What I’ve Learned as an Academic Blogger

In 2008, a year after I graduated college and a year into my Masters program, I started JasonHeppler.org.1 My writing here started out slowly, as a visit to the archives can attest. Even so, I never wanted the site to become overwhelming either for myself to maintain or readers that find enjoyment in the things I write about or link to.

I’ve been reflecting on the things I’ve learned as an academic blogger, and Shawn Blanc’s recent post prompted me to write up a few things I’ve learned over the last four years of writing here.2 Here’s an unordered list of thirty things.

  • Give yourself permission to write poorly.
  • Don’t write what you don’t want the world to see. Things around here are permanent. (Same is true with Twitter, Facebook, and elsewhere).
  • Twitter and blogs are as valuable as conferences.
  • Lots of people share your interests. Sharing your opinions and ideas helps you stand out.
  • Don’t be rude.
  • Own your own domain. Don’t rely on Twitter, Facebook, Google, or department web pages for your online presence.
  • Seriously, go buy a domain if you don’t own one yet. Grab your name if you can. Get on Twitter while you’re at it.
  • Content is more important than pageviews.
  • Content is more important than form.
  • Take this work seriously.
  • Don’t take yourself too seriously.
  • Go outside.
  • Tweaking your design, blogging system, taxonomy, and so on is procrastination.
  • Do your research.
  • Don’t be afraid to offend someone. As an undergraduate professor use to tell me all the time about my writing: be bold.
  • Admit when you’re wrong.
  • Be humble.
  • You don’t have to publish the moment you’ve written the last paragraph.
  • You’re a writer, not a blogger.
  • Thinking and reading about writing is not the same as writing.
  • Learn something new every day.
  • Your digital presence generates real relationships.
  • A digital presence leads to friendships and opportunities.
  • Sometimes web comments are great. Most of the time they’re not.
  • Meaningful discussions happen on blogs and Twitter.
  • Write every day.
  • Read every day.
  • Take publicness seriously. Writing for your own site is a big leap into being a publically-oriented scholar rather than insular and ivory-towered.
  • Don’t think you have to write about Only One Thing. You have various interests inside and outside the academy, your writing can reflect that.
  • Work hard. Doing work is hard work.

The overall theme here is to be online. I cannot overstate how important it is to be engaged digitally, ideally on both blogs and Twitter where the humanities community is quite active. I credit my online presence with opening up some professional opportunities that have come my way recently (which I’m not going to reveal right now) as well as introducing me to a lot of people who I admire. The act of writing consistently helps you as a writer, but doing so publically adds to your online reputation as well. You are doing yourself a favor, in a job market that’s already extremely competitive, by writing for the web.

  1. To be more precise, I actually started writing for a WordPress blog I called Digital Clio, a collaborative blog I started with Brent Rogers. We both fell out of regular writing mainly due to busy schedules, but I moved my posts from DC over to here.
  2. This list could also have been titled “What I’ve Learned as an Academic Tweeter.” Twitter has also proven an important medium for myself both personally and professionally. I joined Twitter roughly around the same time I started blogging.