It’s September. Fresh, energised and full of optimism, September sees teachers take up new instruments, join exercise classes and start diets – it is the real New Year. So it shouldn’t have come as such a surprise when, in the space of 6 days, I received four emails asking for advice about starting a blog.This is incredibly flattering as The Girl On The Piccadilly Line has only existed (at its current domain) for a year so I am no expert (and there are people out there who are experts in this sort of thing.) But, for what it’s worth, here is my advice for anyone, teacher or otherwise, thinking of venturing into the world of blogging.
1. Write about what you know/what you love
A lot of bloggers will tell you to choose a niche and stick with it; become an expert in that field and you’ll have a ready made readership. That isn’t bad advice but I think the most important thing is that you write about what you know. For me that was education and politics but it doesn’t really matter what it is: coffee, insurance, tube stations with step free access or the best places to go for brunch. If you’re passionate about your subject that will come through in your writing. Trying to regularly produce interesting content on a subject you don’t care about is hard work and can be mind-numbingly dull – don’t do it to yourself. And if you write that blog about the best places for brunch send me the link.
Any teacher will tell you that the best writers are the ones who read widely. So read. Read articles, blogs, novels, non-fiction. Find a writer you love and study the way they weave their words together – learn from them. Struggling to put together a catchy opening paragraph or heading? Get reading. Interested in writing list-style posts? Get reading. Want to use your blog to share your short stories? Get reading. At the moment I’m reading a lot of blogs to try and learn the art of writing a decent closing paragraph. My posts tend to end abruptly or just fizzle out. You don’t know how much I wish every post could just end with, “That’s All Folks!”
3. “At the end of the day, the only thing that’s perfect is a blank sheet of paper – untouched with nothing on it. And if you’re questing for perfection then you’ll leave that paper blank.” – Neil Gaiman
I don’t really like the way I write. I often wish my writing sounded more academic; I’ve yet to master the art of being concise as opposed to just wittering on (At this point it’s worth mentioning I am available for commissions…) When I first started blogging I used to agonise over posts. I would
ask beg my husband to read everything I wrote before I published it, “Is it alright?” I’d ask nervously – I just didn’t believe anything I’d written could be any good. (Little tip – find someone in those early days to be your own personal editor/proofreader/cheerleader. You don’t have to marry them though.)
Over the last year I’ve learnt a valuable lesson: writing is to be read. If people want to read your writing then your writing is serving its purpose. I’ve accepted the way I write is readable and in the last few months people have actually started paying me money to write things for them (which I still can’t get my head around)) So I’ve come to the conclusion I can’t be that bad. Please don’t be like me – have confidence and just keep writing.Sure, you’re first few posts may only be read by your parents but that’s OK!
4. Use social media – not just to share your work.
I love social media – it’s the fastest way to get your blog out there but it has other uses too. Use it to find other bloggers, join in with blog chats and interact directly with your readers. You get out what you put into the blogging community so get involved. Spend at least an hour a week reading other blogs, commenting on and sharing the things you really like. Invite guest bloggers to write for you – they’ll bring with them new readers.
Use hashtags to increase the visibility of your posts. There are dozens you can use – I tend to rely on:
5. Enjoy it
The best thing about blogging is that there are no hard and fast rules about what it’s meant to look like. You can post once a month or every day. You can publish poems, lists, diaries, songs, photos, videos. The whole point is that you’re carving out your own corner of the internet. It can be whatever you want it to be (within legal limits.) If you find you’re not enjoying it take a break – don’t put too much pressure on yourself.
That’s all folks!