Over the past couple months in my travels, I’ve been interviewing a lot of old and newly found family members on their life and family history for my own needs and my new family history blog I’ll be starting soon. Today, I heard an interesting family story that I want to share with you.
When my cousin was 14, she was having a hard time dealing with a slightly older sister who’d “gone bad” as a pregnant teen who married an abusive fellow teenager, and a father who seemed to find fault with everything and everyone. She was sweeping up the kitchen floor and missed the dust pan, or didn’t do it “right”, which caused her watching father to start criticizing her sweeping techniques.
In the middle of the “how to sweep” lecture, he got louder and angrier and started raging, “You better do it right or else you will end up just like your sister!” He went on a ranting rampage accusing her of going down the “path to destruction” while she stood there thinking, “What does this have to do with sweeping?”
Have you ever been in one of those conversations with a family member, friend, or co-worker? When the conversation is about something, then suddenly you’re on a totally unrelated topic and not part of the conversation any more? Their agenda overpowers the previously semi-rational conversation you were having. You stand there listening to this sudden rant, feeling absolutely no connection with their issues or agenda, thinking, “What does this have to do with the paper in the printer?”
Many bloggers rant. It’s part of the blogging culture. Pick a subject, there is probably a blogger with an opinion about it.
My cousin’s story got me thinking about the blogging rants I’ve read which impacted me, and which didn’t. While I couldn’t put my finger on why before, I can now.
If a blogger is ranting, and if they stick to the topic, focused on the specific rant, not trying to rant about everything on the planet, I’m definitely more inclined to keep reading, especially if I agree with their rant.
But if a blogger is ranting, and the rant turns into a bigger rant about something that the original rant wasn’t about, I begin to suspect their original intentions. They are now off on a tangent that has nothing to do with the topic, and even less to do with me.
I know we can get fired up, and one thought leads to another, but when I’m reading a blog and feel that creepy disconnected feeling, I know that they aren’t talking to me any more. They are talking to someone else, or even to themselves. It’s no longer about me, their audience. It’s not even about the topic. It’s now about their real issues.
Vent With Intent
As you write, remember you are leading your reader through the story you want to tell. You want them to be with you to the bitter end. To do that, you have to write for them, at them, and with them in mind. Changing topics mid-stream, especially on a rant, leaves them disconnected. You start off talking about your dog’s fleas and suddenly your off on how stupid your boss is. We’re wondering what this has to do with fleas and dogs, and not thinking about what you are writing about.
You want your reader to think about what you’ve written. You want to sway them one way or another. You want them standing there cheering with you, angry with you, or even crying with you, not sitting there staring at their computer screen wondering where your head is off to now.
Your readers know in a minute when you’ve lost control of the blogging conversation. We notice when you aren’t talking to us any more. We know when you’re off on a tangent, leaving us behind, and often out of the converstaion. We understand you are really thinking about this, not the topic at hand. We know when your “head isn’t in the game”.
The moment you see yourself writing “and besides that…” know that you are about to compound the problem with more, and possibly unrelated, problems.
If you need to vent, then vent. But vent with intent, not mindless tangential ranting. Your audience will enjoy it much more.
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