People always ask me for blogging advice and I have no idea why.
I know the little piece of internet I own and author is doing alright, but I'm not exactly an expert when it comes to blog stuff, or tech stuff, or writing stuff. I just sort of do whatever I want and sometimes it works out. But blogging has been good to me. It's been a creative outlet, a quiet therapist, a boisterous community, a spirited debate, a sincere friend, and a soft, snarky place to land, again and again as I've stumbled along this path of Life and Faith. So whenever someone tells me they're starting a blog it makes me kind of happy to think they may be embarking on a similar journey.
I really do wish I had some bit of great blogging advice to offer, but since my beginning in the blog world, the rules of successful blogging (if such a thing ever existed) have changed a lot, and they continue to morph at a pretty rapid rate.
Back in the day, blogs were the place where conversations happened as people commented directly to the author or to each other, responding, edifying, arguing, encouraging, and offending in long threads of dialog at the bottom of each post. These days, the majority of the conversation takes place elsewhere, mostly on Facebook, where we engage in an oddly disconnected, but highly interested, modern-day version of community. So while five years ago the intent of a blog was to draw people in, these days it's to be drawn out – to be shared. We used to want to know how to get people to come to our blog, but now we're asking how to get our blog "out there” to the people. Comment threads are no longer a good indicator of how well a particular blog post has been received, because, today, in the land of SEO and XML and LOLZ, the Share button is king.
Success for today's blogger means being posted, pinned, tumbled, stumbled, mailed, and tweeted times infinity.
Just whispering the word "viral" gives bloggers a boner. It used to be if someone told you they'd gone viral, you'd take a generous step backward, visibly shudder, and run away to wash your hands. Now we're all clamoring for the chance. We want to spread our infectious discourse all over the internet, the faster the better. When we post to our blogs, it's no longer in the hope that people will come join us in our little space, but that they'll invite us into theirs. We want readers to carry the thing we've created home with them, to their Facebook house, to share it with their friends, who will share it with their friends, who will share it with their friends. And on and on, just like the flu, until everyone's had it, some twice.
Blog posts could be called blog pathogens.
This “viralability” has been a game changer, as it has moved much of the conversation instigated by blog posts away from the actual blogs. Instead of sharing their opinion with a bunch of strangers in a string of blog comments, people would rather leave their thoughts with the social media friend who
them shared the
post with them. So that's what they do. They read a post and then
they go back and leave a comment about it on Facebook, or wherever.
And this is
great, because it
means the post is getting “out there.”
That's what we want, right Bloggers?! Yes! At the end of the day, every blogger wants to be hunched over their laptop, hands pressed together, hissing with satisfaction, “It's spreading...”
But as we've moved the conversation away from the blog, and distanced ourselves from the content's creator, I think we've seen a marked change in the tone of online chatter. I still love the World Wide Web, but in a lot of ways, we've seen it twist into a disparaging, hypercritical, house of condemnation with a voracious appetite for innocent mistakes, embarrassing blunders, and anything that even remotely resembles a scandal. Without the obvious presence of the author, people tend to speak a little more assholey...*ahem*, I mean...honestly...,yeah, people speak more honestly. We're all more apt to openly disagree with an article, generously share a different perspective, or haughtily point out an author's flawed grammar, poor syntax, and thick ankles when we think they're not listening. Far from the writer's defensive gaze, readers feel free to critique, analyze, or completely annihilate an author's body of work. Or their actual body. (...Let's be honest, people can be really mean, especially the Anonymous people of Internetland.)
If you're new to blogging, or even if you've been at it for awhile and you're trying to expand your readership, the hard part really isn't getting your stuff “out there”. Create fresh, interesting content and release it to the world via every social media hub ever invented, and it'll get out there – the hard part is being secure enough in your words and in yourself to let it be, once it is. If you want to defend or protect your work from people who don't like it, or if you feel the need to explain a post to everyone who disagrees with it, blogging will be a painful and exhausting experience for you. It just will.
Not everyone likes you, and not everyone agrees with you... and THAT'S OK!
I guess that would be my bit of advice for bloggers. You can google everything you need to know about how to grow your blog, you can read up on analytics, you can figure out how to sell ads in your sidebar all by yourself. But what you really need to know if you want your blog to do well, is this:
(you can totally write that on a chalkboard and pin it if you want to)
If you want to be a successful blogger, your stuff has to get out there, and if your stuff gets out there, you've got to understand that good and worthy conversations can and will happen without you, apart from you, away from you, and, sometimes even about you. So you better get super comfy with being misunderstood, misinterpreted, condescended, criticized, disagreed with, disliked, and just plain dissed – Sometimes right to your face ...But mostly behind your Facebook back....(faceback?)
Viruses are confident little bastards. They can go from host to host to host without even wondering if their presence had an impact or what that impact was. A virus feels no need to control the narrative of its work, it just lets it get out there, into the world, and then if or how or when it affects people is their business. This is a good model for bloggers; Do your work, then let it go. Get it out there, and then don't worry about it, don't watch it, don't wonder what it's doing. Seriously, RELAX. You're writing a blog, not curing cancer...
So just get it out there, and then, for the love of God, let it be. You can do this, because remember? Not everyone likes you. Not everyone agrees with you. And you're totally comfortable with that.
In honor of your newfound confidence, and because every blogger is just dying to get their stuff out there, I'm giving away three... 3.... THREE!!! guest spots on my blog. I'll pick the date, you'll pick the topic (within my discretion), and then lots and lots of people will read your words. I promise, this will be very good practice for your blogging cojones. Fun, right?!
I am SO EXCITED about this. =) Good luck!