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My rules for blogging – the 2011 version

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.

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131 Replies to “My rules for blogging – the 2011 version”

  1. Lisa

    Great list! I’ve broken the stand by your words one by taking down posts (well after the fact) that I later realized my family might find hurtful if they stumbled on them, but that’s the only reason. And #2 – A-freaking-men! I’m still trying to figure out how to extricate myself gracefully from mine.

    • Avitable

      @Lisa, I’ve written posts that may have been hurtful to my family, but it was also important for me to write those words. This is my space, and if they don’t like what I say, they can click the “x”. I’m a bit stricter about that type of thing than most people, though.

  2. Brahm (alfred lives here)

    Love it! Is my first time here, found you thru twitter, and will be back. A lot. To annoy you. Cuz I like it here.

    Especially like what you say about community, is so true – like in life, you get back what you give. Hey I sound deep there, how did that happen? I also like stand by what you say. As for he blog what you know, I would re-word into ‘blog about what interests you and or what you wish to blather on endlessly about’. Pretty much the same thing, no?

    • Avitable

      @Brahm (alfred lives here), thanks for the visit and comment!

      “Blog what you know” is exactly what you said – blog about your life, your problems, your interests, your goals, your dreams.

      • Moon HalloranLeady

        @Avitable, Well honey, she is 15 ~ if you are interested we could totally work something out ~ hope you like bitchy with a side of bitchy ~ hehe ~ don’t fret…she’ll be legal in a few years ~ but just know….you ain’t her type as you are not a skinny ass baldy head illiterate high-school drop-out redneck white guy (do they even make that in Florida????)

        But yeah. 15. Enjoy 😛

  3. Kirsten

    This is the single best list of blogging rules I have ever seen.

    I need to work on #9 – I’m terrible at actually commenting and participating. It’s one of the perils of being an introvert.

      • B.E. Earl

        @Avitable, You are clearly drinking the wrong beers, young one. I firmly believe that anyone who likes alcohol and says that they don’t like beer just hasn’t tried the correct beer for them yet. The incredibly wide spectrum of tastes and styles would truly boggle your mind. Do you like chocolate? There’s beer that tastes like that. How about fruit? Pick one, any one. There’s beer that tastes like that. Coffee? Yup. Creme Brulee? Yup. Pumpkin pie? Soooo many. How about sour things? Oh yeah!

        The piss beer (or American adjunct lager) you are referring to is only one type of beer. And a shitty type of beer at that. There’s barleywine, blonde ales, brown ales, wheat ales, India pale ales, porters, stouts, cream ale, pumpkin ale, rye ale, all kinds of crazy Belgian styles, strong bitters, milk/sweet stouts, oatmeal stouts, sahti (my favorite…a crazy Viking brew), kolsch, bock (in all varieties), Scottish ales, pilsners, rauchbier (smoked), schwarzbier, lagers, lambics, herbed/spiced beer and many, many, many more.

        I find it impossible for someone to NOT be able to find a style or specific offering from a brewery that they can enjoy. If they want to, that is. But to dismiss “beer” as piss water is a disservice to all the great stuff out there that you haven’t tried.

        I recently turned a buddy of mine onto a beer from Goose Island that is aged in bourbon casks. It’s an incredible stout that takes on the characteristics of the charred oak that has already been infused with bourbon. It’s a sipper, and it’s expensive. But he was the same as you. Never thought he would find a beer that he liked. And because this has opened his world to stouts, he now is enjoying other brands and styles. Like a smoked porter that I pointed him toward.

        Here are three brews that I think might be interesting for you to try:
        1) Young’s Double Chocolate Stout – Some bars actually make ice cream floats using this beer. But it’s tasty enough on it’s own.
        2) Hoegaarden – You may have tried this Belgian Wit or something similar (Coors makes Blue Moon…which tries to match the style, but fails a bit miserably). Have the bartender add a bit of lambic to the top for a clean, crisp and slightly fruity ale.
        3) Aventinus – It’s a German wheat dopplebock that’s a little spicy with hints of dates, raisins, figs, bananas and cloves. One of my favorites.

        • hello haha narf

          @B.E. Earl,
          i was the same way…thought i disliked beer. the sharp edge in pittsburgh has 45 drafts, one cask and over 200 different bottles. the manager and bartender sat me down and said you do like beer, i promise, you just haven’t found the right ones yet. they gave me tiny sips from a variety of the draft beers and when i said one wasn’t too bad they gave me a similar one until i said “oh my fuck, that’s tasty!” (turns out i don’t like hops, but i LOVE many different beers.)
          fuck, now you made me thirsty and it is not even 11 am!

