Karen Andrews is a professional writer and editor based in Melbourne, Australia. She began blogging in 2006 and now has one of the most established and well-respected parenting blogs in the country. Here she shares her best tips for writing and maintaining a successful blog.
1. WHAT YOU GET IS PROPORTIONATE TO WHAT YOU GIVE.
Yes, I’m talking in a selfless way here. Many successful bloggers will tell you that their mantra is always to ‘give, give, give’ – or, in other words, be as informative and helpful as possible, packing each post with jaw-dropping content. And I’m the first to admit that those kind of posts are lengthier, more time-consuming to write. They are worth it, though, and generally get the best amount of traction on social media and have staying power.
I’m also talking about smaller-scale matters. As you begin blogging and start moving around in those circles, there is an element of ‘If you do this for me I’ll do that for you’. That kind of network-building can be important when building your reputation, and is an opportunity to demonstrate reliability, ideas and a proactive attitude. Think about your strengths before making any offers. Back-tracking isn’t the best thing to do if you decide you’re not ready or certain about a course of action. Luckily, people are friendly and are usually happy to help out if you have any questions!
2. THAT MOMENT YOU QUESTION IF WHAT YOU’RE DOING IS WORTHWHILE. SIT WITH IT. IT’S IMPORTANT.
Those of us who choose to divulge personal, sometimes difficult, details about parts of our lives will be familiar with that feeling of trepidation right around that moment you’re about the hit the ‘publish’ button. Do you get it? I still do. And if I ever get tempted to hit the ‘save draft’ button instead because I get afraid I think of the words of Brené Brown: “Courage starts with showing up and letting ourselves be seen.”
So let yourself be seen.
Here’s another quote from Brené Brown: “Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity and change.”
3. DON’T CONFUSE ENERGY WITH PASSION.
I don’t want to get too bogged down with strict dictionary definitions, so I will keep this simple: to me, energy fluctuates but passion is consistent. It’s an important distinction. When I’m feeling energetic, and it usually comes in phases, I get a constant stream of ideas; I have about 20 tabs open on my browser researching these ideas, sourcing pictures, piecing them together. It’s a lovely flow, and exciting. But I can’t sustain it for very long. I burn out quickly.
That’s when I step away and have a breather. It’s also when I used to second-guess myself because I would start to confuse my lack of energy with a lack of passion. But my passion is there, it always will be. I have that burning need to write (online or offline) that is happy to wait. I used to find this quite frustrating, but as I’ve gotten older I’ve come to embrace it. I turn off now, do other things.
Which, incidentally, helps my energy levels recharge.
So if you’re experiencing one of the ‘valley’ times in the ‘hills and valleys’ flux of life, ask yourself what’s really the matter.
4. DON’T BE AFRAID OF CHANGE.
If you’ve been blogging on a set, purposeful track and now discover that doesn’t feel right anymore, or if you’ve experimented by writing in a different style that hasn’t hit the right notes or reaction you wanted, then hello. Sit by me. We have something in common.
Change is inevitable. The digital world is vastly different to when I began in 2006, which no doubt looked different to those people who’d been around since the very beginning in the late nineties. My head spins a little, to be honest, when I think back.
And I know every time something changes that means you have to learn something new. And our brains are pretty full already with stuff we already need to know. But look at it from another angle: this knowledge you have is a valuable resource. Someone who is completely new to this world will look at you in wonder and admiration.
This blog has changed over the years, I’ve changed my style and I’ve been happy to roll with that. But technological changes scare me. I’ve learned to manage this anxiety by either:
1) Outsourcing to find a solution
2) (More commonly) Googling answers
Over the years I’ve been hacked and my Google PR went from 5 down to basically nothing; I can’t remember the last time I got reliable data from Feedburner; social media channels keep popping up; there’s the lure of wanting to be ‘all the things all the time’ (but beware – see point 3); and so on. But I’m still here, typing away – so things can’t be all that bad.
5. ALWAYS, ALWAYS APPRECIATE YOUR READERS.
When I teach my blogging classes, this is what I admit to them and now will do the same to you. My biggest regret – and I don’t have many – in blogging was that I didn’t value my early readers enough. In a way, I suppose I took them for granted. I appreciated them, certainly. But I didn’t do many of the things that I now recommend beginner bloggers do: I didn’t respond to comments as often as I could, the same goes for reciprocating comments on their blogs. I didn’t have the excuse that ‘Oh, there’s too many, I couldn’t possibly’ to fall back on.
Some bloggers I did connect with and we remain firm friends to this day. But there is a small part of me that wonders “If only …” to the ones that slipped away. Nowadays, such as with my Christmas Card Challenge, I do hope that I have remedied that situation.
6. LOOK AFTER YOURSELF.
Don’t get green-eyed at other’s successes; question whether hitting refresh on your Twitter stream or Facebook news feed is doing any good for your mental health; go outside, take your phone and take some shots; bake; read; throw a tennis ball really, really hard against a wall; have a shower; go to a bar or cafe you’ve never been to before; paint your nails; dress up your cat or dog; watch some weird-but-wonderful YouTube videos.
Basically, if you feel the crazy coming on, step away from the internet for a while. It will still be there when you get back.
7. CREATE A DREAM OR GOAL … AND GO FOR IT.
I created my Living List (what I call a bucket list) almost two years ago. I can’t explain how much of a comfort it has been. Does that make sense? Whenever I go through phases of feeling misdirected or unclear, I just go take a look at it and think “Oh, that’s right”. I’m reminded of my purpose. Yes, long term purpose, and that’s not quite the same thing as short term, so I have to be mindful of that. But if you need to create a goal or dream to keep motivated, then for goodness sake go do it. Now.
Your blogging might depend on it.