A Few Do's and Don'ts of Blogging
About seven weeks ago, I published my very first blog post.
I was terrified. It was the first time I’d ever shared my writing with the public. I was so nervous I didn’t tell anyone about the post for two days. Part of me hoped it would die a quiet, lonely death — just another unread blog written by some unknown wannabe writer.
But, come on, that’s asinine. Why put effort into something, only to wish it away? What the hell was I so afraid of? I mean, sure, I suppose someone could have pointed and laughed at me, but it’s not like I haven’t dealt with that before. (Junior High was a bitch.)
The thing is, though, no one mocked me. Once I shared my work on social media I actually got a lot of great feedback from friends and family, which encouraged me to write another post, and then another…
And suddenly I realized: I’m doing it! I’m writing! I’m doing that thing I always said I wanted to do but never did and it’s going well!
So, here I am, seven weeks and about a dozen posts in, and I’m kinda loving it. I’m a “Top Writer in Advice” on Medium (still not sure they chose the right person for that one), and I’ve learned a few key do’s and don’ts about blogging.
DO: Write Well, Publish Often
I don’t know the specific number of bloggers out there, but I’m guessing it’s somewhere around 40 bajillion.
If you want your words to elbow through all those other posts to get in front of readers’ eyes, you have to write well and publish often.
The first is pretty basic: craft coherent sentences, use appropriate punctuation, ensure words are spelled correctly. Write about what you love, what you hate, who you are — whatever the topic, let your personality shine through.
The second one is tough (for me, anyway). I’m not a writer who can just churn out thousands of words in under 60 minutes. It can take many hours, sometimes days, to complete a single post. Some writers can publish multiple (great) posts a day. I am not at that level of output yet.
But, I do try to publish two to three times a week. Given how limited attention spans are, I’m convinced my name and work will be forgotten if I don’t continue to get my writing in front of people. I’d like to eventually get up to publishing five days a week, but for now two or three is sufficient. Any less than that, and I feel like I’ll never build a following.
Which leads me to….
DON’T: Expect Your Friends to Care About Your Writing
Initially, members of your inner circle will read your work. They want to support you! They love you and think it’s great you’re doing this cute little writing thing! But soon, you may begin to notice your posts aren’t getting as many “likes” on Facebook. No one is re-Tweeting your articles, or highlighting any of your words.
And yes, it will hurt. At first, I felt slighted. I mean…
Who can I depend on to be a fan of my work if not my friends and family?
But then I realized —that is not the audience I’m writing for. I don’t want readers who only read my posts because they know me. I want readers who seek out my writing, who gain something from it, who appreciate the effort I’ve put into it.
It means SO much to me when a writer whose work I admire reads or highlights or claps for one of my posts. It’s enormously flattering. It means people who do this, who write often and read even more, approve of something I’ve published. They don’t know me, but they took time out of their day to read something I wrote, and I’m so grateful for that.
I have 138 followers as of today — not wildly impressive to some, maybe, but given that I started with zero and I don’t personally know most of my followers, I’m very happy with it. It’s nice to know my work is attracting other writers and readers, and not just people who are following me out of familial obligation.
"But, Sandy," you ask, "how might I reach these fellow writers and readers?"
DO: Promote Your Work Thoughtfully
There’s no point in promoting your work on your personal Facebook account if your goal is to gain a loyal following. I still share some of my posts, just to let my family know what I’m up to, but I figure the ones who really want to read my writing are already following my blog, and the ones who don’t care will just ignore the Facebook post anyway. And again, it’s really OK if they’re not interested.
I’ve learned it’s far more beneficial to spend time promoting work to people who will value it. I share on Twitter and Instagram, but where I’ve personally found the most success is through writer’s groups on Facebook.
I’m currently a member of about eight groups that focus on some form of writing (blogging, freelance, fiction). Each one has dedicated days allowing group members to share what they’re working on (Website Wednesday or Thriving Thursday, for example). Members are welcome to post a link to their writing for others to read. These are not “like for like” posts, either. They’re “please consider reading my work if you’re interested” opportunities. There are no expectations. But I’ve found work by many wonderful writers through these groups, and have had other writers begin to follow my work as well.
And once you’ve written and published…
DO: Join the Conversation
As I’ve said before, writers are a supportive group. We love the written word. We love to read. And we know firsthand how challenging it is to come up with original, compelling material for others to enjoy. Many of us suffer from Imposter Syndrome, too, so we get how scary it can be to put your work out there.
Engage with your fellow writers. Comment on blogs you enjoy, and respond to comments left on your posts. Become part of the community. Writing is a weird, lonely job. Interacting with others who get just how weird and lonely it is can make putting your work out there just a little less scary.