A year ago today, I finally found the courage to press the button and publish my first blog post. When I talked about courage, in that first post, I meant the courage to proclaim myself as a writer and expose my writing to the world. Back then, I knew almost nothing about blogging. I knew that it was something writers were encouraged to do, but very little more than that. I also had those worries that any writer has: do I have anything to say, will anyone be interested, will I be laughed at, criticised or simply ignored? Who did I think I was, sending my writing out into the world assuming my words were worth reading? I’ll always be grateful to those first few bloggers who ‘liked’ and commented on that post and therefore gave me a little impetus to continue.
A year on, I’ve published 44 posts and out of all the creative decisions I’ve made in my life, blogging has been one of the best. Since I began, my creativity has flourished. I’ve never had more ideas than I’ve had in this past year. Although I’ve been writing since I was a child, I’ve never produced the same volume of new writing as I’ve done since I became a blogger. I’ve never been more disciplined in my creativity – knowing that I have to post every week and meeting those deadlines. In that first post, I said I was finally confident enough to call myself a writer. But blogging makes me feel like a writer, because now I do write, all the time, and I share what I write with others.
When I began blogging, I was just beginning to write again, after a difficult period in my life. Blogging helped me to enjoy writing again. It helped me to fulfil that compulsion to write that had been lying dormant. When I began blogging, I was also just beginning to really live again. And strangely, since I’ve begun to write about the world and the simple pleasures within it, blogging has made me appreciate them more. I can’t claim that blogging changed my life, but it certainly enhanced it.
I know a little more about blogging now than when I began, though I’m by no means an expert. If you’re thinking about starting a blog – do it! Have the courage to press that button. And perhaps these lessons I’ve learned in my first year as a blogger will help you.
Know your purpose – I began with the premise that my blog would be about creativity. I didn’t want to write a ‘how to’ blog, or a blow by blow account of my writing. I wanted to explore themes of creativity to help me on my creative journey. I also knew that I wanted to write about some of the things that inspire me, like nature and magic. Knowing my purpose from the start has helped me to develop ideas for posts. It helped me to focus and grow more confident, so that I now feel more certain of my identity as a blogger.
Allow yourself to evolve – Although the core purpose of my blog has remained the same throughout the year, how I approach it has evolved. I didn’t realise that I would enjoy writing about the seasons and the natural world so much – or, given that I live in an urban environment, that I would find so much to say about it. I’m sometimes tempted to write about current affairs, or random events, but so far, I’ve always resisted. To me, that wouldn’t be evolution, it would be a move away from what my purpose is. I’ve dabbled in other subjects – my dog, camping, family history – but in most cases, I’ve found a link to inspiration, to creativity….because that’s my core purpose. I feel that I’ve found a place now, where the natural world and natural cycles inform what I write about. This evolution happened without me noticing it at first and I have sometimes wondered if I focus on it too much, but it feels right so I’ll continue for as long as that’s true.
Consider how you want to present yourself to the world – For me, blogging is presenting myself to the world as a writer. It’s the only online platform I use to display my writing, so my aim is for it to be a quality experience. I approach each post as I would any piece of writing. I draft it, edit it, polish it, illustrate it, just as if it were a story I was planning to submit. I’ll always be more satisfied with some posts than others, but I know that every post I’ve published has had thought and effort invested in it. And so, now that I’ve reached my first milestone, I have no regrets about the writing I’ve produced.
Have a realistic timetable – When I began blogging, I thought weekly posts seemed achievable. I had no scientific reason for this or experience to draw on. And though I have achieved it, almost without fail, what I didn’t know then, was that blogging is about connecting with people. I thought I would write a post and hopefully, magically, someone would find it and read it (I was very unclear about how this would happen or how I would know). I didn’t understand that the feedback was personal, that I’d be able to really interact with other people all around the world. So, I didn’t know that I’d be spending time reading and replying to comments, reading so many other blogs and commenting on those, so that weekly timetable isn’t quite as realistic as it first appeared. But –
Blogging can be addictive. – I completely understand why some bloggers post once a day or even more. I love writing and I find that producing a blog post is easier than working on my novel or writing a new story. I’m in control of my work: I can work on something until I’m happy with it, press a button and it’s published. I don’t have to wait for approval or a response. And then there is the instant gratification factor – that immediate feedback and connection with readers. But in practice, this has meant that I’ve neglected my other writing more than I should. So, I’ve made the decision to reduce my posting frequency to once a fortnight. I’m already finding it difficult – the two weeks since my last post have felt strangely barren.
Blogging stimulates creativity – Blogging is a great writing exercise. I’ve tried morning pages and writing prompts, but they’ve never given me the same stimulation as blogging. I’ve never had so many ideas or been so creative as I’ve been since I began to blog. Ideas are all around me – they always have been, but because I’m in that actively receptive state, I seem to find them more easily. One idea leads to another, and on and on. I think it helps that what I write about in my blog is different to what I write outside of it, but because my blog is about creativity, it helps to stimulate ideas for fiction and paintings. It helps me to pay more attention to the world, so I see ideas where I wouldn’t notice them before.
Blogging needs focus – I knew that I couldn’t jump into blogging without a safety net. I didn’t want to publish a post or two and then dry up. So, before I began, I listed subjects weeks ahead in case I ran out of ideas. I use a calendar to plan potential posts, sometimes linking in to specific dates, and then filling in the gaps. Never has my writers notebook been more useful – to record ideas and begin blog posts. I also take my camera with me more than I ever would before, to record suitable images that might come in handy for blog posts.
But blogging also needs flexibility – I’ve quite often planned a post for a specific time but found another idea that fits the moment. Sometimes an idea takes over and wants to be written about now. So, I follow the muse and bump that week’s original idea to a future date. But it’s the focus that gives me the flexibility. I know I won’t forget any of my ideas.
Connect – Blogging tips that I’ve read advise you to connect with others to increase your readership. What I don’t think they say, is to connect just for the sake of connecting. Yes, I’d love to think that one day thousands of people will read every post I write, but if that were to happen, what I’d lose would be the time to make closer connections to the people who read my blog. I’d lose that feeling of support and exchange and warmth that I get now from the corner of the blogosphere that I hang out in. This is the aspect of blogging that I didn’t know about when I began, but it’s one of the most rewarding.
Keep going – As creative people, I think we often have crises in confidence. Sometimes, with blogging, as with my other creative projects, I have moments when I wonder what I’m doing, why I’m doing it and if there’s really any point. But then I’ll remember how much I enjoy writing each post, how much pleasure I get from incubating and developing new ideas, the connections I’ve made and supportive comments I’ve had. Ultimately, if I stopped blogging tomorrow, it would have been worth it, for all the benefits it’s brought me. My first year as a blogger will always be the year I came of age as a writer. So thank you to everyone who has read my posts and taken the time to comment on them, because you’ve helped me on that journey.