I went to theBlogHer Writers conference on Friday. I arrived with seven copies of a 40-page book proposal. I was hoping to put them safely in the hands of eager editors, who would then joust each other for the opportunity to publish my masterpiece. Well, I still had fun. I met a ton of sweet, creative, supportive, smart women. The speakers were informative and inspirational. I would totally go again, but without 15 lbs of proposals.
Because I've been blogging for eight years, I ended up giving out a lot of blog advice. Over those year years, I blogged for very different reasons and in many different styles and dealt with many different topics. Then, I wrote a bunch of academic papers on blogging (which are still getting cited, she says without a trace of bitterness or resentment.) I taught politics and media college classes, where I showed the kids how to blog. I've also been unofficially working as a blog and social media consultant. I was surprised to find myself the elder statesman of blogging at this conference, but I was.
This is the first of a series of posts about blogging, which were based on the conversations that I had on Friday.
Just do it. I met quite a number of women at this conference who were thinking about starting a blog, but hadn't done it yet. They were worried about how they were going to frame themselves and which design to use. Some had been thinking about starting a blog for years, but were too caught up in these worries to start.
One afternoon eight years ago, Steve told me about Lileks and Instapundit. That evening, I found the blogger website and started blogging. A couple days later, I found the mommybloogers (Dooce and this woman works), the academic bloggers (The Invisible Adjunct, Crooked Timber, and Easily Distracted), and other political bloggers. Eventually, I learned how to blog properly, but did any harm come out jumping in too quickly? No. Well, almost no harm.
Never blog about neighbors, extended family, or friends. Even if you don't use their name, they will still find it, hate you, kill you. I lost a friend from something I wrote during those first few months of blogging. I thought my observations about the parenting styles of over zealous NYC parents were such COMEDIC GOLD that she would love being used as a case study. She did not.
Because I learned that lesson the hard way, I restricted the subjects of my personal posts to my husband and kids, who are used to my bloggy ways. So, as much as I really, really wanted to blog that a neighbor had a job that involved a pole, I didn't. And I really, really wanted to follow up that very true and amusing story with a follow up line like, "and she wasn't a fireman!" Again, more COMEDIC GOLD. I refrained from doing so.
Until now, because we moved.
If you want to blog, you should just jump in to get over the fear of blogging. Even if you have zero readers, you'll build up some archives and improve your writing style. When readers finally trickle in, you'll be ready for them. The design can change as time goes on. But what about your brand? If you keep shifting your look, won't that turn off people who want consistency? You are your brand. People show up to hear your views on politics/art/literature/children or to follow your life path. They don't care what kind of font you use on your logo. Besides, lots of people read blogs through RSS feeds and never even see the masthead.
Never blog about your job. Never say rude things about your co-workers, even if they are complete asses and would again lead to COMEDIC GOLD. They'll find it and you'll lose your job.
There are some professions, which have a large number of nasty people who would love, love, love to ridicule you for not being smart or serious enough. Because blogs are unedited and quickly written, there are lots of opportunities for you to say dumb shit. The haters will have plenty of material to make rude comments about you. My advice is to get out of that toxic environment. Life is too short to be around such idiots.
(This is the first of week-long series on blogging.)