By Jerod Jarvis
Hey! You! Yes you. I'm talking to you. You say you hate writing? You say you don't see the point? You say you'd rather solve equations than pen a letter?
Well, you've got a problem. And I've got the solution.
I'm laying a challenge before you. I want you to commit to keeping a blog over the next three months. I want you to update it twice a week. And I want you to love every minute of it.
Blogging provides wonderful benefits for those who commit to it. I've maintained my blog, dualitygames.com, for over a year now and I can attest to its life-alteringness.
I know what you're thinking. I can hear your protests. In the following paragraphs, I'll give ear to your arguments and then smack you upside the head for being so silly.
Practice makes perfect
"Practice?" you say. "I don't need practice; I am the consummate Renaissance man!"
You say you're a Renaissance man, eh? Unless you're a woman. In which case you probably didn't say that at all. But that's not the point. The point is that you don't think you need practice. The other point is that you're wrong.
The old cliché says that practice makes perfect. Well, that's nonsense. No amount of practice will make you perfect at anything. But it will make you better. And no matter how good you are, you need to get better.
Writing is a skill, just like any other. It isn't something that some people can do and other people can't. Neither is it something you have to enjoy to be good at. It's just something you do.
Maintaining a blog gives you a reason to practice. It's more focused than a personal journal and has more purpose than random free writing. If you commit to updating your blog two times a week for three months, you'll have over 20 published articles.
That's a lot of practice, and your writing will get better. That's good.
A performing art
"A blog is public!" you gasp. "You want me to put myself out there for the world to see and to laugh and to criticize?"
Yes. The main difference between keeping a blog and just writing a journal is that your work is published for anyone to read.
Getting stage fright? Good. Now get over it. People reading your writing is a fact of life. Even if you never write another article after this challenge, you'll definitely be writing e-mails and resumes. Those get read. And, rightly or wrongly, the people who read them will infer a great deal about your character from how well they are written.
Becoming accustomed to writing for an audience has two main benefits: It will cause you to pay more attention to detail, and you'll get used to people reading your work. Both of those things are good.
Nunchuck skills, bo staff skills, professional skills...
"Professional skills. Hah!" you scoff. "Who needs professional skills when you're as good-looking as I am?"
I don't think I even need to respond to that statement. But I will.
Unless you're going to use your college degree toward a career as a ditch digger, chances are high you'll eventually need to know how to motivate yourself to research a topic and present it coherently. Your blog is an excellent opportunity for teaching yourself these skills.
Pick a topic. Any topic. Digital cameras, Saturday cartoons, John Deere tractors – it doesn't matter. Do some research on the subject and write an article about it. You'll expand your own knowledge (always a plus), and you'll get better at communicating what you know.
Also, you'll polish your editing skills, however rudimentary they may be. Whether it's fair or not, people will judge you based on your punctuation and grammar. I can't tell you how many e-mails I have in my inbox that scream "My IQ is less than 50!"
Poor writing is not a good way to communicate your aptitude to an employer, or to anyone else. A little editing will go a long way.
Food for your piggy bank
"Cash?" you say, sitting up and taking notice. "I'm so broke my wallet developed a multiple personality disorder to deal with the loneliness."
Don't worry, my friend. Blogging can help.
A few blokes out there are making six figures just from blogging. A great many more are supplementing their traditional income with revenue from their blogs. Selling adspace, freelancing, finding sponsorships – those are just a few ways to drag a paycheck out of your writing.
Who knows? Once you start doing this, you may get good at it, and people may start paying you for it. This is particularly true if you write about a specific topic (such as John Deere tractors) rather than personal stories.
Even if you don't make enough to brag about, extra cash in any amount is always nice.
A portfolio par excellence
"Well," you say. "By this time you've convinced me that you're right. But because I can see you have one last point to make, I'm going to be stubborn and remain unconvinced."
Good thing, too, because this last point is important.
Maintaining a blog gives you a repository of published work you can point employers toward. If you're looking for a job in a field that has any connection to writing at all, your potential boss will want to see examples of your skills. Even if you're not going into a field like that, it's still a great item to put on a resume.
Few assets are better than a stash of good writing to impress upon your future boss that you are professional and a good communicator. Good communication skills will get you far in any job. Proving that you know how to write will go a long way toward landing you that job.
Get thee out there and write
I'm glad we've had this talk. Now you know that maintaining a blog is a first-rate way to better yourself and to increase your chances of getting ahead in the world. Best of all, it's free. Wordpress.com, Blogger.com, and several other sites offer fast and easy blog hosting with no price tags attached.
Writing has been around for quite some time, and all signs indicate that it isn't going away any time soon. No matter what your job is, what your degree is in, or what side of your brain you prefer to use, the ability to write well is crucial.
Blogging will give you the practice, the audience, and the skills you need in order to present yourself as a professional in today's world. You might even make a few bucks while you're at it.
So make the commitment. Two posts a week for three months. Improve your skills, and put another notch in your Renaissance-man (or woman) belt.
You'll be glad you did.