A student asked me what was the hardest part of blogging, and inspired an article series.
As I look over almost 30 years of blogging, it boils down to these four things that are the hardest part of blogging, learning to blog, and continuing to blog.
- Finding stories
- finding your voice
- Finding your audience
- Learning etiquette
In the first part of “The Hardest Part of Blogging” I want to explore the challenges of finding stories, finding something to write about. While this appears to be easy at first, it is hard in the long run to keep putting out content day after day. Along my 30 year journey into blogging, I’ve learned that it is harder than you might think to have too much to say.
Topic Too Big, Too Much to Write About
Students and clients come to me to ask what they should put on their blog. “What should I write about?”
I ask where their passion lies. What do they do that they know how to do very well, better than most people, that they have years of vested interest in, something they keep coming back to over and over again. I’ll often get an answer like photography, cars, rock collecting, travel, or an answer that appears to be narrow but isn’t such as loving downtown Portland, Oregon, or fishing.
These are huge topics. When a topic is vast, there are many things to write about, but you soon learn that there is too much to write about. It’s overwhelming. You don’t know where to turn, where to look, or which to choose. There’s just too much.
Stop. Narrow it down.
Using the example of photography, as a professional photographer I know well what a huge and diverse field it is. So what type of photography interests you? Is it nature, travel, macro, landscapes, black and white, color, digital manipulation…? If it is nature, what is it in nature? Is it flowers, bugs, wildlife, trees? if it is flowers, what kind of flowers? Wild, roses, daisies…the list of flower types is long.
If it is flowers, what is it about photographing the flower? Is it the flower itself in all its glory? Is it the challenge of photographing the flower in its native environment or working in a studio with it? Is it the lighting? The macro photography, getting so close you can see inside the flower? Is it playing with selective focus? Depth of field?
Keep drilling down. Down, down, and down again.
Let’s say what thrills you is the art of macro photography, close up and personal photography that plays with selective focus, turning a flower into artwork where what is in focus is as important as what is out of focus.
What could you write about that? There are the techniques, equipment, lighting, and decision-making process that goes into each step of the process. There are the artistic decisions and choices made to choose which point makes the ideal photograph to capture your intentions. Then there are others doing the same thing, and you can write about what they are doing and how they do it, celebrating your shared interest. You could possibly interview them.
As you keep exploring the narrow topic, you will find your mind expanding, finding more and more things to say about it. There is a sense of control, a sense of anticipation. You welcome each new discovery, each self-lesson, and you break it down into its tiniest bits to explore each step in detail on your blog.
Having too much to write about stops the writing, drains the interest with overwhelm. Narrowing the topic opens up a new world of possibilities.
Look Around You – Your World is a Book
There are some days when I feel like every step I take, I trip over a blog post idea.
Yet, this feeling doesn’t persist. I fight with it, letting my inner demons win more often than not. It is a day to day struggle to stay interested in the world around me. I know this applies to you as well.
Just like you can’t be up up up in spirit and good health on a daily basis, moods will come and go. Respect them but don’t let them control you.
Perhaps the most valuable result of an education is the ability to make yourself do the thing you have to do when it ought to be done, whether you like it or not; it is the first lesson that ought to be learned; and however early a man’s training begins, it is probably the last lesson that he learns thoroughly.
Persistence and self-discipline drives a good blogger forward to keep their eyes on the world around them, seeking content where they find it.
Learn to pay attention to details. Each detail is a possible post.
Learn to use your feeds and feed readers, setting them up to bring you content from around the world by subject, possible blog posts right to your door step.
Learn to ask questions and listen to others. They always have a story to tell that you might learn from and share.
Most of all, be patient with yourself. Finding something to say on a regular basis is a challenge, but a challenge you can handle.
Think Diary More than University Thesis
When it comes to finding content to blog about, consider yourself writing a diary or journal more than a thesis for a PHD. It should take years of research, study, fact-finding to publish a post. Who would read all that? There are times to be comprehensive on a topic, but more times to break that topic down into its smallest, essential bits, taking care to explain each one.
Keep it simple. Keep it brief. Some days you might write 200 words, others 10,000. You make up the rules as you go along, but break things down into small, digestible chunks and share them with the world as you learn and grow.
In the next in this article series I will cover the hardest part of blogging is finding your voice.