With technology constantly changing and developing, we have more opportunities that ever to have out words, pictures, and voices find their way to people we don’t even know and will probably never meet.
Instagram sees an average of 80 million photos shared per day. Twitter estimates that the average number of followers per account is about 208. WordPress hosts about 74.4 million sites ( which is about two per head for the population of Canada).
More than ever before, we have instant access to platforms of various kinds in order to share our work or simply have our voices heard. Admittedly, the down side is that with so much out there, you can get lost in the melee but you’re here, aren’t you. I can count on one hand the number of posts I’ve shared from here and it is only in the last six months that I’ve worked up the courage to admit that I like writing never mind that I have a blog.
Yet here you are, nearly 200 of you.
I’m part of a young writers’ group on Facebook and although I don’t really engage much with it (it makes me feel old), there has been a recurring question coming up on the feed over the last few weeks.
I love to write and I’m thinking of starting a blog over the Summer but I don’t know if I should or how to go about it.
Well, as someone who had no idea what they were doing to begin with (arguably I still have no clue), it has been a learning curve. In many ways, it’s a whole lot simpler than people expect it to be.
So let’s talk about it.
In the beginning. . .
Wanting to have a blog is not enough. Liking writing and having some spare time over the summer is convenient but again, it is not reason enough to delve into the world of casual blogging.
Casual blogging is like casual dating: please just don’t.
Why do you want to set up a site? What do you want to say and what do you hope to achieve? Writers cannot write to be liked and still write honestly. If it is followers you are after, try Instagram or Twitter.
Like all writing, there is no point to it if you have nowt to say. If it will be full of reblogs from other sites, you’d be as well having a Tumblr account.
It is not so much beginning the blog which poses the challenge but the keeping of it. If you want people to read and follow your site, you need to post regularly (a minimum of once a fortnight but preferably weekly). Until I started writing this, it hadn’t occurred to me how much time and effort I put into KA in order to post at least once a week (preferably twice while Midweeks on Mute runs). I don’t think about it, it’s just built in.
You may think that you haven’t the time and if that’s the case then blogging is not for you. On the other hand, if you are keen enough that you actually make time, you are already one step ahead.
If you are seriously thinking about blogging, it is important to realise that it’s not really the sort of thing that you can pick up and put down as and when you feel like it (though many do) if you want to do it well. A degree of discipline is required to write when you can’t be bothered and you need to be able to be consistently creative.
Sadly, there may be over 75 million websites out there hosted by WordPress alone but a significant number of them reside in the Bloggers’ Graveyard (for various reasons but normally through the owner’s lack of interest). Among my own friends, Marigoldenn, Kingdom Chasers, and the littel1sparrow.blogspot account no longer exist. I recently purged my followed sites and discovered that as many as a quarter of the blogs I follow haven’t been updated in years but I had forgotten about them because even when they did post it was very erratic.
The reason for their failed endeavours was (mostly) because they thought it sounded like a good idea. After all, everyone and their dog – yes, there are blogs written from the perspective of the hound – has a blog or a YouTube channel or an Instagram account (or any combination of the above) these days. But as time went by, they lost interest until they let the endeavour slip away altogether. Too much effort is required to think of something to do every week and too much time is required to write and publish pieces.
As a side note, this is how you tell compulsive writers from people who like the idea of writing.
Anyway, the point is that if you aren’t willing to make a couple of hours a week to maintain a site, and if you aren’t sure that you could keep up a consistent level of output (even if some of it is pants) then you should start by keeping a notebook (or file on your computer) and trying to write an article a week over three months. 800-1500 words is quite sufficient. If you manage that then you may just manage a blog.
Practical tip for when you start out: have back-up posts you can schedule to run if you are on holiday/ill/have an emergency/have exams. Also, pick a domain name that you aren’t going to cringe at when you are 30, 40, 50 years old (no fanfic references; twee, out of context bible verses; or Taylor Swift/ One Direction lyrics). Some of my personal favourites include The Mortification of Spin, Sheologians, The Six Foot Bonsai, and Target Verified.
Video Killed the Radio Star
Instagram killed the photographer. Twitter killed the one-liner. Blogging killed the wordsmith. You don’t need skill now, you just need an internet connection.
Maybe that’s a little unfair. Social media platforms have also brought to light a wealth of genius and talent we might not have had the opportunity to enjoy otherwise.
Basically, just because you could start a blog does not mean that you should start a blog. It’s fine to have one as a hobby and not to take it too seriously (Kumquat Absurdium is a prime example as may be surmised from the title). It’s just a hobby that requires a large degree of discipline, a hint of dedication, and is fed by a ridiculous quantity of creative juices.
