This post is not about how to blog. At this point in the game, I don’t think I’m qualified to opine on the art of blogging. If a blogging “how to” is what interests you, this is the most cogent blog post, from the uber-talented and prolific Cristian Mihai, I’ve read on the subject thus far: https://cristianmihai.net/2018/03/18/the-7-golden-rules-of-blogging/
I realized last week that I’ve been blogging for almost a year now so I’ve decided examine what motivated me when I began, what still motivates me a year later and what I’ve learned from the experience.
What motivated me when I began: My primary motivation was, I suspect, similar to many other bloggers. I wanted to get back into the practice of writing and blogging seemed the best way to do it. Writing is a discipline akin to sports. It becomes easier with practice and said practice allows you to refine your technique. After decades in the financial services industry my writing skills had atrophied quite a bit. I also figured, correctly as it turned out, that publishing my writing to a “public forum” would provide a little extra motivation to refine my writing as well as make it more accessible. Also, I believed I had a unique point of view (don’t we all) and some of my ideas were worth expressing.
What I’ve learned about blogging: Most bloggers, myself included, are writing what amounts to published diaries. We are doing it for ourselves primarily but the possibility of public criticism adds an extra frisson. Yes, anybody on the internet can read your blog post, but that doesn’t necessarily mean somebody will. What follows are a few tips and observations I’ve garnered about the wild, wacky world of blogging.
- Just write it: You will, rightly so, be hyper critical of your first blog post. Will it be Pulitzer prize-winning content? Probably not, but hit the Publish button anyway. Much like going for that first horrible, painful run after a lay off of 2 years, you need to take those first steps and create some momentum.
- Think of the reader: Nobody wants to sit down and read a 20,000 word single-spaced, poorly laid out screed. A modicum of editing, some decent graphics and a more accessible layout go a long a way. Unless its absolutely brilliant, I won’t read any blog post over a thousand words.
- Read other blogs: We all post blogs because we think we have something to share. If you’re like me, it might not occur to you at first to read other people’s posts. Oh, but you should. For one, it’s fascinating to check out so many unique viewpoints. You’ll get an idea for what works, and does not work, in a blog post. It’s also a Karmic thing, if you want to get, you’ve got to give. If I read post I like, I always leave a like and, if I really like it, I follow the blogger. Chances are, it might pique that blogger’s interest in your stuff. Finally, the more good bloggers you follow, the better the quality of your feed.
- Views\likes\follows\comments: My first observation is that it’s possible to get more likes than views for a post. It’s also happens that people follow you without having read any of your posts. Either people are being nice or they are drumming up interest in their own blog. Personally, I think the proof in the pudding are the views. Comments are the best as they show that somebody not only read it but took the time to provide some feedback. Until now, comments on my posts have all been positive but I’d also welcome some constructive criticism. I try to leave comments on blog posts whenever I think I have something to add.
- What makes a blog post popular: Some of my most “heart-felt” posts, those in which I felt I had valuable insights to share, have been less than successful. One, hilariously, was an almost total failure. I’ve also had some topical posts that have done much better than I expected. I think a lot of this has to do with the nature of the content, of course, but the fine art of applying the correct categories and tags to your post is a major factor. I’ll admit that I don’t fully understand it yet, but I need to step up my game. Another great tip that I don’t do, but I think could actually work very well, is to post links to your blog in your social media. I’d probably increase readership dramatically, but part of the reason my blog is semi-anonymous is that it allows me a degree of editorial freedom.
- It’s very hard to proofread a post in draft format: I strive mightily to proofread my posts before I publish them but often fail miserably. The proofread function will correct obvious spelling errors and suggest better word choice but there are some errors it can’t detect. My mind “fills in the blanks” when reading my drafts and therefore doesn’t see the glaring omission of key words or basic errors in verb tenses. For some reason these errors become glaringly obvious once I see the post in published format. Luckily, I can quickly edit the post and hit the update button to correct these faux pas.
What still motivates me to blog: I can’t say objectively if the quality of my writing has improved, but the act of formulating a post and writing it has become easier. I find that the more I write, the more ideas occur to me for blog posts. Sometimes an idea will occur to me during the day, so I’ll make a note on my phone and revisit it when I get home. The sharper my focus is becoming, the more I am motivated now to increase my audience. I want to make sure that the type of writing I do is targeted to those readers that may potentially be interested.