Nine months ago, Laugh Lines went “live.” I’d thought about starting a blog for some time, and had even halfheartedly tried it a year or two earlier. But it really had no purpose, no reason to exist, so when I quickly discovered that successful blogs are, plainly stated, a butt-load of WORK, my first attempt got tossed out the car window in favor of reading James Patterson’s latest novel on my Kindle.
Fast-forward 2 years, at lunch with my uber-agent/soon-to-be publisher, who insisted I get back on the horse and do it again, committing to a minimum of one year, with the primary purpose of building a readership that went beyond my Aunt Bertha and my bunkmates from cheerleading camp in 1973. Having no clear picture in my head of what the next year would bring or if anyone other than my mother and BFF would even read my blog (turns out my mother never did, so technically, I was actually down to one), I sat down to try again. Nine months later, I’m having the time of my life and I’ve discovered that many lessons we learn in childhood are great keys to growing your blog.
So today I decided to share my “Life Lessons Re-Learned from Blogging.”
1. You Get What You Give. Blogging is a shared effort, and you cannot expect others to do anything for you that you are unwilling to do for them. If you love comments, leave some. If you cherish Twitter RTs, get those RT thumbs flying. If Facebook page “Likes” put the yippy in your skippy, scroll around and “Like” a bunch. There’s a reason we learn this stuff in grade school. It still applies.
2. The Hardest Part is Getting Started. There’s nothing worse for a writer than staring at a blank computer screen and knowing you’ve got nothing to say. You’ve written everything good you’re capable of, and you’ll never have a creative thought again. Ever. Go for a walk, then pull up a chair and write something. Start with “Mary had a little lamb” and see where it goes. Just START. Some of my most popular posts started as rambling thoughts of an ADHD mind.
3. You Can’t Do It Alone. I read Facebook posts all the time by bloggers who are tearing their hair out trying to get some new widget to work, or who don’t know what a blog hop is, or who don’t have a clue how to design a business card. Guess what? Most of us didn’t know any of that stuff either when we started. Get connected with people in the blogosphere who’ve done what you’re struggling with, and ask for help.
4. Please and Thank You Go a Long Way. ‘Nuf said.
5. Be Yourself. Writers call this your “voice.” We all start with a certain writing style, but then we read other “better,” wildly successful blogs and it becomes tempting to mimic their style because obviously people love it. Big, big, as in huge, mistake. Imitating other writers can come across as awkward and stilted, and is unsustainable over the long haul. Your voice is what belongs on your blog.
6. More is Not Always Better. A lot of bloggers post every day, and I’m in awe. That kind of pressure would have me producing too much crap. Write only as often as you can write well.
7. Not Everybody Will Love You. This is a tough one. Bloggers often live through their statistics. Increased subscribers, comments, or Facebook page Likes can make us burst out into spontaneous, public happy dances. But unsubscribers, negative comments, or lost Likes can instantly spiral us into wails of “Why don’t they like me???” Maybe it’s you, maybe it’s your genre, maybe you remind them of the tramp their husband ran off with. You’ll probably never know. Toughen up and move on.
8. You Have to Market Yourself. Simply put, there’s no point in doing all this work if nobody ever reads it. There are people who believe that “if you build it, they will come.” Those people are still blogging to the 3 people they graduated with in 1989. Whatever your fears or misgivings are about social media, blog hops, or handing out blogger business cards to your drycleaner, get past them and start telling people what you do. They can’t read it if they don’t know about it.
9. You Can’t Be the Bride at Every Wedding or the Corpse at Every Funeral. Blogging is not a competition. It’s natural to get a little jealous when another blogger wins an award we’ve never been offered, or whose post gets tapped by Huffington Post, or who has out-of-this-world stats. “What about meeeee???” we cry. “I’m good too!!” Maybe you are. But maybe it’s simply not your turn. Many of these bloggers have been at it for years. They’ve earned it. Be happy for them. They’ll be the first to applaud when it happens to you.
10. Don’t Give Up. Yeah, this is easy on those days when we dazzle the blogosphere with our brilliance. Comments come flying in, RTs are lighting up our iPhones all day long, and our Facebook pages tally up new Likes faster than a step counter in a walk-for-the-cure. Then, inevitably, there are the days when the universe outs us as the hacks we really are. We spend the day in our sweats and bunny slippers, Googling rehab groups for failed bloggers (“Hi. My name is Vikki, and I wanted to be a blogger, but I really sucked at it.”) But if you’re truly a writer, put down the Ben & Jerry’s Chunky Monkey Sundae, put on your full-butt, getting-down-to-business underwear, and get back in front of your computer to write. Your next post just might be one that nails it.
And so the journey continues. I don’t know how this will end or where I’ll land, but I’m having too much fun to care. Thanks for sharing it with me. MWAH!