Two years ago when I first hit publish, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. If I had, maybe I would have shutdown my computer, gone back to the beach, done some yoga, and forgotten about that silly idea to start a blog. For better or for worse I’m glad I didn’t.
While at times it’s been a burden to bear and a distraction from actually living, writing this blog has given me a deeper sense of purpose in my travels, connected me with amazing humans I might never know otherwise, and supported me with the financial freedom to maintain a nomadic lifestyle.
Over the years I’ve learned that like anything in life, writing a blog can connect you as much as it can disconnect you. It can support you as much as it can destroy you. Writing a blog can expose layers of yourself you didn’t even know existed as easily as it can cloak you in masks of self protection and delusion.
I’ve written this post as a gift for those of you who want to start a blog and need a little push, for those of you who are new to blogging and need some support, and I’ve written this for those of you who have been blogging for what feels like forever and need to remember why.
These are the insights I’ve gleamed from blogging, or as I like to call it, falling and getting back up again, and again, and again. Here’s how to be a Rockstar Blogger, without losing who you really are.
Set an Intention
Before you start a blog, and actually before you do anything in life, consider your intention. Why have you chosen to do this? How will it better your existence and in turn better the existence of others? If your primary goal is to make money, you may want to reconsider. Blogging and building a following requires a tremendous amount of work with no guarantee of financial reward. You have to do it because you feel deeply called for a reason other than online income. The internet offers vast opportunities for communicating with large groups of people; what do you feel needs to be said and to be heard? What truth can you share that will make the world a better place? How can your blog be an outlet for your light to shine even brighter? When we create from our truest place of authenticity and love we achieve the greatest success of all. Start there. If you’re a blogger who has lost his way, go back there and start again.
Create a Brand
Once you know your intention, it’s time to share that intention with the world. With your blog that means developing a strong brand identity. How can you communicate why your blog matters through your brand? How can you express to readers and companies who you are and what you’re about? Consider a name that captures the feeling tone of what your blog aims to do. Consider how your blog might evolve over its lifetime and if your brand name is expansive enough for that growth.
After deciding on a name, I cannot stress enough how important it is to register a domain for your brand. Using WordPress is great for getting started, but use your own domain name from day one to make it easy for people to find you and to keep from redirecting all of your pages later when you move to self hosted. You can register your domain on a variety of sites including Godaddy.com and Networksolutions.com and pay WordPress a little extra to host you with your own domain name. However, if you want to get professional, it’s important to go with your own host so that you can have greater control over your site design and advertising. I use BlueHost who has very inexpensive starter plans where you can use your existing domain name or register a new one.
Just Do It
I think I spent more time talking about starting a blog than I actually spent doing it. It took me years to finally sit down, write the post, and release it into the ether. Why? Because I thought it had to be perfect. Nothing I could create would possibly fulfill this expectation, so instead of just creating something, I created nothing. Finally, after eight months of traveling the world and two years of wanting to blog, I bit the bullet and I just did it.
Was This American Girl immediately the most amazing blog the world had ever seen? Unlikely. Just like any craft, blogging takes practice. You may look back and be embarrassed at your early posts. I know I am all of the time. Sometimes I’m embarrassed about what I posted on Facebook five minutes ago. However the only way to hone the craft of blogging, is to BLOG! So start writing, put it out there, and learn from your mistakes. Remember, publishing that first post is usually the hardest part.
Maybe you can do it all on your own, but why would you want to? Take advantage of the supportive communities of bloggers open and willing to support you on your journey. Comment on blog posts that you love, email bloggers whom you admire, and join Facebook groups created for your blogging niche. When I finally broke out of my blogging bubble about a year ago is when blog really began to grow. Other bloggers offered me advice on how to grow my following, shared my content with their readers, and supported me when I faced challenges and backlash from readers. The opportunity to connect with people who share your passion and lifestyle is a true gift worth receiving.
