Recently I was asked if I had pointers about starting a blog. Here’s what I said:
- Have fun with it. If it’s not fun it becomes a chore and you’ll stop writing. (I wrote this point last and then realized it’s the most important thing I have to say.)
- Should you buy a domain name and create your own site or use free a platform like Google Blogger or WordPress? I did the former. It involves more work and expense (not a lot–BlueHost, my blog’s host, is now $5.95/month) but gives you greater control. I (usually) enjoy learning the technical aspects of creating and running my sites, but not always. Blogging-specific hosts make life much easier. WordPress is the premier blogging software, which you can use without having WordPress host your blog.
- Set realistic goals for how often you’ll post. Beginner’s enthusiasm can generate a flurry of initial posts but at some point it will fade, you’ll not post for three days in a row, and you may feel pressure to post something–anything–which can interfere with posting something good. My goal this year is 20 posts a month. If I meet that goal it will be the largest number of posts I’ve made in one calendar year. I kept the pace through August, fell behind when school began, and have started to pick it up again over the past few days. The important thing is that I only make myself a little crazy if I go 10 days without posting.
- Understand why you are writing the blog. I created the blog because I like to write short pieces about ideas and issues that capture my attention, because writing about legal topics helps me refine my thinking, because I want to reveal how I think about these topics to students, and because there’s a never-ending conversation going on in my brain.
- Define your blog’s focus. Will you post only about a few specific topics or will you also post about personal things–a book you enjoyed, a place you visited, whatever? How much will you reveal about yourself? It takes time to decide on a focus and settle into a voice. I post mostly about law-related topics with some personal stuff thrown in to give the blog more personality and make it more fun to write. I decided early that I would not post about really personal topics because there’s only so much of myself I’m willing to reveal to my general student readership. If I intended the blog for friends or peers its content would change dramatically. Should you ever notice that I’m posting about truly personal subjects it will be a sign either that I’m nearing the end of my teaching career or that for some other external reason I no longer care about my privacy.