Wednesday, October 25, 2006

How to blog

Sane Mike, in a recent comment, asked about blogging: "How do you actually do it? Where do you get fresh ideas from every day? How long does it take to write? How do make the time to write in between gaming, working and home life? Does it ever become a chore? If you do feel like spilling the beans and letting us in on your blog writing secrets I think that would make a very interesting article." Now it happens that I recently got confronted with the question on how this blog started, so my head is filled with thoughts about my blog, and this might be a good time to write them down. And maybe they answer some of Mike's questions.

For me, blogging started as a solution of a technical problem: archiving my written words. I already wrote a lot on different game message boards. But game forums usually are badly or not at all archived. And if you switch from one game to another, you often switch from one message board to another, and you end up starting over writing things for people who never heard your name, with a "post count" of zero. Then there are problems of ownership, on a game forum your threads can be locked or deleted. A blog solves all of these problems, giving you a place where you are (more or less) the owner, where your written texts are archived, and where you can keep your writing place even if you switch to a new game.

So in my case the writing was there first, and the blog came afterwards. If you never wrote on the internet, if you have no practice at all expressing yourself in writing in a public place, starting a blog from scratch would be a *lot* harder.

Where do I get the ideas from? Mostly from playing, but if that fails, from reading other blogs, game forums, game magazines, press releases, and other relevant material. My secret is that I mainly write for myself. *Not* thinking of what your readers expect helps a lot when blogging. A blog is as much a diary as it is a public document. As soon as you start worrying about meeting a certain writing standard, or having to cover a certain subject, writing block sets in. There are millions of blogs out there which get a lot less hits than this one not because their authors write any worse than I do, but because they don't write enough. If you know a good blog which is only updated once a month, chances are that you'll soon forget about it. Instead you visit my blog every day (I hope), because there is *always* something new there. And once a month I manage to write something really great. But the not-so-great everyday writing is necessary to keep the blog alive. And sometimes I get lucky, and in spite of a blog entry being not well thought out and less than perfectly written, I get a very interesting discussion going in the comments section. That adds a lot to the entertainment value of the blog, and helps me finding new ideas to write about.

How do I make the time? Writing this blog doesn't take as much time as you might think. I type 50 words per minute, which is slower than a professional secretary, but faster than most people. And I type directly from my head, I rarely first do a draft or something. I certainly do a number of spelling mistakes, and I don't even use a spell-checker, but spelling on the internet being what it is, nobody really notices.

Blogging rarely becomes a chore. There are days when I'm too busy to write a long text. But usually I can get away with just writing something short, or link to something. Yesterday I had a rather busy day, but Blizzard's announcement of the Burning Crusade release date, quickly copied and pasted, saved the day for my blog. And I sometimes have more ideas for articles than I want to write on that day, so I just blot down the idea on a notepad, and write the blog entry on another day when I can't think of anything.

I don't think there are really "secrets" to blogging. There are some skills which make it a lot easier, like the aforementioned typing skill, or general writing skills. But in general it is a "build it and they will come" affair. I'm still surprised how many people are reading this. I believe they come because I write original content, original not in the sense that these are especially deep or novel thoughts, but in the sense that I write my own thoughts down, instead of just linking to other people's content. Hyperlinks are a wonderful invention, but there are far too many people trying to generate traffic with nothing but links, and not much own content. If you create a blog, and not a "portal", you will profit from that, regardless about what you write. Other people will link to your content, suddenly your blog appears in Google searches, and then the page views come rolling in. Everybody has his favorite subject, something he is able to talk passionately about. You just need to transform that passionate speech into written words. If that passion is something exotic (like massively multiplayer online role-playing games) as opposed to something mundane like politics, you have a reasonable chance to make a name for yourself with blogging, whether that was your original intent or not.

No comments:

Post a Comment