To follow or not to follow that is the question?

scrabble text picUntil a couple of years ago I had never heard of blogging. Initially when I did it was in magazines or newspaper articles doing the “best of” different types of blogs from fashion to food to world affairs. These always seemed to feature people who (lucky them) somehow make a living out of blogging. I would read them and think “I would love to write like that”. So for a long time I talked about writing a blog. To myself, that is. I read other blogs, and looked into how I might go about setting one up.

The insurmountable problem seemed to be not the writing side of things, or the coming up with the idea, or posts, but the setting it up in the first place. To me, a non-techie, it looked complicated. Then I came across WordPress and realised even I could do that. So, now that I have completed 5 months of blogging I thought I would share some thoughts on the process with you that might help the unsavvy blog reader and / or future bloggers. (that could be you!)

So far my blog has contained some chronicles from my home life, from family occasions to some insight into my work life. In the beginning I was worried that the novelty might wear off and I might begin to find it a chore, which was the last thing I wanted. The opposite is true however. It is great fun. I scribble away in my house or in a coffee shop or wherever, figure out what photos I need to take to go with whatever piece I am working on, put the post together, press “publish” and hey presto someone at the other end of the street or world reads it.

I think it’s fair to say that here in Ireland blogging has not taken off to the same extent (yet, here’s hoping) that it has in other countries. (that’s not to say there are not fab Irish blogs out there, there are, I will point you in that direction later). So what exactly DOES a blogger do? Well we basically post entries about our lives, our interests or sometimes just our opinions. For me I blog because I love it. I have a friend who wrote to me and said “I can hear you talking, in a good way”, and I guess that for me sums up blogging. It is a different style of writing than any of my work related writing: lectures, formal reports, specifications, letters etc. It comes from my heart and from my experience. There is no set formula. It is a natural process. I don’t expect everyone to like every post as they are quite varied, just like my interests but I do find it a great way to communicate with other people  who share common pursuits.

The articles on blogs that I read always seemed to feature some zany funky person living in a garret with pink hair writing about fashion or current affairs and talking about how they love their job because they get to travel the world and write about the latest fashion event they have been to. (Anyone reading this who would like to send me off to any design fairs across the world and report back, I’ll have to check my diary but it’s likely that I will be available!) Unfortunately, the reality, for me at least, is just me and my notebook, writing anywhere I am. I could be in the doctors waiting room reading out of date magazines, or in a coffee shop when inspiration hits me. Out comes the notebook, I scribble down a few words and then later transfer these to the other, electronic notebook. Day to day life continues as normal otherwise and I try to build up posts in advance so as not to be under pressure. This also means that I can and do set posts to publish if I am away or out of action.

A friend of my brothers writes a food blog (one of those ones that makes you want to rush out and buy the ingredients, take out your utensils, turn on the music and get cooking) It’s brilliantly written with just the right amount of humour and sarcasm, great recipes, and some fantastic photography. Check it out for yourself, the link is at the bottom of this post.

one mans meat

Anyway I remember meeting him one time and telling him that I was following his blog and really enjoying it. I could see him looking at me and in hindsight I now realise that that although I was checking in on his blog quite often, I was not “following” in the true sense, by clicking on the follow button on the web page. You see to a blogger it’s a compliment. To the follower it saves having to check in every now and again to see if a new post has been added as you will always be notified by email of a new post. Of course if you like a particular post, it couldn’t be simpler, you simply click on the “like” button below each post, whether a follower or not.

email link

Don’t click on this one, click on the one to the right hand side!

When you check out the blog of an established blogger you will notice that they get lots of comments too. This is another way of getting feedback and interacting with readers. This clearly takes time to establish since the comments on my blog are few and far between! (with much thanks to those of you who have taken the plunge) You may think that this could be because I have no readers! However the wonders of the internet and in particular the workings of WordPress who host my blog mean that I can see the behind the scenes workings. The where (and not the who, don’t panic) of where my readers are. You can see a snapshot of the countries where people have visited my site below. So from A (Armenia) to Z (New Zealand) people having been checking out what I write and the numbers keep clocking up. This keeps me motivated to continue. (I promise I don’t have family members in all of these countries!)

countries 2 countries 1

If you are someone who is thinking of starting a blog my advice is to just do it. There are lots of templates available that make it a (relatively) painless process. I found a book called “Born to Blog” by Mark Schaefer and Stanford Smith really helpful. From practical information like the “blog setup checklist” they also have lots of useful tips and hints.

book

A couple of things they say are clear and perhaps obvious. You must be passionate about your subject. Don’t give up even when you become disheartened. When asked what the key to blogging success is, their answer is “work like hell. In a society conditioned for instant gratification, blogging can be better described in terms of an athletic ability that only becomes stronger with sacrifice, practice and patience.” It seems there are no overnight successes! You also need to be flexible, changing with time if required. Possibly the most important thing I learned from reading this book is that the biggest thing standing in the way of me actually starting my blog was courage. It does take courage to take the plunge and put yourself out there. They advise that you should “set yourself deadlines and then publish whether you think the blog is perfect or not. For many people, especially those with perfectionist tendencies you may never push publish if you wait for perfection.”

So that’s what I decided to do, to write about something I love, to try and write weekly, to stop aiming for perfection and just get on with it in the hope that I will get better with time. Five months and 26 posts on, my experience is that it definitely gets easier not harder. Therefore, if you have been procrastinating like I did for long time my advice is to just do it, you might just surprise yourself.

For those of you who just enjoy the pleasure of reading there is a wealth of choice of great blogs so read, follow, comment, like to your hearts content!

Ps.

Conor Bofins award winning food blog can be found at:

http://conorbofin.com/

Also to check out some great Irish blogs in all kinds of categories you can look at the shortlisted ones for this year’s Blog Awards Ireland 2013. As a newbie to this blogging business I’m a long long way off making any sort of short list but you never know in the future!

http://www.blogawardsireland.com/

blog awards

To set up a WordPress blog go to :

http://wordpress.com/

4 thoughts on “To follow or not to follow that is the question?

  1. Hi Nicki,
    Thanks so much for the shout-out. And thank you for such a great description of the process. I’m not that much longer at it than you (two and a half years or so) and I can echo your comments on it both getting more enjoyable and easier with practise. I do suspect that some do see us as those garret-locked wierdos. But, that is probably just because they don’t get out enough….
    Best,
    Conor

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