Kirsty Hall: Palimpsest, 2004
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A lot of blogging advice tells you to do things like have a tight focus, develop a recognisable style, keep to a schedule, always use a photograph, make your posts a certain length and do lots of guest posting.
This is probably excellent advice.
I mostly ignore it.
I am not a strategic blogger. I try to blog at least twice a week but I often fail, especially if I'm unwell or busy. I don't blog at the times that'll get me the most readers because it never occurs to me to do so. I don't promote my blog as well as I could. I don’t stick rigidly to one style; I’ll often have a serious post one day followed by a slew of what I call 'eye candy' posts. This is partly deliberate – I think it’s boring to have all my content the same and I like to mix things up a bit. But mostly it’s because I post whatever I feel like posting, whenever I feel like posting it. My posting style is largely dependant on my mood and whatever is bubbling up in my brain at that given moment. Like I said, not very strategic!
However, although they may seem random, my posts do have a common thread. I deliberately focus fairly tightly on art. So I don't talk about lots of personal stuff unless it has a bearing on my art - with the occasional foray into chickens!
I’m also very picky with my posts, which is partly why I don't post more often. I edit rigorously because I like my posts to be highly crafted with correct spelling and hopefully half-way decent grammar. I'll spend hours writing the longer, more serious posts and I repeatedly read them aloud to see if they make sense. The ‘eye candy’ posts are quicker but still involve meticulously selecting the right photos and then moving them around to get the visual flow just so. I've tried to blog in a quicker, less obsessive fashion but I just can't do it.
My blogging style reflects who I am – an anal perfectionist with an undisciplined and impulsive thread running through me.
If your blog feels like a millstone around your neck, you need to ask yourself why. Are you trying to be someone you’re not? Are you spending hours crafting long posts when you’re naturally more of a micro-blogger? Are you feeling scattered and overwhelmed by a daily posting schedule? Maybe a single, more reflective weekly post would suit you better.
It can also be helpful to work out why you’re blogging and who you’re blogging for.
Are you trying to get a larger audience? Are you trying to get a book deal? Are you trying to attract new collectors for your work? Are you trying to network with other artists? Or are you just interested in keeping a record of your own practice?
Personally I’m trying to help and entertain people, whilst giving myself enough freedom that I stay interested in blogging. If I get a higher art profile or make useful new connections, that's absolutely great and it's certainly part of the reason that I blog but it's not my main motivation for writing. My main motivation is almost always a variation on the thought, 'hey, that would make a great blog post'.
I am rubbish at doing things that don't interest me and I know this about myself, so I try to minimise the amount of boring things I have to do. I know that I could probably get ten times the number of readers if I was more strategic about my blogging but I also know that I have to be careful to nourish the pleasure I take in blogging or I'll burn out.
Anyone can start a blog and keep writing for a few weeks or months but blogging for years takes a bit more stamina. Knowing yourself and what you want or need from your blog will help you to maintain your blogging in the long run.
TIPS FOR KEEPING GOING
...and yes, the irony of posting a list of strategic tips in this post is not lost on me!
Write and save posts for when you can't be bothered - some posts are time critical but many are not.
If I was really organised, I'd have a dozen posts all ready to go for those weeks when I'm too ill or busy to write. But while I think that's a great theory, I've never quite managed it in practice. What I do have is a slew of unfinished posts that I can sometimes complete with less effort than writing a post from scratch. In fact, this post was one that I started last month.
Keep an ideas file
I have blog notes scattered all over the house and in several places in my computer. One day, I may even get round to organising them properly!
No one is interested in reading a faker; be genuine and your audience will respond. This goes back to the idea of finding and then respecting your own style.
However, it's OK to decide just how much of yourself you're willing to share. It's a blog, not an internal monologue; keeping some things private is not the same as being a faker. There's also nothing wrong with editing - remember, this is a form of publishing not a personal diary.
Know Your Own Rules
In real life I swear like a sailor but I made the deliberate choice when I started not to swear much on this blog. I have other internal rules. It's not happened yet but if I got an abusive comment, I would delete it - I don't mind constructive criticism but I'm not at home to trolls.
Define your own schedule
I saved the most important tip for last.
Work out when you have the most energy for writing and schedule it in. If you don't write, you won't have posts, it's as simple as that. And if you want your blog to be regularly maintained, then it has to be very high up on your to-do list or it just won't happen. Believe me, I know!
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