I’m not saying I’m an expert on blogging. I’m not saying I know more than you do. (Although I am and I do.) This is just the advice I would give to anyone who wanted to start blogging, boiled down to 10 basic rules.
10. Blog what you know. Whether it’s something as simple as how much you like to drink different types of beer or as complicated as the multitude of tools you’ve developed that have helped you deal with depression and aspire towards happiness, the topics you choose and your actual, genuine interest in said topics will resonate with an audience.
9. Actively foster the blogging community. Blogging is not a one-way street. Your audience reads you because they like what you have to say and they feel some type of connection with you and your words. Whether you reply to comments, link to your favorite bloggers and posts, interact on Twitter or another medium, or comment on blogs regularly, you should contribute more to the community than the occasional one-sided blog post.
8. Don’t let Twitter take your good ideas. If you have a kernel of a good idea, don’t waste it on 140 temporary characters that will disappear into the timeline faster than you can blink. That just shows a lack of regard for your own words and ability to translate your thoughts to virtual paper. Give your ideas the space to grow.
7. Don’t take yourself so seriously. In the grand scheme of things, you’re nothing. The chances of your words lasting longer than a generation in any significant way are almost nil. Have fun with what you do, have humility in the way you do it, and realize that the words you’re vomiting onto a page mean precisely dick in the long run. If you can avoid taking yourself so seriously, blogging is exponentially easier.
6. Ignore your stats. I know bloggers who spend more time behind the scenes watching every visitor, every IP address, and every search keyword, than they do actually fucking blogging. Why do you care? I haven’t looked at my traffic in at least a year, I only refer to search keywords for the purposes of humor, and I don’t know the IP addresses of anyone who reads me regularly. If you’re worried about a family member or coworker finding your blog, maybe you shouldn’t blog, or maybe you shouldn’t blog about certain topics. Focusing too heavily on your stats is like being the nosy neighbor who does nothing but pay attention to who’s talking to whom and who’s violating HOA ordinances instead of just participating in the neighborhood.
5. Make friends, not alliances or networking contacts. Blogging is not a game of Survivor, nor is it a dog-eat-dog world. It’s a – say it with me – community. A community of people who care, who love, who get angry, who get happy, who support, who tear down, and who act like . . . well, people. I am blessed with a large circle of blogger friends and not a single one of those friendships is reliant on or a result of their popularity. If you don’t like someone, don’t read them. Don’t interact with them. Don’t follow them. It’s that simple. The second that you determine your circle of friends based on what they can do for you (or, even worse, what they could do TO you), you’re doing it wrong.
4. Stand by your words. Few things cause me to lose more respect for a blogger than when they take down a post they wrote because of negative feedback. If you post something borne out of irrationality and emotion and can’t defend what you’ve written, don’t write it. Anything you post online should be something that you can stand behind and defend.
3. Proofread your posts. It’s okay to make the occasional mistake and misspell the random word here and there, but try to avoid sounding like a complete moron. If I need an advanced degree in Speaking Dumb Motherfucker to make sense out of the mess that is your post, I’m not going to read it, no matter how good the underlying content may be.
2. Avoid anonymity and pseudonyms if possible. There are very few reasons to blog under some cutesy name instead of your real name (or some variation thereof). By using your real name, you avoid confusion between your online identity and your real identity, you gain credibility and respectability, both within and outside the blogging community, and you are more likely to be able to avoid copycats starting blogs based on a variation of your online identity. And while it’s true that I’ve never been online as anything other than myself, I know plenty of bloggers who started out anonymously and wish that they had just stuck with their real name from the beginning; however, they’re stuck because they risk losing their not-insignificant audience if they change names this late in the game.
1. Stay the fuck away from bandwagons. Unless you’ve done your own research and you are informed enough on a topic, don’t join crusades or campaigns or bandwagons. Don’t comment on cryptic posts unless you know what the fuck you’re talking about. Establish your own opinions or keep your trap shut.
There are always exceptions and corollaries, but I’ve found that these rules have served me well over the last seven years and maybe if you follow them, you could be half as awesome as me. Maybe.