Three hundred and sixty-five days. Over one hundred posts. Numerous platforms. Thousands of shares.
In honor of my first blogiversary (March 19, the day I was published on Thought Catalog for the first time), I decided a blogging-related post would be appropriate. The past year has been an incredible one, perhaps the most pivotal of my life, due in large part to the blogosphere. But what exactly has the chaotic, abstract world of blogging taught me? Time to reflect.
1. Persistence and patience are key. People sometimes ask how I started blogging for the Huffington Post, and the truth is that I just made myself a pain in the ass. I located the email addresses of editors from each section, sent them an entire post pertaining to their section, and followed up consistently. Eventually someone from sports emailed me back wanting to publish a post about rugby, and that opened the door to being able to pitch and write other ideas. It didn’t just happen immediately, it took time and patience.
2. You can’t be afraid to be vulnerable. Some of the things I have written are things I have never said aloud. It’s simply easier for me to write than to talk. It’s less intimidating. Still, it’s a vulnerable feeling, especially when thousands of strangers are the ones reading those words and forming opinions. It’s scary, but it’s also worth it.
3. Engaging with readers is important. Before I started blogging, I read blogs often and occasionally emailed authors if I really appreciated them. Receiving a response was such a good feeling. Knowing someone took the time to read and formulate a response to me meant a lot. I keep this in mind when I have a popular post and get email after email. Responding is important to me, so I literally do so for every person who contacts me, through Facebook, email, Twitter, etc. They make it possible in the first place.
4. The internet can be a small world. Take my favorite example. On my one-year-sober anniversary, May 7, 2014, I was scrolling through Facebook and saw a post from Huffington Post about another young woman discussing the lessons she had learned after a year of sobriety. Because she shared my exact sobriety date and was also young, I tried to contact her. I didn’t hear back from her, but due to her story going viral, I knew she had to be flooded with responses. I had written a similar article for Thought Catalog the same week, and happened to be reading through the comments (which I don’t advise, but in this case it was a good thing). Lo and behold, the same woman had commented on my post, sharing her excitement about us having the same sobriety date. Fast forward to almost a year later, and Kelly and I talk almost daily. She has become the big sister I never had, and I’m planning to meet her this summer.
5. Sometimes “no” needs to be the answer. When my posts started gaining popularity and sites started contacting me asking me to write for them, I was elated. I wanted to do it all. WRITE ALL THE THINGS. Eventually I realized that with a full college load, two jobs, editing the newspaper, playing rugby and just plain having a damn life, I couldn’t afford to say “yes” to every offer that came my way – especially if it didn’t pay. As much as I love to write, it needs to be compensated, either financially or in terms of readership.
6. Don’t read the comments. Ever. I say this, yet I still do it. I’ve learned to brush them aside for the most part. Actually, I think my mom gets much more offended than I do and goes into Mama Bear mode sometimes. Anyone who has time to leave lengthy, thought out, mean comments just doesn’t have anything better to do. Engaging with them only fuels the fire. Leave it alone and move along to the kind messages.
7. Content has to be relatable. No one cares about your dating drama with that one asshole unless you phrase it in a way that is universal. The minute details of your life are not important. It’s the overall lessons and takeaways that the readers can relate to – that is what makes a post gain popularity. People like to know they are not alone.
8. Blogging is therapeutic – for myself, but also for others. To say I’ve “learned” about myself in the past year is an understatement. I now know who I am more than I ever have, and I believe I own a large portion of that confidence to blogging. But more than that, I owe it to the readers who have taken the time to reach out and tell me how my writing has impacted them. That is what makes it all worth it.
9. Hashtags are annoying but they make a world of difference. I’ve probably gained the majority of my followers on my personal blog through hashtags. Without hashtags, people browsing blogs really have no way of searching a specific topic. If you want people to read posts about sobriety, hashtag sobriety. Hashtag alcohol. Hashtag sober. Hashtag every other damn word that is related.
10. Just do it. Write. Write about anything your heart desires. Even if it is the worst post you’ve ever written, even if there is no clear thought process, even if you’re only writing in order to find out how you feel. I’ve had days where I feel like a shit writer. Even Hemingway had those days, stating “the first draft of anything is shit.” So what if it’s shit. Just do it. Write, write, write.