“What is a Personal Blog If Not Self-Promotion?”
Yesterday, I posted on the dilemma of self-promotion and stewardship in regards to writing and blogging. I received several encouraging comments and emails from people wrestling with the same issue. I also received some feedback from people who think this whole discussion to be an exercise in false humility.
One email, in particular, deserves a response. Here are some excerpts:
Before I go on, know this, I enjoy and learn a lot from your postings and Kevin DeYoung’s. I love you guys. (I have your book and one of his). I was also familiar with DeYoung’s blog post on self-promotion and, though I didn’t respond to his then, I’d like to now, because it’s bugged me for a year.
I find the whole “struggle” about self-promotion a little ludicrous. You guys are WRITERS. If you don’t have any desire for others to read your writing, then buy diaries, place them under your pillows and close up shop. Why get subscribers for your blog? If you’re going to write a book, then promotion (or “self-promotion”) is a part of the deal… You’re cheating Moody, Crossway and their employees if you don’t promote your books.
I mean, what is a personal blog if not self-promotion?
God gave you a gift. Use it to the fullest, which includes doing what you can within your conscience to get as many people to read your work.
This reader makes a good point. We should indeed steward the gifts God has given us for His glory and the good of the church. And all Christians ought to think carefully about how to steward a platform (any kind and size) for the good of others.
And yet, I have to take issue with his rhetorical question: What is a personal blog if not self-promotion?
If this reader means that a personal blog has an inherent element of self-promotion, then I agree. But reducing a personal blog to self-promotion is wrongheaded. A personal blog can (and must!) be more than self-promotion.
Motivation matters here. Yes, personal blogs may be a tool of self-promotion. That’s a given. But if the blogger is motivated solely by the desire to self-promote, then the blog is about building a readership for the blogger’s benefit rather than for the reader’s benefit.
So, in answer to the question, What is a personal blog if not self-promotion?, I say, “Service and stewardship.” A personal blog certainly has an element of self-promotion. (After all, why blog unless you believe you have something worthwhile to say?) But our compass should always be pointed toward “service” and “stewardship” rather than self-promotion.
Blogging is an act of service. There are days I don’t feel like blogging. Writing frequently and consistently is hard work, even if ultimately I enjoy the process. If your purpose in starting a blog is to promote your book, your conference, or whatever it is you’re selling… or if your purpose in blogging is just to get your name out there every day, don’t even bother. Instead, you should consider your blogging to be an act of service to the tribe (big or small) that reads your stuff.
I blog because there are people who (for whatever reason) find this blog worthy of their time and attention. I want to serve those readers faithfully, and I want to properly steward the little bit of influence God has given me.
Does self-promotion take place here? Undoubtedly. But there are ways that a blogger can point attention elsewhere: daily links to other good posts, taking a break from blogging, reviewing other people’s books, interviewing others… etc. I try to incorporate these into my personal blog precisely because I think a personal blog can be and indeed must be more than self-promotion.
I understand the frustration of the reader who thinks all this navel-gazing is an exercise in false humility. You got me there. I’m certain there are seeds of false humility and puffed-up pride in my motivations for even addressing this topic. Truth is, I do care what other people think of me. But I hope that my care of how I am perceived is based in a childlike humility, not an unhealthy fear of man.
Let me conclude with this passage from Mere Christianity, in which Lewis makes a point that is relevant to this discussion:
The vain person wants praise, applause, admiration, too much and is always angling for it. It is a fault, but a childlike and even (in an odd way) a humble fault. It shows that you are not yet completely contented with your own admiration. You value other people enough to want them to look at you. You are, in fact, still human.
The real black, diabolical Pride comes when you look down on others so much that you do not care what they think of you. Of course, it is very right, and often our duty, not to care what people think of us, if we do so for the right reason; namely, because we care so incomparably more what God thinks.
But the Proud man has a different reason for not caring. He says “Why should I care for the applause of that rabble as if their opinion were worth anything? And even if their opinions were of value, am I the sort of man to blush with pleasure at a compliment like some chit of a girl at her first dance? No, I am an integrated, adult personality. All I have done has been done to satisfy my own ideals – or my artistic conscience – or the traditions of my family – or, in a word, because I’m That Kind of Chap. If the mob like it, let them. They’re nothing to me.”
In this way real thoroughgoing Pride may act as a check on vanity; for, as I said a moment ago, the devil loves “curing” a small fault by giving you a great one. We must try not to be vain, but we must never call in our Pride to cure our vanity; better the frying-pan than the fire.