This post is part of an ongoing series on blogging as a profession and working from home in general. To read the whole series, click here.
Before you can start a blog, you have to have something to blog about!
Here are four common questions/concerns I’ve heard from you since starting our series on pro blogging, and the answers I’ve learned from experience:
1. “Do I have to write about what I had for breakfast? I find it really hard to blog about my day to day life.”
I can relate! Before starting this site, I had a journal-style blog for years, but kept forgetting to update it. It turns out that I am a thinker and an analyzer. I have a hard time simply recording events as they happen, but like to mull them over, looking for connections and lessons in each experience. I am also a teacher at heart, and like to use my experiences and the lessons I’ve learned in life to help others. Knowing all those things about myself helped me figure out what kind of blog I’d enjoy writing and return to with fresh enthusiasm, day after day.
Bottom line: blogs don’t have to be journals, and you don’t have to write about the things that happen to you day to day if that’s not the format that works for your personality and strengths. Instead, you can look at the things that are really important to you, and keep your eyes open for the “ah-ha” moments that make the kind of blog fodder that speaks to you.
So my advice? Write about what moves you. Write about something you find so fascinating that you can think of new things to say a few times a week or more, that you want to read other blogs on the same topic, and most important, that you want to live what you write. Because living is what gives you great content, ideas and inspiration for your blog.
2. “I feel like other bloggers have already tackled all the topics I’m interested in.”
Repeat after me: there is nothing new under the sun. This was true when I submitted my very first pitch to a national magazine over ten years ago, and it was true when I wrote my very first blog post, and it’s true now that I’m writing my 700-somethingth post for this blog.
The truth is that people don’t always need new ideas and new topics: they want your unique, personal story, voice and approach to the same topics that have interested people for centuries. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking every idea or topic you cover has to be new and novel. The novel, new, fresh part of the equation is simply you, and what you have to say about the world and your experiences in it.
That said, the blogging world is crowded, and some topics – like parenting – are more saturated than others. Your unique take on a topic will stand out better if you “package” it well. That means having a clear point of view, good design, interesting images, and above all – offering your readers value, whether you’re giving them inspiration, ideas, or just a good laugh.
3. “I’m not an expert. Why would anyone read my blog about (food, grizzly bears, chemistry)?”
You don’t have to be a certified or degree-holding “authority” to be helpful and knowledgeable in a topic. Consider motherhood: if you’ve been a mom for a year or two, you are already an expert to newly-pregnant women! In many cases, if you’re just a few steps further down the path than somebody else, you’re in a perfect place to reach out your hand and help them along.
And even if a subject is brand-new to you as well as your readers, there’s a ton of value in watching others go through a journey. The key, I think, is remembering that none of us know everything, and keeping a sense of humility and perspective about any advice or opinions you dish out.
4. “I don’t think I can come up with enough topic ideas to sustain a blog.”
It’s a valid concern, especially at the beginning when everything is overwhelming. Try this:
- Find a unique angle. For years, I’d kept a lackluster blog that was kinda-sorta about parenting and kinda-sorta about my life. Then I realized that I kept coming back to this idea of being happier as a mom, which wasn’t being talked about a lot in the blogosphere at the time. When I committed to blogging about how to be a happier mom and have a more relaxed, enjoyable home life, I found that the ideas didn’t stop coming. Every experience I had, every idea that came to me during the course of a day, seemed like a potential blog post.
- Think like a reader. If there’s a topic you know a lot about, it can be hard to remember that not everyone is as knowledgeable as you. At first, I struggled with writing about basic topics, thinking “everybody knows that!” But then I went back in time five or ten years and remembered that it had taken me years of experience to acquire the tools and knowledge I have today. Whatever topic you’re writing about, there will be readers starting at the very beginning. Don’t forget about them.
- Focus in. Sometimes what feels like not having ideas is actually having too many potential ideas. Narrow down your focus and you might be amazed at how easily you can come up with 25 or 50 great ideas for posts. For example, maybe you want to be a food writer. Okay, but what kind of cooking? What kind of food? Is there another angle – say, your love of 1950’s church cookbooks – that you can explore alongside recipes, that readers might get excited about, too? Your unique point of view will help you focus, and those micro-topics can make some really engaging blog content.
Homework time! At the top of a sheet of paper, write down a few major themes in your life that you would consider covering in a blog. Now, find your unique angle, focus in, and come up with a list of 20 or so topics that you could see yourself writing about (don’t forget about those beginner readers!)
Also ask yourself: what is my blogging motivation? Is it to share great resources? Teach by example? Inspire with beauty? Entertain with funny stories? Knowing why you want to blog is just as important as knowing what you want to blog about.