I attended a super-geeky blogging conference on Tuesday. It was run by Darren Rowse (who you might know as ProBlogger) and Chris Garrett. There were a number of interesting speakers who had heaps of good stuff to say about blogging. Some of it made me go ‘Yes!! Some of it made me go ‘Oh…?’ Some of it made me go ‘Cool!’ The day was jam packed with great, practical information on how to write a better blog. You can scroll through lots of tips and links here.
Not only did I get to attend, I was lucky enough to be asked to speak about my blog and my life, and to be part of the panel with a group of geeky-great experts. That was pretty ace. I had a really great day. I sat next to some really nice people and chatted a LOT. It was heapso fun to meet other people who understood all about blogging (or even a bit about blogging!!) AND it was great because I learned a lot too.
If you read my blog you will know I have a pretty relaxed, renegade approach to the way I write and the things I write about. My rule is to make sure that I write about things that mean something to me and to try to be truthful and honest. I guess you could say that sincerity is the tip-top cornerstone of my blog. In fact, let’s say sincerity is a fancy statue on the peak of Blog Mountain. Can you picture that? It looks a bit like the set of ‘Monkey‘.
If you are not being sincere, you will be pushing a cartload of fakeyness toward said statue, and said Mountain will seem bigger each time you post. Your readers might start climbing the Mountain with you, but soon they will pop over there to see that nice sherpa with the iced tea and the umbrellas. It seems they are not so interested in you after all. They are not really getting what you are about, and maybe you are not getting what you are about either because you are worrying about the blisters you got from pushing that cart up Blog Mountain getting gammy. So sincerity reigns supreme. Write from the heart about things that are meaningful to you. This will make your writing so much easier. Don’t write what you THINK will be successful. Don’t put on a funny voice or a fake moustache. Write what you know best and be yourself. I think that if you are not genuine, then it is really hard to be a good blogger. Be sincere and you will be a better writer and be more popular too.
|I liked Sandy best…|
This post is about writing well and indeed writing in a way that will bring readers to you. You could apply these pointers to other types of writing too, so don’t turn away if you don’t write a blog. Maybe you would like to write something else? An article? A biography? A family history? Great!
For most bloggers writing is about the BIG ‘C’ word. Content. I like to be content. But the word content seems a bit cold to me when it’s applied to the writing we do. It seems a bit detached when writing is all about being connected, don’t you think? So when we are talking content, you could also refer to it as ‘the writing we do’ if content leaves you a bit cold too. I thought we should soften the content up with some other ‘C’ words which will add a bit more focus, depth and meaning to the things you write. Sort of put a Cardigan on the content. Make it cosier, warmer, better. More real, more relevant and more familiar. So let’s go. Pop on a cardy and let’s learn about better blogging with the letter ‘C’.
Be Candid : Candor is really important when you write. It helps your readers to understand what sort of a person you are, and what you are really like. Being candid brings an honesty to your writing. You don’t need to tell all. But it really is good to tell in your own voice and bring something personal to the piece you are writing. I recently spoke to a group of design bloggers about blogging, and the point was raised that writing for a blog is a bit different to writing professionally. That is true for some. It’s a really good thing, because rather then writing correctly and generically (as you might for a ‘professional’ piece) we get to write in our own style, touting our own thoughts and opinions and dotting our sentences with our own foibles and nuances. This is a gift really. Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth, okay?! Take the opportunity to phrase your sentences and tell your stories in your own unique way. Be candid. Be yourself. Let people know how you really talk (by writing like that!), what you really think, and why you think it. Tell your story in your own words.
Be Committed : This is kind of obvious, but it is easier said than done. Sometimes we start a blog for less then ideal reasons. Because other people are doing it and we want to do it to. Because we are going to get rich quick. Because we were bored and it was late and we had drunk three whiskys. Because someone else told us to. These reasons can sometimes convert into a good blog, but rarely do. If you have a blog, is it the sort of blog you WANT to write? Or have things swung wildly since you first clicked publish and you are now much more interested in scuba diving and wish you hadn’t said your blog would be all about baby orangutans after all. So. Make sure your blog is a place you want to be. Make sure you are covering the sort of stuff you feel passionate about. Make sure it is a place YOU want to visit regularly and update regularly. Because chances are other people will to. If you are not committed to nurturing your blog then no one will want to read it in any committed kind of way. If it is not the kind of blog you want to have, start another blog that you will get more excited about. Try and be a bit dedicated with your blogging.
