March 11, 2012

First 10 Rules To Blog By In 2012


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?



  1. I think there's something in calculus called a "second order derivative." You are the acceleration to my velocity to Andrew's distance.

  2. Never have so many owed so much to so few.

  3. How's he doing that? Holding the tiller extension behind his back? Moreover, why is he doing that. I've done a lot of things on a Laser as well as gone through a lot of contortions... (none of which I feel like disclosing) but this is not one of them.

  4. Tacking a Laser can be more complicated than doing the rumba, Doc.

    I think Andrew may have just completed a tack and found himself facing the usual Laser sailor's conundrum - whether to end up with the tiller extension behind his back or the sheet wrapped around his neck.

  5. I thought there weren't any rules in blogging; that's the only reason I'm still here, I think. Please don't do 11-50, O Docker. I already have much atonement ahead of me.

  6. O Docker is correct. The recommended way to tack a Laser is to keep sheet and tiller in the same hands until you are fully out in the hiking strap. This inevitably means that you end up steering behind your back as Andrew is doing in the photo. Only then do you swap hands.

    After 30 years of Lasering I am still working on perfecting this technique!

  7. Baydog, you are right. There are no rules in blogging. But there is a Blogger's Code. Just like the Pirate's Code, the Blogger's Code is more what you'd call "guidelines" than actual rules.

    And there are only two guidelines...

    1. Write good shit.
    2. Be nice to people. (Except jet skiers and mommy boat drivers of course.)

  8. Shit?......Now I know I'll be okay. Thanks

  9. If there were any rules in blog writing, Baydog, I would never be able to write one.

    But when I feel my life has begun to drift a little and I need some order and discipline to help me, what better place to look than the highly-structured world of Laser sailing?

    A quick glimpse through the Laser Class Association web site will turn up more rules than you can shake a hiking stick at, providing it is a class association-approved hiking stick.

    Here's just a tiny example:

    After pages of detailed descriptions of every conceivable piece of equipment that can be described on a 14-foot, single-sail boat, we arrive at the description of the tiller - basically a straight stick of wood. We are relieved to learn that the tiller (and tiller extension) are not restricted "in any way":

    (a) The tiller and tiller extension are not restricted in any way except that the tiller:

    What? After saying "not restricted in any way", there follows a list of five restrictions:

    i. shall be capable of being removed from the rudder head.

    ii. shall be fitted with a cleat, hook, pin or eye to secure the downhaul.

    iii. shall, except for normal wear caused by the traveller rope, be straight along its topmost edge between a point 30 mm in front of the forward edge of the rudder head and the cockpit end of the tiller.

    (b) The tiller may be fitted with an “anti wear” strip or tube of not more than 200 mm in length placed above the level of the straight edge required by 16 (a) iii and only where the traveller crosses the tiller.

    (c) The use of a tiller retaining pin is optional.

    Sometimes, when the cold winds of winter are blowing, when the wolves are howling somewhere in the dark of night, when the earth shudders and all seems out of joint, I know that I can turn to the world of the Laser for the calming reassurance that the mind of man has confronted all things that are threatening and uncertain in the world and made them safe and manageable.

  10. Unfortunately the world of Laser sailing has tied itself up in its own knots with its rules. We apparently are now in a situation where we have a rule that says that most of the boats that are manufactured as Lasers are not actually Lasers and we seem unable to change it. Sic transit gloria mundi.

  11. Well, what do you know, I thought that Liberty had migrated to America some time ago... is she still there though?! Here in France... (well why do I want to talk about that?) Sailing is still in that realm of freedom, out there on/in the high swell of the blue ocean... but not on a Laser, I guess.

  12. I guffawed my way through a few of your annotations to the rules. That's why i'm reading your blog and not his. I love how you make a plan and then everyone veers off, and then comments pop up from dwarf french impressionist painter or some dead white general or rock stars. If think we were all on your boat in a race, and were your rail meat, we'd soon be off course and onto uncharted waters and adventure. With well-stocked liquids and chips.

  13. Too much! Just when I'm pretty sure nobody bothers reading what I'm blabbering about... I get to read something like this. What is it they say? Mockery is the finest form of flattery?

    This is awesome. You inspire me to keep at it. Speaking of rules: Three cheers for the first amendment!

  14. I see Andrew Campbell has nominated this post as #blogpostoftheyear on Twitter!

  15. Andrew, what are you doing reading this blog?

    What happened to all that concentration and focus?

    Your competition is probably reading Nietzsche and studying Zen meditation to mentally prepare for the next race and you're wasting your time reading my drivel?

    Worse, will I go down in the history books as being the distracting influence that began the unravelling of a great sailing career?

    Oh, the humanity!

  16. According to the latest issue of Sailing World, after the conclusion of his Olympic Star campaign, Andrew is now focusing on "coaching and blogging." Clearly as part of his blogging focus he is reading your blog, O Docker, in order to learn from the world expert on writing a sailing blog about not sailing. Look to your laurels, sir!

  17. Number Three is by far the most important. Prior Proper Planning Prevents a Piss Poor Performance. Having helped co-author some blogs, this is the number one reason why people fail at blogging. Someone believes they can do a blog on politics, but what angle are you taking their that already hasn't been taken? If you have a good solid understanding, on what you want your blog to represent, who your audience is, and how to differentiate between others in your area success is much easier to obtain. This should help you to not repeat as well, which goes a long way to keeping your viewers and readers coming back for more. Thanks for the great article!

  18. Good point Mrs. D. When I decided to write a blog on Laser sailing I looked around and realized that an angle that hadn't already been taken was "cynical old English guy writing about sailing a Laser badly with a combination of irony, hyperbole and post-modernist angst." I'm proud to say that 7 years later I still totally own that niche and expect that one day soon my blog will become a success.

  19. I took a similar approach when I was coerced into writing this blog by bloggers who had tired of me hogging too much space in the comments pages of their blogs.

    I reasoned that most sailing blogs are about sailing, but that no one had been writing a sailing blog that was not about sailing. It's been a real challenge not writing about sailing while leaving the impression in readers' minds that these are posts about sailing.

    Some days I succeed. Some days I fail. But why should we so fear failure when it is merely the inability to succeed?

  20. I have not failed. I've just blogged 10,000 posts that don't work.

  21. I think this is a lovely collection of comments with a blog.

  22. Wait. There's a blog around here somewhere? Where? I thought this was just a lovely collection of comments in search of a home.