Hello everyone! I’m very happy to say that today is the Here Be Wyverns’ Blog’s 2nd birthday!
*Cue Wild Applause!*
Thank you to everyone who has given me encouragement, advice and most of all their own time for reading this blog. I couldn’t honestly say that I’d have made it through even so much as the first year without you, and certainly not two!
There have been a few milestones, especially this past year, and I know that they are small ones but I’m proud of them and I wanted to share! I don’t know whether it’s not the Done Thing to talk about these things, but I’m a big advocate for sharing things that make you happy and that you’re proud of and encouraging others to do the same. If we cannot share our joy then how will we ever see anything but sadness, and all that?
I didn’t even know that WordPress did these kinds of little stickers until this popped up in my Inbox one morning! It’s strange, because I’d never thought to count up how many views or likes I’d been getting, but the idea that so many people had liked whatever nonsense I’ve been putting out enough to click and tell me was strangely validating! definitely was an encouragement to keep putting out content!
Alright, so this is pretty old and I’ve put up a few more since then, but I’m still a little impressed that I’ve managed to find so many things to talk about in 2 years! I hope I’ve not slipped too often into tedious territory!
I am neither too old nor too proud to admit that when this little sticker popped up for me, I may have sniffled a little bit in my armchair!
When I first started out blogging, for the first two months or so I definitely knew every single one of my followers personally, which was a little strange as I’d post something and then get a text message from a friend telling me what she thought! The idea that I almost certainly don’t know you all from my daily life is a strange and wonderful thought! Hello internet friends! May we meet in person one day!
August was a big month on the blog, it seems! Once again, thank you to everyone who took the time to interact with me here, either with your lovely and insightful and funny comments, or with clicking the ‘Like’ button! I know it’s a common thing for us writers to be constantly unsure about the quality of their work, and I certainly find it very encouraging to have something tangible to beat those doubts back when writing just seems too hard and nothing I type reads as anything other than garbage!
Sharing happiness aside, I know it’s a common thing around this time to share advice or shine a light on interesting blogs that are out there, but I never know if I have enough insight into either to really add anything right now. Maybe next year, if I can?
In lieu of anything of that nature, I cannot recommend enough checking out The Orangutan Librarian’s series ‘Bloggers Who Deserve More Attention’ (Part 5 to be found here). I have found so many really interesting and lovely blogs through that series, which I’d never have heard about if it weren’t for them!
But I would very much like to share a few things that I have learned in the past two years, especially for new bloggers or those of us who’d really like to have a blog but aren’t quite sure about it either. Because I learned all of these lessons the hard way, and there’s no reason that anyone else should have to cry and shake to learn them too!
1. You Don’t Have To Have A Plan
I know, I know. All the advice out there says that if you want to be successful, if you want to, well, ‘make it’ and all.
And planning’s fine, but if you’re anything like me and thus a dreadful over-thinker? You’re never going to get anything done. I was a mess of notebooks and post-its and ‘but what if’s for months before a friend finally lost her patience and kidnapped my laptop to make this site. I flailed in the background while she did it, in hindsight it was hilarious!
Everything about my life is just so dignified, no?
Anyway, you know what I learned from this? Well, lots, but mostly what I learned was this: if it’s not right straight away? The world doesn’t end, you don’t lose your blogging license and sometimes you don’t know what you’re good at until you try, you know? We over-planners, we worry constantly about what happens if we make a wrong choice, and yeah, sometimes we’re right and that decision is genuinely really important or you’ll have to spend ages and possibly money unpicking a poor choice and all, but with a free blog?
Go for it! Throw yourself in at the deep end! Recklessly abandon your fears by the wayside! Panic is temporary and meaningless!
Maybe this isn’t how million-viewer blogs with sponsorship deals are born, but neither is staring at your notebooks until 3am while you’re too scared to move either. Give it a try and if it’s not your thing then you learned that much about yourself for free! There’s a life-coach out there who could have charged you £100 to tell you that!
2. Be honest with yourself about what you want out of this whole venture
Look, there’s no shame in admitting that everyone blogs for different reasons, and that’s both entirely natural and 100% OK. But a lot of advice for bloggers out there very much assumes that you are blogging in the hopes of getting a huge following, as quickly as possible, and preferably going to monetize and/or use it as a platform for self-publishing.
Which if that’s your goal, cool! Plenty of people do very well at blogging that way and I really enjoy reading their blogs. Just the thing is…
That’s not why I blog.
I blog to encourage myself to write even if I can’t think of anything especially poetic to write for stories, the force myself to branch out in what genres and styles of writing I can do, and to find people with similar interests. I’m much better at thinking about writing and talking about writing than actually setting fingers to keys, and having a blog helps me marry those two things together much better. Typing out my thought processes forces me to think more coherently and to face up to weaker areas in my own work. And that’s all very helpful, even if it’s not ever going to attract enough readers to make any kind of career out of it!
I know one photography blogger who uses her blog mostly as a way to store and sort her photos, and to be able to share them with her friends more easily since she hates Facebook. Ditto a friend who uses her food blog like my grandma used her cookbook. Again, highly unlikely to take off into a profitable venture, but perfectly suitable for what they wanted to get out of it.
