Musings from the ever-changing, ever-amazing and occasionally ever-baffling Fort McMurray, Alberta.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Blog It

It is one of those emails I get on occasion, asking for some help. They aren't asking about helping to promote an event or a cause, though. They are asking about how to write a blog - or more specifically how to write a successful blog.

This question always stumps me a bit, because I am not certain you can aim for success in this blogging world. One of the most profound things I have ever had an interviewee say to me during an interview was that one shouldn't chase success but chase excellence, as excellence usually results in success. I thought that was a very inspiring thought when I heard it and I still do now, because I think chasing success is a waste of energy. I think we need to pursue excellence, and then see how it all unfolds.

Now, this question has come up often, the "how do I write a blog" query. And I always respond in the same way:

1) Just start writing
2) Write when you have something to share
3) Stop worrying about how many "hits" you are getting

To break it down further:

1) Just start writing

This is the most basic and fundamental. The first blog post can be an awkward thing (and if you don't believe me go back and read the first five posts in this blog). But every journey needs to begin somewhere, so you need to just start. Decide what your focus is in the blog (is it a community blog? Lifestyle blog? Fashion blog? Complaints blog?) and go with it. Over time you may deviate from the original focus, but that's okay as this is just a place to begin. You also need to decide if you want to be known as the author or be anonymous, which can be a tougher decision than you anticipate. I originally intended this blog to be anonymous, but the decision to attach my name and identity to it was one of the best decisions I have ever made, as I think it led to increased credibility of my words (and accountability, too, which should never be taken lightly).

2) Write when you have something to share

People often ask "how often" I blog, and if I have some set number I try to achieve. The answer is no. I believe numbers are restrictive and can result in a writer just trying to fill space instead of sharing content of value and meaning. I blog when I have something to share that I feel needs to be shared, either because it is of value to someone else or value to me. If you are just filling space there is a risk people will just stop reading, because we all know our time is precious. I can't say that every post I have written over three years has value to every person who reads it, but I hope every single post had value to someone. And remember, too, that you are responsible for all the content you create, anonymous or not. This means you are legally responsible, and so you should use good judgement when sharing information or thoughts. This doesn't mean you are restricted in what you say, but rather that you need to carefully consider how you should say it (which in the end helps with that whole pursuit of excellence aspect, too).

3) Stop worrying about how many "hits" you are getting

Don't look at your blog statistics in the beginning - and I mean that. It can be a bit depressing to see that something you have written is getting little traction, especially when you have invested your time and effort. But if you are blogging because you are sharing things of value and because you enjoy the experience then the number of "hits" or "views" becomes immaterial. If you find low numbers initially discouraging it may keep you from continuing to write, but then you are chasing success, and not excellence. Chase excellence, produce good content that matters to you and might resonate with someone else, and those hits will go up. As an aside I check my blog stats about every two weeks, mainly because I often forget to check.

And finally I would add this:

Enjoy the experience.

If you find blogging a slog or a chore, or if you feel pressured to write it, you won't enjoy the experience. I admit that I am addicted to blogging, and find that I am often so anxious to share a story or a post that I can think of little else until I hit the "publish" button. But if you find that blogging just makes you feel anxious, and not in a good way, it might not be your medium.

And so there is my answer to the question "how do I blog?", shared here so that in the future when replying to these occasional emails I can simply say "hey there, here's a link to a post where I share my thoughts on this!" - and then I can go write another blog post instead of a long email explaining how, and why, to chase excellence on a blog.

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