From the mailbag: Cheryl writes: I just started a blog four months ago and at first had all kinds of things I wanted to write about. Then I started putting too much pressure on myself to come up with something brilliant everyday and I quickly got writer’s block. Then I got obsessed with checking my stats. Then I found myself actually getting really bummed that people weren’t leaving comments. So I just ditched the whole thing. But now I’m thinking of trying again. I really enjoy your blog and wondered what you make of the whole blogging thing, how you came up with what you’d write about, how you keep what you do fresh, how you determined who you wanted your audience to be, and how you handle the whole stats and comments thing.

Dear Cheryl: Blogging is an interesting endeavor, if ever there was one. And your questions remind me of one of the first writing principles all journalists learn – the Five Ws (and one H). Who, What, Where, When, Why, and How. Let me see if I can answer these for you, in no particular order.

WHY (I blog)

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Seems to me people start blogs for one of five reasons.

  1. Some blog because they like to write, and they like to share what they write.
  2. Some blog as a way of staying in touch with friends and family at a distance.
  3. Some blog because there is a subject about which they feel passionate.
  4. Some blog for business/professional reasons.
  5. Some blog because they see it as a way to eventually make some money.

Typically, a couple of these reasons get combined. In my case, it was a combination of 1, 3, and 4. I wish I could include number 2, but of all my friends and family, only ONE friend that I know of and zippo-nada-zero-zilch family members –not even my own husband– read my blog (said with mock indignation).

Knowing why you want to blog and what you want to blog about helps to significantly diminish the likelihood of writer’s block.

WHAT (I write about)

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Because I created this blog primarily for professional reasons, that pretty much determined what my blogging was going to be about. That said, I’ve done something all blog experts caution against (maybe you’ve noticed that I sometimes have problems following rules…). I’ve really created two blogs in one: a dog blog, and a mommy blog.

Both camps are pretty passionate about their subjects and don’t necessarily share the interests of the other, so it can get tricky trying to write posts of value that work to keep both sides in balance. If I’d been at all concerned about monetizing my blog, I would have gone with one or the other.

As for keeping the blog fresh — living with four quintessentially quirky animals, and a daughter in the throes of teenage-dom, I don’t expect I’ll be running out of material any time soon.

WHO (I write for)

  1. Readers of my books who come here to find out what happened to the characters they came to care about.
  2. Blog readers who share my interests in thinking more deeply about relationships — with ourselves, our partners, our children, our animals, and the natural world.
  3. Google. I try to provide useful information for people who are looking for help with their dogs.
  4. Myself.  Most of my “Cait” posts I write for me. They’re little moments I want to remember.
  5. Cait. When she’s older, I think she’ll have fun reading back over this time.

WHEN (I post)

Right now, I’m inundated with writing projects, so I’m happy to get a post up once a week. I know many bloggers feel pressured to post much more frequently to keep their Technorati numbers, etc. up. That makes sense if the intention is to eventually attract advertisers. But, if that’s not your goal, just post when you have something to say. Most people read blogs through feed-readers anyway, so you don’t have to worry about losing readers from infrequent posting. If they like what you have to say, they’ll leave yo