The title of this post is utterly ridiculous for I have only been blogging here on Our Story Time for less than a year; one might argue I don’t possess the gravitas to proffer any sort of wisdom on it. I had a blog, a long time ago, that lasted almost a decade until it was hacked (which led in part to the creation of this website) but that too was an internet age ago. I am not here to tell what I have learnt in numbers and figures. I have no useful advice on how to turn your blog into money or how to come up tops in Google search or how to bump your readership up from zero to gazillions. I have no idea about any of that, because even though I run my writing course off this site, I don’t blog just to persuade you to want to pay me. But I do have some other little snippets of, if not advice, then simple considerations that I’ve found noteworthy for myself. And in case they are in turn noteworthy for you, here they are.
1 Write for you, not for others
Those who talk of business and side-hustle and algorithms tell us to write for our audience. I can see the value in that, I truly do. But it just doesn’t work for me. I am a writer; I write what I want to write first and the rest is just a cherry on top. I don’t like to think of my blog as content, a word which sort of makes me shudder. I write best when I write as me, for me. It helps to trust yourself first; to write what you want to, what you need to, before worrying about what other people may think about what you write or the way in which you write it. After all, the beauty of writing is you choose what you say and how you say it. I guess what I’m saying is - write for yourself and don’t self-edit because of what you imagine someone else’s expectations to be.
2 Write regularly
I post once a week, because it’s all I can realistically do. But I do it. Boy, I make sure I do. I turn up every Wednesday with a long read in hand, ready to turn it in (and if I ever don’t, feel free to @ the hell out of me). So make a schedule and stick to it. Don’t do it because you’re thinking of your audience or your stats on Google. Do it because writing regularly makes you a better writer. If you can post every day, then post every day. But if you can only post once a month, then post once a month - just make it the best possible version of whatever it is you write. Commit to it. Owe it to the words in your head. Owe it to yourself.
3 WRITE LIKE YOU
Write the way you speak; it’s the simplest way to start. Never mind what you assume a blog is supposed to sound like. All that matters is your voice; the one that lilts and sways, whispers and lingers.
4 pay attention
I implore: check grammar! Remind yourself when it is it’s instead of its and there instead of their or they’re. These silly little things may be a slip of the finger, but they sure do sour if left like spilt milk.
5 Don’t sweat the SEO
I used to sweat the SEO until I realised the SEO (in fact, I’m not even sure it requires the article “the” but it rolls off the tongue in this sentence, so…) was not overly concerned or compatible with my preferred writing style. I’m not entirely stupid about it - I took a jargon-free e-course on it and I will at least try to come up with an SEO-friendly blog title if I can - but I don’t go crazy thinking about it.
This might indeed be entirely stupid of me, but right now my schedule is such that I don’t have time to look up keywords and save them in spreadsheets and then see if I can work them in. It takes the joy out of this process for me. Smart people will disagree and no doubt scoff, for SEO is not meant to be joyous.
I take a simpler approach: I blog on Squarespace and in my very simple understanding of this, Squarespace has some handy built-in SEO features which I pay for as part of the privilege of being here and as such, I’m happy to let that do its thing so I may carry on with doing mine.
6 pirouette if you must
Brand and business people talk about the importance of leaving room to pivot, but I prefer to describe it as a pirouette. It is no secret (at least not any more) that Our Story Time started as an online store with a blog comprised of gift guides that, honestly, made me cringe to compile. That was not my heart. This is.
So, I took a leap, pointed my toes and pirouetted (although for me it was more of a case of going full circle, back to my writing roots).
If at any point your blog starts to make you itch uncomfortably, then you should consider a pirouette too. Learn from what does not work out, and move on. I am not saying that you should delete your blog in its entirety and start over. I’m simply saying: pirouette. Take a whirl to where you truly want to be. It’s dramatic but exciting and mostly often all works out beautifully too.
7 What’s in a name
I have friends who tell me they want to blog but they never do because they can’t think of what to call it. This, my friends, is the finest form of procrastination. It does not matter what you name your blog. Smarter people might tell you it does, but I honestly think naming your blog ought to be secondary to the process of blogging, of writing, itself.
I came up with mine because I’d literally just read a bedtime story to my kids. All I knew was that I wanted something that conveyed a measure of where my life is, and Our Story Time is a nod to that, to this time in my life when I am still very much reading stories to little people, but it is also a nod to all the magic in those moments too.
It helped that I could weave meaning into the name for my blog, but I did not brainstorm it for months. I did not allow the naming of my blog block me from starting the thing in the first place. So act fast to pick a name. Take inspiration from a favourite song, a poem, a lyric you used to doodle in your binder at school. Or use your pet’s name or your kid’s name (or maybe no, don’t do that) or even just your very own beautiful name which leaves plenty of space for whirling pirouettes as and when you might need them.
8 let your BLOG be EASY ON THE EYE
I did not design my blog, Meg did, but I’m so glad I took the leap and asked her to. I love design in all its guises, from interiors to typography, and it matters to me that my blog, well, looks pretty. I am sorry to say that I am one of those people that is attracted to books by covers (not all the time, but sometimes) and it’s the same for me with blogs. An aesthetically designed blog is a delight to behold; it’s a reflection of the person behind the screen. You don’t even have to hire someone - I did because I’m not very good at the fiddly stuff and I wanted something in very particular colours - but it’s sort of fun playing around with templates too. Just don’t let the entire process distract you from the business of writing.
9 everything is not copy
I use my blog to write about my everyday; it helps me remember, reflect and also make stories out of small moments of my life. It is introspective but that is not to say that it is always in someways heavy or woefully serious. When I am stuck for a subject to write upon, it is tempting to go deeper if only to have something to say. But I always stop myself.
My journalism years have taught me that on the contrary, everything is not copy. I have written an awful lot about myself in the past for publication and while I do not regret any of that, I have also interviewed a lot of people for pieces who have passed me their soul on a plate as though it were a biscuit. I know I do not want to do that. It works for some people and helps them too but it is not something I am so comfortable with. So I remind myself that I write for me and in doing so, I am perfectly entitled to hold pieces of myself back - the pieces that are especially private, the pieces I would only give to those I love the most. Know that you don’t have to reveal everything about yourself, even if it feels like everyone else is. Privacy is scared and not everything must be shared, certainly not for want of anything else to write about.
10 Let your blog be a reflection of you
Finally, ignore everything I’ve said. This advice is not gold dust fallen from the stars, merely my observations en route from one point in time to another. Make your blog whatever it is you want it to be about. Claim your space to explore all the things you love or even don’t love, to work through the thoughts in your head. Let your blog reflect you better than it does anyone else’s tricks to success.