A lot of people tell me they “love my blog” and wish they had one, or could do one, like mine. I’m always flattered by this, since I don’t think of this weblog as anything exciting or even, “real” (I fully intend to do a “real” website some day but I have lots of fun with the weblog until then.) This leads me though to write up some tips for those who ask.
The first, and most important tip I could give anybody is to decide what and who you want to be. I write this weblog for myself, to help polish my writing skills, and my intended audience is people who click by and like to laugh at me. (No, really, it’s true.) I post a mixture of photos and writing because I do both-having been an avid photographer, I jumped at the chance to add images to my site. When I first started blogging, I used to write more about my life in high-tech, but one day realized nobody was interested in that. There are more interesting writers out there, and sites like slashdot that cover that sort of material way better than I ever could, so I’ve since dropped almost all references to high tech and focused on what was different-what was really unique-what was “me.” I narrowed my focus and better defined my audience, at that point, which is really something I would recommend you do from the start. “Know your readers,” is sound advice for any writer.
Since I offer up writing on my weblog, another big tip is to write every day. While it may be true that I do not post every day (I average 4.2 posts per week, or so the good software tells me) I write every day. I write sometimes in a notebook and don’t always have time to post but I always make time to write. Every day, there’s something new (you should see my notebook, really, it’s got all sorts of funny stuff in it-a run in with a Brinks Truck, my “trip” to prison, what I was like in high school. Maybe, some day, I’ll post them all.) Write what you know, write about something you like, and don’t worry about being popular. A well-written piece on penguins in Antarctica will be more popular than a poorly written piece on the Caribbean, even though not many people have seen the frozen birdies. People are naturally attracted to “good” whatever form it takes.
Don’t get trapped in templates. I’ve seen far too many potentially great bloggers spend hours deciding if they want blue buttons or green buttons on their websites. Pick a simple template and stick with it. Spend time on what matters the most-your ideas. Nobody is going to fuss or rave about your blue buttons.
Good writing and good photography are good thinking and seeing. If you have a clear thought in mind, or a clear vision, your words or images will turn out better. Try to clarify your subject. If it’s not clear, shelve it and don’t post it until you can revisit it. (I’ve been getting a little better at this, but it takes time to master.)
Don’t lose your voice. I’ll be the first to admit that I have an informal “quirky” writing style-and it’s not for everybody. I’ve actually made full blog postings about the hate mail I receive, much of it from folks saying things like, “why don’t you write all normal and stuff?” My answer? This is normal-for me. It’s my voice. It’s just the way I write. It’s how I put words together as much as who I am. Same with my photography. I make no apologies for the way I see things. If you like it great, if you don’t, allow me to introduce you to your browser’s back button. I won’t change my style for you-I couldn’t really change my style if I tried, and I wouldn’t even want to. It’s just a part of me that I’ve grown to accept. It’s always better to be yourself, even if it means some people will hate you for who you are, then to try to be somebody you’re not.
Image isn’t everything when you write a weblog. If you run a photoblog, you may think that you need the world’s best pictures-that your work isn’t, somehow, “good enough.” Sometimes, mediocre tells a story too. I post of lot of content on my website that wouldn’t make it on gallery walls or across an editor’s desk without a lot of red marks. Pffft. So be it. I’m keeping it real and kickin’ it day after day. I’m actually writing and taking pictures, I’m too busy to have the time to worry about perfect. The pretty ones will come, and they do-they’ll just emerge out of the bunch and, somehow, stand apart from the rest. That doesn’t mean the rest of the stuff I do is worthless, it just means that the majority of the work I do might be limited to appearing on my website and nowhere else. So be it. I can accept that. I’ve had tens of thousands of people see my images, read my words, and share my thoughts. Let’s see a chi-chi gallery match that kind of traffic. How many published authors, with “perfectly polished” finely edited books sell that many copies of their first book? I’m too busy doing it to worry about getting it perfect and you should be too.
The most important tip I can give to anyone is, above all else, have fun. If this isn’t fun for you, if your idea of a good time isn’t sitting down, typing into a white box your personal thoughts everyday, and posting them to a website, along with images taken from your life, don’t do it. Go take a walk in the park, fly a kite, go for a swim, do what makes you happy. You don’t need a blog just because all your friends have one. Consider putting up a static website, with content that doesn’t change frequently, that you can update much less often instead.
If that isn’t enough of a tip for you, my last piece of advice is to read. Read lots of other blogs and websites to see what other people are doing. Share them with your friends who blog. Discuss them. Toss around ideas, and try new things. Read books, see movies, go out and experience the world. I once met a photographer who said to me, “I love photography. The best part about photography is that you get to go out and see the world. And then, three days later, you get your pictures back, and you get to see it again.”
Everything I’ve posted to this weblog, up until this point is just water under the bridge. The good stuff? Well, that will happen tomorrow, I’m sure.
Until next time…