Keep it Real
Real, raw vulnerability touches people. When you share why you feel first world guilt or why you cling to unhealthy relationships or why you emotionally eat, someone who has concealed those same feelings can find release and relief through your words. The posts where I share my deepest truths and allow myself to be the most vulnerable are the ones that speak to the most people. The ones that I wrote in between sobbing sessions after being heartbroken in Bali or confronted by poverty in Cambodia or deceived in Costa Rica. And they don’t come without consequence. They’re often the posts that receive the most criticism. But at the end of the day what matters is how I felt when I wrote it. It’s inevitable that along the way you will lose some readers and you will offend some people, but you will also deeply motivate and inspire. The best way to do that is by being your true, beautiful, brilliant, authentic self.
Ignore the Haters
Ever heard the quote, “how people treat you is their karma, how you respond is yours”? That’s my mantra when it comes to the haters. As your blog grows so will your exposure and with popularity comes jealousy. The first time I received a negative comment on my blog it hurt. I worried if I had said or done something wrong. I spent time and energy considering how I might reply with dignity. Since then I’ve had people say things meaner than I could ever conceive. I’ve been called a slut, a sociopath, fat, pathetic, selfish, spoiled, and shallow. My motives, my lifestyle, my feelings, you name it, have been publicly scrutinized. That is the risk one takes when sharing publicly. While admittedly it still hurts when someone tells me I’m destroying the earth or that I only care about myself, the more I practice detaching the easier it becomes. If my blog triggers anger in others, those are their issues to work out, not mine. Take a moment to feel pissed off, then brush it off, and move on. Remember, where the mind goes the energy goes, and there are far more valuable efforts to focus your energy on.
It’s easy to let your blog consume your life. Set boundaries on how much time you spend online and how much you want to share. Allow yourself private moments for no one but you. Watch sunsets and leave your camera at home. Have “aha” moments and don’t share them on Facebook. Consider scheduling days and times where you disconnect digitally entirely. You deserve days off. You may share your life on your blog, but you still need a life.
We’re bloggers. We’re not driving ambulances. We’re not performing open heart surgery. We’re not putting out forest fires. What we do matters, but it’s not life or death. Keep it light and remember that if you get to an island with no wifi, the lighting is off in your photos, or no one seems to care about the blog post you poured your heart into, life goes on.
Don’t be Afraid to “Sell Out”
Fear of selling out prevented me from expanding for a very long time. I believed that allowing myself to make money through my blog somehow made me shallow or inauthentic. I wouldn’t accept sponsored stays in hotels, I wouldn’t accept money for advertising, and all conversations about money made me feel extremely uncomfortable. If you ever want your blog to be your business, do not adopt this mindset. Every time you write a blog post or compose a tweet you share a piece of yourself. That has tremendous value. Believe yourself deserving enough of receiving support for all of the value that you contribute to the online world. Keep your integrity and recognize that at this point in human history money can be a tremendous tool for making positive change. Find a monetization solution that supports you without feeling like a sell out.
Being a blogger can certainly inflate one’s ego. When you receive dozens of comments and thousands of likes every single day, it’s easy to derive your sense of worth from external validation. A sexy selfie on social media can make the difference between having too much attention and none at all. As your fan base grows you may find yourself being recognized offline as well. You may find yourself losing a sense of anonymity. These are the times when it’s most important to return to your roots. Remember who you really are and what really matters. Go spend time with your family, travel somewhere where no one knows you, and take a break from social media. My medicine comes in the form of being completely alone in nature. There I witness how the earth considers me as important as a seashell or an ant. There’s something deeply humbling, and healing, about that.
For the cycle of creation to flow effectively, there must be a moment of surrender. I have wasted so much time monitoring the success of a post by checking my email a hundred times and refreshing my social media pages. Once you put your piece into the hands of the public, it’s time to let it go. You can only control what you create, not how people choose to receive it. Sometimes you will write something so kick ass and no one will even care. Other times you will write something without a second thought and it will go viral. Let go of the outcome and get back to creating something new.
Are you a blogger? Do you have advice to share? We’re beyond grateful to receive it!