When I first introduced the idea of starting a personal blog to my friends for the sake of keeping in touch, I should've realized from the wide-eyed looks I received that it really wasn't the best way to that. Personal blogs are rarely ever read - or so it seems anyway. Regardless, I've really come to enjoy writing here about subjects as they relate to me. And so, I wanted to take this opportunity to "go meta" and review the state of my blog and strengthen some of the lessons I've learned since starting it.
Writing is a Learned Skill
I think any idiot with a keyboard can type. What separates the writers from the idiots is learning how to present thoughts and ideas coherently to your audience and that takes loads of practice. I learned very quickly that if I really wanted folks to come visit the site that I would need to write well and write regularly. Later, I learned that I needed to settle on a few specific topics to explore.
I write a lot of shit posts. I try not to, but if I'm being honest with myself I need a lot more practice for this to be considered quality content. I try and write a few times a week but I should probably be writing everyday. Every new post feels like my best post yet. Fortunately, with practice and help from my partner I feel like I'm learning how to write more coherently.
One of the biggest things that's helped me so far was settling onto a few topics to write about. Once I started writing about less random shit, I began to feel like I was developing my own personal writing style. My topics are represented on the Table of Contents page, but most focus on my hobbies and being LGBT.
Now that I'm in a groove, I can usually pump out something once or twice a week depending on what my schedule's like. Setting up a newsletter helped to focus my writing habit too. My goal is to produce at least four new posts a month for my subscribers to look at. I don't want to overwhelm folks, but I do want to them to see that I'm regularly making content.
Most importantly, I enjoy writing. I eagerly await the days when a few more folks find my content interesting to read. Writing here has inspired me to find practical means of improving my writing education. I'm consider going back to school again just to learn to be a better writer. Whether I do that or not, I know that I will only continue to improve with practice.
Managing a Website is Fun for Nerds
I willfully admit to my own nerdiness when it comes to this subject. I really enjoy maintaining this website. I can't say that all writers would enjoy this aspect of their blogging, but for me it's something I find challenging, technical, and rewarding.
In today's Internet world, the process of creating a new blog is pretty simple. Platforms like Blogger, Medium, and Wordpress exist for a reason, they offer pre-packaged content services which appeal to large audiences. Also, I imagine most writers don't want the hassle of maintaining a website alongside writing regularly. For me, this was part of the challenge of blogging. I wanted to address issues like website security, search engine optimization, and the user's experience on the site. After all, I'm employed by a web application development firm. I knew I could handle it and the opportunity was there for me to learn new technical skills.
I think most relevant of those opportunities was learning how to better represent content on search engines like Google. I knew very little about the process when I first began blogging. Fortunately, the software my blog runs on represents my posts in searchable formats. All I had to do was tell Google and Bing where to look, but that's not as easy as it sounds.
Search engine optimization, better known as SEO, can be really challenging if you don't have the right tools up front. As I said, this blog had some of those tools already. I had to learn to use them properly, which consisted of learning how to create decent headlines for my posts and small yet thorough descriptions to attract an audience. I started getting involved with this process in the past month or so, only after I started the newsletter I mentioned before. As a result, I had to go back and painstakingly edit a bunch of posts I've already published so that they appeal to a larger audience.
Another topic I wanted to hit on was website security. You might notice the little green lock on the address bar. I've talked about this some before, but I want you to know that I pride myself on providing an encrypted, secure connection to my website. The little green lock is only the beginning, I'm working on providing additional security features too. Just know that this is my home on the Internet and I want you to feel like it's your home as well.
Persuading Folks to Read Your Blog is Hard Work
I feel like you walk a very thin line when trying to convince your friends and family to take your blog posts seriously. I know that some of my friends visit my blog, but I really want more folks to check in now and then. Although, it's not sort of thing you can press too hard on without potentially annoying your friends.
The approach I've taken has been writing for an audience that might visit later, if at all. More importantly, I've taken to writing solely for myself. I enjoy it so why shouldn't I try to write the things I care about? I don't expect all my family members and friends to care about gender or sexuality as much as I do, but I still like to write about it. So in general, I like to nudge them to take a look now and then, but I forgo doing anything more than that. I nudge them through the use of a newsletter.
The MailChimp newsletter I setup has been kind of a god send. I really wish I had started it earlier honestly. It serves me two purposes, I can send my friends regular content via email and I can see whether or not it interests them with view and click rate statistics. Every month I push out all the new posts I've made to a list of friends and family. Most people open the email and some people click through to my blog. I'm pretty happy to see that the emails arrive and that folks can see the headlines I write. Going forward, I want to get better at writing headlines to convince folks to click through a little more often, encourage more folks to subscribe, and address some of the flimsy styling I put together for the newsletter. As it is, this newsletter is the only bit of publicity and marketing I engage with, so I feel it should be as snazzy as possible.
This newsletter helps me accomplish on my original goal of keeping my life off Facebook while still being relevant in peoples' lives. As well, I use the newsletter to inspire me to write often. I don't want to send out an empty newsletter. That's boring and none of my friends would appreciate the spam either. So, the newsletter reinforces these goals and that's enough to make it important to me.
If you happen to be a personal relation of mine and stumbled on this particular blog post, thank you. I appreciate you taking the time to hear me blabber on about something personal to me. I would encourage you to come back often and drop me a message in the comments below. Send your favorite posts to your friends too and ask them to consider subscribing. Doing any of this would mean the world to me. I endeavor to improve the quality of my blog and I'd love to see you come along for the ride. Here's to another six months.