What makes a good blog topic?


Karen Huber of KMHuber’s Blog (“Zen with a bite”) wrote this recently:

A blog is a way to explore an idea, if for no other reason than to find out what it isn’t. 

I resonated with that for it sums up my process in choosing and presenting my blogging ideas.

Take today for instance.  It’s Tuesday evening and my blog launches in four hours. I had hoped to present photos of my subjunctively experienced trip to Cuba, (read A Missed Opportunity here) but could not get them organized in time.

It had to admit it had become another one of those works in progress we are all so proud of (insert sardonic happy face here).

What to do?  What topic shall I explore only to discover it really won’t work?  There are many from which to choose. Here are two. Neither of which worked.

I could write about hot dogs.

This is how I LOVE my hotdogs. Burned and hot off the grill. Don’t they look good?  I eat them with my fingers, and we all know that everything tastes better when you eat it with your fingers.

I had my first hotdog love affair during my college days in New York, from the sidewalk vendors. Always enveloped in a fresh bun, covered in squishy sauerkraut (sometimes I’d have them add that red onion mush — the onions weren’t red, the mush was; have no idea why now that I think about it) with yellow mustard atop, I’d order an orange soda on the side, and pay the man his 60 cents.  Yes; this was a while ago.  And I NEVER had orange soda otherwise.

But that was then and I have changed. Grown. Matured. These days, if I eat hotdogs at all, they will be finger foods at a barbecue and they’ll be cooked just like the photo.  There, ‘nough said on hot dogs. Not a full blog post.

I could write about the sign I saw recently on my town green.


Rabbit Hunt
Sun Feb 16
Breakfast 6:30

This would be a more serious post (more serious than hot dogs) about how people react differently and (in my head) it would morph into a post about the appeal of scapegoating.

In the moments after I first saw this sign, I imagined that rabbit hunters seeing the sign would simply put the date in their calendars and be on their way. But my mind dwelled on the others, the many that would feel distress (for the rabbits). How angry they would get, I saw in my mind.

I had to get a picture of that sign and write about it. I wanted to see where this topic would take me. Would I talk about the difficulty in deer population thinning when I lived in the suburbs?

Let me quickly state that I can’t imagine myself actually shooting a rabbit (or a deer) ever, AND, given the propensity of rabbits to reproduce, I’m pleased there are those who do. But I can shoot a photo.

I got my shot of the sign and as I walked back to my car my thinking drifted to the quickness with which we  jump to focusing on someone else (when we feel distress) and expecting our distress to end if only THEY would change. It’s called scapegoating and it’s terribly common.  It’s a variation on the old “You make me feel so . . . ”  Never helpful.

If only the hunters stopped hunting, I imagined them dreaming.  

The sociologist in me recognized how easily we humans slip into blame, into pointing the finger, into finding a scapegoat to focus on, saving us from feeling any sense of responsibility for the distress we felt.

The therapist in me knew how hard it is to actually feel those difficult feelings; how quickly we slip into defensive blame. My inner therapist wanted to help them sit with their distress, feel it, own it.  It wouldn’t save the rabbits, but (if experience serves) it would help them enormously to feel better about the world they inhabited.

From there I jumped to the more general political activism of today and the distress so many feel over the way our government is behaving, how our focus is on THEIR BEHAVIOR, over which we actually have no control; how our distress continues, unabated. And how we must sit with it, feel it, own it if we want it to fade.

Nope, the topic is just not coming together. I covered this enough I think in Coping with Weltschmerz (which I can now spell without looking it up). The more I write now about these ideas, the less they seem to fit together. It is a colorful photo though, isn’t it?


How about you? What does blogging (mine or your own) do for you? 


[box] LEAPFROG, my tiny handbook for handling those tricky conversations we all face, is now available in digital and paperback format.

I’m participating in Amazon Affiliates, so your purchase through my website will enable me to make a wee bit more and not increase your cost at all.  The above link takes you to the LEAPFROG page on my website (not yet accessible directly) where you can learn more about the book. To skip that page and go directly to the book’s page on Amazon, click here. Thank you.


12 Responses

  1. Marian Beaman
    | Reply

    We are really in sync today, Janet! Finding blog topics is one teeny, tiny part of my Wednesday post. (Sometimes it’s a bear, finding topics!)

