Starting a Blog is More Difficult than I Thought

Starting a blog is more difficult than I thought. When I started this one I didn’t have much of an idea where I was going with it or what I was supposed to be blogging about. It was hard, not the writing, which I enjoy but finding the topic I was supposed be writing about. Google blogging ideas or any of its derivatives and you will normally be presented with advice that you need to chose a niche topic and blog about it. Apparently it must be relevant, to what I still have no idea. I wanted to do it right, but there is so much information out there. Some of it relevant, some confusing and a lot of it contradictory.

Have you ever searched for some information and found a number of sites with the same information, just sorted differently or even exactly the same story repeated over again. I did not want my blog to be a simple rehash of a large number of others. But that is a trap I think could be easy to fall into.

The top lists of blog topics seem to be variations of:

Fashion

Make-up

DIY

Cooking

Travel

Computers

Professional Advice

Self development.

So I had a problem. I am not really interested in most of those, and I cannot give professional advice about anything that people would be interested in.

As an aspiring writer I wanted to write, but I still had a problem so I wrote about things that do interest me, as can be seen in my older blogs.

My academic background is in International Relations. As a discipline IR came into being at the end of the first world war with the founding of the first IR professorship: the Woodrow Wilson Chair at Aberystwyth, University of Wales. Why? To try and understand the reasons for the war to end all wars, which it didn’t. The idea being that by studying the causes of the war might we not be able to stop future wars. The evidence of the last 100 years shows that no actually we can’t.

Even with that well of knowledge to draw from I could not really see that it was useful for my particular blog. IR theory is all well and good, but to try and condense it down into multiple blogs would be blogicide© and of interest and only receiving comments from a small number of people. And, more importantly, with no real connection to my writing.

And I couldn’t see my policing background giving me much in the way of blog mileage either. Don’t get me wrong, the stories I have from those years are enough to do a blog three times a week for the next five years. Police stories are great, to other police officers. The public tend not to get them or see the stories as depressing or callous. It is hard to find the humour in searching railway tracks for the body parts of some poor soul who have thrown themselves under the 5’o’clock commuter train; but police tend to. It is a safety mechanism, to stay separate and distanced from the squalid life we delve into, but which the public rarely sees, or wants to see.

In some ways I have always considered police to be the sin eaters of modern society, taking on the sins of an unknowing population. People may want to be absolved of their sins, but police don’t want to take on all the guilt and depression that goes with them. So, Police drink too much and tell hilarious stories among themselves, none of which I could blog about.

Which leads to me to my next problem, that of knowing your audience.

With the list above, it might be quite easy to focus down on one particular topic. Maybe men’s health. I have written about depression. Or using Linux based operating systems which I have also covered. But I have neither the qualifications or experience to write a complete blog, week in and week out on those topics.

Interesting though those topics are they still did not help me to find my audience.

Back to Google for blog ideas for writers, and that didn’t help too much either. My Audience? No idea!

My novels are a mixture of genres: mystery, crime – but definitely not police procedural, a bit of romance even. To round it off I would have to say that I try to make them realistic. Things that could happen to any of us given the right circumstances. None of which helps target my audience, which I guess would be any adult who enjoys reading a novel with those themes in them. As a narrowing down exercise genres is useless.

So I took a shotgun approach and wrote a bit here and a bit there about things I find of interest in the hope that other people would as well. My writing style tends to be realistic, as is my position on IR. A bit of myself thrown in and some of the dry humour that I am known for, that one of my daughters inherited and which at times infuriates my wife, much to my amusement.

The next problem I faced was the length of my blogs. Originally, though I don’t recall from where, the sweet spot was advised as being up to 500 words. To date all my blogs have been sub 500. Until today.

That wasn’t really a problem, mostly. Some of the blogs fell neatly into place, but others were no so accommodating and needed to be pared back to the right size. This was at times annoying as I felt that I had more to write but couldn’t.

I think that there is a potential PhD thesis in my blog on intolerance but dutifully cut it back to exactly 500 words. I had so much more to say but slavishly followed the self imposed rule. Other blogs are the same. About missing people and missing children, stories of the Unknown Warrior and Soldier. Probably half of the blogs I have done could easily have expanded to a more meaningful length. More background, more information isn’t that what these things are about.

In a flash of inspiration, typical for me 3 months after I had started, I decided to do some more research and to my delight, sort of, and horror I found out that I had been doing it all wrong. According to websites like snap agency the optimum length for a blog is anything from 1500 to 2500+ words. My self imposed 500 words that I had so diligently adhered to was hardly on the list. Click on the graphic to get the full story.

 

This is my 30th blog. Not a huge number compared with many sites, but I am quite happy and a little proud of my efforts to date. As my 30th blog and with my new found piece of knowledge I now intend to write longer blogs so I can give more depth and hopefully more impact to them.

I still have the issue about what to write about. I am still not going to do make-up regardless of how many mega hits such blogs get but I did go to a party dressed a zombie once, and won a prize, so who knows.

I think that this is the problem with a lot of things, not just blogging. Life seems to have become formulaic, too beige, to quote Billy Connelly. Many towns have had their hearts removed by shopping centres which, when you walk into any of them, are repetitive clones of the last one that you were in confronting you with the same stores, chains or franchises over and over again. If you were to be blindfolded and dropped into any shopping centre in a country it would be almost impossible to guess where you are. All these cloned store have taken the colour out of our lives. The shops are done to a formula and put into shopping centres which are also as boring. The little independents are squeezed out along with variety and diversity.

As it is with blogging I am starting to find. All the thousands of ‘advice’ sites about blogging come down to the same advice repeated and regurgitated over and over. Occasionally there is a little gem to be discovered, but you have to shovel a load of effluent to find it. And the problem with this is that the people looking for advice find the same things and all develop the same way, and the world turns beige. There are some excellent, original websites out there and I applaud them, and that is what I intend as well.

My decision has been to write about the same eclectic range of subjects, that is things that interest me and hopefully interest other people as well. They will just be longer and deeper than the snapshots of stories that I have done for my previous 29 blogs. I might even rewrite some of my short blogs in time to give them the treatment I though that deserved but missed out on the first time round.

I enjoy writing and as I said in my about me page if people get some pleasure from reading my offerings then that is my reward. I try to put some thought provoking ideas, humour and bits of myself into my writing and why should my blog be any different?

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