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!

7 thoughts on “Blogging to learn

  1. Great ideas and questions to ponder, Carolyn! I plan to do exactly that 🙂
    On the very first post to my blog I ended with this:

    This quote really lingered with me as I went about planning this blog, “The skill of writing is to create a context in which other people can think.” (Edwin Schlossberg). I hope I can achieve that here as well.

    ….But now I am really reflecting if that is still one of my intents of my blogging, or if I even “achieved” that. But I often think that your posts do that for me… a context to think in… with… beyond..? Thank you, whatever it is! 🙂

    • It is hard to pin down isn’t it? Why I started blogging is no longer why I blog now, but I had to start there to get here. Moreover I am not sure if here is a permanent spot in my blogging or just a temporary spot as I move onto the next place.
      I like the quote you shared as it captures how I have been imagining writing as a scaffold or template of sorts, that others can weave their “idea threads” through. The notion that writing be not too dense, so as I can’t weave my own thoughts through it nor too wide, so as I lose my way in it, but just right so I can weave my thinking with/into the writing as I read it. Not sure if I captured it exactly! But happy to weave ideas and thoughts back and forth with you Sheila 🙂

  2. Carolyn, what an awesome guide to good blogging you put together here! And how authentic it is! I identified with a lot of what you said. One thing that I feel blogging enables me to do is to actually think out loud. I find that the blogging experience has also been a route to exploring my voice and my own identity. I`ve just taken up blogging actually (I started my blog in january) and I`m hooked for life. Like you, I find it intellectually exhilarating, and I also appreciate the limitless potential for connection and reaching-out that springs up from blogging.
    Thank you for the great post!

    • Hi Clarissa, I love the enthusiasm and passion with which you have embraced all of this 🙂 It is exhilarating, I completely agree, I am 3 years in and still feel the same headiness as when I first started out. Your last post captured the feeling and wonder of coming into one’s identity and voice. It is strange to realize after so long that the identity you thought you had is not really your own and similarly with voice. My own metamorphosis came last year in #etmooc which was like an awakening to a whole new reality. It was freeing and exciting but I also found it hard in some ways as “it” changed everything for me; how I saw education, my role in teaching, it was almost too much all at once. I am still trying to reconcile finding my voice and how to use it, if that makes any sense at all? 🙂

      • That makes complete sense. You described a lot of what my self-transformation is all about. Personas being re-examined, new potentials are surfacing. It is almost too much all at once, but it feels just right.

  3. I get how blogging helps ME organize my thoughts, but I don’t get how it is that YOUR writing does the same! Every time I read your posts I’m thinking, Yes! I know! Right! (Sometimes I’m even yelling it out loud.)

    I keep a random thoughts notebook, because I never know when something might come in handy. I might think of a saying or an image and want to store it, for what, who knows? But often, just when a post is geling, one of those ideas steps up and says “I fit in here, use me.”

    • Hi Audrey! Haha, I love that we have similar thoughts!! It is finally spring break and I feel relaxed again…sigh…so lovely!
      Blogging has become my go to for organizing my brain swirl, it is the only thing that alleviates it for me. It is amazing how thoughts eventually do fit together as a puzzle might after moving them about. And then a couple of months later, re-order the pieces again as new ones come along.
      I do love that you have been here with me for the 3 years…kind of special 🙂
      Hope you are well and spring is almost there?

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