Katherine started Postpartum Progress in 2004 because of her postpartum depression (PPD) in 2001, and there really wasn’t anything out there for women with perinatal mood disorders.
On Twitter last night, there was a conversation based on “It was a dark and stormy night” and the competition to submit the worst possible start to a novel. She’s reading some of the horrible entries aloud to much laughter. Because writing is such a subjective thing.
Katherine has a degree in journalism, but she really doesn’t consider herself a writer. (“My old therapist would be like, ‘There you go again with that low self-esteem…'”) Writers seem more “writer-ly.” But she is a writer, and she writes things, even if they aren’t the masterful sentences that she feels other people are writing. (She says Deb Rox writes so movingly that she just wants to punch her. She says we’re allowed to tweet that.) You don’t have to consider yourself a writer or a shining light in the literary world; we’re all blogging for different reasons.
Practice Makes Perfect
You have to have passion for what you’re writing about. You probably wouldn’t be blogging if you weren’t passionate about your topic. Katherine has been writing about PPD for nine years, and she does it because she feels so strongly about supporting other women who come to her site every day with the same sort of struggles she’s been through. If you need to change your focus, even change the name of your blog, that’s okay, as long as you still have passion about what you’re doing. And if you’re not passionate about what you’re doing, then it’s okay to stop blogging.
It can be hard to come up with new ways to write about the same things again and again. Katherine’s Bill of Rights for women with postpartum depression went over so well that it crashed her blog. If your interest remains intact, it’s easier to be able to keep it fresh. Reading what other people have written can give you a new perspective, as well, so always keep reading.
Katherine focuses on new ways of learning, different ways to innovate. That’s where the Warrior Moms Photo Album came to be. “Six Things” came about that way, too. And those posts are easily digestible, making them some of her most popular content. Just because you already know how to write, it doesn’t mean you can stop learning. You have your patterns, but it’s good to form new patterns. People can drift away when they get bored.
“I would like it if they would stop inventing new things.” It’s hard to be on every new thing at exactly the right time. But you also can’t ignore it. Don’t forget your platform. Expand your brand. There’s Facebook, there’s Vine, there’s Instagram…be in the places where you need to be. Where are your people? If they’re on Facebook, be there. If they’re not on Pinterest, don’t spend your energy there. You’re still writing on all of these other platforms, even if they are in a shorter form than on your blog. Katherine’s Klout score is going down, but she’s learning to let go, because you can make yourself crazy trying to keep that up. (I hear ya, Katherine. My score has been falling, too.)
When it comes to writing for other people in other places, you have to decide what’s right for you, and if you’re reaching all of the people you want to reach. You can extend your credibility by writing for other people, but you have to be strategic.
(Bonus “P” that’s not on the slides!) You’ll piss people off because you make decisions. All of these blogging decisions you make are going to piss someone off, no matter what you do. Know what you want to do, and don’t let the haters get you down. You can’t please everyone.
Don’t become paralyzed by what other people are doing. You can’t be anyone other that who and what you are. Don’t let other people’s successes, other people’s knowledge get you down. If someone else is an expert, they had to start somewhere, too. Keep pushing forward. “I’m just as freaked out as you are.”
(“As far as paralyzation goes, Katherine,” Anissa quips, “Fuck you.”)
Anissa’s two strokes in 2009 changed pretty much everything about her life. Where Katherine got into the “what” of writing, Anissa decided to take a different approach with the “how” part.
Anissa became a very short writer after she had her strokes because she can only write with her left hand now, and she’s right-handed. But she was very conscious of her words even beforehand. When a new reader comes to your blog, you have fewer than 10 seconds to grab your attention, or they’re going to leave. (I have issues with this. You’ve seen my mammoth blog posts.) Brevity is a hard thing for a lot of people to come to terms with, but a lot of very famous writers have figured out how to make it work. If you can convey a message in 5 words, then there’s no reason to do it in 50. You’re not in high school; you don’t have to type more words just to fill up space. “Nobody gives a crap.” The people who stick around your blog value your words more when you put more value in what you do say.
“This part is so important, oh my good GOD.” If you have repeated grammar errors and repeated spelling errors on your blog, people will run away so fast, “they will literally leave skid marks on your margin.” Do not auto-start music or any audio. These are simple things that can turn people away from what you write. Some folks will give you a free pass, but big sites have editors because they understand how important little mistakes can be to readers.
If you look at your analytics, you can get a picture of who is reading you. Sometimes it’s as simple as putting a post up on your blog to take a survey. It can be very helpful to know things like the age, location, and occupation of your readers. Maybe you don’t feel it’s important now, and maybe you don’t feel like it would change what you’re doing now, but maybe two years from now when you want to re-brand and shake things up, it would be good to know who is with you now and whether or not they’re likely to stick with you.
When Anissa started writing in 2006, it was because her 2-year-old daughter had cancer. She blogged through her whole treatment for three years. Then she retired her blog. That’s when she started Free Anissa to write about all of her kids, her family, and herself. But she didn’t really know what to write about after writing about cancer for three years. Because she knew who her audience was, though, they followed her.
Your blog is your home, so it’s your right to tell people to get the hell out. You have the right to delete comments. You have the right to block people. This is your blog; this is your house.
There may be a big difference between blogging and writing, but that doesn’t mean we’re not all bloggers. At our core, we are all able to gather around your monitors and keyboards to pluck out your stories. Write from your soul. It’s that honesty and that genuine takeaway that your readers are going to invest themselves in. They will pick up that they can trust your honesty as a writer.
Remember that you’re not just writing for other bloggers to read you. Be careful with how much slang you use. (“Watch the LOLcats.”) Be aware of how much slang you’re using so that you don’t alienate readers.