Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Remedial Blog School: So, You Started a Blog!

Welcome to Our First Official Session!

(You may want to refresh yourself with the introductory post, which consists of my referring you to excellent bloggers that discuss the techniques of blogging and other useful tips.)

So, you started a blog--Congratulations.

You have lots of ideas of what you'll write about, a Swiss bank account where you will deposit all your earnings and the smug expression that you will reserve for those who said that you could never do it all practiced in front of the mirror! You're on your way!

What else could you possibly need, you wonder?


What is your blog URL?

You know that http:// thingamigiggy.com at the top of your blog that directs people to your home page. If you're like I was a year ago (i.e. moron) it's something that has absolutely no relationship to the name of your blog.

For example, my blog name is Motherhood in NYC. My URL was http://NYCMomAndMore.blogspot.com The hell? What's the "more"? Why didn't I just go with MotherhoodInNYC.com to start with? All excellent questions. The answer? Because I was young and inexperienced and no one loved me enough to tell me.

Lesson 1: Avoid confusion and pick a URL that is as close as possible to the name of your blog.

Then comes the big question: Should you use your real name or be anonymous?

There are pros and cons for each. I asked my bloggy friends for wisdom and here's what they told me:

Anna Lefler uses her real name because her blog is a way to build a readership for future books and attract the attention of a literary agent.

Kate pointed out that with the exception of Gossip Girl, there are no well known bloggers who are anonymous. (Could this possibly be true?)

Britt wisely warned that the biggest problem with blogging anonymously is that you start believing that you are truly anonymous and the problem with not being anonymous is that is that your dad knows that you have a vagina.

(is it me or is my writing style in attributing the thoughts to the bloggers straight out of junior high school newspaper writer?)

So, it's your call. Just remember that even if you don't share your real name, if you provide enough details about your life, with photographs, people will be able to fill in the blanks. Unless those people are me, of course. We all leave huge gigantic internet footprints, so don't be lulled into thinking that you are truly anonymous.

If you do choose to remain anonymous, think of names that you will call the people that you blog about. Believe it or not, I am still grappling with this and I am not happy about it.

I mean, I am Marinka (duh), which is a nickname that my friend (John) gave me. My husband is Husbandrinka, for obvious reasons. My daughter is "my daughter" and my son is "Young Ladrinka". Some people have commented on the lack of an "inka" for my daughter, but it just doesn't seem right to me.

I know people who've used their children's real names, their middle names, others who used the first initial and who blog-named their children after fictional characters . All of these can work, just make sure to live with your choice for a while before committing to it. Of course you can change it later, but, you know.

Lesson 2: Decide whether you want to be anonymous or not. (Hint: Anonymity is a lot like virginity--it's easier to drop it later than reclaim in. This may be the only way in which anonymity is like virginity, by the way, so when I said that it was "a lot" like virginity, I was using a literary device called "exaggeration". That is part of our the advanced blogging course. You are not ready for it yet). If you decide to become anonymous, pick names for your cast of characters. Consider Marinka2 and Marinka III.

Unless you're writing your blog as a totally personal outlet and everything you put down is top secret, you will want people to read what you write. Anyone who says that they don't care if anyone reads what they write is a huge liar. Because people who don't want to be read, don't put their writing on the internet. They put it on their hard drive or floppy disc or in a notebook or on the walls of their cell.

Believe me, I know how tempting it is to tell everyone you know about your blog, because voila, instant readers! Which leads me to

Lesson 3: Do not tell anyone about your blog.

The big downside to telling people about your blog is that they will read it and then you can never blog about them. Well, you can never blog about them in THAT way.

The other big downside to telling people about your blog is that some of them will not read it and you'll spend a lot of time having thoughts like "what the fuck? Does she think she's too good for my blog? I'm pouring out my heart and she can't be bothered? Great!"
It's a relationship killer and a blog fodder killer. Otherwise, it's fantastic!

