1. Knowing that, at some point in your life, you will write a blog.
This seems to be a sentiment shared by many people when thinking about starting a blog, the idea they’ll get it done at some point sooner or later. While this is a decent attitude to have, as the idea sits at the back of your mind on a kind of to-do list, the starting of said blog is usually pretty close to the bottom of this to-do list along with harmonising the kitchen, alphabetizing your bookshelf and finishing that screenplay.
Now I’m as guilty of this as anyone else so don’t think for a second that I’m sitting here, typing away in a slightly patronising manner while in the position of ticking this blog item off my ‘to-do’ list as I:
- have countless other projects statically lodged in the back of my mind
- am currently writing point one out of eleven so, depending how this goes, could be stuck in this limbo for god knows how long
which brings me to…
2. Forgetting about it as you think you have nothing to write about.
The opening conversation people seem to have with themselves upon contemplating their own blogs seem to go along the lines of:
You know what, so many other people seem to be doing a great job at starting a blog so why not? I should start my own!
But I’ve got nothing to write about of any interest to anyone so what’s really the point?
And even if I did have an idea of what I’d discuss or an image of a niche market I could explore, someone has undoubtedly got there first and done a far better job of it than I ever could.
Alright, well how about this? When something does pop into mind I’ll make a note of it and come back to this idea but for now I just won’t worry about it.
And thus, the very idea of writing a blog gets backlogged so far into our own heads that, even when an idea emerges which would work perfectly for a blog, you’ve completely forgotten about the very concept of starting one and therefore it disappears into the aether.
3. Reading other blogs and hearing about people that you may know starting their own blogs and remembering why you liked the idea in the first place.
Now there is a strong chance that my experience may not match up with yours in this case but recently I’ve become aware of friends and family close to me doing a brilliant job in blogging whether they have been doing it for some time now or just starting out. For instance, my younger sister has just begun her own food blog on eating happily and healthily which includes various recipes alongside recommended workouts. She’s having a lot of fun writing this and tracking her progress after each new entry (obligatory plug for her frustratingly impressive site: http://happynhealthy.co.uk/ )
From this, I have been reminded why I was attracted to the idea of writing a blog in the first place and have since been musing on what I would focus on if I too were to start a blog.
4. Finding something to write about.
This is the step I have somewhat cheated my way around as you may have already realised. While I know friends writing blogs on food, travel, books or film, I have instead collated a list of things that I am deeply curious about and therefore wish to explore in my writing almost as a means of processing them. However, these ‘things’ must also be engaging to other people or, in other words, you my dear reader. And this is where I hope that each entry would be interesting enough to a specific readership to captivate a group of people rather than the tapestry of the blog as a whole.
Now this may be different as you may stumble across one thing that you wish to explore over a longer period of time such as a weekly analysis of Love Island or a monthly update on how your new jade plant is doing. Perhaps my choice in planning to write about such a broad variety of things demonstrates a kind of indecisiveness or ‘master of none’ sentimentality yet is something I believe can work for me and is therefore an idea I became very attached to very quickly.
5. Believing no one will find this interesting.
However, this belief can be quickly undermined by a similar sensation presented in point 2, the question: Why me?
Why would someone want to read what I have written over somebody else?
What gives my ideas and contemplations an edge over other articles and posts?
How the hell can I write something that someone else would actually take the time to read?
…and so on.
Of course, from here it can be very easy to route back to point 2 and let the cycle of backlogging continue as demonstrated below:
As stated, this repeats as often as you let it meaning that it’s your job to break out of this cycle by any means necessary. This can be done in many different ways, yet I find the term that sums it up best (and you are going to hate me for saying this) is…
Now by inspiration I don’t necessarily mean a divine intervention descending from the heavens, whispering the holy words into your ear and therefore summoning your blogging majesty to get to work (of course, if this does happen then obviously listen!) but rather the inspiration that can very much come from within. I am aware that this seems almost paradoxical as many associate the concept of inspiration with an external force stimulating you mentally into action (and believe me, this is a topic that deserves an entire blog in itself), yet it is important you must allow inspiration, whatever form it may exist in, to drive you to work. It’s all well and good to feel inspired by a concept but at this point it is entirely your job to recognise, understand and control this to encourage you forth. This is true for far more than just writing a blog of course. Inspiration may spur you to learn that instrument you’ve always wanted to, or perhaps book that holiday or kiss that girl, but for now I’ll focus on where I found this inspiration and where I let it take me.
