Last Friday was my birthday (34 years young already!), and as well as celebrating in style with friends, it’s been a good opportunity to reflect on another date that came and went unnoticed earlier on this year:
On 2nd March 2013, over a year ago, I pressed “publish” on my first blog post on this site (and yes, that is a photo of me age 1!).
At the time I was taking part in the “30-day challenge”, and had received great encouragement from coach extraordinaire Selina Barker who had assured me that starting a blog had completely changed her own life for the better.
Still, I was pretty scared. Not only because I knew that the writing would be bad (everyone has to start somewhere, right?), but because it would be bad in public. And even though that was precisely the point of entering the challenge (I could have just have kept writing and told no one) it did feel daunting.
I was also stepping into the unknown: I had no clue what I would be writing about, I only knew that I wanted to write, share, improve my writing skills and explore my interests.
So 47 posts later, how far have I gone?
- My writing has improved: or if hasn’t, at least I feel more confident about it.
- I think I found my elusive “voice”: now when I write, it still feels like me.
- I’ve learnt to share: it’s still pretty scary, but I get on with it (plus I no longer shy away from telling friends in “real life” that I have a blog.)
- I made friends with other bloggers: they have been really inspirational in keeping me going when I go discouraged.
- I know myself better: I gained a better sense of the topics that work for me, and I realised how much I love writing. Also, I found out I’m quite a bit more creative than I thought.
- Thinking about what I love also made me realise what I hate doing (and what I suck at): anything that requires too much precision, or rules, or repetition or God forbid, all three
So broadly it’s been a positive year. Mostly it’s made me appreciate that it’s okay to be a dreamer, and spend time thinking about stories or just doing nothing to see what ideas arise, rather than thinking it’s laziness.
And so although I know a year and 47 articles doesn’t make me any kind of specialist, here are a few tips I would like to give you if you are thinking of blogging but haven’t dared to try yet:
- It’s okay to have no clue what will come out of it: you won’t know until you start. When I started I honestly though I might write poetry and meditations as well as “self-helpy” stuff. As it turns you, I never posted one poem and almost everything is a story from everyday life. I don’t know for sure what I’ll be writing about in another year.
- Don’t be put off by technicalities: you don’t need any specific techie knowledge. Sites like Blogger or WordPress let you create a free account in 5 minutes. And there really isn’t much more to posting than to sending an email with a picture attachment. Honest.
- You are not alone: there’s always help at hand. I had encouragement from all the other contestants on the 30-day challenge, and it made me realise just how many new bloggers there are out there, who will be more than happy to meet and help you, online or in person, via all sorts of courses or communities.
- Don’t overthink it: you won’t know which posts your readers might respond to and which will go unnoticed. Don’t try to guess and don’t try to write what other people like. Go with what interests/ moves you, and with a bit of luck it will interest/ move your readers too. Also, it’s useful to have an editorial strategy, but it’s more important to actually get started.
- Don’t be scared to share: or rather, it’s fine to be scared, but make sure you share anyway. There are two massive advantages (three, if you count being proud of yourself for doing something scary) : you will probably get some great feedback and encouragement, which will make you want to write more. And it will create a sense of accountability, because once people know you blog, it makes it harder not to.
- Write with your heart, not your head: I could probably write a whole post about this, but if you don’t know the difference between the two, you probably are writing with your head. Practice free-writing in your spare time. Don’t edit yourself as you go (you may want to do first draft and edits on different days). Don’t use words in writing you wouldn’t use in conversation, and if it helps, imagine you’re talking to particular friend or reader.
- What you put in is what you take out: of course you could always write theory on whatever topic you’re into, but the magic of blogs is the insight into other people’s private lives, and how they can inspire our own. So don’t hide, tell us about you! The more of you you put in, the more touching the results
- Don’t worry if it’s not perfect from the start (or as some people say, “done is better than good”): I know it’s hard – especially as a marketing professional myself – to produce a website that looks amateurish. There are things on this blog I would cringe at in a work context (approximative design, plug-ins that half work, etc). But hey, we’re all here to learn, and the important thing is to improve as we go, rather than wait until everything is perfect to get started.
- Just keep going, a little at a time: while I’ve proudly posted something every month since last year, you might have noticed that some months have almost nothing in. That’s when I got discouraged, or tired, or generally life got in the way. Like with a diet, you won’t do yourself any favours by kicking yourself when you fail to write: just get back on as soon as you can, otherwise you’ll give up altogether. A little at a time is way better that not at all.
- You may need several attempts: this is actually my 3rd blog. The first one was shared with my family only in 2007; the second one had about 5 posts in 2008 before I gave up. So if your first attempt didn’t quite work, it doesn’t mean that you can’t get there.
- And finally the most important advice of all: HAVE FUN! you don’t know where it will lead you but so long as you enjoy the process you can be pretty sure you’re going in the right direction.