So You Want to Start a Blog…
Hello all, and Happy Holidays! Last year around this time I started this blog and as I recently reflected on a year of (mostly) consistent blogging, I thought I would share some of what I learned with you, in case you have any desire to start blogging on your own. (If you do start a blog, please contact me so I can check out your blog and add it to my links!)
First, it’s a good idea to know what type of blog you want to write: do you have a particular skill or interest you’d like to share? Are you going through a unique experience that might make for an interesting journal? Are you an avid traveler with adventures to share? I don’t think anyone thinks about blogging indefinitely when they start out, but it’s also good to remember that some things have a more finite blog-life. If you want your blog to last, at least for a little while, picking a topic you can stick with is helpful. You might know a lot about knitting scarves, for example, but not a lot about knitting in general. That’s why I went super vague. (But there is a delightful blog devoted entirely to grilled cheese sandwiches, or as I call them, cheesetoastwiches, so you can go as specific as your little heart desires.)
Once you pick a topic, it’s good to think about how often you feasibly can post. Ideally, a new post would go up every day. But, since all of you have lives and no one reads blogs that often, it’s probably more realistic to go weekly. More often and your interesting posts might get lost before people can share them; too infrequently and you can lose your readership. I like Thursdays, because Monday is a really high traffic day, but too much competition; Friday is exciting in it’s own right, but it’s nice to have something on a Thursday morning to get you a little bit closer to the weekend. And, I was born on a Thursday, so it’s like a fresh new week for me. But maybe you’re more of a Tuesday afternoon person–who knows? You’ll figure it out.
Along the lines of feasibility, think about how long you want your posts to be. I usually aim for 750 words (or at least 500 but less than 1,000). Too short and it feels like something’s missing; too long, and again, you might lose your readership. Plus, writing a post takes time and thought. It usually takes me a couple of hours to get a blog down (writing in small chunks throughout the week and then compiling/editing closer to the “deadline”), and I’m a practiced writer, so the physical act of writing comes fairly easily for me. I do it (in some form) every day. If you’re not a writer by trade, it will probably take you longer to write each post, at least until you get the hang of it. And it should take time; this is a form of publication and not to be taken lightly. I have some personal rules about what I will and will not post, but in general, think of this as emailing the world. It’s fine to write about things you’re passionate about, but it’s a good idea if something is bothering you to write your response in an email to yourself (not the offending party, and certainly not everyone) and then sit on it for a day. If you still feel the same way, you can send it along, but I almost always revise it to tone down the emotions. The times I haven’t followed this rule, I have regretted it. Invariably.
Once you start blogging, you’ll learn tips to make things easier–I like to schedule my posts to automatically go up, not only so I can write and revise something in advance to really polish it up, but so I can automatically have stuff post on Thursday, even if I’m asleep or away from my computer. I try to write at least two posts in advance–more if I know I’ll be busy in the next few months–so I don’t feel pressure on Wednesday night to just slap something together. Photos help; people like images to keep their interest and make your blog visually appealing and eyecatching. Same with links, although you want to be careful about copyright for images, videos, etc. that don’t belong to you. TAG YOUR POSTS. That’s one I struggle with. And be sure to verify/validate your post.
I know this is a “drier” post for me, but a few people have asked me about setting up a blog, so I thought I’d help out. Check out the 5 Blogs of Christmas* next week and the week after, when I’ll be re-blogging my top 5** blog posts!
*It was going to be the 12 Blogs of Christmas, but 12 is a lot and I didn’t get much of a response, so I cut it down to 5 (partly as a nod to High Fidelity, partly because five seems like a reasonable number).
**By “top,” I mean the three requests I got and two of my choosing. There’s still time to put in a request…