Writing a blog about living and teaching in Barcelona and about my travels started off as a decadent pleasure. As a complete novice, I created a little blog – invited 15 trusted friends and family members – and was happy posting a couple of times a week. This blissful state of blog-rule ignorance lasted about a year until I decided to go public. Wanting to do it right, I trolled the net for information about setting up a blog, the proper length of a post, how to use photos and how many, installing widgets, using Feedburner and checking my authority on Technorati. I learned that rules for blogging abound. I was shocked and awed (like in a military campaign) at the number of posts committed to the topic of how to increase your blog traffic. I was told that I need only be a “decent” writer and that I should make it my goal to be insanely helpful. (Who decides what is helpful?) I was also informed that readers are only interested in the title, and the first and last bit of every post so I had better make them short. Really short. I was left with the distinct feeling that there is no “i” in blog.
“Who makes these rules?” my boyfriend asked. I shrugged.
I became obsessed with posting every day. My new existential crisis revolved around why no one was leaving comments. I started sneaking out to the living room in the middle of the night to check my Feedburner stats. If, as sometimes happens in the blogospere, I had lost a subscriber or two, my guy would find me in the middle of an anxiety attack. I was in danger of becoming the eye-bleeding victim from a horror film except that the villain in my film was Feedburner.
Wait! This is not healthy. This little blog was supposed to be fun. Why am I worried about the number of subscribers I have? I have a job; we can afford groceries. In fact we are both a bit round with tapas and other good food. I don’t even have any ads on my blog.
A self-imposed blogging time-out provided me with time to consider this blog problem. My boyfriend reflected on it too because it makes me grouchy beyond bearing. My thoughts bring me back to this: the blogging technology (that I love so much) promised to enrich our lives by helping us communicate our experiences and ideas with others… including people we have never met. Especially people we have never met. The planet has indeed become smaller as we bloggers have moved into the lovely living rooms of each other’s Google Readers. But we are not, all of us, the same. We are not telling the same story and we do not need to tell it in the same way.
Blogging to make yourself happy:
1. Write about something that you are passionate about!
What is it that moves you most? What do you spend your spare time thinking about, dreaming of, or doing? Whatever that is… cooking, knitting, or mountain climbing… there’s your blog. “The blogosphere is already flooded with cooking blogs” you say. Perhaps… but not your cooking blog. “They” used to say that if you did what you loved, the money would follow. That’s not working as well with blogs… Write it anyway for the pleasure of writing about something that blows your metaphorical skirt up.
2. Write in your own voice
If you don’t know what that is, keep writing and you will find it. Write as if you were talking to a dear friend or family member. They already know and love you so have absolutely no one to be impress. Now your job is to describe, explain, report, synthesize, and make connections… whatever it is that you want to do. Let readers into your life if you are comfortable with that.
3. Yes, damn it! Do strive to become a better writer.
How can your writing be more succulent? Dare to describe a garden party in such a way that your readers can taste the tiny cucumber sandwiches and dandelion wine. Help them feel the sun upon their face. Be more persuasive where persuasion is demanded. Develop a larger vocabulary. No one was ever hurt by knowing more words. Learn how to most effectively convey meaning.
4. Keep a journal
Write things down. Make lists of potential blog posts and exotic vegetables you would like to try. When you travel, make time to sit with a cup of coffee and your journal. Record your impressions before they disappear like ghosts. Use Nathalie Goldberg’s “Wildmind” principles to free-write with fierce abandon. The first thing is to get the ideas down… this writing doesn’t need to be perfect. This is just for you. You can invite your Editor back to the party later. Some people call their journal their “everything” book as it contains writing and grocery lists. It’s all a way of being creative.
5. Slow down
Not everyone needs their news, entertainment and blog posts in bite-sized bits. Some readers crave the details and love a story’s long circuitous route like a lazy Sunday afternoon. Breathe. Let your posts grow a little. Encourage them to let their hair down. Instead of writing your post using the “New Post” feature, write it in a Word document. Come back to it a bit later after you have lived with the words. Edit. Be proud of what you publish. Enjoy writing it.
Click here to find a blog that I have created to celebrate the lovely slow blogs being written all over the world. I will feature slow blogs once a week – on Saturdays (when my life is slower) and possibly more often. Please send any recommendations to me at teachermeetsworld (at) gmail (dot) com or leave a comment here.