to those feeds and finding the latest, hottest news to post on their blogs was more important than peeing.
The timing of publishing a blog post, being the first one with the news, is important to many bloggers. In the rush to be the first, the key points in the information are the most essential to write about. These are not often well thought-out posts nor very editorial or commentary. They include the bare essentials.
When you have to beat the competition with the news, you boil the content down to its most important elements for time’s sake. It’s a combination of the pressure of time as well as the need to be first that gets the blog writer to automatically hone down the post to the most critical ingredients.
The Pressure of Word Counts
Many years ago, my husband was learning to be a co-writer with me on various magazine publications I wrote for. One particular article taught him a huge lesson in one of the biggest challenges involved in writing in the publishing industry: the word count.
Working on a feature cover story for a photography magazine, I interviewed five wildlife photographers about their tips and advice for leading and taking photo tours in Africa. At the last minute, the editor emails me that they’ve changed the word count for the article down to 2,000 words. You do the math. That’s 400 words each. Not much room to list their bios, equipment descriptions, destinations, and tips.
We spent three days without sleep paring down the article word by word. We finally got it to 2,500 and couldn’t go any further without losing integrity. I told the editor that if he wanted the 2,000 limit, he’d have to cut one of the interview subjects. We couldn’t reduce it any more.
Falling into bed totally exhausted, my husband told me of all the times he had to take those word count tests in high school and university. “I always thought a professional writer’s job was so hard because they had to come up with enough words to meet the word count. Today I learned that their job is hard because they have to get rid of them.” Sometimes what you don’t write is more important that what you do write.
Editing is the hardest part of writing for many people, including bloggers. When faced with a word count limit for your blog posts, the blogger has to come up with enough words to make the count, but also cut the words out to get down to the count, if the limit is that restrictive.
Cutting out the chaff can definitely improve many blog posts, as long as what is left shines.
What pressures do you face in your blogging? Do these pressures make your blog writing better?