        • Avitable

          @B.E. Earl, I don’t like the taste of any beer, even something like a chocolate stout. Whatever the underlying taste of something is that makes it a beer is anathema to me. I’ve tried many different beers, all from people who said “Try this one! It doesn’t even taste like beer!” And yes, they all do and they’re all nasty. The same goes with coffee drinks. There’s always that hint of coffee, no matter what, and it makes it disgusting.

  4. SwanShadow

    Hard to argue with anything you’ve said. I tend to blog for myself rather than out of any perceived sense of community — I avoid the stats addiction by not caring much whether anyone else reads what I write — but for anyone who aspires to be a blog maven such as yourself, it’s all valid.

    I would only add: Always wear pants. Because, you know, people walk in.

    • Avitable

      @SwanShadow, I think it’s a good idea to write for oneself, but the community must have some appeal, or else you’d just be writing in a journal by hand. You have ideas and having someone else see those ideas must be important in some small way.

  5. Blondefabulous

    A great list. I have people iRL that ask me what they should do to start a blog. I think I’ll just refer them to this post from now on.

    #2 is the only one I have issue with. Sometimes immediate family don’t want their actual names out there. Out of that respect, I named my husband HHH & myself Blondefabulous so if his friends, co workers, etc stumbled on my blog it wouldn’t be directly obvious it was him.

    • Avitable

      @Blondefabulous, if you were Nicole and you just said “my husband”, would it be any different? You don’t have to use your last name, even, but sometimes the acronyms and fake names distract from the content. At least, I know that they do for me.

  6. Capricorn Cringe

    It’s hard enough for me to make my words gut-honest under a pseudonym, even though family and friends know who I am. If I wrote under my real name, I wouldn’t write at all. I don’t have a lot of cutesy names for people (although I call my mom MoC, for Mother of Cap). I usually use their real first name in quotations, so I have deniability 😉 I think it just depends on what you want to get out of it. I don’t want to be internet famous – I just want a place where I can be (truly) myself. And I don’t think I’ll ever be even one-sixteenth as awesome as you 🙂

    • Avitable

      @Capricorn Cringe, using real names isn’t about becoming internet famous. If you have stories to share that you don’t want the people who know you to read, why is that? Why do the people online get to see a different you than the people you see at home? I think it’s good to ask yourself these questions, and if you have a good answer for them, then the pseudonym makes sense. I suspect that you do have a good answer, but many people don’t.

  7. hello haha narf

    jumping on the “this post is fantastic” bandwagon!

    in regards to blogging what you know…my blog (i know, i know…when i actually write) is simply about my life and my experiences. not everyone is looking to be famous or to have an angle.

  8. unmitigated me

    A corollary to suggest: I freaking hate when a blogger cryptically refers to something by saying they “can’t blog about/aren’t at liberty to discuss/blah, blah, blah highly inflammatory secret IRL issue.” Then why the fuck even bring it up??

    I’d explain this dislike, but I can’t really get into it, here in a public forum.

    • Avitable

      @unmitigated me, I can understand if there’s an issue that is pressing on someone’s mind so they need to just talk it out, but there are ways to do it that don’t sensationalize the issue. And ha!

  9. muskrat

    I violate 9,8, and 2. I used to be better about not violating 9 and 8, but then I got busy (or lazy). Actually, I re-prioritized my time. Now I pretty much “support” bloggers I’ve gotten to know well in person (via visiting their blogs), which is a smaller group. I do interact in comments and on Twitter, though.

    Is “Muskrat” cutesy? Of course it is. You wish you had a pseudonym that was as lovable and furry as mine. I do regret setting up a separate facebook page, etc. with a pen name, because it confuses people. I don’t care if my blogging friends know who I am, of course, but I don’t want potential clients (or adversaries) to google my name and find my blog, which I’m sure you can understand.

    Looking back at this comment, I’m wondering why I give a shit about whether I break or uphold Avitable’s blogging rules. This can’t say anything good about me.

    • Avitable

      @muskrat, you definitely have a valid reason for using a pseudonym on your blog, although if any client or adversary wanted to search around enough, I’m sure they could somehow figure it out.

  10. elle

    i hate to be a debbie-downer because this is a great post, and i basically agree with all of it- but i do blog under a pseudonym, or a variation of my name… and the only reason is because i (very) openly blog about all my experiences with an abusive ex-boyfriend who does everything in his power to find me, no matter how often i move or change numbers, etc. so it’s nice knowing i have a little place i can be so honest and real, without worrying about the repercussions. i do see your point, though… and i wish i didn’t have to lie about my name.

  11. cagey

    Great post, Adam Heath Avitable (WTF? that’s your real name? 😀

    I do check my stats, but not for the numbers since I am quite adamant my numbers will never, ever change, unless some great tragedy befalls me (no thank you). However, I do like to check to see where folks are coming from – I have found new blogs that way.

