Starting a blog: The whys and hows
Writers everywhere are using blogs to publicize their writing. Surely you know of some. I mean, you’re reading one right now!
Word Press, the content management system that hosts the Center blog (and one of the most popular CMS’s for beginners in existence) defines a blog as:
an abbreviated version of ‘weblog,’ which is a term used to describe websites that maintain an ongoing chronicle of information. A blog features diary-type commentary and links to articles on other websites, usually presented as a list of entries in reverse chronological order.
If you are new to the blogging world—to reading blogs, let alone thinking of starting one—let me assure you of one thing: they can be so much more than a public diary. Blog topics are incredibly diverse, and a single blog might tackle one specific subject or a wide range, might be deeply personal or overtly political, and might even generate an income for the blogger through ad revenue.
In short, blogging has come a long way since its inception. If you’re a beginning writer or even a more seasoned writer who wants to start community-building, here are some reasons why and how to start a blog of your very own:
Because you have some kind of value to add.
Anyone can start a blog, it’s true. What will set yours apart from the millions of blogs already out there? What will bring readers to your site? Well, your thoughtful commentary on the thing or things that bring you the most joy, of course! Because there are others out there who are into the same things you are, whether it’s writing or gardening or fitness or knitting or social justice work or food or This is Us. Those readers will find you, if you blog long enough and have interesting things to say, in an interesting voice. Maybe you want to write movie reviews from the perspective of your dog. Maybe you want to share vegan recipes as if you’re trying to convince your carnivorous extended family of the virtues of sustainable and cruelty-free eating. A unique take, in your unique voice, on an existing topic is a way to add value to a conversation that’s already happening. Join in! Your tribe of likeminded readers will find you if your content is good.
Because you want other people to read your work.
Instead of writing in a physical journal or a Word doc only you will see, a blog is a public platform that anyone can find and read. If you’re ready to share your work—and there are so many good reasons to do so!—a blog is a fast and easy way to start putting yourself out there. You can invite friends and writers you trust to be your first readers and followers, and you can set your privacy controls in ways similar to your social media accounts, if you want a limited audience at first.
Because an audience will help keep you accountable.
Besides offering feedback and encouragement, your blog’s readers can hold you accountable without ever saying a word to you. Readers become part of your community and support network. Once you start seeing some comments and activity on your blog, you might feel obligated to write more often, or produce more thoughtful content. If you feel like skipping a week, the thought of disappointing or alienating your regular readers, even if there are only a handful of them, might keep you in your chair long enough to bang out at least an “I feel blocked, fam!” post (which will almost certainly result in a couple of “hang in there!” comments to help keep you going).
Choose a topic, blog name, and mission.
This very obvious starting point will help you chart a course toward blogging success. A snappy name and a clearly articulated focus will draw in readers because they’ll know exactly what they’re going to get when they click around on your site.
Pick a CMS and create a free account.
Here we get into logistics. Don’t let words like Joomla and Drupal and plug-ins and modules scare you off. Do a little reading and then pick a CMS that sounds like something you can use and that will suit your needs. Word Press is super easy and intuitive, even if you’ve never poked around on the back end of a CMS before. If you’re nervous or overwhelmed, search for some “getting started on Word Press” tutorials like this one on YouTube. Create your free account and start building your online writing platform!
Follow other blogs and bloggers.
Begin community-building and scour the web for design tips at the same time! Find bloggers who are talking about the same topics and see how they’re organizing their content. You’ll quickly realize, for example, that food blogs need photos and music blogs need embedded audio and video clips. You’ll see many bloggers have an About Me page where they share biographical information, because people want to know a little about who is writing. You’ll start to think about what you do and don’t want to share, and how to organize it, based on what others like you are doing. If you click “follow” on some of those blogs, you’ll almost certainly get some follow-backs even before you publish your first post. And once you DO post, do so regularly! Once or twice a week at least is standard. Do unto other bloggers, too, and be generous with follows, shares, and comments.
Interested in starting a blog, or already have one? Share with us in the comments!
Related reading: 5 tips for sharing your writing for the first time
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