Blogging to learn


Shared on Flickr by lucy loomis

Had I been blessed with even limited access to my own mind there would have been no reason to write. I write entirely to find out what I’m thinking, what I’m looking at, what I see and what it means. What I want and what I fear. 
                                                                                                                                                             Joan Didion

One of the most amazing happenings of my adult life is discovering I love to blog. I hated (yes hated) writing as it was presented to me as a student and young adult. I saw writing as something I had to do for someone else; I never had the opportunity to understand it as a process I might do for myself. Weirder still, after blogging here for almost 3 years, I now get “a mental craving” to blog, similar to the feeling I might get when I need to go for a run or brisk walk. Blogging soothes and settles my brain when burdened and blurry; it cuts a path and shines a light. More than other mental activity, blogging has been a reliable compass for navigating my explorations “out here.”

If I were to sum blogging up, I would describe the process as the perfect dance between navigating my learning and learning how to express myself. One aspect seems to strengthen the other: blogging enhances my ability to navigate my learning and as I navigate my learning, the more clarity and focus I have when I blog. But how to blog to learn and how to learn to blog? I am no expert and in fact I find blogging to be the hardest (in the very best way) mental activity I do. But I offer some hints that have helped me navigate my way…

Ideas for blogging to learn

1. Process Post – When you are full on confused or overwhelmed by a topic, when a question continues to circle round and round in your brain. Forge through and process it out. Lay the ideas down and re-order them, as you might when laying a rock wall, until they sit in a way that gels to provide clarity for you.

2. Round Up – Getting started on a topic? Investigating a new area of interest? A round-up or collection is a great way to dive in and find some preliminary resources on a topic. A round-up outlines the tracks of your travels and shares what you have read, watched, tried, heard, etc.

3. Dear Somebody – Write a post to someone or something. For example: Dear New Teacher Me; Dear Student, Dear Stressed Me; Dear PLN. Writing a post to someone can be fun and provides an easy style to guide your writing and explore a topic.

4. Stream of consciousness – Sit down and just write just as you think. This may be in reaction to a conversation, a Ted Talk you watched, or to a post that moved you. Let your thoughts come without judgment or reservation. The post might lack grammar or logic, but mentally it will feel fantabulous!

5. Lists – Although some peeps are anti-list and lists can feel contrived, at the end of the day everyone loves a good list! Lists are an easy way to organize your writing and ideas. I myself both love and hate lists. I hate writing them, but they organize me in a way I love!

Ideas for learning to blog

1. Give blogging time – I try to blog once per week. Weekends work best for me as I have enough time to sit down and write a post start to finish. But this habit developed over time. When I first started blogging it occurred randomly and sporadically. It took time to become a habit and it took time to find a routine that worked best for me.

2. Keep it simple – My biggest struggle when I blog is I tend to over complicate and then lose my way. What was I trying to say again? Simple clarity is deceptively difficult to achieve. For me my title is what gives me the greatest clarity. A title clears the murky thoughts and then I try to write as tightly as possible to that central idea.

3. Read other blogs – What grabs you? Whose style do you love? What format is most inviting? What topics resonate? What sticks with you a week or month later?

4. Notice ideas and topics that fully grab your interest – What topics really catch your attention? What conversations linger in your brain? What puzzles you? What amazes you? It took time for me to notice these and I had to let go of my preconceived notions of what I thought “I should be interested in.” I had to develop my own taste and learn to trust myself.

5. Keep track of ideas, quotes, and central questions – When I get an idea for a post I try to keep track of them, either in a journal or in a unpublished post. Don’t despair if topic ideas go unexplored for months. Out of the blue a post, tweet or conversation might reactivate the dormant topic and bring it to life.

6. Don’t believe any list of “must do” blogging tips – Write your own!