You know when you sign up to WordPress and the staff helpfully suggest ways to improve your blog? I’m assuming that’s a ‘yes’, and if you didn’t, I’ve just told you. Anyway, one of the top tips is to find a focus for your blog. I tried this a while ago and it didn’t work out.
For some people, sitting down and actually plotting a focus might be the ideal way to get started. This was not the case for me. In fact, 7 months on, it’s debatable whether or not I’ve actually picked a focus or if I’m still muddling along.
I like to think I’ve found a focus, if only because I now know what I like writing about (not necessarily the same as what I’m good at writing about, but it’s a start).
I like books. I like eating and drinking at different places, trying new things. And I like talking about my major project. These are the focuses on my blog, which consists of book, restaurant, and cafe reviews, with the occasional ‘life’ stuff slipping through.
Come to think of it, it’s not too different from what I originally said my goals were:
(Goal: Practice writing daily)—(Write reviews)—[[(film/tv) (scifi tv/films) (clubbing)(eating out/food)]]—(Goal: document life/travels)—(Traveling)
Except I’ve narrowed it down, not through careful calculations, but through actual practice, and a bit of a lifestyle change.
As I can no longer afford to travel or mentally afford to go clubbing every week or even month, I’ve had to make do with what’s around me, and Oxford has nothing if not an overabundance of bookstores and restaurants.
Having been blogging mostly consistently for 7 months now — the longest I’ve ever seriously maintained a blog for non-personal ramblings– I can finally offer my own advice to new bloggers:
Don’t try and force it.
What do I mean by this? I mean keep readers in mind. Not in terms of “what will get me freshly pressed” or “what will gain me the most followers”, I mean keep in mind what you, a reader, want from blogs. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to keep an online diary as long as you keep it interesting.
I’m still learning myself, and can hardly be counted as an example of a popular or wildly successful blog, but I like to think of it like I’m at some sort of party telling a story about my day.
As I maintain the most amount of contact with publishing students from Oxford, the most natural things that come to me are stories about things going on in Oxford (here’s where the restaurants come in! You see where I’m going with this?) and about books I’ve read (because most of my fellow postgrad students are, at heart, bookworms looking to make a business of it).
In a way, these friends of mine have become the imaginary audience for my blog and if I were to sit down and say “How can I make my blog more accessible to American accountants who hate reading?” I wouldn’t have a clue.
I could try and change how I write, or what I write, and advertise it as such, but I would ultimately fail and give up. If I’d seriously sat down at the beginning and thought “Right, I’m only going to write about sci-fi tv shows I like. That will give my blog focus and a clear readership” I probably would have failed at that too.
Which brings me to my second tip:
Allow yourself some room to move and change.
This is, in a way, the same as my first bit of advice. Don’t try and go along with something you decided on a whim one day if it’s not working. Let yourself breathe and change your mind and find what your true calling is. Maybe you find you really connect with American accountants and decide that whatever you currently write about is not for you. That’s okay. It happens.
And I probably shouldn’t even be giving advice, because who am I? I’m not an expert in blogging. The only thing I’ve learned over the past 7 months is that I’m really still learning about all this myself.