It’s a weird gig, this blogging thing. I really didn’t know what I was getting myself into when I decided to start a blog. At first I thought I would try it out just to see people’s response and to hopefully get some interesting questions thrown at me but since attending The Blogcademy and after almost one whole year of writing, I realise that there is way more work that goes into keeping a blog alive. And let me tell you, the writing is enough to keep you on your toes!
Here is a list of the things I didn’t know about blogging before I began. I have also added in some pictures from The Blogcademy course I attended in July. You can see the rest of the album here. It was a jam-packed two days of learning and fun but the truth about blogging is, it’s not necessarily going to be quick and easy to get your blog on the map. The following will give you an indication of what I mean.
1. Consistency is key
The first lesson that I learned about blogging is that consistency is key, especially when you’re building your brand. I know that this is also important when it comes to SCO (Social Content Optimization) because the more you post, the more it gets shared on social media platforms and the more presence you have in cyber space. But those strategies aside, it’s also just really important for building your readership. You need to be producing content on a regular basis so that your readers can come to depend on you. At The Blogcademy we were told that it doesn’t necessarily matter how often you blog, as long as you produce the content when you say you will. So if you say you’re going to only post once a week that is fine so long as you DO IT EVERY WEEK. I think that there needs to be a balance between quality and quantity. If your readers are only getting one post a week then it sure as hell better be a good read packed to the brim full of helpful content!
Why this is so hard:
So sure it seems like it’s a straightforward thing but the truth is it’s really hard! The true professionals like Gala, Kat and Shauna set up their writing schedules weeks in advance and have their day-to-day blogging routines mapped out before them so that not a single beat is missed. But for the not-so-experienced and slightly lazy bloggers like me, planning and coordinating writing blog posts in between my normal life can sometimes be quite chaotic. I often have ideas about blog posts while I’m on a train or during a conversation and then I have to find time to quickly jot notes down before the idea escapes me. Usually, by the time I get home I’m too exhausted to write immediately so I end up waking up and writing a post first thing in the morning. On more than one occasion, I have ended up spending too much time on a post but desperate to finish it before I head out for the day. Invariably something has to give and more than once it is a good, healthy breakfast that is sacrificed – sorry mom! It sure is a satisfying feeling pressing publish but writing a blog for breakfast is not really a substitute for a balanced meal, I can tell you!
2. Finding Your Voice
I have been surprised at how easy it is for me to write stuff and put it out there for others to read and critique. I used to be terrified of people seeing my writing and yet I have yet to feel ashamed of something I wrote for Carly’s Couch. It has been a truly liberating experience for me, being able to put out my thoughts into the world like this. I think if this is was all I got from the experience then it would be enough. But I have come to realise that successful blogs manage to capture all that is great about good literature, good branding and good style in one nicely presented, easy-to-digest package.
As I have already said, writing on a consistent basis is crucial, but you also have to find that consistency in terms of the kinds of content you produce. There has to be a golden thread that links your posts in a seamless way, connecting your thoughts to a greater brand message that involves the use of a certain tone or voice. This is quite a difficult thing to explain but I guess that basically you want your blog to have a certain personality and you want it to be more like your standard well-adjusted female, moods and emotions included, and less like a lunatic with multiple personalities like Sybil.
Why this is so hard:
It’s hard enough to have consistent thoughts and feelings in everyday life but blogging is about transcending your experiences in such a way that you can offer something to someone else. In fact, it’s very therapeutic. I am in awe of bloggers that have a very specific topic like “street style” or “vegan food” to blog about. It is actually way easier to be consistent about one topic each and every day. For me, the challenge is to find a way of keeping myself involved in the process and retaining the essence that is Carly on the couch. I am ultimately just being myself but sometimes that requires thoughtfulness and consideration, especially when I’m not in the mood to write or if I am feeling uninspired. And let me tell you, there are those days!
3. Inspired to inspire
What has helped me become a better blogger, is that I see myself as offering a service. What I learned at The Blogcademy was that each and every blog no matter what its topic has the potential to be a success if there are certain key ingredients. For example, a good blog should be helpful and inspiring. This is much easier said than done. The Internet is saturated with “How To” and “DIY” blog posts, which makes it really hard to stand out from the crowd but as long as there is still a need, there is still a way to meet that need. I think that over an above any blogging advice, the best thing to know about blogging is that if you aren’t making people’s lives easier, funnier, better, etc. then you’re not gonna survive the winter! And don’t just think you can write self-indulgent schlock 80% of the time sprinkled with a taste of inspiration once in a while. You have to dish that inspiration up day after day, and it needs to be served hot!
