NBI2–So You Want to Blog?

October 2013 is Newbie Blogger Initiative month and you can be a part of the festivities!  Sign up as a sponsor or mentor for new bloggers, or consider starting up a blog of your own and soak up the wisdom and support.

There has been a small matter of confusion about kicking the second Newbie Blogger Initiative off.  The first few posts started trickling in yesterday, but to the best of my knowledge the official start is today October 1st, the beginning of a brand new month.  I have always been a person that sought out a community, be it a game forum or a guild or other denizens of the twittersphere.  As a result I have always tried to find connectivity to the various other bloggers operating in the same space as me.  So when I heard about the first NBI, I was all about its goals and motives.

I feel as a community we can go a long ways to making new bloggers feel welcome.  Much like last year however I am not sure how much sage advice I can really offer.  I feel like I am just figuring things out myself, and not really a role model worth following.  This month however I will make an effort to distill some of my experience being a blogger since 2009 into a few hopefully helpful posts.  Right now I am setting a goal of at least one new NBI related post a week, but knowing me there will likely be more than that once they actually get rolling.

So You Want to Blog?

I don’t really think someone wakes up one morning and says to themselves that they want to be a blogger.  I think for most of us it is something that happens over time, and we slowly transition into the role.  I for example have always expressed myself in an entirely too verbose fashion.  I was one of those guys who became a regular on whatever gaming forum I happened to be playing.  I‘ve written so many long form walls of text on so many different gaming forums that I have lost track.  It was a thing I was compelled to do, long before there really was a congealed gaming blogosphere.

It was late 2008 that I really became aware that there was such a thing as a WoW Blogosphere.  I had been playing the game since late 2004 and the guild that I lead was a day one guild on Argent Dawn, the busiest of the Role Playing servers.  So I felt like I had things to say about something I deeply cared about…  but I likely never would have coalesced into writing a blog without a nudge forward by the existing community.  I discovered Blog Azeroth and the wonderfully supportive people there, and finally gave me the courage to take a step out into this new world.  My hope is that NBI can be a similar community to help support and encourage other new bloggers.

Finding Your Format

If you are going to be writing… you ultimately need a SOMETHING to be writing about.  Generally it is this SOMETHING that attracts readers to your blog, gets them to care about what you are saying and keeps them coming back.  For me… Tales of the Aggronaut started its life as a World of Warcraft blog… namely a Warrior Tanking and Guild Leadership blog.  This was a nice clear niche that I could write about, and find enough topics to keep them coming on a regular basis.  As a main raid tank, that happened to be a warrior, that happened to be a raid leader, that happened to be playing World of Warcraft…  I had a naturally built demographic and hopefully audience.

Sure enough it worked… I posted and people came, because they cared about the things I also cared about.  I feel like it takes awhile for people to actually care about what you as a person are saying, and it is far easier to make them care about the types of things you are saying.  As a result I feel like the biggest piece of advice I can give someone is to find a “thing” that you care about, that other people also can care about.  People like to be able to enter your blog in their RSS feed reader categorized as one specific thing.

The Escape Plan

The problem that I ran into with this notion… is that I ceased to care about the thing I started my blog about.  Granted I am still a tank, and I will always likely be a tank… it is something so instinctual and rooted in me that I will likely never NOT be a tank.  The big problem however is that I simply did not care about World of Warcraft any longer.  So while as much as I loved the Blog Azeroth community, it simply was not enough to sustain me blogging about WoW when I moved on past that game.  My new object of affection was Rift, so I briefly and somewhat successfully made a format change to being a blog about Rift.  I even got sponsored by Trion as an “official” blog of Rift for awhile.

The problem is… once breaking the monogamy of only playing this one game…  I was free to flit about madly.  So while I started off happily playing Rift, I started playing other games as well.  My format got confused, and I found myself not really sure what I wanted to write about on a regular basis.  So many blogs die during this sort of existential crisis, because the original format of the blog ends up not being something the blogger wants to write about any longer.  My next piece of advice is that when you pick a format…  do so knowing that there will be a time that you no longer care about whatever that format is.  Essentially have an escape route in mind… a direction you can grow your blog in to find new inspiration.

The Generalist

Earlier I said that you needed a SOMETHING that people cared about to write about… and this is true at least at the start.  You have to build an audience that is willing to keep reading you.  Granted many of us feel like we are writing into a vacuum, or at least I feel like I am talking to myself most mornings.  However it is nice to be able to look at your statistics and see that yes… you do in fact have people reading the words you are saying.  If you have engaged the community, be it through NBI itself, twitter, google plus, various game forums…  you can reach a point where people actually care more about you than what you happen to be saying on a daily basis.

