Writing is a craft. It is something you learn to do well by doing it often. Writing allows you to learn how words function. It makes you a better communicator. When writing becomes habitual you are bound to see improvement. You become a better writer by writing.
Blogging can be a great way to practice writing. If you blog daily it can make you a better writer. The fact of the matter is this: students don’t have something that needs to be written every day, but students do need to write every day. Blogging can be a way of maintaining the discipline necessary for daily writing.
That said, there are people who dislike blogs in and of themselves. This series has been my way of warning students in the fields of biblical, theological, and religious studies of the risk you take when you blog. Many people in these guilds find blogging to be a waste of time, child’s play. Even if blogging is how you “warm up” as a writer, or how you make sure you write every day even when a paper is not due or you are not working on a project at the moment, there will be those who do not understand this.
Why write twenty blog posts this month when all that time could have been writing a journal article?!
Well, if you are like me, you process things and build your knowledge by writing about what you’re reading, about what you’re researching, about what you’re pondering. You can’t sit down cold turkey and produce an insightful, full-length chapter for a book or article for a journal without writing small chunks first here and there. V.A. Howard and J.H. Barton co-authored a book titled Thinking on Paper: Refine, Express, and Actually Generate Ideas by Understanding the Process of the Mind wherein they advocated for people to use writing as a way of forming, solidifying, clarifying, and visualizing your thought process. This book is why I have kept blogging. For example, I will be presenting a paper titled “The Dangers of Blogging as a Student” at the 2013 SBL Annual Meeting in Baltimore, MD. You know what this blog series has been? It has been me thinking, processing, forming, solidifying, clarifying, and visualizing my paper and my presentation.
I’ve done a couple other conference presentations in my short career and both times I discussed the evolving content of my paper on this blog. That is why I blog. Personally, while I need a lot of time alone to think about things it is equally true that before I feel comfortable with the final results I like to receive feedback. Sometimes this means contacting someone I respect in private (e.g., Marc Cortez has read my initial first draft of the aforementioned presentation and he gave me helpful feedback), but for smaller chunks of thought I like to “test drive” them on this blog. Many times the readers of this blog have proven very helpful, very insightful. It has helped shape my thinking while it is in process.
This final point may be the weakest one I’ll make because I think blogging is prioritized writing, just like taking and sharing notes are prioritized writing. Why? Because writing is a process. The final version of a writing projects comes into being through many, many short writing sessions resulting in small blocks of writing.
Students don’t often get their writings accepted to journals until they enter a doctoral program. Even at that stage one is usually writing papers and building toward a dissertation. It is rare for a Master’s level student or a doctoral student to write a book of which they’ll be proud in a few years. Yet some people who have a bias against blogging might see your blog as evidence that you are not a serious writer. They may prefer that you don’t share your thoughts in public, but store them privately, refining them until they day they may be ready for peer reviewed publication. There is nothing wrong with blogging as a way to exercise your writing skills. That isn’t my concern here. What you need to know is whether the people examining your application to study or teach at their institution think the same way. Do they dislike blogging and do they prefer you store notes privately to be used for future, “real” publications? If so, then blogging may be bad, not because it doesn’t help you become a better writer—it does—but because your future is in other’s hands and it is how they perceive your blogging habit that matters most.