Recently I’ve written about maintaining your blogging focus, I frequently advocate smart time management and why you should plan things out (even though sometimes the best plan is not having one), and a couple weeks ago I passionately shared my advocacy for the blogging platform as a means to (literally) “change your life“. Serious shit people.
Through the past year (yes we’re finally only a couple days away from the big ONE YEAR ANNIVERSARY here at Life Without Pants – if you can believe it’s only been a year) – I have received countless emails and have sat down with some amazing, passionate, articulate people that all present the same dilemma:
“I want to start a blog but I don’t know what to write about”
So, I get it – I understand that starting a blog is a daunting task and when you go and read this “big names” out there – you can’t help but think “I’ll never be where he/she is”. I’ve been there, and every other blogger out there was there once, even the big-wigs up at the top sipping Mai Tai’s while they have other people ghost writing, pretending to be them. Oh yeah, it’s out there people. (Anyone want to ghost write for Matt Chevy? Now taking applications).
Here is a basic rundown of objections I commonly come across (which are all extremely valid) – and more importantly, how to overcome each one:
You don’t have to focus on one topic
We all think that a blog has to have a specific purpose – that it has to be about ONE thing and speak to one very targeted audience. The more you dwindle on this – the more you try to force yourself to only focus on one thing, the faster you will get burned out. I’ve been there, thrice times. My first “blog” was about sustainability and green business – It lasted 6 posts. The second, a sports blog – lasted less than a month – no one read either, and I was bored to tears writing for both.
Then came Life Without Pants, started in a time of much transition and (as many of you folks in Chicago know) I was in a very different place then – a networking machine, with no job, no money, moving to a new city, needing to put myself out there as much as possible (and probably annoying some people in the process – but we’re friends now, so it all worked out). So, looking for a job in online marketing, I thought it only natural to focus on all things Social Media, Web 2.0, etc – if you go back in the archives, you’ll see quite an evolution of style from month to month.
Again, I was getting burned out. Why? Because I have a lot of passions (we all do), a lot of interests, to rope them all down into one targeted topic just doesn’t do my mind justice. You HAVE to be willing and open to write about a multitude of things – and you have to get over the idea that you need to have a highly targeted blog. Yes, focus is important – but instead of trying to manufacture that focus from day one – let your writing “do the talking” and allow yourself to approach each blog post with a free attitude.
The focus, the relating it to your audience, developing your skill(s) as a writer, it all comes in time. I think (know) I’m a much better writer today than I was on day one.
You don’t have to be a great writer
So you really admire so-and-so here, or whatshername there – but the fact is, we/they may not be as good as you think. I’m young and totally inexperienced when it comes to this writing thing. Do I think I’m OK? Sure – but more importantly I know that I LOVE doing it – so even if the quality isn’t A+ every single day, even if I happen to use “your” instead of “you’re” – I love every minute of everything I write. Very little of what I’ve done here has felt like a chore – I haven’t had to sit here and manufacture anything for the sake of getting a post up.
It’s not about being good – it’s about being passionate, honest, transparent, and someone that other people can relate to, being opinionated and thought provoking – providing takeaways, and opening discussion. You do NOT have to be a quote “good writer” to be a good at this game. You don’t have to have a masters in Journalism to be a rock star in this scene. It’s all about being you, exuding passion that other people can’t help but connect with.
You do have to invest (some) time into it
A blog won’t run itself. Before you ever make the jump into the world of blogging you have to be willing to commit some real time to running the show. It doesn’t mean you should be giving something up, it doesn’t mean you need to become a hermit and do nothing but crank out brilliant blog posts – but consistency = success. I repeat, CONSISTENCY = SUCCESS. People want to know what (generally speaking) you’re going to write, and when you’re going to write it.
Don’t be the type of person who writes a blog post every day for a week, then falls off the face of the earth for the next month. If you think something like that is going to happen, if you anticipate a busy schedule ahead. Be smart about it and plan for the future. Write 5 blog posts this weekend and then schedule them to publish over the course of the next two weeks (everyone has done it folks – there’s nothing non-genuine about it). With a little up-front work, you can essentially coast and focus purely on that whole thing called “engagement” – or spend more time reading other people’s content – not to mention maybe doing more “IRL” stuff.
Before you set out to get started, and throughout the process, think about what makes sense for you from a timing perspective, and stick with it.
You have to make it past the three-month-milestone
This is my last plea to you. The first three months are going to sort of suck. No one’s going to read your blog, you’re traffic numbers are going to be low, and the only person commenting may be your mom telling you she likes the picture you used. Yeah, been there. It’s a tough stretch starting out, especially when you see all these other bloggers out there with their massive, thriving, interactive communities. It can be intimidating.
BUT, all I ask of you is that you keep at it – keep going strong – keep posting consistently – keep replying to all the comments that come your way – keep networking and getting involved with other communities. The more breadcrumb trails you leave around the web that direct people back to your neck of the woods, the better.
And, don’t be afraid to self promote – VERY few people are fortunate enough to start out with a booming community – your content isn’t going to be read if you don’t tell people to read it. BUT, the goal with self promotion is again, to create some awareness and buzz – you may have to lay it on thick to start, but as time passes, you’ll build a community of evangelists, loyal followers, and most importantly, friends – who will be more than happy to tell the whole world about you. Then you can sit back and put more focus on…yep, you guess it, WRITING.
The first three-six months are going to be tough, they are/were for all of us, but if you can make it through (which a high percentage of people don’t) the rest will come much, much easier and more naturally.
Stop doubting and start doing (you’ll be glad you did)
If you fall into one of these categories and aren’t sure what to do – I’d be happy to chat with you. To everyone out there: What advice would you give? What blogging obstacles did you overcome to get where you are today?