Thursday, August 8, 2013

YOU HAVE TO BLOG! (or do you?)

My Blogging Story

When I started on my writing journey, blogs were this fantastic up and coming "thing". If you wanted to be IN this whole writing thing... OF COURSE you had to blog. ALL agents and editors look at that. For fiction authors, it was the ONLY way to get a platform/following if you will.

So... I cracked my knuckles and started a blog.

And rejoiced at my 5 hits a day. I mean... come on. Those were FIVE PEOPLE who were reading what I wrote!

Eventually it grew to about 20 a day, give or take, and I thought I'd died and gone to heaven.

I blogged about writing and about parenthood and The Bachelor and kissing and romance and a variety of stuff.

I started avidly following other blogs and commenting, spending WAY too much of my day doing so (time that really should have been spent writing...), to try and drum up a few more followers on my blog.

And... it worked. A little. I think I had about 30-40 hits a day by that time.

Then this very sad thing happened. We found out that the sweet little baby I was carrying... baby #5 for us (including sweet Abigail who went to be with Jesus super early) had a heart defect. Only half of her heart was formed.

So she took over my blog. Blogging came much less about numbers and much more about sharing my heart as we went through the journey. Writing my raw feelings and having to express in writing what was going on was therapeutic for me. I NEEDED it.

Then sweet Annabelle was born. And my blog became a way to let people know how she was doing and how to pray for us.

Needless to say, my numbers increased, but at that point, I didn't care nearly so much. I wanted my baby to live. That was all I cared about. And on many days, that looked very questionable.

My numbers REALLY increased when fellow heart-parent, Matt Hammitt (lead singer of the Christian Band Sanctus Real) linked to my blog from his blog devoted to his and Sarah's sweet son, Bowen.

I had over 3000 hits that day.

The number didn't hit me so much in blog terms... (okay, maybe a little...) but the knowledge that 3000 people read Annabelle's story and were actively praying for her that day... during a time that was very touch-and-go.... was humbling and amazing.

Over the next year or so, my numbers stayed humbling high--high for ME that is. Like 15k visits a month, give or take.

Eventually, after 308 days in the hospital, 4 open heart surgery's later including a heart transplant at 8 months of age, Annabelle came home for the first time. And after some bad turns, she finally started to improve.

And with her improvement, my numbers dropped to a much more "normal" range. Yet they remain much higher than previously.

Lately, I'm trying to find a semblance of normal in this new life I've been given. I dropped from 3 to 4 times a week blogging to 2... or 1 on really crazy weeks. And I'm trying to focus my time more on my family than my blog. Balance is key. Yet I'm still invested in making it work. I still LOVE to blog and love to share my heart with people.

Blogging Lessons I've learned

1.) Blogging with the sole purpose of building a platform for a writer is not a great idea. It doesn't work. Your MOTIVATION is not where it should be. It's like writing a book just to make money. Chances are you'll be disappointed on both counts.

2.) A SUCCESSFUL blog has a purpose. A need to fill. And that NEED is what your motivation needs to stem from. Some people, like us Alleycats, blog to encourage other writers. Our heart is connect with writers and be able to foster an environment where we can learn from each other. Others have a niche they love... crafts or coupons or DIY projects or birds or a time period in history or politics or poetry.... There is a long list of potential purposes.

3.) BE UNIQUE. There are a TON of writer's blogs out there. 5 years ago when I started... there was a decent number, but it has EXPLODED since then. Everyone heard the "edict" like I did... and started a writers blog. Because that's our specialty, right? Writing? If you are going to start a blog for writers, you have to find a niche... a need that no one else is meeting (or that you can meet better.) If you don't... it's a waste of time. If you are going to do a craft blog... there are a TON of others out there. How is yours different? How can yours be unique?

4.) IT'S NOT ALL ABOUT YOU! Oh, this one is hard for me. Because I am SO SO SO guilty of this on my blog. My goal on my own blog though, is to help women learn to find "joy" in the journey of life by sharing my own experiences, my own struggles. I try to be as honest as I'm allowed to be online, and show the VALUE in finding JOY. But... I know I tend to be "my family" centered too much. The "masses" don't always want to hear about YOU... unless you are a celebrity, of course:-) Write something for THEM.

5.) YOU DON'T HAVE TO! Honestly? I feel like the fad of blogging... as a whole... is wearing off a bit. Maybe this is just me who feels this way. I have no numbers to back me up. I still believe in blogging though. I love mine, and I LOVE The Writer's Alley of course, but I find more people connecting on Facebook and Twitter and limiting their blog reading time than before. Did you know The Writer's Alley has a Facebook page??? Yup, we did that JUST for you all! We all stalk it at various times throughout the day, so if you ever want to connect more real time with us, or just want to chat, COME SEE US!!

The deal is... if you don't have a blogging purpose... if you don't have a unique angle... if you have no desire to put the time, effort, and (if you wanna make it look super good) money into it... your time might be BETTER spent building your platform elsewhere.

