In the first half of “So, You Want to Start a Blog,” I discussed some of the more practical aspects of blogging: preparing for the long haul, honing your skills and getting your work out there. If you missed Part I, you can check it out here. Today I’m going to address some of the stickier, intangible aspects of blogging. The people parts. The idea parts. The big payoff part. Okay, here we go…
Blogging Isn’t Just About You
People start blogs for a variety of reasons. Some people want to promote a business or a book or a hobby. Others want to practice writing on a regular basis. And some people don’t really know why: they just have this vague urge to get out there and figure it out as they go. It’s safe to say that most bloggers are thinking primarily about themselves and their own motives when they start out. That’s only natural. We need internal motivation to kick things into gear and keep us coming back to our blogs. But the irony is that if we don’t venture outside of that mindset pretty early on, we’ll just sit there, talking to ourselves.
Blogging is a social beast. It consists of more than hanging out at a computer and talking at people. If you’re throwing up a post now and then and waiting around for people to find you, you may find yourself waiting a very long time. To save yourself that disappointment, reach out to other bloggers early on. Find a few blogs you like and get involved in the conversation. If you like what a blogger has to say, you may like their readers’ blogs as well. Click through to those and leave comments. But keep the self-promotion at bay. People can sense whether your motives are genuine or self-serving. Besides, if you’re just plastering your links everywhere, you’re missing the point.
Which is to connect.
That may not seem obvious in the beginning; it certainly wasn’t to me. I had to grow into the idea of making meaningful connections online. But now it’s one of my favorite aspects of blogging. Get a headstart. Read just one new blog a day and reach out to that person. You’ll make their day. You may even make a new friend. And that friend may become a subscriber. It really is that easy.
That sense of openess should extend to the content of your blog. It’s fine to have a blog with a purpose. But no one is going to stick around if it’s all “you” and no “them.” Generous bloggers talk about things outside of their business or their book. They provide value to their audience, whether it’s through ideas, information or inspiration.
Give more than you take and you’ll eventually benefit from the boomerang effect.
The Blogosphere is Fickle But You Shouldn’t Be
Some days, you’ll hit it out of the park with your posts. Others, nada. Crickets. I’ve gotten 473 comments on a post and I’ve also gotten 7. I’m not complaining. I was incredibly lucky to have an audience from the start. But it didn’t make my doubts disappear into thin air. The truth is, it made me more afraid of making huge mistakes. I was worried that everyone would notice them. And then maybe everyone would leave. Here are some tips to get you out of that headspace if you’re ever worried about saying or doing the wrong thing.
People aren’t looking for a carbon copy of the Bloggess. They’re looking for someone who is just as fearlessly, relentlessly herself. Be that person.
Write about what interests you. If it tanks, write about something else that interests you. Don’t apologize for or agonize over an unsuccessful post. Just keep going.
It’s a fools game to constantly try and guess what people will or won’t like. Sometimes people don’t know what they like until you write it and they read it.
And what you write about really doesn’t matter as much as how you write about it.
Work on developing your voice. Ask yourself questions and answer them on your blog. Write a lot. Read even more. Stay curious. Notice the little things. Be confident.
If you’re sassy and opinionated in real life, be sassy and opinionated on your blog. If you’re quiet and introspective, your writing should reflect that. Voice is about viewing the world through your own distinct lens and effectively conveying what that looks like to other people.
Google “blogging advice” and you’ll find a plethora of posts about content creation, methods to stir up controversy for more page views, marketing and branding tips, the best time of day to post, etc. There’s so much noise out there, so many people who claim to have the shortcut to success. By all means, try some of it out if it appeals to you. But none of it will replace the surest ways to a good and successful blog: hard work, good content, and a strong voice.
Sometimes the best advice is to stop taking so much advice and listen to yourself instead.
Blogging Can Change Your Life
I know that sounds dramatic and a tad ridiculous, but it’s true. It all depends on how you use your blog and what you take away from of it. Many people start blogging because they are at a turning point in their lives: on the cusp of a milestone birthday, having a baby, changing careers, moving to a new country, taking a giant leap of faith. There’s a reason so many blogs have themes like these: we recognize that something is changing within us and we want to document it, to form words that will help us make sense of those changes. Blogging allows us to process events in a heightened way and it can also become the catalyst for bigger and bolder change.
Do some of you wonder why your friends and family aren’t as into your blog as you anticipated, yet total strangers seem to get you? It’s natural for people to want those around them to remain the same in order to continue fulfilling expected roles. Those close to us aren’t always comfortable with change and they may not relate to the new ideas we’re exploring. And that’s okay.
The wonderful thing about blogging is that it allows you to set out into unknown territory in search of like-minded people. You may meet someone in Japan or Arkansas who is going through similar changes. The support you receive from fellow bloggers can give you the courage to take risks and do things way outside of your comfort zone, things your childhood friend or mother may not understand. Expose yourself to as many different ideas and viewpoints as you possibly can. You may not be able to hop on a plane and travel to your heart’s content. But, through your blog, you can learn a lot about what people from different parts of the world think and feel. That has the potential to make you a more interesting, compassionate human being. Remember that thing I said about life changing? (And community?)
By exploring ideas and answering questions on your blog, you are teaching yourself who you are and what you believe in.
It’s no coincidence that I started this blog in my 30th year (though I didn’t realize the significance at the time). Today, at 31, I head a little further into the fold of adulthood, still full of big questions, eager for the possibility of one day stumbling upon the big answers.
In what ways, if any, has blogging or blog reading changed your perspective of the world and your view of yourself? Are you more confident? Less judgmental? Any ideas you want to add to the ones I’ve explored above?
*Just a little note: I’m off for some birthday fun today, so I’ll respond to comments tomorrow. Don’t worry, I’ll save you a piece of cake!
So, You Want to Start a Blog…
Crow, Baby, Crow