Whether you’re a fellow writer, a regular reader, or looking to get started yourself, I get asked about the world of blogging on a regular basis. Here are 10 questions I always get asked about writing online.
Walking The Shoreline started way back in 2014 after I had told a group of men my age that I wanted to write online in a more public capacity one day. I had been writing online on Facebook, MySpace, Bebo, and other little places here and there and had a lot of people quite interested in what I would have to write. I went home that night and started the site . Fast forward to today and my public presence on this site attracts 400-500 readers every day from all over the world, having had over 430,000 hits and hundreds to thousands of reshares, comments, and mostly positive responses.
However, that makes me a relatively medium sized fish in a huge pond. There are no doubt many more prominent writers out there than me, and an overwhelming number of blogs you could follow on any topic, especially the growing number of health and fitness blogs, each doing numbers successful enough that the authors can quit their day jobs and spend their days writing articles by the pool.
And yet I have been very lucky to have a lot of readers who resonate with the way I think and the way I write. For an average guy like me, that’s pretty good.
As a result, whenever I’m out or meeting people, there’s usually a few questions about the writing process, or even from other aspiring writers looking to find the spark that will set them off to the next level for them.
So I thought, hey, I haven’t done one like this before, so it might be interesting. Here are 10 questions I always get asked about writing online.
And their answers, of course.
#1: Why do you always write about X?
Relationships, sex, friends, church, whatever “X” is, I quite frequently have people ask me why I “only” write about certain topics.
Well, firstly it’s because they’re areas of interest and calling to me, and I notice they affect more people than just myself, so the public forum of the internet in a non-threatening wrapper called a blog is a good way to explore them.
But second of all – I don’t always write about that topic. I write about a lot of different things. I do game reviews, movie reviews, writings about music, about the way I work, about statements people make, even about money and corporate life. When someone asks me why I always write about a certain topic, it tells me the topics that I write about that they’re the most interested in.
Not everyone will read everything you write, but they will be read something that engages their mind and is a topic of interest to them. And usually this helps me identify what sort of reader they are.
#2: How do you stay so consistent?
This is an ironic question at the moment given I’ve been a little less regular during the engagement and the “scramble like mad to get the wedding and new life ready” season, but usually I’ve been able to be pretty consistent. And it’s not too hard.
You just need to pick a regular time every week you’re going to write or publish something. Mine nowadays has changed from week to week, but it used to be either a Wednesday night or a Sunday afternoon where I’d sit down and just nut something out. Sometimes both days for a double issue for the week.
I think the other thing is that people have this fairytale expectation of their friends and family sharing every post they write and getting millions of views and having everyone comment and like their articles. But that’s not how it works. In fact, it’d probably be less than 1% of the readers I get on any given blog post (even the super popular ones) that interact, and most of even my closest friends haven’t read anything I’ve written in recent years.
I remember when I first started Walking The Shoreline, most of my friends were like “Matt, so proud of you”, reading everything, sharing and commenting.
But that only lasts a few weeks at most. And if you live for the likes, you’re not going to make it.
Also, I find that Question 4 is one of the largest contributors to people only blogging for a few weeks at a time before taking a hiatus for a year at a time.
#3: How do I get started blogging?
Have you ever heard that expression that 80% of success is simply turning up?
Well, just starting is usually the best way to start. There are billions of readers out there and millions of authors, and every day a new blog starts up that becomes the next big thing. It’s written in a completely different style to anyone else’s about a bunch of different topics and perspectives to anyone else, and everyone loves it.
You’re not trying to be like everyone else – you’re trying to be like you. Perhaps if you can believe in the power and relevance of your own voice, instead of being intimidated by some nebulous force of it being such a big internet world out there, you’d feel more empowered to contribute what you have to say.
You never know who might be listening. I have people on the complete other side of the world in very different sets of life experiences to me write in from time to time to say that they read something I wrote that has helped them in their life. Imagine if I just stayed quiet. Maybe no one else would help them.
Maybe you’re that voice for someone else. And your silence means someone goes without their answer.
And there’s your motivation.
#4: How do you pick your topics?
Lots of different ways. Probably the most useful ones:
• Be a regular reader. Know what’s going on in your world.
• Be an avid listener. What are people talking about? What’s close to their heart? What are their struggles and challenges?
• Be a thinker. Process things that happen, think things through.
• Be someone who asks questions. Why do people feel that way? Why do people believe what they believe? Where did their ideas of relationships, sex, life, finances, health and the approaches they try to use come from?
• Be honest and open about yourself. You’re a good topic, and you’re the only unique topic you have to share about.
#5: How long does it take to write a post?
About an hour to an hour and a half, although I’ve been thinking about it all week to that point usually. Not always, but most of the time I already have an idea. Sometimes I’ve written it in parts over the course of the week or on the side of some work tasks. But most of the time, 60-90 minutes.
