The Cloud of Unknowing: 7 steps to successful blogging

Dutch artist Berndnaut Smilde created a cloud in a room.

Dutch artist Berndnaut Smilde created a cloud in a room.

Snark MeterHIGH.001To my surprise, people have begun to contact me for blogging advice. The question usually goes like this: “Can you help me do what you have done?” What they mean is, “How did someone with no media distribution get hundreds of thousands of hits in the first year?”

Always one to “share the love,” I will gladly reveal my “secret sauce.” Caveat: My advice could be summed up in the title of the Christian mysticism classic, “The Cloud of Unknowing.” 

Step One: Have an eccentric motive.  I needed to stay awake in 4 hour theology class lectures. I started blogging to create stress by multi-tasking. That and youth pastors I train kept saying, “I wish you would write this stuff down. This is so different from what we are hearing at most seminars and conferences that we need to go back and digest it.”

Step Two: Be clueless. I told a friend I wanted to blog. He said, “Download WordPress. Attach a picture. Tell people who you are. Start posting stuff.”

Step Three: Be un-focussed. Blogs are supposed to be about, to quote Jack Palance in City Slickers, “One thing.” I blog about whatever is floating through my grey matter when I have time to type: youth ministry, milennials, the church, liturgy, esoteric conflicts among Anglicans, leadership, marriage, ethnicity…

Step Four: Entertain Thyself. It helps both you and readers be entertained if you have a catchy title.

Step Five: Scratch your head in amazement when tens of thousands start clicking on your posts because friends forwarded your stuff around on Facebook. That one is really something. One day a friend in North Carolina will fb you and say, “Hey, your article is going around!” You check the blog stats and wonder, “O my gosh! How did this happen?” Then you show the stat page to your wife and ask her to pinch you. Then you refresh and say, “Quick, pinch me again, while you were pinching me 72 people clicked on my blog!”  That rapidly grows old as you realize, a) your wife is not going to spend her day pinching you and b) pinching doesn’t actually make people click on blogs. That is just magical thinking-a holdover from adolescence.

FB is not only responsible for 15x more traffic on my blog than ALL other sources combined, it is indirectly responsible for virtually EVERY hit I have since my very first page view. That was my wife. She wondered why I wasn’t using my time more productively. Those other sources in the photo (with the exception of Twitter) are folks who discovered “the gospel side” from a Facebook forward.

Almost every hit is from fb. The ones that aren't found me on fb.

Almost every hit is from fb. The ones that aren’t found me on fb.

Step Six: Write Mark Zuckerberg a “thank you” note for your newfound friends and colleagues from all over the Christian, post-Christian and not-yet-Christian world. I actually haven’t done that. But I should.

Step Seven: Be nice to people. For heaven’s sake, if someone cares enough to take their time to not only read what you wrote, but to write back to you, treat them with respect.

Blogging is a privilege. The newfound connections and reconnections with people I have not seen in years has been a surprise and a blessing…and the dialogue with people who comment helps me think more clearly and be less insulated than I ever could have been otherwise.

So have fun and blog away!