I’ve always thought blogging seemed a natural activity for writers. After all, it involves writing. Blogging also allows writers to become self-publishers and to get their writing read. Plus, for aspiring and published authors it provides an easy promotional tool because it doesn’t require doing anything very different than they already do. They simply need to write.
Yet, to my surprise, lots of writers don’t want to blog. Often the primary reason for this lies in the fact that they wanted to stick to writing their books. However, after reading today’s guest blog post from Shane Birley, co-author of the last three editions of Blogging for Dummies, I’m wondering how many writers are afraid to start blogging because they thing they will get addicted to blogging. Then they might leave their manuscripts unfinished not because of lack of time to work on them but because of lack of interest. They’d rather be blogging—and getting their work read immediately by their blog readers.
Shane is a Vancouver-based web developer, writer, blogger, technology consultant, and partner in Left Right Minds Initiatives. He’s also been my go-to expert for everything technical for my own book, How to Blog a Book. In this post he humorously alludes to the fact that blogging can, indeed, be so enjoyable, that we writers (eh…bloggers) want to do it all the time. However, he provides some tips to doing it effectively and keeping it fun and manageable. If you don’t have a blog, start blogging! If you have a blog already, keeping on blogging! In both cases, take Shane’s advice.
How to Have a Successful Blog Without It Taking Over Your Life
By Shane Birley
I am not going to lie. Writing and maintaining a blog community is a lot of work. It can be so much work that it can take over your days, nights, and weekends. You may even find yourself typing at an imaginary keyboard in your sleep. Just imagine for a second what that would mean for your romantic relationship.
Oh, go on, think about it.
What would it be like?
Would your spouse think it was cute that you air-type your blog posts on their left buttock every night? Would they decide to buy you a t-shirt that states “I’m blogging this” and give it to you for your blog-anniversary? Or are they the type of person who would not hesitate and call someone to take you away? In whichever situation you may find yourself, I can tell you that typing blog posts on my spouse’s behind is not something I will ever repeat again.
So, what am I trying to tell you?
If you decide to delve into the world of blogging, let me be clear: there will be many times when you’d rather be mowing your lawn, taking a ball-peen hammer to your own forehead, or climbing into a rock quarry in an attempt to re-enact your favorite scenes from Quest for Fire.
Basically, blogging can become an obsession for any person. No matter how reserved you think someone is or how “professional” they act, the moment you give them the tools to share a topic they care passionately about—they will go crazy. Maybe not padded-room crazy but crazy enough to make sure that everyone they come in contact with knows that they are going to blog something that day.
Sounds fun, huh? Sharing your knowledge with the world? But we all know that once you start sharing with the world, the world can bite the hand that feeds it. How can you make sure the world is behaving properly and isn’t attempting to bite you in the fingers or break into your home, grab you by the hair, and scream at you to get typing?
The things you will need to learn are: how to keep your creative drive going, how to mine your own ideas, and how to maintain a little bit of focus.
But who are we kidding, right? We all have busy schedules, but we know how motivated we can be. We also know how unmotivated we can be and how even the smallest distraction can derail us for days, weeks, or even months. How do you keep out of the deep end of blogging horror?
Content Is Still King
First, you need to realize what blogging is: It is about creation. A lot of people become obsessed with the tools and the “how to” of blogs. I see it time and time again. People become obsessed with the minor technical details. If you have good solid content that shares the details of what you are trying to express and do it in an interesting way, the details don’t matter. You will find the audience that all bloggers look for. There are no quick fixes in the creation of interesting stories.
SEO Can’t Save Your Boring Blog, So, Get Over It
Let’s face it. There are a whole lot of blogs that people stumble across that are boring and have very few visitors. No amount of search engine mumbo-jumbo will fix that. If your blog is unfocused and boring, no one will read you, link to you, or bother with you at all. One of the biggest obstacles to blogging is maintaining the creative juice, and many of my clients try to get around the fact that their blog is a boring mess and it is a wonder anyone visits at all. Some hard truths come out of the dark when people forget to write or record. They always turn to some web tool to help them get more readers. Sure, some of these tools open up your blog to new eyeballs, but, really, how long will that last? Will the blog posts somehow magically create new return visitors? The reality is, they won’t. So, don’t turn to technology to save your blog every single time you want more readers. What is it you are doing with your content? Is it time to invent? Is it time to try something new? Research some creative ways to display content or come up with something that you think your audience will like. Heck, why not ask them what they want to read?
Your Ideas Are Worth Something, Use Your Own Noodle
Mining content is awesome. Mining your own content is even “awesomer.” Fine! That isn’t a word, but it does express what I mean. If you have a blog and you write all of your own material, for every ten blog posts you write or record, there are at least another ten to twenty hiding between the lines. I see many people looking elsewhere to find things to write about. That is called reading and regurgitating. At least, that is what I see all the time. What about your own posts and how they provide you with additional posts? What is it you have to share with your audience that you aren’t sharing because you either wrote it too quickly or didn’t spend enough time on the third paragraph of that post you wrote last week? Here’s the trick: Dig in and read what you’ve written. Find out where the things you didn’t say all those weeks ago (or months!) are and dedicate a post to that thought you missed. There is always a new gem hiding in your content that you can’t see when you first click publish on your blog, a new bit of magic that will create new visitors.
Blogging is quite simple really, but it is also the hardest thing in the world. Don’t worry too much about the process. If you take some time, plan out what it is you want to do, and then commit to a time to write, take photographs, or record a little video or audio, you’ll do great.
As a great man once said:
“Ladies and gentlemen, take my advice, pull down your pants and slide on the ice.”-- “Sidney Freedman”
About the Author
Shane Birley is a Vancouver-based web developer, writer, blogger, and technology consultant with nearly 20 years of experience in building websites. As a partner in Left Right Minds Initiatives, Shane is now working to develop websites using content management systems where his clients can edit and update their own web content.
To help others understand more about the web, Shane gives workshops about technology, web communications and social media. He did extensive research for the published book BitTorrent for Dummies, written by local authors Susannah Gardner and Kris Krug, and has co-written the last three editions of Blogging for Dummies.
He has a background in improvisational theatre and a B.A. in English; these qualifications enable him to translate difficult computing concepts into easy plain language. Shane is a member-at-large for the board of The Karen L. Colussi Foundation, an organization which supports and encourages Montessori programs in Victoria, BC. He is also a member of the board for the Northern Voice Society, an annual blogging conference.