A couple of weekends ago, I went on a day trip to Brighton with my family; this trip gave me the distance and relaxation I needed to even realise that I wanted to start writing blogs. A sudden lack of business in your life can make you notice the smaller things or the ideas you may have forgotten about. Strangely enough, I can even locate the very moment in which I felt an unstoppable force to achieve anything if I put my mind to it, and this was when I won a prize on a claw machine in the Brighton Pier arcade:
Yes this may seem trivial, or hilarious, or downright stupid, but after watching a myriad of customers try and fail to win cheap, poorly made stuffed Minions, Hulks and Yoshis; the way in which I strolled up and successfully clawed Peter Quill on my first try gave me a moment of strange encouragement. Now I’m not telling you to hunt down a claw machine to win questionably copyright-breaching toys in an attempt to find your muse, yet it is important to notice these moments of inspiration and follow incentives when an undefinable motivation suddenly appears… or maybe it was just down to luck!
7. Finding a ‘way in’.
Once you’ve either motivated yourself or chanced upon external inspiration, get to work as quickly as possible. It sounds stupid but this opening window of incomprehensible impulse will never last as long as you think, so knuckle down while you still want to. This is also the time in which ideas will be bouncing around your head at such speed that you will genuinely need a pen and paper / notes app on your phone / quill and parchment / etc. just to keep track of these brand new ideas. Write down any and every stupid idea, ridiculous title and absurd sentiment. While it may not seem like it helps now, as in this moment everything seems so obvious, everything you jot down you will come back to at a later date.
Once this process seems like it is calming down, it’s time to work out a ‘way in’.
As you are sitting there thinking of every single possibility, it’s time to contemplate what’s realistic and therefore to set small goals for yourself. Obviously, it’s impossible to start on every idea at once so it’s important to think about where to start:
- Which ideas interest you the most
- Which ideas will interest other people the most
- What’s the easiest
- What’s the most challenging
Find an area which lies at the core of whatever answers you are coming to. Locating a topic you truly want to write about that will also be interesting to others is something that can end up being far more difficult than it sounds, especially for your first entry. However, once you land on this idea the passion of your curiosity coupled with the accessibility of the subject area should stimulate a great read. Similarly, finding something easy to work on while not setting the bar too low is also vital as you need to challenge yourself rather than just copy pasting an essay you’ve already written or an area you know back to front. While some may disagree with this, I believe you must be very aware of what is inside and outside your comfort zone in order to find a happy medium that suits you.
8. Planning what and how to write.
Finding a topic that has been on your mind yet one you haven’t completely solved is something I’d recommend. For instance, starting a blog is an area I have quite clearly been thinking about extensively but one I know very little about so the title “The 11 stages of starting a blog, by some guy that’s never written a blog” seemed both ironically and logically perfect as I’d be learning about what I’m writing about as I write and therefore are going through each step of how to start a blog as I share this very information with others. Of course in hindsight, this may have been a stupid decision as I know practically nothing about blogging judging from the fact I’m sitting on blog #1 but the absurdity of this outlook hooked me and is thus what I was motived to write about.
(Sorry Future Will but Present Will wants to know how to blog so writing about how to blog is the only logical step to take!)
I suppose the question of how can could be divided into two categories:
a) How you are logistically going to write your blog
This is clearly as very practical question and there are far better sources on the web that can point you in the right direction on where to post your blog. I would suggest a site like WordPress which has a free version for those starting out but this can easily be upgraded to other subscription levels: https://wordpress.org
b) How to write in terms of style
Now this is a far more layered question. Your ‘voice’ is obviously one of the most important things in your writing and is something that may come very naturally to you but it is something I find difficult to locate. I know it lies somewhere on the spectrum of:
The only real suggestion I have for solving this is simply to practise. To write and read then re-write and re-read to find what sounds natural to you. Maybe show it to someone whose opinion you trust before posting your first couple of entries, which reminds me: apologies to anyone who has to read this involuntarily because I’ve forced it upon them!
