Advice You Don’t Hear When You Start a Blog–But You Should

I, like many of us, started blogging in the magical world of Livejournal and Xanga, offering up to the mystical world of the internet my adolescent musings and pubescent tales of love and embarrassment (often the latter). I have always loved writing, and even though the idea of putting my own words out there for just anyone to stumble upon terrifies me if I think about it too much, I’m still obsessed. For better or for worse, writing–blogging, especially–is one of my favorite things. It’s like Walter White says:

I did it for me
Blogging, that is. Not running a powerful meth empire and single-handedly destroying the lives of myself, my family, and a former student…

After the Xanga/Livejournal fad died out, I piddled around with the idea of having my own blog for a long time, and I even kicked off a few blogs that died incredibly quickly. Then one day I decided to really, really focus and make a blog–called Distracted Blogger, just in case I became too distracted to care for it. While it did undergo a major theme change at the start, I never abandoned it–I mean, obviously.

It didn’t take me long to realize how ridiculously steep the blogging learning curve is. Blogging is a weird world, and what works for one person might not work for you. So while there is no magical formula for making your blog successful (mostly because what a “successful” blog looks like is very different for each blogger), there are some things I wish I heard when I was kicking off my journey into blogging. I’m far from an expert, but like I said, the learning curve in blogging is ridiculously steep, so you learn a lot very quickly. Here are some of those things I learned, that I wish someone had told me when I started:

Blogging is harder than you’d think, and that’s okay.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again:

Writing is hard

It doesn’t seem like it should be a challenge to fill up a blog post with words on your favorite things, but it totally can be. Sure, maybe you manage to write a post about missing out on San Diego Comic Con that you completely love, but then a year goes by and you find yourself missing out on the con again. What do you do now? How many times can you write about a convention? How many different ways can you discuss your favorite TV show? Finding content ideas, new things to say, and a good way to convey those ideas can be hard. Finding your writing voice is hard, too. It’s okay if you have to flail around a bit before you nail it down.

Sometimes the best way to overcome a block is to just write–even write badly…

ron swanson typing

Not sure what you want to do next on your blog? That’s what draft posts are for, baby. Just grab hold to an idea–however weak that idea may be–and write through it. It might suck a little, but really shine after a good edit. It might suck a lot, and you might have to kill it with fire. But remembering that you don’t have to publish everything you write can take the pressure off, and give you freedom to explore ideas and techniques.

…and sometimes you need to just step back. 

ron swanson computer

While there are some blocks that you just need to push and write through, don’t be afraid to just turn everything off for a bit to recharge. Unless blogging is actually paying your bills (and if so–teach me your ways), running a blog should be, first and foremost, fun. If it becomes a chore, give yourself a little grace and take a break. You can re-run some of your favorite older posts, ask others to guest for you, or just go on radio silence while you recharge; whatever works best for you.

Keeping a schedule–whatever that looks like for you–can help you keep sane. 

liz lemon schedule

Personally, I have an 8-5 office job, I take ballet class twice a week, and I have a church obligation on Monday nights. That means my only free night during the week is on Wednesday nights. So with all of that plus running my own blog and guest posting on other sites? I often feel like this:

scrubs busy

When the weekends finally roll around, I really, really try to commit to getting my blog set for the week to come. However, that doesn’t always happen. While pinning down a specific, recurring time in my week to work on my blog doesn’t work for me, I’ve found is keeping a planner really helps me keep my blogging ducks in a row. Maybe you can’t get yourself to wake up an hour earlier each day to do blog work, and maybe you can’t say that 5-6 every night is “blog time”. However, figuring out a way to keep your post ideas, some sort of an editorial calendar, and any due dates straight in your head is key to keeping your sanity and making sure you don’t feel like things are spinning out of control.

Experiment with monetizing.

scrooge mcduck

Making any real money blogging is a tough nut to crack. Apart from finding a paying gig for your writing work, it’s hard to figure out the best ways to make your blog earn money. Try out different monetizing strategies, and see what works for you. Chances are you won’t be able to find anything truly lucrative for a while, and you may never. However, it’s worth experimenting with. If anything else, you could find a way to add a few bucks to your monthly income, which is always nice.

