Anybody who knows me knows that I can be a pretty lazy guy.
I’m not easily self-motivated, I don’t really work out at all (despite multiple attempts to start doing so), I go to the same places more often than I try new ones, I leave things till the last minute, and many nights, I’m happier to stay home rather than to put in the effort to go out.
All of which makes today a very important day.
Ten years ago, I started blogging. Actually, you might say I fell into it. Despite wanting to start a blog, it took another friend launching one, and my wanting to comment on it, for me to actually start my own. (I had to have an account to post a comment.) My very first post went up on September 1, 2005, and I’ve been a blogger ever since.
This blog started as a way for me to get back into the kind of writing I did when I was in high school, when I kept a journal, and to write about the kinds of things my job at the time didn’t allow me to do. In those early days, the blog was rather unpredictable. I often used it to share an interesting, fun, random, or just noteworthy article or photo I’d seen — something I stopped doing once Facebook and Twitter became more appropriate options for that kind of thing. Then, for a while, all I was doing was posting reviews — of movies, concerts, and Broadway shows, etc. At other times, it’s been a travel journal or a place for me to reflect on the state of my state, whether it was my birthday, my blogiversary, the end of the year, or another relevant occasion. And this year, I’ve actually been writing something every day (on one post in particular).
To put it most simply: Over the years, thanks partly to social media and my use of it, this blog has evolved to be more of an outlet for longer-form writing when a topic I cared about couldn’t be contained to 140 characters.
I haven’t always been the best or most regular writer, but I’ve kept at it. So, given all this blog’s ups and downs, the fact that Martin’s Musings still exists 10 years later and still has something new published to it at least once a month (on average) is something that gives me tremendous pride.
And that’s why today I’m in a celebratory mood. Happy 10th blogiversary to Martin’s Musings. Go me!
Ten Thoughts for Ten Years
Rather than make this post all about me and this blog, I thought I’d share some quick things I’ve learned from my decade as a blogger. Hopefully they can help someone else be a better blogger or at least give them the encouragement they need to get started.
- Blogging is hard. But it’s rewarding.
That’s the most important lesson. You have to keep at it, finding topics you care about, finding time and patience to write about them, and hitting Publish on a reasonably regular basis. That’s tough to do, especially when there are so many other options for things to do. Especially during the summer. Especially when your day job already requires you to do a lot of writing. And especially when you feel like no one is reading.
But people are reading, and when they respond to tell you how much they liked or appreciated a post, it’s awesome. Or when you get invited to an event because of something you wrote (even if it’s just a grocery story grand opening), it’s pretty cool. Or when a store responds to a bad review you posted, that’s great too. But just in general, publishing a new blog post always feels really good. Especially when you don’t do it very often.
- Write for you. [Tweet this]
As I say on my “About This Blog” page: I don’t blog for money; I blog because I want to write. And I don’t blog every day; I blog when I have something I want to say. That’s key. Always remember why you’re writing and who you’re writing for. Yes, it’s important to keep an audience in mind, but you shouldn’t be blogging just for your audience. The best posts are the ones you write because you wanted to write them. They’re about topics you care about, and you’re writing about them in a way that makes you happy. The more passionately you write, the better your posts will be and the more people will be willing to read them. And, if you’re truly writing for yourself, you won’t worry what anybody else thinks about them.
- It’s okay to take a break.
See lessons one and two. Sometimes the mojo just isn’t there. Thankfully, when you write for yourself, there are no deadlines and there’s no pressure to write about certain topics or others. Sometimes, you just need to take a break and refuel your juices. That’s more than okay.
- Editing is important. And it’s never over.
Sometimes, I spend more time reading and editing and rewriting my blog posts than I do crafting them to begin with. It’s kind of funny. And then, there’s this: Sometimes months or even years later, I’ll read a post and see a typo I missed or a sentence that doesn’t read right. (Sometimes my readers will point them out to me. d’Oh!) So, because hindsight is always 20/20, I like to give myself a day between writing and publishing so I can proofread with fresher eyes. That’s not always possible, but I do try.
- The hardest sentences to write are always the first and last ones. [Tweet this]
- People will find you, whether you want them to or not.
Yes, you can track your metrics to see how much traffic you’re getting, and where it’s coming from. But even if you don’t actively promote your blog, know that people will find and read it. (Thank you, Google.) I’ll never forget the time I didn’t get into an early sneak preview of a movie (Hot Tub Time Machine, for the record) because the local press reps had seen my blog and didn’t want me to review the still-unfinished version that was going to be showing that evening. Or the times that my blog was featured on UniversalHub.com, Boston.com and in the Boston Globe, and I got a ton of traffic because of it. (Thank you for your early support!) Sometimes, a post will touch a chord and a single link will drive hundreds or thousands of visitors my way. And they keep coming back as long as I keep writing.
To that end, I gained a lot of readers in my early days by using key words and phrases in my headlines that then allowed my blog posts to show up high in search engine results. My reviews of the movies I Am Legend and Juno are prime examples of that; both ranked highly for years, even above IMDB. If you want to be found, some ways to make that happen are to think about the words you use and what people might be searching for (notable quotes from movies are a good example that has worked for me), and cross link to your earlier blog posts. And make sure you share your posts on social media and/or give people the option to subscribe so they don’t have to keep randomly finding you.
- WordPress is better than Blogger.
Three and a half years ago I switched blogging platforms and have so enjoyed using a more robust platform, rather than the beginners-only one I started on.
- The blog posts you care about the most will be the hardest ones to write. [Tweet this]
The problem with writing about topics I care about is that I can put a lot of pressure on myself to get them right, and obsess over every word. That means it takes longer to write and/or hit Publish. It applies whether the topic is a movie I really liked or a social media analysis, or any other topic I know might get a lot of eyeballs. Don’t let the pressure to get it right paralyze you (something I still struggle with). Remember number two above.
- You have to strike while the iron is hot.
I can’t tell you how many posts I’ve published in recent years that were started weeks or even months earlier, right when the germ of an idea was hatched (often in the shower, on a drive, or while on a long walk). Sometimes, you have to strike while the iron is hot so you don’t lose the momentum or the interest to write about the topic later on.
- You don’t have to publish everything you write.
The nice thing about having an outlet to vent, rant, or share what’s on your mind is that sometimes, just the action of writing down your feelings is outlet enough. Remember: Just because you write a blog post about what frustrates you or how disappointed you are in something or someone, that doesn’t mean you have to share it with the world.
As I start on my next decade as a blogger, I’m sure I’ll learn even more about blogging and myself. That said, 10 years from now, I’m sure “blogging” will be very different — if it even still exists. But I hope a decade from now I’ll be looking back and just as proud of my accomplishment as I am today.
Want to wish me congratulations? Please leave a comment in the space below or feel free to tweet this blog post!