24: Lessons on Blogging
Right now, bloggers are plotting to make money online, my blog needs content, and if I succeed with this post it may help me with both. I’m Blogging Experiment author Ben Cook. This is going to be the longest post of my life.
Ok, so this isn’t really going to be the longest post of my life. For those of you that didn’t recognize it, that’s my blogging-related take off of the opening lines for the hit television show 24.
The fast paced show centers around the efforts of Los Angeles’ Counter-Terrorism Unit (CTU) to stop terrorist plots and capture the parties responsible for them. Unless you’ve read other posts in this series you may not realize that in fact, the show also teaches several quality lessons on blogging. Believe it or not, here they are 24’s : Lessons on Blogging.
24’s driving force, perhaps more than any other show on television, is it’s main character. In this case, it’s the unstoppable, always moving, constantly shouting, Jack Bauer. No matter what happens, no matter what the terrorists or traitors try to throw at him, Jack always gets the job done. Whether he has to dislocate his shoulder to get out of a pair of handcuffs, or he has to use a few borderline interrogation tactics, the mission is always accomplished.
While Jack’s intensity might border on insanity, I think a lot of bloggers would benefit from having his determination. I’m not suggesting you stop sleeping, or start going around typing SHOOT HIM, SHOOT HIM! However, applying Bauer’s dogged determination would pay long term dividends to your blog. Determination causes you to push through the lull that follows your initial excitement about your new blog. Determination makes you grind out a post when you can’t seem to get your creative juices flowing. Determination is what keeps you working when it seems like your blog has plateaued. Determination is what separates successful blogs, from the millions of other flops.
Manage Your Time Well
One of the most interesting aspects of 24 is the fact that it’s presented in real time. Basically every minute of airtime is meant to represent a minute in the plot line. To pull off this unusual presentation, commercials are scheduled during breaks in the action or used to allow characters time to drive to their next location etc.
Further emphasizing the importance of time, a digital clock is displayed several times throughout each episode reminding viewers that precious time is ticking by.
Despite having only one day to fix the country’s crisis, Jack Bauer got more done in that one day than most people do in a lifetime. Sure some of that is because he doesn’t sleep, and some of that is because he has the ability to get from one side of LA to the other during the 6 minute commercial break. But you can’t deny that the man is GREAT at managing his time.
As bloggers, this is a skill that is critical to our success. Whether you’re a professional blogger, a part timer, or you blog as a hobby, chances are that you’ve found yourself wishing you had more time. More time to write, more time to spend with the family, more time off, whatever. The simple fact of the matter is that we are busy people.
Blogging, like everything else takes time. However, if you manage what time you do have, you’ll be creating more time for the other things you want or need to do. For example, I’ve found a great time for me to write is right after work just before dinner. My wife is usually busy preparing the food, so why not be productive in those few minutes while I wait? If you have a long drive to work, spend that time brainstorming topics and ideas for posts. There are thousands of resources out there to help you manage your time and they’ll all tell you their own way of doing it. Whichever method you use, learning to better manage your time will make you a much more effective blogger.
Keep Your Personal Life Private
A recurring theme throughout the 6 seasons of 24 has been Jack’s family being put at risk. In the inaugural season, Jack’s wife, Teri is kidnapped and killed by terrorists. In later seasons, his closest friends are routinely targeted for kidnapping or assassination. In fact, things get so bad that at the end of season 4, Jack fakes his own death to protect the people he most cares about. Once again in season 5, Jack’s family is put at risk when his daughter, Kim, narrowly survives a deadly Sentox nerve gas attack.
I would certainly hope that no blogger’s family would ever be put at risk of physical harm. However, in the digital age we live in, it is often startling how much personal information is available to anyone that cares to search for it. Earlier this year, popular blogger Kathy Sierra had to cancel public appearances and even stop blogging due to a series of death threats and harassment. While you might not mind dealing with the occasional troll, it can be a whole other matter when your friends or family are involved. By keeping your private life as private as possible, you can avoid the potential for those episodes that you do encounter, to directly affect your loved ones. While I haven’t always been good about this (even on this blog), I can tell you that the peace of mind will be well worth the extra effort.
Think Big Picture
Another recurring theme for the show is a moral dilemma characters face when confronted with the possibility of massive loss of life.
Invariably, the characters will be put in a position where they have to choose whether to save someone close to them (a friend or family member) or save the hundreds, thousands, or millions of people that could be killed if they save their loved one. During the past season, Jack is forced to shoot and kill fellow agent, Curtis Manning, to keep a former terrorist safe and keep the plan of action in tact. The dilemma is of course do you sacrifice one life to save hundreds even if that one is someone very near to your heart?
While the show tries to allow the viewer to decide this moral question on their own, the plot lines tend to emphasize the need to consider the bigger picture. While we as fans of the show might not want to sacrifice a favorite character, their deaths are accepted as being part of “the greater good.”
As I’ve said several times before, blogging usually isn’t a matter of life and death, but we often need to take a step back and look at the bigger picture. It’s very easy to get bogged down in all the detailed tasks that make up blogging, whether it’s site design, content creation, monetization, etc. But, if you take the time to pull yourself out of the individual task and get your bearings in terms of the overall goal, you’ll be better equipped to focus your energy and effort where it will be the most productive.
If, for example, you spend so much time agonizing over the construction of one sentence in a post, that you end up not updating your blog for two weeks, that’s probably not going to be beneficial in the long run. Sure that sentence will be just the way you wanted it, but you’ll have lost any momentum you had built up in terms of readership and traffic. By keeping your eyes on the big picture, you’ll be much more efficient and you’ll see greater returns on your efforts.
With each show I’ve covered in this series, other people have come up with great lessons from the show that I completely missed. I’m quite certain that will once again be the case so if you’re a fan of the show feel free to leave more lessons in the comment section below. Or, if you’d like a free link from this site, write up the lesson as part of the Lessons on Blogging meme that I started last week. Just be sure to contact me and let me know where to find your post. And last but certainly not least, thanks to Tamar from Techipedia for suggesting this weeks’ show and the first lesson. I appreciate it!