You’ve got the itch to blog, congratulations! It’s a wondrous thing. I started my first blog in 2006, and I have reaped rich rewards both personally and professionally. I use this blog as a bit of a sandbox – it’s where I experiment with new ideas and play around with features. Blogging helps me to sort out things in my head, and I love the opportunity to be able to publish in a public way.
I may not have the most subscribers. I may not get a tonne of comments on every post. The number of views I get on my posts is probably pretty average (with the occasional spike). But I deeply appreciate every time someone stops by to leave their thoughts, or shares my posts on their Facebook page or Twitter feed. I have grown to love being able to share my thoughts with the world in this way.
Starting up a blog, while technically very easy thanks to great tools like WordPress, is not without its challenges. There are myriad sites out there that will present long lists of best practices for running a successful blog. But sometimes all we really need is a kick in the pants to get us started. So consider this your kick.
Inspiration is everywhere.
Don’t tell me you have nothing to say. Inspiration is everywhere you go, in every part of your life. You just need to be aware. I find inspiration in all sorts of things. Much of the time it’s in my interactions with others. I will go out with a friend, or attend a meeting or event, or spend time with my family and before I know it, I’m observing something about myself or others that I want to write about.
Most of us just motor through our days so fast that we get to the end of it and we can barely remember what happened. Becoming more mindful is the secret to becoming a better blogger. Slow down and pay attention to everything going on around you. Watch people in line at the grocery store. Observe your colleagues in meetings. Sit on a park bench and just watch. Really listen to your friend when she’s talking to you. Before you know it, ideas will start to percolate. I will often wake up first thing in the morning with an idea in my head for a new post, especially after spending time doing things I enjoy. When inspiration and ideas hit, be ready. Carry a notebook or digital note-taking tool (I love Evernote) with you everywhere you go. When you get an idea, write it down. I have pages full of blog topics that are based on the experiences and observations I have every day.
Then when you sit down to write, you can just refer to your list and go nuts.
Don’t over-think it.
I know so many people who start up blogs and agonize over every little detail. Their design has to be exactly perfect before they show it to the world. Their posts have to go through umpteen drafts and rewrites before they are ready for prime time. Frankly, I think in many cases, this is a stall tactic. The longer you take to prep and primp your blog to perfection, the more you don’t have to actually hit that publish button and make yourself vulnerable to peoples’ opinions.
One of the great things about blogging is that it allows for a certain amount of spontaneity. While it’s true that some posts require more thought and research than others, the truly prolific bloggers are the ones who can get inspired, sit down at the keyboard, and bang out 500 or 600 coherent words in about 20 minutes. The secret to being able to do this is two-fold.
First, you need to stop over-thinking your posts so much. Just write. It’s okay to change things around as you go (I often find I’ll start writing and realize I’ve written the end of the post first and have to move paragraphs around, but that’s part of my process). But don’t agonize over every little thing. The best blogs have some element of “stream of consciousness” mixed with facts and opinions.
Second, you need to practice. Some of the posts I wrote back in 2006 are cringe-worthy. I hadn’t found my voice yet. They didn’t have much flow. The ideas were a bit muddled. But I published them anyway. Why? Because blogging is kind of like yoga. It’s about the journey, not the destination. Your Downward Dog will start out very differently from how it ends up after you practice, and your blog is just the same. But just like going to your yoga mat every day, you need to sit down at that keyboard and practice as much as you can. And you need to publish your work. Because keeping your ideas all to yourself won’t teach you anything. You need the feedback of others to keep growing.
Blogging should not be an arduous process. The beauty of the medium is that you can post about any topic you want, whenever you want. It’s a relatively informal platform, so people don’t mind so much if your sentence structure isn’t perfect. What they care about is that you cared enough to share something that’s important to you.
If you really want to blog, now’s the time to stop thinking about it and planning and trying to make it perfect. Now’s the time to just do it.
And one more thing – and this is true whether you’re writing for yourself personally or for a business – blog for yourself first. Do it for the pure enjoyment of creating something new and sharing it. If you create from the heart, the rest will follow. That I’m sure of.
[photo by Britney Bush]