Don’t go it alone. 

liz lemon friends

To get the most out of blogging, you need to find friends online. Whether you join an online group (like the Female Geek Bloggers G+ group I’m a part of) or reach out to people on social media, it’s important to network and make friends. They can help you hash out ideas, you can bounce questions off of them, and your new online friends can help you as you network. When I began blogging, I set a personal goal to someday write for Geek & Sundry. Happily, I’ve been able to land that gig, and the only reason that was possible is because of friends and connections I made through the FGB group. Even if online connections don’t land you a job, give you sage advice, or help you grow your site, blogging can be a very isolating activity, so reaching out to others online–however online friendship works for you–can help you feel less isolated and alone.

What are some things you’ve learned from blogging? What kind of advice do you offer to new bloggers? Let’s talk about it in the comments! 

40 Replies to “Advice You Don’t Hear When You Start a Blog–But You Should”

  1. You’re awesome for typing all this up! This is easily becoming one of my favorite blogs to visit 🙂 I’ve always been blogging secretly here or there, but I just started one that I’m really trying to take seriously. My best trick is to always have a ton of half-written draft that I hurry and write whenever I get an idea. It’s so much easier to edit those than it is to start an entire post from scratch!

    1. Thanks! I’m glad you’re liking the site! I love the idea of a partially written draft. I’m one of those who can’t step away from something unless its done, but being more okay with stepping back and returning later is such a great idea!

  2. You have some great advice here! I think it’s important to remember too that it’s YOUR blog. If you need to take a break and energize, that’s fine! Whatever you need to do to keep the juices flowing.

  3. These are great tips! My biggest struggle is trying to consistently come up with content that actually provides value to my readers. I plan an editorial calendar ahead of time… but, sometimes I still feel like I’m being repetitive!

    xoxo
    Kat

    1. I totally hear you there. That’s such a struggle, especially avoiding repetition. It takes a lot of mental gymnastics to try to keep my posts different, fresh, and good–and I don’t always succeed, that’s for sure!

  4. Great points! I’ve figured out a few of these in the year and a half I’ve been blogging, but your last point struck a chord with me. Figuring out how to connect with others online is a HUGE weakness of mine, and I’m petrified of joining any groups that might have expectations I don’t have time (full-time mom!) to meet. How much time did you initially invest when you joined a new group, and did you ever feel like you would be letting others down if you couldn’t get as involved as you wanted, they expected, or others were able to? Do you have any tips for the under-confident on how to reach out to a new group, or find the best fit?

    1. I’ll be honest, connecting to online communities is NOT my strong suit. It feels just as hard to me as mingling with strangers at a party. Because of this, and because of my own lack of spare time, I personally tend to stick towards online communities where the point is networking and supporting one another–one of the reasons I love FGB. Sites where you basically get out of it what you put in–like FGB or Int. Geek Girl Pen Pals–keep the pressure low, and are perfect for people who don’t have tons of time to invest in online community. The responsibility is on you to invest in the community, but there aren’t expectations on how much time you log with the group. I like that. However, I would say that I’ve made it a point to be sure to invest in these communities as best I can. It doesn’t come naturally to me. So doing stuff like checking FGB a few times a week to see if there’s a convo I want to jump in on, making a Bloglovin’ list with the blogs I like to follow, and making Twitter lists to follow my community has helped keep it in my mind when I have the time to plug in to online stuff–if that makes sense. So I’d say find a community where the point is getting to know each other, and there isn’t an expectation on how often you check in. And just give lots of things a try. Some sites won’t be a great fit, and some will, but you won’t know until you give it a shot. A great way to tell how welcoming the community is is to check out how the group welcomes new members and how cordial and respectful (or not!) the conversations are. If you see red flags or something that bothers you that isn’t being challenged, skip that one. There are plenty of great people on the internet, no need to give sketchy sites a chance. 🙂 Hope that helps!

