Today marks a full year since I started my little blog. It’s still little–no hordes of readers are swarming my site morning, noon, and night, but I’m happy. I began this blog as a way for me to pivot my career and help me work through what had turned into one hell of a year. Emphasis on Hell.
I knew very little about blogging or running my own website when I began a year ago and I still have a lot to learn before I would consider myself proficient. Nonetheless, I’m pleased with how far I’ve come and with how much more there is for me to learn.
To all of you out there who have commented, donated, liked, subscribed, or told me in person how much this has meant to you, thank you. Really and truly, thank you. You have kept me going and encouraged me when I felt like giving up. And believe me, there have been plenty of times over the past two years when I’ve felt like giving up.
So, for my one-year blogging anniversary, here’s what I’ve learned. Some of it, at any rate.
1. Plan the work or the work will overwhelm you.
Planning the work for anything is an entire job in itself. Doubly so if you’re trying something new. I’ve mentioned this in another post, but I jumped right in with no clear plan of what I wanted beyond wanting to write about classic literature.
Let’s just say it’s been a learning experience.
- Plan your topics out as far in advance as you can and start writing your posts as you get ideas.
- Break each post into smaller subtasks. ClickUp is a fantastic resource for this and it allows you to track your time.
2. Be aware of the admin involved
Now, as someone who’s had some pretty good admin experience under their belt, I had a vague notion of what was involved but did not know the scale. Running an office does prepare you for the mundanities of keeping any endeavor going, even if it is to clean the coffeepot regularly.
Running a blog, however, involves a few things which I hadn’t considered. Things like
- Archiving posts
- Keep track of comments
- Keep pace with legal, copyrights, etc
- Tracking and measuring your success
- Marketing campaign
- Being social with other bloggers
- Staying active on social media
- What topics have I already covered!?!?!?
There’s more to track than you think and if you don’t know beforehand, then working backwards can be a pain. Not to mention the time involved!
3. Consistency will help you grow, but that means you need a plan. (See point 1)
The more you post and market, the better off you’ll be. Search engines love consistency and so does your audience. It’s not all that bad for you either. Some of the benefits?
- When you’re depressed, knowing you have a post to get out can sometimes help you push through an episode. Sometimes, not always. I’ve had my fair share of moments when I didn’t have the will to go on. Thankfully, I have a very good support system, most of whom read this blog too.
- You get to practice your writing craft regularly and get feedback. (Hopefully).
- Consistency in posting just feels good. There’s something about putting your creation out there in the world for people to see that makes it all worthwhile.
However, if you want to be truly consistent, you still need that plan.
4. Don’t be afraid of going more slowly than you initially expected.
Not everyone has an instantly scalable. business. Just look at my niche! It’s a relatively small one and not a very popular one either. But, classic books are what I love, so I’m going to make it work. It just means that I will not be hitting millions of subscribers or views soon.
Look at your own niche, your interests, and your energy levels, and adjust your expectations accordingly. It means a win for you may look a lot different than a win for a blog, say, on coffee. You can preach to me about the Law of Attraction all you want, but at some point, consider reality and react accordingly.
Most people don’t care about Shakespeare, Byron, Dante, or El Cid for that matter. They should, but they don’t. Would I get more views if I switched my focus? Undoubtedly.
Will I do that? Probably not. Why? Well, that comes in point #5…
5. Don’t compromise on what you want
If you want a blog on the history of the button, then go for it and don’t deviate. Stay your course and stay true to yourself. You’ll win a lot more respect for it in the end. And you just don’t know.
When I looked at my readership stats, my largest audience outside of the U.S. is in India. After that? China. A blog on classic literature—decidedly Western literature, most of it has a larger audience in Asia than in Europe. Now, I don’t know about you, but I find that encouraging. It means that what I’m writing about means something outside of a Westernized context.
But then, the literature I enjoy discussing is classic for a reason. It’s not the stuff that was stuck in a drawer or consigned to the rubbish heap. This is the stuff that actually changed the world, changed people, and changed lives. It is supposed to make sense no matter the place, time, or culture.
It’s a very wide world out there and you may find an audience in places you don’t expect. So why should you compromise on what you want to write about?
Life is compromising enough as it is.
6. Publish passionately and don’t let hesitation weigh you down.
“Writer’s block” is really just you getting in your own way. You’re blocked because you’re hesitating too much. Figure your what’s going on and fix it. Yes, I know that’s easier said than done. Trust me, I know. I’ve been there.
This means that you have to do some inner work, both as a person and as a writer. Why are you hesitating? When you figure out why you’re hesitating, then you can create a game plan to overcome your hesitations.
