Sunday afternoon on a long weekend and what am I doing? Well, apart from some (perhaps) deserved rest-time after a grueling morning run followed by a couple hours in the sun planting the rest of my garden, I’m writing the second installment in this new feature I’ve called my “week of lists.” This edition stems out of three things: (1) I’ve been quite verbose on this blog lately, and I’m sure some people wonder where all the inspiration comes from, (2) I needed something for the “writing” category of my meta-list and I know many people are not as into writing fiction as I, and (3) I’m getting pretty bored of all your one-line status updates on various social media platforms and I’m not-so-subtly implying that you need to put more effort into your web presense. C’mon! Blog something… and start by doing these seven things:
You’re probably thinking I’m going to go all SEO on you here, but I’m not. This isn’t so much about attracting new readers as it is getting in the mindset of writing for a broader audience. When you start to write like you’re having a conversation with a set group of five people — largely by failing to explain yourself and your odd sense of humour often enough — you start to narrow your focus. Yeah, this pushes away the attraction for newer readers, but it also means you’re probably writing stuff you yourself will not really understand in a few months or years. So pick someone who isn’t reading your blog — I write to my daughter, who can’t even read yet — and this gives me ideas about what to write on and hones my style to the story-teller end of the spectrum… I think so, anyhow.
2 : Forget Humility: Brag
There are a lot of haters out there. And what the saying goes: haters gonna hate. Just remember that most of these people are pitiful little useless people who get off on creating nothing and disrespecting those who do create. It’s simple: they are not worth losing posts over. Crank up the moderation level for your comments and just write. Brag about what you do. Write with passion and engagement. And if you get angry comments proclaiming how no one wants to read what you wrote… delete ’em. A blog might be public, and other’s might read it, but no one is tying anyone to an iPad and forcing them to read it. It’s your space. Use it to prove you exist. It’s not all going to be gold, but something good will float to the surface.
3 : Showcase Your Hobbies With Photos and Words
Now that you are writing for someone new and ignoring those who are going to put you down, find your passion and write. What are your hobbies. For the first couple of years that blogs were around there were a lot of blogs that didn’t have a solidly defined purpose. They were mostly just focused on the person writing the blog and — I find — what they’d quickly become is a bunch of apologetic posts from the authors explaining why they hadn’t updated their blog in a while. Here’s the thing: First, you don’t need to apologize for not writing. Don’t bother. But second… and more importantly… if you are actually using your writing for tracking a hobby or a project, you should easily have something to write about after you’ve been out there dabbling in reality with whatever it is you’re interested in. For example, you might not care about my running, but I do… and so do lots of people who find the various posts on my blog on that subject. (I have analytics numbers to prove it.)
4 : Create a Themed Series of Posts
Building on the “writing what you know” idea is something that has helped me build my content and almost always leaves me with something to write: a themed series. You’ve seen mine, maybe: Daddy Daze, Reloaded Posts, this new series (of course) and a few others I’ve started off and put various levels of effort into. Check them out: they’re in the sidebar, currently under “Starting Points.” A theme is like a kick-off bit of inspiration. Don’t know what to write today? Then write a post for your series _______. If you start a few good series to fill, you’ll never run out of topics.
I mentioned in the intro that I’m getting slightly ill and deeply discouraged by the overwhelming distraction by a lot of good (former) bloggers posting their once-original content onto Facebook. Sorry guys. But here’s the thing: think of the internet like a metaphorical city and web sites as bits of real estate. You’ve got the big box stores (Amazon, etc), sewer, water, electrical, gas and roads (Google, Microsoft, etc), storage lockers (Dropbox, etc), mom & pops (little online retailers), and the movie theatre (Youtube, etc). But then you have us little guys living there, too. Me? I rent a small metaphorical townhouse in the suburbs where I host my blogs, my gallery, and a variety of little digital toys. Sure, I rent (maybe someday I’ll buy) but at least it’s my own space and I have a good bit of control. Where does social media fit in? In the great big internet city it’s hard to pin it down: Facebook is maybe like the beach — a fun place to hang out with friends — or the mall — in that you feel fairly welcome, but don’t really own it and someone is always trying to sell your something. Whatever. Point is this: break the cycle. Write a real reply to the Facebook drivel — on your own property — and tell people to come there and read it.
6 : Ignore What’s Been Done: Do It Again
I know I’ve been personally distracted and occasionally dissuaded from writing something because I’ll Google it first and see someone else wrote it already. Like, maybe someone has already done a photo-a-day project. And like, maybe no one wants to see my crappy photos. And then like, maybe I’ll just curl up in the corner and feel unworthy. Point of order, folks: do it again. Do it better. Do it whatever. Just do it again. Heck, most art is derivative anyhow so who are you kidding that any of this is one hundred percent original? Ignore the rest of the web and build your own version.
7 : Make a List
And if all else fails — or maybe building off the other six points of this list — make your own. A list, that is. You be surprised how many great little ideas fall out of building a list from scratch… and then trying to explain your points to your readers.