I am by no means a super successful blogger. Yet.
But I’ve kept a blog going for 4.5 years, revamped it twice, and now write five days a week. I’m still pretty novice when it comes to the backend of blogging, i.e. getting advertisers, marketing, photography, becoming part of blogging communities, etc., so I won’t claim to know enough to write a post or series about how to successfully create and monetize a blog from start to finish. If you want a comprehensive lesson on how to do that, read the series So You Wanna Start a Blog by my sorority sister and super rad blogger, Molly, on her wonderful and fully legit blog, Still Being Molly.
I will, however, give myself some credit in one particular area of blogging: Content creation.
Content is kind of the whole point of blogging, so this [hopefully] will be a pretty insightful post for anyone thinking of starting a blog, or anyone struggling to keep one afloat. Once you choose a theme on WordPress or the platform of your choice, content is pretty much the only thing that makes a blog a blog. It’s kind of important.
Whether your content is primarily pictures, words, or animal .gifs, the only trick to publishing a blog is to have something to publish. Groundbreaking, right? Nothing magically appears on a screen, so you’re in charge of curation or creation– or both. If decide to curate hamster .gifs on a blog called “Stop! It’s Hampster time” with the pen name “MC Hampster,” then most of your time will be spent searching for these weird .gifs online (be sure there is enough of whatever you’re curating to publish regularly, btw). If you’re a photographer, most of your time will be snapping and editing photos. If you’re a writer, most of your time will be spent…wait for it, writing!
The majority of bloggers– or hope-to-be bloggers– that I know are word-focused bloggers, so that’s the type of content that I will write about today. Also, my blog is full of essays, not pictures or hamster .gifs, so I’ll stick with what I know. And let’s be real. If there’s anything I truly know how to do, it’s cook the perfect bowl of Velveeta Shells & Cheese, put in my contacts without a mirror (it’s a talent people always seem taken with), and write lots of words on a blog.
I think the desire to author a written blog has such mass appeal because everyone wants to share their own thoughts with the world. Blogs are the perfect outlet for telling everyone what you think without interruption. They’re the perfect canopy for painting a picture of who you are, and inviting people to relate. Those things are true, yes, but the “glamour” and attention of having people read something you created with your own little mind is only going to motivate you for so long.
If you want to write a blog, you can’t expect tons of people to read it at first, because you will give up. I promise you that. You also can’t expect to feel like you’re famous for having your own website or people commenting about your life, because you definitely won’t (and aren’t). And you can’t simply be passionate about your topic of choice (fashion, food, fitness, travel, or life in general– for writers with no focus like me), and expect that to be enough, either.
If you want to write a blog, you have to want to write.
Writing, as an art and hobby in itself, must appeal to you if you expect to keep a blog rolling. So many people ask me for advice before starting a blog, which is humbling– so thanks, guys– and I always give them the same nugget of advice: Make sure you like to write. Period.
Feeling excited and knowledgable about travel or fashion or what-have-you is a great start, but even those of us who pair our passions with a love for writing have trouble regularly sitting down to bang out a blog post. I can’t begin to imagine how tough it’d be for people who aren’t obsessed with writing. I think that’s the biggest reason why people stop blogging…they can’t bring themselves to just sit down and do it. I’ve been there. It’s hard. It really is. Writing takes self-motivation, complete concentration, and deep thinking about how to formulate and communicate your thoughts on “paper.”
Generally, my posts– which are longer than most bloggers’ posts– take me between 2-5 hours, depending on everything from how much research the post requires to how determined I am to ignore Facebook notifications. I used to only have the time and energy to write a post every other week on top of a full time job and practicing my social skills. Now, since this is my full time job, I write every single day. No excuses. Just like I wouldn’t be able to simply not show up at an office job one day because “it’s hard” or “I don’t feel like it,” I can’t simply choose not to write.
Most days, it’s really tough to get going, but what pushes me through the mental– and sometimes physical– obstacles between me and a good blog post is my genuine love for writing…not my love for the topics at hand or my love for having a voice to reach people. Those things are great and motivating at times, but my love for writing trumps everything else in the thick of lethargy or distraction.
Okay, so you’ve determined you love writing. Excellent. Next step: Thinking of topics to write about.
Pretty much every single day, I sit down at my computer and can’t think of a single thing to blog about. It’s terrifying. Yet, somehow, 1-2,000 words end up on my screen by the end of the afternoon. The only reason I get results is because I tell myself this mantra every morning: There is always something to write about.
I literally chant that sentence in my head over and over in order to keep myself from jetting out of Starbucks straight home to my couch to catch up on Nashville.
I remember watching the failed reality show on TLC or whatever network owned The Miss America Pageant back in 2008, which showcased the contestants doing different challenges a few months before the pageant took place. One of those challenges went something like this:
“If you’re going to be Miss America, you have to be able to talk about any subject for at least two full minutes.”
The girls were then brought to a podium one by one and given a topic to speak about: The sun, pillows, face wash, riding a bike, Arnold Schwarzenegger, donuts, high heels, etc., etc. (I just made most of those up, but they were random and blasé themes kind of like these.)
I’ve taken that “talk about anything” challenge and applied it to my blogging life. The sun? I’ll write about the pros and cons of exposure, like Vitamin D and skin cancers. Pillows? Let’s talk about how we often put the pillow over our heads and hide from hard days, but you have to woman up and face the world. Face wash? I’ll expand upon beauty regimens and how it’s important to focus on the beauty within. Arnold Schwarzenegger? How about we discuss the very real influence celebrities can have on society.
If you can twist anything into a life lesson, personal anecdote, or comprehensive list, then there is always something to write about. This even goes for bloggers with a specific niche. Travel, fashion, health, or basically any theme has room for a new thought or piece of advice every day if you really let your mind soar into all of your subject’s little nuisances. And if you make things personal. We experience a lot as individuals– both externally and internally, which makes for extensive (and hopefully entertaining) material. Blogs are one place it’s not entirely annoying to talk about yourself, so have at it.
If you have trouble stretching your mind to create a broader perspective from a narrow topic, then you are going to have a tough time blogging. It doesn’t mean you can’t blog, it just means that you may need a little practice with creative thinking. Or perhaps you should only blog once a month, which is totally fine, too! The important thing is to figure out your creative limitations and goals so that you don’t feel like you’re falling short, and subsequently quit out of frustration.
If your goal is to blog with any sort of consistency, however, you’ve got to A) repeat to yourself “There’s always something to write about!” even when you feel like you can’t possibly come up with one more topic, B) have the ability to expand upon just about anything, and C) love to write.
Creating content is the foundation, first floor, second floor, and maybe the first 10 floors of building and maintaining a blog. Contrary to the boatloads of new blogs we see pop up every day, blogging is not for everyone. Neither is multi-level marketing, by the way. (*cough*lularoestella&dotessentialoilsnerium*cough*) But that’s a different story.
That being said, if you are starting a blog, I’m all about it. I love fellow bloggers and talking about everything that comes with blogging and writing! But my advice is– as with anything– really evaluate if this is the right choice for your skills and interests. Perhaps the best way to do that evaluation is to challenge yourself to create some content and see how it goes. If you’re burnt out after three posts, you may want to find a different way to express yourself, and there’s no shame in that! Or you may want to treat your blog as somewhere to occasionally spill your thoughts, but not as a fundemental part of your brand.
Proof that I am by no means the perfect blogger, before this comes across high and mighty: The reason I wrote about blogging today is because I couldn’t think of anything else to write about. So I resorted to writing about writing. But it was helpful..right? I hope..?
Happy blogging! <3