I encourage you not to tell people about your blog at first. Blog a bit, get to writing, discover the blogging community and then see if you want your parents, inlaws, co-workers and sex therapists reading your thoughts. Maybe you'll be totally fine with it, but if not, you can't unring that bell.

For me, Husbandrinka knows about the blog, but he's never read it. Just totally uninterested. John knows about the blog, but only reads it occasionally to see what material I've stolen from him and a few friends know about it. I am lucky because my friends have been very supportive of my blogging, but it does make me pause sometimes. There are things that I won't blog about because I know that they are reading. I don't think that my blog has suffered as a result, but who knows what masterpieces I've self-censored?

And it's so much easier to tell them later than to untell them:

Happy Hour Sue: It definitely stifles my language and content. It's so tempting to tell them when you start because you have no readers...but my advice to new bloggers is BE PATIENT - your audience will come.

If you've already told people about your blog and wish that you hadn't, you have two choices: start a different blog, or wait for their computers to crash. Because if they're like my friends, they won't remember your URL and when they ask you for a link again, just send them to me.

Lesson 4: Find blogs that you love. Read them, comment on them, follow the comments that you enjoy on those blogs back to their own blogs and read and comment on those.

There are tons of ways to increase your readership, but the only way that I know how to do it is to find a community of blogs that you enjoy and join it. Leave hypnotic comments and
lure people back to your blog. Be patient. And write fantastic posts.

Oh, the whole fantastic posts thing? That's next week's lesson.

Recommended reading: Before I started blogging, I bought two books, Blogging for Dummies and No one Cares What You Had For Lunch. I read the first book cover to cover and took copious notes (I really hope that "copious" means "few"). The second book, I immediately misplaced, but I believe that I got the gist from the title. So I really recommend the Dummies book for a general overview and how-to.



Blogger Mwa said...

You're so right about the url. Gotta do something about that.

About the not telling? I only told my sister and my best friend and then my sister goes and gets drunk and tells some other people... You see where this is going.

My husband also doesn't read/care about my blog. What's up with that?

Thanks for the lessons - will be coming back for more.

July 7, 2009 at 4:44 AM  
Blogger Imogen Lamport said...

Sage advice Marinka. Pity my comments are never pithy or witty.

July 7, 2009 at 6:49 AM  
Blogger TeacherMommy said...

Sigh. I don't necessarily WANT to be anonymous (and anyone who has met me knows it's me), but I don't want my name to be googleable back to my blog. Because of the students and parents and admin, ya know.

But it looks like I'm doing okay in the name areas! WOOT!

Thank you, Sensei. Grasshoppa will be paying attention.

July 7, 2009 at 7:32 AM  
Blogger Me, Amplified said...

i find the problem with making the url close to the name of your blog,is that when you change your blog title *cough* four times *cough* you also have to change the url otherwise it doesn't make sense.

and i can't tell my friends about my blog because i chose to give them nicknames that aren't exactly flattering.

loving this school, i think i may even manage to stay awake in this one!

July 7, 2009 at 7:39 AM  
Blogger Always Home and Uncool said...

I thought I was blogging anonymously, then I noticed every one started calling me by name ... because it was part of my URL. D'oh.

July 7, 2009 at 8:05 AM  
Blogger daydreamymama said...

This is the best blog school I've ever attended! (Which is like when I tell my only child, "You're my favorite of all my children!")

My basic blogging problem is that I only have the energy to blog about once every six months. And I wrote a couple of pretty good ones, early on, but they're buried under a pile of ... less inspired ones. sigh

July 7, 2009 at 8:20 AM  
Blogger Beth said...

I have fears of being fired because of my blog - so I stay anonymous (somewhat) and I practice my look of surprise. The surprise part is important as I want to come across as innocent and not at all likely to be talking badly about people I work with.

July 7, 2009 at 8:21 AM  
Blogger Momo Fali said...

Great advice. Seriously people, no one cares what you had for lunch. Not even on Twitter.

July 7, 2009 at 8:33 AM  
Blogger Keyona said...

