12 tips for the burgeoning blogger

The start of my first blog just happened to coincide with the start of a “temp” assignment I took to hold me over between freelance gigs back in February 2009.   The only major saving grace of that temp assignment, other than a regular paycheck, was that with minimal expectations I had about 6 hours of quiet time every day to get my own work done.   I wasn’t entirely without responsibilities but there always seemed to be long stretches of downtime bookending periods of furious activity, the effect of which was enervating to a degree that would be impossible to imagine unless you were there.   Other than quit, I had two options.  I could, sit and stare at the ugly partition walls all day, or find a better way to channel my ennui.  I decided to learn how to blog.

In the beginning I made a lot of mistakes and although I tried my first blog, which was on Tumblr, was just terrible.  I committed all the blogging sins as I wrote about badly about myself,  had no real focus, and sometimes maybe I had a little bit too much.  The ability to bring multiple mediums together in one narrative was uniquely exciting and my blog quickly devolved into a hodge podge of innocuous links, photos and obnoxious Seinfeldesque observations about my frustrations with citylife.   As I got more comfortable with the platform and the idea of blogging, or what it could be, I started trying to improve my narrative.  First with pictures from my daily life and then with an accompanying running commentary.   With no real focus it was easy to move on and I happily flitted from blog to blog in rapid succession each iteration a slight improvement on its predecessor each with progressively more ridiculous title like “Ubiquitous”, “30 Days of Yoga” and finally “Julia Lite.”

In my early days of blogging I filled in my office based downtime with everything from online tutorials to basic HTML.   Failure was irrelevant because like any good mad scientist it just gave me another opportunity for success.   There was no real method to my madness and I kept frankensteining new blogs from old until I got bored and moved on.  My early blogs were not by any definition particularly good, successful, or read outside of the few friends and family members I coerced into reading them.

In 2011 I traded my office for a classroom and headed back to graduate school to pursue a Master’s degree in journalism at Northeastern University where Four Letter Word was born.   It started out as a class assignment and my idea was to create a blog where I could cover underground culture as my “beat,” while I started to learn the ins and outs of multimedia storytelling and journalism.  I published my first post, “Nerd Nite: A Night out for Nerds” on January 31st 2012 and even if it only earned me a  B+ the experience was transformative and as far as I was concerned a major success.

Heading into my fourth year working on this project I still hit road bumps and have brainstorms all the time.   The one main difference between now and when I started is that now I get asked a lot of questions about how I do it.   Not because it’s particularly hard to blog but because I think people who don’t blog think it seems like a lot of work, which at times it is.  While I will admit I do like talking about the nuts and bolts of blogging, it is hard to give people the concrete answers they want in a minute or so.   So, if you were to corner me at the checkout and hit me up for some free advice because you want to start a blog, I would probably say the following:

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Possibly more important than anything when it comes to starting a blog is that it is really easy to start one but creating something that brings people back over and over again is a much more difficult task.  Even with a few years of practice under my belt the road to a successful post isn’t always a smooth but it is still always exciting to press publish.