So You Wanna Blog? Part 1

I’ve been blogging here for about six years (here's my very first blog post).  I’ve come to really enjoy it and find it a useful means of exploring different ideas, sharing interesting things, and engaging in occasional dialogue.  I’ve had a variety of ideas about why I blog over the years but have largely settled into blogging as a practice of writing and reflecting for myself and if others join me—hey, that’s great!

In fact, it's taken years to figure what my blog is about and how to best use it.  It’s largely about coming up with prompts for myself—which to the general reader is probably a bit eclectic:  what I'm reading, things I'm seeing (wow--now that I think about it, that's pretty boring--oh well, I still enjoy the act of blogging).  

Getting Started...or Not

The hardest part of any blog has been keeping it going.  Most blogs die quick, lonely deaths in the first months of their creation. I stumbled a lot with my blog in the first few years.  I’d post a few things and then not come back for weeks (even months!).  But three things happened that helped me get a focus. 
  • Thing #1:  I took a course where we were required to blog regularly.  So, now I had to post regularly on a topic (what I was learning) and thus, began a series of posts called, “Adventures in Learning." his led to:
  • Thing #2:  Realizing that serial posts are useful and if there are things I do regularly, I can make them into series that I regularly post about.  From this followed:
  • Thing #3: I decided to do year-long projects or my 365 Projects—where I attempt to do something every day for a year. 

 Now, I have an abundance of things to post about, whether it’s short stories, photos, running, or different recommendations.  This means I’m rarely at a loss of what to write about and the bigger challenge is about time. 

What to Blog About

Word cloud of this blog post
However, I recognize that my focus is really an out-of-focus approach.  My blog is a smorgasbord of content and I’m sure that dissuades some readers from subscribing.  That's where I work best but that might not be where every blogger works best.  If interested in blogging, my first recommendation is to brainstorm what you want to write about or what you want to explore through your writing (recognizing that they are two different things--the first creates you as more of an authoritative voice and the second as an explorer and sense-maker).   You might consider blogging on that which is directly tied to what you do in a professional sense (highly recommended for people trying to improve their employment opportunities) or to something completely different (the internet can always use more cat blogs--really, I'm a firm--and biased--believer in this).  

When you have a topic or area you want to explore in hand, you really should brainstorm the hell out of it for numerous different ways you can write about it. Here, I highly recommend Chris Brogan’s blog and his book, Social Media 101.  He has a series of different posts/chapters that help generate topics.  Ultimately, you need to come up with both 1-shot posts and series of posts that you could produce with it.  

For instance, if you were into Canadian comics, you could do any of the following:
  • Themed-posts tied to several classic or modern titles.
  • Compare and contrast of a title from the past and present.
  • Weekly or monthly close-reads of specific titles series or just a random title each month.
  • Top 10 lists (Favorite 10 moments in Canadian comics, 10 best artists in Canadian comics, 15 times I wanted to give a character a hug, 10 Facepalm moments when reading Canadian comics, 10 things you find in every Canandian comic).
  • Reviews of different authors' life-works.
  • Interviews with Canadian artists & authors.
  • Contrasts of Canadian comics with other countries' comic output.
Basically, you want to have a bunch of different ideas for posts and particularly easy-to-repeat posts (e.g. weekly reviews), so that you can spend less time thinking of what to write about and essentially, create a writing schedule of what you want to cover and when.  

Keep Committed, But Don’t Get Committed

My next recommendation is to not go hog-wild.  Don't be overly ambitious in your writing and try to do 5 posts a week.  Start slow with a post a week or every other week.  Ease into the rhythm of posting but make sure you make a commitment to do it regularly and schedule accordingly or it's likely to fall by the wayside.  In truth, most blogging platforms allow you to write and schedule the post to be published at a future date.  Take advantage of this and if you feel like you can write 10 posts in a single day, then write them and schedule maybe 2 a week.  This gives you 5 weeks to produce new content.   For instance, this year, I've already written about 150 of the blog posts that will be published.  By pre-loading them, I know that I have content for much of the year and can focus on other things (like teaching, learning, working, etc).  Spread out the blog posts until you know what kind of consistent rhythm you can have with your blog.    

Another consideration is to not be afraid to recycle or connect to your content elsewhere.  For instance, whenever I have something published on another site, I’ll include a snippet here.  These are easy posts and help you to turn your blog into your ongoing writing portfolio.  It’s also useful because you may have readers interested in checking out other work by you. 

Do It For Johnny!—No, No, Do It For You

Another consideration is to realize that in many cases, you will not have a huge audience.  It will take time to get an audience.  As I've said, I've been doing it for about 6 years and am only now getting about 8,000-10,000 visitors a month.  Many of them come to my blog and leave rather quickly.  So I tend to encourage people to not think about blogging for anyone else but themselves.  If others show up, great, but in the meantime, it's your own thing.  There are definitely ways you can expand your audience but I always recommend you focus on writing and worry less about the audience.  Otherwise, you're constantly hunting for numbers and that game gets old quick.  

So that's my first go round with this topic.  Keep an eye out for my next post, where I covered some of the content you might want to include in your blog posts.  If you don't want to miss it, then mayhaps you should sign up for the newsletter?

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