Recently a friend asked me, as friends do from time to time, how to go about writing a blog. The best thing I can tell them is that blogging is like sending messages in a bottle. Don’t send one and stop, waiting for the ship to find you. Don’t send one, hoping you’ll get rich and famous overnight. Keep the messages coming.
I only started writing a blog because the instructor of a writing class I went to told us that all writers must participate in social media. She refused to consider the excuses -- that writers are the most introverted and socially awkward of so-called professionals, a claim backed by extensive research (which I’m making up as I go along) indicating that as a group, we rank lower in interpersonal skills than sociopathic basement-dwelling computer hackers. I started with Facebook; went on to build my own website, now mercifully demolished, from a box. Then I tried blogging.
There are lots of websites that support blogging, but why not start with a free site like this one at Blogger or Wordpress, which may be more popular with writers, at least writers I follow.
It was so easy, no worse than setting up a Facebook account. Of course, I was doing everything completely and totally wrong. I learned this the first time I typed in my own URL and Google told me it couldn’t find it.
Fortunately, a few months later the DFW Writers’Conference included a class on blogging, taught by Kristen Lamb, a tiny blonde, martial-arts chopping dynamo out to prove to writers that we can overcome the weaknesses of our blogs. Which she knew because she had been there.
In general, it’s safest to let Kristen speak for herself through her blog, which she will, even if I could manage to slap zip ties on her wrists and gag her with duct tape, because that’s the kind of woman she is. But I’ll mention her first rule: forget the natural writerly tendency to try to fade into the background, hiding behind some blog title that’s supposed to sound cute but actually is just stupid, like mine, which has required years of therapy and massive doses of mind-altering drugs to overcome. Kristen admitted, like a motivational speaker at a 12-step program, that she had done this herself, but had overcome by relentlessly rebranding her blog as (gasp!) Kristen Lamb’s Blog. Google it. It works.
Kristen’s second rule of blogging is to rip any thought of ourselves as “aspiring writers” right out of our frontal cortexes. Ouch! (But don’t you feel better now?) “Aspiring” is for sissies. We’re writers. So we write, and we feed our blogs by writing. Often. Writing regularly and often in itself puts little bread crumb trails on the Internet that lets search engines like Google’s find us. In the meantime, we should link, link, link like crazy to our blog’s URL. Google’s bloodhounds are out there sniffing.
Somewhere along the line I heard that the simple act of writing regularly helps us write better. It’s true, although it helps if we write intentionally and with no more than moderate amounts of the above-mentioned mind-altering drugs.
We also need a theme for our posts, indeed, for our entire blog, maybe for our entire lives. (Theme being something I learned even more about from another amazing DFW Conference speaker this year, Disney Jr. channel’s photo mom, Me Ra Koh.)
I can’t remember whether Kristen ordered us to include images with our blog posts or whether I learned that on my own, but do it. Any image, even the craziest, immediately draws more attention from web surfers. Internet guru James Gaskin, who I met at another writers’ group confessed that he got a cat just so he could post cute cat pictures with his blog.
Like James, I take most of my own pictures or download them free from sites such as Wikimedia . There are sources of clip art pictures, some of which you have to pay for. Remember to play right with copyright rules or you may find FBI agents knocking on your door. And they’re way less good looking in person than in the movies.