You start by connecting the dots
One of my favorite things to do as a kid was to connect the dots.
It was better than coloring because the end picture was a surprise. Connect the dots right and you might have a picture of a circus elephant. Do it wrong and you might draw a pregnant giraffe with her head stuck in the trees.
I also took piano for a while.
When you learn music, your teacher gives you sheet music. It’s full of bars with dots on them. The dots are the notes you’re supposed to play on the keyboard. If they’re arranged in the right way, you make beautiful music. If not, the noise is hilarious and maybe even unbearable.
Why do we teach kids to connect dots?
Fast forward to almost any class in high school.
The average teacher gives you a pile of stuff to remember. If you want to get good grades, you retain it all until the test — after which, you can forget it and move on with your life.
What a waste of time.
That’s collecting dots.
The teachers I remember did one more thing.
They added context.
Why do you want to learn math? Solving for X is boring and seemingly useless outside the classroom. But honestly, that’s not why you take math.
What you’re really learning is how to solve problems.
X is the variable that is the gap.
Imagine you’re on one side of a canyon and you need to get to the other because your friend is there. How do you go about it?
It’s too far to jump.
Can you tie a rope to a tree and swing far enough?
Is there water on the canyon floor you can swim across to get there?
Do you need to build a bridge?
Solving for X is the process you go through to get from point A (where you are) to point B (where you want to be).
That’s connecting dots.
Here’s the point of blogging.
Blogging is almost 20 years old now.
When it began, not many bloggers entered the field. If they did, they used their blog as an online journal.
Today, the field is different.
You already know it’s crowded. You know that there are blogs about everything in the universe. What you really want to know is how to stand out, don’t you?
It’s great to write about where your heart is. That’s what makes your writing conversational and fun to read.
But there’s one more thing you should add if you want to stand out in this crowded blogosphere.
You start by connecting dots for people.
Start where your audience is.
Many of us read to solve a problem.
Maybe you want to get rid of that holiday weight you put on.
Maybe you want to make sense of what’s happening in politics.
Or maybe you just want to know how to get through another day with all you’ve got on your plate.
You have some idea what your audience is going through if it’s the same thing you’re going through.
Solve a problem by telling a story. Start by sharing how much it hurt or how frustrating it was to feel stuck. That’s dot number one.
Then paint a picture of the future you yearn for. That’s dot number two.
The gap between them is the line you draw with your words.
Is it a straight line? Or is there another dot or two between that is invisible to your reader? Show them the way by drawing the map.
Your blog post is you handing your reader that map.
How to make your blog posts sing.
When we’re in trouble, we want to get out more than anything.
So we start looking for answers.
Whether you’re a storyteller or a teacher, you’re drawing maps.
The reader is the hero. Or she should be able to relate to the hero in your story.
The journey may be hard. In fact, the real path is too hard. Show them the turns they missed because after all, you’re the guide they’re looking for.
Understand that they’ve faced barriers along the way. Critics and friends have told them their problem is impossible. They’ve told them they’re not worthy or smart enough to find their way out. Or maybe money stands in the way and they’re out of ideas.
Show that it’s too soon to give up.
You’ve found something that works and if they’ll try it, they can bridge the gap between where they are now and where they want to be. Their life may not be problem-free, but this strategy will give them one more tool for the good fight.
Connect dots and people will love you.
The beautiful thing about connecting dots is that it fits any writing style. You don’t have to kick your personality to the curb. In fact, your personality can enhance your likability.
If you need practice, try connecting dots for the people you see every day. It will take work, but it’s good work.
First, notice things. What’s happening around you that works? What doesn’t? What can people do differently that might make a difference?
Second, be willing to experiment. That’s how science works, right? You start with a hypothesis. Then you test it to prove it right or wrong. Then you adjust your hypothesis and test it again. Keep going until you learn what you want to know.
Then share it in your blog posts.
And don’t worry. You don’t have to share everything you know in one epic post. Drip a little into each one. In the meantime, you’ll learn more and the end result will be better.
Then your blog posts will sing. Your solutions and suggestions will be music to hurting ears. We have enough problems already. We need and want guides. That’s your opportunity to make music with your words.
Are you up to the challenge?
Then go make your writing sing.