I’ve been working on my syllabus for the blogging class I’m teaching at the University of Chicago. It starts on Monday, goes from 6-8:30pm, and runs four weeks. There are a couple spots left if you’re interested and it would be so cool to meet you. Do it!
The syllabus is just a guide for the students to know what’s up and a little map for me, structuring how I’ll go about giving away absolutely everything I know about writing a decent blog.
“Writing” is the operative term, here. Anyone with a computer and a mouse can open a blog. Making space for yourself in the blogosphere via WordPress, say, is easier than setting up your new remote control. (Far, far easier. I hate remote controls so much.) But that writing part. That’s what my class is about. Uncovering your voice. Pushing yourself. Exploring. As hard as writing is – and it is hard – that’s how rewarding it is when you get cookin.
Since not everyone who reads PaperGirl can make it to class (I’m looking at you, New Zealand) I thought I’d share some blogging essentials. We’ll noodle on these in class and go deeper via writing exercises, discussion, practice. There’s so much more – but you’ll have to come to class to learn it.
Until then, here are Pendennis’s 5 Blogging Essentials. He’s the secret to my success, you see.
1. It is all about content.
Forget widgets, plugins, fancy web designers, social media, ads, and the rest. All that can come later. If you don’t have great content, you will have nothing to give. Content, content, content.
2. Your blog has to serve people.
It has to help in some way. Your blog can help people by offering shrewd editorial, gorgeous photography, easy-but-yummy recipes, scuba-diving news – anything. But it can’t be about you. My aim for PaperGirl is to offer you one tiny spot on the internet that feels real. Life is funny, and sad, breathtakingly hard and unspeakably beautiful. I give you what I see because I want to see it with you. If all I wrote were complaints, if all I did was promote myself, if all I “gave” you was secretly – or not so secretly – all about me, I’d be giving nothing at all. (I have a diary for all the “me” stuff. A blog is not a diary.)
3. Show up. Do the work.
Tired? Feelin’ blue? Post anyway. I’ve been blogging for eight years. Eight! Gah!
4. Traffic doesn’t matter. Readers matter.
…which is why No. 1 is No. 1. Do you want a zillion clicks – or a few thousand readers who can’t wait to see you’ve posted something? Google Analytics tells you something called your “bounce rate.” That’s what percentage of people click on your site and then click right on out. I’ma brag for two seconds to make a point: my bounce rate is 8%. That’s…not normal. I hope it’s because people come over and take off their coat and stay awhile. I’m hoping it’s because I’m following No. 1, though Pendennis is pretty cute.
5. Never, ever write a post about how you have nothing to write about. Ever!
No one, not even your mom, wants to read that post. And neither do you! Go take a walk, look around at stuff, think about stuff, then come back and try again.
You can do it. See you on Monday.