Ten Lessons from Ten Years of Blogging.
Ten years ago I posted my first blog post. I’m not even going to bother to link to it because all it said was “this is my first blog post!!!” and then I announced that I was going to teach myself Movable Type because Movable Type was totally a thing and kind of like WordPress but not WordPress and I’m not even sure anyone uses it anymore. (Whatever, here it is if you really want to read it. I’ll wait the two seconds for you to come back)
But anyways. That was ten years ago. That was, according to my WordPress dashboard, 1,685 posts ago.
Now, I know what you’re thinking, because I’ve heard the response before every time some new blogger at a conference has asked how long I’ve been blogging. You’re thinking:
“Wow, Val, you must get all the traffic.”
“Wow, Val, you must be a totes famous blogger.”
“Wow, Val, your blog must be all kinds of successful.”
AND YOU WOULD BE WRONG.
And I would laugh at you for how wrong you are.
Because, you see, ten years ago, back in 2006, blogging wasn’t really a thing that people really did. It wasn’t a business. It wasn’t something that every other person had an e-book on how to do. It wasn’t a soulless life form full of affiliate links and clickbait and listicles. Blogging for Dummies didn’t even come out until 2008. Just sayin.
Blogging back then was Livejournal. Blogging was Open Diary. Blogging was Xanga. There was no Twitter. Facebook was barely a thing. Pinterest and Instagram were a long time coming. If you went viral it meant you should go to the emergency room. Blogging was just a way to keep in touch.
If you look back to my first year or two or ten of blogging, you’ll see that I posted such winning articles as:
A one line post that linked to a youtube video because video embedding didn’t even exist yet.
Random conversations I had with friends.
An entire three week backpacking trip in one blog post that didn’t even include that many photos because most of them were taken on a FILM SLR because film cameras were still a thing that people used.
No, it’s not embarrassing for me to share those links at all. Not one bit…
Sometimes I think I should take everything down from my blog from before 2008 or 2011 or 2016. But then I talk myself out of it. Because it’s there and it reminds me of where I started and where I am today blahblahblah. And I can go back and find out what I ate for dinner in 2009 or who I wanted to win American Idol in 2007. And when I’m old and in a nursing home I can totally have someone read my life back to me The Notebook style. Can your blog do that? I think not.
In any case, I’ve been blogging for ten years and that’s pretty crazy. And you can’t go ten years and 1,685 blog posts without learning something about blogging. No matter how little traffic your blog gets, no matter how unsuccessful your blog is, no matter how much money your blog has cost you over the years. So here, in honor of my tenth blogging anniversary, are ten lessons I’ve learned in ten years of blogging:
1. Blogging Will Not Make Someone Fall in Love With You
I’ve made it no secret that part of the reason I started blogging was that my ex-boyfriend told me I needed to get a life. And somehow, in my pretty little 24-year-old mind, starting a blog seemed like the best option to prove to him that I did, in fact, have a life. And that blog would be so powerful that after reading said blog that boy would realize how much of an idiot he was and fall madly, deeply, back in love with me. Of course, this plan was fatally flawed. A) He wasn’t going to read my blog. And B) He was right. I had no life and, therefore, nothing to really write about. I was kind of pretty boring.
But then this magical thing happened where the more I blogged the more I wanted to do so I’d have something interesting to write about. So I got friends. And I dyed my hair a million colors. And I got a passport. And I started traveling. And I quit my job to travel. And I got another job. And I quit that job to travel too. And, eventually, I started blogging about things other than who I wanted to win American Idol. And I think at this point I’ve fooled a lot of people into thinking I have a life…
And while, no, that boy never fell back in love with me through my blog, he did recently tell me that I lead an interesting life. So, whatever.
