Many people who start blogs give up on them within the first few months.
Why? Because there’s a “small blog stigma.” Especially among those who regularly read blogs with big audiences and think that’s the only benefit a blog can offer.
So when they eagerly start up their own blogs and don’t see the instant audience growth they expect, they more often than not just give up before they really get started. But they shouldn’t!
Even if you never get the large audience you want, it’s not all for nothing. Here’s what sticking with a blog — even one with a small (or non-existent) audience can still do to boost your future career as a writer.
Every writer needs a private playground. I’ve said it many times on this blog before — not because I love being repetitive but because I want as many aspiring writers to hear (read?) it as possible: That seemingly dark period before you have an audience is the perfect time to experiment like no one’s watching. Because … no one is.
All writers make mistakes. All writers write cringeworthy content. All writers take a long time to figure out the style and voice that fits their stories best. It’s expected that you’re going to mess up plenty of times and write less-than-stellar stories, especially closer to the beginning of your journey.
Why not write through this rough point when there’s no one around to watch you struggle? Perhaps on a public blog where you’re free to practice writing anything and everything as you figure out what you like and don’t, what works for you and doesn’t — what you’re “good at” writing about and aren’t?
A lot of people are going to argue at least one of two points here: either that you shouldn’t put all your messy writing out there for everyone to see, or that it’s pointless to put your early work in places where it isn’t going to get the feedback it (might) “desperately need.”
To the “don’t show off your worst work” point I say this: Most if not all beginning writers are terrified of even just the thought of putting their work out there into the world. I’m not a huge fan of the “dip your toes in the water” approach here. My advice? Use a blog — which is free and highly effective for the forthcoming purpose — to absolutely obliterate this hurdle. If you’re afraid to put your work out there, just start putting it out there. And since it’s yours and under your name, you have the right to take legal action if someone were to try taking it from you. If that’s your fear.
So what if it’s not great? If it’s not great, it’s not great. The only way to get better at writing is to keep writing, and the only way to conquer your fear of putting your work out there is to just keep doing it until it’s so routine it almost doesn’t faze you anymore.
And secondly: If your only reason for not writing or publishing is that you want feedback and don’t know where to get it … you’re not going to get it if you’re not writing or publishing. You probably want INSTANT feedback. Which isn’t going to happen. Keep writing/publishing, and you’ll get that feedback one way or another. Eventually.
A good writing sample (hopefully) isn’t hard to find. When I was 19, I started applying for writing internships and opportunities for the first time. I had no professional writing experience to put on a resume or CV. And even though it’s not impossible to submit unpublished writing samples, proving you’ve published your work somewhere increases your chances of getting a gig. (This is coming from a former magazine editor who always favored pitches from previously published writers over ones who had no experience.)
True, I didn’t have any “traditional” experience. But I landed a magazine writing internship anyway. How? Because I had three years’ worth of blog posts available to the public at that point to prove I could write for a potential audience.
Regardless of what your specific writing career ambitions are, being published can make a huge difference. Yes, you do want to showcase your best work in your portfolio and/or when you submit individual samples when asked for them. But you have to start somewhere. A blog is a great place to start. No matter how rough … my early blog posts aren’t my proudest moments, but they’ve certainly paid off.
Successful writers are reliable and in it for the long haul. Which means they’re probably the kinds of people who start blogs in the late 2000s and are somehow still posting to those same blogs over 10 years later. Well, many of them are successful. Others are still slowly making their way there. Slowly.
I’m always surprised at how many writers don’t take consistency into account when blogging. Many argue it’s not about how “reliable” your schedule is, but instead about the quality of the material you offer. I get that. I respect that. But at some point you might also have to prove to someone you can retain an audience EVEN IF YOU DON’T REALLY HAVE ONE YET. How do you do that?
By posting every Tuesday at 8 a.m. like you say you will.
By getting that email newsletter out on time every two weeks for the two years you’ve been writing it.
By sticking with a project not just for a few months, but for years. By showing that you are willing to adapt to change, that you are willing to experiment and try new things, discover what works and what doesn’t, implement solutions to problems and prove the long-term is your “speciality.”
Small blogs matter. Your blog matters.
By sticking with it, you’re doing your future professional self more favors than you know.
Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is an editor and writer, and a 12-time NaNoWriMo winner. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food, and Star Wars.