On September 25th, 2012 Tim Challies celebrated his 10 year blogging anniversary. If you’ve read Christian book reviews in the past ten years chances are one of them was that of Challies. He has been a staple in my blogging diet from the first day that I started tracking blogs daily. Challies and Justin Taylor (JT) are foundational bloggers in the Young, Restless, and Reformed movement. On that day Tim shared a little about the history of his blog. He also agreed to answer 4 questions about his blog and blogging in general. If you are a blogger you’ll benefit from reading Tim’s answers.
What have been some of your greatest joys in 10 years of blogging?
Let me give one that is personal and one that is outward.
On a personal level, the greatest joy has been the benefit of daily writing. Though I don’t wake up every day just longing to sit down and write, in the end I’m always grateful that I’ve taken the time to pause, collect my thoughts, and write something. Anything. I can chart my personal and spiritual growth through blog posts; it really is a large part of my discipline of meditation. So personally, or selfishly, the joy has been in using blogging as a means to drive home truth.
In an outward sense, one of the greatest joys has been in meeting so many like-minded people. Some of those I’ve met face-to-face and others i’ve met only digitally. Whether I’m sending an email or traveling across town or traveling across the world, my life is much richer for having met so many interesting people and having begun so many friendships.
What has been one of your biggest disappointments?
I had to think about this one for a little while. I suppose the biggest disappointments are related to my own sin. The biggest disappointments have consistently been related to readership. When I had 100 readers I wanted 1,000; when I had 1,000 readers I wanted 10,000. Perhaps the real disappointment is that I’ve often looked to what God hasn’t given me rather than marveling at and enjoying what he has provided. Another disappointment has been seeing my own desire to use my site as a forum for gossip or a place where I neglect to tame my tongue (or keyboard, as the case may be). A public forum provides a place to sin publicly. I’ve misused this platform too often.
When and how did your blog take off?
I don’t know that the site ever “took off” in the sense of suddenly surging in the number of regular visitors. Instead it has been a slow and gradual build over ten years.
I have often gotten bumps in the number of visitors when I’ve interacted with the big issues of the day. When The Purpose Driven Life was all the rage, I happened to be blogging through it day-by-day. When The Passion of the Christ was being pitched to churches as the greatest opportunity for evangelism since Pentecost, I wrote a review. The Shack, 90 Minutes in Heaven, Heaven is for Real–in so many cases I’ve tried to interact with what is popular in the Christian world and this has drawn in people who are interested in learning what these things are all about. Some of those people then stick around and become regular readers.
I guess the blog has been a parable of most things in life in that the growth has come through long hours and hard work. It has never come easily.
If someone were registering a blog for the very first time today, what advice would you give him/her?
I would tell him that he should blog first and foremost for his own benefit. I don’t mean for that to sound selfish! Here’s the thing: blogging can be a great joy if you are content to keep writing regardless of whether anyone else reads along. When you can do this, you can avoid being driven by the numbers of visitors and you can avoid the allure of writing very pragmatically, choosing what you write about only because you think it will generate buzz. If you can be content with blogging for an audience of one, you will find much more contentment in blogging for an audience of one hundred or one million.
After all of this, I would tell him to identify a niche–an area where the blogosphere is underserved–and to work toward building authority in a narrow sphere rather than a wide sphere.
And then I would tell him to stop thinking about blogging and to just get writing. Too many people waste weeks perfecting a design and trying to get people to notice them when they should just be writing, writing and writing.
Very sound advice. Thanks for doing the interview, Tim. And I pray that the Lord continues to bless your ministry and that we get to enjoy reading from Challies every day until the Lord calls you home or returns.