    Also, I LOVE the “stand by your words”. I cringe at some of the crap lurking in my archives, but it stands. The only things I’ve deleted are some things about my mother that were written before I came out to her about the blog.

    I still recommend that new bloggers start out anonymous and feel their oats first. And yes, I really don’t care for all the cutesy names that bloggers like to ascribe to their children. Gag. When I first announced my kid’s name, a few folks were critical, as if I was putting my kid in danger. Um, no. I told them to do a quick search on “arun george” (which yields over 2 million hits. ha!) My kid ain’t special (to no one but me) and I actually enjoy taunting him with images of the other Arun Georges out there in the world. It helps to keep his ego in check.

    Also, I am going to resist hijacking your comments to rant about the lack of common decency when it comes to grammar and punctuation. Don’t even be started on LOLCats.

      • cagey

        @Avitable, I should have been clearer – I just check to see if there are many hits coming from a single spot (i.e. if someone has linked to me) and I only check maybe once a week. I don’t check where every single person comes from.

  12. annabelle

    I was once a girl, who read lots of blogs, but never commented. Then I read a post all about how comments are the prize for the effort and how much the writer appreciates a little feed back. This lead me to make an effort to comment on the posts that spoke to me as a reader.
    I’d get friendly little emails back from my comments and I started to feel that sense of community.

    Then my life became totally overwhelming, I was starting to shut down under the weight of it all. I needed an outlet, I needed some place where I could express myself without having to worry about hurting peoples feelings or egos. Where I could vent about people in my life who are permanent yet torturous fixtures.

    I sent an email to one of my favorite bloggers. He was always fresh, funny, honest, tactless, thought provoking and dirty. All traits I deem amirable. I asked for some advice in starting up my own little piece of the blogosphere. With the exception of Rule no.2 I have tried to be true to his suggestions. I’d like to think my reasons for an alias are justified.

    Thanks Adam – Thanks for taking the time to answer, thanks for taking the time to be encouraging. Thanks for the ground rules for a better community.

  13. Tracy

    Hi! I’ve lurking for a couple of months now; this is my first comment. Thanks for this post! I just started my blog and this just reaffirms my intent to not be anonymous and to write from the heart. I will take all your suggestions seriously. I like the ones about being able to defend your posts and opinions. And about writing what you know about. Good stuff.

  14. Issa

    I love this. It’s the best post about blogging that I’ve seen in years.

    I need to work on not caring about my stats. I check it way too often. It’s not like they even change that often. It’s dumb for me to check it all the time, because I honestly don’t care. It’s habit though.

  15. Miss Britt

    I love the not jumping on the bandwagon one – and I’m actually surprised to see #7. I don’t think that’s sad, though – I think it’s freeing! Or at least it is if you remember it (which I need to).

    • Avitable

      @Miss Britt, I definitely think it’s a difference between taking blogging seriously and taking myself seriously. Out of all of them, that’s the one that’s the hardest for me, but I’m trying to get better.

  16. Neil

    I was in one of those “I hate blogging” moods, and I found the simplicity and clarity of this post… well, inspirational! While you didn’t say anything most of us didn’t know already instinctively, it is good to remind ourselves what we’re doing here

  17. Crystal

    Thank you from me, a shiny new blogger! I enjoyed the rules and it makes it easy to know that there are some veterans like you out there helping the lil one like me!!

    Not to mention you’re too frickin hilarious not to read!

  18. Mr Lady

    “…an advanced degree in Speaking Dumb Motherfucker to make sense out of the mess that is your post ” ?


    I read this post from some ‘expert’ blogger on ‘expert’ blogging that was, I am not kidding you, the biggest fucking joke I’ve ever seen online. And apparently, a lot of people take this person a lot of seriously. Now, I’ll brilliantly execute all sorts of crimes against grammar, but they are all misdemeanors. And I certainly don’t commit these under the guise of ‘telling you how to be a better blogger.’ This shit? FELONIES.

    Anyway, I completely disagree with you about the pseudonyms, but the nature of my blog and the reason for my anonymity are both very different from yours, so it’s absolutely fine that we see it differently. A lot of the personal bloggers i know are kicking themselves for jumping on the bandwagon that had everyone snubbing anonymous blogging. My mother ain’t nevah gonna find MY blog, you know?

    Either way, I can totally get behind what you’re laying down here. Happy new year, Adam!

    • Avitable

      @Mr Lady, yeah, I know that some people have good reasons to remain anonymous – makes total sense.

      I also think that crimes against grammar when you’re writing in a narrative tone aren’t crimes at all – they’re part of writing like you speak.

      Do you have a link to this expert blogger? I’d love to read it. 🙂

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