Confessions of a blogger
January 8, 2014 § 11 Comments
Okay, so here’s my sordid little secret: I started blogging because I’ve always wanted a newspaper or magazine column, and no-one’s ever offered me one.
So I started my own, here, partly as a bit of a brand-building exercise, but mostly because I wondered if I had what it took to produce something completely out of my head on a regular basis. And I wondered if anyone would read what I write in the vast ocean of bloggery that exists on the internet. Perhaps there was a good reason I’d never been offered a column.
It started off as a fairly haphazard thing, and then I realised that I wasn’t going to be able to test my competence unless I set a deadline. Which is why I decided that Wednesday would be blogging day, and that I would blog at least once a week. A daily blog seemed too much, a monthly blog too little. But I’ve worked on a weekly newspaper, and even though the deadlines come around pretty quickly, that felt manageable. (In reality, that basically gave me 24 hours in which to publish something each week – being a proper journalist, I seldom start writing anything until the very last minute!)
And perhaps this will sound like a humblebrag, but I am still astounded that just over 600 people follow this blog. Because I don’t offer prizes or give-aways or anything of that nature. These are just word-based snapshots of me.
I write about whatever takes my fancy on a particular Wednesday, whatever has been occupying my mind. There have been the odd rants, a couple of remembrances and other assorted ramblings. And somehow, people seem to enjoy them. It really does astonish me.
It’s been an enormously beneficial process for me, from a number of points of view. It’s my space, first and foremost. No-one tells me what to write, how long it needs to be, or what angle to take. That provides simultaneous freedom and sheer terror. The nature of my day job means that I can write almost anything as long as you give me a good brief, so not having one is a quite anxiety-inducing. It means I have to ask myself what I want to write about – and I don’t always know, as my crowdsourcing of topics (this one included) on Twitter will testify.
I think it has improved my writing. As people have responded to the way I write, it’s given me courage and self-confidence to push myself a little more, experiment with different kinds of posts, really craft the words I produce here, and not just churn out the transactional kind of writing I do on a daily basis.
It has built my personal brand a little – I have had a few offers of work as a direct result of the blog, so that’s been really positive.
I’ve also learned a few lessons along the way. Here they are; perhaps some might help you:
1. Be yourself. Find your own voice. Without wanting to sound all Oprah-ish, it’s about authenticity.
2. Rewrite. Give yourself time and distance from what you’re written if possible, and go back and edit it with a fresh eye. Get it as close to perfect as you are able. Don’t question, just trust me. You’ll thank me later.
3. If you are looking to build a following, and you’re an ordinary Joe or Jane like me, you need to blog regularly. It doesn’t have to be rigid, but if you can blog a couple of times a month at least, you’re more likely to build an audience.
4. Don’t blog too often. Remember that people are assailed by vast amounts of information every day. If blog posts are popping into their mailboxes every five minutes, they are going to delete them without a second glance.
5. Be ruthless about the content you produce – have you tackled the topic in a new way, or from a fresh angle? Ask yourself: “So what?” If you can’t answer that, you’re less likely to engage an audience. And be assured that if you get halfway through the post and think, “Meh!” then so will your readers. I find this the hardest part to get right. Today I started and discarded half a dozen posts because I couldn’t even interest myself in what I was writing. And sometimes I write something and think it’s wonderful, and hardly anyone reads it. Other times I dash something off in a hurry and it gets a big response.
6. Don’t get hung up on the numbers. If you obsess about how many people are reading your posts, you’ll drive yourself nuts.
7. Followers do not equal reads. I have 600-odd followers, but apart from one or two posts, a really good stat for me is about 150-200 reads. More often than not, I get around 50 or 60.
8. Keep on keeping on. It does take a fair amount of discipline to blog regularly – especially when it’s all you and no-one is paying you to do it. And often, life gets in the way. But there’s a reason you started blogging – unless that reason has changed, keep on keeping on.
9. Write for you. Perhaps I’m making an incorrect assumption, but people blog because they enjoy writing in some form. So enjoy it. And bugger what anyone else thinks.
10. Finally, and most importantly, if your blog allows comments, distinguish between honest engagement and trolling. And then repeat after me: don’t feed the trolls.