I’ll admit it. I’m a Lost addict. Of the craziest kind. I’ve been counting down the days to today for months. I go nuts for message boards, dream up elaborate conspiracy theories, and hunt for obscure cultural references inside every episode to research while I watch. I’m pretty sure it drives my husband crazy.
But don’t stop reading if you’re not a Lost fan. Because whether or not you’ve ever watched a single episode of the show, you can learn something about writing a better blog by the way this game-changing TV show operates. (And if you don’t have time to read this entire post, skim the subeads and then actually read point five. And then leave me a comment about that point. I’m dying to talk to some people about this idea.)
1) Pull out all the stops on day one.
When Lost premiered, it was the most expensive pilot ever produced. It was crazy. Instead of waiting to build up to a grand finale, the producers pulled out all the stops on day one. They put everything into the first episode, because in TV, you never know what the future holds. And with a show like Lost, when it premiered, the idea was to go big or go home. They went big. And the rest is TV history.
If you’re starting a blog, this is an important lesson to learn. Don’t save your great posts for later on. Don’t save your big ideas to do once you have more readers. The way to get more readers is to have great ideas and build great relationships. And it’s easier to build new relationships if you lead with great ideas.
If you aren’t starting a new blog, don’t worry, there’s a lesson for you here, too, and here’s what it is: Today is Day One. It’s up to you to choose when and how you will put your best work out there. So if you’re not doing your big-budget worthy things already, start now.
2) Have the courage to tell new stories.
And start telling old stories in new ways. If Lost had stopped telling new stories in the first season, I wouldn’t be writing this post right now. Because I didn’t get into the show until I saw a random episode in the second season – and I got hooked.
I rented the whole series and watched the first season in one week. And then I watched again with my boyfriend once he finally caught on a few months later. The rate at which new stories were added and new mysteries unfolded was addictive and slightly infuriating. It was so much to take in.
But that’s what made it what it is. And then, it changed. At the end of season three, the the directors went from the storytelling style of flashbacks to flashforwards. It was a risk that shocked everyone. And the show has never been better or more loved.
So, what does that mean for your blog? Well, Lost is probably what I would call a niche show. Which helps it a lot to create a large, devoted following of fervent, addicted fans. People know what to expect with the show, and at the same time, every episode is a chance for their expectations to change. And for that reason people love it. No, they crave it.
When it comes to blogging, a niche can be really useful in creating a specific, devoted community of readers and participants. But there’s also a curse of blogging in a niche, and I will kindly refer to it as burn out. Some call it the lazysphere or an echo chamber. But what everyone is talking about is how hard it is to write about one niche while keeping it fresh and saying something new.
But Lost is great at this. It defined its own niche, and it still owns it. Heroes failed at trying to mimic it. Because the reason Lost is so great at its own niche is that it is constantly reinventing itself – as a niche, and as a show. It refuses to let itself stay the same, and that means it’s constantly relevant and almost never stale.
So, if you blog, take this lesson to heart: It’s your niche. It’s your blog. Make it new as often as you can. Be creative. Be inventive. Tell new stories. Change things up. Your readers will thank you for it. (And even if they don’t, you’ll have a lot more fun along the way).
3) Have guts. Kill off some main characters.
Lost is one show that has more guts than any other piece of TV that I’ve ever watched, and that’s because it does what most other shows don’t do: it has the guts to kill characters. Main characters. Characters people loved.How does this apply to your blog? For one, it’s important to have guts when you blog. Do things your audience doesn’t expect. Maybe do things that could piss them off. But another lesson is, don’t do things just to mix stuff up. Do it to make your blog better, just like Lost killed people to make the show better. Because when Ana Lucia and Libby got shot in the same scene (and no one believed they were dead but they really were) it proved to the audience that the creators weren’t going to apologize for their direction and that anyone, absolutely any character could be at risk. It made the stakes seem more real. And all eyes were glued to their sets. And the message boards got buzzing. And suddenly, there were all sorts of possibilities we never considered before.
So here is your blogging lesson: when you are wiling to take insane risks, your audience will forgive you, and though you might make some mistakes, you will become a better blogger.
And anyway, who wouldn’t want to write the kind of blog people have watch parties for?
4) Listen to your fans. Not too much. Don’t alienate them.
The fans of Lost are unabashedly rabid. They have crazy ideas and theories and insights. (Remember? I am one of these people.) And some are spot on and others are very wacky and out there. And the creators have done some really interesting things with red herrings and rabbits and creating hidden shout-outs to fans within the show. Heck, they even created a virtual reality online and TV-based game to give the fans something to interact with. But they also didn’t let fan feedback or disappointment or anger run them off track.
They have mastered the art of having a pulse on the fan base but having the confidence in their own story and own direction to keep it moving just the same. And they do all this without alienating their audience.
Your blog probably has fans. Your readers, your audience, are all there for a reason. And some of them want to share ideas with you. If you think about it, that’s quite an honor. So let them know you are listening. Have conversations. Use your community to improve your ideas/ Take in what will help you be better. And then, don’t worry about the rest.
5) Do the impossible. Write your endgame.
This is the absolute most difficult and awesome thing you can learn from Lost as a blogger. When Lost announced several years in advance they were going to end the show, you can’t imagine the crazy uproar that ensued if you didn’t witness it yourself. But this risky move did something beautiful to a show that was starting to get a little rusty around some corners: it gave it new life, new direction, and more importantly, more passion within the fans. So here’s what I want you to think about:
What would your blog be like if you had an endgame in mind?
What would be your grand finale? What would be the one thing you want your readers to remember? What would you want people to look back upon it and think? What posts would you want to write? What stories would you want to tell? What activities would you stop doing?
If you decided today you only had one year left to blog, how would that change what you’re doing right now?
Now, I’m dying to talk about this last point especially, so please join me in the comments section to talk about anything in this post, or how interesting blogs are because they’re different than books, which have one main point, and end. And how blogs are tough to keep up with writing. And whether or not your plan to blog for the rest of your life. Because if you think about it, your blog probably does have an end. And I’m sure you can come up with all kinds of other interesting ideas I hadn’t thought of. So let’s chat. I’m looking forward to it.
If you really liked this post, share it on Twitter (here I am if you want to find me there). Or Stumble it. Or send me an e-mail. Or leave me two comments! And if you want to talk Lost tomorrow, I’ll be hanging out at the Pop Candy forum tonight after the show and on my lunch break tomorrow. So maybe I’ll see you there?