How to make your life sound interesting

This blog, like so many, is ultimately a vanity project. Look, over here! Look at what I’m doing, listen to what I’m saying! Isn’t it interesting?

I think it is. I think every life has interesting stories to tell. But it takes skill and practice to become good at framing a life’s stories in interesting ways. Fortunately, after this many years of trying, I’ve learned a few things along the way about how to do that.

Dining table
Not interesting.

I took an online course last year about how to write about your life. I’ve been writing about my life here here for years, but I wanted to be better at it. One key, the course said, was to make each sentence interesting. The other is to be bluntly honest about your life, telling stuff that scares you for anyone to know. Wow, hs it ever been easier to focus on making my sentences more interesting. It’s much harder to tell life secrets. I’ve gingerly shared a little scary stuff lately. I’m not sure how I feel about having done it.

But here’s the key secret I’ve learned about making things interesting: it needs to be about you, the hearer or reader. You need to see yourself in what I write, or learn something valuable from it, or feel deeply touched by its universal humanity. Preferably all three.

Old alignment, US 52
Also not interesting.

I have to work pretty hard to do that. I know easier ways to get your attention. My favorites are to post a pretty photograph or write something that tickles your nostalgia. But those are cheap thrills for both of us.

I share a lot of photographs here because I’m interested in photography and am trying to be better at that, too. Judging by your response, you find my photography posts to be interesting. I get a lot of nice compliments from you about my work. That feels good.

Sooooooooo not interesting.

Photography and writing about my life are similar in that both are about finding interesting perspectives. And both involve a lot of experimentation to find those perspectives. Some things just don’t work.

Because I take so many photos, I can choose the best of them to share here. If you were to follow me on Flickr, you’d see that I take plenty of uninteresting photos. I dump into Flickr every photo I take that wasn’t an abject failure. More than 10,000 of my photographs are publicly available there.

Fledgeling hedgerow

I share a small percentage of them here. This is where I curate my photography. I don’t enjoy that luxury when it comes to my writing

While I can take and upload a photo in seconds, it takes considerably longer for me to write a post. And I keep a regular posting schedule, which sometimes makes this blog a beast that needs to be fed. So I post nearly everything I write.

More sky

Your response, or lack thereof, tells me whether my posts are interesting. The series I did about songs I sing in my car didn’t work. I can see it in the stats — few of you read them, and fewer of you commented on them. One of those posts got just eight views!

Fortunately, this blog is just a hobby. Your response to my work affects only my ego. But this is ultimately freeing, as I can openly try new things. I’m free to fail hard.

Car and truck
Yer killin’ me, Smalls.

And so, my advice: if there’s something creative that you want to do, just do it. Critique your own work, of course. But also put it out there into the world for others to see, and then pay attention to and think about the response you get (or don’t, which is also instructive). Keep experimenting and sharing the results with the world.

I’ve laced this post with uninteresting photographs I’ve taken with my film cameras lately. Sometimes the subject is simply uninteresting. Sometimes I didn’t frame the subject in an interesting way. Sometimes my mechanics were off and it robbed an interestingly framed, interesting subject of some of its interestingness. Sometimes I just wasn’t feeling very interested on the day I took the photograph, and it shows.

Bethel Church
Oh lord make it stop!

But through trying things and seeing how they turn out, and paying attention to the feedback I get (or don’t get), and weighing what I think and feel about the outcomes, I get better. So will you, if you try it.


11 responses to “How to make your life sound interesting”

  1. J P Cavanaugh Avatar

    How interesting. Sorry. :)

    I am glad to read this, actually. I struggle with the same things in my own writing and it feels good to have some company. FWIW, you have a very good batting average in being interesting. I suspect that your “photographer’s eye” works in your writing too.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I’ve been at this for nine years now, and after that much time the sheer repetition makes you better. And then I find some other blogger at it for six months whose work blows me away, and I fold my hands humbly and go back to my work, hoping to do better.

