You know what really grinds my gears? The number of holier than thou, “tough love” posts I’m seeing lately criticizing others for “doing it wrong” when it comes to social media. What’s sad is, I’m seeing these posts from reputable, high profile people in this space. While perhaps their intentions are good, I think that most times, posts that simply call people out for doing things a certain way online are not helpful. In fact, if I were a new blogger just starting out, I’d probably read this stuff and never open WordPress again, for fear of “doing it wrong” in the eyes of the so-called “gurus”.
So, I’ve decided to put together a post about what you’re doing right as a new blogger, along with some advice I hope might be helpful to you. If you’re just starting out, or even just thinking about beginning to blog, here are a few things to guide you along the path.
1) Stop listening to the so-called “gurus”.
There are mountains of advice on blogging out there. There are even entire blogs devoted to the art of blogging (how meta!). Some of it is very wise, but I find about 80% of it to be misguided shlock. They will tell you to only write list posts (you know the kind – “The Top 97 Ways to Write a Better List Post”). They tell you that you MUST blog at least 3.5 times per week or you’ll FAIL. Stop listening to these people.
Who should you listen to? Well, there are smarty pantses out there like Mitch Joel, Christopher S. Penn, and of course, Chris Brogan. But don’t expect them to provide you step by step instructions on how to write a good blog. Instead, watch how they do what they do. Look at their writing style, and how they leverage outposts like Twitter and Facebook to promote their blogs. I’ve learned more about social media just from watching these three people operate than just about any other way.
2) Carve out a space.
Maybe you’re in that place where you really want to start blogging, but you’re unsure how to take that first step. Don’t overthink this step. Just carve out a space. I recommend, if you’re a total first-timer, using WordPress.com, but you could also check out Tumblr and Blogger and see if they might be a fit for you too. The point is, just set something up (you can always get rid of it or migrate it to another platform later). Sometimes just the act of creating a new account on a platform can be enough to get you excited about the possibilities. Don’t worry about having a perfectly finished blog right out of the gate. In fact, half the fun is watching it evolve. But just start. Go create an account. It will help you get excited about what’s possible.
3) You, no YOU – have a LOT to offer the world.
One of the biggest issues with blogging is that we continuously compare ourselves to others. We see someone who has a big, established blog, and think that if we can’t be that person, then it’s not worth even starting. But the truth is, there are thousands of small blogs out there that are just as utterly compelling as those big, high traffic ones. Two that have inspired me are Science and Story and 300 Words a Day. They are both small blogs and their authors (Arlene Smith and Jon Swanson, respectively) are not full time bloggers – they are people who are passionate about writing and communicating and sharing stories.
I know that if you’re still reading at this point, you’re passionate about something too. You have a lot to offer the world, in particular because you have your unique story to tell. Blogging is a way you can start to discover your own story and share it with the world. It can help you figure out what you think about things, and sort through your ideas.
Repeat this to yourself…I have a lot to offer. I have a lot to offer. Don’t let fear of the unknown hold you back. Don’t worry if you don’t get 1000 or even 10 or even 2 people to read your posts – heck, send your posts to me, I will read them. See? You just got your first reader. Just sit down and start writing. Show the world who you are. We want to see.
4) Do what works for you.
There are plenty of “blogging best practices” out there. I have written some myself. I coach clients on them all the time. But there comes a point when all the best practices in the world won’t get you sitting at the keyboard. Maybe you think you can’t find the time. Maybe you think you’re not a good enough writer. Maybe you’re just downright scared.
As for time, figure out what works for you. Maybe you’re a morning person, like me (I write most of my posts between 5 and 7am). Maybe you’d rather sit down after the kids go to bed. Maybe you can bang out 3 or 4 posts during an extended visit to your local coffee shop. Whatever you do, fit it into your schedule the way it works best and don’t let anyone tell you different. Aim for 3 posts a week, or one. Or every day. Or twice a month. You’ll figure out the best frequency for you, but only…ONLY if you sit down and try.
If you don’t think you’re a good enough writer to blog, consider this. I almost failed English in the 11th grade because my grammar was so poor. Now I write for a living. It took a lot of hard work and practice but I did it. Practice is key. My writing is FAR superior now to what it was when I started blogging in 2006. And what better way to practice than to just start blogging!
Oh, then there’s that whole fear thing. This IS where I tend to get a little “tough love”. I believe about 99% of people who want to start blogging don’t ever do it because they are scared. Scared no one will read. Scared of not being good enough. Scared to be vulnerable.
Every time I hit publish I get a surge of energy, that little bit of fear welling up. What if it’s no good? What if I get laughed at? But every time, I hit publish anyway. Why? Because nobody ever got anywhere by letting fear take control. Because this blog has been one of the most important tools I’ve used to grow my network and my career in the past 6 years. And because if I didn’t have this space, I’d have nowhere to compile my thoughts.
So lose the fear, get over it. Just start writing. Just hit publish. Do it today. And send me your link, you already have a reader.
[image by SweetOnVeg]