So I guess, my advice is this; sit down and be totally honest with yourself about what you actually want here. Don’t feel like, just because some people can make lucrative careers from blogging, that you have to do so or you’ve somehow failed at blogging. there’s no righto or wrong way to do this, only right or wrong ways to go about achieving certain ends. So even though #1 on this list was ‘You Don’t Have To Have A Plan‘, knowing what you’re actually reaching for will help you a lot.
3. If it’s not fun anymore, take a break.
Again, I know; all the advice says that you have to post at least once a week if you want a following and if you don’t do that then you’ll never get anywhere, and that’s the same thing as failure, right?
I get it. I’ve absolutely been there!
And yes, if you want a large following, you need to be regular and frequent with your updates. You need to be reliable.
As previously noted, I’m writing more to chat to you lovely people and to make myself write at all than to become …blogging-famous? Is that a thing? And we all have lives and things that we want to do that get in the way of blogging, and it can be really stressful to try to juggle both.
Do you try to blog while you’re on holiday? I should say that I know some people for whom writing time is their only peace and quiet while away from home, so maybe keep that in mind! It can definitely work for some, not to mention assist in preventing a meltdown.
Do you work extra hard in the weeks heading up to your break to build up a backlog of posts to be released slowly? What if you need a break unexpectedly?
Look, we all get it, life is messy and complicated and tiring. If writing posts for your blog gets to be exhausting or difficult or stressful… just take a break. If you’re more responsible than me, you could put up a notice saying you’ll be away until whenever. But when the fun has gone out of keeping up with your blog, it’s time to take a break, breathe for a bit, and come back to it refreshed rather than burn yourself out.
4. Follow your interests, not trends
Again, it’s tempting, especially if you want to get noticed and attract followers to your blog quickly, to look up what’s especially popular and just do that. Marketing companies do it all the time.
And it’s always nice if your interests line up with what’s popular, but there’s no guarantee. Trends are always moving and so can be exhausting to keep up with all the time.
Besides, what else are you interested in that you’ll miss out on? No trend out there says taking pictures of a tiny dragon is going to be popular, but I’d never give up Ivan for anything! I’m probably the 5 millionth person to remark that Oxford is a weird and wonderful city with only the most tenuous of grasps on reality, but I live here and it continues to amuse me no end, and I like to share that. I know that book reviews are always popular, but I have tried and I just can’t write reviews of books for anything. They just come out as an unhelpful mess of randomness and even I can’t stand to read them over again.
Writing takes so much time and effort, at least for me, that it’s much easier and healthier for me to just write what I’m interested in, try to make it somewhat useful or entertaining for others and go.
I promise that whatever you’re interested in and find writing about to be fun, someone else out there will love reading about it too! They’ll tell you about it, and you can chat about your shared interests. It’ll be so much better than banging out stuff that you don’t really like but feel the need to write because they get good stats.
5. Fluke days are not the norm, don’t expect them all the time
Some days, and you might not even know why, you’ll have a huge spike in views out of nowhere. Maybe you just posted something that really took off? Maybe someone linked to you and it got popular? Maybe you’ll never find out what it is!
But you’ll have a huge number of views one day, and it’s really exciting. Here’s the thing I learned the hard way; that spike is likely to drop back off to normal levels sooner or later, and that’s normal. You try to keep up that kind of momentum, especially if you aren’t entirely sure how you got it in the first place, and you can easily burn yourself out.
Think of days like these as a bonus; it’s lovely to have it, you can probably learn a lot from it – what totally new people are drawn to on your blog, what they never seem to see, whether they have been adequately encouraged to comment or ‘like’ something, that sort of thing – but just as your bonus is not your salary, so too is this unlikely to be your new situation: normal. Relax!
6. Don’t measure yourself up against others: In that game we all lose
This one’s a piece of advice that will definitely serve you well in all aspects of your life: You are the one and only expert in being you out there in the world, so why waste that talent and energy trying to be a copy of someone else? Take tips from others, sure. Take inspiration from others; we all do. But no matter how much I love other bloggers, I’m never going to be as good at being them as they are.
Have faith that you are interesting to other people just as you are, because that’s 100% definitely true.
7. You don’t have to stay where you started
In all of this, in blogging as in life, remember: If it’s not working out, change it. So you started out wanting to talk about interior design but you’re really most excited to talk about your latest knitting project? So you thought you’d have loads to say about folklore, but actually you’re way more interested in discussing historical cooking?
But you’ve started this blog to talk about the first thing, right? And you might have followers who’ll hate it? They’ll leave!
Remember, blogging’s free, and you’re probably not being paid for this. Take a deep breath and do what makes you genuinely excited, otherwise it’s not worth it! If you’ve already got a following, start a new blog and link the two up. If you’ve not really got many followers and you’re feeling brave, revamp the whole thing and dive into something new.
You don’t live in Stephen King’s Misery book, no one is going to shout at you for changing what you want to write!
Phew! I hope that was remotely coherent? Not to mention, helpful to someone?
What lessons did you learn when you started blogging?
New to this blog? Check out some of my other series down here: