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Sort of Helpful Advice for Would Be Bloggers

Screen Shot 2013-03-11 at 10.07.36 PMSometimes people write me emails asking me questions about how to be good at blogging. I’m both flattered and confused by this. Anyone who reads my stuff knows that as far being a blogger is concerned;

  • I’m making it all up as I go along.
  • I’m kind of a moron.
  • I make a lot of mistakes.

I really mean all those things I just wrote. I know my own limitations. And for every person who thinks I’m trying to be modest, there’s probably 100 who are wondering where the hell I get off giving advice on this subject. I figure as long as I’m upfront about my shortcomings, you can decide whether my thoughts on being a parenting blogger are any good.

My advice will not be the technical or “useful” kind. That stuff is too hard and I’m no good at it. And I’m not the only one who thinks it’s hard to write about these things. Even people who’ve been blogging a long time (who really do know what they’re doing) will tell you that it’s always changing. Once you think you sort of get it – BOOM. It’s different.

So I’m going to be very, very honest and offer some thoughts the way I would if we were friends in real life. Because blogging has been an amazing thing for me. It helped me feel better when I was really unhappy. It helped me build relationships, to rebuild my battered self esteem, and to slowly figure out who I was as a parent and an adult. It forced me to take an honest look at myself. It even gave me a really great part-time job here at Babble.

But it takes a lot of time and there’s an element of risk involved. There was a period when I let my blog (Rants from Mommyland) take over my life a little bit. I thought about it too much, I talked about it way too much, and I internalized the inevitable negative comments and criticism in a way that wasn’t healthy for me.

Let’s talk about some questions you should probably ask yourself before getting started. And by that I mean, before you write a single post, before you even click on Blogger or WordPress. These are all things I did not think through before I got started in 2009, when I just jumped off a cliff with my friend Kate.  Some say the most important question to ask is WHY. Why do I want to write a blog? Do I have something important to say? Is my voice relevant? Do I want to provide information, or make people laugh, or teach them to crochet little boobie hats? All that jazzy jazz.

I’m not sure you need to know why. I didn’t have a reason. Then I did! Then it changed. As long as you’re not setting out to be assholish (and by that I mean to harm or exploit or just generally be a douchebag), I’m not sure it matters. As with everything else, where you start and where you end up could be totally different places – and that’s cool. Finding out more about yourself as a person and a blogger is kind of the name of the game.

Here are my other questions. Let’s call this my “Checklist for Starting a Blog”:

  • Are your family and friends on board with this?
  • No, really. Are they OK with details about their lives being written down and shared on the internet?
  • Is there any reason that you should not be blogging? A custody arrangement? A clause in your employment contract? What about your partner/spouse’s job?
  • Are you prepared for the reaction of the other important folks in your life? Your in-laws? Co-workers? Your kids’ teachers?
  • How are you going to feel the first time someone you don’t know that well (or like that well) gives you side eye at soccer practice because of something they read on your blog?
  • Are you ready for the moment when one of the people you care about takes something you’ve written the wrong way and gets really, really upset about it? Or tells you that they don’t like or approve of what you’re doing?
  • Are you prepared for people to treat you differently? That they may start to edit themselves around you?
  • Are you ready to dedicate all most a lot of your free time to this?
  • Are you ready to work really hard for something that you may just end up walking away from?
  • Are you willing to put yourself out there in way that is honest and sometimes a little scary?
  • Are you willing to have people that you’ve never met tell you that you’re an unfit mother, a horrible person, ugly, fat, stupid, a crazy bitch, that your life is pathetic, that your husband should leave you, and that your kids should be taken away?
  • Are you ready for people to say that you deserve these words because you put yourself out there? That it was your choice to share details about your life and start a blog and therefore you asked for it?

Here’s the thing about that last question. Right or wrong – that’s the deal. If you choose to write a blog and make it public, then you are choosing to open yourself up to that kind of criticism. Again, it’s not even a question of right or wrong – it just is. This is currently the reality of blogging and you need to be aware of it. And no matter how thick your skin is, if it happens to you – it will hurt. It will make you wonder.

Maybe you’re thinking; I’m going to write anonymously, so a lot of this doesn’t apply to me. But please don’t kid yourself, you will not be entirely anonymous. And if someone really, really wants to find out who’s writing a blog, they probably can. Additionally, when the people in your life find out that you’re blogging, and that you kept it from them… Things can get weird.

Still want to do it? Great! Good for you. Then I have more advice for you and it’s coming up in a couple of weeks.

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