Well fuck. Can I just tell you that that was a pretty damn awesome post. I didn't know what to expect. You didn't let me down after all! LOL!

July 7, 2009 at 8:50 AM  
Blogger IB said...

I blogged for a few months before telling some of my family about it. I expected them to devour every post I'd written and heap on the praise. Last time I saw them all they all commented separately on how they liked 1 post; the same post, which leads me to believe someone actually read it and past out notes to the others.

Annoying? Yes.
Disappointing? Yes.
Surprising? No.

July 7, 2009 at 8:57 AM  
Blogger Christy said...

I wish I had thought about all these points before starting my blog. I have way too many people from my real life reading it...and also some real life peeps who never read it and that irritates me too. The best piece of advice - patience! And don't give your URL to your family members....ugh.

July 7, 2009 at 9:20 AM  
Blogger Petra a.k.a The Wise (*Young*) Mommy said...

Awesome advice! Wish I had you around when I first started!

July 7, 2009 at 10:07 AM  
Anonymous Maureen at IslandRoar said...

Great advice; can't wait for more.

July 7, 2009 at 10:31 AM  
Blogger Loukia said...

I love this post! Loved it! I've been blogging since 2007 and I use my real name... I was just not that creative to think of any other name! By the way, NONE (with the exception of ONE) of my IRL friends comments on my blog. And none of them are on Twitter. Either they are cool - or I am. Haven't figured it out yet! ;)

July 7, 2009 at 10:38 AM  
Anonymous amber of theambershow said...

The Superficial is anonymous, and knowing only as "The Superficial Writer". He's pretty popular.

Violet Blue is anonymous.

There are lots of others, too. You can be anon., you just need a good pseudonym.

That thing? Where bloggers have one URL and the name of their blog is another? Makes me nuts.

July 7, 2009 at 10:47 AM  
Anonymous Sandy said...

Great advice! I think persistence is also key. So many blogs don't last a year.

July 7, 2009 at 12:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yeah, don't tell. I had to restart my blog. SUCKED.

July 7, 2009 at 1:43 PM  
Blogger Issas Crazy World said...

I love this. But where in the world were you in 2005 when I did it wrong the first time? Huh? Where?

July 7, 2009 at 2:03 PM  
Blogger Anna See said...

Oh yes, I wish I had read this advice before starting my blog. My blog has definitely landed me in hot water. Wishing I had kept it as anon as possible.

July 7, 2009 at 2:24 PM  
Blogger Tooj said...

Sounds like I've got the remedials down, for the most part. I even did the "avoid telling people..." part too, until I felt comfortable. Then I shared it with one friend....then two....and they both read consistently. I love it! You're right, too, it's a heady experience having someone read my thoughts, as amateurish as they are. I blog anonymously....sort of. I just think my given name is too common, so I use my blogger name. I get addressed as Tooj now, all through the blogging land. Oh wait, just on my blog. With my huge readership of 44 followers. I have a few silent readers though....they're family. Does that count?

July 7, 2009 at 2:31 PM  
Blogger Jennuine said...

I read your blog. Every day. I love your blog. Every day. Most days? =D (flashes toothy grin at you)

Please start practicing because I am (actually) starting my own blog. You will receive an invitation. In August. To read it. There is ... no... no event. Just, the blog reading, you know?

And then you can read MY blog. Every day. And you can love my blog. And comment. (flashes toothy grin)

Dummy To Be

July 7, 2009 at 2:39 PM  
Blogger Amy said...

"on the walls of their cell" - hee hee.

Nester is still anon I think.

I use my real name because if you Google Amy Smith - well, good luck finding me in that mess. I've noticed that I'm turning up quicker now though so maybe having a generic name isn't so foolproof.

I don't use hubs name cause he's got a Big Important Client Base that he would not like reading about his personal life. The kids have nicknames. Two of the three have very distinctive first names so I just went with the cutsie names.

