See, sometimes, readers email me with blogging questions. I love getting these emails and I sincerely want to help everyone (Sing with me now: “I’d like to teach the world to blog… in perfect harmony!” Now, punch me in the face.) But I’m lazy and I don’t want to keep writing the same rambling paragraphs. So I thought a comprehensive ramble might be in order.
Don’t worry, I'll try to make this funny. And I’ll illustrate it. Gather round, children, for...
The Story of How I Somehow Ended Up With a Blog That People Actually Read
(Or, At Least, Follow—Which Is Not The Same Thing)
A lot of you are new readers, meaning you started reading my blog in or after January of this year. The reason I know is that on January 20, Blogger made me a Blog of Note, and since then I have gotten a lot more traffic.
There’s nothing wrong with being a new reader—I’m so pumped to have you! I am, in fact, even more pumped than Christian Slater was to disseminate fuck-the-man pirate radio broadcasts in Pump Up the Volume.
But I fear that new readers may get the wrong idea.
New readers may think that because my blog has readers/followers now (and let me state for the record that in the grand scheme of things my blog is still a miscroscopic amoeba in the vast primordial ooze that is the magical Internet), it has always had readers/followers.
A super scientific map of the Internet, to scale (click to enlarge)
I started this blog on Wednesday, January 4, 2006 on Friendster, which is like saying I scratched it on my cave wall when I wasn’t busy hunting Triceratops.
The blog was called “The Secret Life of A Would-Be Writer,” (which it remained until April of 2007, when I adopted the current title) and the tag line was “I promised myself I’d write this year, so here goes.” It was really just an exercise to force myself to write. So I wrote. It was pretty free-form: I posted stories, poems, photos, random musings. Some of it was funny and some wasn’t. I was quarter life crisising pretty hard at the time, so there were a lot of angsty ruminations on growing up.
Some of my friends read it, as well as my immediate family. I never once thought about tracking hits or getting followers (I didn’t even add a followers box until a year ago!). I got a comment from a friend once in awhile. But I’ll never forget my very first anonymous comment, almost three months after I started blogging:
A few months later, I got another random anonymous comment, this one from a real person. I have no idea how they found me—I wish I had asked at the time. As far as I know no other blogs knew of my existence or linked to me. I can only assume it was word of mouth.
Those aren't birds, they're UNIBROWS uniting people of all nations, y'all.
Slowly but surely I gained a few readers who, as far as I could tell, were not blood relatives or college roommates. I had no tracking system, but I would guess that from 2006 to 2008 my readership increased by two dozen or so people.
In August of 2009—more than three and a half years after I started the blog—I started blogging for the Huffington Post. This was a huge deal for me, even though it was (and still is) unpaid. Through my exposure on their site (and the fact that I linked to the blog in my posts), my readership tripled. I was overjoyed.
(I'm actually jumping for joy in this photo because Jeff and I are on our way to buy candy. For real.)
Around that time, I added a followers box to my site, and from mid-2009 to early 2010 I amassed about 100 followers. I felt flush with appreciation. I wanted to throw all of my followers in a pile and jump in them like Scrooge McDuck with his gold coins.
Then, on January 20, 2010 (please note, this is less than six months ago and more than FOUR YEARS after my first blog post), The Sassy Curmudgeon was featured as a Blog of Note and all of a sudden my readership increased almost tenfold.
(Of course, after a month or two, readership died down again... which is normal, but which temporarily gave me an inferiority complex, which is why I now no longer check my traffic).
Which brings us up to date.
I was planning on doing a little Q + A now, but that seems kind of presumptuous considering you haven't actually asked me any questions. So instead, here's what I'll say:
If any of you are feeling discouraged because no one is reading your blog, don't let it get to you. You should be writing, first and foremost, for yourself. Sure, every day you hear about some blogger who got a book deal or went viral and now gets millions of hits a day after only blogging for eight months, and yes, that information can make you feel inadequate by comparison. But the important thing is that you are writing, that you are putting your voice out there. I promise someone will hear it (like in Field of Dreams, if you blog it, they will come).
When I started my blog, I had no clue about anything. I didn't network. I didn't read or comment on other blogs. I didn't Facebook. I didn't Tweet or Tumbl or Digg (even now I don't know how to put those little "retweet" buttons next to my posts...sigh). You can, and should, do all of those things if you want to drive traffic to your little corner of the Internet. But traffic alone does not a successful blog make.
I had a film teacher in college who told me that there is no such thing as an original idea. Her point was that
I mean, I would say that blogs are a dime a dozen, but that’s not true—they are fucking free a dozen. The only thing that makes one blog different from the next is the person writing it. The voice. The character. The point of view. I am continuously humbled and amazed that people read mundane, often inane stories about my life. I am touched that I have been able to connect with readers from so many different backgrounds and stages of life (I know my readers range from a high school student to a grandma, and, I'm hoping, that 4 year-old Asian PC girl. I mean, if she can make a photo collage she can find my blog, right?)
Anyway, what I want to stress is: Don’t give up. It might take you years to find your audience—don’t give up. Your blog might not have any bells and whistles or HTML might scare you—don’t worry about that superficial stuff. Just write, as often as you can, about whatever you want. I promise it will pay off (just not financially… if you’re looking to get rich blogging, well… good luck with that).
I still have to remind myself every day not to give up. I still have to repeat that little mantra I wrote myself on my prehistoric Friendster blog in 2006:
I promised myself I'd write this year, so here goes.
(If you still have questions, leave them in the comments and I'll do my damnedest to answer them. And thank you, from the bottom of my Tootsie Roll-clogged heart, for reading. Without you, I'd have no one even asking me any questions, and then I guess I'd have to go FAQ myself, wouldn't I?)