In the past few weeks, I’ve had several occasions to talk to individuals about the best practices for starting blogs, which when you boil it down is talking about how to write, and keep writing. Just about the only generic advice I can give is simple: focus on what’s sustainable. Over the long term, I believe that the most sustainable blogging is what Jim Grisanzio talks about here:
I could not agree more. I got into blogging a couple of years ago. Many things have changed since then, but for me one thing hasn’t changed — I blog for an audience of one: me.
That’s what makes blogging sustainable, IMO. My interests in particular subjects may wax or wane, but if I’m allowed to talk about whatever’s on my mind at the time I’m far more likely to keep contributing, as opposed to highly specialized blogs which may or may not hold my interest level longer term. This isn’t always possible in settings like corporate blogging, of course, but when I talk to people about starting blogs I emphasize the importance of having personal ownership – and by extension, accountability – for a blog. Ownership alone is not going to make a non-writer want to write, but it may keep a writer writing.
It just so happens that this is the same advice imparted by John D MacDonald in what I still consider to be the best essay on writing I’ve ever read – the foreward to his friend Stephen King’s book of short stories, Night Shift (a good read in and of itself). In it, MacDonald writes in part:
I am often given the big smiling handshake at parties (which I avoid attending whenever possible) by someone who then, with an air of gleeful conspiracy, will say, “You know, I’ve always wanted to write.”
I used to try and be polite.
These days I reply with the same jubilant excitement: “You know, I’ve always wanted to be a brain surgeon.”
They look puzzled. It doesn’t matter. There are a lot of puzzled people wandering around lately.
If you want to write, you write.
The only way to learn to write is by writing. And that would not be a useful approach to brain surgery…
He [Stephen King] does not write to please you. He writes to please himself. I write to please myself. When that happens, you will like the work too.
Amen. Write for yourself, because whether it works or not you’ll get something out of it.