Like my waistline this time of year, I've let the old blog go a bit. As such, I'm looking for ways to inject new life into Ye Old Web Diatribe Device to start the new year off on the right foot. One thing I've decided to do is start a new regular (hopefully) series on the science of blogging.
Not that I'm going to speak from a position of expertise. 300 followers do not an army--or a Kardashian--make, after all. I'm just going to talk about things I've noticed and/or tried in the name of blogging. Hopefully it'll prompt some discussion and we'll all learn something. At the very least it'll give me something to talk about on more than a semi-annual basis. (Okay, I haven't been THAT bad. But it feels like it.)
First up: BLOGGING IS HARD
There, I said it. It's painful to admit, I think, because it isn't supposed to be difficult for a writer-type. Our lives are consumed with figuring out how to communicate thoughts and ideas via words. Consequently, filling a blank screen with a few paragraphs 2 or 3 times a week should not be difficult. Or at least it shouldn't appear to be difficult. There's proof. The best blogs seem effortless:
They are ALWAYS clever.
They are ALWAYS important.
They are ALWAYS on topic.
They are ALWAYS on schedule.
To make it worse, the Web is chockablock full of these ace blogs. Don't know about you, but my blog reader list is absolutely running over with folks who make this stuff seem like cake. Seriously, I think some of you must have teams of ninja elf idea generators chained in your basements. Their only job is bring you great ideas for blog posts. If you don't like them, you feed them to the Kraken. (The idea, not the elf. This is a family blog...) You make it look that easy.
Me? I've got no elves or ninjas (or Krakens .... damn). I've only got me, a desk, a computer, coffee, two extremely lazy dogs and a
Self - "Oooo, a new comment on one of my blog posts!"
*Clicks to check e-mail*
Self - "That's really sweet, but I wrote that blog post like a month ago. This person is seriously late to the party."
*Hits 'reply' to fire off a thank you note. Types 3 paragraphs of exceedingly witty e-mail before realizing they don't have an e-mail account linked to Blogger. Curses. Decides to go directly to the blog post and click their profile to leave a comment on their blog. Realizes that month old blog post was actually the last time I posted. Curses.*
Self - "I've got to post something new. Like now!"
*Checks Twitter feed for interesting topics. Spends 4 days drafting 15 page opus-post on the dangers of over-indulgent writing. Gets distracted reading other blogs. Realizes someone else said exactly the same thing about over-indulgence two days ago. Curses.*
Self - "Guess I'll blog about how screwy the publishing business is right now. Again."
My point is that this isn't exactly a painless process. I also suspect I'm not alone in thinking so. So if blogging isn't easy, but it's supposed to look easy, what's to be done?
Here are some things to try that'll make people think you know what you're doing, even if you don't:
(NOTE - I probably fail on some level at all of these. See # 5 to get the point.)
1. Read Other Blogs: Read the good ones. Read the bad ones. Learn. Learn. Learn. Don't just read for content. Read for presentation. Read to see how others infuse their 'voice' or style into their blogs. Good habits rub off, just like your momma said. Apply any and everything that looks like a good idea. The key to looking like a pro is emulating one.
2. Routine: Yes, blogs can become stale very quickly (both in the reading and the writing of) when they get overly structured. (Think about bloggers who post daily and every day is dedicated to a specific thing. If you're not a content blogger, I'd advise against that.) However, having some sort of schedule or routine creates the feel of something dependable and professional. Pick at least one post each week that will have a reoccurring theme, refine it until you do it very well, and then never let it die. A percentage of your followers will come back every week just to read that one feature, and they'll typically look around to see what else you've been up to. (I know, because I do it as a reader.)
3. Title Your Posts Well, & They Will Love You: When you have 200 to 300 blogs in your reader list, you just can't get to everyone all the time. What do I do? I cherry pick, of course. Looking at most recent posts, I usually start with the bloggers I'm most familiar/friendly with and then I look for interesting post titles. I'm not suggesting utter sensationalism in your titles for the sake of getting a click. (I've seen this, and it ticks me off a little.) You have to deliver on what you promise in your titles or that one click won't yield a comment. Worse still, you might even lose a reader. Try for something catchy AND relevant.
4. Always Make A Point: Speaking of titles, always have a point to a post. I'm not talking about preaching, either. I'm talking about having a clear idea of what you're hoping to communicate when you start writing. It can be a GIGANTIC concept, or could be to simply tell people that you really loved the most recent book you've read. Either way, simply knowing what you want to say before you start will always yield a more polished result. Understand that you'll sometimes nail it, and other times miss. The effort you put into trying to convey a message will always be evident, however.
When you're done drafting, re-read your post and make sure your point is conveyed.
5. Never Quit: Blogging isn't an exact science. Readers are fickle. Some will leave you if you talk about having a martini, others will love that you're a wino. You're not going to fit everyone. The way to get around this is to keep putting yourself out there so the people you do fit can find you. You don't get to be a great shrimper by casting out your nets once a season, calling it quits when you only drag back an old tire and a handful of shrimp. You keep trying new areas, new tactics, until something works. Blogging is the same. You'll fall off the horse. You will. You just have to keep trying. Nothing says professional like persistence and dedication. After all, you can't raise a garden by sittin' in the shade.
What about you? What do you do to make blogging easier?