A Writer’s Blog
That’s Not Just About Writing
By Patrick J. Worden
Like many of us, I eased into
the writing lifestyle. Kept my day job, wrote when I could, submitted
sporadically, worked hard on improving my craft. It was years before
I granted myself the tepid appellation “semi-pro.” Becoming a
reasonably well-published author, novelist, and freelancer? That took
Every career is different, no doubt
about it. There are a few constants, though, or at least
commonalities, that help define the expectations our readers and
potential readers set for us. Head-strong individualistic creatures
that we are, we might be tempted to defy expectations, and there’s
surely nothing wrong with that. But do so cautiously, I’d suggest,
lest it hobble your chances for success.
I learned that lesson the hard way,
because for years I defied the expectation that every working writer
should have a blog. Oh, I tried, to be sure. Enrolled in just about
every blogging platform available in the Late Nineties and Early
Aughts. I had no clear idea what to do with them, though, and
inevitably turned each into an open, electronic journal, along the
lines of “and HERE’S what I did today.” Within weeks, with
every such attempt, I grew bored and disillusioned, and gave up. Soon
I gave up on blogging altogether.
But here’s the
thing about expectations: they don’t just go away. Every time I’d
tell someone I was a writer, they’d say something like, “Great!
Send me the URL of your blog!”
So round about early 2011, I decided to
give it another go. This time, I vowed, I’d do things differently.
I began by thinking critically about
blogging, and what I wanted from the process. The answer, simply and
mercenarily enough, was that I wanted it to help further my writing
career. So, I asked myself, what sort of blog might do that? At once
I could see that the “daily diary” I’d tried creating so many
times before was an absolute dud. If I found it boring, what might my
My next idea was to tweak the diary
format ever so slightly, and use my blog to report on my writing
endeavors. I discarded that idea almost immediately. I was writing
one book per year, roughly, and publishing shorter pieces just a bit
more frequently. I couldn’t see myself generating enough bloggable
content to keep an audience engaged.
What I needed, I decided, was a
blogging subject, or at least unifying theme, that I could write
about on a regular basis, that an audience might find interesting,
and that I could spin occasionally into a bit of gentle
I’ll pause here to point out what’s
probably already obvious: the ideas and solutions I’ve had (and
continue to have) about blogging work for me. Are they right
for you? I cannot say.
But again, there are constants and
commonalities. For instance, every blog should keep readers coming
back. That means frequent updates. How frequent? I recommend weekly,
at a minimum. The blog should be easy to read, and visually
appealing. Don’t go crazy with typefaces and backgrounds, lest
reading it becomes a chore. Remember, you’ve got a lot of
competition out there in the blogosphere. Clicking away from your
page, and onto someone else’s, is one of the easiest things your
audience can do. You’ve got to give them reasons to stay.
What I finally decided on was to occupy
a niche—not necessarily writing-centric, but one with which I could
occasionally discuss writing, when events warranted. And when I
wasn’t writing about writing, I wanted to make sure I still had
plenty of interesting content.
Thus was born Worden’s Cultural
Deconstruction (pworden.com), which I subheaded “Culture critique,
current events, and commentary.” With an e-colophon like that, I
reasoned, I could concentrate on arts, literature, and the universe
of pop culture (all things that I and millions of others find
fascinating), but also stray into almost any other subjects that
might tickle my fancy…up to and including relevant events in my own
It was a decent idea, I think, but even
the best ideas don’t pull their weight unless they attract some
attention. That’s what my blog needed: attention. It needed
Here’s where the blog-slog begins.
Because there’s no quick solution for building readership. It takes
time, commitment, and constant effort. First and foremost, blog and
blog often. Post quality content that’s well written and fun to
read. Keep doing that, even if your hit counter is telling you that
just you and your mom are the entirety of the audience.
Leverage social media. Build up a
platform of friends and followers, and let them know every time you
post. Be topical—find current events and trending memes that impact
your niche, and opine upon them. And engage the blogging community.
Find similar blogs, or even not-exactly-similar ones that you like,
and read them, comment on them, and help promote them. Those bloggers
are sure to return the favor.
As for platforms and tools available to
today’s blogger, there are so many, of such varying utility, that I
won’t make many recommendations, other than to say that if any of
them seem interesting or valuable to you then give them a try. I will
heartily recommend the Google Adwords Keyword Planner
You’ll need an Adwords account, but that doesn’t mean you need to
create any costly advertising campaigns. The keyword look-up tool
simply helps you find frequent Google searches, based on keywords you
enter, that might help direct browsers to your blog. For instance,
searching on the keyword “Culture,” I found that millions upon
millions of people were Googling the phrase “What is culture?”
every day. So I began tagging that very phrase in almost every post I
So where did this all take me? I won’t
say my blog is setting the world on fire, but my readership has
steadily improved. I’m getting about 400-500 hits per month, with
noticeable spikes every time I post something new. Archived posts are
pretty popular too, which validated my commitment to create good
stuff even when no one was reading it. And at last count, I had about
1,500 subscribers. Not too shabby.
These days my blog has morphed from a
self-promotion platform, to a central part of my writing life. I
spend a lot of time planning content, I truly enjoy writing it, and I
love the reception it gets. For someone who once foreswore blogging
completely, I’m happy to now self-identify as a blogger. In fact,
I’m as a happy to think of myself as a blogger as I am a working
So for any other working writers out
there who might be looking for a leg up, I heartily recommend the
blogging life. I won’t say you should follow my program to the
letter—in fact, I’d urge you to chart your own course. But
hopefully my lessons learned might guide you a bit. The only advice
I’m sure applies to us all, and it applies to all our
writing, is this: Go for it. Happy blogging, and happy writing.
is the auther of several novels, collections, and non-fiction books.
He blogs frequently on culture and current events at Worden’s
Cultural Deconstruction (http://pworden.com).
He lives with his wife and daughter in Northeast Ohio.