I say this because there is no sense in wasting your time with something you aren’t actually all that interested in when there are other things you could be doing with your time. Contributing to the Bloggers’ Graveyard only brings about a sense of disappointment and failure. It’s no fun.
But if you have something to say. please say it. If the words burn in your bones, flickering incessantly through your mind and causing your fingers to twitch then, my dear friend, you had really ought to let them out, don’t you think?
Blogging has become a stereotypical 20-something-year-old, coffee-drinking, middle-class white-girl past time (or the public version of the angst-ridden teenage journal) and so it is often looked down on. That’s partly why I never told people about K.A: because I’d rather that they stumbled across it and let it speak for itself rather than following it because I wrote it (not because they actually like it) or refusing to read it altogether because I am a 20-something-year-old white-girl who does in fact like coffee and nice stationary.
There’s a lot out there now, but just because you think that everyone else seems to be doing it doesn’t mean that you should (oddly I actually only know two other people with blogs and one writes from the perspective of their dog). You need to do this because you want to and because you love to and because you have something to say to whoever reads it that will change them even just a little bit when they walk away from the written page.
Video killed the radio star but it didn’t necessarily kill good music. Blogging (I believe) has lessened a lot of people’s respect for the craft of writing but it doesn’t mean that there aren’t excellent writers slogging away on WordPress or blogspot or Weebly or whatever.
Just be aware that there is a lot out there to get lost among so if you want to do this, go at it with all you’ve got and write your best (yes, I’m aware that this is pot calling kettle but I prefer to think of it as using myself as a warning so you can make your own mistakes).
A practical tip: Before you start, have some goal in your mind, a vague theme or structure for what you will write and remember to take the occasional step back to check where you are at, where you are headed, and whether you need to re-evaluate your direction. It’ll help you stay on track.
The Nike Principle
Now that you are quite sure that you’re willing to put the effort in and you have something to say and some vague kind of plan, you need to employ the Nike Principle TM in full force (does anyone even wear Nikes anymore?) and just do it.
Go for it.
Some practical advice: Choose your domain name wisely. I know I’ve already said this but you will regret Jesus’-Special-Jeremiah-29:11-Princess.wordpress.com. *Your Name Here* Writes is boring. Pick something with significance to you but not something you will cringe at later. Although Duties, Desires, Dreams was a reference to a no-punches-pulled sermon that changed my life, it was ditched because it sounded to much like an airy-fairy, girly, what-shall-I-do-with-my-life (with Tumblr quotes) site and I didn’t want to put people off with the title. Tarland Cow was too obscure, and The Mid-Atlantic Speedbump was the name of a band we never got around to putting together as kids.
K.A. is hard to remember/spell but it sounds smart because it is Latin (except that it’s not, taking the mick out of blogs like Via Crucis or Semper Reformanda) but it also contains a family joke. It won because it sounded serious but with an element of quirk and I haven’t regretted it yet.
Another tip is that you should consider who you want to host your site. Blogspot is free., as is WordPress. They’re the major two. I used to use blogspot under a different name but moved to WordPress at the badgering of a friend and actually he was right, it is simpler to use and looks far better. It’s also much easier to run (I can find where all my posts are!) and it’s easier to follow other bloggers.
You may have surmised a bias. Good deduction skills Watson but it does come from trying both. Have a look at blogs that you like and go with whatever you like the look or feel of better. Don’t go Premium in your first few years, there’s absolutely no need. Free is more than adequate, it’s quality stuff.
Lastly, make use of categories, tags, and featured images but keep them well organised, you’ll thank yourself after about fifty posts.
Pexels.com is your best friend for free stock images and lightstock occasionally has some good stuff too but only some of it is free. Always check how your themes will look on tablet and mobile (these options are at the bottom of the customize toolbar on WP) because that’s what most people use now.
That’s plenty to get you started. One thing before you go though, read widely. Follow other people if you like them or find them interesting, even if they write on a completely different topic. The more you read and write, the more you will develop as a writer.
Besides, there’s so much fascinating stuff out there, it’s an excellent educational opportunity.
Anyway, if you decide that blogging is for you, or if you already have a blog, please put a link to your site in the comments whether you follow K.A. or not because I’m curious and I like to discover new things and new writers. I’d love to read your work.
All the best in your blogging endeavours and if you remember nothing else, remember these two vital principles: Never ever begin with ‘Dear Reader/Follower/Friend/Diary/Cyberspace/Interwebs/People of the Interwebs. Please. Don’t.
And enjoy yourself!