Surprisingly, people ask me for tips on how to write a blog. My post Having Fun with Hyperlinks, has generated more feedback than anything else I have written this year, including multiple pleas for advice. More importantly, many friends who have special expertise or interests play with the idea of doing a blog, but haven’t yet taken the plunge. That’s too bad; this modern means of communication (probably considered outmoded by young people on Twitter and other rapidly changing social media) is easy, efficient, and remarkably democratic. Anyone who is so inclined can share whatever they want with whomever is interested, at their leisure. Blogging is one of the gifts of modern technology.
With my eleven months of accumulated experience (hardly a long track record!!!), what can I say?
1. Writer Alison Wearing relates that blogging is considered “jogging for writers.” It provides exercise in writing regularly, sometimes to deadline, depending on how often one commits to putting up posts. More important, it is a prod to curiosity and, like a camera, opens one’s eyes and ears to the world around us. I like to think of my blog as a newspaper column, and always ask if what I want to write about will be of interest to my readers, and worth their time (and mine).
2. There are many internet blog sites which offer templates for personalizing a blog and putting up posts. I use WordPress because I have friends who taught me how it works. The template is exactly that, a tool for typing and editing text, creating hyperlinks, adding media such as photographs and video, classifying and tagging the material, and keeping statistics. The blogging service also connects you with followers who can choose to receive notice of posts. The blogging service makes the blog work.
3. I have benefitted enormously from having a friend who is an experienced WordPress editor and who has helped me with technical details as they have arisen. She set up the template and, as she still shares administering my site, can make corrections herself if I have not yet learned how to do so. Like any computer program, the learning process is incremental, and requires practice.
4. I generally draft ideas for my post in my computer word-processing program. Prospective posts sit in that program while I add information or perfect the writing. Once I have a penultimate draft, I copy and paste the text into my blog template. From there, I add pictures and hyperlinks within the blog site itself.
5. WordPress provides statistics every day on the number of views, the number of visitors, what country they come from, and which posts are most popular. To date, I have had over 10,000 views on my site, and the numbers are growing each month. In the global scheme of things, these numbers may be a drop in the bucket, but they do provide an incentive to continue.
6. Blogging regularly helps create an audience, but can detract from other writing projects. The frequency of posts depends on the goals (and time commitment) of each blogger.
7. Adding photos and other media to posts provides welcome relief from print and is generally appreciated by readers. Photos may need captions or explanations to be most meaningful.
8. I like to make sure that each post provides some added value to the reader by providing hyperlinks to relevant third-party internet sites. In the long-term, however, the utility of these links may disappear with the demise of the original link site. The meat of your blog message must be in the blog itself.
9. “Less is more” is an old adage which is hard to achieve, but always worth remembering. Reading extensive blocks of text, particularly on mobile devices, is difficult.
10. Blogs are as different as the bloggers who create them and the goals they have in mind. Is it to practice writing? advocate a cause? promote a business? share recipes? describe a vacation? network with a special interest group? The objective will shape the form of the blog. The trick is to get started, and see what happens.