If you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time (and even if you haven’t) you will know that I don’t often, if ever, attempt to tell anyone what to do. This blog is a place for me to reflect upon events that surround me, and contribute to wider discussions I see taking place upon Social Meeja. However, there was an interesting reaction to my Nurture 15/16 post (where I have, I freely admit, relentlessly focussed on the positive things that have happened this year, who wants to hear about my bad back, after all?), and in particular those connected with this blog, so, in the manner of encouraging wannabe bloggers who feel a bit nervous of putting their toe into the blogosphere, here are the things that have worked for me.
- Decide which blogging platform you want to use. When I started this one, I wanted it to look a particular way. I also wanted it to be easy to do (I am not overly techie) and I wanted it to be free. I like WordPress for all of these things, but there are others. I discovered that the blogging sites have communities, and these can be really helpful.
- Do a bit of reading around your chosen platform. When I signed up to WordPress, I followed the links to all of their newbie advice. It was all a bit intimidating when I realised quite what a big world it is, but, as I write about children (and my own children in particular) I persevered and took their advice very much on board. If you write about children I would strongly recommend that you do this too – before you publish anything.
- Think about what you want to call your blog. I originally thought up the title years ago, when I was thinking of writing it as a book. I couldn’t quite marry up the blog address with the blog name, but never mind. I’m not a total perfectionist. I started off by using my own name as the web address – which I felt was a mistake, so I changed it. (There’s loads of musings and ramblings around, so you might want to avoid them as potential titles.)
- Think about what you want to write about. I thought about this really carefully when I started, and settled on three main themes: Down’s syndrome, parenting (in particular the experience of mothers) and education, and the interconnections between them. The education bit took over a bit (!), but I’ve been really strict and stuck to like glue to my starting principles. I realised pretty quickly that there are about a million Down’s syndrome parenting blogs, and the teacher blogging world is equally huge – I didn’t want to be just another little fish in the big wide ocean, so I thought carefully about what I could uniquely add to the discussions. What did I have to say that other people might want to read about (or, in sales-speak, what is my USP)?
- Think about your principles in blogging. Some people blog commercially and promote/review products on their blogs. I felt really uncomfortable with that (and am no doubt a huge disappointment to people who supply such things), so I don’t. People also tell me about SEO, but, for me, my blog is about the writing, and I don’t want to compromise my artistic choices, if you know what I mean, and if that doesn’t sound unbearably pretentious. Don’t tell lies.
- Decide on a schedule. I decided to write weekly, and I still just about manage to stick to that. I was discussing this with my friend Jack – as his other writing commitments have grown, so the regularity of his blogs have changed, and it’s the same for me. When I started I had ideas falling off my fingertips – now that I’m writing more for other people, I need to honour those commitments. When I’m really busy I can’t blog, so I have had to learn to forgive myself for that – and hope that my readers do too.
- Decide how long your posts are going to be. This is a bit of a monster. I don’t usually like posts to be as long as this! I tend to favour stories, but sometimes poems pop out, or letters. Don’t be afraid to do something different.
- Decide on how you want to publicise your blog. Most of my readers come from Twitter, which I really enjoy. I could have joined Mumsnet or Tots100 or Britmums, but I was a bit intimidated, worried about the reaction I would have as a teacher. I have a Facebook page for my blog so that I can separate out my blog from a platform I essentially use for keeping up with friends and family (who have generally heard me going on and on before, and don’t necessarily want to read it on my blog). You can use Facebook to build up your own communities, but I like Twitter for that, and I haven’t got all the time in the world to devote to it. There’s Pintrest too, and Instagram…publicising and working on your blog can become a full time occupation if you’re not careful.
- Don’t worry about the stats. I love seeing which posts go well, and which ones die a fast death, but I don’t let it consume me. I’m happy when anyone reads this blog. I’m not prepared to put any old rubbish on here, just so that the stats look better. I’ve got something to say and I want people to read to the end, not just click and then click away. Make it easy for readers to follow you, so use the sharing add-ons if your chosen blogging site has them.
- Think about your readers. Who are you writing for? I reckon I have a specific audience, mostly teachers and people with an interest in SEND – and lots of parents too. I try to make what I write accessible to them. For me personally, I generally start with an idea that I want to get across, and then I spend some time thinking about how I am going to do that. I write it out on the computer (or by hand if I have to), generally on one day, and then edit the next, put it on the blog and then read it aloud. That way I can really think about what I have written, and hopefully not publish too many mistakes (you can always tell if I haven’t gone through this process). It also gives me a chance to think about whether what I have written will cause any harm, in particular to my subjects. I have people I turn to if I am really not sure, and they have been happy to read a potential post for me and make suggestions. Sometimes I have binned the post and gone back to the drawing board.
So that’s about it. I hope that’s helpful. I’ll end with that Virginia Woolf quote again – because letting voices that are not ordinarily heard is important, and that voice might be yours.
“So long as you write what you wish to write, that is all that matters; and whether it matters for ages or only for hours, nobody can say. But to sacrifice a hair of the head of your vision, a shade of its colour, in deference to some Headmaster with a silver pot in his hand or to some professor with a measuring-rod up his sleeve, is the most abject treachery, and the sacrifice of wealth and chastity which used to be said to be the greatest of human disasters, a mere flea-bite in comparison.”
― Virginia Woolf, A Room of One’s Own