      1. Yes, that is helpful–thank you! I just requested to join FGB, so we’ll see how that goes–though it appears the next hurdle will be figuring out how the crap Google+ works! Ugh, I hate technology and social media sometimes–how does it have me signed into something I didn’t know I had, and how on earth do I get my blog posts to show up on it like others apparently do?!? Guess it’s time to do some research! 😛

  5. Great post! I’m a newbie blogger and basically a newbie to anything social media related lol I’m still trying to figure out my writing voice and I’ll drive myself crazy editing my posts before publishing any of them. But the experience for me so far has been great! (P.S. I took a quick look at your sidebar. Are you a Walking Dead Fan? Because if so–Yay!)

    1. Oh yeah, it’s soooo easy to drive yourself nuts editing posts. I’m a book editor by day, so I can be hard on myself! I totally get that! 🙂 I’m so glad you’re having a positive experience as you begin blogging and jumping into social media. It’s a lot to get the hang of, but so fun! And I am TOTALLY a fan of TWD! One of my favorite shows!

  6. This is all excellent and true advice! I’ve been blogging for three years (almost) and while my blog is still pretty small in terms of traffic, I just love it. Sometimes, it does get to the point where it feels chore-like, or as if I have no fresh content to share, so I take a break! Maybe someday my blog could be a source of income, but for now I’m happy with where it’s at. As for a blog schedule, I could not live without one! I too like to try and do posts a week at a time (in terms of writing them up and scheduling them) but it doesn’t always happen. I’ve been blogging by the seat of my pants this week!

    1. That’s so good. Blogging can be so much fun, I always get so sad when I hear people talk about their blog like it’s a chore. It just makes me think, “it doesn’t have to be this way!!!” Ha!

  7. Find guest bloggers! Sometimes life gets in the way! It’s just to have a back up just in case like, your kid is sick, you are moving (like me!) you are going on vacation. Whatever just find a guest blogger and have it lined up for that week.

    I’ve also learned that sometimes blogging inspiration comes at the weirdest times. So I keep a small journal with me just in case this happens. I’ve had blog inspiration pop in my head during a visit to the beach here or after getting the tiny assassin ready for bed.

    Finally, read other blogs, because you’ll always find something that inspires you to write.

  8. This is so great! I’ve been a blog lurker for going on 5 years & have tried & failed MANY times to start my own blog. This is the first time it’s stuck, and it has definitely been a learning experience. Forming relationships with bloggers who share your interests is HUGE for keeping yourself motivated to write regularly. I love knowing that if I don’t post for a few days I’ll have at least 3 people who message me to check in. It’s a great community.

  9. This is great! I’m just starting out myself and I’ve been running into those exact issues – but the communities I’m finding are wonderful. I also found that Daily Post on WordPress has Blogging 101 which is helping me out with technical issues of getting through the WordPress format!

  10. I read somewhere that it’s easier to blog to one person and I’ve found that it helps me to focus what I want to say. I try to picture my ideal reader and write as if I’m only speaking to her.

  11. This was a great piece! Which I am going to use: when they ask me about blogging, I’ll have this awesome post of yours. I’ll only need to share the link. Thank you! You touched the core!
    xoxo
    dePepi.com

  12. Some really great advice! I’ve been blogging for over a year and I still feel like I have no clue what I am doing. Especially when it comes to the tech side which is why my blog kind of looks like an old xanga lol

  13. One thing I have learned is , don’t make your post too long, at least break it up with amusing links, otherwise folks go running through the streets screaming.

  14. I like that finding your voice part. I had an idea of what I wanted to write about when I started blogging, but find my “voice” is taking time. I still don’t think I have it honed, yet. But I’m getting there! The more I write the easier it becomes.

  15. LOL! Love the gif (Ron Swanson is my hero). Really sage advice here. It’s easy to get caught up in blogging and lose sight of the original goal…writing for yourself and just having fun (and hopefully helping and entertaining others)! Hope to get the monetizing going soon. Extra bucks are nice! Great post!

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