10 Lessons From 5 Years of Legal Blogging

During the 2013 ABA Techshow, I was deeply privileged to talk shop with a few law bloggers that I follow and admire. Then a friend and fellow blogger approached me and introduced a colleague about to take the plunge, and asked what advice I could offer. Only after following up with an email did I realize that this month makes five years since I started blogging in the legal space.
I started blogging about continuing legal education related issues – first on Google’s Blogger, flirting with Joomla, then finding true love with WordPress – then moved on to cover other topics including technology and productivity. Looking back, my early writing was a bit shoddy, and it’s still not where I’d like it to be, but the only way to get better is to write, write, write. I have a long way to go and I’m still learning lots and still honing my voice. A life long journey, I suppose.
Here are 10 lessons I’ve learned along the way:
1. Don’t take yourself and your writings so darn seriously. I can get a bit earnest and it took me awhile to lossen up. I still occasionally struggle with it. Do remember, that in the process of trying to find your voice, don’t try to be someone else’s.
2. Don’t try to cover everything about a given subject in one post. My librarian background hurt me early on as I researched everything to death and took forever to complete a post that went nowhere, or, more accurately, everywhere. Questions that you don’t answer can be posed in the comment section by your readers, giving you an opportunity to engage and build community.
3. If you’re lucky enough to blog every day, try to get your post out before noon, or prior to your other primary responsibilities. Otherwise you get stuck in the quagmire of multi-tasking, and blogging becomes a stressful and less-than-enjoyable experience.
4. Active voice is almost always better than passive. Grammar Girl, one of my favorite resources, gives the following example using the title of a Marvin Gaye classic: Active voice: “I Heard It through the Grapevine.” Passive voice: “It was heard by me through the grapevine.” Point made.
5. It’s OK to go back and make editorial adjustments to a post. It’s not the New York Times. And even they make editorial edits. Bloggers recommend that you write the day before, give it 24 hours, then review and edit; but many of us write daily and have a ton of other responsibilities. It’s ideal, but not necessary.
6. Subscribe to writing and blogging sites for tips on how to improve. Other writers and bloggers share their follies and triumphs and offer helpful tips. Digital mentorship, if you will. [See: Top 10 Legal Writing Blogs]
7. Learn about search engine optimization(SEO), headline writing, keywords, etc, to maximize post reach and traffic. Use Google Keyword Tool. Install Yoast SEO WordPress plugin. SEO is not evil…if you don’t let it. Write good, useful content first, then optimize. Used correctly, SEO practices and actually help to tighten your copy.
8. Read more than you write. This is easy since for every post we write, we probably read at least a dozen. But try longer form reading, even books. You’ll now notice how writers construct sentences, grammar, and style as you hone your blogging voice.
9. Keep an Evernote folder with blog post ideas. I have rolling 100+ ideas with links, voice memos, text or pics ready to explore. This is the single most productive practice for getting a blog post out every day. It’s how I got this post started: I emailed my new ABA Techshow friend, copied the email into Evernote when I realized it could become a post, and fleshed it out a day later, allowing me to complete a typical 2-hour (or more) post in half the time.
10. Take a writing course. Don’t go crazy here. Be selective. I’ve wasted dollars and time on lame courses. Identify exactly what you need help with – grammar, creative, SEO, etc., and look for courses that cover only that topic.
Hey bloggers, any other tips and lessons learned along the way? Please share in the comments.
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