Write good stuff and be nice to people

Last week Write for Your Life gained its 2000th subscriber.

To those of you who are thinking about or who have recently started blogging, that might seem like a big number. To the seasoned pro, you know that 2000 is but a drop in the ocean.

It seems fitting then that this milestone for my website comes at pretty much the same time I realise that these numbers, for the most part, mean bugger all.

I won’t pretend that to have more people subscribe to and follow your site is in any way undesirable. Of course not. I want Write for Your Life to reach as many people as possible. I feel it offers something different and I love doing it.

But blogging is not like most blogs about blogging would have you believe. Blogging, like writing, should not be about the numbers. It should be about you, what you have to say about the world and how you go about saying it.

Stuff the profloggers

The problem is, if you do read almost any site about blogging, content marketing or some other made up nonsense, you’ll be told otherwise. You’ll be sold a largely unattainable dream that does little for you and plenty for the owner of that site.

It becomes a never ending circle of, ‘You buy this from me because I’m successful, then you’ll be successful too.’ And whatever it is that you buy will effectively tell you to take the exact same approach, selling an almost indentical product.

Before you know it, your little website about Jacobean tragedy or A5 paper or cat-related cross-stitch, that website that you cared so much about and hoped would introduce you to other people with similar interests, all but disappears.

When you’re told to do something by a blogger who supposes to have thousands of readers and who claims to earn thousands of dollars from doing it, ask yourself a) really? and then b) is that what I want too?

Been there, done that

I say all this because, despite only recently attempting to sell anything through Write for Your Life (I’ve nothing against selling stuff through your website), I feel like I’ve taken and acted on more than my fair share of blogging advice.

Bear in mind that when I started this site, my (Broome)shtick was that hey, I’m a busy chap, so I’ll post whenever I can, but don’t get too worried if I don’t. I started out by doing things on my terms. And people read and subscribed.

But it didn’t take long for me to get the numbers bug. The more people subscribed, the more I thought I had to do more and more on the site to make more and more people subscribe. Another never ending circle.

For example, at some point, I decided I had to post every day. The truth is, before I started link posting, I never actually achieved a daily schedule. And I would feel guilty about it. I felt guilty when I didn’t post. Guilty!

I got myself in a position where, in my real life with my real wife and job and cat, I felt bad about not writing free content for a load of people on the internet, a delight though you are, who I had never met.

It was ridiculous. So I gave myself a slap. I stopped feeling guilty.

That said, there are many other examples. I won’t include them all, but let’s just say I’ve bought and read my fair share of ebooks on blogging, whether it’s gaining more Twitter followers or getting more pageviews. Domination was involved at least once.

The fact of the matter is, blogging advice is almost always about the numbers. And it’s almost always bollocks.

How I blog now

A few weeks ago I decided to go back to my original rationale. That I post when I want and when I’m not busy writing fiction or doing work for clients.

I shall continue to be inspired by the bloggers I love to read, but like Fleetwood Mac once suggested, I shall go my own way. I shall do my own thing. If people keep reading and subscribing, well that would be totally awesome.

I am tired of all the hocus pocus spouted on the web. All the regurgitated posts about the same old subjects. All the people who care more about appearing to be useful and interesting than actually being those things.

I don’t want any of that.

Back to reality

Starting a blog, or as we writers of fiction are told to call it, having a presence, is a massive time suck. It requires patience, energy and typically more technical skills than you’re ever led to believe.

But blogging can also be rewarding, great fun and a stepping stone to some really exciting projects and friendships.

Having said that, if you want to be a successful writer, you don’t have to have a blog, or a presence, or whatever you want to call it. Hardly any of my real-life writer friends have blogs, and that includes my fellow copywriters at work who get paid to write for the web every day.

You don’t need a blog to be a writer. Plenty of people get book deals or jobs and forge a writing career with barely any web presence at all.

Don’t get me wrong, you’re almost certainly better off with a website, but it’s not the be all and end all. Not by a long shot.

Beyond 2000

So what next for Write for Your Life?

Well, I’m going to employ the following blogging tactic.

I intend not to worry too much about how many people read this site. Instead, I shall simply write about and link to the things that I’m interested in and know a little about. That’s writing, reading, computers and stuff.

However, if you’re just starting out with blogging, and you really do want some blogging advice, all I have is the following. And to my mind, this is all that matters.

