Four years ago this week, I registered a blog with WordPress. With 310 posts and 13,000+ subscribers later, I thought I would do a little celebratory dance in the form of blog talk. I’ve received some emails from new bloggers asking for advice.
I don’t know if I’m the best person for these inquiries, because my advice would involve something like “slow and steady wins the race, if this were a race, which it isn’t, although it would be the most boring race ever, but it would be funny if there were blogger jockeys and a virtual betting window. What was the question again?”
That being said, I’m not a blogging expert. I haven’t made money this way, secured a publishing contract or created a world peace movement. What I have done is created a writing habit, learned to write outside my comfort zone, discovered my voice, and met a community of readers and writers who make great conversation. I’ve even made a friend or two.
I could write about blogging until I’m blue in the face and absolutely none of it might be relevant to your goals. So I write this less as advice and more as an example. This is what one blogger does.
These are the basic guidelines that I tend to follow for my blog:
#1 It is always about the writing.
This is not a niche-based blog, so I write about whatever hits me in the moment. I aim to write well, regardless of subject matter. It doesn’t always turn out that way. Sometimes I’ll smack my head months later for typos or a turn of phrase that was really awful.
Since this is a personal essay blog, I try to write from a place of circumspection. I’ve talked about mental health, family dysfunction and a lot of personal issues, but I tend to write about those things after I’ve worked through them, so that whatever I’ve learned and whatever resources I’ve found, can add value to the conversation.
#2 The Mechanics of The Green Study
Readability. Due to my old lady eyesight, I avoid using fancy fonts or complicated backgrounds. I use regular paragraph breaks, as well as capitalization and punctuation. Regardless of one’s view of grammar, it serves the purpose of cuing readers, as well as establishing the rhythm and flow of writing.
Length. I try to stay within a range of 500-1200 words, preferably around the 800 word range. For me, it’s long enough to develop an idea without becoming pedantic and repetitive.
Images. I use 2-5 images per post. I purchase images on Can Stock Photo, so I don’t have to spend hours searching for images or worrying about attribution, but there are some free resources out there as well. I do not use moving GIFs. The constant looping while I’m trying to read is very distracting. On occasion, I’ll use music videos from YouTube.
Tagging and Categories. I’m not particularly creative about tags or categories. I do some basic tags and category assignments for every post, but I’m not interested in doing much more than that.
Scheduling. Um. Nope. Can’t do it. I do try to post regularly, but this isn’t an actual job. Again, it depends on what your goals are – some people find self-imposed deadlines to be useful.
Comments. My favorite thing about this blog now, is the relatively active community of commenters who don’t just parrot or fawn or do any other animal imitations, but instead add to the conversation. I like it when I see conversations start up between commenters.
I do my best to answer every comment. I have missed a few on occasion. While I do not actively moderate comments, I generally don’t respond to comments that are just self-promotion (Hey- look at my blog) or religious proselytizing (which I find presumptuous).
Contests and Promoting Other Blogs. In years past, I’ve done 3 or 4 contests and met some lovely bloggers this way. I’ll likely do more contests, but time management is always a primary concern, especially as readership grows. Also, it was really, really expensive to send The Green Study coffee mug to Australia in the last contest I had.
I used to do a lot more promotion of other blogs, but last year was a tough year personally, so there were more inward-looking posts. One of my goals is to get back to promoting other blogs. There’s so many to look at, that if you land on one you really enjoy, it’s worth telling others about it.
Blogging Awards and Blogrolls. When you first start blogging and someone sends you an award, you feel like you’re walking on the red carpet. It takes a few more, with long lists of requirements to realize that someone has just sent you homework. I think they are worth doing early on, if only to propel you forward and make new connections, but it is dependent on your goals. Mine have changed to focus more on writing. While I appreciate and thank the senders for kindly thinking of me, I no longer participate in the interest of time.
When I started, blogrolls were a thing. Maybe they still are. My one attempt at a blogroll was awkward and frustrating, because it must be actively monitored and updated. It feels odd, like you’re trying to set up a special club. I tend to find blogs through the comments or links in others’ blogs, so I dumped my blogroll.
Social Media. Anyone who has read this blog regularly knows that I’ve eschewed any social media format beyond blogging. If I ever get a book published, I will have to eat my words, 140 characters at time, because I’m sure that is an expectation. However, many people use Facebook and Twitter to promote their blog posts. So I’ve heard.
Blogging Breaks. I have taken regularly blogging breaks over the years. There were a few times when I considered quitting and the breaks reminded me of what I liked about blogging. If I were going to be gone for more than a week or two, I notified readers with a simple statement at the top of my most recent post. Even if no one misses you, it feels respectful towards one’s readership.
There are a lot of blogging resources out there. I enjoy the WordPress Daily Post. Outlier Babe just updated an entertaining post on blogging tips. If I were to come up with any sage advice of my own, it is this: Find what works for you, evaluate your blogging goals on a regular basis and really, just try to enjoy yourself.
Thank you to the readers who have joined the conversation in the last week and to the readers over the years who have willingly spent time here reading and commenting.
Please feel free to add your own blogging experience in the comment section – there’s a lot of new bloggers here!