Are You Being Useful?

Writing useful blog posts is hard.

It’s that constant refrain in my head of: What do my readers want to know? What will help them in their journey? Do I have an interesting take on anything? Am I boring them to death? Do they really want to hear another story about my dog? Why can’t I think of anything to write?

There’s an easy way around this – lists. And yet, sometimes I feel like if I read one more blog post that starts with 10 ways to…or 7 secrets of… I’ll scream. It’s not that I don’t find them helpful. I do. But it’s rare that I actually take any of those steps in my own life or writing journey. It’s interesting to see how other people structure their lives or their writing or whatever – and if you take it as an insight into that person, it’s a really good way to get to know them. But am I going to follow their suggestions in my own life? Probably not. And, to be honest, sometimes lists are just boring. I can think of a couple “top” blogs that base every post on the list format/idea. I tend to tune those out now.

Except, all the “social media experts” say using lists for posts are the way to get blog followers, to go viral, to become a hit. I’ve even used them myself. Unfortunately, often they become nothing more than a gimmick, rather than a meaningful interaction.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t dispute the use of a good list. I love my lists – they’re a great way to organize and present information. I think they can be helpful in a blog post, for providing useful information, or for attracting readers, but is it the only way? Definitely not.

I have to say, some of the most useful blog posts I’ve ever read have been long, un-listed, and detailed. They’ve also contained information that I found helpful, and could take away back to my own life or writing journey. A recent example is the Query Letter post by Shannon Whitney Messenger. Not a list in sight, and yet I bookmarked it to come back to later when I need to draft a hook for my own WIP.

On the flip side, author Jody Hedlund’s blog is a great example of providing useful posts that use lists well. I never find them boring or distracting – they are always helpful bullet points or actions that she has tied back to the original content of her post. Jody uses lists to flesh out her thoughts and provide suggestions, rather than as a gimmick to get people to read her post. I think you can feel the real difference there.

And then there are the days I just want a blog to tell a story. I don’t care if it’s useful as long as it’s a glimpse into what’s happening in someone’s life right now, a snapshot of what’s challenging them or important to them. I want to feel like I’m connecting with someone – that’s why we read blogs, right? Well, it’s one reason for me at least.

So what do you guys think? In your surfing, do you prefer blog posts that are “useful” (lists or not 🙂 ) or do you prefer the more personal postings, or a combination of both? Or does it depend on the type of blog you’re reading or how you’re feeling that day?

Or, am I just crazy and spend way too much time thinking about stuff like this? 🙂


  1. I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately since I just started a blog and all. I think Kiersten White said it well on her blog when she said that in order for a blog to be successful it has to be either entertaining or educational. So for me that means if you have a funny story, write it, and if you found some cool writing related stuff pass it on, etc. And as you said–it comes through if you’re being sincere or if it’s just a gimmick trying to get more readers.

    P.S. I like reading your blog. You’re not crazy to think so much about this stuff : P.

  2. I think I saw Kiersten’s post too. Some days I just don’t feel very entertaining, so guess I should work on being a little more useful 🙂

    I’m glad you like the blog, Plamena! I love doing it, but sometimes it’s so hard to come up with topics!

  3. I often wonder if my posts are “good enough.” I try to instill humor, information, lists (if that’s how the info is best given), as well as “lessons” from my own journey. Haven’t gone viral yet, LOL! I suppose I need to get out in the interwebz more…

    Hmmm, that’s not really an answer, more of a commisuration. It’s tough to put yourself out there and wonder if anyone is listening, or in the case of blogging, reading.

    Thanks for posting this!

    • Commiseration is good, Laura! I don’t feel nearly so alone now 🙂 I think that’s my problem too – I need to be “out there” more…but then I’d need more time for that too! LOL