A few of my writer friends have come to me recently asking how to blog. I know it can be daunting at first and there are so many questions! What do I blog about!? How often should I post? How will I get people to read my blog?
I'm hoping this post will answer some of those questions...
What to blog about. That's the fun part - you talk about your passions. Start with two things in your life: writing and... cooking; illustrating and... lizards; crafting and... hang gliding. You get the idea. You may be doing one thing a lot of other people are doing, but I bet you're doing two things that make a pretty unusual pairing that only you can talk about. How do they feed into each other? How can one influence the other making for a voice all your own?
Justine Musk recently did a great post on what the core of a blog should be at "Tribal Writer": "How to find a niche to dominate (& battle your way through the blogosphere)". She made some great points on figuring out your passions and tying them into your voice/your blog like nobody else can.
Things not to blog about... Your health, your family's health, your children, the three dating taboos - politics, religion, and old boyfriends (unless these things tie in with your overarching subject matter somehow). Actually, you can do all of these things, but don't expect a following. Blogging can be a personal diary, or it can be reaching out to new horizons. They are not the same thing. Do not confuse the two.
Of course, as with all hard and fast rules, there are some highly successful blogs out there that break these rules completely - but even they still tend to stay on theme. Just know, if you're going to have a blog about writing, people really don't want to hear about your kid who just threw up on the couch, or your herniated ulcer. And I think that's something that holds people back from blogging, anyhow. They think 'I don't want everybody to know all about my life'! Okay. So, don't share!
Despite posting every day, I am a very private person and there's a ton of personal stuff I don't share on my blog. That's not what it's about. My blog is about coloring pages, this crazy business, and all the weird and wonderful things I stumble across that make me smile. (You too, I hope.)
How often to blog? For beginners, I suggest once a week. Pick a day, any day, and blog on that day each week. Because part of gaining a following is by writing consistently. If you're still stumped on what to write about on that day, participate in one of the many online sites like Illustration Friday, Poetry Friday, or any number of similar groups.
For most people, I think two or three posts a week are absolutely fine - forever if you like. It's only those crazy obsessive types (like me) who post every day. And it's an obligation, granted a fun one, but it's not for everybody.
And here's a trick - under "Post options" Blogger lets you write a blog post and set it to 'go live' on a different date or time. Just click the button that says "Scheduled At," set your date and time, then hit "Publish Post." (This is not the same thing as "Saved as Draft" which you can also do while you're still working on a post.) It will then show up as "scheduled" in your "edit posts" list.
I will often set up a week's worth of blog posts on a Saturday or Sunday then watch them go live right along with all of you! (And here you guys thought I awoke all pithy and brilliant each morning at 8:00am... maybe I shouldn't have told you my secret...)
When not to blog? When you don't want to. Trust me, if you're being dragged into blogging kicking and screaming, it will be obvious and nobody will want to read. Blogging is supposed to be FUN first and foremost. If you hate it, don't do it. There are other ways to reach out, say through facebook or twitter.
How to earn readers: It takes TIME to build an audience. Readership will not happen overnight. I've been blogging (via several attempts) since 2004, you do the math! That means that while you're starting out, you have lots of time to mess up like crazy. Because you can always go back and edit or delete a post - even your biggest mess-ups don't have to hang around. That should take some pressure off, yah?
Still scared? Don't be! The thing about blogging is, it's addictive. Pretty soon the world will start appearing to you as potential blog topics. You'll think 'I can't wait to share that with my readers.' Or you'll want to blog about something so you know where to find it again - it becomes your own archive of groovy stuff. Or you'll be really excited for Thursday to roll around because that's the day the video about... whatever goes live.
Or you'll write articles like these that, with luck, somebody else will find useful. And maybe, just maybe, they'll come back for more.
UPDATE! Here is a great article on how to properly add images to your blog at Build Your Own Website: The Trouble With Pictures. Thanks to Notes from the Slushpile!