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.

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§ 11 Responses to Confessions of a blogger

  • charliesbird says:

    In my (nearly 1000 posts) experience (gosh, I’ve had lots of drivel to say) I’ve found that blogging Monday to Friday (mostly) works for me, if I blog less, my stats fall. I know you blog Wednesdays, so always check your post on a Wednesday. I guess its about being reliable. When blogs I follow start to peter out and they blog erratically or they don’t have a dedicated day, I stop following and reading them.

    Like

  • gussilber says:

    This is great, Mandy! Full of useful & inspiring advice…the “Meh Test” in particular. Being your own editor calls for a degree of ruthlessness that would put even the most fearsome eds to shame.
    At the same time, as you say, there is something about blogging that lends itself to spontaneity first, and reassessment later.
    That’s why it’s so important for journalists to blog – and why some of the best and most interesting writing on mainstream media sites, such as Time and Forbes, is in the blogposts. Thank you, and happy blogging!

    Like

  • countesskaz says:

    I agree with a lot of what you’ve said. I like the fact that blogging allows me to practise writing. I’ve recently started oil painting on Thursday mornings and that constant continuity and routine has taught me discipline. The same applies to blogging. Do you know what I mean?

    Because discipline is my biggest problem in life (discipline with my tongue, weight…just about everything) it’s good for me to have started learning it at the ripe age of 40.

    Blogging is an outlet. I love the way words can just put something into perspective, or make me look at something differently. If I could, I would hug and squeeze words, thats how much I love them.

    Like

  • jabedi says:

    Please don’t ever stop writing. I would even read your “meh* stuff. If I had a newspaper, I would give you a column. You are a delight in my inbox every Wednesday. Not only do you entertain me, but you educate me, make me think and question my ideas from time to time, and keep me on my mental toes.
    Love the tips in today’s post. Another one of yours that will be printed and stuck on my wall.

    Thanks

    Like

  • Hi Mandy, love this post. I started blogging one year ago today, and write something five days a week. It is my mental yoga every day and I agree, the more one dedicates oneself to a task the better you become. Editing is key and consistency. I think five days a week is a lot for most people to absorb. My experience is some of my followers sit down at the end of the week and read all the posts at once, the stats jump around which leads me to this conclusion.

    Here’s to being heard!

    Like

  • fashnfit says:

    Love this – a real inspirational read for me. I’ve been feeling rather “should-I-even-bother” about my blog in the new year and you have made me realise just why I do want to blog and why I love it. Thank you!

    Like

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