Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Question & Answer With Treppenwitz - Writing Tips

(Picture courtesy of

A Simple Jew asks:

You have an absolutely uncanny skill to write brilliant posting after brilliant blog posting. What critical elements do you think are necessary to write compelling postings that resonate with your readers? How are you able to maintain the consistency and passion to keep writing?

David of Treppenwitz answers:

First of all, thank you for the compliment. But to be clear, we're talking about things that are both complex and subjective... so for clarity's sake I'll try to break your question down into manageable bits:

"Brilliant": Very nice of you, but that is perhaps the most subjective element of all. There are plenty of people who find my writing repetitive, obtuse and even offensive. Though why anyone would come back more than once to read stuff they find boring or offensive is beyond me.

"Compelling": Early on I decided to write only about things I cared deeply about and/or about which I had more knowledge than the typical reader. After all, nobody wants to read about something that the writer doesn't care about, or about which the blogger is unqualified to write. So I pick topics that I care about; my family, my home, my country... the 'situation'.

"Resonate": It is terribly important to pay attention to what gets readers nodding along... and what turns them off. This isn't to say that I only pander to people's interests, but on any given day there are hundreds of things I could write about. Most days I make a conscious decision to write about things that that interest me... but which also resonate with the majority of the people who read the site.

"Your Readers": There's no such thing. Even the most loyal, dedicated fan of a particular blog rarely stays around forever. People's interests change. Their available time and access to the Internet change. Your writing style and/or content will change. New blogs appear that may be more their cup of tea. In short, while a site may have a lot of repeat traffic, the writer has to be aware of constant influx of new readers (who need background info on ongoing discussions and/or previous posts), and an equally constant attrition of old readers who, for whatever reason have drifted away. A lot of internal citation (i.e. referring/linking to old posts that are relevant to the current topic) is helpful to make newcomers feel like insiders. And an awareness of changing tastes/trends among long-time readers (based on comments and email) may help slow the process of losing them.

"Consistency": Ralph Waldo Emerson once said "Foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds." I couldn't agree more. In fact even a writer who is consistently good/interesting can wear a reader out. It is for this reason I like to take chances... and occasionally crash & burn. I have no problem writing a wrong-headed rant, because I am equally prepared to eat my words when I've had a chance to calm down. I get the sense that readers are pretty willing to forgive (or at least overlook) short-comings and flaws in a blogger so long as the writer provides a mixed bag of content... and owns up to occasionally being an idiot.

"Passion": If a writer isn't passionate about a topic, the reader won't be either. I delete a lot of posts because I couldn't even convince myself of their worth/relevance. A writer needs to know when they are 'phoning it in' and when to use the delete key. But by the same token, being overly passionate can sometimes burn people out. I'm guilty of this with my political posts... which is why I try not to have too many in a short space of time. I'm not always successful at this... which is probably the biggest reason I've lost readers.

"Keep writing": This two word sentence is the secret to blogging/journaling. Writing is like any other activity in that you probably won't be able to do it well unless you do it a lot. Those who write a post every few weeks and sit back waiting for inspiration to strike are usually the ones who abandon their sites within a relatively short time. I'm actually shocked that Treppenwitz has been around for over four years now. I don't have any particular plans for how long I'll keep it going. But so long as people continue to show up, I'll probably keep writing.

Thanks for lending me the soapbox.


At January 30, 2008 at 11:46:00 AM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Gevaldig! Finally, the "Successful Blogging for Dummies" post!
Trep really nails it (no surprise at that though).

Maybe it would also be a good idea to post an open question asking what they like/dislike or what they would like to see more or less of on ASJ? (Or maybe it's not an especially good idea, but it's still an idea nontheless.)

At January 31, 2008 at 11:32:00 AM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...


Good job.


At February 3, 2008 at 6:12:00 AM EST, Blogger Risa Tzohar said...

Inspiring, Perhaps I will actually blog a little more often.

At February 3, 2008 at 3:34:00 PM EST, Blogger Schvach said...

Ralph Waldo Emerson - Trepp, you've hit the bulls eye. In order to write,
one must be literate; they go together. The ambitious writer must make an effort to imbibe as much literature as possible in addition to practicing writing under some source of mentoring (a mashpiah for writers). I haven't done any of this, and so my blogs are, well, schvach.

At February 3, 2008 at 3:37:00 PM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Duly noted! This post has been bookmarked.


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