I don’t necessarily feel like I have actually accomplished this myself… I am a tiny minnow in a huge pond and I have managed to keep that perspective as I go forward.  However I have managed to maintain enough of an audience through all my flights of fancy to feel like I am not entirely alone in this.  After trying to switch gears from World of Warcraft, to Rift… I finally rebooted by blog to be game agnostic and simply talk about whatever the hell interested me at the time.  Additionally I made a conscious effort to start trying to be more personal.  So now I write about things that are happening to me… most of them game related… but sometimes not.

Finding the Time

So while there will be occasionally times that you have next to nothing to talk about… the biggest problem I always had was that I had to carve out a chunk of time to be able to sit down and write.  Some bloggers can rattle off a paragraph or two, and make it seem like a full post.  I envy those folks so much, because I don’t feel like I have written anything worth reading until I have filled up an entire page full of dross.  As a result it takes a not insignificant amount of time for me to get through my writing process.  When I was not stressed with a deadline and I could blog over lunch… the content was flowing freely.  However when I was stressed out I tended to retreat from writing and absolutely clamp down on my content.

There were so many lapses in posting that occurred in Tales of the Aggronaut, before this recent blog every day experiment.  The big thing that I had to solve was finding a time that I could commit to writing something each day.  For me, I get up at 5:30 am in the morning, shower, make a cup of coffee… and then I piddle around for about an hour as I drink my coffee and try and wake up.  While I am seemingly able to write, I am barely verbal before 9 am.  Previously I would sit around upstairs and play whatever game I happened to be into for an hour before going into work.  I decided I would sacrifice this fragmented game time and focus on trying to churn out a new blog post every morning.

Finding Your Routine

While this works for me, and I have been able to keep up with daily posting since April of this year…  you have to find whatever routine works for you.  One of the things that I have figured out… or at least think I have figured out… is that it is far more important that you are writing regularly than necessarily writing brilliantly.  Of course… there are folks that write daily and do so brilliantly… and I am massively jealous of their prolific talent.  However if you keep giving folks new content, they will likely be back or at least get in the habit of checking your site regularly for updates.  It has gotten to the point where if one of my friends does not see a post from me in the morning, they are texting me to find out if I am still alive.

I am by no means suggesting that anyone else adopt this insane daily posting schedule… but in order to keep me honest I had to do something drastic.  It is entirely too easy to say “I will just post something tomorrow” and then that tomorrow never really comes around.  So my suggestion is to go into this with a posting schedule in mind.  Start with maybe Tuesday/Thursday or if you are feeling your Wheaties… Monday/Wednesday/Friday.  I suggest you stick to mostly work week days… because my readership always falls off a giant cliff into oblivion on the weekends.  Keep it simple at the start, and keep it realistic.  You can always ramp up the number of posts you make at a later date.  The important thing here is that you keep the schedule and post regularly… when you do people will come out of the woodwork to read your work.

Learn from Others

The blogging community can be the greatest resource you have at your disposal.  So many times, you will be reading a post that ends up spurring an idea in you for a completely different post.  One of the things I have sought is to keep an updated Blog Roll, namely if it is a blog I am reading on a regular basis I want to let the world know.  This tends to be how readers dip their toes into the blogosphere, by finding a blog they like and then cascading out into other blogs that are similar.  So while you can learn so much from your fellow bloggers… also try make sure you are doing your part to help others in the blogosphere as well.

My ultimate goal with the Newbie Blogger Initiative is to create a better blogging ecosystem for all of us.  Blog Azeroth was this amazingly supportive and nurturing cocoon for bloggers to get their start in.  This is something we have been lacking in the greater gaming blogosphere for some time.  There really is no central place that each of us are connected back to, where Blog Azeroth was like an amazing country… the rest of us are much like independent city states.  I hope we can change that, and I hope I can be some small part of that change.  One of the greatest things about being one of the generalists is that you have full autonomy on a daily basis about what you want to write about or what matters to you.  However I often feel like I am lacking that shared sense of purpose that I once had as being part of a very specifically focused community.

Wrapping Up

Yes I realize the “wrap up” blog is a massive crutch of mine… but it works for me.  I figure in writing your own blog you will find your own crutches that you can use to move the progression of the post along as well.  In my case I am writing my posts in a very finite amount of time…  time that is now running out, so “Wrapping Up” is my mental switch that allows me to turn off the spigot.   As a result I am now trying to wind down my thoughts enough to write a halfway intelligible closing.

I feel like the first Newbie Blogger Initiative was a great success not necessarily because it had amazing consistency rates for the new bloggers posting… but more so that it caused many of us to start thinking of ourselves as being something larger than just our own blog.  If we can nurture this community and create fertile ground for other bloggers to follow along behind us…  I feel we will have succeeded in every conceivable way.  The goal this year is to essentially figure out how to keep the bloggers blogging that start down the path during the event itself.  I believe last year we had 110 new blogs started and roughly 30 were still active a year after the fact.  Here is hoping we can improve on that figure with this new initiative.

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