9. Finding a title.
Strangely enough, this has genuinely been the hardest step for me as I know that, as this is my first entry, I can tell myself I will improve over time and will hopefully be able to look back one day and think “What an idiot! Why the hell did I write my first blog on blogging, was I trying to be meta?”
This was also the thing that I asked for the most help with, messaging family and friends for any ideas they might have. Some of the feedback includes:
- My name translated into Latin which includes the word autem, meaning “moreover” or “however”. This seemed arty and fascinating at first yet quickly lost its appeal as I remembered how I know next to nothing about Latin as a language and thus did not want to seem counter-intuitive.
- Cosmically Unimportant, is a phrase I’ve been frustratingly obsessed with recently as it highlights the universal triviality of starting a new blog as, in the greater picture, the universe doesn’t really care about a new WordPress site. However, I believe this empowers the act of writing blogs as despite it being of very little importance cosmically, the meaning I and others may take from it gives it value. This can also be translated into various forms of media, culture and art as a whole.
- Will-I-Am. No, just no.
- I-Am-Will. This was suggested with the format of I am Will yet has a similar cringe value and unoriginality to the previous name.
- A snowflake’s contemplations, an idea from my mum as she took the piss out of me for being yet another millennial writing a blog on vague ideas, something only the ‘snowflake’ generation would do, cheers Mum.
- Will’s Muse. This suggestion from my Dad would’ve been quite nice if it wasn’t said after a few glasses of wine over dinner and aimed at my girlfriend as he suggested she should feature. He then went on to improve this to Will’s Muses, which unsurprisingly raised a few eyebrows, thanks Dad.
Eventually I landed on the name Cultural Encounters after writing down every word that came to mind when thinking about my blog and trying to connect them into a vaguely catchy sounding title. While I don’t think it’s perfect, its purpose is more to steer me in a direction that I want the blog to go in rather than defining its content and tone from the start.
10. Bloody starting!
And then you just gotta write. It sounds so simply but while in many ways this is the most important ‘step’, I can’t really define it. I usually write down a couple of notes before actually writing what I intend to be my entry, and by usually I mean that one time I wrote a blog just now. For an entry like this it was fairly simple, just writing down the titles of each point and clarifying a clear arc for each section and the blog as a whole.
I expect it will be different every single time, some people will edit as they go and some will just keep going until they reach the end and write multiple drafts. I’ve only really got two suggestions:
Don’t be afraid of how rubbish it may sound, especially on your first draft. I doubt I’ll ever be truly happy with this post for instance yet I’ve got to stay aware that it is my very first blog and hopefully I’ll improve over time. Every draft will be better than the last so try not to be too self-conscious about your writing. Think of it as something separate from you; while it’s so easy to become overly attached to it, you can’t connect it intrinsically to yourself as that gives it far too much importance. Yes care about it, but remain aware that it’s just words you’re putting down on a page and its okay if it doesn’t sound quite perfect. You’ll hone your craft eventually… or not, but who cares!? If you want to write a blog no one is stopping you, so just write for you and you’ll find your flow sooner or later.
Just get to the end. It is so easy to stop halfway through and just give up. Even if you’re not enjoying it and you think its crap, just get to the end. You may not even publish but it will be so satisfying just seeing it in its complete form whether it’s of quality or not. You’ve put so much work in already, you owe it to yourself to key in that final full-stop.
11. Clicking that publish button…
Welcome to the most paradoxical step of them all, the one I haven’t done yet. While this sounds easy it is a terrifying concept, and one I am dealing with for the first time at this very moment. All I can say is return to my first point of step 10, remove the words from yourself. This shouldn’t define who you are or dictate the quality of your writing as a whole, it’s just one post that you’ve deemed worthy to share.
My plan is to publish it, do all the social media shenanigans and then just to walk away for a bit. It’s out there now in its published form so just let it sit for a bit before you go back and see how it’s doing; whether I stick to this philosophy I’m not quite sure about yet. Just think of it as clicking a button, and wish me luck…