I used to resist referring to myself as a “blogger,” it just seem
eds like such a large shoe to fill with people out there who write so much more graciously (and humorously) than I…and often about more important things. I guess after this much time I can start to embrace being called a blogger, even though I still feel a bit like a fraud saying that. Occasionally, people will ask me how to start a blog or if I have any tips for them as they work towards creating a space for their thoughts. Here’s a few rules I try to follow for myself, most of which are based more on my experiences as a reader than as a writer – the things I appreciate in blogs I look up to and enjoy.
The beauty of blogging is that if someone doesn’t like what you’re writing about, they don’t have to read it. So, own your material, whether boring, hilarious, informative or crazy, it is yours and you created it. No matter how your blog evolves, and it should be allowed to evolve, it needs to always be yours. I started this blog as a mostly personal blog and it has evolved into a conglomeration of medical school, personal stories and general information. Write about what you want and be open to your blog growing and changing along the way.
If you are happy with what you’re writing, that is all that matters. Always write posts that are worth reading, but remember that a post worth reading is one that you think is worth reading. This is your space and you get to decide what does or does not belong, what is or is not worth reading. You may not think reading about my crazy dogs or life timeline is interesting, but I love those posts and having them recorded here is more than worth it to me.
So often I see people not write for three days…or three weeks…or three months…and come back apologizing. Unless you are Frank of PostSecret, it’s highly unlikely people are sitting around fretting over the fact that you took a blogging break…in fact they may have not even noticed you went on hiatus. Sometimes life (or a surgery rotation) happens and you can’t write. It’s okay…don’t come back apologizing, just come back. Pick up where you left off – you have nothing to apologize for. In that same vein, take some time off for crying out loud! The internet isn’t going anywhere, we’ll all be here when you come back.
This is especially important if you’re just starting out with your writing – set goals for how often you want to write, how long your posts should be, etc. When I first started blogging my goal was to write one post per week, because any more than that seemed overwhelming at the time. Now I really just write when I feel like I have something to say that’s more than 140 characters, but at first I wasn’t always sure I had something to say until I just sat down and started saying it.
Your readers deserve your attention – they are visiting your blog and reading your content, the least you can do is listen! If a reader disagrees with your opinion, welcome it…accept it…discuss it. The only way to grow in this life is be open-minded and you can’t do that by immediately discounting opinions other than your own. If a reader emails you, respond. If someone poses an interesting view or question in a comment, write back to them or create a post in response. Find ways to engage and interact, it will serve you well in the future.
Post a link to your blog on your Twitter or Facebook if it seems appropriate, but don’t only post links to your blog. Nobody likes a spammer. If the only thing you ever tweet is “HEY CHECK OUT MY NEW BLOG” your only followers are going to be that naked girl who tweets links to diet pills and her friend who has the miracle acne cure.
The Golden Rule of blogging – link your references. If you reference an article or another blog or a person or a tweet – link it! It’s common courtesy, you’d want your work linked back. And please don’t steal photos, use a creative commons-type source for your pictures and link back to their photographer. Don’t Google Image search and include those pics in your post, this is not only basic courtesy…it’s avoidance of plagiarism, which we all learned about in 2nd grade. Cut & Copy = Plagiarism. Sometimes you simply can’t remember where you read something you reference and that’s fine, but cite your sources if at all possible.
If you are posting 4 times per day you are overloading your readers. Once per day is fine, less is great, more is definitely overkill. Others may disagree with this one, but I delete any blog that regularly has more than once per day out of my reader (barring the occasional blog with multiple authors or which aggregates info & posts from other sources). Almost universally anyone who has that much to say rarely has anything to say that is really worth reading.
This may be the most important rule of them all – posts need a format. Use bullet points, headings, numbering and formatting. Break up your post with images if relevant. Make your writing look pretty – remember in junior high when you’d have to write papers and make them double-spaced? Same principle. It is no lie when I say I will often spend an hour writing and 2 hours formatting a post…it’s just that important.
Barring the rare exception, posts should not be extremely long. I typically write a post and come back to it the next day to whittle it down to the important stuff. Fluff is not your friend in blog-land.
- Own your space & teach it about Darwinian Theory.
- Be proud of work you create and create work you are proud of.
- Never apologize for time off, nobody even noticed you were gone.
- Set goals for yourself, especially in the beginning.
- Interact with readers and embrace opposing opinions as opportunities to grow.
- Don’t be an annoying spambot or annoying spambots will be your only followers.
- Follow the Golden Rule: Link back to others as you’d want others to link back to you.
- Don’t flood your readers…nobody can write 5 great posts every day, not even you.
- Make posts easy to read, formatting can make or break your writing.
- Fluff is for Build-A-Bears, Moon Pies and school essays, not blogs.
What rules do blog authors that you appreciate and look up to consistently follow? What would you add or subtract from my list?