Blogging, for me, hasn’t just been about the product but the process. It’s given me great writing practice and an additional creative outlet, because sharing what I write is part of the fun of writing.
With the advent of the Internet, words have more power today than they ever have before, for they can transmit in a matter of seconds to billions of people simultaneously. The Internet is a virtual pond, where the thoughts of anyone with an Internet connection can ripple forever.
So be careful with your words—they might come back to haunt you someday.
Since I was a third-grader in Ms. Yvonne Cahoon’s class, I’ve been a writer. “I just love reading your journals,” she would say, and the spark was ignited. Those journals weren’t just logbooks but how I felt about what I saw and heard. (I didn’t learn how important it was to include sensory details, like touch, taste, and smell, until much later). Those journals were my first taste of writing creative nonfiction. I started with what I knew, and then, as Mark Twain would say, “distorted the facts as I pleased.”
My blog will be part of my legacy when I depart from this world. I like to think that my descendants, a hundred years from now, will know so much more about me than I know about mine. Most of my words I will take with me or will live on in someone’s memory for a time, but the ones I’ve written and will write for the enjoyment, and, hopefully, the enlightenment of others, are the ones I will leave for my great-great-great granddaughter to read. I like to think even if my words don’t become famous in this life, perhaps they will posthumously (à la Emily Dickinson). I suppose that’s why I chose creative writing over journalism, for how many newspaper articles about local politics or blog posts about parenting endure like a poem or a piece of literature?
That said, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to stand out, for with the ease of sharing, there is oversharing, as there are over 70 million blogs on WordPress alone. Though I cannot control how many people choose to follow, share, or comment on my posts, I do have control over the quality of the content. I’ve found that the shorter the post (400–600 words is recommended), the more likely it is that someone will read the whole thing. (I suspect that’s why haikus are so popular.) We like our information bite-sized now. Think about it: We’ve gone from the cake slice, to the cupcake, and now the cake pop.
Wednesdays are the only days in which I have to create new content, which frees up time for me to spend on writing pieces that may get published for pay. (Every April and November, I post my Writer’s Digest PAD, or Poem-a-Day, Prompt. This is when I get a bulk of my followers, but you will stretch yourself too thin if you try to post 365 days a year. Once a week is the minimum you should post. (I have since discontinued my Writer’s Digest posts, as it just became too much to have a 24-hour deadline while being a full-time employee and part-time student.)
My blogging journey started in October 2014, after I picked up a copy of The Writer’s Market. I read that blogging should be a part of every author’s platform, and Sarah Lea Stories: A Flurry of Creativity, was born (which I’ve since renamed). I blogged about everyday life: marriage, motherhood, food, and many other things (none of which I am an expert but rather just have an interest in).
Just remember, once something is published online, even on your own blog (and even if you have only 100 followers), it’s considered published and you will likely never be able to submit it anywhere else. So, never publish anything online that you may find an adopted home for someday. I’ve written volumes of work I will never publish on my blog. Sell your short stories to a journal or magazine or self-publish them (either separately or as part of an anthology), but do not publish them on your blog.
Another piece of advice is to never blog your book—you’ve worked too hard to give it away, and I have found that a book I haven’t paid for but downloaded for free is actually less likely to get read because I have so many books I paid for (or went through the trouble of checking out at the library) competing for my attention. Professionally self-publish before you ever blog your book (meaning don’t skimp on the cover; hire a professional or a college student). At least that way, you have a chance at making a little money from it.
Notwithstanding, you should always post your best work on your blog; it should never be a dump site for rejected material. When I write something (whether specifically or not) for my blog, it represents me, and it’s going to be polished to a fine patina.
Moreover, writing short on a daily basis has helped me add richness to my longer works, for what is a Great American Novel without great lines? With a blog, you see the results immediately, mostly via likes and maybe a follower or two (comments are rare and golden). With a novel, it might be months or years before you get feedback (much less published) besides the form letter that says it was great but just wasn’t for them (the most maddening kind.)
Nevertheless, don’t let blog writing take too much time away from the writing that might make you money, unless you plan on making money from your blog. (Being a traditionalist, I still highly recommend submitting work to paying publications.)
Don’t think of blogging as giving away your hard work for free but as investing a little time in yourself and your brand. There are 15 great reasons to start blogging now!
1. It helps people get to know you better. If you are at present unknown, people are more likely to take a chance on buying your book if they feel they have a personal connection with you. Blogging is also a great way to advertise your product, but don’t forget to make the ad entertaining. Everyone loves a story, so use a story—you’re a writer, after all. Even Jesus got some people to buy what He said by using parables.
2. It gives you a voice and an outlet. Blogging shouldn’t be a diary but a narrative. Only you can tell your story the way you do.
3. It satisfies our temptation for instant gratification. That’s one of the many reasons why we write—to connect with others.
4. It gives you writing practice.
5. It instills discipline with self-imposed deadlines.
6. It enhances your creativity. I’m not sure I would’ve stuck with the Writer’s Digest prompts if it hadn’t been for needing regular content. It served its purpose, for I’ve found my rhythm.
7. It’s free. That said, I pay $18 a year for a professional URL (without the .wordpress.com), which I highly recommend for search engine optimization (SEO).
8. It can make you money. Attract enough followers, and this can happen to you.
9. It can get you speaking engagements. This is where many writers make a lot of their money. I still need to join Toastmasters.
10. It helps you learn. You can learn as much by researching as by being taught.
11. Depending on the job description, it looks great on a resume. I include my blog in my portfolio. If nothing else, it shows I’m prolific and passionate.
12. It leaves a legacy. Like any distant star, there is a chance someone might land on it.
13. You get to know yourself better. Though writers often live inside their heads, they don’t always self-reflect, especially if they’re used to making things up. I’ve learned how to capture the ordinary and make it extraordinary.
I’m still learning everyday how to become a better blogger, website designer, photo editor, and someday photographer.
Blogging, if done right, will not take a great deal of your time. What’s great about it is that you have complete control over your content and can even schedule posts ahead of time if you know you’re going to be short on time. (I did this during my summer medical internship, with months’ worth of Monday and Friday blog posts “in the can.”)
Blogging is a great way to unload some pent-up creativity—a way of shedding the excess—so you can focus on writing down the bones.