Before you go any further, go vote for SRBP as the Best Political Blog in Canada. There are a couple of days left in the final voting. Go back again tomorrow and the day after.
Lives could depend on it.
When you’ve done voting, come back and read the rest of this post.
First thing: know what a blog is.
The blog is the entire space on the Internet. The Sir Robert Bond Papers is the blog.
The individual items in it are posts.
People will send you tweets and e-mails telling you that you wrote a great blog on Tuesday. Well, hopefully the blog is great everyday. What they meant was that they liked the Tuesday post.
That e-mail is wonderful. Smile as you type the person a thank you.
Be thankful for it.
Knowing what a blog is gets you started. There are as many types of blogs as there are people. There are all sorts of layouts – the way things looks – and ways of posting what you write or draw or shoot with a camera or record.
To get you started on an understanding of the blog world, check out the 2011 Technorati report on the State of the Blogosphere.
Second thing: figure out who you are writing for.
Not the audience. That’s another issue. We’ll get to that in a minute.
Write the blog for yourself. Write it as if no one else is going to read it except you.
Third thing: know why you are writing.
You are writing for you.
Don’t write if you think it will bring you, fame, notoriety, or anything else of the sort. Don’t expect you will get job offers or make any money at it. A few people have turned their blog into a book or a column or something. They are the exception. You will write because you think you are exceptional. You will quickly find out you are mortal among the million blogs that start every day and the million and a half that die every day.
Write because you have something inside you that wants to get out.
Fourth Thing: writing a blog is like committing sin - you gotta wanna.
If you don’t want to do it, you won’t stick with it when things are tough, when the ideas don’t come, when the sentences don’t flow or when you are just too tired to click the keys on the keyboard.
So if you don’t want to write a blog deep down in the pit of your stomach, then save yourself the agony.
Don’t start. Do something else.
But if you start, then keep going.
Fifth Thing: before you write lots, read lots.
And while you are writing, read and listen and watch.
You will get lots of ideas for new things to write about, but most of all, you will find something to say. Some people say you should write about what you know. That’s good advice. Knowing something will make it easier to write about something.
And then what if you want to write something else? Well, you can just stick with the something you know. People will get bored with that pretty fast. You will, too.
Or you can go learn about something else. Do some research. Ask questions. Talk to people who know about something else.
Remember: while you are writing for you, someone else will wind up reading your stuff. They are the audience. You may have some idea who will read your stuff. Odds are you will be wrong about them.
That’s okay. They key thing is that they are reading what you write and that they are not your blood relatives or employees. They are not people who feel obliged to read you. They are people who want to read what you write.
They want to see content. Content is a big part of what draws people in.
Sixth Thing: be yourself, even if it isn’t you.
The other thing that will draw people to your blog is you. Professional writers will tell you about finding your voice. That’s a really simple but really profound idea about how your personality will start to appear on the page.
You cannot fake it.
You cannot force it.
As you write, all the stuff that makes you you – humour, stodginess, persnickitiness, whatever – will also come through.
Blogs and Twitter are similar: you cannot be really successful and be anonymous. Ideally, you should write under your own name. If there are personal or professional reasons why you can’t write under your own name, then use a pen name.
People will respect someone who signs his or her real name to an opinion. They may not agree with the opinion. They may think you are an asshole. But they cannot deny you have guts.
If you want some good examples of what blogs can be, here are two examples that could not be more dissimilar. Townie Bastard is a blog that is full of the guy who writes it where a great many are just full of crap. He isn't full of crap. Belle de Jour was a blog written under a pseudonym but the story within the story was as compelling as the story itself.
Seventh Thing: write lots.
Write every day. Write every other day. Write once a week. Write once an hour. Do what you can but, for God’s sake, do it. You will get better with every sentence you type. Your readers will get used to finding new stuff on whatever schedule you set.
Don’t think about eight years from now. Think about tomorrow or whenever your next post is due.
Eighth Thing: try stuff.
Don’t be afraid to experiment with ways of expressing yourself, with ideas for running themes or anything else. Go back through the SRBP archives and you will find all sorts of styles, series, and expressions. Some of it resonated. Some of it didn’t. Some had a fixed life. Some of it should have been strangled in its cradle.
Ninth Thing: let stuff die.
There is a time to every purpose under heaven. Half the battle is knowing when it is time to kill that idea that seemed so brilliant when you were strung out on a lack of sleep and too much caffeine but that turned out to suck the big one.
Tenth Thing: have fun.
Joke ‘em if they can’t take a f*ck.