The blogosphere is filled with tips from bloggers on how to blog well. I know. I’ve chimed in myself with tips from time to time. The advice generally follows a well-worth path: choose a good theme, work on your writing, post consistently, build a network, etc.
All of these tips are helpful. But lately, I’ve been thinking, What is it about a blog that makes me a regular reader? Which bloggers feature articles that consistently attract my attention? No matter what kind of blog or blogger it may be, I’ve discovered a common characteristic in the best of them: curiosity.
Curiosity works itself out in two ways:
- The blogger provokes a sense of curiosity and wonder in his or her readers.
- The blogger has an innate curiosity that enables him or her to write from a unique perspective.
Let’s look at each aspect.
Writing with an Eye to Provoking Curiosity
Good blogs pique your curiosity. The headline grabs you. The first few sentences draw you in. A quote from the blogger’s Twitter causes you to click over and see what the discussion is about. Sometimes, you’re as interested in what the blogger’s community of commenters thinks about a given subject than you are the blogger’s perspective. No matter your exact reason for reading, it’s usually curiosity that drives you to a blog.
Writing with an Innate Sense of Curiosity
But then there’s the second aspect – the blogger’s innate sense of curiosity. Here is where it gets a bit tricky. Some bloggers succeed well at #1 (grabbing a reader’s attention), but aren’t that good at #2. These blogs quickly become stale. The blogger draws me in, but doesn’t deliver what the curiosity-piquing element promised. The title was arresting; the post was so-so. The quote was stellar, but it was only one sentence out of a largely unorganized collection of thoughts.
Interesting Blogs from Interesting People
The best blogs are a combination of the two. The blogger has a curious nature, and this curiosity manifests itself naturally in his or her writing interesting material that grabs the attention of readers. Cultivating a sense of curiosity, a sense of wonder and awe at the world we live in, is vitally important for delivering interesting content day after day.
I have found that interesting blogs are written by interesting people. What makes an interesting person? The ability to be continually fascinated by ideas.
Likewise, I’ve found that the bloggers who are most interesting to read are the bloggers who are most interested in reading. Bloggers more interested in themselves than in ideas rarely have engaging blogs. If you’re not fascinated by something bigger than yourself, chances are – your readers won’t be either.
This is why attempting to build a successful blog is the wrong way to look at the whole blogging endeavor. Readers can see right through it. If your blog merely exists to push yourself in front of others or sell your products, your blog will never be very interesting. The best blogs are driven by the curiosity and generosity of the blogger. Curiousness pushes the blogger into interesting subjects and territory. Generosity is the ability to point to good content wherever it may be found, even if it doesn’t increase your own stature or necessarily build your own reputation.
Three Curious Examples
Here are three blogs that excel at provoking my curiosity:
- Roasted Peanuts: This blogger has interesting content because he posts multiple strips of Peanuts each day. (His goal is to make it through all fifty years in the next decade or so.) But what really makes this blog interesting is the blogger’s comments on Schulz’s work. JohnH finds neat aspects in every panel. He points out interesting art features and unusual character developments. It’s JohnH’s curiosity regarding Peanuts that makes this such an engaging blog.
- Timothy Dalrymple: Though the saying goes, Politics and religion aren’t discussed in polite company, Dalrymple recognizes that without politics and religion, you lose two of the most important and most interesting topics of conversation. Timothy demonstrates his innate curiosity by tackling a variety of subjects. He also succeeds at stirring up interest in the way he delivers his content.
- Mere Orthodoxy: It’s rare that a group blog consistently delivers fresh, engaging content. Why does it work in this case? Because the ever-engaging Matthew Lee Anderson has assembled a variety of interesting thinkers and writers to speak to issues concerning faith and culture. The word that best describes MereO is “thoughtful,” though I would contend that this thoughtfulness on behalf of Matt and the writers is actually rooted in curiosity, a love for good conversation about issues that really matter.
What about You?
I could continue with a long list of blogs that cultivate curiosity, but three should suffice. Now I’m curious to get your feedback on the blogs you read. What are the factors that determine a good blog for you? How important is curiosity (both the blogger’s curiosity and the ability to stoke yours) in blogs?