A Newbie Month
This is one of those mornings where I apparently forgot to set my alarm clock and am damned thankful that apparently I only woke up thirty minutes late. So everything feels rushed and it is not exactly the proper mood for a contemplative post. Today marks a few things… firstly it is my mothers birthday and I have already remembered to send her a text so she would have a message waiting on her when she wakes up. I will of course follow up later with a proper phone call… but I wanted to get that early strike in there first. Secondly this is the beginning of the rescheduled Newbie Blogger Initiative month. This is something I have participated in since 2013, and feel a sense of obligation each year to do so again. The problem is that after all these years I am questioning if I have any fresh wisdom to give out to the participants. Blogging is one of those things that while we can commune as a group… there comes a point where you are sitting in front of the tyranny of the blank page and only you can push through it. We all have mornings when thinking let alone blogging is a difficulty, and for me this is one of them. However as per my own statement… I am going to push through and make something happen.
So You Want to Blog
It seems like almost every year I start the proceedings off with something along the lines of that paragraph. The truth is, only you can really look inside of yourself and see if there is a blog there waiting to spring forth into the world. For me personally… I guess I was always a blogger and just never quite realized it. I was extremely prone to posting “big damned walls of text” in on any subject I happened to be passionate about. Early on the topic of choice were the White Wolf World of Darkness role-playing books or the Palladium system. Later it became games as I even started writing reviews of Saturn and Playstation games for a small emulation and general gaming website. I really came into my own when it came to MMOs and I haunted the forums of pretty much all of the games I played be it Everquest, Dark Age of Camelot, City of Heroes or eventually World of Warcraft. I had this burning drive to talk about the things I was interested in and to share my ideas, and while a lot of my topics were fostering the community… a lot of them were just talking about my experiences.
On the forums for the server I used to play on… I became one of the white hats that regular rode in to chastise the evil doers, but at the same time freely shared game advice if I had any to give. If you have ever found yourself doing these things… chances are you really do have a blog inside of you waiting to get out. Now the real challenge is trying to direct that unfocused information into a meaningful form. Many bloggers will tell you that the secret to success is to pick a niche and stick with it… and become the be all end all site to go to for that subject. That is probably some absolute truth, but it is also something I was never terribly good at. This blog after all launched as a “Warrior Tanking Blog” just about as niche as you can possibly get… but the problem is I felt like a fraud doing that. I was no real expert in being a warrior, nor was I an expert in tanking. Both were things that largely came naturally to me, and it was baffling for me to try and explain what was largely pure instinct. So I took a step back and decided to refocus on Raiding… until I realized that I wasn’t a particularly brilliant raider either. We did what we did to win and at our own pace, which isn’t exactly a sterling example of the craft. As a result I kept setting up branding and then knocking them down… until I finally wound up with this simply being “my blog” without any other pretense, because “bel saying things” was a focus that I could actually stick with.
You’ll Need a Name
Ultimately where I am going with this… is that you are going to need a name to call your blog. Some people have created perfectly brilliant names… that they quickly outgrow when they go through a similar digression like my own blog did. I am lucky that “Tales of the Aggronaut” was fairly generic and that I could keep adapting it pretty easily to whatever I happened to be doing. Aggronaut was my attempt at a clever name for a tank… and since I rarely don’t tank at least a little it has continued to work. Other folks have created a perfectly lovely name for say a Warlock blog… only to find out later that playing a Warlock is not their primary calling in life and as a result they have to come up with something else. Ultimately my advice I guess would be to come up with something that represents you the writer, and not necessarily the subject. Clever names are awesome, but only so long as they actually are something that you feel comfortable sitting down and writing posts behind. There are an awful lot of famous blogs out there… with completely boring or descriptive names.
I think most people envision brilliant branding of their website from the starting gate, but in truth you are probably better of just picking some minimal window dressing until you get a feel for where exactly you are going. I maybe jumped into this whole concept with two feet hitting the ground in that I bought my domain name and had it completely set up and ready to go before I wrote a single post. I guess that makes sense given that I write code for a living, but in truth you don’t need to do any of this quite yet. Your best option is to simply lean on good ole WordPress.com or Blogger.com rather than to try and do the self hosting thing right out of the gate. I lean heavily towards WordPress simply because you have a lot more options for if you decide to transition to self hosted at a later date. Technically you can do the same thing with Blogger but the process is less seamless and from what I have read in “how to” articles way more hassle than the other option. There is of course Tumblr as an option, but you are exposing yourself to a way more problematic community right out of the gate than I would suggest for any fledgling blogger.
You’ll Need Readers
Now for the hard part… you’ve named yourself and set up a site… now you need to hang out yours “open for business” sign and wait. This is the part of the equation that can drive you completely insane when you realize that no one is actually reading what you are writing. This is going to happen to everyone, but the positive of starting a blog during this month means that the other bloggers are going to at least help try and get you started. Self promotion is one of those things that I am particularly bad at. In theory you want to put your blog in front of as many eyeballs as you can, which means syndicating it to pretty much all of the available options. I syndicate my posts each day to Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, and Google Plus… and this is essentially like casting a net out into the water. If you get a nibble more than likely folks will add your blog to their RSS feed and be done with it… and then you have a potential reader for life. That is unless you do something so horrific as to cause them to go through the effort of actually removing a blog. For me at least… once a blog makes it to my RSS feed I am pretty much going to read them forever.
The problem is… your stats will always seem insignificant. You can drive yourself completely mad looking at them for too long when you watch as this post that you spent five minutes on got ten times the readers than that gem you spent several days on. Amassing regular readers is a bit of a waiting game, but I will say that there are a few factors that seem to factor in. Firstly you need to have some sort of a schedule. Since taking my recent breaks my readership has gone to shit, but previously when I was doing the post every single day thing I had a fairly steady stream of readers each and every day. Secondly you have to give them something interesting to read, and this can come from several different directions. My personal theory is that if someone is going to read you for long one of two things are going to be happening. Either you are posting such a wealth of information about a very specific subject as to turn yourself into the “resource” for that community, or they are sticking around because they care about you as a person. I’ve tended to focus on the second part of that statement, and as a result have shared some super personal information with my readers. It sometimes works, but ultimately you are going to have to figure out the points that work for you. The problem with giving blogging advice is no two blogs are the same… nor do they even have the same goals. We can throw information at you, but you will have to figure out which bits are relevant to you.
I wish you luck and look forward to reading your blog