Blogging is awesome – it really is. Actually writing on the internet in general is pretty darn good and why wouldn’t it be? At no other point in history has a writer been given the potential to reach millions of people without a publishing deal.
Yet anyone can give it a go. All you need is a computer, an internet connection and a small dose of literacy.
It’s hard in the beginning though – you have no idea what to do and you’re not even sure anyone will want to read it anyway. I think every blogger has doubts about their work, inhibitions that have to be overcome and fingers that refuse to dance with the keyboard.
Here are 6 rites of passage that I believe every blogger must go through – well, that I went through at least.
1. Writing that very first post
I remember lying on my bed with, laptop inches away from my face, challenging me with a blank word document and a million ideas.
My fingers were touching the keys, lightly; prepared for the onslaught of inspiration that was inevitably just moments away.
I started writing – words came out and I had no idea if they were good, bad or ludicrous. I was now a blogger and it was a weird feeling.
I was essentially keeping a public diary – a diary where 99% of my potential readers were total strangers.
The ‘publish’ button did its thing and it was out there – forever in the internets, never to return.
Holy crap Batman!
Just do it
If you’re an aspiring blogger who is plucking up the courage to start the damned thing then the only advice I can give is to just do it. Who cares if it’s a work of art or the second coming of Michael Jordan’s Baseball career – You can’t write that awesome second post until the first is out of the way.
My very first post was written without much thought but I needed to get it done as I really wanted to publish my second post, which is what I consider the ‘official’ start of this blog.
2. Dealing with negative comments
This was something that I hadn’t given much thought to – I mean, who cares what I write about, right?
Negative comments are the best and worst part of any writer’s existence. Anyone who has spent 5 minutes on YouTube will know that regardless of which video you are watching, you know the comments section will soon descend into one-upmanship and casual racism.
In the old days, if you wanted to get away from a moron all you had to do was walk away. Now, they can get at you through the wonders of fibre optic cables and societies unfathomable tolerance of bad grammar.
Luckily I don’t get many abusive comments on this site, and the few I did get I just deleted as they didn’t enhance the discussion in any way. Don’t get me wrong, I will approve a comment if it totally disagrees with me but only if the spelling and grammar are somewhat decent.
The worst comments I have received were actually via my articles on Cracked.com – when articles you write get upwards of 4.5 million page views, you’re bound to upset somebody.
Don’t take it personally
These people have never met you –they will never meet you. Unless you are writing something to purposely provoke a reaction then the chances are that you had no intention of offending anyone.
The internet breeds trolls – it’s warmer than hiding out underneath a bridge. If it’s not you then it would only be someone else. They are the mental muggers who prey on opportunity – hoping to steal your happiness, if just for one day.
Don’t give them a second thought. You’re bulletproof.
3. The dreaded ‘writers block’
Sod it I’m going out.
Go and do something else
It’s ok to have a mental block. Everyone goes through it, because writing is pretty hard. They don’t tell you that though in those ‘WordPress user guides’, you have to find out for yourself.
Writing is a skill just like everything else and the more you do it, the better you will get. I have tried blogging just once a week and this causes my brain to seize up when the time comes to post something new.
The best way to overcome this is to write more often. The ability to think up some cool ideas and more importantly, the ability to put them onto paper (or Word) becomes easier with an increase in frequency.
Another, more interesting way to overcome writers block is to actually have something to write about. This means getting outside and generating new experiences that will translate into more interesting content.
Unless of course you’re blogging about blogging, and the only way to keep blogging is to write about the blogging you’re blogging about – which you can’t because bloggers who can’t blog due to ‘blogging block’ end up blogging off – a case of ‘blog 22’.
4. Guest posting
Guest posting is awesome when you first hear about it. You get to write for a much larger audience than you have thus far and this can generate new readers and subscribers.
Except the reality quickly dawns on you – it’s hard enough writing for your own blog, let alone for someone else. Then you have an idea – you will write boring and generic stuff so you get to keep your best content for yourself. Yep that’ll work.
No, it won’t.
