I’ve been contacted recently my any number of folks who have asked my advice about starting a blog. How do you do it? Why do you do it? How can I do it? I’d love to do that.
How hard can it be?
As a public service to everyone I’m going to spill my secrets. Let me preface by just how improbable it is that this space even exists after 6 years of plugging away. I don’t stick to anything, except for my marriage, this blog, fishing and hypochondria. But other that I rarely keep to a hobby or pastime more than a few minutes.
Here’s the bottom line for wannabe bloggers.
Seems simple enough. The more content you create the more people will find and read your site. Which leads to this law of nature that many wannabe bloggers seem to ignore;
THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A FREE LUNCH
I had a professor in college tell me that this one statement, this one rule, is in fact the single most important philosophic statement ever uttered. The older I get, the more I realize how right he was. It governs everything, from offshore drilling to poor eating habits to gerbil husbandry. In the blogging world I would interpret this to mean “content don’t write it’s self.” Amen brother.
It’s work to write. REAL WORK. One of the smartest men that I know, a brilliant research analyst with a high powered consultancy, a fellow with deep industry knowledge who people pay vast sums of money to have access too (which he doesn’t see all that much off mind you) hates to write. He’s got more content in his head than I’ll ever have but it’s not coming out on paper, except in short bits which are pried out of there by threats or coercion. My point being, before you go down this path, ask yourself, do I love writing? Do I REALLY LOVE writing? Not like, LOVE. Do I love it enough that I can sit down in my free time and pick up a computer and crank out 10 paragraphs about something? Can I do it every day? Every other day? Once a week? You have to be honest with yourself here. There are more abandoned blogs than there are active ones in the world. Have a great idea today, ask yourself, “what will I be writing about a year from now?” If you don’t love to write, this isn’t for you.
This where you might want to consider what the purpose of your blog will be. “Update my family” is a perfectly legitimate goal, but don’t expect to see your blog on the 100 most read sites in the United States. Unless you can expand that to entertain people.. Want to write a political blog? Again, what’s your point, why is anyone going to be interested in reading what you have to say about anything? Here’s a quick way to determine how interested folks might be in your thoughts, after all we all know folks who are sadly mistaken in the belief that they’re interesting.
If you often find yourself at the center of conversations, if you seem to know a lot about certain subjects and people like to hear what you have to say, your thoughts will translate well to the blogsphere. As long as you adhere to the last Golden Rule. Be yourself. Personally, I write as I think.. an ADD influenced stream of consciousness. One of the best compliments that I get, and I get it a lot is, “reading your blog is like sitting across from you at the coffee shop. You’re exactly the same on the blog as you are in person”. If you want write from a perspective other than your own, it’s going to get messy, and at some point will not sound sincere to your readers, and they will bail on you.
So uh, why do YOU do this Sank?
#1 reason- I LOVE to write. I legitimately love writing. I would do it 12 hours a day if I could. I’m passionate about it, I find it energizing, enjoyable, it fills my batteries if you will. When I’m not doing it, I think about doing it. And, I’ve been doing at it, one way or another for decades.
The other reasons are more narcissistic. I like the community that I’ve developed on Old and in the Way. I’ve made many connections over the years, lots of other bloggers around the world. Most whom have since given up on their blogs, but the contacts remain. Some have become as important to me as friends who I see everyday even though I ‘ve never actually met them in person. The reward for this is comments. At least for me, made more acute because I don’t have any other more tangible rewards.
Every blogger has experienced this, “Oh love your blog”, well I would sincerely hope that all of you who are doing this blogging thing have experienced this. That being said, it comes with a caveat, a couple times a week I get a nice note about how great my blog is from someone who really just wants me review their restaurant, listen to their new CD, turn my readers on to some great site that sells stuff. I don’t do a lot of promoting or reviews but I do reach enough people now that I’m a target for this social networking stuff. I don’t want to expound too much more on this since Ed over at The Deets has covered this already this week and I certainly don’t want to steal his thunder, I consider it flattery until I realize every other blogger I know recieved the same message. Not unlike the birthday card I get from my broker that says “Happy Birthday Gary H. Sankary” from your friends at Edward Jones. Well, it’s more than I get from my family so maybe I should just take shut up and be happy.
Some other thoughts on blogging-
The “lurker” community. You know who you are; readers, subscribers, folks that surf the site but never make a comment. I’m guess the ratio of lurkers to participants is getting to be almost 100:1. Not that I mind, until someone penetrates my veil of anonymity, people who live near me, work with or otherwise know in me “real” life who somehow have found the site and tell me they read it regularly. Now, it’s not like I’ve gone to great lengths to hide out, but for some reason I’m still surprised by these announcements.
Adam Carolla made a comment on his podcast that I think is 100% true. Success does not randomly strike people out of thin air. Those kids on American Idol who win the competition and go on to recording careers, they did not just walk into the audition and pick up a mic for the first time and BOOM. Contrary to the myth , to a person they’ve had years of voice lessons, coaching, practice.
Blogging is going to be like that for the newbie. You’re not going to get that WordPress account, open the blank page and get a 1000 readers a day. I would guess the first day, first week, you’ll be cranking content. Talk to me after 1500 posts and see if you’ve hung in there.
You’re going to have to write, and write, and write and post and post and post and keep coming up with great content, keep promoting yourself. Once you’ve made it a habit and you have people who are reading and interacting with your site, that’s when you can call yourself a blogger.