Blogging isn’t always easy. It can be a lot of work with quite a few lessons along the way.
This month marks five years since I started this blog about multiculturalism, being Asian Australian and cultural stereotypes. Reflecting on this milestone, I never anticipated this blog would still be going today. I also never imagined my blog would have a bit of a following and helped me become a better writer. To be honest, blogging has been challenging.
The more you blog, the more your blog becomes a notable part of your life. The more you blog, the more you realise it can be hard keeping up the blog and juggling it with the rest of your life – but it’s doable. Here are some valuable, reality-check lessons that I’ve learned from being a blogger.
Time management is your best friend
To achieve something, you have to show up and do that thing you want to do. A blogger needs to blog to make a blog. For many bloggers who focus on exploring certain themes and niches within their blogs, putting together each blog post takes planning, takes time.
Brainstorming blog ideas. Scheduling and writing posts in advance. Engaging with the comments section. Social media promotion. Reading other blogs to see what other bloggers are up to, making connections and finding inspiration from them. This is all what a dedicated blogger typically does. In 2016, a survey of 1,055 bloggers around the world by web design firm Orbit Media revealed more bloggers are spending more than 6 hours writing a blog post (average length 1,050 words), 95% promote their blogs on social media and more are blogging monthly. As a blogger, you need to make time for your blog and work that around your life in the offline world.
Most of my blog posts come from ideas I’ve been mulling over for a year or two. Each post (one post a month) is usually written a month or two month in advance. Writing each one involves jotting down my ideas, Googling to see what has been said, then reflecting on my ideas, and then drafting and editing the post. Visiting and commenting on blogs is something I do for an hour or a bit more most days.
Most weeks I’ll make time after work to work on a blog post for a few hours, after taking care of things at home or catching up with friends. Usually it takes about three weeks to finish a post (including post-processing photos), sometimes much longer. Somehow I’ve been pretty consistent with my posting schedule and today there are 164 posts on this blog.
Failure is an option
Many bloggers blog with goals in mind. Sometimes they will fall short of these goals and may want to rethink their blog approach. Some share their day to day lives, but perhaps not when life gets tough. Others bloggers blog strategically to make a tidy profit off blog traffic and sponsorships which aren’t always guaranteed. There are over 440 million blogs across various online platforms today and over 81.8 million posts are published on WordPress each month, and so making your blog stand out – even as part of a niche – can be hard.
Initially I started this blog to share my academic works on multiculturalism, racism and cultural studies. I also wanted to connect with Australian writers and grow my skills and presence as an Australian writer. The former has eventuated but the not the latter. Most of my readers are from the States; this could be because there is less of a blog scene in Australia. In 2010, social media analytics company Sysomos analysed more than 100 million blog posts; most bloggers were located in the US at 29.2%, and Australia was located 10 places below at 2.2%.
Two years after starting this blog, I decided to switch up my writing style and narratives – shifting from academia linguistics to colloquial semantics, writing more about universal human experiences from a cultural perspective. Since then, my writing seems to have become more relatable and it has been challenging finding time to engage with the quite a few of you who stop by here – and as much as I want to read everyone’s blogs and every one of your posts, it’s impossible and maybe it’s also time to do less of it 😦
Not everyone will like your blog. Not everyone will agree with what you share online. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion. At times others will incessantly make themselves be heard (think internet trolls, warrior keyboards, flamers), and bloggers and readers alike may find themselves on the receiving end of opinionated perceptions and bullying. Pew Research Centre conducted a study of online harassment on 2,849 web users in 2014. It found 40% personally experienced it and 22% mentioned this experience took place in the comments section of websites.
When I published the post Understanding the Asian-Girl-White-Guy Relationship, many disagreed with my take on this topic in the comments section and through email. To quote, some readers commented I’m using my blog to ‘aid (my) dream of getting a white man’, implied I am a white worshipper with ‘hidden agendas’, told me to ‘stop being racist’ and that I should ‘remove the world multicultural from anything talking about yourself. It’s an embarrassment’. These assumptions were very amusing to read because I never have and never will talk about my romantic relationships online, and am simply putting common thoughts about the world out there.
