So, You Want to Start a Blog…
Posted on October 15, 2012
Whenever I meet someone new, our conversation inevitably turns to our interests, what we do, how we spend our time. And, since it’s an important aspect of my life and one that I’m proud of, I mention this blog.
Nine times out of ten, this is the part of the conversation where the other person lights up, excitement infusing her voice. As it turns out, she has been “thinking about starting her own blog!” And do I have any advice to offer?
Blogs are the new calling card de rigeur. Many people have one. Many more are thinking of starting one. But not everyone understands what blogging entails. They get all excited, fire up their computer, pick out a theme and a clever name and sit down to write that post that’s been rolling around in their head for months. They hit publish and wait. Maybe their mom or best friend leaves a comment. Maybe no one does. Undeterred, they press on to the next great idea they’ve got rolling around. Write, publish, repeat. And so it goes. Until life gets busy or they run out of ideas or the lack of audience makes it all seem pointless. And they stop.
Most blogs fail in the first three months.
I’ve watched it happen to friends and acquaintances and it makes me so sad. There’s a slippery slope that appears somewhere in the first few months of blogging. I stared down at it, and it’s ugly and steep. But here’s what I’m hoping—if you know the slope is coming, and what it looks like, you may be less likely to tumble down. Or, at the very least, more likely to get back up and keep going once you do.
Maybe it’s a bit presumptuous to dole out blogging advice seven months in. Call me presumptuous. There are a lot of things I wish I’d known when I started this blog. Things that would have made the process a little easier. Things we all learn as we go but would love to hear voiced by someone who’s already gone through them.
So, if you’re a new (or struggling) blogger, here are some road signs to prepare you for the ups and downs, useful reminders you can turn to when you get a little (or a lot) stuck.
Blogging Is About the Long Haul
You may spend hours and hours working on a fantastic post that gets very little attention. Or maybe it gets a ton (lucky you!). But, no matter, once it’s up, you have to sit down and start working on the next one. People will remember you as a summation of your work, not just the person who wrote that post. You have to show up and put your ideas out there week after week, post after post.
The good news? That gets easier the longer/more often you do it. What once took you five hours will eventually take you two. What once felt painstaking will grow into a sense of ease. There will be plenty of road bumps, dry spells, ihatemyblogwhydidistartablog moments. The trick is to keep going. If you do that, you’re part of the 5% of blogs that stay alive and kicking. Congratulations. No, seriously. You rock.
And speaking of the long haul: I wouldn’t worry too much about how often/when you post in the beginning. Non-bloggers ask me, “So, do you post every day?”
Ha. No way. Not at all.
Some people love to post every day and can produce quality content on a daily basis. If that’s you, go for it. If you’re an all or nothing person who needs the daily act of pushing “publish” to keep you blogging, do it. But for most of us, in the beginning especially, it’s important to pace ourselves. That momentum you feel when you first start will (most likely) wane. What are you going to do if you find out two months in that you can’t sustain your hectic posting schedule? Start small, once or twice a week, and go from there. If you have a lot of ideas, write some posts ahead of time to see you through dry spells. Then, if the creative fountain is just overflowing, by all means, post more often. The more you write, the more you’ll want to write.
Don’t beat yourself up if you mess up your posting schedule, skip a week or go on vacation.
Remember, blogging is about the long haul. It’s more important to create a blog that you and your audience want to keep coming back to. Don’t neglect your blog for too long, but don’t throw in the towel just because it got away from you for a while. Forget the guilt and write about what you love—that’s what will draw people to you and your blog. People crave the real stuff. Give it to them.
Blogging Utilizes a Specific Skill Set
Blogging is like running your own mini-magazine. You are the ideas guy, the writer, the editor, the photographer, the moderator, the promoter, and the techie all rolled into one. It’s really, really fun for people who like that kind of varied, creative work. It’s helpful to know your strong suits going in, as well as what you need to work on, or possibly outsource. If you aren’t a great editor, you can always barter with a friend: ask them to lend an eye in return for your rocking CSS skills. If you suck at design, hire someone to give your blog a facelift. It may not seem like it matters, but you’d be amazed at what a professional, aesthetically pleasing blog can do for your readership.
The look of your blog will enhance the content. Some of us (hello, me!) are seriously visual people and will close the browser if the blog is too cluttered or dark or hard to read. You may have something really amazing to say, but, I’m not gonna lie, if the layout is overwhelming or distracting, I probably won’t make it past the first paragraph. My brain just can’t handle it. And I’m not the only one.
Blogging offers a wonderful opportunity to hone a wide range of skills that will serve you well in other parts of your life. Take advantage of that. When I started this blog, I sat up for hours late at night teaching myself Photoshop. Maybe, unlike me, you have a baby or a really demanding job and you can’t find the time. That’s totally fine. Stay simple. One of my favorite blogs, Zen Habits, contains no photos. It’s spare and beautiful. And it works. It doesn’t have to be complicated to look good. But, just like your writing voice, it should be recognizably you.
Blogging Is About Letting Go
Want to know one of the big reasons I started a blog? It was to LET GO of my stuff, to stop coddling and rewriting and over thinking everything. It was to get my stuff out there, to you. I like to edit. Left to my own devices, I will keep chopping and rearranging and rewriting something until it gleams. That tendency kept me from sharing my work because my work was never ready.
Blogging doesn’t allow you to be too precious about your writing. You have an idea, you get it down, you edit it, and out it goes into the world, for better or worse. When you first start blogging, you may be scared to hit that publish button. You’ll reread your piece. You’ll change a few words. And then a few more. You may even throw the whole thing out, convinced that it royally sucks. Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good. Get it out there! Stick with it and you’ll find an audience who’s receptive to your ideas and not nearly as critical as you feared.
Try things out, set your ideas free, have faith. Blogging has blessedly helped me release the death grip I once held on my writing. I wrote this post in my notebook yesterday morning. I typed and edited it this evening. I’m hitting publish…NOW.
Stay tuned for “So, You Want to Start a Blog: Part II” this Wednesday (also my birthday!). I’ll be talking about:
The Blogging Community, and Why it’s Vital to Connect
The Blogosphere’s Fickle Nature
Blogging’s Big Payoff, and Why It’s Totally Worth The Ups and Downs
As a non or newbie blogger, do you have any questions I (or my fellow bloggers) can help you out with? As a blogger, what advice do you wish you’d received when you first started out? What have you learned about blogging the hard way?