Be Consistent : Related to being committed, but is more about setting a bit of a rhythm if you possibly can. Posting once and then not at all for a fortnight and then coming back and saying sorry and posting twelve times and then forgetting to post for a month will not bode well with your readers. If that IS your rhythm, well that is fine, but perhaps understand that most people will not share in your sporadic blog zeal. And maybe that is okay with you? We are not all chasing a readership, some people just want to write. But if you are looking for readers then it is best to try and post regularly. Be dependable and consistent. (If you do find yourself taking a break, perhaps explain to your readers why you did, without apologizing. I don’t think you should apologize for not writing. It is your blog, you should write when you want to write.) My blog is popular because I post good stuff consistently. If you visit me daily, there will almost always be something new to see and my readers tell me they really like that.
Be Confident : I think this is really important. A lot of people dilute or censor themselves when they write their blogs, not understanding that often those VERY things that they are cutting out are the things which define them. Those are the quirks and opinions that will reveal how they tick and make readers fall in (or out!) of love with them. I am not saying you should swear or post crazy right-wing stuff on your blog and keep your fingers crossed that they’ll come in their droves. I am saying be confident that the things you think are important, the things you really want to say, are just the sorts of things that your readers want to know about. Do your best work and have confidence that your voice is good enough. Have confidence that your opinions are well thought out and interesting to others. Have confidence that your turn of phrase is familiar and encouraging… or indeed eye-opening and thought provoking. You don’t have to write like I do. But you should write with the same feeling of assurance, that what you have to say will be worthwhile.
Be Casual : Sometimes I reckon that people agonize and strategize and diddle around with their blog posts so much that they lose their spark and become generic. Don’t trick things up too much. Don’t edit your posts until you have squished all the you out of them. You know what? I think it’s a good idea to sit down once a week and just start typing something. Without a thought about what to write. Just let the spirit move you and write without editing. Then have a quick read over it, clean up any errors, adjust any bits where you didn’t quite say what you really meant… and PUBLISH. Too much fancy stuff will depersonalise your blog. So don’t get too fancy. Be casual and send a few off the cuff posts down le interweb to show us who you really are.
|Softies For Mirabel : Handmade Toys for Rad Kids!|
Encourage Community : Community is the big buzzword in social media (and blogging) at the moment, and rightly so. My blog success has been built on community. For me it was never a strategy, but rather grew from a feeling of discomfort at the amount of readers I had gathered. I felt a bit exposed, to be honest, as though everyone was popping in to look at me. Everyone wanted to interview me. Everyone wanted to take a peek into my world. That is okay, but I wanted them to look at other people too. I am nice, but I often have messy hair and smudged eyeliner. If I turn my readers outward again and send them off to look at other good stuff or get them involved in community projects (like The Envelope Project or Softies For Mirabel) then I might JUST have time to brush my hair while they look away…
Narcissistic blogging is unattractive. YES you want to gather a readership, but they don’t just want to come and look at YOU. Even if you are really cute. So make sure you are showing your readers the other good things and good people in your world. Don’t be strategic about this, be genuine. Support a charity you feel passionate about via your blog and encourage others to do the same. Talk about community projects you are involved in and see if you can drum up more hands. Start a community arts project. Make a list together. Offer to guest post. Gather more people by being clever, helpful and nice. Do not prematurely ask people to be part of your community, but rather lead by example and get your house in order. Create strong, genuine foundations for your community first. Work hard, do good stuff and others will want to be part of that. Build on sincerity and generosity and then invite others to join in when you feel that you are walking the walk (and not just talking the talk.)
