As with many writers I know, I was advised that starting a blog would be a good way to gain readers for my recently finished book (this was back in 2011), but I had no idea how to go about doing that. Basically, the one thing I did know was that I couldn't have a blog that just said "buy my book" every time I posted something. I mean, I wouldn't read that blog, and I was pretty sure that no one else would either. Heck, I don't actually think I could even write that blog if I tried.
Which left the question: If I'm going to have a blog, what do I blog about?
The obvious answer, as a writer, was writing. But that seemed to me, on an ongoing basis, to be boring. I mean, I wouldn't read that blog. Well, maybe occasionally, if there was an interesting topic, but it's hard to make gerunds interesting. Still, writing seemed like a good starting place. And things related to writing. And reading. And, well, you can see what I decided on by looking up at the top of the screen.
Still, having content is not the same as having personality, and it's the personality (or the way that you talk about the content) that's important. Why? Because, other than when you're talking about yourself (which you have to do if you want to sell your book), there is no topic that you can choose to talk about that someone else isn't also going to be talking about. If I did (and if I ever do, please smack me) want to do a post about gerunds, it would not be a topic that some other blogger hasn't already done, so the only thing I can bring to that is, well, me.
Of course, when I was first starting out, I hadn't thought about it like that. I hadn't thought about the personality of my blog at all at that point. I had just kind of gone with it. The most I knew was that I would talk about the things that I like to talk about, and, to that extent, it would convey my personality.
About a year into blogging, I was confronted with it, though. I'd decided to do the a-to-z thing, and they were pushing short posts. I get the whole short post thing; I really do, and that wasn't the first time I'd seen people saying that the best way to get followers is to have short posts, but, see, that's not me. For one thing, I don't tend to like short posts. Either they don't say anything to begin with or, about the time the blogger is beginning to say something, the post is over. Why would I want to write in a style I don't like? But, more importantly, I felt it would be like lying. If I was going to have a bunch of new traffic to my blog, I wanted them to see the way that I blog, not some false front for the sake of pulling in followers only to go back to my actual style once a-to-z was over.
To put it another way, I realized that I had established a particular personality with my blog, and I wasn't willing to subvert that temporarily just to gain followers. Who I was on my blog was important to me.
And the blogs that I like most are all ones that have a particular personality that comes from the blogger. Maybe, it's a total facade for the sake of the blog, but that's okay, because the blog is the interface, so it's the personality presented through that interface which is important. I find more and more that I have no interest in blogs that are devoid of any type of personality. And, specifically, I like best those blogs which promote thought. Thoughts. I like what I read to make me think. And that's the kind of blog I try to have, too. So, even when I'm talking about writing or reading or even pop culture, I try to do it in a way that will make people think. Or see things from a new perspective. I'm just not a bandwagon kind of guy.
I also realize that the personality of my blog is not what anyone could say is a popular one, but I'm okay with that. I'm not, after all, trying to fit in.
All of that to say that I think the first thing you should do as a blogger is to figure out what kind of personality you want your blog to have. Yes, you can choose that, because the personality of your blog doesn't have to be related to your own personality. That's the fascinating thing about blogging. And, if you have more than one blog (which is CRAZY, but I know some people do), each blog can have a different personality. Amazing, I know.
But, wait, you say, "I've been blogging for three years, and I've never given my blog a personality!" Well, actually, you have, because you can't get away from that. Your blog projects some kind of image about who you are; it just might be that it's not an image you would have chosen if you'd thought about it. The good thing about it is that you can always make that decision and implement it. And, if you plan for your blog to be interactive in any way, I'd say that it's a necessary thing.
So, sit down with your blog today if you haven't already done so and help it to figure out who it wants to be. The overprotective big brother? The crazy, inappropriate uncle? The insane aunt with too many cats that wants to pinch your cheeks? The grandfather that slips money to the grand kids when no one is looking? Oh, no, wait, the class clown! [Yeah, that's so not me, even though I wish it was sometimes.] Personality is the first step toward a successful blogging career.
Oh, and, yeah, go buy my book!