Why this is so hard:
It is hard to feel like you know enough to offer something to someone else. I have a masters degree and am a qualified clinical psychologist and I still worry about whether I have something useful to say. Of course, dealing with self-doubt is part of the process but simply on a practical level, it is really difficult to always produce something that is going to make at least one person smile. Of course there are going to be days when things don’t go according to plan and you cannot get that top-notch content out but the truth is that one of the hardest parts about blogging is the fact that you have to give, give, give of yourself all the time. Mostly, there are instantaneous rewards and that is probably why 90% of us do it. But it doesn’t take away from the fact that it is still a lot. If you’re writing a blog write now and have managed to work consistently at it for some time now and you know your content is of a high standard, give yourself a self five!
4. Take note of the small steps towards success
Although as I said I didn’t really have much expectations of what this blog would be like or where it would go, I did start to look at my stats from the start and it has been an interesting journey that’s for sure. In case you don’t know, I can see on Google Analytics how many new readers I have each day, which pages they read, how long they spent on each page, etc. It used to be something that I used as a marker of my success. And to a degree it is. I used to get pretty good, consistent stats on this page but then something happened. I wrote a post about Oscar Pistorius – the biggest news story at the time – and linked it to a journalist’s twitter account. The resulting traffic was something of a phenomenon and not one that I expected at all. But the problem with getting almost 7000 hits on one day is, it makes each and every day’s stats after that pale in comparison. It became very hard to not feel like every post since then was a dismal failure when compared to the OP post. But the truth is that a bloggers life is one of ups and downs and it is just part of the deal to learn to accept these fluctuations. I have come to accept the days of low traffic as part of the process. And I try to keep optimistic by finding something each day to celebrate.
Why this is so hard:
I have very high expectations of myself. I always want to achieve at the highest level or not at all. I have had to work hard to convince myself that this blogging thing is beneficial regardless of how great my readership is at any one time. In order to do this I make sure to acknowledge the little achievements. I get a good feeling for every like, every comment and every new follower I get. It may seem silly but I like to imagine the people behind the likes and shares. I try to imagine how my words may have touched them or made them laugh. And when I do, this all seems worth it again. But it’s not always easy and the Internet is becoming increasingly flooded with silliness designed to steal your time and attention. I sometimes wonder why I bother. It is a testing environment for anyone with a sensitive self-esteem. So if you’re not up for constantly motivating yourself and validating your own experience of blogging then this is not your gig. And did I mention the self-doubt…
5. Rome wasn’t built in a day
This is my new motto. I learned more about blogging in two days at The Blogcademy then I could actually take in. I took notes and notes and notes. But when I came back home, exhausted and abuzz with ideas, I realised that the most important ingredient I have at my disposal is time. It may not be what you want to hear, but the truth about blogging is that like anything, it takes time to get somewhere. When I listened to Gala Darling talk about her 8 years of experience, I realised I needed to give myself a break. How can I expect my blog to be at the same level as hers? I haven’t put in the time yet! And so above all else, and including the first four things on this list, it is time and patience that is required when starting a blog.
Why this is so hard:
Because I am inpatient, that’s why! My biggest problem in life (which is something I have always gotten as feedback from my parents, lecturers and supervisors) is that that I am over-eager and often put the cart before the horse when it comes to life’s hurdles. I am that guy…the one that thinks of marriage on the first date, the one who thinks about writing a PHd while completing an undergraduate degree, and the one who imagines being a celebrated writer before ever publishing a single thing. Now don’t get me wrong, I am all about having a dream. I don’t think it’s a bad idea to want to achieve something that seems near to impossible. But the truth is that dreaming it is not enough. You have to put in the hours. Nothing in this world comes easy and it’s up to no one but you to do it.
So, whether blogging is your thing or not, I think it’s important for you to know the kinds of challenges that comes with writing a blog. I am by no means complaining because I still love every minute of it but I recognise more now than ever how anything worthwhile takes time and effort. It has helped me find new depths of humility and it has made me even more in awe of those who are getting it right.
What do you think? Have you got anything to add to this list? Perhaps there is something you think can be done to improve Carly’s Couch. Your ideas are welcome. Come on over and share your stories…