The Five Ws of Blogging

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 you on their list.

WHERE (I blog)

There are many excellent, free blogging platforms. I got started with WordPress because it came as part of my hosting package. I’d say that WordPress and EBlogger are the two most popular platforms in use. You can’t go wrong with either one. Both have great support, and are a snap to set up and use.

HOW (I deal with stats and comments)

All bloggers quickly discover that the interactive aspect of blogging is both wonderful and a curse. Wonderful, because there is no other writing forum I know of that allows for such immediate feedback. A curse, because if you start using that feedback (stats and comments) to determine the worth of what you’re doing, you’re sunk.

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The reality is that stats are built over time by writing lots of posts, by visiting lots of other bloggers and leaving comments so they’ll hopefully return the favor by visiting and commenting on your blog, and by writing content that people are likely to google. Even so, as with everything in life, there’s an ebb and flow to stats and comments too.

Maybe it’s just the evolution of blogging, but I’ve found that the longer I blog, the less I care about stats. I am always very appreciative of the people who come and visit and leave comments. And I wish I had more time to regularly keep up with and comment on my favorite blogs. (That’s also one of the benefits of blogging: you’ll find yourself developing a tangible sense of community with like-minded bloggers.) But I’ve also had to accept that, at least for the time being, I have limited time to do so. That life thing–you know…

It takes time to grow and evolve a blog into a living, breathing entity with its own unique character and identity, so be patient. My advice to new bloggers would be to forget about your stat counter, and focus on enjoying the process of writing. The rest of the time you have available would be better spent reading other bloggers and letting them know you appreciate their efforts. Before you know it, you’ll have your own set of blog buds who you’ll be able to count as regulars.

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9 thoughts on “The Five Ws of Blogging”

  1. Cheryl, Thanks for clicking through. Even though I think you’re doing a great job with your blog, I think anyone who’s been at it awhile shares your feelings. Statistically, most blogs flicker out at around the 2-year mark. Unless lightning strikes, as it has for Pioneer Woman, or there’s a professional reason for blogging, it’s an awful lot of work for the benefits.

    Reply
  2. I found your post on digg while posting my own. I love the way you added the comics. What a nice touch. I have been debating about continuing to blog–sometimes I feel like I should just concentrate my efforts elsewhere. It went from a labor of love to a labor of sort of like!

    Reply
  3. Thanks Alexis and Jason.

    Absolutely right, Deb. You’ve got to “just write,” and keep on just writing.

    Kat, I think anyone who’s tried blogging knows how Cheryl feels. What starts out as fun and easy, quickly becomes serious work.

    Lynn, yes, both blogging and being part of the blogging community is definitely a commitment.

    Reply
  4. My posts have slowed to a weekly trickle because of time restrictions, but also because I don’t have anything new or interesting to write about. Writing a blog is a commitment, as is reading your favourite blogs.

    Lynn Sinclair’s last blog post..Gift Ideas for Your Cat

    Reply
  5. Good grief, I read this earlier and forgot to comment. Yep, the mind is going.

    I would add another “W” for Write, just write now and edit later. Maybe I’ve been hanging at NaNo too long.

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