Six Months in the Life of a Blog
The Angst of Blogging
Every other Tom, Dick and Henrietta is writing a blog these days. So why write a post about how to write a blog? Surely it is easy as.
Quite a number of blogs are dedicated to the art of blogging. Blogging about blogging seems to be a strangely introspective thing to do. A sort of online navel-gazing. Maybe that’s what we bloggers are. As here I am doing exactly that!
I’ve noticed that quite a number of these bloggers blogs have posts that deal with the ‘angst’ of blogging. Angst, by definition, is an unfocused anxiety coupled with hope.
Blogging angst is when bloggers worry too much about their viewing figures before they have even got started which coupled with the hope their figures will rise creates a feeling of angst around the very thing they love doing: writing their blog.
Yet surely if you take something up for pleasure there should be no angst involved. And yet it seems there is.
A Throwaway Remark
I’m not really sure how the whole blog idea came up. I think it was a throwaway remark by someone of the kind ‘Well, why don’t you write about it as well as making it? You used to love writing.’
You see I wasn’t just enjoying the occasional G&T, I was also making the stuff at home. Having acquired a little 4L air still which I call Baby, and the appropriate licences, I had been enthusiastically experimenting, creating gin after gin in my tiny 9ft by 9ft square kitchen. But I didn’t want and still don’t, to produce gin commercially. I wanted to have fun. And I did and am!
Back to the Beginning
Anyway, back to the beginning. With characteristic enthusiasm, I seized on this chance remark and booked myself the next day onto a WordPress for Beginners workshop. I knew nothing, and I mean NOTHING about WordPress. Except that you might want to write a blog using it.
By the end of the workshop, I had created an account with a name for my blog: For the Love of Gin. So far so good. But I still felt very ignorant despite the workshop. Maybe I was just too old to blog?
Flying to the Moon
I had signed up for the free version of WordPress. Self-hosting seemed as unreachable as flying to the moon. That was for proper bloggers.
If anyone was angst-ridden I was. You see my angst was that my blog would be a failure, coupled with the hope that it would be a success. I ping ponged between these two emotions. No wonder I was getting confused.
Over the next few days though, I got to grips with themes, customising, colour palettes, menus and so on. There was so much to learn. By the end of the week, I was beginning to enjoy myself. My blog was shaping up. I still hadn’t published anything. I kept the blog private until I was ready to brave public scrutiny on the first day of the New Year.
I chose the date as somehow significant. Another little tell of my angst!
On January 1st I waited with baited breath at 11 am(slightly hungover) for my first ever blog post to appear ~ Nothing!
Feeling a bit panicky I logged onto my account. Stupido! In my inexperience, I had forgotten to switch the blog into public mode.
This remedied I proudly looked on my first blog post as I would a newborn. It was short but oh so sweet. I was a blogger!
Actually, I still don’t feel I can call myself that just yet. But anyways.
Taking the Plunge
You might think that in taking the plunge I’m talking about when I decided to start my blog. But the real plunge came when I mad the decision to self-host.
I had been writing for about six weeks and posted a dozen times. But my blog didn’t look the way I really wanted it to. I wanted it to look like a magazine or a cookery book. A place for readers to browse. It seemed that self-hosting was the way forward to take advantage of a wider range of themes.
So here I was taking off my armbands and plunging into the deep blue sea of self-hosting. I jumped in and it was cool. I bobbed up and down on the (mainly) gentle waves of learning. And believe me, WordPress is a steep learning curve, especially for a beginner like me. But it wasn’t the stormy sea I had been dreading. I thought I would drown along with my blog. And yes, there were sharks in the ocean waiting to bite. But plugins took care of a lot of them.
Choosing the Web Host
I had done my homework and narrowed it down to three web hosts. I chose InMotion because I had heard good things about their customer service. And yes they are good, particularly with newbies like me, and patiently answered all my rookie questions. I redirected my domain name, exported my files, that thankfully were still quite small, and imported them to my new WordPress account. I was now a co.uk.
The biggest trauma for me was choosing the theme. I wanted that magazine feel to my blog. The previous one had been very linear and my bounce rate high. With more of my posts laid out in magazine format, I hoped readers would linger a little longer.
Theme chosen: Ashe, I spent a long happy day tweaking. And I’m still tweaking now! I love to tweak. Those bloggers amongst you will get this. You are always fiddling to get your blog to be the best it can.
I created a logo using Powerpoint. Techies will laugh at this but it was simple and easy for someone like me without access to or knowledge of Photoshop. And actually, I quite like my logo. It expressed what I wanted it to express: a heart for the ‘love of’ and the word gin, of course, written in elegant font for this most elegant of spirits.
Write, Format, Schedule, Repeat
Posts became a ritual: write, format, add links, add photos, sort out the SEO and schedule. The actual writing part takes up half my time with the rest given over to formatting. But over time I have gotten slicker. Write, format, repeat. Write, format, repeat.
My angst was piling up, however. I read that I had to post regularly for any chance of Google ranking my blog. I was in danger of not really enjoying the whole process of writing. My blog was becoming a chore, not a pleasure.
The Angst of Analytics
In my first month, I had had 104 views. I still don’t know if this is good, bad or average for a first month. Most days I had about 5 views. Some days nothing.
Was I disheartened? I won’t lie. A little. But the sheer joy of doing something again that I hadn’t done in years kept me going and helped to override this angst.
Now six months later my views are tenfold and growing daily. A day without any views is a rare day indeed.
Would I have continued to blog if my viewing figures didn’t rise? Probably.
Yet bloggers need the oxygen of views and comments. And I’m no different. I became a bit obsessive, watching the view count every day to see if it went up or (horror) down. Like watching a sleeping newborn to see if he or she is still breathing.
And perhaps that is where the angst lies. We all want attention. Look at me! Look at me! our blogs are crying. If no one is reading my blog then I’m invisible. Read me and make me feel important.
Bin the Angst and Enjoy Your Blog
Seven months into my blog and I think I have sussed this whole angst thing out. I am beginning to enjoy writing my blog again. The technicalities of WordPress are getting easier to understand. Even if I never completely master them, I can focus more on my writing and less on formatting.
I am featured in the Top 10 Gin Blogs of Blog Feedspot, along with some of the gin blogs I really admire.
I take real pleasure when I look at my blog to see what I have achieved. There will always be niggles that I can’t quite fix. But so what.
And I am still writing about a subject I love. Me and my blog are in love again.
So here’s what I think about this angst. Put it where it belongs: in the bin. Write about what you love and the views will follow. If they don’t then you are just writing about a very niche subject. And so what!
Write with passion and from the heart and people will want to read what you write. Write about your weirdnesses and enthusiasms and don’t stop.
Bin your ego along with the angst. Your ego is your worst enemy and will cloud your thinking and get in the way of your writing. It will also turn people off you. People who let their ego write their blogs are not writing from the heart and it will show. You are not communicating if you write with your ego, you are pontificating.
Be genuine and be authentic. Be curious.
You don’t have to always be right. Being wrong is a sign that you are alive and human and can make mistakes.
And always, always remember why you started writing in the first place.