2. Sex sells.
Anyone in advertising will tell you that sex sells. It works for blogging too. If you write about making out with someone 10 years younger than you or skinny dipping or spending a hot weekend on a secluded island with a Venezuelan or getting really drunk and hooking up with everyone, people will be more likely to read it. Not that I’ve ever written about any of those things. Or done them…
Actually, my most popular blog post of all time is the one about the sex temples in India. Mostly people find it googling group sex or Indian sex and are probably sorely disappointed. But, pageviews, so whatever.
3. You Can’t Keep Your Blog From Your Family
No matter how many times I’ve asked my mom not to read my blog, she still does. And so, if you see above, my mom probably knows way more about my sex life than she ever should. And, because my family reads my blog, there are still things I feel uncomfortable writing about. Which I hate because I like to be completely open and honest here. It’s kind of like when I was in eighth grade and I told my mom not to come to my school’s talent show. But she came anyways and tried to sneak it by me. But I saw her in the audience and I decided not to perform. It’s just like that.
You probably can’t hide your blog from your family forever. And maybe you don’t need to because you don’t talk about sex and every excruciating detail of your life. I mean, who cares if your mom reads “top ten cheeseburgers in Berlin” or “She saw a penguin in Argentina and what happens next will shock you” articles.
But try. Try really hard to not let your family know you have a blog. Because even if you ask them not to read your blog and they promise you they aren’t reading your blog, they are reading your blog.
4. You don’t need a niche.
The first thing anyone tells you about starting a blog is that you need a niche. Maybe your niche is luxury travel on $10 a day. Or purple polka dotted home decor. Or meatloaf cupcake recipes. In any case, that’s great that you know what the hell you want to write about.
I’m not jealous of that at all.
But you don’t really need a niche. I mean, most people who tell you you need one won’t be able to agree on how the word niche is even pronounced. So why would you trust them?
You can just be completely neurotic and post whatever the hell you want. I give you permission.
But I will tell you that I have another super-niche blog that I haven’t touched in years and it gets way more Facebook fans than I do here. So you’ll probably want a niche anyways. What do I know?
5. Blogging conferences are the best for getting drunk.
If you start a blog you may be tempted to go to one of the many blogging conferences out there to learn more about blogging. Don’t. What you’re going to want to do instead is go to one of the many blogging conferences out there to meet awesome people and get really drunk with them. Really really drunk. For free. Make sure which ever conference you choose has plenty of opportunities for open bars. See: TBEX or World Travel Market.
6. You can literally change course any time you want.
Are you tired of blogging about meatloaf cupcakes and want to blog about personal finance instead? Sounds boring, but OK. It’s OK. It’s totally OK. It’s totally OK to change your mind and switch course on blogging any time you want. OK?
While I’ve had my blog for ten years I’ve actually have had my website for much longer. I registered my first domain name in 2003 and had a static website for a few years. In 2006 I decided that if I ever wanted anyone to come to my website a second time, they needed a reason. Hence, blog. Over the years I’ve redesigned my blog approximately one million thirty six times. And then, I changed the name. I used to just blog under Val Bromann (or Valerie if you want to be more formal) because I was apparently too boring to think of something creative. It wasn’t until 2013 that I came up with Choosing Figs. And that’s stuck. But I still redesigned my blog again.
7. Long posts are OK, OK.
When you’re first starting out blogging you’re probably going to ask, “what’s the ideal length for a blog post?” And you’re probably going to ask it a million times to an annoying degree because you think there’s some magical number like 342.687 words that will automatically make your posts go viral. And maybe there is some magical number and no one wants to tell you. Or me. Is there some magical number???
Sometimes I write short posts. Sometimes I get lazy and don’t know what to write so I just post a bunch of photos and hope that’s all you care about anyways. But most of my posts nowadays are somewhere between one-thousand and three-thousand words. And a lot of people will tell you that a 3,000-word blog post is ridiculous. But I say those people are ridiculous. Because sometimes people read 3,000 word blog posts. Who are those people? I don’t know. But I swear they exist. I hope.
8. