As a fledgling blogger, I wanted to learn how to be successful. Voraciously I read books, perused magazine articles and listened to podcasts on how to blog. I studied blog sites I found appealing. I talked with other bloggers. I even attended a workshop.
Quickly, though, I became overwhelmed with all the advice. Much of it was conflicting. Yet I took note of what others had to say about the frequency of publishing, the ideal length of each post and the best times to publish.
A huge burden was lifted when I decided I’d blog according to my own rules. I gave myself permission to do it my way, and that’s probably what has kept me going longer than most people who start blogging.
Here are the rules by which I blog:
- I write first for myself. I talk about things I find interesting. I try to write in a style that I would enjoy reading. If there is anything I don’t like about a topic, I pause. If I am uncomfortable with the way I write something, chances are high that others will feel the same way.
- I write when I have something to say. That sounds pretty basic, but sometimes in the world of blogging and online sharing that point is overlooked. I think of my blog as the canvas upon which I paint. Great artists paint as a form of creative expression. They don’t create artwork because external pressure compels them to. Rather, they do their magic when there’s something inside of them that needs to be shared.
- I do not write when I do not have something to say. I am not a newspaper columnist who cranks out columns on a deadline. Because I am not constrained by an editorial calendar, I do not feel pressure to adhere to an arbitrary schedule. That freedom helps me to avoid forcing the creation of content.
- I never publish on the same day I write. Ideas usually take time to ripen, and I have a system to guide me. I capture ideas for potential topics in my Moleskine notebook. As an idea takes shape, I will write a draft post. I’ll then let it sit before I edit and rewrite. My best posts would have missed the mark had I prematurely picked them from the vine while they were still green.
- I never publish everything I write. Sometimes I write to vent frustrations, but usually those ideas die on the vine. Here’s a little secret, shared here for the first time. I have a “shadow blog” which looks identical to this one. I’ve named it My Idea Incubator. It is private and I’m the only one who can access it. There in that online greenhouse, ideas germinate and draft posts are allowed to incubate. As a potential post develops, I can actually see it would look like online. As you guess, some posts make it through the entire curation process. Others don’t.
- I try to build rather than destroy. Any blogger can point out what is wrong with something. While I often do that, I also try to fill the void with something positive or constructive. Through the years I’ve discovered that we have to unlearn something before we can learn something new. As Pablo Picasso once said, “Every act of creation is first an act of destruction.”
- I have fun. Blogging is hard work. Yet I enjoy being a blogger, so I keep cruising along. When I quit having fun, I’ll quit blogging.
Rules were made to be broken. In the four-plus years I have blogged, I’ve broken every single one of these rules. Yet they provide good guidelines to keep me on track. I’m my toughest critic, yet I am gentle on myself during the creative process. If you are a blogger, or if you’re thinking about becoming one, please allow me to share one additional rule: Always play by your own rules.