For me, a lot of it is being wary of what I say and how I say it. There’s an overwhelming desire to be perfectly correct and accurately balanced with wanting to be logical. I can’t just string ideas together and call them a blog post without a central idea linking everything. But, when it comes down to it, I do have to publish something.
7. Don’t be shy about what you really think about your topic.
Self-censorship is not a virtue. Self-control is. Now, this is one area in which I think I have done very well over the past year. Some of my opinions are not popular ones. But I’m very careful about how I present those on my blog.
If I’m going to be blunt, here are a few of my opinions:
- I think medieval saints have more to say that is meaningful about the modern world than most modern thinkers. Most of them were more realistic and yet more open to fantasy than most people out there today.
- I think legislative members of the government should have the same living conditions and pay packets as the average enlisted person in their armed forces. No more. No less. I also don’t think they should have power over their own pay raises.
- I think most of the “controversial” topics out there right now are only controversial because social and traditional media make them controversial. It’s all marketing at the end of the day and it just gets in the way of real solutions.
But these are not topics that I cover in my blog. Social justice issues, politics, specific religions, etc are not the topic of my blog. They can sometimes play a part, but they are not the main topic. So, I don’t do posts on what’s going on in the world. It’s not because I don’t care, but it is because that’s not my topic.
My topic is a mixture of classic literature, the craft of writing, and mental health. I suppose you could call it bibliotherapy in a way. But even the most erudite of therapists doesn’t know all the available literature out there. Heck, the average human being doesn’t even know a tenth of the great work out there.
That’s where I come in. At least in part.
8. Own your space unapologetically.
You have opinions, and you still have a right to them. Don’t be afraid of making a statement about a topic in what is your space. That’s one of the primary reasons for your own platform, right? It’s about making your voice heard. So be unique and opinionated.
Of course, also make sure that you do so with due consideration and tact. Cancel culture is real and so is censorship. State your opinion, but learn how to state your opinion in a way that will make others more receptive to what you have to say.
Take a page out of Shakespeare’s book and learn how to express yourself in a way that gets your point across without being blatant. That means you can’t thump your bible—whatever your bible is and tell everyone to agree with you or they’re Nazis, or going to hell, or are just a bad person.
Yeah, it’s still public and let’s not forget all the people who have had past posts resurrected at very inconvenient times.
The Year Ahead
What will come in the year ahead? Well, I have decided on a few things:
1. Literary Themes
I had planned on switching up every single month so that there were few—if any–repeats. However, there are just some writers and themes which are just too good to do anything else.
September: Tolkien Month
I may eventually branch out into more fantasy, but Tolkien wrote more than The Lord of the Rings and has widespread applicability across the board. So, he’s staying put.
October: Gothic/Horror Month
I did Gothic fiction for my inaugural year. I’m going to switch off with horror every alternate year. The two genres are similar, but there’s just a slight difference between the two. Want to know what that is? Well, you’ll have to wait until October to find out!
This is going to be a yearly thing, I’ve decided. Starting on Good Friday and going through Easter, we’ll once again make the journey through Hell to Heaven. There’s a LOT in Divine Comedy and I’ve barely scratched the surface. And he’s just too good and too relevant to our modern mess for me to pass up.
Shakespeare Fortnight: April 23-May 6
What, only a fortnight, you say? This is a classic literature blog. I’m going to be putting Shakespeare in wherever I can get away with it. Considering he’s a true genius, that’s pretty much anywhere. You didn’t think you’d get off that easily, did you?
I’ve been considering this for a while. Gal’s gotta pay bills, you know. It means a lot of pre-planning. I don’t intend to just throw a bunch of products out there. I want to sell things that are useful and helpful for readers, writers, and everyone in between!
Then, there’s all the admin involved…
3. Upcoming Topics
Yes, I have been putting some thought into this one! There’s tons of stuff out there that we’ve not even touched! The following is not conclusive and I haven’t decided when or to put any of these into practice.
- Medieval Poetry (it’s more fun than you think!)
- Ecological Literature (yes, that is a thing!)
- Spy Thrillers—007 fans rejoice! Yes, I’m going to do Ian Fleming’s novels at some point!
- History as Literature: Yes, this is a thing, too. Ever hear of Plutarch’s Lives?
- James Fennimore Cooper—If you like historical fiction, like Bernard Cornwell, you have Cooper to thank for it!
- Heroes and Monsters–Beowulf, Sigurd, and yes, you may see Geralt of Rivia make an appearance. What’s that? The Witcher’s not yet a classic? But haven’t you considered the fact that Geralt might lead to other famous monster-hunters and reluctant knights-errant?
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