In a post last year, the London School of Economics and Political Science’s Impact of Social Sciences blog argued that blogging is one of the best things that academics can do. As I celebrate my first year of blogging this month, I would have to agree. While I have a long way to go, here are five things I’ve learned while blogging on my thoughts and research in food studies, nutrition, and public health.
When you write a paper for class, only a handful of folks will ever read it—you, your professor or TA, maybe an academic peer or friend, and depending upon your relationship, your momma. Why settle for such a small audience? (Though I love sharing my writing with my mother; so there’s that). While some googlers will find you by mistake (I still pity the person who searched “erotic chair caning” and ended up on my site to read about food in art), plenty of people will find your work and read it, enjoy it, engage with it, comment on it, tweet it, and otherwise bring it to life.
Having my work online and shareable via a short link also makes it easier to share my work with others. Sure, you might email a Word document attachment when you’re submitting to a journal, but to share your work on Facebook, Twitter, etc. a blog can be a lot more useful.
Compared to writing a full fledged paper, full of seamless and well-argued arguments and narrative structure, blogging feels like a breeze. It’s amazing how quickly 500 or so words find themselves within a post, nestled together ready for a cyber picnic. Whenever I’m having trouble writing a paper for class, I’ll take a break, shake it off, and work on a blog post for a bit. Working on a contained, shorter piece, often on a totally different topic, can sometimes work out whatever kinks are inhibiting me. Then I can get back to my required writing.
With short paragraphs, bullet points, images, and links, blogging is also very visual. Driven by aesthetics, I’m a visual learner and person, so in the same way that creating a PowerPoint presentation of a longer paper can help to clarify my working argument, blogging can also cut to the chase, fill in the gaps, and flesh out weaker sections. Keeping the visual structure of short chunks in my mind often helps me to build longer works in a less painful way.
I’ve also heard more than one academic give the advice to write everyday. Blogging provides another outlet for writing frequently, giving me another opportunity to put words together on a regular basis.
While I work hard to churn quality content out into the mediascape, blogging also works in the other direction, providing a way for others to find me. When someone googles your name or when anyone googles a topic you’ve blogged on, chances are, they can end up on your blog, helping you to get your name out there, shape your brand, and own your ideas. I still get a totally dorky thrill every time my WordPress stats tell me someone googled my name and ended up on my blog. (I’m eternally feeling like Sally Field winning her 1985 Oscar).
Even if all you can handle doing is to just buy the domain for your name, do it now. Even a static page with a summary of who you are and what you are about with up-to-date contact information is a good place to start. If you can’t blog every day, week, or month, just do so when you can, perhaps treating the space like an online, academic portfolio. Even with a handful of posts, you can prove to a future colleague, mentor, or employer that you can write well.
While I have no good advice for how to be more likable, having an up-to-date, active blog made me linkable, giving me an anchored place to which folks can connect online. When I was quoted on NPR’s The Salt, wrote for The Inquisitive Eater, and blogged for BitchFlicks, my bio was able to include a link to my blog and each opportunity sent a few clicks my way, exposing more people to my work.
A blog URL is also an extremely easy thing to add to a business card. Someone who might not call, text, follow, or friend you might take a look at your blog to check out your work.
From setting a full and inspiring editorial calendar to searching for images, playing with your site’s design to writing on topics you wouldn’t normally explore, blogging is straight up fun. And as hobbies go, it offers a pretty great return on investment in that it can further your career and help you to meet super interesting, like-minded people.
And with that, I’m on to year two of blogging!