Andrew Campbell, a famous US sailor who is probably best known for having been born in New Jersey, has just published the first ten of his 50 rules to sail by in 2012.
I don't know how he does it. If hard pressed, I could come up with maybe three rules, at best, to sail by in 2012, and two of those would have something to do with wine. But that's probably why everyone knows who Andrew Campbell is and no one knows who I am.
But looking over his list, I realize those rules apply just as well to blogging, and, lord knows, I need some rules to get my blogging back on the path to righteousness. I have been so sorely neglecting this blog.
So, here are Andrew's first ten rules and how they can help anyone's blog:
1. Have a plan. Very important to have a strategy for every blog post. So true. So often, I will start a blog post and have no idea where I'm going with it. The Professor Harold Hill 'think system' just doesn't work with blog posts. If you don't know what your point is, how do you expect your readers to know?
2. Be flexible. He's talking about being flexible in how you use your plan, not about doing yoga. Sure, sure, a plan is necessary, but don't get locked into it. Halfway through the post, you may think of a great pun, or some silly alliteration that's really much more entertaining than what you were planning on blogging about. You may have to change the direction of the whole post. Go with the flow.
3. Prior Proper Planning Prevents a Piss Poor Performance. No, this isn't a repeat of rule #1. This one is all about preparing your blogging environment for some serious work. Make sure you have a plate of nachos or your favorite bag of pretzels or doritos handy. There's nothing worse than having to break off in the middle of a brilliant paragraph to make a run for the kitchen. You can never recover that lost train of thought. And - obvious but still worth repeating - never forget ample quantities of your favorite beverage. Dehydration has dashed many a hope of a successful post. I prefer a fruity Grenache to keep my ideas fresh, but everyone has his favorite.
4. History can be dangerous. And its corollary - "a little local knowledge is a dangerous thing". Spot on, Andrew! How many times do we think, "I've been here before, I'll just crank out the post using that pattern that's always worked in the past." Your readers are smart and can always tell when you're dredging up old material. Remember rule #2 - be flexible and ready to write something new.
5. Having the forecast is nice. Knowing how to interpret the forecast is important. Absolutely! You must stay abreast of current events and be sensitive to how today's news might temper reaction to your post. This would be a bad week, for example, to boast that you're going to advertise on the Rush Limbaugh show to attract more readers.
6. Have a goal for your blog post. This is probably why Andrew Campbell is a superstar and I am not. When I sit down to blog, I get all distracted by actually enjoying writing and taking pleasure in the wordplay of the moment instead of trying to develop any significant ideas or discuss important matters of the day that people care about. If I had a practical goal when I started the post, it is soon forgotten.
7. Enjoy Sailing. Damn you Andrew Campbell. You train like a maniac and yet you still remember that the real point of this whole game is to enjoy it? Well, the same applies to blogging just as well. How often do we feel obligated to post just because it's been too long since we last posted? Screw it - get away from the damned computer, go outside, and talk to real people. You'll probably get some better ideas to blog about.
8. Put the bow down. Andrew writes about how important it is to keep the bow down and the boat going fast in a keelboat like the Star. This confused the hell out of me at first. Why would a crack sailor like Andrew Campbell be playing the violin in the middle of a Star regatta? Maybe just to stay loose? At any rate, I agree. If you're sailing, stay focused on the sailing. If you're blogging, stay focused on the blogging.
9. Wide and Tight, Slow if necessary. He's talking about mark roundings, of course, despite what some of my more perverse readers may think. Again, this is so pertinent to good blogging. The most important thing is to say as precisely as you can what your point is, even slowing the pace if necessary to hit the target. If you make your key points accurately, you'll find it much easier to wrap up your post at the end.
10. Andrew doesn't sum up this rule in a single pithy phrase. He talks about a key factor for racing two weeks in Miami, especially for folks coming from the cold north. His advice is "to keep covered up and recover well each day." How true! Blogging is not about having one great post and then sagging, but about being able to recover from a grueling all-night writing session and bounce back fresh for the next one. In my case, this means not overdoing the Grenache, but the important thing is being able to go the distance.
Well, I know I've got my work cut out for me, but what do you think? Which of these rules is the most important? Which one do you really need to work on in 2012 to improve your blog?