It is 2017, and we have moved from arguments like “PC vs. Mac” or “Which is King: Content or Marketing?” or “Is Passive Voice Evil?” and trying to answer the eternal question of what constitutes a “real writer” and is a blogger such a creature? to “What Is An Authority Blog Post?”
My first thought was, “Who cares?” It’s a sort of knee jerk reaction, like wondering why I’d pay $100 extra to wear jeans with a stranger’s name emblazoned across my butt. The look on my face is akin to the look I gave another author, years ago, who claimed she wrote “enduring works of classic literature.” Dream on.
In simple terms, an “authority blog” is one a lot of people consider to be their go-to resource for factual, useful, timely, evergreen information on a topic. I may be an expert on many things, but this is not an “authority blog” in most readers’ eyes. I hope it’s an entertaining, thought-provoking, worthwhile blog, that occasionally provides useful information or answers, but I have no pretense or aspiration to make it an “authority blog.” My blog’s big goal in life is to dominate the no-niche niche, and it’s right on track to do so.
What is Authority?
Etymologists are the authority on the origins and history of words, and according to The Online Etymology Dictionary:
authority (n.) c. 1200, autorite, auctorite “authoritative passage or statement, book or quotation that settles an argument, passage from Scripture,” from Old French autorité, auctorité “authority, prestige, right, permission, dignity, gravity; the Scriptures” (12c.; Modern French autorité), from Latin auctoritatem (nominative auctoritas) “invention, advice, opinion, influence, command,” from auctor “master, leader, author” (see author (n.)). Usually spelled with a -c- in English before 16c., when the letter was dropped in imitation of French.
From c. 1300 in the general sense “legal validity,” also “authoritative book; authoritative doctrine” (opposed to reason or experience); “author whose statements are regarded as correct.” From mid-14c. as “right to rule or command, power to enforce obedience.” In Middle English also “value, good reputation; power to convince people, capacity for inspiring trust.” From c. 1400 as “official sanction, authorization.” Meaning “people in authority” is from 1610s; Authorities “those in charge, those with police powers” is recorded from mid-19c.
There is a dignified and scholarly air of leadership, innovation, invention, influence, and power in the concept of “authority.” I can be all of those things; I just reject the notion that I have to be, 24/7. There’s also an element of bossy pretentiousness surrounded by an aura of sycophancy. And even in this alt-fact-post-truthiness era, I reject the notion that I should simply proclaim myself an authority on whatever I like – that if I repeat it often enough, loudly enough, in a voice that sounds like James Earl Jones, the world will come to believe it.
This is my playground, not my ivory tower. So don’t tempt me.
I also reject the notion that Google is the ultimate authority on whether I’m an authority. Perhaps there’s a reason I’ve always been drawn to Jacques Louis David’s “The Coronation of Napoleon Bonaparte”:
Here, I am the authority. On me.
But say you actually want to be an “authority blogger.” How do you do that? Is it a journey, a discovery of self, an evolutionary process set in motion each time your fingers clickety-clack across the keys? No. You apply butt to chair and do the work. You learn about your chosen niche. If you are not already an M.D. or Ph.D., you’re going to have a tough time establishing yourself as an “authority” on neuroscience. What are you expert on? What do you care enough about to become expert on?
THE Authority vs. AN Authority
Can we get real, and give up the pipe dream about making a six-figure passive income in our sleep? It’s not happening. But you are the expert on you. If you own a business, presumably you are the expert on that business and the products or services you sell. You have hobbies and interests and curiosity and appreciation for the world around you, and this is shared by others.
We don’t all have to be THE authority – we can all be AN authority on something, even if it’s only on picking lint and fuzz out of the carpet and weaving it into artisanal yarn.
Now, doesn’t that sound much more interesting than yet-another-blog-on-blogging?
I have a theory: Famous authors, when faced with writer’s block, resort to the tried and true. They write books on writing. It’s a winning formula: Hungry to be just like that bestselling, six-figure-earning novelist, we buy those books by the armload – ensuring that he can pay his bills another month while he’s stuck navel-gazing and mining for belly-button lint.
I’m pretty sure bloggers do the same thing. The problem is, instead of buying what they have to sell, small-time bloggers emulate them. They try to sell what they don’t know. And there’s a glut of bad advice on the market, written by people desperate to establish themselves as “authorities” on subjects they know pitifully little about.
Don’t be like Blob the Blogger. Write it like you care, and your readers will care, too. If you’re not interested in your topic, though, neither will anyone else be. Be yourself, let your real interests shine through – follow the age-old advice given all beginning writers: Write what you know.
“Authority,” like “enduring works of classic literature,” is a term best applied by the readers and consumers of what you write or create. It is a title that’s earned, not gleefully snatched from other bloggers and slapped onto your blog header like a crown.