I have some family and IRL friends who read. Hubs reads but I swear it's only to keep tabs on me. I wrote about him on his birthday a couple weeks ago and if you would read that post, and then have me tell you that he never said one word to me about it, stunning. That's it. It's stunning. IRL people can bring the suck.

July 7, 2009 at 2:50 PM  
Blogger Kate Coveny Hood said...

Another con to not being anonymous - weird people from your past can now find you. Of course that's the whole premise of FaceBook...

July 7, 2009 at 3:47 PM  
Blogger Susan said...

Fuck, fuck and fuck. I wasn't going to tell my dad I had a vagina until his funeral.

July 7, 2009 at 4:03 PM  
Blogger Comedy Goddess said...

I hate my URL now.
I think.
I'm not sure.

July 7, 2009 at 4:23 PM  
Blogger Michelle said...

You typed EXACTLY what goes through my mind when I have to REMIND my family (even grandparents) to read the blog that I started FOR them! ~What the fuck?~ haha! Now I suppose I do it mainly for myself to remind myself that my children did, indeed, have a good childhood. Proof to present to therapists later in life...

July 7, 2009 at 4:29 PM  
Blogger TMCPhoto said...

If only you'd decided to start your school sooner, Or I had started blogging like two weeks from now I would be oh so much better off. The only things I can be happy about now is my wish to remain un-anonymous and the fact that I told none of my friends and family about my blogging, somehow some of them found me though... stupid Etsy shop announcement, now I have to change names, descriptions and time periods and details when I want to blog about those people...

July 7, 2009 at 8:31 PM  
Blogger Jeanne said...

Bookmarking this series so I can just direct people here when they want blogging advice!

July 7, 2009 at 8:41 PM  
Blogger Kirsten said...

Excellent advice. I just wish I would have read this about six months ago.

July 8, 2009 at 1:47 AM  
Blogger p.huong said...

Good stuff. I just forwarded this post to a friend who decided to start blogging. She asked for tips and all I could tell her is make sure you don't tell anyone you know and pick a random user name so you can talk shit about anyone and everyone and they can't tell it's you. She thought I was joking. This post will prove her wrong.

July 8, 2009 at 2:43 AM  
Blogger Elisa said...

meh - anonymity is overrated anyway. Which makes it a little less like virginity ;-)

July 8, 2009 at 8:55 AM  
Blogger momtrolfreak said...

Marinka, you da bomb.
This is an awesome post--you have expertly mixed ACTUAL KNOWLEDGE with humor, so that I don't feel asleep. Which I otherwise do at any momen........
Oh right, and yes, huh. Interesting that most well-known bloggers are not anon. Agree with PP that I just don't want to be googleable. Took Heather (Dooce)'s advice on that one. But as I get further and further into it, and publish more stuff IRL, I think it is inevitable that I will "come out." Anyway, you are awesome. As usual.

July 8, 2009 at 10:47 AM  
Blogger Becca6296 said...

for your humor, and intelligence. I am new to blogging and look forward to reading your posts.

July 8, 2009 at 1:08 PM  
Blogger Pseudonymous High School Teacher said...

I like using hyperbole instead of exaggeration. Makes me feel like that college loan money I'm still paying back gave me a little someting.

July 8, 2009 at 2:50 PM  
Blogger Tracey - Just Another Mommy Blog said...

You're getting sleeeeeepy... So sleeeepy and relaxed. So relaxed that you feel the need to click over to MY blog and commmmmeeeeeennnntttt....

Hypnotic enough?

July 9, 2009 at 8:05 AM  
Blogger Tooj said...

I just want you to know I commented on a blog and found myself already making the correction from typing "picture" to "photo". UGH.

July 9, 2009 at 9:16 AM  
Blogger Z said...

Dude. You actually bought a book on blogging? Even worse, TWO?!?! Marinka! The things I didn't know about you!

(Also, what's up with me using "Dude" ? I find myself doing that a lot these days. I think I am regressing to highschool. And that? Ain't pretty)

July 9, 2009 at 2:20 PM  

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