Kids will try anything. Really. Just a few weeks ago, my son turned three and we surprised him with the ultimate old soul gift: a hula hoop. Immediately, he was intent on mastering the toy.
If I remember nothing else in all my life, I will forever retain his laughter bouncing off the walls in our home. With each attempt, he learned a new technique. With each attempt, he gained confidence. With each attempt, he overcame his mistakes.
Yesterday evening – just as the sun was fading – I peered at my son with a jealous eye as the hoop made six complete rotations: I want to be that kind of writer.
This week I introduce my first-year students to the blogging world via WordPress, and I am pretty excited to see how they operate this new vehicle for their writing. Truthfully, I feel grossly unprepared for the endeavor. After all, my blog is not yet one year old, and every day offers a new lesson in this evolving genre.
But every endeavor has a beginning, and these are my top ten pieces of blogging advice:
Tip #1: Write for yourself.
In the social media fabric that makes today’s world, don’t lose yourself in your writing. Don’t sell your truth out for “likes” and “follows”. Statistics is a great feature, but it will drive you insane if you use it to mark your worth. Instead, use it to inspire your writing – where your heart is, your readers will be also.
Tip #2: Don’t be afraid to let others in.
Unlike traditional journaling and the “wonderful” five-paragraph essay, blogging allows for greater intimacy with your audience. Raw, yet controlled honesty is your best bet at conveying experience and insight while not coming across as an unyielding jerk. Blogging opens up the most surprising channels for human connection, and it will make you wonder how you survived before you knew your writing held such power.
Tip #3: Don’t obsess with reinvention.
It’s like all those futile grooming habits before an important date – you’re never going to get it perfect! Don’t worry yourself with changing your theme, page style, featured images, etc. every day. In the first week, find an overall look that fits your personality and stick with it. You can always update your content, but bloggers like a general level of predictability when they follow your writing. The same goes with blog entries. Find your inner voice and let that be the loudest thing heard.
Tip #4: Lead AND follow.
We don’t become better writers through the act of writing alone; we must read what others have written as well. This is one of my greatest struggles: I worry that another’s voice will become my own. There is, however, a healthy balance within reach. Other authors are waiting to give us the shortcut on long (and often hard) lessons they have learned in writing and life, and they remind us that inspiration remains at our fingertips. Tags are tremendously helpful. Like, follow, and comment on work you find compelling. You’ll never regret encouragement.
Tip #5: Don’t be that blogger.
Don’t be that blogger who conveys every painstaking emotion to evoke unending sympathy. Don’t be that blogger who posts the exact same post 50 different ways. Don’t be that blogger who doesn’t think before they write. Don’t be that blogger who only elicits anger. My point? Be brave but respectful. Be confident not arrogant. Be inspirational not unoriginal.
Tip #6: Use Daily Posts, Weekly Photo prompts, and Community Pools
WordPress wants to build you as a blogger. Take advantage of the daily post ideas they provide as well as free resources added weekly to enhance your writing experience. There are literally thousands of people with your same questions, so why not use these tools to find them – or at least someone who has already been there? Also, every comment, every question, every tag, every kind word offered – this is how you network and promote your blog.
Tip #7: Be brave.
Not every post you write will be a homerun. Seriously, especially in the beginning, you will wonder why you even wrote AND posted your last entry. You will fear how others will perceive you and you will wonder if anyone will even appreciate your message. Take heart: If there are words published, there is connection.
Tip #8: Make parameters for what to share and what not to share in the beginning.
The best way to avoid oversharing is to have a plan in place from the first entry. What will you share and to what extent will you communicate it? And sometimes those healthy boundaries lead to even better writing because you must work around them to create impactful combinations of words.
Tip #9: Disagreement is expected.
To go through life without conflict is impossible, and so, too, is writing when you share an opinion – no matter how rooted in evidence or personal experience it may be. If a particular comment is offensive, you can choose to approve each comment before it is published to your blog. If a particular comment is defensive, use it as an opportunity to take the higher road in dialogue. Sometimes comments are how others work best through their own insecurities, fears, and challenges. Again, you will never regret encouragement, even if responses initially feel like an attack.
Tip #10: Blogging changes you.
Unlike most writing in higher education, blogs allow for immediate feedback. In many ways, they are a playground for your words and thoughts. Learn what works for you and what enables you to reach your audience. And don’t be afraid to chart a new course – as long as you stay true to your inner voice. You will evolve with your blog.
Tip #11: [Bonus] Visuals matter!
Sometimes pictures and videos can communicate what words on a screen cannot. And, sometimes, they even attract readers when your words fall short. All visuals should be selected for their ability to enhance the narrative – or to tell one all their own!
What would you add to this list? Please share your best blogging advice below!