I am forgoing our usual Wisdom Wednesday post to celebrate a rather large anniversary: High Road Artist’s 500th post. Wow! I have to say, that pretty much takes my breath away. I remember so clearly when Adam Wimsat (see previous post How the Blog Was Born) and I started this grand adventure. We committed to a year. And here we are at more than a year and 10 months. Who knew? Many of you have been with us that whole time, while some of you are relatively new to the site. I welcome you all. You’ve become very important to me over the course of these many months.
And I have learned some things along the way, some of which I’ve shared with you before. But, for those of you who are interested in writing your own blog, as several of you have indicated to me, these are some of the lessons I’ve learned from writing 500 blog posts:
It is very, very hard work.
There is just no getting around this. Writing a blog consistently (meaning every day for at least 5 days a week, every week, which is what must be done if you want to create a successful blog), is extremely hard work. It has become a huge part of my life. I like to say the blog is voracious and it is. I will fill the queue with three weeks of posts and, if I take a short break from writing, suddenly I find myself facing a nearly empty queue. In fact it works best if I write every day, which is what I recommend to you. But I am also trying to paint. So it has become a massive juggling act. This is not a complaint, mind you. I adore writing the blog and have come to need and enjoy the company of the growing community it has engendered. But just know, if you want to develop your own blog (and also still live a life) it will require a lot of work and some ingenuity to create a balance.
Have a passion for it.
Since you can count on the blog being a ton of work, you’d better be very excited by and involved with its concept. Can you imagine getting up, day in and day out, needing to write a post and not being totally engaged with what you’re about to write? There would just be no point, right? I live and breathe the blog. It’s hard to say where the blog ends and my life begins. It is seamless and I think it needs to be, if it is going to hold your interest (and the interest of your readers).
Make it about more than you and your life.
A successful, engaging blog needs to be about more than just you and your life, or even your art. I’ve read far too many art blogs that simply document the writer’s process of making art over and over again–and too many personal blogs that go into too much detail about the specific challenges the writer is facing. I quit caring pretty quickly and unsubscribe from those blogs. Breathe fresh air into your posts. Discover new topics (just as you will in living your life) and write about them. Explore something new with your readers. Invite them into your life but in an interesting way. Don’t be the complaining aunt who lives to tell about her ailments, or the bore who wants to document the mediocre about her life.
Give your blog its own legs.
I’ve found that it’s extremely important to “give the blog its own legs.” I really feel my blog has become its own living, breathing, character with something of a life of its own. I think this is true because you all have become an integral part of the process and the blog has become integral to my life. In fact you and I have come together to form this entity that is the blog. If I listen, it will tell me what it wants to talk about, about what you may want to hear, about what I may want to express. So I need to pay attention and give it some room.
Ideas will come.
You can trust that the next topic, the next subject, the next post will always come. Sometimes, when the queue gets low and I’m feeling particularly overwhelmed with my life and its responsibilities, I fall into a place of fear. During these times it’s easy to believe I’ll never be inspired again; that I’ll never have another idea. That I won’t ever be able to write again. But this is never, ever true. If I just let go and trust the process, the act of living itself brings inspiration. And the ideas come. Always.
They must be your ideas.
You will find that others often come up with ideas for your posts. But, the fact is, viable ideas must come from within you and your process. Others may have wonderful ideas but I’ve found, unless they spring from my own desire and curiosity, the drive to actually sit down and write just isn’t there.
Honor your own voice.
I will read other blogs that are truly terrific and sometimes become critical of my own. Other blogs may be funny or political or graphically beautiful. And I may be tempted to try to be those things, because their blogs work so well. But, the fact is, as much as I would sometimes love to be a different person, I am who I am, and I only have myself to offer—my way of being in the world creates the slant of the blog. That is, if I am to be genuine, which I think is crucial to any successful blog.
Be prepared to weather criticism.
Because we must be true to ourselves, our blogs won’t please everyone. In fact there will be times when your blog will draw criticism, some of it respectful, some of it unkind. Always look at the criticism and determine, for yourself, if it is valid. If it is, apologize and correct it. But as long as you are telling something that feels of value to you, and providing you are not being malicious or causing harm, stay the course. Your way is legitimate too.
Have a conversation. Listen. Care.
I have made this point before but it bears repeating. Don’t tell your readers “what is.” They are wise and already know. Converse with them. Ask them questions. Listen. Care about what they’re thinking and feeling. Wonder about their lives. Know that they have something to offer you. Just because we write a blog doesn’t mean that we have all the answers. It just means we care pretty passionately about communicating. So communicate. Be curious. Readers are a remarkable resource. Engage them. Your blog will be richer for it.
Tell the truth. Be open.
Always, always tell the truth as you understand it in any given moment. Speak from your heart. Be as open as you are able. Your readers will respond and will, likely, offer you their truth and open hearts as well.
Love to you all,