Here’s a weird thing to do: write words on a screen in a room by yourself and then just shoot it through space for strangers to read.
What a wonderful, odd world we live in.
What’s even odder and more wonderful is I love doing just that. I enjoy writing on the internet.
This post is number 1,294. I’ve been doing this in some form since 2009. Sometimes I write often, and sometimes there are long pauses. I’ve had really good things happen because I write on the internet, and I’ve had really bad things happen because I write on the internet. I share below in a post called Why Trusty Chucks about how I started this blog and what my original goal was (you’re never going to guess so you just need to read that post). But today I want to tell you how I do this and how you can too.
First, stop telling yourself you want to start blogging and start blogging. There’s nothing worse than talking about something but never doing it. No one ever has the time or the energy or the right words. No one would ever write if those were the requirements. Just go to WordPress.com or Blogger.com and sign up for a free blog. It will look bad and really generic, but it’s a start.
Please don’t be that person who tells others you could have been a writer or a blogger. Or anything that you didn’t actually become. This isn’t high school football, and those weren’t your glory days. Do stuff now and stop saying tomorrow.
For me, “writer” and “blogger” are different. I have a blog, but I’m a writer. People don’t come here for pretty pictures, well-styled home decor, or craft how-tos (even though I have done all of those things), they come here for my words. I’m a writer and a storyteller. Bloggers are less writers and more content creators. I know some people would argue that, but this is my blog, and I’m in charge here.
I think when you start a blog, you don’t know and don’t need to know which you are. Just start writing and creating stuff you like and see what sticks.
My writing process is a little all over the place. I try to write for at least thirty minutes a day, but that is harder than it sounds. I write mostly in Word or directly on a draft in my WordPress back office. I would say 70% of what I write makes it to the internet. I have over 60 drafts sitting in a folder right now. I start lots of posts because I have an idea or a burning desire to say something, but I run out of time or steam and don’t finish. I mostly write in my office on my computer, but occasionally, I’ll write on my phone in bed or in a waiting room somewhere. I can’t write with the TV on or others around. I get distracted really easily and have to set the mood to romance myself into writing. (That sounds dirty. I’m leaving it.) [Side note: I’m planning a series in March called “I found this in my drafts” and it will be posts I’ve written but never finished or published before. It will be interesting to see what I find in that folder.]
Before I hit Publish, my post will have sat for a few weeks, and it will have been proofread by Chris. If I’m writing something that feels off or tricky, I’ll have someone critique my thoughts and stories. If I’m using the Bible to tell a story, I’m really careful to not take things out of context or miss the point. There’s a lot of responsibility that comes with telling people what they Bible says and I take that very serious. If I’m ever in doubt, I’ll have someone who knows the Bible better than me check my work.
Chris reads for spelling and grammar issues only. He’s not allowed to edit for content. I’m not sure why except I don’t want to discuss my writing with him. It makes me too defensive. I can discuss it easily with others, just not him.
He does read posts and get to say whether or not they’re posted though. I write so honestly about our lives, and he always gets to say no if he wants to. (That means that two-week series last August was read and okayed by him. It was hard for him to read and hard for him to allow, but I’m so thankful I have a husband who trusts me to share honestly about who we are.)
If I’m writing about faith, marriage, heartbreak, or something a little more serious, I want the post to sit for a while so I can come back to it after a week or two and make sure it’s what I want to say. I haven’t regretted many things I’ve shared here, but I’ve done it just often enough to know I need space between my writing and publishing. Sometimes it’s just because I can find better ways to say what I want if I give it space to breathe. The distance always leads to better posts anyway so I like the slow down I’ve created.
If I’m writing something less serious (like this series), I’m not waiting that long. I’m writing these with a pretty quick turn around time because I’m not concerned I’ll say something I’ll regret. Also, these posts are less likely to be proofread by Chris. Because I need them to go up quickly, I’ll publish and then he’ll read them after they’re live and send me mistakes to fix. I hate typos, but they happen and I try not to let them ruin my life. (While we were separated, my brother proofread for me. If you’re in my life, there is a good chance you will be sucked into this space in some form or another.)
If you went and signed up for your first blog, I’d encourage you RIGHT NOW, while you’re feeling so excited and the drive is high, to WRITE SOMETHING. Voice, tone, focus, ideas, all of that writing stuff will come the more you write. For a while, it will be all over the place. No one has a strong voice from the get-go. You need to write and see how you can best use words to share your message.
Like I’m talking to a toddler right now: USE YOUR WORDS.
Also, if you want to do what I do, you’re going to need to read a lot. That’s not to scare you, but it’s the truth. Let me put my English teacher hat on for a second. *situates pointy witch cap* Good writers are good readers. You can’t be a good writer if you’re not reading, specifically reading good writing. It doesn’t work otherwise. As you read, you’re going to find styles you like. You’re going to find styles you really dislike. You’ll start writing and you’ll try to emulate the writers you’re drawn to. THIS IS GOOD AND IMPORTANT even though it feels creepy and sorta like copying. You won’t do this forever, but you will do it while you search for your own writer’s voice.
In college, a writing professor told me I wrote too informally. My tone was too relaxed and it was like I was talking to a friend instead of a professor. Guess what? My tone is relaxed and informal. I write like I talk. I write like we’re friends, and my informal tone during some pretty hard stories keeps readers from wanting to kill themselves when I talk about depressing things.
This style works well for me. Also, if you met me in real life, this is how I would talk to you. Maybe a few more hand motions, but I talk like I write.
It took time to figure this out though. I cringe at some of my earlier posts and can immediately see who I was reading at the time by how I was writing.
You have to do this too. Think about toddlers learning to talk. They mimic the adults–the experts–around them. Eventually, they’ll start using their words to show you their personality, but in the beginning, they’re just copying you.
It’s the same way with writing. Find people who write like you want to write and practice writing like them.
And then just keep going.
That’s really the hardest part of this: not quitting. Everyone wants to write but not many people want to put in the hours of sitting at a desk in a quiet room. Everyone wants to write but not many people want to write when there are no words and you’re staring at a blank screen. Everyone wants to write but not many people want to keep doing it when it seems like no one is reading what you’re sharing.
Write on the internet because you love writing or blogging or creating. Don’t do it because you want to be famous, you want to earn money, or you want to have tons of followers. There is a really high chance those things will not happen. But they for sure will never happen if you just keep thinking about writing and never actually do it.
What questions do you have about writing on the internet? Do you have questions about social media, sponsored posts, or email subscribers? I don’t know what you want to know, but I’d love to hear if you have a specific question. Leave it in the comments below, and I’ll respond. I never know what parts of this weird gig are common knowledge, which are secret blog stuff, and which are just confusing. Also, the teacher part of me wants you to write, but I know it’s scary to share writing with people. It sorta feels like showing up to the first day of high school without pants on. Do you want to talk about freelancing? Need to know how to share your writing? Ask me anything and I’ll try to help. This isn’t some weird writers club that others can’t join. The more the merrier, friends. The more the merrier.
Other times I’ve written about writing or writing on the internet:
Writing on the internet
What I forgot to tell the class: luck just found my hard work
Why Trusty Chucks
Who I became in 2014: a writer
What I learned from my viral post
Jamie Conrad says
So, I love to read (I’m not a huge fiction fan though) but I’m never sure if I’m reading good writing. I can’t tell if me not enjoying/being compelled by the book is my clue? How do I know I’m reading good writing?
That’s a good question!
There is definitely some subjectivity about what is good writing. But, yes, a good starting point would be if you’re not enjoying or being compelled by something. Part of that is just what you’re interested in, but also, bad writing can turn you off things you’d normally be engaging with.
I know this sounds lame, but I’d start with some classic in genres you like and read them. (Google can help.) Then pick them apart. Why are they considered canon texts for their writing style or subject? What do you like about them and want to emulate versus what doesn’t work for you? Popular books of bestsellers are not always the most well-written. Embarrassing but true. Reading with a writer’s point of view means you’re drawn to different texts than the masses. The general population wants a good story and cares less about good storytelling. (A very generalized statement, but also, sadly, true.)
BUT you should also read books that would be the equivalent of fast food. I really enjoy cheesy YA novels. Some of them are well-written and some of them are not. But I just love the genre anyway. Sorta like I love McDonalds even though it’s not good for me. I’m not going to stop either one.
If you’re able, it’s always interesting to see what your English major friends are reading. Professors and teachers who are paid to show you good writing and teach you how to do it always have amazing reading recommendations.
Shelly Bergman says
What are your suggestions for books on storytelling? I’m definitely a blogger and started by writing craft tutorials. I’m interested in changing gears and writing more family travel on the blog.
So you want memoir-type storytelling, I’m assuming? I would highly recommend On Writing by Stephen King even though he’s a mostly fiction writer, his advice works for all writers. Then I would go two different ways if I wanted to be a storyteller.
1. I’d read books by people who are writing the way I want to tell stories. Do you want to be serious? Read Shauna Neiquist or Lidia Yukavitch. Two VERRRY different ways of telling a serious story, but really good places to start. Do you want to tell a funny story? I’d start with David Sedaris or Jenny Lawson; they’re both smart, observant storytellers who make me laugh even when writing about unfunny stuff.
2. I’d read about the craft of writing. On Writing Well by William Zinsser is the classic go-to for beginning college writing courses. If I was teaching students to write, I’d go there first.
Recently started writing after sitting on, and paying for, my website for over two years. I warned me friends and family it would take a while before it seemed to make sense. I’m so glad to hear that co-signed!
Oh, absolutely! Just write and write and write. It will get better the more you do it. I’m so glad you finally took the scary leap and did it. 🙂
I just found this while cleaning out my inbox, and almost didn’t read it because I’m overwhelmed right now. But I’m glad I did. I’ve been sitting on a blog for a couple of years now, and I think I’ve published five things since I started it. It’s funny that you should end with “the more the merrier”, because, seriously, as I sit down to write and publish what I write all I can think is “Just what the world needs- one more white, home school mom writing about health”. I argue with myself constantly that it’s not good, it’s not unique, and not worthy of publishing. So, thanks for the encouragement.