    You live close to an idyllic, little New England town, judging from the sign!
    Marian Beaman recently posted…The Seven-Year ItchMy Profile

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      And congratulations on hitting seven years, Marian. And yes, I am in quite the typical New England town, except for that yellow house in the background, which is in dire need of some TLC. I really don’t like waiting until Tuesday to write the post, but sometimes it happens. Thanks for starting us off.
      Janet Givens recently posted…What makes a good blog topic?My Profile

  2. Ally Bean
    | Reply

    We have signs around here for Sunday morning Turkey Shoots. I find the whole concept slightly unnerving, but they’re a thing.

    I like Karen’s philosophy about blogging. I agree about how it can be difficult to decide what to write about on a personal blog. I have specific guidelines about what I won’t write about, but as for what I will write about– that’s anyone’s guess, including my own.

    I’ve concluded that your blog is like a mosaic and each post is just another little piece of tesserae in the big picture. Once I got that concept clear in my mind, I’ve found I’m much mellower about each particular post. It all fits together in the end.
    Ally Bean recently posted…The Tale Of The Drunken Daffodils That Didn’t Get Drunk Enough, I GuessMy Profile

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Well, I’m very glad it fits together for you, Ally; I wish I could say the same for me. I started out so certain I was going to teach the world about cultural difference — the good, the bad, and the ugly. But that got old quickly, as cultural differences often do. And I just kept writing. I love your image of the mosaic. I wonder what the ultimate design will be . . .
      Janet Givens recently posted…What makes a good blog topic?My Profile

      • Ally Bean
        | Reply

        Yes, I wonder what the ultimate design will be, too. I keep the blog going now to start conversations, having learned that it’s great fun + rather interesting to read what people have to say. Where that’ll take me, we’ll see.

        • Janet Givens
          | Reply

          Your blogs are always a bit of a lark for me. You write with such a comedic flare; I’m really quite envious. I think we both enjoy the absurd. I’d like to be more irreverent, but find it difficult. I too enjoy hearing from my followers. You missed getting to know Ian Mathie, a very irreverent curmudgeon who lived in the UK. He was a Scot who grew up in Africa and wrote a series of memoirs of his life there. We bonded over our view of cultural differences. I could always count on him to inject a bit of good-natured contrariness into every conversation. I miss him still. He died quite suddenly in May on 2018.
          Janet Givens recently posted…What makes a good blog topic?My Profile

  3. Laurie Buchanan
    | Reply

    Janet — It was fun sitting with all three of you this morning: the sociologist, the therapist, and the activist. I’m still grinning at the thought of you eating burnt hotdogs with your fingers!

  4. Tim Fearnside
    | Reply

    Hi Janet. I wish I had a better answer. I wasn’t great at finding blog topics, other than political ones. Lots of ammunition there, as the news is ever evolving, but challenging and problematic in its own right. Part of my problem, I think, was always trying to find something deep and meaningful — i.e., looking for home run topics rather than merely chipping away at things that interested me, steadily and consistently. I could have benefitted from the “tapestry” analogy, above. It does occur to me that good bloggers can write an effective blog on virtually any topic, much like good teachers can make nearly any subject interesting. ‘Happy to report that I consider you a good blogger 🙂

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      You hit a few home runs, as I recall, Tim. But thank you for your kind words. When I started on this path in 2012 I took a few blogging workshops. Consistency (same time and day) and lots of white space are the only two I still follow, I think; there’s something amusing in that to me. This blogging business has always been a work in progress. Thanks for adding your voice once again.
      Janet Givens recently posted…What makes a good blog topic?My Profile

  5. joan
    | Reply

    I’m not sure about blogs anymore. I’ve sort of given up on mine, for the time being at least. At 77 I’m feeling time is of the essence and if I want to do some of the things I’ve wanted to do for ages, I need to do them now. The most important thing right now is to slow down and get off the merry-go-round of speed we all seem to be living in and pay attention to how spring is unfolding outside of my window, and being as kind as I can be.

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      You’ve hit on one of my biggest challenges, Joan: time. There seem to be so many competitors for the meager 24 hours a day that we’re allotted. Sounds like you have chosen a path that works for you. I’m glad.

      Spring is outside your window? We just got an extra 8 inches the other day. And, given Woody’s recent shoulder surgery, I finally got to play with the snow blower. I have a new toy.
      Janet Givens recently posted…What makes a good blog topic?My Profile

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