A friend stopped by recently and announced she was thinking about starting a blog and she needed some advice. After I stopped snort-laughing about the fact that anyone would ask my advice about blogging, I agreed to explain my process of posting.
“How do you get people to read your posts?” she asked. “That is what you’ll spend most of your blog life trying to figure out,” I replied. “If you come up the magic formula, you’ll make millions. Until then, you need a post for them to read when they find you.”
I explained that the mechanics of posting are fairly general, but the process is unique to each blogger. Many Laugh Lines posts came to be using the following method:
1. Sit bolt upright in bed at 2 a.m. with a fabulous, three-glasses-of-wine-before-bedtime induced idea for a hilarious post that had you laughing in your sleep, which you didn’t write down because you didn’t want to come out from under the warm, poufy duvet and you were sure you’d remember because it was just too good to forget.
2. Go back to sleep.
3. Wake up later and realize you have no freakin’ clue what shot you out of bed three hours earlier. NOOOOO!
4. Take a hot shower, during which you rummage through your entire repertoire of memory games to retrieve your original idea. Halfway through, little snatches begin to wander back. Not wanting to lose the Great Idea twice, you shout for Hubs to get to the bathroom now, with a tablet and a pen, as you scramble out of the shower, head full of suds, to start writing before your next bout of early onset dementia kicks in.
5. Throw on whatever you can grab as you run down the hall to get to your computer and start typing a rough draft that has you cracking up the entire time because you’re just so damn funny.
6. Finish the draft and go have breakfast, so you can come back to it with fresh eyes. Ernest Hemingway instructed his students to “Write drunk, edit sober.” Not literally feasible at 5 in the morning, but grasps the essence of writing. Get it down on paper in any clumsy way you can, then edit the crap out of it.
7. Finish breakfast and head back to your office to begin the editing process.
8. Re-read the gem that was going to launch your new career as a full-time writer, and realize it’s not quite as good as you thought. Okay, it sucks. Take a deep breath as your mind whirs past a half-dozen alternate careers you can explore when you quit blogging, because the chances of ever getting paid for this blather are only slightly greater than winning the lottery twice in one day, finally deciding to just walk away for a few hours, giving yourself time to decide whether it’s worth editing or should be simply deleted so your suckiness is wiped from the universe, never to be shared in this lifetime.
9. Return two hours later, determined to bring the draft up to its original potential, and start editing, which basically involves redoing the entire post, copying, pasting, deleting, adding, and rearranging until you start laughing again, feeling that little flutter in your stomach that you get when you’re nailing it.
At this point, I felt the need to add a blogging truism. Guess what? We don’t know which posts are going to end up as #1 hits on our “Best of” menu. Regardless of what your blogging genre is, it’s a bit of a crapshoot. I’ve written posts where I’ve laughed the entire time I was writing, that were apparently only read by two family members and a gerbil, if his profile picture was accurate. And I’ve posted “filler” pieces that were entertaining, but not laugh-out-loud funny, that came in with some of my highest views ever. The moral? Write what you love. The rest is out of your control. Now back to the process.
10. When you feel like it’s proofed and ready, save it as a Draft Post and give it a week to “gel” before you publish it. There were too many times, especially in the early months, when I rushed to publish a post that wasn’t quite ready, that would have been so much better if I would have just waited a few days, allowing for last-minute edits that would take it from “Cute post” to “I spit my coffee out all over my keyboard laughing at this” comments from readers. For me, it’s worth the wait.
11. When you’ve done all the editing you can and your mind has moved on to the next post, it’s time to click “Publish.”
12. Spend the next 24 hours watching to see if anybody but you and your mother think it’s any good. And really, she doesn’t count, because she’s, well…your mom. This is the same woman who told every single person she saw on the street that you were truly the most beautiful baby ever, when, in fact, you looked like a cross between Yoda and the guy down the street with ears that could fly you to Philadelphia. Mom has no credibility.
13. Incessantly check your Dashboard for stats during the day, making goofy “BOOM” fist bumps when a Facebook “Like” comes in, you get a comment, or someone shares your post on FB, Google+, or Twitter. Or, the Holy Grail of writer validation, you get a new subscriber, resulting in uninhibited happy dances in your driveway that even your neighbors have learned to interpret, calling out “Congratulations!” over the fence, with a smile and a thumbs up. But there will also be those days when you’re lying on the couch in a fetal position with a bottle of wine and Cheez-in-a-Can, when it’s sadly clear that your post was only seen by the gerbil, and he wasn’t impressed.
14. Then, whether you’re happy dancing down the hall or you have to crawl from the pity-party couch, it’s time to get back on your computer and give back. The next few hours are spent reading and sharing other blog posts. Blogging is a fast lesson in “You get what you give.” So cough up some comments, retweets, and shares. It will come back to you in ways you can’t imagine.
15. Repeat process with each new post.
As I wrapped up my verbal tutorial, she looked at me in silence for a moment or two, while I tried to make sure she understood that my process might be totally different that hers, but what all writers have in common is the need to write. After a pause, she said, “I’m going to Thailand for a week. I’m going to write about that.”
Welcome to the blogosphere, my friend. You’re going to be great.