Write good stuff. Be nice to people.


kpinglis@wellsaid.co.uk 2 October 2011 Reply

Well said, again, Iain…. As I put up my self-pub blog recdently (still incomplete) I was thinking exactly the same thing – hence on page one I’ve set out my stall which is that ‘I shan’t be blogging regularly’! That message was / is as much intended as an aide memoire to myself as it was/is for anyone who chooses to follow over time – because I know that I won’t have time ato post regually. Moreover I don’t want to be tempted to post ‘for the sake of it’. So I am hoping to be helpful if somewhat erratic in what I publish! One must not be a slave to one’s blog 🙂
Of course, for the blogs whose core (or principal) purpose it is to sell products and services the postings *are* the day job so to speak….and that is fine too…

iain@writeforyourlife.net 3 October 2011 Reply

If your core objective is to sell stuff, then maybe you do need to worry about the numbers more. But it doesn’t mean that every post has to be a list or that you have to plater your website with adverts.Being yourself and writing good material is as good a marketing tool as anything.

hello@refinedshot.com 3 October 2011 Reply

Excellent post Iain!
Very relevant in my life as well, as I’m just getting my blog off the ground, and am deciding what direction to head it in.

iain@writeforyourlife.net 3 October 2011 Reply

And good luck! All I would say, whatever you decide now, it will likely change in the future. And that’s okay.

kpinglis@wellsaid.co.uk 3 October 2011 Reply

Hmm….excuse all those late-night typos last night 🙂

joanna@confidentwriting.com 3 October 2011 Reply

Totally and utterly agree.
Including the bit about getting sucked in… then needing to slap yourself back out if it 😉

iain@writeforyourlife.net 3 October 2011 Reply

Very, very easily done. Primarily because it’s so feverishly encouraged, which I guess is kind of my point.

ben@benlocker.co.uk 3 October 2011 Reply

“Write good stuff. Be nice to people.”
Such good advice. I’m about to become your 2001st subscriber!

cptnrandy@mac.com 3 October 2011 Reply

Good on you, Iain.
Finding your own path, your own way, is frankly, the only thing that will work over the long haul. I’m one of those who beat the “post something new every day drum”, but then again, I’m talking primarily to businesses and organizations when I say that. Your readers and followers probably don’t require that out of you (although some may like it if you did).

I do post every day, but I write and queue up, so I while I might have to think and plan my writing, I never have to think about “what should I post TODAY?” That said, I’m off to write something.

Congratulations on your milestone. I look forward to the many more ahead!

iain@writeforyourlife.net 3 October 2011 Reply

Cheers Randy.
You post every day as part of your own personal business strategy – your blog supplements and supports your actual, real-life business (I think). Which makes perfect sense. You also, like you say, line posts up and build blogging into your schedule as a freelancer. Again, makes perfect sense.

The thing is, your content is always original, always thought provoking and never feels like it’s being written for any other reason than to inform and titillate. That you’re able to do that on a daily basis is both incredible and totally aces.

You do it right, basically.

andrew@unmemorabletitle.co.uk 3 October 2011 Reply

Count me in as 2002. Superb stuff Iain!
I’ve had the odd moment where I’ve lost sleep because it’s been X weeks since I updated the blog. Which is, despite everything, a vanity project designed to give me an air of authority about things.

It’s ridiculous, and you’re right. You need to take a step back from it and remember it’s just free content for strangers.

iain@writeforyourlife.net 3 October 2011 Reply

Welcome, welcome!
Don’t get me wrong, I want as many people as possible to subscribe to this site and, one day, I’d love to make it my full-time writing gig, but I’m not prepared to sacrifice the rest of my life to make that happen. Of if I were to do that, I wouldn’t listen to any old nitwit on the internet.

Perspective is a wonderful thing.

dee@themarketinggym.org 3 October 2011 Reply

I love your honesty, I really do.
I am a died in the wool old bat marketer who tussles at times with her softer more altruistic copywriting alter-ego and I must confess to getting radged about my blog a while ago…not enough subscribers, too much of a chore and then I had my eureka moment which was not that dissimilar to yours.

I decided to write and share some of my experiences for the sake of writing nothing more and hopefully now and again touching someone with a genuine message. I don’t sell in my blog, rarely if ever mention my books and all that stuff preferring instead on my once a fortnight stint to see where the writing mood will take me. I never plan the content from one fortnight to the next but something sparks it. Interestingly one fellow unsubscribed to my blog saying the content was good but he did not like my self promotion through other channels (liked nice old copywriter but not nasty marketer!) Sometimes you can’t win I guess. I love your honesty and really lovely, clear writing style. I can’t abide all this snake oil stuff that is abounding the internet hoodwinking folk that really should know better. Cross my palm with a few grand and you can be like me too. Nonsense and utter poppycock. Let’s just focus on being brilliant at the basics; having a little humility, humour and charm and cultivating the forgotten art of writing instead of pushing out humourless and characterless soundbites with dubious links to utter dross.

iain@writeforyourlife.net 3 October 2011 Reply

Hi Dee
Fantastic comment, thank you.

I’ve talked about humility here on Write for Your Life before, although specifically related to creative writers. It’s so important to check yourself every now and again and think, would I do this in real life. You may not always be able to answer yes, and the internet does allow you some flexibility with your personality, but on the whole, you should aim to be yourself as much as you possibly can. Or so I reckon, anyway.

Cheers for the kind words.

avalonjaedra@gmail.com 3 October 2011 Reply

“Write good stuff. Be nice to people.”
That about sums it up. Congrats on your 2000th subscriber! Going back to the basics sounds like a good plan for you. 🙂

iain@writeforyourlife.net 3 October 2011 Reply

Thanks Ava – I think so!

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