The worst thing any blogger can receive is guest post submissions where it’s obviously spun content or the blogger in question hasn’t taken time to read your guidelines. I was guilty of sending some awful stuff out back in the early days and I learnt quickly. I’ve even received some submissions to this site where it was obvious the content provided wouldn’t fit with my themes.
The correct philosophy
It’s somewhat counter intuitive but the way to approach guest posts is to view it as a job promotion. Some of the most popular guest blogging platforms such as Pickthebrain or Changeyourthoughts receive thousands of page views every day.
You will gain more subscribers and more visitors to your own site by writing for one of the giants than if you published it yourself. It’s obvious when you think about it.
So when it’s time to write your next guest post, it HAS to be your best work. You have to regularly give away your best writing to be successful.
Mad isn’t it?
But don’t have a scarce mentality, have one of abundance. It’s ok to give away your best work because you will always come up with new, fresh content. If not then you will never succeed anyway. Believe in yourself.
5. Designing (and redesigning) your blog
Good God this subject is very relevant to me right now. If you’re a regular reader then you may have noticed that this blog looks a bit different now, and that’s because I have installed a new theme ($79) and fiddled about with some graphics and whatnot.
Hell, in other words.
I’m not one for taking a whole site down whilst I do my tweaking, that’s professional but way too much effort. I chose to do it on the fly (and hoped no one would notice), hmm this was a bad move.
It’s one thing designing a blog to start with, no one will see your awful initial attempts at positioning a logo or that horrid WordPress theme you used to have. Doing it now though, means hundreds of people stumbling on to your site and seeing the car crash that has just occurred.
In the last 24 hours (from writing this) I have experienced the following;
- A header logo that wouldn’t do what it’s told
- An email opt in form that wouldn’t work with Aweber
- An inability to put my Adsense banner where it used to be before changing themes
- Sidebars that are too small
- Figuring out how to create new widget areas
- Diving into the php and css to add bits of code
- Re-writing bits of info to fit within certain parameters
- Exchanging a crap load of emails with the support team and various forum members
I think it looks somewhat decent now, after about 16 hours of fiddling around, yet it still has a long way to go.
I’m getting there…
I also apologise to anyone who visited yesterday… it’s not always this horrific I promise.
It isn’t all bad though
The beauty of upgrading to a premium theme (I’m using Balance on the Genesis framework) and all the hassle that come with a redesign is that it’s a huge learning curve.
Before I started blogging I had no idea about php or css and what it did, but now I at least understand how it works, even if I still need a lot of help to figure out where to put the code.
I taught myself how to use Photoshop through the wonders of Google and YouTube and if nothing else, the problems that I have faced will give me confidence to tackle similar situations in the future.
6. That feeling of inadequacy
Recently I was doing a bit of research into what exactly separated the successful blogs from the ones that merely just sit there gathering internet dust.
One thing stood out – the biggest blogs have been around for a loooooong time. We’re talking 6-7 years in some cases and here I am, sitting here with a 10 month old blog and wondering why it’s not attracting thousands of visitors a day. Come here dammit!
Learn from the best
It can be daunting to compare ourselves to the A-list but they were in the same position – back when dinosaurs ruled the earth – but that’s exactly why we shouldn’t feel discouraged. It takes time to do anything worthwhile and it’s what separates the real deal from the ‘can’t be arsed’.
If you want to make yourself feel better, take a look through the archives of any top blog, back to the early days. What do you see?
I’m willing to bet that these first few posts were as awkward and haphazard as your own. Look at the comment counts and you will see how low they are compared to the hundreds some blog posts get these days.
Blogging is unique as there are very few areas where you get to see a step by step progress of someone’s ascendancy to superstardom (so to speak). Everything they have ever written is there to be picked at, dissected and learned from.
You may also notice that at some point in time things just exploded. Comments doubled, shares tripled and the writing got better and better. This is what happens when you gradually pick up subscribers and slowly rise up the Google rankings. One day a new article of yours will go viral and you’ll be amazed as to how quickly things grow after that.
I’ve had a couple posts go ‘mini-viral’, but I am waiting my first true break out post.
It will come… one day.
I want to hear your thoughts
If you’re a blogger and you know what it’s like going through these experiences then share your opinions below – good or bad.
Have I missed anything out?