I have been at this blogging thing for a long time and over the years I’ve taken many opportunities to encourage others to try their hand at it. I believe in the value of blogs and believe there is a future for them. It’s possible that I lack the appropriate self-awareness, but I’m pretty sure there’s more to my convictions than mere self-preservation. I genuinely do believe blogs can serve an important purpose in the lives of both writers and readers. Now, as the world around us lurches to a sudden halt, and as we go through the strangest time most of us have ever experienced, I can’t help but ask: Has there ever been a better time to start a blog?
When I speak to people about blogging, and when I get feedback from those who have tried and given up (or tried and failed, or tried and taken a long hiatus), the most common reasons they provide are a lack of time and a lack of topics. Both reasons are understandable—people lead busy lives and cannot find the time it takes to do the work of writing. Then, even if they can find the time, they may not know what to write about. That’s true under normal circumstances. But these aren’t normal circumstances.
In the strange providence of God, we are in a very abnormal time. While some people may be busier than ever, many are not. I dare say most are not. Even those who have suddenly become reluctant homeschoolers may still have more time than they are accustomed to since they aren’t driving the kids to music lessons, or soccer practice, or youth group (or church, for that). And even those who can’t imagine what they’d ever write about suddenly have the biggest news story of the decade unfolding around them—a news story that impacts each one of us in pretty much every area of life. In a context like this, perhaps it’s time to try your hand at writing. Perhaps you’ll benefit from the discipline of forcing yourself to think and to express yourself. Perhaps you’ll benefit others by sharing your thoughts with them.
How do you get started? It’s surprisingly easy.
WordPress is still the best and most accessible blogging platform. You can begin with their free option and, if things go well, consider upgrading to a low-cost paid option later on. Don’t worry too much about all the fancy options; just set up a quick site and get writing.
Once your new site is set up, I’ll borrow and adapt some advice I provided a little while ago.
First, write 5 articles for you. Determine a schedule (twice a week; three times a week; every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday; whatever) and do your best to stick with it. Following that schedule, write 5 articles and don’t tell anyone else about them. Write them for you—to prove to yourself that you’ve got the discipline to actually write and to prove to yourself that you’ve actually got something to write about.
Next, write 5 articles for friends and family. After you’ve written those first 5 articles, begin to tell friends and family about your site and ask them if they’d like to read it. See if they will join your mailing list to get notified when you post something new. Mention your new articles on social media. At this point you are developing a very small core of readers while also getting their feedback about your writing—whether you have talent, whether you are covering topics others care about, and so on. Solicit their honest feedback and gauge their reactions. Try to learn what topics are of interest to them and how you might write on those topics. What questions are they asking? What concerns do they have? What knowledge are they lacking? What resources should they know about?
Then, write 5 articles for people you don’t know. By this time you’ll probably have a small handful of readers. You’ll have that little core of friends and family, and probably a few others who have found you through Google, who have found out by word-of-mouth, or who have otherwise stumbled upon your site. Write your next 5 articles with them in mind. Again, what do they need to know? What are they hoping your site will provide to them? How can you help them in life? Make sure at least some of your articles are personal—write about your own life, your own struggles, your own triumphs. Do your best to make a personal connection with people who don’t know you.
Here are some obvious topics to write about:
- What are you learning through this time of isolation?
- What have you been doing through this time of isolation?
- What has God taught you about yourself and/or about him through this time?
- What do you think God may be up to in bringing about this time?
- What are you looking forward to when the world goes back to normal? Or will it ever go back to normal?
By now you have written 15 solid articles and gotten some good feedback on them. You’ve settled on a writing schedule. You’ve learned whether you have the discipline to stick with blogging, whether you’ve got any talent for writing, and whether other people are willing to read what you write.
If, at this point, you think you’re going to stick with blogging, it’s time to promote it a little bit. That means we need to talk about self-promotion. This is tricky because it can be done well (humbly) or poorly (arrogantly). Most of us don’t want to read people who aren’t confident that they’ve got something to say. On the other hand, most of us don’t want to read people who are convinced we must read what they say. There is a kind of confident humility that strikes just the right note, I think. It allows writers to believe they have something to say that will benefit others, but also not to think too highly of themselves. I don’t think it’s a necessary sign of arrogance to believe that others may benefit from reading what you write.
How do you humbly promote your writing? Here are a few ideas.
Engage on social media. Find people who are writing on similar topics and interact with them on social media. If they have written something you appreciate, mention it on your blog, then tell them you’ve done so. Or write your own article interacting with it, give them credit, and then let them know that you’ve engaged with them in that way. Blogging is a personal and interactive form of communication, so make personal connections.
Submit articles to relevant sites that accept submissions. While your main effort will be your own blog, you may want to write the occasional article for other sites. If they accept and run those articles, they’ll usually include a link to your site that may draw in some more readers.
Let me know. I am one of many people who loves to read Christian blogs and who maintains an extensive list of blogs I keep up with. I’d be glad to hear from you if you’re writing the kind of blog that would interest me. But please don’t let me know until you’ve written your fifteenth article! That way we both know that you’re planning to stick with it.
Whether you follow these steps or others, I hope to see at least some people give blogging a shot, as a means of helping themselves and the rest of us understand and interpret these strange and unprecedented times.