I always wanted to be a writer. Ever since Mrs. White picked me to be the class storyteller (the second most powerful position in any classroom), and all my classmates gathered around me waiting for me to read to them, I knew writing was going to be my life.
I’ve been hooked on writing and telling stories ever since. I’ve been hooked on a lot of things, to tell you the truth, but writing has always been my escape, my one constant companion.
All the bad things in my life didn’t seem so bad when I started writing about them. I wrote about my parent’s divorce; I wrote about when my friend died in a drunk driving accident; I wrote about every single break-up I had.
And along the way, I became fearless. I didn’t hold anything back, in either my writing or my life. So I started taking chances, taking risks, which may have been good for my writing career, but not my health.
I started smoking when I was thirteen. Adolescence is when most smoking habits take hold and I was no different. The teenage years are prime boundary-testing and boundary-breaking time, and I tested and broke every boundary I found.
I’m 28 now. And even though I still have a twisted admiration for cigarettes and smoking, I no longer partake. My body now cries out for Pilates and kale, more than it does for a Jack and Coke with a nicotine chaser. But it hasn’t been easy making all these changes.
I think that’s the reason why I started blogging. I wanted to answer the question: why do we hurt ourselves so much? I needed to unravel the mystery about what makes us do the crazy, self-destructive things we do, like smoking. Smoking, drinking, eating bacon, we know they’re bad for us, but we persist.
And the things we know are good for us – regular exercise, healthy food, less stress – we don’t do, or we don’t do enough of them. And there’s no reconciling these contradictions alone, which is one of the reasons I started writing blog posts and essays about health and self-development. I’ve weathered the storms; I have lived my life. I can write with confidence about things I’ve learned and picked up along the way.
Writing about what you know should be your guiding principle when you’ve decided to start a blog. But there are other things you should also keep in mind. If you are playing with the idea of becoming a blogger, here are five things you should remember when you start:
#9. Keep An Open Mind
Of course, you want to blog about a topic you know a lot about. But don’t let your extensive knowledge of your preferred subject keep you from learning even more.
Don’t close yourself off to other viewpoints. You may think you already know everything there is to know about knitting or Ottoman rugs, but taking a snobbish, know-it-all stance in your writing is a sure way to turn off potential readers.
Make your discovery of new things a part of the attraction of your blog. If your readers feel like they are learning something new right alongside you, then they’ll forever associate you and your posts with stimulating new facts and perspectives.
#8. Originality, Above All Else
The blogosphere is so-called for a reason: it’s big. How do you distinguish yourself from the rest? Easy, the same way that you would do it in real-life: be yourself.
One example I can think of is when I started working for the quitting smoking community. I had to write something about “vape starter kit”. I knew what those words meant individually, but I had never seen them together in the same phrase.
And I wrote that! I wrote that I had no idea what the words meant, but I wrote my mistakes. And that’s what made the post original: I was writing from my own experience and perspective.
#7. Fiction Stranger than Truth
It’s usually truth that’s stranger than fiction. But being an avid reader of fiction is a sure way to improve not only your blog-writing, but your writing and literacy as well. Musicians listen to music; filmmakers watch films, whatever your chosen medium, you should be an expert on it.
With that said, bloggers should not only be consuming other blogs, but any and all forms of the written word. Expanding your knowledge base will help you infuse all sorts of informational tid-bits into your writing.
Getting a glimpse of other styles of writing can inspire you as well. Having a familiarity with different forms of literature can make your posts more unique and esoteric, thereby differentiating yourself from all the rest.
#6. Define Yourself
I wasn’t going to write a blog about coding or the history of perfume. One of the areas of expertise I have is smoking, and all its related accouterments. So I started writing about that.
Self-actualization may seem like a tall order for something as simple as starting a blog, but your blog is exactly that: your blog. So it has to come from a place you know, a place that’s familiar to you and that you are willing to share with the world.
#5. Embellish, embellish, embellish
I still stand by the saying “truth is stranger than fiction.” But fiction can sometimes help the truth be more “truthy?” “Truthy” is not a word, I know. But it illustrates perfectly the point to which I am driving.
If your “authentic, 100% real” blog post is still lying flat on the page, then throw the equivalent of some hot sauce on it to spice it up.
Adding hot sauce means adding (or subtracting) specific details or changing them just a little to make your post more alive and exciting. A fellow blogger relayed this sentiment more succinctly, but with much cruder language.
#4. Bring Something to the Table
Originality and your own worldview are always great things to bring to the table. But when they’re not enough (and in the blogosphere, they are not) you have to go the extra mile to find what it is that no one else is doing.
Research your niche. Find out what has been and is popular. Even try finding out what will be popular before anyone else knows. Ok, that last one is maybe a little too ambitious, but it shouldn’t be so hard if you are truly familiar with your area of expertise.
A blog is not just a form of entertainment or a way to pass the time. People read blogs for all sorts of reasons; for advice, for knowledge. Your blog should satisfy all the needs that people have when reading blogs, the intellectual needs as much as the emotional ones.
#2. Know The Room
“Know the room” is an old comedian’s saying that translates to basically, “know your audience.” Once you’ve decided on what you’re all about, then you have to put yourself in the shoes of your future readers.
Pepper your posts with all those small details that only people in your audience will recognize. But if your goal is to reach a wider audience, then tone down the shop-talk, lest you alienate those who would have no idea what you’re talking about.
The trick, of course, is to appeal to as many people as possible, which is something that is difficult to do, at first. But after you’re first months of blogging, you’ll find not only what works for your audience but works for you as well.
#1. Find your Place
I was a smoker for twenty-plus years. I did a lot of other things during those twenty years, of course. I went to school, traveled, had relationships, all the while carrying my pack of Marlboro Lights and a lighter.
Now, I travel with a vape pen starter kit, even though I’m not a starter. And that’s because I learned everything there is to know not only about the sociological and cultural history of smoking and cigarettes. But also about the history of vaping and vaporizers, about which are the best vapes and which are the worst.
I set myself up as the link between the two worlds, between smoking and vaping, because that’s where I wanted to be. I wanted to look forward and point to the future, but I also wanted to keep a foot planted in the primal world of combustible cigarettes.
And it wasn’t easy. But it was, at the same time, because I knew that’s what I wanted to do. Once that knowledge was secure, everything else fell into place; who my audience was going to be, what kind of information I would be writing about, what my writing style would be.
In finding my place, in answering the question, “what am I most passionate about?” I not only removed all the uncertainty to come but I also opened a path leading me to where I am today.