Recently, a very good friend of mine started up a brand-new blog called Home Grown Heaven. Before we go any further, I’d strongly recommend you follow the link and have a snoop about; there’s not a lot there to see yet, but it’s definitely worth the trip. Make sure to bookmark and follow along, if you have any sense. Trust me: it’ll do you good. My friend’s blog is not about writing, or books, or words, or the existential angst that seems to hang around this blog like a miasma, but is instead about the challenges and joys of living ‘off the land’ and following your dream of being sustainable, affordable and ethical in your everyday existence. In short, all the things I love in life, besides the written word.
Also, it’s very pretty and full of lovely photographs of flowers and ducks and home baking. Go on! What are you waiting for? I’ll be here when you get back, and I’ll probably have just finished boiling the kettle. Right?
Okay. You see? I told you it’d be worth it.
Because I’ve been blogging for a while, with varying levels of success, my friend approached me when the idea for her blog began to form. She wanted to know what this blogging thing was all about, anyway, and how to begin to go about it. And because I love feeling like an expert, I (of course) was happy to share my hard-won knowledge. However, as I tried to help her, I began to realise exactly how many ‘rules’ of blogging I have recently begun to bend so far that, essentially, I’ve broken them.
Whoops. But do as I say, not do as I do. Right?
Firstly, I used to blog every day. For a long time, I enjoyed doing that. I had plenty to say; I burned with passion and fire. Of course there were days when I wondered if the inspiration fairy would pay me a visit, but I was very rarely left high and dry. I’m not saying it was easy (and after a couple of years it began to be a burden), but it was a challenge, and I do love those. Also, because I’d begun my blogging journey by writing a new post every day, I felt as though I couldn’t possibly stop posting every day.
Until I did.
As 2015 dawned, I began to see that I just couldn’t do it anymore. I stopped blogging every day. I tried to commit to a regular schedule, but that doesn’t always work either. Some weeks I blog on Mondays and Wednesdays; other weeks it’s Tuesdays and Thursdays. Some weeks I don’t blog at all. Such an idea would have been unthinkable two years ago. And one of the first rules of blogging is: Write posts on predictable days, so that your readers know when they can expect new content. This is a good rule. It’s one I passed on to my friend. But it’s not one I keep anymore, myself. However, I have learned something important, and it is this: the day your blog begins to feel like an unbearable weight, and the idea that you have to write a blog post is like a sharp pebble in your shoe, it’s time to take a step back. Blogging should be, by and large, a joy, something you do because you’re bubbling over with stuff you want to share, and because you want to help others. When it stops feeling like that, take a break.
Another rule of blogging is: Pick a topic about which you’re passionate, and which you can see a long-term future in. In other words, don’t jump on the nearest fad and start to build a blog around it. You’ve got to ask yourself: in a year, will anyone care? This is why I blog about writing, because it’s basically the one thing I do most often; it’s why my friend chose to blog about smallholding, because that’s her passion. They are also topics which have longevity. My writing will (hopefully) form the basis of my career, and my friend’s work on her land will be the means by which she sustains her family, long-term. That isn’t to say that a blog about (say) armadillos can’t occasionally discuss platypi (or, if you prefer, ‘platypuses’) or a blog about roof tiles can’t sometimes become sidetracked with mosaics, but it’s good to keep a focus on your topic.
Sometimes, I don’t do this either. Sometimes, there just isn’t anything to say about writing. Those days are hard and scary, and they make me wonder if I’m doing the right thing. Some days, I don’t blog about writing for the simple reason that I just don’t have any news: the road to being published is long and sometimes boring (and I’m in a long, boring patch right now), and I really don’t feel as though I have anything useful to share. So my blog ends up being about feminism, or crime, or social commentary, or whatever. There’s nothing wrong with this, as such, but it’s not always recommended.
There is one rule, however, which I have religiously kept since the day I first decided to begin this blogging journey, and that is: Always write with honesty. This rule is definitely one I passed on to my friend, because it’s something I really do believe in. There’s no point in blogging if you’re going to assume a ‘personality’; you’ve got to be you, behind the words. I have always written from my heart, and because I know my friend well, I can tell you that her words on Home Grown Heaven are from the heart, too. Whatever other rules you bend or break when it comes to blogging, this is one you really should keep.
Because if you find yourself having to pretend, then maybe it’s time to stop blogging altogether.