Thinking 'bout Blogging
We have reached one of my favorite parts of the summer, the time when I get messages from lots of excited incoming students realizing that a blog might be a part of their future. Sometimes it's a lead-up to a part of their application to apply for a student blogging position with the Oberlin blogs, but not just. Because blogs are an established way to share a story with more people — that's why I started blogging in the first place; it was easier than calling my parents and friends individually to update them on my new life — students who have no interest in blogging professionally turn to a well-seasoned (mmmm salt and pepper!) blogger to advice.
One of the responses I crafted to a curious student turned into a mini-advice column on the philosophy of blogging rather than a more technical how-to (um, sorry bout that), and in writing each tidbit down, I was confirming left and right the reasons why blogging should be a serious consideration for ALL students, college students in particular, as it supplements this life shift and intense learning environment in ways that are unmatched by other social spaces.
Getting started might be the hardest part of blogging. Not deciding "I will blog!" or setting things up, but rather, actually putting the proverbial pen to paper (there has got to be an updated version of that mental image). Part of being a blogger is tuning a finer eye to the world around you and thinking about why you're a part of it, but it is equally about dedicating a part of your brain and your time to actively developing your own story. Blogging is both the most wonderful thing in the world and the most challenging thing I deal with daily, because living with your thoughts is hard, but baring them to the world is even harder. Blogging means sharing what's going on with you, which means that it's inevitably a vulnerable sort of situation, but I've gained such clarity regarding my own life and found myself kindred spirits because of this kind of openness. (This paragraph is not meant to scare you, but it's a thing to know about.)
Being consistent is relative. Your stories will suffer if you force them (saying "I will post every day!!" means that you'll be blogging sometimes when you don't want to, and it'll show in your creation), but I do encourage you to get in the habit of posting on a regular-ish basis for yourself. You will get better at it, and the best way to do that is to do it more often. Structured unstructure is an avenue toward organic creation.
Be conscious of the others around you when you blog. If you include pictures or videos of people other than yourself, let them know you're going to use them. In short: share your stories, not others'. By committing to blogging, you're beginning to develop your digital identity in a conscious manner and while others may influence it (and that is AWESOME), you're responsible for yourself and what you do. In general, you're a smart and interesting human. Consider your blogging space a place for you, perhaps with some guests, but ultimately, it's (probably?) your first concentrated effort in presenting yourself and your work in a manner defined entirely by you.
Tag things. This might sound super silly, but I didn't have the option to do it with my first blog and it's now a mess if I want to try and find things I shared about something in particular. Tags help SO MUCH for organizing what you're doing beyond the obvious chronology of time and you'll start to see trends in your own life emerge based on what you're documenting. It helps you organize your brain even before the organization part of things becomes important to you... and I speak from personal experience that going back and trying to organize after the fact is a terrifyingly difficult prospect/action.
Blogging begets so much more. The fact that you may be thinking about blogging as a way to document college even before you're starting is a really really really REALLY good thing (hey, maybe you weren't thinking about it but this post is making you do so! META!). Blogging is going to help in so many ways in college: it requires built-in reflection to blog personally, you'll develop lots as a writer (and more broadly, as a storyteller), and when you look back over four years, you'll have an admirable body of work, presumably a developed network of readers that care about you and what you do (beyond family and friends, of course, the cool thing about blogs is that others outside of your general network can read it too!), and a well-documented collection of moments to look back upon after graduating.
For me, my initial blog-space became something new out of the necessity of starting a new experience: a daily photo-a-day blog as a way to document my life. It translated into student then full time employment, a never-ending quest to tell a good story, and established that the thing I was most terrified of doing (being a creative person, and specifically, a writer) was something that improved with lots of practice.
Even if you're not planning on blogging professionally (though we'll be hiring new Oberlin bloggers this fall!), consider it not for family and friends, but for yourself. In the ever-increasingly more digitally oriented world, some of the basic skills that come with blogging are only going to assist you in oh-so-many ways. It's infinitely better to start these things on your own than when someone tells you to do so.