But if you just want to blog for YOU... to have a fun outlet to get your thoughts out... with no care about who reads it or if anyone reads it... then go for it. Just make sure you manage your expectations and know your goal.

6.) If you know a famous person with a ton of followers who will link to your blog... buy them chocolate or something. (just... mostly... kidding!)

Discussion: Do you have a blog? If so, what's your purpose? Or are you thinking about blogging at some point and just haven't found your sweet spot? Any blogging questions?? Let's chat blogging!


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Krista is a follower of Jesus, a wife, a mother, and author of Sandwich, With a Side of Romance. She blogs about finding JOY in the journey of LIFE at http://www.kristaphillips.com. She is represented by the fab agent, Rachelle Gardner.

11 comments:

chris said...

So true Krista! I started writing a blog to learn how to write, a good exercise and daily habit. Now I write on my less frequently to stay connected to my audience.

Joanne Sher said...

Okay - I LOVE blogging, but I have no idea what my niche should be. I thought I knew earlier this year, but it might be changing, and I don't know what to do about it! I'm such a schedule/routine kinda gal, and part of me thinks I need to "finish" what I started (and told the world about) - at least through the end of the year. But I don't know if it makes sense.

Another question. My writing focus is changing (which is part of what's making me want to change my blog niche). My main focus these days seems to be on children's/tween books. But who should my blog audience be? Kids don't read blogs - tweens might on a very rare occasion. Am I targeting their parents? HOW do I do that?

I'll be back. You hit a nerve with this girl ;)

Kate Hall said...

If you don't build your platform on your blog where else do you build it? Facebook? Twitter? If those, then what do your updates/tweets contain? My updates are primarily links to my blog (or jokes I write since I write a humor blog).

Beth K. Vogt said...

Love this post, Krista!
I started a "have to" blog. I loved the idea ... and I had a couple other writers join me ... and it was a big bust.
Why?
Because the idea was already done in other ways. The need was being met.
So I shut it down.
And I decided I wasn't going to "have to" blog again.
Then, during a bout of insomnia-inspired creativity, I ht upon the idea of "In Others' Words" -- my blog that highlights a quote a day (well, M,W, F). I share a little bit ... start the conversation ... and step back, hoping others will join in and take over.
And you know what?
This blog is successful.
I really don't know what my hits are each day.
But it's successful because a) people are encouraged
b) people connect with me and with others
c) people join the conversation

So I'm blogging. And it's a good thing.

Platform is who I am, yes. But it's also connecting with other people in a real way -- and discovering who they are!

Jeanne Takenaka said...

I loved this post, Krista! Part of the reason I waited so long to begin a blog was because I wanted to pray about what my purpose was for blogging. My focus is encouraging others. I'm learning to connect with others, and learn about them through their comments. It's work but it's fun. :)

I love your thoughts here and the way you shared your story. Thank you.

Savanna said...

God's timing is always so perfect! This exact topic has been on my mind a lot lately. I've been searching and praying over starting my own blog and really appreciated what you had to say. You're exactly right, our writing - whether or not blogging is involved - has to be about more than ourselves. A great reminder! Thanks for sharing!

Melissa Tagg said...

Love this post, Krista! Like so many writers, I started blogging because I felt like I had to. But now I blog because I want to. I love the people I've met and relationships I've built by the simple act of putting up a post a few times a week. I love reading others' posts and getting to know them more. And as a writer, the whole experience has helped shape not only my voice, but really, sort of who I am as a writer. So regardless of the numbers, it's been hugely beneficial to me.

'Course, there are also days like today when I realize I'm supposed to put up a blog tomorrow and have no idea what to write about...haha! :)

Krista Phillips said...

Chris, those are GREAT reasons to start a blog!!!

Krista Phillips said...

Joanne... those are good questions!!!

I don't think there is a right or wrong answer to blogging. Again, I think the way to look at it is... not "how can I use this for my platform" but "What need can I fulfill for my audience."

For kids books, your audience could be kids... or it could be their parents. Personally, I'd lead toward their parents. But kids are using the Internet a LOT these days... and it is tough because there is a LOT competing for their attention.

it's also important to make sure what you blog about is something you have a lot of PASSION for... you don't want to blog and dread having to do it each day. Blogging shouldn't be a chore.

Krista Phillips said...

Kate...

YES!!! Actually, I like to blog HERE at the Writer's Alley in "sections" if you will, so my next post in two weeks will be about what... BESIDES BLOGGING... we can do to platform or tribe build.

Facebook/Twitter etc are ALL great ways. But stay tuned to my next post for some more in depth suggestions!

And a side note, I'm a big believer that Facebook Twitter (ESPECIALLY Facebook) should be much more than just links to our blogs or to other blogs.

Facebook should be ENGAGING.

Krista Phillips said...

Beth!!! You don't know your hits per day???

LOL!!! I am a self-professed numbers geek. So I study them. Yes, I try to figure out which posts get more hits, what time of day gets most hits, and look for trends.

Crazy... I know. HA HA HA!!

But I love your blog and your idea!!!! And I SUPER SUPER love your measure of success on your blog!!