This week’s Guest Editor is Hollie Smith – a parenting author, which I thought would make her some kind of parenting expert, but sadly this appears to not be the case as she freely admits to being just as bewildered and besieged by her children as the rest of us are. You can find Hollie on her blog and also over on Twitter as @holliemsmith41 – go and say hello. She’s nice. When she was asked to be our Guest Editor, Hollie’s thoughts turned worryingly confessional – why she started blogging in the first place (it wasn’t a ‘calling’ *shock*), and also how little she’s learned along the way…
So here I am, a year and a half into my blogging journey. At this stage, I can hardly claim to be a ‘newbie’ any more. But I haven’t stopped feeling like one. I know infinitely more about the business of blogging than I did when I set out. And yet, on the timeline of blogging know-how, I’m still floundering around in pre-history.
I wrote my first post in January last year. Everyone has a reason for beginning to blog, and mine was not that noble, really, it just seemed to me that blogging was where it was at; a bandwagon I needed to board. One or two fellow media bods were urging me to give it a go. As an author, they said, I should be putting myself about on t’interweb, promoting my books and generally developing an ‘online profile’. And I’ll admit that – since I’d spent my career until then writing what other people wanted me to write – the thought of being able to say what I wanted, when I wanted (even if it was unremunerated) was extremely appealing.
I had only the vaguest understanding of what blogging was, then, and no idea – as I do now – of how densely populated the blogosphere already was with talented writers, interesting content, and awesome personalities. I figured there’d be plenty of room for me. How hard can it be, I wondered, and what’s to lose, anyway? The fact that I am technically-challenged, to say the least, seemed not to be a bar at first: my brother kindly opened a Blogger account for me, and off I went.
Blimey. What a learning curve it’s been.
In many ways, I haven’t progressed at all. I can write, edit and publish a post, and insert an image. And I know how to ‘pimp my posts’ by putting a link to them on my Twitter and Facebook feeds. But that’s all, folks.
I remain profoundly flummoxed by all other technical and commercial aspects of blogging. Seriously, I’m nonplussed by about 90 per cent of the threads posted by members of the parent bloggers’ Facebook group I lurk on. I have NO CLUE what people are talking about when they use words and phrases like widget, plug-in, G+, no-follow link, SEO optimisation, self-hosted, klout score, Google analytics, cookie policies, and permalink, to name but a tiny few. I’m constantly awe-struck by how knowledgeable bloggers are. How do you guys KNOW this stuff? Where d’you learn it, who taught you? Have you always been this clever, or have you just picked it up as you go along?
To be fair, there’s no shortage of available free advice out there from generous old-hands (including a couple who’ve helped me above and beyond the call of duty – you know who you are). But there has to be a limit to the number of stupid questions a not-so-newbie can get away with asking. I’ve reluctantly concluded that since I don’t understand these things now, I never will.
(And BTW, if you think my current, upgraded blog looks pretty impressive for someone with a brain this small, I must tell you that it is absolutely nothing to do with me. It was the work of a professional.)
Of course, the techy and commercial stuff isn’t even the half of it. You won’t get anywhere in blogging, I’ve learned, if you don’t embrace the social guidelines. They’re complex, but I think I’m getting there. It’s a system that runs on the fuel of courtesy. Reading other people’s posts is as important writing your own. So is commenting, re-tweeting, mentioning, sharing, interacting. It’s kind of exhausting – and extraordinarily time-consuming. But it’s also addictive and rewarding. And eventually, you reap what you sow. I know that now.
Lordy, though, I must tell you that I suffer something chronic from the insecurity of it all. I’m a paranoid person in the real world, anyway, but online, the possibility that people dislike me seems intensified. By and large, the blogging community has been warm and welcoming. I’ve built up some good relationships – in fact, I’d go so far as to say I’ve made some great friends. But as a newbie (and a dim newbie, at that), there have been many times when I’ve felt like I’m on the edge of the playground, longing for the cool kids to let me play.
As to whether anyone IS actually reading my blog or not, I haven’t the foggiest. Most of my posts get few if any comments, and only the occasional (but much cherished) RT, share or mention. I did notice a Tots 100 ranking had appeared on my badge the other month (#946!), which someone told me was something to be proud of (and I am, I am!). But I honestly don’t know how much, if any, traffic I’m getting.
Look at your stats, I hear you shouting. Thing is, I don’t know where to look for my stats! Seriously – will I find them somewhere on my dashboard, or do I have to register with something or someone? Do tell.
Come to think of it, though, don’t tell. Truth is, I could have worked out where to find them but I’ve been deliberately avoiding it. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t care whether people are reading my posts or not, and part of me would love to look them up. But I just know I’m going to be crushed by the knowledge that a grand total of three people dropped in last week. And I’m not so sure I want to become a slave to stats. I can see myself becoming totally tortured by them.
Anyhoo, I intend to keep at it. I get that it takes a long time to become an established blogger; to build up anything like a readership. And I am but 26 blog posts into this journey: in the scheme of things, that makes me green as grass still. I know I’ve a long way to go to prove my worth.
Somewhere along the line, blogging stopped being something I did because I thought I probably should, and started being something I had to do, because I really wanted to.
I guess that’s enough to drive me onwards, for now.