Collaborate :: It can be hard to collaborate. Collaboration means that maybe not all of your awesome ideas will make it over the finish line. That can be a terrifying thought for some, especially if you like to maintain control. But collaboration is really an awesome process of a) letting go b) acknowledging that other people are smart too and c) realising that what you know is not everything there is to know. Collaboration can result in the hatching of ideas so mutated from your original thoughts that it makes your eyes pop. I use the word mutated in a positive light here, because I am a firm believer in encouraging fresh points of view. YOUR point of view might be great. Your ideas might be totally wonderful. But don’t assume that other people’s ideas are not as good as yours. Don’t assume that other people are not as clever as you. Be open to mutants in a non-zombie, flesh eating kind of way. These kind of mutant ideas can really liven things up (both blogs and brains) and get things humming along in fresh new directions. Probably not good that I said zombie, mutant, flesh and brains there… but you get my point, right?! My point is – Learn to work with other people, whether it is virtually or in real life. Do things together and invite your own kind of cool mutant ideas to happen. Lose your ego for a while, trust other people’s smartness, let go a bit and see what can happen.
|Hollie and Cam Making Stuff Together|
Care : Write your blog with care. If you don’t look after your blog and use it to the best of your abilities then you are cheating yourself. It’s kind of like when you are on a diet and you make a secret rule that chocolate biscuits are not included if you eat them when you are standing on one leg. That rule, whilst awesome, will not work. Not looking after your blog will not work either. So care for your blog. Make sure you format your posts nicely, make sure your blog looks as lovely as you want it to, make sure you spell check before you publish, make sure that what you have written is what you wanted to convey. That will work. A little bit of care goes a long way, and your readers will notice that you are being a bit careful about those things and that will make them care about you even more. By the same token, if a few little errors get through now and again, don’t beat yourself up. It happens to the best of us and I reckon if you had a good look you’d find grammatical and spelling errors on most blogs. So do your best and take care of yourself too. Blogging is meant to be fun, remember?!
Conversation : I often write a chatty post where I opine about something or other. Perhaps I am talking about how competitive the craft world might be at times. Perhaps it’s about how supportive the craft world might be at times. Lots of varied things are important to me (and to you too, I bet!), and sometimes I will write a piece about these things. I think it is really good to opine, I really do, but let’s remember that for every opinion there is a differing one. I like to try and make a habit of introducing the flip-side of my own views into my opinion based writing. I think this encourages people to share their own ideas and thoughts in the comments section of my blog more freely. Being on your high horse can be a little too preachy sometimes, ya know? If you want your blog to be an interesting place, it is really important that people feel they can share their opinions safely, even if they are different from your own. Acknowledging the flip side is really important if you want to invite conversation on your blog.
Maybe your post is about how awesome it is to drink milk straight from the carton? Well then ask your readers if they do it too…or if they are more about sipping it through a stripey straw from thimble… or maybe they are lactose intolerant. You get my drift. Whatever you think would be best. Give people options and respect our differences. Make it easier for people to both agree and disagree. Encourage diversity. Get the conversation started and your blog will be a more interesting and busier place.
Conversation Part 2 :: Always remember your blog should be a conversation. Not you talking into some sort of vacuum ( I hope), but rather you talking and then other people talking back. Maybe they are asking you questions? Maybe you are asking them questions? Maybe readers are asking each other questions? These are all good things which will give your blog a life of it’s own, keep your interest piqued and keep your readers popping back in too. So use your comments section chattily. (Threaded comments like those at disqus.com are good for this.) Ask your readers what they think, often. Let them know what you think, what you are doing, what you have messed up and what you have done well. Chat away, in your posts and in your comments section and treat your blog as a conversation, not a soapbox.
There are LOTS of other ‘C’ words which can be applied to better writing. Connect. Clarity. Context. Charisma. Chocolate. I am going to talk about those another day. But if you would like to jump the gun and add to this post in the comments section with your own ideas or words, that would be just great. Or if you have some thoughts on what I have written, that would be dandy too. Thank you for reading!
NB : You can find more details about the Blogger Training Day here if that is your cup of tea.