Blogging Is Writing Not Rocket Science
I’ve read such a lot of blogs about blogging. Without keeping a tally, the totals must be hundreds of pages and thousands of hours. I’ve done the same with writing fiction, although through the medium of paper books. Starting my writing career, I spent far more time reading about writing, dreaming about writing, and planning a writing life, than, you know, writing.
I’m not suggesting you don’t need an education. A few books about writing are worth the time you invest in them. But there are many reasons you should make this the last blog you ever read about blogging.
Here they are:
- Learning what a blog is, and how to write one, isn’t rocket science. You need very little information to get started
- There’s an on-going learning curve and it can be steep. But you can’t get on it until you blog for real, and that means writing
- Most blogs about blogging are written by people who never blogged about anything else, and that’s just weird. They don’t give a damn about communicating anything of value. You’re a “niche market” to exploit for a few bucks
- Reading blogs about blogging is like getting lost in a hall of mirrors. Everywhere you look, everything is the same, in infinite regress
- Nobody can teach you how to blog, or tell you what to blog. There’s no one definition of success and there’s no magic formula for achieving it
When I discover one of my many weaknesses, failings, or plain stupidities, I assume other people out there are just like me. Maybe few, and fewer still who’d admit it in public, but I know they’re there. So I’m happy to speak on behalf of this embarrassed, silent group, and tell you why I’ve wasted – yes wasted – so many hours of my one, precious life reading blogs about blogging.
Enough Blogs About Blogging Already!
At first, it was innocent enough. I wanted to write a blog, and I’d never done it. It seemed sensible to research before getting started. Ah, so coy is the wasp as she buzzes toward the honey trap, so unknowing the fly that spirals to the web!
With as little a web as this will I ensnare as great a fly as Cassio.
William Shakespeare. Othello, Act II, Scene I
I found everything I needed to know about setting up and writing a blog in the first ten minutes. The important things to learn are these:
- domain names, hosting and design
- knowing what you want to blog about
- blog posts are online articles
And that’s it. Those are the only three things you need to know to get started. There may be many bells and whistles you can add as you go, but the essentials of starting your blog boil down to three actionable steps, and they’re easy:
- Set up your blog and get it online
- Decide what you will write
That’s good news. It’s easy.
But like a lot of good news, it’s also scary. It’s so tempting to put off writing that first blog post and instead, search for anything yet to learn. I mean, it can’t be that simple, can it?
What We Would, We Would Not
The notion of making money by popular work, and then retiring to do good work, is the most familiar of all the devil’s traps for artists.
Logan Pearsall Smith
Let me share a true story with you.
I’m an atheist, rationalist, evidence-based chap these days – but in my youth I was a zealous Christian. By the age of 13 I was obsessed with Saint Francis of Assisi. I thought the Church was corrupt (I was right) and to follow Christ, we should give away all our possessions and go barefoot, preaching the gospel.
I berated my parents for their hypocrisy, and bemoaned that I couldn’t follow my sacred vocation.
Until one spring morning when I was hectoring my father about what it meant to be a true believer. When I’d reached the dramatic end of my sermon, he said, “Son, you’re right. You have my blessing to leave this house and preach the gospel. You can start now. And you can start next door.”
I was horror-struck. What? Actually do it?
My career as an itinerant preacher began and ended there.
Work and the Illusion of Work
Now it’s not a perfect analogy, but it shows that sometimes it’s only when the obstacles have gone, we realize how reluctant we are to do the thing we want to do.
So with blogging. Starting a blog doesn’t mean reading endless blogs about blogging, or burning the midnight oil analyzing hundreds of potential keywords. It means having something to say and saying it. You know, writing blog posts.
It’s easier to enjoy the illusion of progress by reading about doing something, than to get on and do it. But writing skills, you can only learn on the job. You can’t go from not writing at all to brilliant writing, or from having no blog posts to hundreds of pages pulling in a dedicated readership, in one magical leap. The laws of Nature just don’t allow it.
These Boots Were Made for Walking
To get from A to Z, you have to take steps B through Y. Map-reading and journey-planning can’t go on forever. Strap your boots on and get walking.
I’m glad we’ve come up with the analogy of walking, because it illustrates another vital point.
No-one wants to be bad at something. No-one wants to be a “newbie.” That may account for why so many phony expert bloggers exist out there. But competency comes through putting time and effort into doing the thing you want to be competent at doing. Everything has to develop.
Which takes us back to the walking analogy. It’s one I like because I’m a walker. I walk everywhere, and I love hiking in the great outdoors.
If it’s the first time you’ve slouched off the sofa and poked your nose outside your front door, you can’t expect to walk to the top of a mountain the same day. But you’ve got to start somewhere or you’ll get nowhere. Take the first steps.
Maybe you can only get around the block. But keep walking around the block and you’ll find you get stronger and your stamina builds. A month down the line, you’ll be doing circuits of the recreation ground. Three months down the line, you’ll be in the foothills of a National Park. A year from now, you’ll be taking in the view from the highest peak. And you won’t even be out of breath when you get there.
Everybody Starts at Zero, and the Only Way is Up
It’s the same with blogging – or any writing. It takes time to build your skills, your strengths, and your stamina. You’ve got to live through the period when you have only one post and no traffic; when you can’t think of anything useful to write; when you feel lonely and afraid and think it might all come to nothing.
But if you keep at it, everything gets easier and easier. Remember when you couldn’t balance on a bicycle or swim a length of the pool? And now you hop on your bike and go without even thinking about it. You turn somersaults from the high board and churn through the water at a phenomenal rate of knots. That which started out as a serious challenge has become effortless.
The only reason I’m any good at any of the things I’m any good at is because I allowed myself to be crap at them at the start. So stop reading blogs about blogging and write your blog.
If you want to write a blog, you can. You have my blessing to leave this blog and write your own. You can start now. And you can start with your next post.
If you’ve enjoyed this post or if you haven’t, I would love to read your insights, experiences, thoughts, critiques, or reflections in the comments below. Please share this post on your social media. That would be a lovely thing to do.
Image credits: all images (apart from the book covers of my novels and the photo of me) are in the Public Domain and were sourced via the Creative Commons. Click on the image to reveal the name of the artist and the work in the address bar.