Photo by HENCE THE BOOM on Unsplash

9 Things I Know After 9 Years of Blogging

June will mark nine years since I started Red’s Wrap. But because someone asked me yesterday how long I had been blogging and I said “nine years,” it occurred to me that now would be a good time to blog about blogging. Even if it is only April. Here’s my advice from nine years of blogging.

  1. Write who you are. I can tell real from not real in about five words. I have no patience for pretenders or posturers. Say who you are. If you are stuck about that, use Hemingway’s advice: write one true sentence. And then go from there.
  2. But keep yourself to yourself. I don’t want to know your every pore. I’m fine with a few drops of blood, leaving the rest to my imagination, but I will leave if the blood is gushing and continues, day to day, week to week. Don’t give readers your core. That’s yours. But hint at it, show glimpses, that will be enough.
  3. Have courage. Unless you’re doing recipes, blogging is about exposure and risk. Change lanes! Write about things that make you uncomfortable, make yourself think about foreign ideas, get out of your kitchen or office or front yard. Be bigger than you are. And try different formats. Write a poem. Write a post that is entirely dialogue or one that is mostly photos. Scramble your words. Surprise me.
  4. No cheese without bread. My cousin, Joan, had six kids and this cheese rule was one of her mainstays. I reinterpret it for blogging to say no blogging without a photo. Us readers? We can’t have just cheese. It’s too much. Too dense. And for the writer, a blog without a photo is too hard, too expensive wordwise. Make the words go farther, post some bread.
  5. Make your blog beautiful. A blog that is clean and readable, easy to navigate, welcoming, ah, that’s a blog to follow. One with a lot of extras, ads, pitches, artsy font, and other varied indulgences tells me to click on and click off.
  6. Consider yourself a writer. If you are posting pieces of substance on your blog, you are a writer. You are a writer who blogs. So act like one. First order of business is making sure what you post is literate. Second is constantly seeking to improve as a writer. That takes practice (frequent posting), education (learning new things from experts), and feedback (putting your writing on the table for criticism).
  7. Push the damn button. Don’t suffer the contemplation of whether you should post something you’ve written. If you like it, push the button. If you don’t, ditch it. There are always more words. You will never write the last words. The longer you wait to post something you’ve written, the more scared and tentative you’ll get. You only need your own approval.
  8. Assume your readers are strangers. Most of them will be. The internet is an enormous cavernous place populated by people you wouldn’t meet in a thousand years. So think of those as your readers. Don’t think of your mother, your ex, or your business colleagues as readers because, even though they are quite likely to read your blog, thinking that will cramp your style so don’t.
  9. Be proud of your work. For years, I would run away from my work, disown it like an unpopular potato salad at a potluck. “Who brought that?” I would shrug. But not anymore. Red’s Wrap belongs to me and, while there are posts that are silly or over the top, there are pieces that are so clear and ring so true that I can’t believe I wrote them. I’d hang them like jewels around my neck if I could, I love them that much. It is grand to be proud of oneself. Very grand.

Keep Your Junk in the Drawer

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Even gritty blogs need to have some class.

I know this because I have a fairly gritty blog where I’ve said some hard, rough things about my life and life around me. And occasionally, I’ve taken junk out of the drawer that should have stayed put, said things that didn’t need to be said, gone over the top.

So you might think I’m a fine one to be lecturing other people.

But, in this, my sixth year of blogging, it’s the advice to keep your junk in the drawer that rises to the top. Here’s why:

  1. There isn’t an endless supply of junk in the drawer. Even the biggest, deepest junk drawer has a finite capacity unless, of course, you are replenishing the drawer with new junk. When the drawer is empty or when you get to the little scraps of junk that aren’t all that interesting, your blogging life will stall.
  2. Junk sharing is an amateur’s approach to blogging. It lacks nuance and character, relies on shock rather than good writing to get attention. When I read a blog that is straight up junk sharing, I think, “Is that all you’ve got?” Everybody’s got junk. Give me a little credit, do some thinking, bring some sophistication.
  3. Your junk will usually involve other people. Here is the great quandary of bloggers and memoirists: what part of this junk is my story and what part belongs to other people. Bloggers who rely on family junk for writing are paddling in tricky waters, especially if their children’s problems are their primary focus. Remember here that I preach from a position of recovery from the writing about my children addiction.
  4. Bloggers who are really worth reading are writers. They can take a walk through a grocery store and make it interesting and memorable. They think past the junk in the drawer. They see things we missed. They weave and embroider words. They produce art. That’s where I’ve moved in my six years of blogging. I don’t call myself a blogger anymore. I’m a writer with a blog.
  5. Blogging about the junk in the drawer keeps you looking in the junk drawer all the time. If that’s what you’re doing every time you sit down to write, running your fingers over your life’s junk, you’re going to be stuck in the junk drawer. You are going to miss the fabulous, the new, the exciting, the funny, hilarious, sweet things in your life because you can’t see past the junk.

My advice is this: use the junk in the drawer to give your writing depth and meaning. Use those old pens and thumbtacks to frame your thinking. Use the pile of bent paperclips to give your writing heart.

Let the junk in the drawer be where you start. Not where you stay.

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Written in response to a prompt from The Daily Post: Give your newer sisters and brothers-in-Wordpress one piece of advice based on your experiences blogging.