It's easy to say that blogging is one of the easiest thing to start. All you need is a blogging application, access to the net and a thought that crosses your mind. There is no doubt that there are a lot of articles out there that would give you the breakdown of every known blogging application to comment spam filters to the hints and tips of applying Search Engine Optimization (SEO) or ads for the purpose of attracting visitors and making money on the sidelines. With everything that's out there, it's easy to say that blogging is easy, but it's not. It never was.
If blogging was so easy, there wouldn't be a few million blogs out there with slightly more than half of them surviving past 3 months. There would be more than just a handful of good blogs on our daily reading lists, that we would find it hard pressed to do anything else during the day except read them. Unfortunately, blogging isn't as easy as many of us claim to be, not because of the technological boundaries that still baffles the technologically disinclined, but because of the most overlooked question that all bloggers must answer one way or another.
"Now that I have a blog, what next?"
So What's Next?
The major problem with every blog is, now that you have had your say in whatever crossed your mind, is there anything else that you would add to that? Most people realized that after a while you really have nothing to say. Despite the fact that your mouth is bigger than both your ears combined, there is only a finite amount of intelligent things to say before you push it and everything else becomes either gibberish and nonsensical or rehashed information that you can get off homeless unemployed IT graduates.
Some might call this phase blog apathy and there is no surprise that there are also articles on how to beat it. Yet in all my years of blogging, I think that the stagnation and eventual disinterested in blogging goes beyond the inability to find something to blog about. It boils down to the inability to grow up alongside your blog, and that's something that affects almost every blogger.
Grow Up You Big Baby
Let me put things in a nutshell before I lose my point altogether. Real life on the other hand is real. You have yet to define your purpose after you were born. You will have social interests in which you will have to build networks, communities and niches. You will learn a lot in life and hopefully specialize in a field in which you can benefit society on a whole. You have your ups and downs. Since you have a beginning, you will definitely have an end.
Blogging on the other hand has a life of its own. It is the online representation of who you are. It has purpose which you have yet to define when you start. It has social interests in which you can build networks, communities and niches. It gives you a chance to learn a lot of new things and hopefully specialize in a certain area of interest in which can benefit the blogosphere as a whole. It has its ups and downs. It has a beginning and it definitely will have an end.
The point here if you haven't put two and two together is, if you don't find a way to develop your blog from that simple "I have an opinion and I am not afraid to put them down" to something a little more definitive that you have picked up along the way, you will fall behind those that take blogging one step further and figured out what they are going to do with their blog.
So to simplify things, I'm going to divide the ideas into two parts. One for blogs with a theme in mind and one for personal blogs.
These are blogs that have a special theme in mind. Whether you're a tech blog, a science blog or a political blog, as long as you started and focused on something, that makes it easier for you to grow and develop in your area. Sure, in the beginning you might have some pretty good opinions and information in the first place that no one else has thought off. But information is a competitive market and so is the alternate perspective. The most important thing behind blogs like this is facts.
Facts don't really fall out from trees and defined through the words you read from somewhere else. Think about it, if you can read about it, so can anyone else. You need something that can only be defined through experiencing those facts first hand. Something that can put weight on the mere words that you blog about.
So say if you're tech blogger, why not take your time and worm your way into the tech community of your choice? Get to know the developers. Be a alpha tester on something that the blogosphere hasn't gotten wind of yet, so when it does come out, you know way more than what other people would know if they blogged about it from a second hand source. Plus you have the facts to back it up.
The same deal goes for every theme of your choice. You can't be one blogger in the arena, stake your opinions and assume that you're unique. Understand political science if you can and build your network of people who know important people somewhere. Read and compare holy texts and ask the local religious folk to gain their perspective. Dabble around in the industry to gain a foothold of how books, editors, and writers work.
Whatever that gives you the edge to be a better blogger in return gives you the chance to be a more knowledgeable person in the society. No longer will you just be someone who sits in front of the computer randomly clicking your 1001 feeds to find and blog something that a few hundred people haven't already blogged about before. You have the credibility in whatever you have specialized in and it changes the way you blog about things and in a large way, it changes you.
Whether we like it or not, personal blogs make up the bulk of blogs out there. Most of us just want a place where we can rant, rave and hopefully believe that other people would listen. But when every personal blogger expects that on some subconscious level, where do we go from there? The answer though is both simple and a pain in the proverbial butt. You simply have to get out there and live your life, otherwise you're left with large gaps in your blogging timeline that is peppered with "noodle posts".
If you want me to be scientific about it, great personal blogs out there seem to have developed this formula:
- 40% life experience
- 40% storytelling
- 20% blog interaction
I say that you can play around with the ratios a bit until you get something that works for you. The most important thing to realize is that you don't really have to dig up facts to write a personal blog. Not I'm not saying you shouldn't get your facts straight when you decide to express an opinion. I'm saying that you don't have to look far to find that life is all about perspective and there is no shortage of things happening in it should you choose to start living beyond your front door. Here's looking at it simply. You can't have a personal blog if you don't have a personal life to live.
Another thing to remember is that personal blogs, without anything specific to give to the readers only have the ability to entertain by the way they express their life to people. It's the way you tell your story to the people that keeps them coming back for more. You can tell them what you had for lunch and whether you thought the waiter was coming on to you. Or you can tell them about that overlooked lonely meatball that fell on the floor and how your regular barista boy has gotten a whole lot better at serving you "coffee" for some reason.
Then you can understand why some "Dear Diary" like posts tend to have fewer readers than cryptic and poetic expressions of an anonymous perspective. Storytelling is a hard act to follow, many authors struggle to put it all together and few succeed. Now try imagine a few million bloggers out there and the load of crap that gets poured through that can't even spell properly let alone get their grammar right. That few blogs you read a day is starting to look even more reasonable now doesn't it?
So what else can you do but read? If you're lucky enough to be a good storyteller, then that's good for you. The rest of us however have to spend time experimenting on different styles and different ways of telling a story until we find something that works for us. Something that we find comfortable and part of ourselves. Which in return is no different than going out there and exploring ways in which you can be creatively expressive. Something that speaks of you that no one else can imitate, now that is really personal.
So what's left? You have a life. You have a way of telling a story. But in life, a person's worth is defined by the friends they keep. Blogging is no different. Good bloggers talk to their readers, great bloggers empathize with their readers and that makes friends and keeps people coming back for more because you're people person. It builds your niche and ultimately your community. It allows you to exchange ideas and opinions. Most importantly grow up with your readers instead of keeping the 15 minutes of fame you think you had when you started and then have everyone else move on without you.
If you haven't already closed this window and read up to this part then let me wrap things up before you fall into a state of catatonic boredom. The bottom line in all this is to grow up with your blog. Your blogs are a part of you, so whatever you pick up in life, you will put down online. If you picked nothing up, you have nothing to put down and that will show whether you give up on blogging or it all goes downhill from there.
Live life, learn what you like, and otherwise appreciate it along with people who share their own appreciation for the matter. Blogging is no different from how you would conduct yourself in the real world. Whatever skills you pick up on either end would benefit the way you see yourself and the world for that matter. Who knows? You might find yourself blogging about the things you picked up along the course of your career and even better, end up pursuing a career from something you picked up when you explored blogging.
The possibilities are endless. Only if you ask yourself what happens next after you got yourself a blog. Only if you're willing to try and find out.