Things I Learned from Terry Thornton

I haven’t been a very good blogger of late.  For months this blog has languished.  I’d like to say the reason is that I’ve been off traveling around the world, or meeting my relatives, or researching my family history.  But it isn’t any of those things…just a touch of boredom or a junior-year blogging slump.  So, it’s time to get back on the blogging horse, for better or worse.  And no one would have admonished my blogging-block more than Terry Thornton.  As most of my readers probably know, William Terrance “Terry” Thornton was a genealogy blogger who passed away this week.  Reflecting on our online relationship and Terry’s talents as a writer made me realize it is time to get back to this blog – not because of Terry’s death, but because of the things he taught me in life.  And so I present the things I learned from Terry about blogging:

1) Quantity increases authority, but quality counts. Terry once wrote a post about how important it is to post to your blog frequently in order to establish yourself as an authority.  I agreed in theory, but added that quality is more important than the sheer number of posts. Terry and I continued our disagreeing discussion via email.  He did concede that quality is important:

A constant stream of “trash” of no interest to anyone poorly written and poorly presented won’t get the job done either.  Somewhere there is middle ground and I think we each have to find it for ourselves.

While I pride myself on writing thoughtful pieces, if I don’t blog more frequently there won’t be anyone left to read them.

2) Stories work better with a good hook. No one told a story better than Terry, and time and again I’d find myself fascinated by one of his stories.  They were stories about things that I would not necessarily choose to read about on my own, but I’d read with as much anticipation as a page-turning-thriller because he’d reel me in from the very beginning.  He’d “hook” my interest with the very first line, and I wouldn’t stop until I reached the end.  He once complimented me on my “interesting opening”…maybe I subconsciously got the idea from reading his posts!

3)  Genealogy can sometimes be boring, but not if you take a HOGS approach. Terry liked to call his approach to writing about family history as the “HOGS” approach; that is, a combination of History, Observations, Genealogy, and Stories.  He later amended this as the pHOGS approach to include photography.

In this post, Terry wrote:

The digital age makes family genealogy so much more than a mere listing of names and dates and marriages and children and burials places — and the pHOGS format seems most appropriate for works which go beyond old-fashioned genealogy. Past generations deserve more than just a mere listing of names and dates.

4.  Humor is necessary in life. Terry had a great sense of humor, and most of his comments on my blog were in response to my humorous posts.  I found a great example of Terry’s Twain-like humor on his reflections on his birthday last year:

Does being seventy mean I have to “act” seventy?

A sage I’m not — nor am I sitting at the top of a mountain dispensing wisdom (although we do have some tall hills in Hill Country). Not yet anyways. And acting the part of a wise old sage — no, not me.

But I am taking lessons for becoming a genuine curmudgeon and have just completed lessons one and two. One was how to spell it and two was how to pronounce it and my mentor says that lessons three and all the others to follow are things I just do naturally.

Oh joy! The prospects of doing well with something again pleases me no end.

Thanks for the smiles, Terry!

In closing, Terry loved poetry and frequently complimented me on the title of this blog.  He always “got” any Shakespeare reference I hid in my posts.  So I offer one final farewell tribute to our friend:

Now cracks a noble heart. Good-night, sweet prince;
And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.

~ William Shakespeare, Hamlet, Act V, scene ii


5 thoughts on “Things I Learned from Terry Thornton

  1. Wonderful tribute to Terry – a great writer and kind online blogging friend!

    I’m trying to hop back onto my own blogging horse, dear Donna. Looking forward to riding along beside you on new trails!

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