Blogging might sound like something only geeks or journalists can handle, but the truth is everyone can do it, including you. Humans are born to tell stories, and we tell them in a variety of ways, from 140-character blasts to 10-page stories to photos and video of children, pets, and food. While not everyone is built to share stories in the same way, blogging is arguably the most flexible platform for communication in human history.
Blogging means showcasing your creativity to the world, be it in the form of a story, a photo, or a video. Blogging teaches you how to clearly articulate your mission and your message. It’s a tool for personal empowerment and the easiest way to reach out to millions of readers without leaving your home. It offers an opportunity for knowledge exchange, self-expression, and creative fulfillment.
In this article, I’ll share tips on how to write your first blog post. Remember, you don’t need to be a technological wiz or a professional writer - a laptop and an Internet connection will suffice!
How to blog?
1. Let’s say you have an idea but aren’t sure how to frame it. Start by asking questions. You want to define your reader: find those who have similar concerns or interests, then talk to at least three people who match the description. What specific things would they like to learn more about?
Example: I want to share with others how my photography project empowers people. Who are my audiences? Perhaps visual artists, professional and amateur photographers, visitors at a photo exhibition. I go out there and talk to those people asking them questions that I want to address in my story.
2. Use available resources to provide context. In order to be credible, a story needs context. Since a lot of resources are available online, this shouldn’t be a problem. When writing for digital media such as blogs, adding hyperlinks to your story is a great way to provide context without overloading your page with information (e.g. hyperlink names of organizations, books, movies, etc.)
Ex: To ensure my blog post is fresh and original, I use keywords from my story to search what’s out there on the subject of photography and the public. Harvard Magazine and andyadamsphoto.com have interesting articles on the photographer-to-public relationship. This is helpful in identifying the direction of my story and gaps that I might want to fill in.
3. Create an outline. Creating a story is like sculpting a statue. The same way you would knead a formless piece of clay to create a base, you work on composing your abstract. You throw ideas on paper, add information piece by piece, correct and cross words out, reposition and tweak the text. Then you wait: an hour, a day, a week. You need this time to clear your head and widen your perspective. Come back to your draft and work on it. Clean it up, place ideas in order, and fill in the gaps. Repeat this step until you’re satisfied with the story.
Ex: I open a Word document, write a date, and throw in a working title... “The power of photography and those who see it.” I add the questions that I identified in step one, sketch some answers, incorporate a couple of quotes from my research, add some notes, and outline areas that I want to cover in my story. Then I save and close the file... I will come back to it later.
4. One of the golden rules of blogging is to be brief and concise. Writing lengthy blog posts is counterproductive simply because people aren’t used to reading large chunks of text on a computer screen. In case your story is longer than 500 words, use clear structure, add subheads and bullet points, highlight important ideas in the text so it’s easier to scan through.
Ex: While working on my blog post, I try to keep it short: 500 - 700 words. In case the story gets longer, I could publish a second part later on.
5. Write in a personal voice… because it could help your creative self emerge. The personal voice does not necessarily mean “I”; it just means that you can experiment with vocabulary and form and set your own pace – do what feels natural for you. It can resemble a conversation with a friend or a family member. Remember to read your story out loud. It will give you a better sense of the flow and whether or not sentences work together.
Ex: In order to make my story clear and accessible for all, I use the kind of tone and language that I would use to explain the subject to my friends. If my story contains abstract ideas, I add examples from my personal experience.
6. Check your spelling. This is a very important step before publishing your story. A clean story is more credible than one full of grammar mistakes. By all means use spell-check on your computer, but don’t rely solely on it.
Ex: The spell-check on my computer doesn't generally alert me when I have left the “r” off “your”. Sometimes, it doesn't make appropriate spelling and grammar distinctions. The names of people, places, and organizations are among the first things I check manually.
7. Photos, pictures, video, infographics! Adding multimedia is a very good idea if you want to increase your post’s popularity. A large number of research has been done comparing plain text posts with multimedia posts, and the latter is proven to receive more likes and shares. That’s why embedding videos from Youtube or adding dynamic images from Flickr is so crucial. Just make sure that you credit the author/creator.
Ex: I find a great infographic for my story illustrating the relationship between mobile photography and social media audiences; I animate my story with this infographic and credit the author. I also find a TED talk: "How photography connects us" that can be embedded in my story and might prompt an interesting discussion in the comments section of my post.
8. End your story with a question. Want to get feedback from your readers? Prompt a conversation. Ask them a question: provoke others to think, to respond, to elaborate on your story. You’ll be amazed how many different opinions are out there.
Ex: I would love to know what others have to say after reading my post. That’s why I add a question at the end of my story: “What photography project or artist inspired you to dream bigger or to create something great? Spill the beans in the comments section!”
9. Promote it! Don’t forget to post a link to your story on social media channels. Let your followers know about your work; generate reposts and retweets. Write a short blurb for Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest.
Ex: I post a link to my article on my LinkedIn, Twitter, and Google Plus profiles. My friends pick it up and repost it on their social media channels. As a result, it generates quite a buzz around my story.
10. Get a bigger picture. Integrate your story into a thematic series. Why? You might find that expressing everything you want to say in 500 words is a real challenge. That’s when creating a series of related posts can become handy. Besides, it will keep your reader engaged.
Ex: After I publish my story, I receive a lot of feedback… people share their personal experiences with photography. That’s when I decide I’ll write another story, but this time exploring amateur photography.
Give it a shot! If you don’t know what to write about, start by describing an art project that inspired you in the past. Keep it short, find pictures and video to accompany your story, then submit it to Culture365. Use this opportunity to get your message out there - think of it as a way for people to learn about you, your projects, or things that you’re passionate about.
Fill out this easy 4-step form, and your story could be featured on Canada’s leading Culture blog and promoted on Culture Days’ social media channels.
Here is a bonus video about the art of creativity:
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