Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Hey, You Wanna Blog?

Well, it IS a four-letter word. For shits and giggles, you can even replace the word "blog" with "fuck" in this post and see where it gets you. Just, you know, if you don't want to take this seriously.

About a week ago, I was chatting with a friend of mine who recently graduated in the same major that I'm going to be-- Professional Writing. We were discussing how newly-minted grads can get their writing out when he brought my blog up, asking me how I found enough time to write so much, citing the fact that I obviously loved doing so. It wasn't so much of a time commitment thing, I told him. I can knock a post off anywhere between 45 minutes and 2 hours, depending on the length and if the subject matter needs any researching. I'm a first-draft-is-the-best-draft and quick-editing sort of girl. It's more about just being eternally curious about things.

I started blogging back in high school. Between my short attention span, lack of interesting content, experience, life subject matter, and being in "too small of a space," it failed. Also paramount was probably also the fact that I still thought I was bound to be a Great American Fiction Novelist, a fact that I now get a really good laugh out of, being the queen of short, question-driven format. I got back into it last summer, when, unemployed and in an unhappy relationship, I figured it would give me something to do, and a way to make pocket change. (Never underestimate the power of quarters in a coin-op laundry apartment dweller's life.)

Lately, I've been getting a lot of great feedback from readers, either from people whom I consider excellent writers themselves telling me I've got a good thing going, or from relative newbies asking for blogging advice and how to keep up the song and dance routine and make it into something showy. I've been kicking the following spiel around for awhile, ever since a professor last year fall mentioned he may have a class he'd like me to talk about blogging to, and then, again last semester, when an online class I was taking for my major challenged us all to create and maintain a blog as an integral part of our soon-to-be profession. I was a little saddened, I'll admit, when the class didn't seem to grasp the idea of having a blog. Granted, mine was already well underway, and in fact, an email had to be sent to my professor explaining that for professionalism's sake, I would not be posting any of my non-content related class assignments on SATCG. But when it became clear that not many people in our class of 12 were embracing the blog, it flabbergasted me. I really don't get the recalcitrance that some writers have about blogging. I mean, I know they're not for everyone, and there will always be someone who likes getting rejection letters from The Atlantic and The New Yorker more than publishing the "easy way." But even Hank Moody deigned to blog, for chissake. It's just easy. It doesn't take itself too seriously. It's a great starting spot. A blog URL is a great thing for a writer to include on their business card to hand to potential editors or agents or publishers to visit and get an idea of what you do. Eventually, a blog even gives you material to ship off to publications. (My Sexual Anthropologist's Portfolio is an example of this, and maybe one of these days I'll actually realize the fact that I graduate in under a year and need a steady and reasonably well-paying job and start sending things out.)

That being said, the following are things that every blogger really needs to carefully consider before or during their blogging experience. I'm a big fan of doing things and doing things as best I can, and nearly one year into blogging at SATCG, with 47 followers, a total of nearly 20,000 page hits, and almost my first check from AdSense on its way, this is the best blogging advice I can give you:

-Before you start writing, ask yourself-- What are you passionate about? It doesn't have to be a topic you can discuss ad nauseum-- it just has to be something you can run with. Do you even like to write? Ask yourself what do you like to write about, and how do you like to write about it? Do you take a more scholastic tone naturally, or a more conversational one? Do you tend to form essays with theses and answers backed up by research, or does free-form poetry suit you more? Some people keep blog diaries. Some people have news blogs. You need to be sure you're writing something thematic in a way that you'll be able to call forth any time you want to.

-Who you target your blog to makes a huge difference. Sexandthecollegegirl.blogspot.com gets between 80 and 200 hits a day, depending on recent posting frequency, subject matter, and timing. It is mostly unadvertised, mainly relying on my friends and word-of-mouth to spread. I got really lucky early on and was featured on Smart, Pretty and Awkward by the incomparable Molly, which helped my readership exponentially. My friends have also gone above and beyond the call of duty, posting the blog to StumbleUpon and linking it to their own blogs. Obviously, a blog based around the premise of a Sex and the City-esque column is going to attract mostly young women, but I was surprised at the diversity of my readership. Some are from as far away as Australia, Japan, and the Netherlands. Others are from as close as Albany, NY, to across the U.S. Some follow for the fashion, some for the relationship advice, some for the straight-forward girl talk, some for the salacious gossip. I also have quite the contingency of male readers, and I think they're all perfect dolls and will make some woman very lucky, if they haven't already (there is a shout-out to my professors). The name probably gets me a few cheap hits, too, but I hope they maybe stay and read a post or two and learn something.

(My other creative-writing blog, Juxtaposition, mainly attracts stragglers, a few die-hard readers that I love to pieces, and my mother. Probably because posting there is sporadic at best, experimental by nature, and takes a real particular taste to handle.)

