When I look at the blogs I link to on this blog it saddens me that few have recent postings. Many lie dormant for weeks or months or even forever, blogs once started in good faith or with high hopes. The reality is that blogging is not what many people think it is. These are the most frequent questions I get asked about blogging, and I am answering them here as this week alone I received six emails all about the art of writing a blog.
1) How do you write a successful blog?
You don't. Nobody knows if a new blog will be a success and success is a very relative term. One of my favourite quotes from an interview I did once was: "chase excellence, not success." What does success mean to you? To me it has always just meant enjoying the experience of blogging and the outlet it provided. This blog was never an attempt to "make a name", "be popular" or be anything other than a place I could share my thoughts and exercise my passion to write.
2) Is a blog work?
Damn skippy it is and anyone who says it isn't has never tried it. Blogging is a commitment and it takes time, particularly in the beginning. I think this is why so many new blogs run into trouble - people realize it's just not as simple as they thought it was and that a good blog takes time, the kind of time some may not have to spare.
3) Should I start a blog?
Only you can answer that. Why are you starting one? Is it because the experience will have value for you? In my opinion that is the only reason to start one, because if it has no value for you as a creative or expressive outlet and you are starting one for any other reason (success, fame, impact on others etc) you will get likely get discouraged easily because even if you find those things it's unlikely you will find them right away.
4) What makes a good blog?
Content matters. It needs to be interesting if you want others to read it, although if you are writing purely for the joy of writing then the content should be whatever makes you happy. Writing matters, too. There is nothing wrong with writing a post in a word processor and running a spelling and grammar check and then pasting it into the blog. If you do hope others will read it then making sure the spelling and grammar are clean is a good start. Besides, part of the joy of writing is honing your skill, so you can use a blog to get better at writing, too.
5) Can you make money blogging?
Yes, but I don't. I've had several offers to advertise on this blog, some quite lucrative, but I've always said no because I blog for enjoyment, not cash. Others do earn money blogging, but those that do have worked towards excellence to find that success.
6) How do you start a blog?
The technical side is easy: choose a blog provider and set it up. The art is tougher as you need to figure out what you want to say. What do you want to write about? Do you want more of an online journal or more of something you share with the world? If you want to share it then social media, like Twitter and Facebook, are your friends for sharing blog links.
7) How do you keep it going?
This is where so many blogs falter. They start strong, then the posts begin to diminish in number until they stop entirely. You keep a blog going because it has value to you. If the only value is how many readers you attract or comments you get then it may well be very discouraging in the beginning. This all goes back to why you are blogging. Are you chasing excellence or success? Blogging needs to make you happy or you just won't make time to do it, period. Blog about the things you are passionate about. Don't try to force yourself to blog every day or hit a set number every week, because there is no joy in that. And if it is not making you happy? Time to evaluate why you're blogging and if it still has value and meaning to you. If the answer is no then is it truly a good use of your time?
8) Why do you blog? Why did you start your blog?
This is the one I get the most. I blog because I love to write and because I saw a niche to be filled. I wanted to blog about life in Fort McMurray, not in a journalistic style or about industry or environment, but in a personal way about being a mother, resident and person living in a community that is both unique and similar to every other community in the country. I didn't start writing it to be successful or even to attract readers, although I am very satisfied with the level of success and readership this blog has found. I started it because I needed a place to share the stories of my life here and because I enjoy writing.
9) Will you ever stop blogging?
I don't know. But I know that the moment I stop enjoying it, find it a distasteful chore or find myself resenting it is the moment I will take a break from it at the very least, because that would seep into my writing as I am absolutely terrible at hiding anything in my written work. I also know that in order to enjoy the process I must stay honest to myself and blog in the way that is authentic and real for me, which means some others may not like what I write or how I write it. Tough beans, they can start their own blog and learn what it means to blog.
10) How do you handle criticism?
I've been asked this one by adults and even a Grade Four student. It's all about being authentic and realizing in the end I answer primarily to myself. I look at every criticism individually and evaluate it on a case-by-case basis. If there is value in it then I may need to reconsider my comments or my thoughts on something. However, criticisms of myself as a person are often more reflective of the nature of the one criticizing and not myself, and I tend to be more dismissive of those. Some people can't handle anyone who expresses opinions that differ from their own and tend to attack writers on a personal level for having the audacity to do so. Again, if at the end of the day I've been authentic and genuine then I have nothing to regret (and besides over time spent blogging you learn you will never, ever please everyone).
I have been writing this blog now for over three years. Every day somewhere between 600-800 people visit the blog, and I'm now bordering on 600,000 lifetime views. I am undoubtedly pleased with these numbers (ones I just checked for the purpose of this post as I rarely check my own stats) but the joy isn't in the numbers. The joy has always been in the writing and creating. That's why I blog, and that's why I have been able to keep it going this long. I enjoy the experience, which I suspect is why people enjoy the blog. The reality is that even if I hadn't found some degree of success I would have kept blogging as it goes right back to why I started it, which was all about finding a place to share my stories of life in Fort McMurray. I am just incredibly grateful that I have been blessed with so many readers who took time out of their lives to read the blog posts that I took the time to create. To me blogging has been an incredible journey, and I am so happy that it seems much of the road is still ahead of me. I've never blogged for anyone else - just for myself, and perhaps that is the best reason for why I blog.