Personal blog? Don’t worry about your strategy

This entry is part 10 of 19 in the series A No-Excuses Guide to Blogging

Personal branding seems like such a big deal these days. If you’re a beginning blogger, you’re supposed to pick a topic and focus on it, carefully considering how you want to present yourself. Come up with a catchy tagline. Imitate your favourite blogging stars. Polish, polish, polish.

Over lunch, one of my friends told me she envied how easily I write and asked me if she should plan her blogging strategy or just post whatever she could.

Here’s what I think: Don’t worry, just write. Don’t focus on a niche. Don’t hang on to drafts forever. Don’t write like a magazine. You might want to think twice about posting things you might regret, but there’s plenty of other material to share.

Writing is a skill. You won’t know how to do it right away. In fact, if you do it right, you’ll never stop learning.

Don’t write for other people. Write because you want to understand.

When you start, you’ll be boring. You’ll wander around, looking for the point you want to make. It’s okay. You’re still figuring out what you want to say and how you want to say it. Write. Write. Write. The more you write about something, the better you’ll understand it.

Don’t write something a million people could write. It’s better to be unfocused than to be generic. I generally don’t take guest posts from other people because far too many guest posts are soulless entries written more for search engines than for people. Be yourself. Write until you know more about who you are, then write some more.

It’s okay to tell one story twenty times in order to learn how it’s told. Experiment.

The real challenge isn’t coming up with one thing to share. Once you open your eyes to the world and discover writing, the challenge is choosing among the many, many stories to tell. You don’t have to tell the best story. Just make a choice and get out there.

Series Navigation« Test what you know by sharingWriting about lots of different kinds of things »

5 Pingbacks/Trackbacks

  • http://itellstories.org Sameer Vasta

    This is great stuff Sacha. Too many people get caught up in trying to find a niche and trying to get readers and commenters and trying to be perfect the first time around.

    You’re right: just write.

    Regular writing ends up turning into valuable content over time — and good content is really at the heart of it all.

  • http://sachachua.com Sacha Chua

    Sameer: Totally. =) I love your stories. Please write more!

  • http://pmerrill.com/ paul merrill

    That’s exactly how I approach my blog. Unfortunately, however, it’s not a good way for me to make money!

    I’m VERY impressed at how long you have been blogging!

  • http://jeungun.wordpress.com Jeune

    This post is inspiring!

    Like your friend I am always aiming to write like a Time Magazine writer (Joel Stein is my favorite columnist) but of course I can’t seem to pull it off leaving a lot of my thoughts stashed in a notebook.

  • http://sachachua.com Sacha Chua

    Paul: Don’t worry about making money yet. =) Write for love, not money, until you get good enough at writing that people want to pay you. ;)

    Jeune: Take those drafts and chew on them from time to time. Turn those promising thoughts over and over until you figure out what you want to say.

  • Pingback: This is how to be remarkable()

  • http://www.devonjordan.com Devon Jordan

    You know, this isn’t bad advice, I would however caution people on what they are writing. Don’t forget that what goes on the net, stays on the net.

    I just started blogging myself, but I have a focused goal, so I have focused niche. What I don’t have, is the worry of saying something wrong, or being perfect, because I know I’m not. The mistakes we make are sometimes the best ways to learn.

  • http://sachachua.com Sacha Chua

    I think people worry too much about the Net’s infinite memory. =)

    It’s usually a good idea not to say things you can’t stand behind in public (or that you think you’ll regret later). People carry that fear to the extent of worrying about embarrassing themselves with typos. ;)

    Many of my opinions have changed since I’d written about them. I’ve been wrong about things. I have posts about goals I’ve set aside, projects I’ve left, ex-boyfriends who are out of my life. Search engines might pull those posts out of context. But I’m human, and being human means being able to change over time.

    That said, it helps that I live a very boring life. ;) This is generally a good policy anyway, because you can’t really control what other people write or post about you. So it’s better to just live the kind of life where you’re okay with the consequences of what you do.

    Be vigilant about where you let your thoughts and actions go, but then share the good stuff as freely as you can. It’s not about not writing things that embarrass you, it’s about focusing on living and doing more of the things that create value. =)

  • http://whynotstartnow.wordpress.com/ Patty

    Hi Sacha – I just clicked over from Jeffrey Tang’s site, and I love what you’re saying here. Couldn’t agree more. I always think about Anne Lamott’s line: “Write sh*tty first drafts.” I figure my first year of blogging was one long first draft. And I can always pick out the bloggers who are focusing on the writing and those who are mimicking the stars. Just boring, really. And guest posts? I wish I would never see another. Thanks for this.

  • http://sachachua.com Sacha Chua

    Patty: Sometimes it feels like my life is a series of drafts. =) Can’t wait to see what the revisions look like!

    Some guest posts are warm, personable, and story-filled. I wouldn’t mind more of those. They widen the network. The people pitching guest posts tend to be the ones in it for the links, though. Perhaps I should just reach out to my favourite bloggers and ask to feature them on my blog… <laugh>

  • Pingback: Good Stuff from the Week at The Amber Show()

  • http://www.flaviosouza.net Flavio Souza

    Hi everybody! This is a post that I think will add value to this topic http://writetodone.com/2010/02/11/how-to-be-transparent-without-being-too-personal/

    The title is “How to be Transparent without Being too Personal” and it explains how different people blog about themselves.

    Cheers!

  • Aarne Talman

    Hi Sacha, your post was a real eye opener for me. I’m in the process of starting my own blog and I was going to focus on a niche, but after reading this I’m just going to write what I want to write about and not care too much about strategy. Writing a blog doesn’t need to be too serious… it needs to be fun.

  • http://sachachua.com Sacha Chua

    Sometimes a focus area can help you come up with post ideas. That’s good. =)

    When it stops you from writing about equally interesting things, or when the thought of those wonderfully written blogs intimidates you into not publishing your tentative chicken-scratches, then that’s bad.

    Go write and discover.

  • Pingback: Why I’m Changing the Focus of My Blog | aarnetalman.com()

  • http://www.selinapittari.com/ Selina

    This is just what I was looking for. Thank you.

  • Pingback: –text follows this line– « In loathe with myself()

  • Pingback: Goodbye to the emphasis on Personal Branding « Pure Awesomeness()