I started blogging because I felt like a writer with nowhere to write, so in the absence of a garden big enough for a shed, I built a blog instead.
And six years on, I’m still here. It’s nice having a record of how I’ve grown up, developed my writing, and got my head around various thoughts, feelings and life events.
People sometimes ask me questions about what blogging involves, so I thought I’d share some lessons. If you have more questions after reading this, please do ask them. All (kind) forms of correspondence are always welcome.
1. People are not that nice
If people read what you’ve written it’s because they want to read it. If they don’t want to they won’t. It’s as simple as that. People might give you a supportive click or two at the beginning to help you on your way. But when you’re a few months or years down the line, no matter how close a friend/sister/pet they are, they simply won’t open your blog unless they’re interested. And that’s a good thing. Pity reads are no use to anyone.
2. Most of the time, you simply won’t know what people think
Unless you’re planning to go door to door, asking all your acquaintances if they did or did not click on the link to your latest post about the highs and lows of using a chemical toilet (a real post I remain deeply proud of), you won’t know. You might get a like or a comment from a keen and kind reader but there’s no obligation for people to give you feedback.
And you’re also very unlikely to get personalised notes from everyone who doesn’t fancy reading your stuff. Anybody who does send you such a note needs to reconsider how they use their time. Speaking of which…
3. A few people reeeeally aren’t that nice
As women messing about on the internet go, I’ve been pretty lucky on the troll front. I’ve only ever had two very nasty comments left on this blog. And although I will remember them forever, I think they did me good. Because if you’re going to write on the regular and put it out there for people to read, you need to develop a thick skin. (If only, most of the time, to deal with the deafening silence that can follow once you’ve hit publish.)
You can’t spend your time being worried about what a troll might say. The post that encouraged OUTRAGE from my bridge-dweller was about why I recommend giving your partner a sufficient number of bedroom drawers to store their pants. He/she told me to ‘PLEASE shut my f***ing blog down’. Sorry, friend. No chance. Where else are people to go for such innovative life advice?
4. Only time will teach you what you’ve really got to say
It’s taken me years to develop my writing style and tone. There was no other way to do it than to just get on and DO IT. I’m not claiming to have nailed it, I just know how I like to write now. And I continue to enjoy experimenting with it, pushing the odd boundary, and finding new ways to express myself. Your blog is your house and you have the floor so use it to get it wrong, get it right, and enjoy yourself along the way.
5. Thanks to blogging, I will never be bored
You know when you used to have to fill in the bit on your CV about your hobbies and scrabble around for something to say that wasn’t ‘Watching re-runs of Friends’ and ‘Debating which are the tastiest members of the Percy Pig family’? Well, now I have blogging. Hanging out in my house on my own is never a problem as I can just grab a notebook or my laptop and see what I’ve got to say. What a treat! Or, equally as fun, I can lie around thinking about writing, and then not actually ever get around to it. That’s when you know you’re becoming a true professional…
6. You have more time than you think
People have different views about how frequently you should blog. I think you should do it whenever you can and you want to. Some people run sites which have advertising and content commitments requiring them to post on a particular basis, but the rest of us can do as we please.
For us it’s just about finding time, and what I’ve learnt is that if you want to do it, you will find the hours you need. Sundays are my usual day for writing, but sometimes I do a little on another day, or I have a whole week off, or I’m inspired to write three posts at once. I think it’s best just not to put too much pressure on the whole thing. Your writing will be much better if you’re doing it because you want to.
7.Your blog may not become your job, but it might help you get other ones
I get asked a lot about blogging and money making, and this is what I say: This blog is not my job, it’s my hobby, it’s where I come to be creative, and it’s also where I store my portfolio, which I use to seek paid writing work. Although the blog itself doesn’t generally make me money (I’ve only ever done one sponsored post with a brand that fitted in with my subject matter), it has helped me get other jobs.
In order to make money directly from a blog on a regular basis, you need a clear niche that advertisers/sponsors etc. can support. Only you can know your motivations for running a blog, but it strikes me that the most successful ones – whether in terms of reads or money made – came about because people wanted to speak about a particular subject they’re passionate about, and then the rest followed.
Don’t get me wrong, I’d be delighted to bring home more dollar thanks to this baby, but I don’t ever want to compromise what the site is for. It’s for honest posts and chats about what it is to be human. (So if you’re a brand that’ll let me chat about that in return for some ££ and a mention, give a girl a call!)
8. You don’t have to be a web designer, you just need patience
Building a blog can be as difficult or as simple as you make it. I started out on Google Blogger as it was free and easy to use, and then as I got a bit more serious about it and wanted my own url, I moved over to this self-hosted WordPress site. It’s not fancy and there’s lots more I’d like to do with it, but it will do just fine, and I can change it any time I want to (read: can find the strength).
You just have to decide what you want the site to do, and then to work away at bringing it about. I recommend having a cushion set aside specifically for screaming into whilst you build. Believe me, you’ll need it.
9. You’ll realise there are hundreds of people just like you
Blogging has opened up a whole new world of people and events I never knew I’d enjoy. It made me realise how much I love writing, learning about writing, and meeting people equally excited about all things pen and paper. I’m part of the Mumsnet Bloggers Network and have been to their annual Blogfest three times (my baby is due in November, when Blogfest is usually held, so unless this year’s event is happening in a maternity ward, I’m going to have to give it a miss). And I’ve been to other blogging workshops and talks about creativity that have taught me new things and inspired the sh*t out of me. And I can’t recommend that feeling enough.
10. Other people will do much better at blogging and you won’t know why
Why a blog is or is not popular can sometimes be obvious and can sometimes totally throw you. I find that if I think I’ve written something good, it’ll fall flat as a pancake. And if I struggle through a post and end up publishing just to justify the hours of blood, sweat and tears I’ve put into it – even if I think the entire thing is pointless and so am I – people will like it. So what do I know.
I think what’s most important is just to keep writing what you want to write. Authentic posts are always the best. Any likes and shares and whatnot they score the writer have to just be a bonus.
11. Writing something people relate to is a high like no other
Having said that, there’s no denying the utter joy of penning something other people can relate to. Something that makes them say ‘This is what I’ve been thinking but couldn’t articulate’ or ‘IT’S LIKE YOU’RE IN MY BRAIN’ or ‘Are you actually monitoring my thoughts because this is so in line with them that I’m genuinely FRIGHTENED’. I cannot pretend that such comments do not fill me up because they do.
12. Writing feeds your soul
I’ve written regularly for so long now that if I take too much of a break, I start to feel uncomfortable. It’s become a crucial part of how I figure out what I think about different subjects. Lots of people say it but it’s true – I often don’t really know what I think about something until I start writing about it. It’s the cheapest therapy I’ll ever undertake and I’d hate to be without it.
This game isn’t for everyone. Most people would rather tear their hair out than spend their free hours talking to themselves through a computer screen. But we’re not most people, are we? This blog may not have made me a millionaire or anything close to one, but it has taught me more about myself and the world than I ever could have expected. And for that I will always be grateful.
So here’s to another year of Nothing good rhymes with Charlotte. Knowing how livid this site’s continued existence would make our darling troll makes each anniversary all the more worth celebrating.