-Some people blog once a day. Some people blog or Tweet 5 times a day. Some once a week. Some once a month. I blog when I have something to say. It is my soapbox. The point is, you need to figure out what a realistic posting schedule is for you, and STICK TO IT. Realize that if you have readers, you have people that want to read new content, not what you posted two weeks ago. Or a month ago. People are needy. Readers are devoted and needy and can only re-read something so many times, even it's your most stunning material. If there is constantly nothing new, they're going to stop coming back. If there is something constantly new, as you know, curiosity killed the cat, but it also made the blog traffic numbers soar. That is how you build your readership and blog traffic-- by blogging frequently. In the most simple way I can put it, posting = success. Do know that frequency of posts means more interest, better site traffic, and more money.

Oh, did I say money?

-Most people are shocked to find out that I make money on my blog. Yes, it's percentages of cents for every visit and more for every clicked ad from Google AdSense, but it's money all the same. And I make it doing nothing other than what I love and what I want to write about, and just whoring out about an inch and a half by five inches of spare space on my page. Apparently, in the real world, this is the ideal gig for a writer. It may be baby-steps and just dollars and cents right now, but I'm told that this model of write and get paid is something like what we writers should inspire to in the bigger picture. Tim Brookes also has some great money-making ideas for your blog in his article, "Equally Worthless?", as well as some um, familiar subject matter and characters. And whatever your motives are coming here, you're supporting me, so thank you. When my blog dropped on campus and shit got hairy, other than the support of my friends, knowing that I was making some nice dough off of all the site traffic kept me going. And what do you know? Life's good now.

-Speaking of things getting a little crazy, how many of you would dare to blog about your friends? People on campus? Your boyfriend or girlfriend or the person you've been trying to wrangle into bed with you for the past month? For awhile after the Great Blogging Debacle of 2009, I was unsure of how, exactly, one goes about a sex and relationship blog without verbally lambasting people or naming very transparent nicknames. Then I grew up, got smart, and decided to try skipping intimate details in exchange for broad strokes of thought and pointed questions and posts based around things that were happening in my life. Though it was a massive learning experience, it made me a much better, and much more interesting and people-friendly, blogger. (Also, this is a huge mea culpa for that debacle right now.) How many of you would blog about hot button issues, the things that other people don't want to touch because of controversy? And I don't mean just politics or religion, here. I come under fire regularly from my own mother for blogging about "trashy" material. But like I tell her, excuse me, but I can't be the only one wondering why women seem to give and not receive oral as regularly as men do. There has to be SOMEONE else out there wondering the same thing that just doesn't have the guts to come straight out and ask about it.

-This brings up another huge issue to consider: Is your blog going to be private, or open? A private blog means that only the people you invite can view your content. An open blog means that the whole wide internet world can knock down your URL's door. For fellow writers, I really don't see what you could ever gain from having a private blog, when having an open one is the best way to get your writing published and out into the world for free, no agents or publications needed. Take chances. Defending yourself and your writing is one of the most fundamental things you can learn to do as a writer. Stephen Stills once said something that I think I have quoted on numerous occasions on this blog-- "There are three things men can do with women: love them, suffer for them, or turn them into literature." And as we're quasi-feminist here, I think women should be allowed to do the same.

-I cannot stress this enough: FOLLOW OTHER BLOGS. Start an RSS feed either here on Blogger, on Wordpress, on whatever you want to, but read other blogs with similar content to yours. Not only does this keep you in touch with what is going on and what has already been written on the subjects you're interested in, it's a great way to get "soft news" and to see what people want to know more about. I follow over 50 blogs. And blog etiquette says that if someone follows your blog, you should check theirs out, too, and if it doesn't seem like something totally outside of your interests, follow theirs. This is a great way to build a follower base, and I really wish more people would do this.

-Mesh your blog with your other writing endeavors and projects. This will make multi-tasking, or rather, re-using content, much easier. When I was writing for Moss on the Moon and the Champlain Current, some of what I published on hard copy worked great as an easy, pre-written filler post here, no extra work or writing necessary. I'd encourage you to pick up writing projects outside of your blog to supplement both your skills and your content bank-- if you're still in college, writing for your school newspaper or a campus publication is a great place to start. Also, never underestimate the ability for class content to be created of a similar theme to your blog. Last semester, I wrote two 8-page papers for Women in 20th Century Fiction on Penelope and Odysseus's relationship in the Odyssey, and a paper for Renaissance Theory of Love on what Renaissance philosopher's theories and modern women's magazines have in common in regards to views on love, got two As, and am probably going to do some editing to shorten and tighten them up and post them here. If you're already a young professional, find writing competitions in your area and try to make a quick buck while you're at it; see if projects at work could overlap with your blog.

I hope that something in there got stuck with you to chew over-- if not, I've totally failed my goal. In the meantime, if you have any other questions or noticed topics about blogging that weren't covered, drop me a line, and I'll do my best to fill in the holes. Ciao-ciao until next time.

...And hey, DO you want to blog?

XOXO

2 comments:

  1. I loved this, great tips!

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  2. Thanks so much for taking the time to post this! Invaluable. My favorite part was about what you concluded from sharing your personal experiences-- that its better to be broad and dicuss what's interesting/what questions come to mind from these experiences rather than the experience per se. And what great timing for this to come out just as I'm starting my blog.

    -Brittany

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