I was reading (yet) another mid-20th-century novel featuring a vicar hard at work over his Sunday sermon (sorry, I haven’t read a book featuring a female vicar, as far as I know. Are there any yet?) and an analogy struck me: writing a blog post is quite a lot like writing a sermon. As both involve constantly seeking fresh ways of looking at things, I thought I’d run with that idea and see where it took me, so here goes…. but please do read the comment at the bottom of the post if you’re at all concerned about this content …
10 reasons why writing a blog post is (a bit) like writing a sermon
If you commit to writing a blog, it’s a good idea to publish at least one post a week. When I was thinking about writing a batch of posts one day, it reminded me of vicars, from Jane Austen onwards, heading to their desk to write their weekly sermon. Here’s why, in particular.
1. You have to produce something new every week. If you said the same thing over and over again, people would soon get bored and drift away.
2. It’s good to base your text on a real-world problem. The best blog posts, in my opinion, are based on something real that’s happened, whether you’ve encountered a tricky problem using Word (that’s how my whole series of Word posts started), are reacting to something in the news or are sharing a story you’ve created.
3. You base your work on truth and you refer to the relevant authorities. A sermon will of course be based around a Bible reference. When I write about a topic, I will often include the real-life experience of others, or links to their work, or screen shots of what’s going on in a program. If I claim to state a fact, I try to provide a reference. If I’m responding to someone else, I include a link.
4. You need to add value and a learning point (or lesson, if we’re being straightforward). It’s all very well to talk about a real-world issue, but you need to draw something from it, a useful lesson, something to make it worthwhile reading the post.
5. You need to leave your audience thinking. They might have enjoyed your latest novel extract, know there’s now a place to get information on comment boxes or have learned more about DIY funerals (as I did myself earlier this week), but if they go away thinking, they’ll remember you next time.
6. You are often talking about things that have been talked about before. There’s not much new in the world, and it’s unlikely that any of us will produce anything totally new, but there are ways to find new ways to talk about things, as I might have done here!
7. You’re trying to help people! You might be entertaining, explaining, sharing a book, giving information on a technical matter, sharing your own experience of something, but I think most successful bloggers are in it to help people as well as pour out their souls or publicise their business.
8. You want people to come back. No one wants to drive readers (or worshippers) away, so you’re intending to encourage them to visit again, by providing well-crafted content that they want or need.
9. You are often trying to inspire people to take action in some way. Whether you’re encouraging people to try a new craft, read a new book or venture into running their own business, or trying to change their mind on a contentious topic, many blog posts aim to inspire.
10. Your best work is probably produced after pondering for a while rather than dashing it off in a blind panic at the last minute (as my old friend Paulette says, “more like a birth than a rupture!”). This is certainly true of many of mine, although the actual writing up may come a little close to the wire sometimes.
Do you agree? Can you add any other analogies? Do vicars have a day of writing sermons to get ahead of themselves? (seriously, I’d love to know!)
Thanks and disclaimer:
I checked this idea with a group of people who are more religious than me / regularly attend worship / are vicars / are related to or married to vicars and other people of the cloth (thank you to all of them, and particularly Paulette Stubbings for a valuable suggestion). They all thought it was a fun /interesting / good idea. It’s not my intention to offend anyone, and if I do, please let me know, and why, and I’ll take that into consideration. I’m certainly not undermining the work of religious leaders or claiming that bloggers are the new priests or anything silly like that. Edited to add: I also understand that I am not empowered by any higher spirit or authority of any kind when writing, but I do have a serious intent in sharing information and helping people: not all blogs do that, but I’m primarily talking about myself and similar informational bloggers here.
To read more about blogging, visit the resource page
December 17, 2014 at 9:41 am
Great post Liz! I thought of another similarity when I read this – both require copious amounts of tea and frequently biscuits. But then, so do so many other tasks..
December 17, 2014 at 9:47 am
A good point, thank you!
December 17, 2014 at 9:56 am
My dad’s a Methodist minister (retired now) and your analogy is very apt. He survived his sermon-writing years (1961-2001) without a computer. What I recall he used to do was keep a series of index cards with notes on for each sermon, and keep the cards in small envelopes. On the front of each envelope he wrote the title of each sermon, its theme if applicable (harvest, Christmas, Easter, etc.), and the details of when and where he preached it. This system meant he could recycle sermons so long as he left a healthy length of time between each delivery of a particular sermon to his ‘home’ congregation. He also got invited to other churches to ‘guest preach’ (like guest blogging); his record of when and where he’d preached sermons was invaluable on these occasions – the worst thing was to preach the same sermon twice to the same congregation. By the time he retired, he had a long shelf full of these little brown envelopes. (I’ve no idea what he did with them all.)
Another memory I have is of him practising his sermons on the toilet on a Sunday morning – my bedroom was right next to the toilet – and I used to hear the whole thing before our family got to church. Perhaps this is where the analogy with bloggers breaks down 😉
December 17, 2014 at 1:13 pm
Wow – I know a lot of daughters of Methodist ministers!! I love the analogy with guest blogging, too! Thank you so much for sharing your memories.
December 18, 2014 at 8:20 pm
A blog must talk about real things that have happened. Its an online log after all. Thanks for those thoughts and as my father’s a vicar I can corroborate!
December 19, 2014 at 7:11 pm
Thank you for your comment, Henry, and it’s nice to have my thoughts corroborated. And yes, indeed, a web log, so based on real things, although not all of them are, I suppose, these days!
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December 19, 2014 at 5:01 pm
Your post caught my eye as I am a former minister (turned college educator, turned copyeditor/blog writer). I remember well the challenge of writing a fresh sermon every week, and the analogy with blog writing is fitting. . . . which reminds me: my next blog essay is (over)due. Thanks for your helpful writings. Happy holidays!
December 19, 2014 at 7:12 pm
Thanks for your comment, Dean, and glad I got it right. Happy holidays and happy writing, too, of course!