So, you want to start blogging. To which I say: Are ya sure?? Are you ready to be wiped out, tossed around, shocked senseless, thrown into the deep end of the Internet ocean– and love it? Oh ok, then, jump in! Here’s some help:
1. Start writing. Keep writing. Write some more. Are you spent? That’s nice– keep writing (or drawing or photoshopping, or whatever your primary content medium is). Come up with 5 posts you would feel comfortable showing your grandma, your boss, and the person you have a crush on. ‘Cause this is the World Wide Web, baby, and once you press ‘Post,’ there ain’t no going back. So, did you like all that writing? Could you do it next week, and the next and the next and the next? GREAT!! Now add at least 25% time for formatting, images, and the unexpected time-sucking details you never imagined would come up. P.S. This does not include outreach and promotion. Hey, just trying to be real with you.
2. Collaborate! Get a buddy who can share the load with you, or keep you accountable, or be a source of inspiration when you’re stuck. If you know someone else who is blogging–and that you can talk to when you need help and feel dumber than a brick–it helps keep you on the constant blogging treadmill. It also helps you sidestep the panic-inducing downward spiral of Internal Self-Doubt, because you can bounce an idea off of someone rather than chase all its myriad tails around your rapidly dwindling sanity. (Speaking of collaboration, check out the blog of my partner-in-crime, Vidya Spandana. She’s an entrepreneurial balllller!! And Kris Israel is my original blogging trainer. See the co-promoting? That’s tip 2b: Remember to share the traffic love and credit your sources of inspiration!)
3. Post, and let it go 🙂 Don’t attach traffic expectations to your posts, at least at first while you’re still testing the waters. Keep writing (see #1). Don’t give up on posts or hide them away because they’re ‘not quite there yet.’ That being said… if it’s really not working, chuck it. As you practice, you’ll learn the difference. Hold yourself to deadlines. It will be easier to focus your content and prioritize editing when you’re sweating like it’s your first paper of your first class of freshman year. (And hey, at least you know your writing is better now…hopefully…) Commit to following through with that last 10% or 15% percent, or whatever point at which you start to question the premise of your post. Keep writing, keep editing. Then post, and let it go. Note: Do track your views, but at 10 min, 30 min, and 1 hour after posting on social networks. Not, like, 30 times in the first 5 min. You’re just setting yourself up for disappointment. One more time? Post, and let it go 🙂 Ahh.. 🙂
4. Test-case your titles. Ask a friend or two (or the collaborator from #2) to vet your title. It’s hard to see the hook of your piece when your nose is pressed to the fish tank and you’re reaching over the top of the glass with an awkwardly bent elbow and your tongue is sticking out from ‘concentration.’ Just ask a fish! (a.k.a. someone in your intended audience.)
5. Trust the random urges. You never know where online traffic will come from. The bizarre interests that spark your curiosity probably don’t exist in cultural isolation. They might seem intellectually odd when you think about them too hard, but if they still just seem to ‘make sense’ or you have an unstoppable passion for writing about it, then do it. Those posts are the ones that often work a lot better than you thought they would. Example: I love fencing, and took it up in college. Around the 2012 Olympics, I wrote a blog post explaining the basics of fencing. It seemed odd at the time and off-topic for my blog, but I couldn’t sleep one night because the post was writing itself in my head. I peevishly got up, finished it over a few hours, and went to bed at 4 am. Sure, I was tired that day at work, but it’s been my most viewed post yet, generating views from at least 15 (and closer to 30) countries around the world every day. So random, soooo awesome.
6. Get ready for the rush. There’s NOTHING like watching the views pile up once you’ve found a miracle elixir of culturally relevant content, a great title, and well-timed promotion. It’s freaking MAGICAL!!! It’s almost as great as riding unicorns.
Here’s the flip side: For every intoxicating success, there are 4-5 mediocre post responses, and one dismally, soul-crushingly disappointing release. That’s the way it goes, at least at the beginning. But you will get better, and the victories are totally worth the failed attempts.
And once you start practicing, you can apply this NOTE of musical wisdom: The best composers know the rules well enough to break them. ;D
Meme of Ryan Gosling from lamiki.com; Smurphy riding a toy unicorn? That’s all original.