That’s the question I ask when I read other people’s blogs.
Is the author talking to me or to him or herself?
Dialogue or Monologue? It’s a question I ask myself every time I’m writing a new blog post. Am I really talking to my readers, or am I involved in a narcissistic exercise?
Ideally, I want my stories to be the start of a conversation with you. That’s why the comment section is my favorite part of this blog. I love it when readers share their experiences and offer additional insights.
There are also comments that you never get to see. People email me almost every day, and I do my best to get back to each and every one of them. Sometimes they tell me very personal stories that move me to tears. Other times they just want some practical advice.
Lately, I’ve been getting a lot of questions about blogging. That’s no surprise because so many colleagues have started a blog or are seriously thinking about it. Today I’ll answer a couple of your blogging-related questions. Let’s start with one I get asked all the time.
How do I know blogging is for me? I’m not much of a writer.
It depends on what you mean by writer. Some people think of Tolstoy, Hemingway or Steinbeck. That’s quite intimidating. Most bloggers are not going to be nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature. That’s not the goal. There’s one thing successful bloggers have in common with giants like Capote, Faulkner and Irving: they are good storytellers.
You might not see yourself as a writer, but we all have stories to tell. Start there. Often, the more personal stories tend to have universal appeal. There’s no need to construct complicated plots or introduce a plethora of characters. Stay close to home. Keep it simple. Some of the best blogs read like a conversation that’s written down.
If you feel that that’s something you’re interested in, go for it. Too many people give up without even trying. The operative word is “feel”. If you look at blogging as something you “must” do, it becomes another chore and it will show.
What do I write about? Where do I find ideas?
Blogging is more about opinions and not so much about unearthing new facts. A blog is an opportunity to put your spin on something your community is talking about. Social media make it really easy to tap into that. Not everything can be discussed in 140 characters. Sometimes, a short Facebook comment can grow into a full-blown article.
I often write about things I run into myself as a freelancer: how to market my business, how to determine my rates, what to do about clients who pay late, what equipment to buy, et cetera. If it’s something that concerns you, you can bet it concerns others as well. I can’t tell you how many times my research resulted in a story.
Don’t underestimate your own expertise. For many of us, being a voice-over is a second or third career. Some of you came from sales, others were educators and many of you did something in media. What you’ve learned there is a goldmine. It has colored your take on “the business.” Draw from that experience and translate it to the world of voice-overs. That’s going to be your unique perspective.
I find myself staring at a blank page. How do I get started?
It’s a myth that writers look out of the window, waiting for a wave of inspiration. It rarely happens. Most authors have to work at it. Every time I get a snippet of an idea, I write it down. If I don’t record it, it will disappear. At that stage I find it helpful not to censor myself. Anything goes. Editing comes later.
By the time I get closer to Thursday -the day I publish my blog- some kind of theme usually emerges. Why that happens, I don’t know. My mind works in weird ways I have yet to understand. When it’s time to write, I take a good look at my notes to see what jumps out at me. That’s the thing I tend to go with because it triggers something in me.
Other times I know I need to do more research before I can turn an idea into an article. It took me a few weeks before I could write my series on getting paid. Even though blogging is often about subjective experience, I do want to make sure that I get all the facts right.
I’m very busy trying to make a living. How do I find the time to write a blog? Is there a best time to write?
Finding the right time is not as important as making time to write. It’s just like learning to play an instrument or learning a new sport. You’ve got to build it into your days and weeks. If you don’t make it a priority, it won’t happen. The more you practice, the easier the ink will flow.
My perfect time is in the morning. I’m still fresh and my mind is most creative. In this crazy world filled with distractions, I find it essential to have uninterrupted time to get into my groove and do my thing. I’m not much of a multi-tasker. I’m much more productive if I can focus on one thing and one thing only.
Because I am pretty busy professionally speaking (pun intended), I cherish my moments at the writing desk. It’s a time of reflection. It’s a time of connection.
It’s so easy to get caught up in all the things you need to do to run a freelance business. The buck always stops where you are sitting. That’s why I need some space to take a few steps back and think about what I am doing. Are there better ways to work? Am I getting closer to my goals? What’s missing that would make me even more effective?
Those types of questions may lead to a new blog post. That’s why I often joke that my articles are basically “notes to self.”
How many blogs should I publish per week or per month and how long should a story be?
I could start off with a platitude by saying that quality trumps quantity, which is true. However, some bloggers blog every day and they’re phenomenal. Others blog once a month and have very little of interest to say.
Whatever you do, I recommend getting into a routine and to publish on the same day at the same time. Once you build up a readership, people will know when to expect a new post and they’ll start looking for it. Nothing motivates me as much as the knowledge that people are expecting something from me on a specific day.
I know my readers have a lot on their plates and I don’t want to take up too much of their time. It still amazes me that they’re willing to spend two to three minutes in my company. That happens to be the average time visitors spend on my blog. If I feel I have more to say on a particular topic, I’ll turn it into a mini-series.
One of my goals is to be able to say more with less. My role model is Seth Godin. His blogs are usually a few paragraphs long and he makes every word matter. How am I doing, so far?
How long will it take before my blog catches on and how many readers do I need to make it worthwhile?
Some say there’s strength in numbers, but that’s only part of the story. Personally, I don’t write with the intention of attracting a mass audience. I write because I wish to share things that are meaningful to me and hopefully helpful to others. One response from one reader can make it worthwhile.
Of course I do my very best to promote my blog. What’s the point of publishing something if no one reads it? That would be the epitome of narcissism.
“Success” as a blogger won’t happen overnight. To be honest with you, it took me a while to find my voice. I think that’s one of the most important things readers are looking for. You’ve got to have an authentic angle of looking at the world that people respond to. Your readers need you to be relevant and want you to come up with content they can relate to.
In a way, readers aren’t much different from the clients we have as voice-overs. Most clients are not listening for a generic sound. They want to hear what you bring to the table. Your voice. They want to be able to relate to how you read their copy.
Never approach a script as a monologue.
It’s always a dialogue.
Just like a blog.
Paul Strikwerda ©nethervoice
PS If you’re interested in starting a blog and you want to learn how to make it the number one driver of visitors to your website, check out my 34-page guide “Boosting your Business with a Blog.” It’s packed with practical tips and you can find it in my web shop.