10 Things I’ve Learned as a New Blogger
Published in ChicagoNow, March 12, 2014
When I first started blogging at the end of September, I thought it would be a piece of cake. I was newly retired and a former English major who had written many articles in my career as a preschool director. I had so many opinions about so many things. Why not share them?
I had no idea I had to delve into other forms of social media to make this work. It can take me more time connecting things than writing them. If I blog in a forest and no one sees it, did I blog? To get my blog out there, I’m supposed to tweet, pin-it, use Constant Contact, email everyone I’ve ever met, etc. To see my March Newsletter about my blog, I have to get my readers to link to my Facebook page (like I’m trying to get you to do now). It’s like a huge “connect the dots” worksheet.
After doing this for almost six months, I am humbled by how challenging it can be. Hours pass in what feels like minutes as I work on getting my ideas into readable form. So if you are thinking about writing a blog, here are ten things I’ve learned:
Write less but say more. This one was probably hardest for me, as I have written long all my life. When I went back to graduate school 30 years ago, I turned in my first assignment single spaced with tiny margins to meet the required maximum length. My bad – had to redo it. Actually, I’m writing too much now.
Not everyone cares about the things that interest you. Shocking. At first I was obsessed with issues related to retirement. I’m also obsessed with my darling grandkids. My readers are not always interested in this material. Doesn’t mean I shouldn’t write about these things. Just that I shouldn’t care if people don’t read them.
People may care a lot about things you think are light pieces. I write lots of serious posts about education and children with special needs that attract some readers. But my blogs about Glee, Frozen, and The Lego Movie were my most popular. Go figure?
You may think you are being funny, but readers may not get that. More than once, a reader took my self-deprecating humor seriously and missed what I thought was my point. Or maybe I’m just not that funny?
If you are sensitive like me, you might want to avoid the comments. Of course, you can’t win. Lots of comments, even if readers think you are an idiot, are good. Few comments, even if they are thoughtful and agree with you, are not so good. If your feelings are easily hurt, it may be best not to look.
Just the facts, ma'am. If you liked writing research papers in college, you’ll love blogging. See how I put in a link for this number? Not many people remember Dragnet, so my reference makes no sense without the link. Also, I learned that Joe Friday never really said this. He said. "All we want are the facts, ma'am." Same difference. By the way, how did I write all of those papers before Google?
Blogging is an awesome way to reconnect with people. Folks I haven’t heard from in ages have surfaced. It’s so much fun when that happens, it’s almost worth it if they make mean comments.
If you work well with others, you can collaborate like crazy. I have shamelessly consulted with so many friends and relatives who know far more than I do about educational issues. Finding a woman I knew when our kids were young, Marcia Liss, has led to using her cartoons in my posts and to rekindling a friendship.
To improve your writing, you need to read other people’s stuff. That opened up a whole new world of great ideas, deeply moving and thoughtful essays, and entertaining writing for me. I just keep hitting the “subscribe” button these days.
To do this, you have to dare to put yourself out there. I’m basically shy, so writing about myself is challenging unless I use humor as a shield. I’m working on this as, apparently, some readers don’t think I’m very funny. (Note to self: you seem to be hung up on this issue.)
I hope this doesn’t discourage anyone from trying to blog. It’s been a huge source of pleasure and satisfaction for me. Special thanks to my “coach,” Deborah Siegel, for her encouragement and for dragging me into the world of social media. And thanks to my favorite child psychologist (who happens to be my daughter), Alissa Chung, for her expertise. Finally, thanks to my eight grandkids who give me so much material.
Oops – this is approaching 800 words, which is too long, right?