Full Disclosure: this isn’t my first blog. In December 2010 I created a blog that lasted almost exactly three years. I had 98 posts and 81,592 views. All things considered, that ain’t bad. So what went wrong? Why’d I quit? And why is the blog nowhere to be found? Well, as far as I can tell, I made five crucial mistakes.
1) I gave unqualified advice.
I talked a lot about things I had no experience in or real understanding of. I gave advice on how to write a query; I’d never written an actual query. I wrote about reducing your novel’s word count; I’d never finished a novel. I even had a series of posts where I helped a friend write her synopsis…you see where I’m going with this. Out of all the mistakes I made on my old blog, this was the one cringe-worthy enough to make me delete it.
2) I didn’t make it personal.
I thought writing blogs weren’t supposed to read like personal journals. So I didn’t talk about my family, my fears or my goals, I didn’t even talk about the book I was working on. I talked about writing, but not my writing. As a result, I missed out on a chance to chronicle a very exciting and formative time in my life. Out of all the authors whose books I love, only one of them has a blog I love. Patrick Rothfuss. I’ve read his entire archives (all eleven years’ worth) just for fun. Why? Because he’s figured out how to be real on the internet. He talks about his feelings, his family, and his writing too. It makes you feel like a ghostly traveling companion on the journey of his career.
3) I took myself way too seriously.
Okay, I admit it: this post took me a month to write because I still struggle with this. I spend way too much time hemming and hawing about the perfect thing to say instead of just settling on something good enough. I should relax and trust that, if I’m myself, people are going to like me. And if I’m sincere, they might even like what I have to say. I don’t have an issue with this in real life. Maybe it’s that writing something down makes it seem so definitive, sharing it on the internet makes it immortal, and whoa, hold on now, baby, I’m just not ready for that kind of a commitment! But perfect is the enemy of good (and done). And, as you can probably tell from reading this, that extra month didn’t serve to improve this post at all, now did it? Nope, it just made it take longer.
4) I posted too frequently, or not at all.
Consistency is key. That’s true for gaining any kind of social media following, as well as growing individually as an artist. Unfortunately, while I understood this maxim in 2010, it didn’t stop me from either posting obsessively every few days, or checking in every few months. If I’m being honest here, it’s something I still struggle with (I went to Morocco in March and still haven’t posted any YouTube videos about it. Oh. I mean, March of last year.) From here on out I’m planning on posting once a week, but if I can’t maintain that I’ll post once a month. Which leads me to the next thing I did wrong…
5) I didn’t adapt.
Instead of reviewing my progress and priorities and making appropriate adjustments, I quit. As nature’s law states: adapt or die. After running into these issues I didn’t give better advice, share something meaningful, or rethink my post schedule. I’ll admit, I have mixed feelings about this. Because I think it’s a very important truth that in order to be a successful writer, you need to write more than you talk about writing. Quitting my blog was a solution. But here’s where I went wrong: it wasn’t the only solution, and it wasn’t the best solution. Sometimes I wonder how much I would have learned by now, how much interesting content I would have created, had I adjusted my sights and trajectory and kept at it.
Now, my old blog wasn’t all bad. Some of the posts were really fun, or even excellent! You’ll see some of that material recycled here. But the best thing that ever came out of it, came because of the best move I’ve ever made in my writing career–and I’m gonna get real dopey on you here–in my adult life.
What I got right?
1) I used social media to make friends.
Specifically, I used my blog as a way of meeting people who were interested in the same things I was. I didn’t “establish an author’s platform.” I have some beef concerning that tack. I actually networked. I’d love to write a post in the near future on the difference between networking and creating a platform, but for now I’ll just say that I’ve met literally hundreds of people because of Blogger. I have critique partners, beta readers, and best friends because of it. What worked for me was using my blog as a landing spot for people to get to know me, and then reaching out to them through email, on the phone, at a conference, or planning a meet-up. I’m over thirty years old, married with two kids, and thanks to the “blogosphere,” I get to have sleepovers with my girlfriends. There’s Game of Thrones and popcorn and caramel cookie crunch Talenti involved. It’s pretty radical.
With all that in mind, I have a pretty good idea how I want to operate my blog from here on out.
Let’s be friends, eh?