As I drove home, I started thinking about how much I would have loved to have had a blog as a high schooler--how great it would have been to have a place to turn my thoughts and feelings (which I so often believed were understood by no one) into meaningful pieces of writing. I also thought about how, really, we all should have a blog. Whether you have a business or idea that is benefited by blogging or not. Whether you think you have something to say--or not. Because the truth is that you do have something to say. We all do. And we'd all be better off if we blogged about it.
I also thought about everything I wish I'd known when I first started blogging--things it's taken me years to figure out. Here are a few of them--I hope they can be helpful to you.
The number one rule of blogging is that there are no rules. In fact, I find that the more restrictions I put on my writing, the less prolific I am able to be. I don't limit myself to one topic or blog structure. I'll even change the theme of the blogging platform itself whenever it starts to bore me. This is my blog--that's my name in the URL, and nobody can tell me what I can or cannot do with it. Today I'm writing about blogging, tomorrow maybe body image. Next week, I don't know. Global warming? Like I said, it's my blog and I can do whatever I want with it.
The second rule is write constantly. Even if it's on a cocktail napkin with a golf pencil, or a text you send to yourself. Don't ever be without something you can use to record ideas. You don't have to post it, but if you get into the habit of seeing everything as blog fodder, you'll have that much easier of a time writing posts. If we're ever at a party together and something funny or awkward or inspiring happens and I get quiet (which you'll notice, as I'm rarely quiet), know that I am writing a blog entry in my head and wondering where the hell I left my notepad.
Write when you're nervous. Write when you're scared. Write when you're angry--especially when you're angry. There's something incredibly satisfying about the extra-loud clack-clack-clack of pissed-off typing that seems to fuel compellingly structured and daring writing. Write when you're blissfully content. Write when you're in love. Write when you're agonizingly out of love. Don't use names or identifying details of anyone involved, but if someone hurts you, write about it. Your life is dripping with material that will make your blog that much more interesting.
The Roman playwright Terence (AKA Publius Terentius Afer) said, "Nothing human is alien to me." Remember this as you write. There is nothing--nothing--you can write about that won't touch, inspire or strike a chord for at least one reader. And the more you write, the more people you're bound to affect--and the better your writing will become.
Thirdly (and finally) don't be afraid of what people think. There are (and will always be) haters, especially on the internet. Negative comments and the occasional nasty email will come your way if you put yourself out there, regardless of your blog topic. Ignore them. If you're worried about your spelling or grammar, take advantage of spell-check and then have a trusted friend do a quick proof-read. But don't dwell too much on it--it's widely understood that blogs are not expected to be perfect. Write as well as you can, but don't spend too much time worrying about it. Most people are reading your blog to connect to your experiences and perspectives--not criticize your writing.
If someone is personally offended by something you wrote, be willing to discuss it rationally with him or her, but stand by your work. Never let anyone intimidate you into taking down a post you believe in.
Blog because you have something to say--and because the world really will be a better place if you say it.