#6: I get discouraged because no one is reading what I write. How do you get people to read what you write?
Give them good headlines and make it about a relevant topic to people. Know thy audience, and pretend they’re in the room with you.
But outside of that, and even doing that, you can’t make people read what you write. I know for me, some of my absolute favourite pieces of writing I’ve ever constructed have only had a few hundred or a few thousand visits. Some of my deepest, soul searching, honest blogs have been overshadowed by that blog I wrote on Christian dating the week before.
Just keep writing.
And keep in mind that everything written on the internet is public, permanent, and searchable. Blogs I wrote years ago have achieved sudden popularity. One about the Star Wars prequels has suddenly become a hot topic. But you have to write for more than just those clicks and likes, because you won’t always get them.
#7: How do I get readers to read to the end?
Punchy introductions and headers throughout.
Everyone reads differently. There are people who will read every word you write. They’re the minority.
There are people will read anything that’s in bold only. I’m looking at you.
There are people who only read headings. Like this one.
Then there are people who will only read the headings, and then read the contents of the heading if it’s interesting to them. These are the majority.
But you have to accommodate for all of them.
And don’t waste people’s time. Dishonest, superficial, coded language means people stop reading. Tell them what’s going on.
Speaking of which…
#8: I don’t know how to be honest like you are. How can I be honest in my writing?
You can’t be open about other people, but you can be open about yourself.
How did you feel? Why did you act that way? Where did you get your ideas from?
Let me write two paragraphs about how my life has been recently and some recent thoughts. You tell me which one resonates more with you:
“This has been a real shifting season for me. A season of change and challenge, but also a lot of growth, adventures, and new experiences. It’s interesting to see what life continues to throw my way, but I am looking forward to the outcome of the tumultuous processing that is taking place. Every season and situation is a journey and I’m looking forward to the destination”
Guess what – I’ve bolstered my word count by literally describing every human experience in history with that sentence. I’ve said so much but I’ve actually said nothing at all. I hate reading sentences like that online and I hate hearing people use sentences like that to explain their life, because it literally tells me nothing. It’s a facade. In trying to keep things generic and non-specific, you strip out anything useful to a human audience. Your readers will hate that, too.
Here’s the real stuff:
“I gotta say, being engaged is much more of a challenging experience than I ever thought it would be. I mean, I wasn’t expecting perfection, but you do kind of imagine it to be a consistent experience. In your head you think it’ll be sunshine and rainbows and bliss with the world singing the chorus of your love and everyone being there for you in an active fashion, but instead I’ve found that it’s been a really happy season, yes, but it’s been pushing literally every button in my life. The way I feel about friends and family, the way I spend my time, the views I have on life, the little habits I’ve never noticed about myself, and the level of support and presence people around me actually have in my life. Two becoming one is a messy, clashing, difficult, wonderful, beautiful process. And I can’t wait to marry that woman so we can live our whole lives finding equilibrium and not just trying to get on each other’s pages, but finding the same page for us and not just for me and not just for her. We are and will continue to be writing new pages together. That’ll be a book worth reading.”
Which one of those shared the truth of the matter with you? Which one did you connect with? Which one actually told you something?
Do the same.
#9: How do you deal with criticism?
Pick your battles. Writing on the internet means that there will be a group of people out there who definitely 100% disagree with every position you have on every issue you write about. You just need to accept that and not take it personally.
Negative comments also mean free publicity, though, so don’t hate your haters. I’ve had people say absolutely derogatory personal comments about me on articles that have resulted in people finding my writing and being significantly helped by a single thought, people who would have never gotten married without reading my little push of a suggestion on a way of thinking, people who would remain unencouraged in life. So thank you, haters.
Also, use that block button when you need to. There are some people you really don’t want to give an opportunity to speak because they don’t build constructive discussion or debate – they only seed destruction.
#10: Are there any things I shouldn’t write about?
Yep. Things that could destroy other people’s reputations.
I have a platform that I could use to destroy someone’s public image overnight. For a number of people across life, I really could just go there and tell the truth about them and because someone read it from Matt on Walking The Shoreline, they’ll trust it and that person will never be able to make a public appearance again.
Such is the power of your platform.
You can do a lot of good with that sort of power. You can also do a lot of bad. And I see no reason to go there. People usually know what they’ve done wrong.
There’s probably a few others. For instance, I heard John Maxwell say once that he never writes about things he’s going through, only about things he’s gone through – once he’s got a clearer picture on what happened and made it through the other side, and once he’s processed it enough so he isn’t dumping on his entire audience. I always try to do the same.
But I think using your power and your influence to build rather than to publicly destroy is one I’d like to see people with such platforms do a bit better.
So there you go, my humble contribution to the plethora of thoughts on staying regular with your blogging. There are many other posts about staying regular on your writing and all the related issues, but these are some of the answers I give people when asked about blogging.
What about you? What do you get asked about writing online?