Fifteen

It’s June 2011. That means it’s the 15th anniversary of my website, or my ‘writing stuff and putting it online’ thing. I don’t have any record of the exact date because it didn’t occur to me that I should record it. I didn’t know that 15 years later, I was going to be here.

Five years ago, I celebrated 10 years with this post. Since then, I moved my website to WordPress and merged my LiveJournal posts with my old hand-coded HTML entries.

I also renamed my blog from Robyn’s Secret Passage to, well, I guess it’s just my name now. No one started an outraged Facebook group demanding I change it back. I am willing to offer my rebranding consultancy services to companies such as Infratil who recently renamed their Shell petrol stations to Z Energy.

I don’t want to reminisce about the olden days, so instead here’s a couple of short videos of me reminiscing about the olden days, made as part of the rather good Down To The Wire New Zealand internet history project. Here I talk about making my first website, and then I talk about my website, online journals and blogs before blogging.

Thinking about the “journal girls” who were doing cool stuff online back in the ’90s, it’s not surprising that they’re still doing cool stuff online. People like Jo, Annette, Jo Hubris, and Moira. Knowing a bit of HTML, knowing how to make a basic website – that’s skill that will take you far.

The web is a tool, and it is very much what you make it, whether you want to make some cash out of it, or whether you just want to put some stuff out there because you enjoy it.

So I thought I’d share some tips on how to make a blog for your personal writing that won’t drive you crazy or leave you consumed by a sense of failure and self-loathing.

Five ways to avoid being swallowed whole by your blog

1. Start now

You don’t need to have a theme or blogging software or a domain name or anything like that set up first. Just open a text editor (Notepad will do, but it’s nice to use something with a spellcheck) and start writing.

In fact, unless you’re writing about something that’s very time specific, keep on writing for a while before you first publish. Give yourself a chance to find your style, your voice. Once something has emerged, then you can get a blog set up to publish. But don’t take too long.

Taking time between writing and publishing is a good habit to keep. It’s not as much fun as the immediate buzz of write-publish-bam!, but I’m going to say it’s more rewarding in the long term to take your time.

2. The naming of blogs

I originally called my blog Robyn’s Page of Various Assorted Stuff because I couldn’t think of anything better. Better eventually came in the form of Robyn’s Secret Passage, but I eventually dropped it in favour of just using my name.

Some people have awesome names for their blogs, like Dan Slevin’s Funerals & Snakes. But don’t get hung up on finding the perfect blog name, and don’t let that stop you publishing. If all else fails, use your name.

But don’t even think about calling your blog something like “Ramblings of a [noun]”. Bloody hell. Have some self respect.

3. Own your old shit

There will come a time when you look back at the older stuff you’ve written (especially when it’s a few years old) and you will realise how awful it is. You might even want to delete it or mothball that blog and move onto a new one. Resist that urge; own your old shit.

No matter how embarrassing it might seem, it’s part of who you are. And give it a few years – it will improve with age and you’ll realise how much your blog has improved and what a cute dork you used to be.

4. The golden age of blogging is over (or is it?)

You’re definitely not going to be in it for the money, but you’re also not going to be in it for the page views.

My website doesn’t normally get tons of hits. The most popular thing I wrote this year was my report from Japan a few hours after the earthquake, but only because it was linked from the Guardian. And the second most popular page was my rundown of the royal wedding, which proved to me what women’s magazines have known for a very long time.

But while my blog doesn’t normally get an avalanche of regular readers, the ones who do visit like what I do and stick around. And I like them too. I think this is the long tail. It’s better here; less noisy.

5. Don’t stop

I have this blog project called It’s Been a While Since My Last Post. It’s a version of blogs that are hardly ever updated, and every post starts with an apology for not having updated much.

If you’re tempted to do that apology thing, just stop it. Some people update their blogs several times a day, but maybe your style is one update per month. Perhaps you’re a quarterly blogger. That’s ok.

If I’m really busy with other stuff or just feeling uninspired, I might not write anything for weeks. Other times I might feel well inspired (being unemployed is quite good for this) and have heaps of stuff ready to publish.

If you want to give your blog a rest and come back to it, that’s also cool. Maybe you have something really big and important to do, like moving to another city or having a baby, and you’ll need time to settle into your new life before you can get back into things. Your blog will be there waiting for you. It loves you.

16 thoughts on “Fifteen”

  1. Congratulations, o mighty one. Many more happy returns.

    And you offer some very valuable advice there I think, none more so than the owning your old shit thing. That said, I am totally starting a blog called Rambling of a Noun now.

    1. Thanks, Gio! And in turn I wish you more quality blogging for Bat Beam Bean. It is a blog that always makes me feel smarter after I’ve read it.

  2. Happy birthday. That’s all great advice. And totally validates me not having a theme or updating anymore regularly than at least once every so often…
    Linked to from the Guardian? Wicked.

  3. while my blog doesn’t normally get an avalanche of regular readers, the ones who do visit like what I do and stick around.

    I’ve been reading you for years and love your writing. You are an eloquent and quirky writer who tells a story well. Not to mention with pictures.

    Happy blog birthday.

  4. Sound advice!

    I love your apology blog project, it reminds of of so many food blogs that become abandoned. Quite often ones with purple writing on a pink background. Anyway. Long may you continue to write in the excellent way you do.

  5. 15 years – that’s a lifetime for some, particularly dogs. I’m loving your writing – the authoritative statements of a confident writer. All your points seem rather valid, and yet I think i’ve probably broken them all. Maybe I’m just a bad blogger. But I have been wondering what I wrote on my first ever web page – in 1995 – back in the day when DOS still ruled the PC world and Windows was launching the revolutionary v3.1
    While I can’t remember the words, I do remember the picture – my cousin (ever groovy and way ahead of me) said “you’ve got to post a picture” and so I did, of the only image I had on me. So it wad that for the next decade online, I was represented by a slim young Korean woman in a miniskirt, next to my name. So one last point to add to your post – don’t forget your password.

  6. i wish i would have kept my “old shit”. i think i just assumed the internet would do that for me…the internet never forgets and all that 🙂

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