1998, short for weblog (which is attested from 1994, though not in the sense “online journal”), from (World Wide) Web + log. Joe Bloggs (c.1969) was British slang for “any hypothetical person” (cf. U.S. equivalent Joe Blow); earlier blog meant “a servant boy” in one of the college houses (c.1860, see Partridge, who describes this use as a “perversion of bloke”), and, as a verb, “to defeat” in schoolboy slang.
Everyone asks me about how I blog (that is not strictly true – I’m never asked that – but it is a catchy opener). Having blogged for well over a year and a half I’m pretty much a veteran. Most bloggers give up far sooner. Such status means that I can dispense with sage advice. So here it is – my essential, and somewhat irreverent, tips for new bloggers:
1. Don’t wait to be brilliant. People mistake bloggers to be amazing talented and at the top of their respective field. Well, they’re likely not. They just write about what they do – a lot. Sometimes not even very well (sorry). Most of us bloggers choose to write about the best of what we do, rather than endlessly castigate ourselves with our failures – so we may present an inflated opinion of what we do. The trick is that writing a blog makes you dedicate reflection time to what you do and you can therefore actually become better at what you do by blogging. A virtuous circle.
2. Have small children. There are lots of reasons to start a family: love and kinship and all that business. Blogging is another. Young children illuminate our world in a million ways. One helpful byproduct of having small children is that they massacre your social life. This can leave ample time to start up a blog!
3. Read – AKA steal. The saying goes that here is nothing new under the sun. There is more than a grain of truth in this. So read, read, read and then write , write and write. You may come up with an original idea once – if you are lucky – but it is more likely your writing is derivative of the ideas of others. That is fine. Reworking and rewriting is the mother of invention.
4. Stop wasting time and take your tablet. On the train, in the car (not whilst driving one) or even in the toilet? Get blogging. Time stops for no woman or man – blogging often starts in fits and you need to get it down while you can. Bring your tablet or phone – get the app and leave your half-eaten ideas in electronic refrigeration for later.
5. Hurry up and wait. Bloggers are typically good self-advertisers (see .6) so you often hear of epic audiences, statistics and blog posts that sail around the world. The reality, at least at the start, is months of throwing a candle into the Grand Canyon in communication terms. No matter. Persevere. If it is good enough then like Kevin Costner says in ‘The Field of Dreams’ – ‘build it (advertising it relentlessly wherever you can) and they will come‘. In the meantime, imagine your handful of followers are uber-talented, beautiful/handsome (delete as appropriate) geniuses who hang on your every word and demand regular blogs!
6. The big I AM. Blogging takes a small leap of arrogance. Why would we think that what we write had any relevance to crowds of electronic onlookers? It is a leap of faith and it requires a touch of hubris. So what! Not only that, we must become near-shameless self-promoters. Every retweet matters for bloggers. Promotion – such an un-English quality – comes with the territory. Embrace it. If people don’t like it, well…you know the rest!
7. Tweet, tweet, tweet. You’re blogging but not promoting your blog on Twitter? That is an amateur mistake of the worst kind. Rectify that immediately. Now…go – get onto Twitter and start selling your blog to anyone who will listen, without a care for those who won’t.
8. Blog your work to work your blog. Aim not to duplicate what you do for work and what you do for blogging pleasure. Cheat by taking your next work task and making it the subject of your next brilliant blog post. Then for every bit of research you undertake you double your money. If your blog isn’t in the same ball-park as your job then prioritize… find a job to meet the needs of your blog. Come on, what is more important?
9. Devote your life to blogging. Ok, maybe don’t go quite that far – but do build some regular habits. Do you have nothing interesting to fill your evening except TV? Change your habit. Like a good TV series, make blogging a weekly habit. Do you have small children who have a small window of annoying, inane TV on a Saturday morning? There you go – blog then.
So there you are – a flawless guide I think you’ll agree. Happy blogging! You could even go crazy and blog about blogging. #metablogging.
I wrote a marginally more serious blog about blogging and its value here.