The Joy of Blogging for Creativity
I've been talking about blogging a lot lately, both on and offline. It's understandable as I have an e-course coming out on that subject so I'm thinking about it well, pretty much all day (and night) long. (Why, hello sleepless nights.)
As I've mentioned before when describing my blogging and creative journey, I came to blogging before Facebook, before Twitter and Instagram.
And I feel blogging became, over the years, a little like the radio in Queen's song, Radio Gaga. You know, the one where they sing that the TV is taking over and the poor radio was being sidelined?
Blogging was quickly dropped by many of my online friends in favour of the shininess of Twitter and Facebook. Social media was quicker, you could have conversations with lots of people at once.
Blogs with their blog rolls and little awards we used to give each other to pop into the sidebar became old fashioned in this crazily fast online world.
Yet, for me, blogging has never gone anywhere. And I know it hasn't for thousands upon thousands of other people in this online world. But. Blogging has evolved. Templates are slick and magazine-like. Photographs are big and beautiful; taking prominence in a blog post.
And now the advice is to have a blog. Something that belongs to you as opposed to a platform you have no control over with all its algorithm irritations.
And because blogging is so much slicker now it's a little more daunting to start one.
There are courses out there telling you that you can make thousands of pounds simply by blogging. They talk of webinars, of niches, of converting leads, of serving your audience...it's heady stuff. They tell you to have a mailing list, to build up a platform on social media, to look at your SEO. And I haven't even mentioned the design of the blog. Circumnavigating all the photography, the colours, the 'pinnable images' and the fonts.
For a newbie I think it's overwhelming.
And what do you do if you want to blog purely because you want to write? You have something to say? Simply as a way of discovering your truth, your self, your creativity, your writing style?
Where are all the posts on that?
They are out there. I know they are. But with all the noise on the internet it's difficult to find. And there is confusion when you read the articles with the loudest voices and worry about finding your niche, and creating a 'take away' for your audience. When blog posts are telling you the optimum number of words to use in a blog post. When you wonder what the rules are for promoting your blog 'content'.
So, I'm putting my hand up. I'm saying here. Over here. I'm talking about blogging for creativity. Me.
Blogging has given me so much creative joy over the last eleven years. I've found my voice, I've peeled the onion and found interests and new things to write about. I've learnt new skills and adapted. And I've learnt to discount any online advice that doesn't fit in with me and my creativity.
Now, at no point am I saying that blogging and making money is mutually exclusive. (I'm also not discounting info-bloggers at all.) I know people have blogs as a hobby. And others to make money. I am enthusiastic about either. And that's my point. Blogging cannot be put into a one size fits all box. You have to find a box that suits you. Then make holes in the box and add bits on and cut bits away. We cannot all be clones of each other.
So, how do you start blogging for creativity? It's easy for me to say just start writing. But then I'd be discounting the fear of putting something out there online for the very first time. The anxious butterflies. The heart pounding whilst you try and stop yourself from deleting the post.
In the process of researching and putting together my e-course I asked two Instagram friends what their worries were when it came to blogging. I'm repeating my answers here in the hope it might help you.
1. What is the best blogging platform for a total newbie?
To start a blog you need someone to host it for you online. Now you can go down the free route. Or you can go down the paid route. Wordpress has both options. A free version hosted on their servers - wordpress.com with small adverts appearing on your blog. And a paid version where you find a hosting company to host it for you, that's wordpress.org. But you'd still use the Wordpress layout behind the scenes to create your site. And there'd be no adverts on on your blog. Or, if there was, you'd receive the money from them!
Then you have Blogger - owned by Google - this is free to use. From what I understand there would be no adverts on your site.
Then there is Squarespace which has a monthly, or slightly cheaper yearly, fee. My current blog is on Squarespace (though I've used all three). It is different to the other two in that you drag and drop to build a blog. Incredibly simple once you understand the basics.
You can get hold of a domain name through one of these sites. Or buy separately.
In terms of what is best - all three of these are great platforms. Blogger might have slightly simpler designs but maybe that's a good thing for you. The point is - whoever you go with you are not stuck with them indefinitely. Blogs can be transferred to another company whenever you like.
2. I cannot think of a niche. Do I need one?
You do not need a 'niche' to start blogging. You don't even know what you want to write about. Some people, such as Julie Powell from the inspired by real life film Julie & Julia, knew straight away what she wanted her blog to be about. She was going to create all of Julia Child's recipes in one year. It was a challenge. Whereas me? I didn't have a clue other than wanting to record the number of words I'd written that day for my novel. Now I write about chickens and ducks amongst many other things.
My point is this: you don't always know what direction you'll take. You don't know what interests you'll uncover. Don't narrow yourself down too early in the process.
And if you want to read more on what I have to say about 'niche' then read this post.
3. Is blogging still relevant?
Short answer, yes. Longer answer...does it matter if it isn't? You want to write and create? What better place to share. As I said recently on the What She Said podcast, don't be a sheep. Carve your own path.
4. What about the advice about serving an audience? Shouldn't I be providing something for them?
First and foremost I write for myself. That might sound selfish, I don't know (and don't really care). It also goes against all the advice of writing with an audience in mind. This advice is perfect if you are selling something. But if you're writing for creativity then write for yourself first.
Once you have established an audience (and this will take time) what they'll take away is entertainment. Your way of looking at the world.
5. How do I find my voice online?
This takes time. And practice. You cannot not start your blog because you feel you don't have a voice yet. The voice comes from writing. And posting. And writing. And posting. It is a muscle. Your blogging muscle. And you have to keep using it.
Do you have any questions about blogging for creativity? Ask me below or send me an email (click on the envelope icon in the top right.)