Nearly a year ago, I started doing something I never dreamed I would do: I became a blogger for elephant journal.
Before that, I use to joke that I was the only person in the world who didn’t have a blog. (In all fairness, I had a rinky-dink one that I started on a free website, but it was a requirement for an adult writing class and no one outside my classmates knew it existed. Once class was over, my poor blog died a slow death and probably went off to that big blog graveyard along with countless others.)
Obviously, I enjoy blogging. I have always enjoyed writing in general, and I especially like the fact that people enjoy my writing. Even though I was the wrong side of 35 when I began blogging in earnest, had professional writing experience, and thought I knew it all when it came to the wild, wild west of the internet, I do wish that I had gotten some tips and hints from an experienced blogger.
For those who are just starting out or looking to expand to a wider audience, then look no further to the ones below. While I am not an expert by any means and would never claim to be, the following are some things to keep in mind whether you hope to reach 10 people or 10 billion.
Even if you’ve been blogging for awhile, it may be worth your while to browse through the list since many of these are things and challenges all bloggers face at some time or awhile:
1. Remember that words have power.
Depeche Mode may have claimed that “words are meaningless and forgettable,” but the truth is they are anything but those things. Words have the an amazing amount of power. In the best case scenarios, they can help, heal and let to better understanding.
At worse, they have the power to harm and damage.
Keep in mind that once you post something on the ‘Net. It’s there forever. Even if you hit delete or even if you post anonymously, what you say can come back and hurt you years after it was posted.
This same thing applies when it comes to trolls or ultra-obnoxious commentators. While it can be tempting to tell trolls off in a string of profanities, all that ultimately does is make you look bad. The best thing to do is not to feed the trolls. In the case of obnoxious commentators, you may want to address some of their points, but stick to the topic in hand. Don’t result to personal insults.
Also, know when to quit. Some people are never going to see eye-to-eye with you, and that is okay. Personally, I am all for debate, but some people are just looking for a fight.
In any case, always think twice about what you want to chose to share anywhere in a blog. This brings me to #2.
2. Decide how little or much you want to share.
While I have written on quite a few personal topics-i.e., past relationships, my father’s battle with cancer, parenthood—there is a lot I chose not to share. The main reason goes back to #1—that is, once the genie is out of the bottle, there is no way to force it back in.
How much or how little you chose to reveal is up to you, but remember that anything you say can and may be used against you at a future time.
3. Be careful when writing about others especially former lovers, spouses, friends, etc.
None of us live in a vacuum. It’s impossible to tell our stories without including others. However, use common sense.
Either ask for permission and/or do not include real names or identifying details.
I knew one blogger who wrote extensively about about her marriage and past partner. Though she did not name them, she included so many details about these men that anyone with Google could easily figure out who they were. This lead to some problems for the latter as she implied that he suffered from various mental disorders. (Needless to say, this did not end very well.)
Even if you really believe that the person you write about will never read what you wrote, keep in mind that it may happen. Indeed, it may even surprise you how small the world really is.
4. Keep in mind your public persona vs. your personal identity.
Even though most bloggers do not become celebrities, you will have a public persona which will probably be different than how you are in real life. Even if you aren’t try to consciously build the former, people can and will project things on to you that may or may not be true especially if you blog about controversial topics.
I suggest keeping the two separate whenever possible. Like many bloggers, I recently created a public Facebook page that is just about writing and yoga. Some people may decide not to create one at all and “exist” only on the blog. The choice is yours.
However, regardless of what you chose, take any stalkers or would-be stalkers seriously. In this day and age, it’s fairly easy to locate people’s homes and places of work. If someone is harassing or threatening you, don’t deal with it yourself. If need be, get the authorities involved.
5. Blog for the joy of it.
The best reason to blog is because you enjoy it and/or are passionate about a certain topic or idea. Yeah, there are people whose blogs lead to book and movie deals, but they are the (tiny) exception and not the rule. Most bloggers do not get paid zilch. Those that do will tell you that while any form of payment is nice, it isn’t (usually) enough to live on.
Blogging does involve a certain amount of time and commitment. For some, it may mean a significant amount of both. In any case, if you do become the next big literary sensation, then great. However, your blog probably will not lead to that, and that is okay.
Blogging can be a great creative outlet as well as a great way to share information or spark insightful dialogue. At some point, you may decide to blog as well.
While there are no rules let alone set rules when it comes to blogging or creating a blog, keeping the above in mind can help you to avoid various pitfalls that often come with the territory.
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Editor: Bryonie Wise