Aside from verbal criticism, I’ve encountered bloggers who copy-pasted my work onto their own blogs without my permission. As bloggers, we are vulnerable. We put ourselves and what we’re passionate about out there with the best of intentions – one bad word about what we do can bring ourselves down unless we are thick-skinned enough to move along from a bad moment and move forwards.
More than just a blogger
Bloggers are more than their blogs. Being a blogger often involves multi-tasking, thinking outside the box and perhaps learning and taking on different roles over time. As a blogger, you’re an entrepreneur, and your blog is your small business.
Through blogging, I’ve learned how to use a camera and take photos for this blog, and in the process became a once-off paid, published photographer. Learned to promote my blog across social media. Learned to brand my blog as SEO-friendly and turn it into a portfolio of written works, which has opened up freelance opportunities.
Consequently, a blog can be a springboard towards career-wise goals or artistic ventures. According to best-selling author and digital nomad Danny Flood, a blog can open up ‘side hustles’: creating a product-facing blog instead of focusing on getting more page views is key to building the right relationships and sustainable networking opportunities.
Being a blogger who wears many hats, you learn what you never thought of before and learn what you couldn’t do and do it. You learn to become more than your blog, and you learn to become more than who you once were, online and offline.
Not everyone will be your friend
Not everyone will be drawn to your blog. Not everyone will come back for a second look. Everyone has their own tastes and it’s up to them how they want to spend their time, reading a blog or not.
It’s humbling to have regular readers on this blog, readers who leave a reflective peace of their mind as opposed to just leaving a quick ‘Like’ for a ‘Like’. At the same time, it’s sad seeing some readers fade away and some bloggers one day deciding not to blog anymore (likely moving forward with their lives sans blogging for the better).
In the real world, the number of my friends who read my blog (and encourage me to write), I can count on one hand. With most of my friends, we rarely talk about my blog when we hang out. It’s not a bad thing: it’s cool I’m a multicultural blogger, but my friends see me as much more than that.
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When you’ve achieved what you wanted to achieve, where do you go from there? For many artists, change is the motivation we need to keep creating our art, to keep finding fun and purpose in it, to keep doing it. Blogging is an art given that it almost always involves creating something from scratch and so, bloggers are artists.
Over the last five years, I’ve achieved what I wanted to achieve with this blog: built an outlet and writing portfolio expressing thoughts on culture and the world, became a better writer. There have been things I got out of blogging that I didn’t expect: been invited to give a few talks on multiculturalism, led me to be a published book author in Lady by the River, landed freelancing writing gigs and met some of the nicest people on here.
For many artists, time is what we need to create what we want to create. Separate from that, we need to be in that headspace that allows us to create. As writer Jeff Goins said, when we’re not feeling creative sometimes we have to give up our passion momentarily and solve creative blocks with uncreative solutions. Whether or not we feel creatively inspired can depend on where we are at in our lives. At different phases of our lives there’ll be different priorities. Some phases we’ll go hard at our craft and other times the call of an extended break beckons.
Over this past year, I’ve thought a lot about walking away from this blog, packing it all in and closing this chapter on a high. Today, without coffee, weekdays for me involve working an office job all day (which I don’t mind at all), then settling down at home, then working on the next blog post/visiting blogs/freelance work/book and then crashing into bed around 1am or 2am. Weekends are pretty much packed too. When it comes to living my life, I never like doing anything half-arsed – it’s either ‘go hard or do none’ in everything that I say yes to, every conversation I choose to have or even doing something I don’t like but have to do. But admittedly the introvert in me would love to have more time taking life at a slower pace.
The different roles we play in our lives shape who we are. Success and satisfaction come to each of us in different forms in different roles at different times. While blog recognition and blog traffic is nice, in the grander scheme of things being present in the offline world is more important to me. However, in the offline world this also includes doing what I love and writing is what I love and so is sharing and entertaining with my words…and ironically the easiest way to do that offline is here online like so many other writers today – offline is online and online is offline.
Where and who I am today has got a lot to do with this blog, and everyone who silently reads or chooses to say something here has an impact on that. So, thank you 🙂
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A big challenge I’ve encountered while blogging is writing about topics that speak to me. Blog posts from a few years ago read vastly different to the posts I write these days, and I’ve thought about re-writing some of them. Writing about universal topics such a music concerts and introversion has been fun, the kind of topics I want to do more of – but I don’t know what.
What do you want to see me write on this blog?