Three Blog Rules to Tell Your Story

October 28, 2009

Hey everyone. First thing: you’ll notice I’ve revamped the commenting system here by installing Intense Debate. A lot of you like this system, and it’s an exciting way of tracking our top commentors on the left of the page. Some of you are new to it. You don’t have to sign up to use it, just fill in the form as usual. I’m hoping it’s all working right. Test, test!

Second, don’t forget to tell your blog friends about my giveaway! An easy way to do
this (and make sure I have to give out lots of stuff) would be to Twitter the following:

Visit @MattTCoNP ‘s blog for a big giveaway contest! T-shirts, food, books and other stuff!

I told you Monday that I’m celebrating a year of blogging. I didn’t think it would last this long. There were lots of days I didn’t feel like writing. But I pushed myself to keep with it, and I think it’s paid off in some way.

So I’m sharing with you some lessons I’ve learned about how to get the most out of your blogging pastime. Monday, I shared with you what I think is at the heart of blogging:

Telling Your Story.

Everything else I tell you this week will help you tell your story. Blogs are the easiest way to be a published author. Yet, there are lots of factors in blogging that actually hinder creativity, causing bloggers to quit in defeat, before their stories have been told. I don’t want that to happen to you.

Three Blog Rules to Help You Tell Your Story
Ignore the Numbers
I didn’t tell my wife I had started a blog until I had about five readers to show for it. Somehow, having five random strangers legitimized my new hobby. Guess what I wanted when I had five readers? I wanted five more readers. Then five more after that. From the time you get one person to read your blog, it will never be enough, even if you had the readership of a ‘mega-blog.’

Even worse, you may try to recapture the ‘magic’ that brought you a few readers with another great post. You’ll steer your content to gather more visitors. It becomes a game that you can’t win, as you start to judge yourself on how many visitors or comments your last post got. When you get several readers, you’ll start to think you’re hot stuff. I have a poster on my wall that says “You’re not hot stuff, Matt. You’re an idiot. Okay, maybe you’re a little hot…but you’re still an idiot.” I kept adding to when I wrote it. It keeps me grounded.

Why should you ignore the numbers? Because trying to capture the ‘magic,’ chasing visitors, validating yourself, and thinking you’re hot stuff will give you writer’s block!

Make Friends
Blogging a fun hobby because of the people you meet. I can’t count how many friends I keep in my mind that I’ve only met through blogging. Sure, we don’t even know what our voices sound like, but making friends transforms blogging from narcissitic into awesome. I can’t believe I’m still in contact with so many of my first followers, including Katdish, Jason, Tony C, Joanna, Peter, Richard, Sherri, and many more who have shown me amazing support. I do believe Katdish was the very first, and is a great cheerleader for me and lots of other bloggers.

Bloggers learn that a great way to make friends and get your blog noticed is to comment on other blogs. Go ahead and comment, but don’t make lame comments because someone might link to you. Do it because you’re interested in them. Making blog friends is so much easier than in real life, so at least put some effort into it.

My policy is that I’ll always visit and comment on the blog blog of a new commentor that shows up here. They’ve broken the virtual ice with me, and I’ve got a conversation going. These days, I can’t just go down the list of my followers and visit all their blogs, but you can bet I visit the blogs of the people who have recently commented on my blog. Some weeks I’m short of time, and it’s really hard to make comments to others, but I try.

Besides that, if you don’t make friends, see what other people are blogging about, and have interactions with others, you will discover you are not an endless oasis of inspiration, and you’ll get writer’s block! Are you seeing a pattern? There are tons of stuff I’ve written, directly inspired by what someone else had written.

Don’t Make Noise
This is a two-way street. First, I’m a big believer that blogging is a discipline that is often best done with a schedule of some kind. Decide when you will post, or how many posts a week you’ll write. For me, I decided a workable schedule would be every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. If you don’t have a schedule, you’ll probably log on and realize it’s been three months since you’ve written.

Now that you have a schedule, write your posts and then shut up.

People have a lot of information to absorb every day. So make sure what you’re saying is worth others’ time. For that matter, make sure it’s worth your time to actually type! I assume most of you have jobs, or at least families that also need attention. So don’t make blogging a waste of time for everyone.

I started out blogging, and didn’t quite grasp this. In fact, I realized that my blog looked rather bare, and I thought that perhaps visitors should think I was ‘serious’ about blogging. So I quickly squeezed a bunch of crappy posts out of my head to fill the page. There was little quality, and I was sometimes writing for the wrong reasons. Now that I’m a teacher and listen to students talk like clanging symbols all day, just to hear their own glorious little voices, I understand the true crime of this.

Finally, on this note: there will come a day when I have said all I should say on this blog. The temptation will be for me to wonder how my readers will make it without reading my exceptionally witty prose. I may think I must soldier on, for the poor readers’ sake. But in reality, I will one day quit blogging, you probably will be mildly affected for about 15 minutes, and then you will move on. So I hope I’ll have the humility to go out on a high note, not a slow decline.

Do you struggle with the numbers? Tell us about the great friends you’ve made blogging. Have you ever blogged to make noise? When was the last blog-break you took? Fess up!