  2. mattsandercock Avatar

    I’ve always enjoyed your work Jim – and yes, just keeping at it is half the battle. I also know what you mean about the “six month bloggers.” Sigh! :-)

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I guess we all have different levels of innate ability!

  3. Christopher Smith Avatar
    Christopher Smith

    I find all of your post interesting obviously for me the Photography post are most interesting as that’s what I’m into (old Cameras) and I enjoy seeing what others think of cameras I own myself and also try and buy ones I don’t have if the article is interesting.And I often think to myself can I get as good a photo out of the camera as you do and try.
    I only wish I had the time and skill to write a blog of my own. Anyways as long as you keep writing Jim I will keep reading. Do you celebrate Easter where you are if so Happy Easter.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Wow, I’m honored that you think my work is worthy of emulating and trying to beat! Thanks for being such a prolific longtime commenter here. I do celebrate Easter; I’m just home from Good Friday service as I write this. Happy Easter to you!

  4. Dawn Avatar

    I’m glad I read this. Didn’t know you are actually trying to put yourself out their for your writing’s sake. Of course, I like that. Me and Hemingway.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      We’re going to find out through continued writing if the audience for that is greater than the two of you.

  5. Read.Count.Craft Avatar

    Awesome links to “you should start a blog” . There’s little details to working the blog that I can adjust like “default article settings” . I still am learning techie things, plug ins- teaching myself – painfully slow process. ha. My question is that my new realistic goal is 3 posts a week, my traffic is driven from Pinterest (preschool and recently crafts focus) My original goal was to build traffic so I can sell printables (common market process), but decided to expand into my crafting b/c that is something else I’m really great at. (not fancy/normal nancy frugal) So, okay so I’m great at figuring out trends what to post etc. What I struggle with is I love writing, but I’m not a creative writer. I’m a fabulous technical writer (meaning research, not what you do), I don’t even develop personal opinions until I’ve researched stuff! THIS slows me down in posts. One day I did actually post something I’d made well that was trending, with nothing except the photo and a blurb of excitement! lol. That’s rare b/c I always spend hours on my writing, photos/editing, and rarely like that. IT DID get pins though. So how do I frame “lighter” writing? Do I do half and half, like 2 fun/ 1 including free printables for example? I have to structure it, because I will not allow myself to write about “frilly” stuff like uncommon birds that I observed in my yard…that didn’t get pins but it DID get readers lol. Also I really detest instagram, I’ve used in the past & think it more for “influencers” not “content creators” I’ve used Twitter a bit but I’m hesitant b/c I don’t know how to get the blog post share to share a pic on Twitter, it only shares a link and I have to go in and individually upload. OH I kind of like the YAWN pic, my initial reaction was I was wondering where the path went and then my imagination kinda played off that…Perhaps you can use those so called “boring” pics as involving the reader to imagine…I didn’t respond to the singing songs in the car b/c we have sirius radio, I usually listen to talk radio or podcasts, or specialty stations and I’m wondering if this is why other readers maybe didn’t relate? okay this is my 1 comment for ALL 6 blog links! ha

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      That’s a lot to unpack! First, let me say that I don’t know anything about marketing a blog on Pinterest, so I can’t help there.

      I do know that the more I post, the more traffic I get, so I recommend that bloggers post as frequently as time allows. I also recommend posting on a set schedule, e.g., M W and F at 7:30 am EST, or whatever works for you. I post at 5 am because I find that it catches more people during their morning routine. I used to post at 7 am but moving back to 5 bumped readership a little, so I stuck with it.

      There is no magic formula to successful blogging. It’s all one experiment after another to find what works for you and the audience you’re pursuing. Keep what works and discard what doesn’t. (I should take that advice, as I keep writing posts I know don’t work, but I want to write them anyway, and I do.) And even when you do settle on something that basically works, there will be odd posts that just take off for no discernible reason, and posts you poured your heart and soul into that don’t go anywhere. It’s just the nature of the game.

  6. Read.Count.Craft Avatar

    THANK YOU. !!

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