Last year was my blogging year. This year is the one where I step aside and help other people blog Pardes. This suits me just fine since this is also the year where I have no time to blog (almost). It occurred to me, however, that if I am to run this blog, then I should let people know what to do. The new posters have all been great so far, but I, like all the great Jewish visionaries**, am constantly focused on the future. So, as a public-service, I thought I’d devote some of my precious free time towards compiling the following “User’s Guide to the Blog,” a list of “Do’s and Don’t's” for all you aspiring These and Thosers out there (they exist, right?……please?)
- Capitalize the phrase “Do’s and Don’t's” and put it in quotation marks for reasons you are not quite sure of.
- Write about what interests you. Just because something happened to you during the week, does not necessarily mean you need to write about it. As a general rule, if you find it easy to write about, others will find it easy to read; if you struggle to write it, others will struggle to read it. No one cares that garbage collection days in Jerusalem are different than the ones in your hometown, or that, after paying attention for one week, you think you’ve noticed that Joanne’s hats seem to get bigger as the week goes on. And if either of these things is the most interesting part of your week, you have bigger problems than blogging.
- Be selective about what you choose to include in your blog post. This is the second-most important step in determining what to write about. Now that you have what interests you, filter out the information you want your family, friends, Pardes peers and staff, and the world at-large to know. The events of last Thursday night at HaTzatzua may really interest you, but you should most definitely not mention them on your blog. Sometimes this is just a matter of careful wording:
WRONG: Hey “Abba”and “Imma,” Guess what?!?! I just spent Shabbat in a West Bank settlement over the Green Line (this means it’s illegal under international law) with a family of Religious Zionists!! But don’t worry, it was safe—even though they were religious, the husband always kept a gun in his belt, even on Shabbat! Viva la Pardes!!
RIGHT: Beloved parents, I just experienced a Shabbat in the beautiful Biblical land of Judea, in a quiet, scenic gated community to the east of Jerusalem with a wonderful Orthodox family. Never worry, I feel very safe here in the Holy Land.
- Include something for all your readers. If you have readers back in your hometown(s), include references that they will get both to draw them in and to show that you haven’t entirely flipped out. For example: “We did a meditation in Self, Soul and Text that really helped me find my center, that helped me to find regain the inner peace and sense of hope that I lost after the Pirates stabbed me in the heart this fall.” In a similar vein, include an inside joke or two to reward your Pardes readers. One well-placed “Kah Echsoyf” reference can go a long way towards earning you some serious Pardes street-cred. The important thing is balance.
- Let your personality shine through. Write about your adventure at Pardes as only you can:
WRONG: I went to the Shuk on Friday morning. It was really busy.
RIGHT: On Friday mornings, the Shuk is, as my roommate put it, “a chaotic clash of Middle-Eastern culture and Captialism.” It’s a kaleidoscope of color and movement and noise as Israelis, tourists, and those of us somewhere in-between scramble to try to balance the two mitzvot of preparing the finest foods for Shabbat with that of staying in budget. It’s simultaneously a cesspool and a sanctification, dirty, cheap, and impossibly miraculous, who ever said the Gathering of the Exiles would be pretty? It is Modern Hebrew, it is Israel. And I can’t handle it.
- Make it visually interesting with pictures and jokes and lots of interesting links.
- Be boring.
- Ramble. Very, very few people are clever enough to make their rants entertaining to anyone else but themselves. Unless you have a special on Comedy Central in the works, assume you are not one of them and keep your rants to your own private blog.
- Go over three-and-a-half single-spaced pages. If it’s too long, no one will read it to the end, trust me. I might not even, and that’s my job.
- Use yeshiva jargon. There’s no makhloket about this one, chevre. B’emet, there is no better way to make your friends back home feel mamash alienated and make potential students and donors think that Pardes is some super shtark place that only wants davka to makarev people than by writing your blog posts using some of the more technical, tachlis terms we use in the beis.
- Be anything other than yourself. This is the most important point of them all.
In keeping with the Jewish tradition of not ending on a negative note, I’ll close with one last do
- Let people know how you’ve been since your last post. So far, this second year at Pardes has been nothing short of amazing—amazing classes, amazing people, amazing times. In so many ways, this year feels like the completion of the last, as I’m constantly getting to build on the intellectual, spiritual, and social skills I acquired here last year. The combination of coming away from a positive summer work experience, heading into this year already comfortable at Pardes, and knowing I earned a leadership position resulted in my beginning the year with more self-confidence than I’ve ever had before. For the first time ever, I feel with it. This new me has been somewhat hard to get used to—even harder to get used to than being the person who actually knows what’s going on for once in his life have been the looks of surprise on new students’ faces when I tell them I’m actually an introvert. Harder to get used to than this even has been the realization that, more than informing other people, I’ve actually been saying this more to remind myself. In the wake of the High Holidays, however, I believe that this is not a new me, just a better one. I’m starting to really know who I am and like it. This is not to say that life is perfect, just that I’m extremely grateful for my current set of problems
Viva la Pardes!!
*I was originally going to call this “How to Write a Good Blog Post,” but then realized how presumptuous that sounds.
**So much for not being presumptuous.