I have been blogging for a little over a year now and I thought it was about time to do some reflecting and take in some of the lessons I have learned the hard way.
Blogging is Fun, Until it Isn’t
I am always trying to get better at this blogging thing but I wish I could just be good at it now! I read other blogs where the posts all follow a central theme and everyone learns something and I wish my posts were like that. I wish I could inspire and engage with my readers better. I wish I had more readers and I wish I got more views and comments. I know these things take time and practice but that’s so hard! Sometimes it feels like work.
I have found that instead of comparing myself to others I should focus on finding my own way. When I was trying to emulate the bigger bloggers I feel like I forgot why I was here. I forgot what it was I wanted to say here. So now I write what I want when I want and I am grateful for every person who reads and comments. I may not have 10,000 visits a day but the few I have mean the world. They actually care.
You Must Write Everyday
Even if you don’t end up posting what you write you should at least try to put a post together everyday. Blogging is a habit, and so is not blogging. When it gets tough and you slack off you will get lazy and not want to write even when you do have the time. You will make excuses to make yourself feel better about it but after awhile you will just feel like you are failing. Don’t let that happen.
Life gets in the way though doesn’t it? There are times when you just can’t write a full post but you can take a few minutes to jot down an idea here and there, or at least start a post for when you can return. If you do nothing you will lose your ability to think creatively. When life calms down and you try to write again you will find that in your absence someone has erected a brick wall between you and you writing mojo.
Then you catch the dreaded writer’s block!
I learned that mobile apps are great for jotting quick ideas and writing a bit when the planets align and you get a free moment. They say you should write something like 750 words a day but they don’t say you have to do it all at once. I write whenever I can. I write on my lunch break, I write while I’m in line at Starbucks, I write while I’m supposed to be working on spreadsheets at my day job, hell, I write on the toilet. I write whenever I can and whenever an idea strikes.
Keep a Notebook on You At All Times!
I had heard this tip from other writers and bloggers but I didn’t understand why I should write in a notebook by hand when I have a perfectly good (and quite expensive) cellphone I can type on? That is until I read a few articles about the benefits of going old school. This one from Mental Floss mentions that writing by hand helps with learning, prevents distraction, keeps your brain sharp, and makes you a better writer!
I bought a three pack of pocket notebooks from Target a while back and I use them for when I’m not ready to start writing full sentences or paragraphs. When I might have overheard a conversation that inspired me or read an article that makes me question something and I need to capture it before my squish brain forgets it. I jot down the thought and when I get some time put more than a few words together I peek at my notebook and start writing a post.
I also found an old Moleskine notebook laying around the house and I plan to start old school journaling in the evenings. I want to be able to fill up a ton of notebooks with my day to day feelings I can look back on years into the future. Might even be able to pull a few blogging ideas from them too :)
Appreciate Your Readers
When someone takes the time out to actually read something you wrote and comment you should always think of that as an opportunity to engage in discussion and convert a reader to a fan. People are more likely to follow you and return to your blog time and time again if the feel welcome and important. That’s what I have heard anyway.
In practice I am very bad at this one. I often don’t reply to comments until days later when it is too late to have the conversation anymore. I am working on using the WordPress app more and it’s a convenient way to reply while on the go. I plan to get better at this and I apologize for not making the time before :(
Check and Double Check Everything Before You Hit Publish
You have typed up a post, you feel good about it and you are in a hurry so you hit the button, then you realize you forgot to check your spelling, you didn’t add tags, and you didn’t customize the sharing options. Now your post is out there on the internet and it looks like crap. You try to do some damage control. You delete it from you social networks, you edit it, you spell check it, and you update it, but still you worry, did someone see it?
I now have a check list I have to go through before I can hit publish. First I have to read it back to myself. I make sure it sounds right and I didn’t make any mistakes that spell check won’t catch. Then I use WordPress’ built in Proof reading tool. It catches a few examples of poor writing I may not have noticed. Next I check my tags and categories. I make sure to keep them simple, three or four tags and one or two categories, that’s it.
I recommend writing the step down so you don’t skip any steps.
And finally, Read as Much as You Can!
Reading is the key to good writing. You have to read people who are better than you in order to learn how to be better. You have to see what other people do in order to know what you can do. Reading is also a great way to gather a ton of inspiration for your own posts.
Every morning I read other blog and news articles. I use Feedly to gather it all into one place and I subscribe to many different types of blogs. I have categories for News, Lifestyle, Education, Productivity, Writing, Art, and more. I like to try mixing and matching things that work for different types of blogs and see what will work for me. I am also going to try writing post about my thoughts on things other people write about, or write response pieces.
I am beginning to read real books again too! I read fiction novels, I read science stuff, I read essay collections, I even read books about writing. I have started getting more comfortable with taking notes and highlighting in the books so my brain will take in the ideas and inspiration better. This is how you get better, by really paying attention to what others are doing and applying it to what you do.
None of this is new. These are tips that other blogs all over the internet have written about many times over but I have learned them from experience and we all know, experience is the best teacher. I have a lot more to learn, hell, I’m still learning these lessons too but I am learning. I hope you can learn a bit from my experience too.
Image via https://flic.kr/p/apaNvh