Saturday, 15 May 2010

A year as a professional blogger

"You have written 141,239 words on 303 posts since you started publishing 365 days ago."

That's what the user interface at Gadling told me yesterday. I've been working for the world's most popular travel blog for a year now and written enough to fill two books. It's been tons of fun and I've learned a lot, as I discussed in my post back in January when I reached 100,000 words.

The posts I'm most proud of are my three series, including one on hiking Hadrian's Wall, one on travel in Ethiopia, and the current one I'm writing on travel in Somaliland. These have all been adventurous trips that I've enjoyed sharing with the world. What's nice with the last two is that they've attracted a lot of comments from people in those countries. Ethiopia still has a reputation as a famished nation, and most Westerners confuse Somaliland with Somalia. I'm glad to play a small part in setting the record straight.

I also like to poke our readership with a stick by causing a bit of controversy. This is remarkably easy. All you have to do is upset their preconceptions. The one that got the strongest reaction was when I told them to leave their cameras at home. I got an avalanche of negative comments, none of them realizing I was trying to get them to question their assumptions. I even had one needy fellow look up my blog here and email hateful messages to my public address. I laughed at him and blocked his mail.

Sometimes this doesn't work as well as I hoped. My post on how the swastika is a symbol of peace and harmony in most parts of the world got only a few comments, and when I questioned both religion and atheism in an article on the sunken churches of Lalibela there wasn't even a peep. Ah well.

While I do like provoking people, the series are by far my favorite. As writers our job to entertain people and teach them something. I like to think that maybe I'm helping people understand each other a little better. Judging from some of the comments I get, I've succeeded with some readers.

And for a writer, there's no better reward you can ask for than that.

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Looking for more from Sean McLachlan? He also hangs out on the Civil War Horror blog, where he focuses on Civil War and Wild West history.

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