How fiction writers (& other creatives) can develop into badass bloggers
There are many good reasons to blog, but to be a truly effective badass blogger you need a purpose that transcends your own self-interest.
Writers (and other creatives) will decide to blog because editors and agents and people like me tell them they need a platform. But if you throw up a blog â€“ or a Facebook page or Youtube video or [insert shiny new social media object du jour] — just because everybody else is doing it, you are bound to run into frustration.
Itâ€™s better to first gain some insight into what youâ€™re doing, why youâ€™re doing it, and why other people would engage with it.
Itâ€™s important to understand that blogging is a long-term enterprise. Expect it to take one and a half to two years to build audience and gain traction. Expect it to be a lot of work. Expect that there will be times when you experience discouragement and blogger burn-out and thoughts like Just why the hell am I doing this thing?, Youâ€™ll wonder if thereâ€™s anybody out there reading your stuff. If there will ever be anybody out there reading your stuff.
I donâ€™t say this to be negative. (Donâ€™t indulge in negativity on your blog; itâ€™s tedious and unattractive.) I say this because when you go into the process with your eyes wide open, youâ€™re less likely to get derailed by the inevitable bumps in the road. The vast majority of blogs donâ€™t make it past a year. Understand that it truly is a marathon, and youâ€™ll be less likely to quit at the first sign of cramping. Your focus instead will be on how to get past this problem, how to adjust your approach, and how to look to more experienced bloggers for guidance and advice.
Use your start-up time as a time of practice, research and development. Experiment with your voice. Experiment with different types of posts. Let your blog take on its own shape and identity. Part of figuring out your blog involves figuring out who you are and what you have to offer. Instead of getting discouraged at your lack of audience, treat this as your chance to educate yourself in this new form of self-expression.
Know your story. Your story announces who you are and what youâ€™re here to give people. One of the things I took away from Leo Babautaâ€™s blogging bootcamps was the importance of the â€śAbout Meâ€ť page. When someone comes to your site for the first time, one of the first things they do is check you out. Theyâ€™re looking for a sense of who you are and — more importantly — what you can offer them.
Which segues nicely into my next point: What are you offering them?
Maybe youâ€™re blogging to promote your creative work, to build a tribe, to create your brand, to put your voice out there. This is all well and good. But to accomplish these things you need to figure out what to blog about that will actually engage an audienceâ€¦.not to mention yourself. If all youâ€™re doing is blogging about yourself or your book, youâ€™ll run out of steam pretty quickly. Thereâ€™s also this factor to consider: nobody really cares.
Blogging is not about the hard sell.
Blogging is not about the sell at all.
If a visitor feels like youâ€™re marketing to her, she is out of there.
Blogging is also, as I mentioned before, a long-term enterprise. So it shouldnâ€™t be about promoting just one book or just one project. There are other ways to do that (such as setting up a temporary Facebook page that generates discussion and community, and builds anticipation for an upcoming project, as Chris Brogan and Julian Smith did so effectively with their book TRUST AGENTS). Blogging should be about a much bigger picture, that doesnâ€™t just encompass your past or present work but reaches toward your future work as well. All of it.
Hereâ€™s the great paradox of blogging: you can only blog to market yourself through the act of unmarketing yourself.
In other words: marketing should be a side benefit. Your blog needs a higher purpose, a raison dâ€™etre to justify its own existence.
Other bloggers will advise you to find a niche and make it your own, but I like to think of blogging as a kind of personal quest that has meaning for others as well as yourself.
I started this blog not because Iâ€™m an expert in author platform but because I wanted to learn about author platform, and the best way to educate yourself on any subject is to teach it to others. (Not to mention, â€śteach to reachâ€ť is a key concept of content marketing, which is to say, marketing through the creation of content that in and of itself has value for its audience.) Along the way, I discovered a genuine passion for blogging and social media. You might say Iâ€™m obsessed with the stuff.
Iâ€™m also fascinated with creativity, the creative process, and how to best live a genuinely creative life. Since this blog is still less than a year old, itâ€™s still discovering its identity, but it seems to sit at the intersection of blogging/social media + creativity (and I can feel it wanting to add another + as well: entrepreneurship, which opens up a whole new personal quest). This is not what I would have predicted when I spun it off from my Livejournal last October; I thought I would be writing about craft + platform.
But by writing toward my strengths (ie: taking my cues from the posts that generate the most attention and give me that â€śfull-upâ€ť feeling of accomplishment and satisfaction), Iâ€™m writing toward an identity that differentiates this blog from all the other writer-blogs out there. (Knock wood.)
Blog with an eye toward finding your own intersection. An intersection is a pretty great place to be. By combining two or even three of your passions, you can make unexpected connections between them and develop fresh insight, fresh perspectives. You can take information from one field and translate it to another (as I do with social media and writing) and in that translation find some space for your own originality. You can also carve out your own niche in a way that connects to other blogs (so you can form relationships with other bloggers and start to guest post) but doesnâ€™t necessarily compete with them.
You might not know what your passions are to begin with; thatâ€™s okay. Passion is a complicated subject. Follow the things that spark your interest, and see where they lead. Over time, your own mind will reveal itself, your story will refine itself, and you â€“ and your readers â€“ will be richer for it.