So you think you want to write a blog? Well, what are you waiting for? Go for it. But be careful that you know what you are letting yourself in for. Blogging can be difficult sometimes, and a ton of work. Not to mention painful. And embarrassing. And altogether addictive.
If you want to write a blog, make sure you understand what you are letting yourself in for. You should do your homework before you begin. Read a ton of other blogs. And read about blogging. That’s what I did. I bookmarked my favourite blogs, ones I hoped I could emulate. Not copy, just be inspired by. I also read a ton of articles on how to write a blog. Much of the advice was very good, useful; I took notes. But some of it I ignored. Like the admonitions to find a niche. Or to write to appeal to a specific audience.
I only wanted to write what I wanted to write. About things that interested me and which evoked my passion. Like books and fashion and travel. And things I had experienced, things I knew about. Like my own life, my family stories, my teaching stories, my hair stories. Ha. I didn’t see the point otherwise. So when I began, I wrote to please myself, and hoped that others would find it interesting, or funny.
I recalled long ago advice I received from my wise Hubby when I was stressing about a job interview. Some last minute advice from a mentor the night before my interview set me off. And I wailed to Hubby that I would never be able to talk “knowledgeably” about experiences I’d never had. Hubby rolled his eyes (in a kindly kind of way) and said sternly, “Look. You’ve listened to him; now listen to me. You can’t go in there and fake it. Just be yourself. If they don’t want you as you are, with all your experience and your abilities, then you don’t want to work for them. Or with them. To hell with that job.”
So back when I started this blog, I thought, if someone doesn’t want to read what I want to write about… well… I guess they’ll click away. And with all due respect, to heck with them. That’s not to say that I haven’t learned new things, researched topics in order to write about them. Or that readers haven’t given me fabulous ideas for blog posts. They have. But I have to be interested in a topic to be able to write about it well. In fact that was rule number one when I was teaching writing. Students always write better about topics that draw them in, about which they feel strongly. That goes for bloggers too.
Writing a blog can be difficult. It’s a lot of work, if you want to do it well. For most of your posts there will be at least some research to do: book reviews to read, sources to track down, author biographical detail to check, quotes to get right. Even if it’s something your grandmother used to say, you’ll want to get it right. You don’t want to receive a stern e-mail from your mum about making things up.
Sometimes the writing is easy peasy, flowing freely with the words tumbling out so fast your fingers can hardly keep up. And other times it’s very hard. Rewriting is the most difficult part. Revising so that a piece, even a short one, has unity, and coherence, an interesting opening, a natural conclusion, and all the bits hang together as if it just rolled off your keyboard in one piece. So unified that hopefully readers can’t tell where you stitched it together with a few words, or a repeated image.
Then there is the dreaded editing. Checking and rechecking for grammar errors, spelling, typos, sentence structure. Make friends with good grammar sites. For those posts when you’ve been writing all day, and it’s now midnight, and you can’t for the life of you remember what the rule is for commas and parentheses. And always, always go back and reread the next morning after you’ve hit publish. There will be at least one error (or three) you’ve missed.
Even if you don’t want to write a blog that is mainly text. Even if the writing part is the least of what your blog will offer, you’ll still want to do it well. I mean, if you don’t want to do a good job, I don’t see the point in bothering.
Sometimes writing a blog can be painful. People who you thought would read your work are not interested. And your feelings will be hurt. Friends may look at you funny when you mention that you’re writing a blog, as if it’s such a poor, shallow thing they’re embarrassed for you. Some will even say, “A BLOG? What do you want to do that for? Why not write a book?” To which you will reply, “Because I don’t want to write a book. I want to write a blog.” You should refrain from saying “so there,” and sticking out your tongue when you answer. I think I showed great restraint when that happened to me. Ha. Many people won’t understand how much work is involved in blogging, that the text, the pictures, the technical stuff… all take time. Like the one friend who said to me… “Don’t you just type?”
Sometimes blogging can be embarrassing. Like when you lug your tripod down to the old stone mill, a very scenic locale, near your house and try to take pictures for a fashion post. And people keep walking by and looking at you. It’s much less embarrassing, as I found out last week, and way more fun, when you do this with a friend.
You will probably have to learn lots of new skills when you start writing your blog. The writing part I knew about, but I had to learn all kinds of technical stuff, like HTML, and search engine optimization, and key word searches. And how to take decent photographs. I can’t tell you how long it took me to pay attention to the background in my shots. I have a whole wack of pictures that could be really good if it weren’t for the dead tree that looks at if it’s growing out of the top of my head. Or the ones where the camera is positioned too high and my head looks enormous, even more enormous than usual, and my feet are teeny tiny.
But then you’ll realize that learning all these new skills is satisfying, and enriching. And you’ll be proud that you didn’t pack it in because you didn’t know how to do something as well as you should. You’ll be happy that you’ve grown a little.
But here’s the main thing I wanted to tell you. Writing a blog can be utterly addictive. If you do it the best you can and the way you want, you will get so much satisfaction from it. And you will maybe create a place where a little community builds. A place where people can come to read what you have to say. You’ll be amazed at that; I know I was. And a place where conversations can start. And that is the very coolest thing about writing a blog, the conversations. When you share your story, you’ll then get to hear the stories of your readers. They’ll tell you what they’re reading, places they’ve travelled, what kinds of jeans they prefer, and how they hated their hair when they were fifteen too.
Sometimes they’ll even tell you how many pairs of shoes they own. Like the post I wrote three years ago about whether or not it was “a truth universally acknowledged that every woman is obsessed with shoes.” And in which I counted how many pairs I owned. And my mum sent me an e-mail, as a result. Before I go on I should say that my mum reads my blog. She’s been a subscriber from day one. And, funnily enough, she says she’s learned all kinds of things she didn’t know about me from reading my blog. I guess that’s natural when you’ve lived far away from each other for so many years. Despite lots of phone calls and visits, we each have our own lives.
My mum loves to read the comments on blog posts; she calls them the “answers,” I guess because they are always preceded by a question from me at the end of a post. She refers to the people who comment regularly as if she knows them. And even though she’s pretty good on the computer, she hasn’t mastered how to comment. So after I published that post on shoes, where I asked readers to count how many pairs they owned, I received this e-mail from Mum in my mailbox.
Read your blog and am chuckling to myself as I have a vision of me answering as Doris from Devon with: Two pairs of shoes and both black so there is no confusion with color but did not count my slippers.
Have a good day ,
Oh my god, I laughed out loud at that. Doris from Devon. Devon is the part of Fredericton where my mum grew up. And her name is NOT Doris. Ha.
So you think you want to write a blog, eh? Well, I say go for it. Read, read, read, and research. Work really hard, and then do it some more. Learn everything you need to know to the best of your ability and resources. And then do it again. Because you’ll find that writing a blog can be totally addictive. And rewarding. You’ll meet wonderful new friends, and connect with old friends (and family) in ways you’ve never done before.
And maybe, like me, you’ll find that what you get back from this blogging thing will far out-weigh the painful parts.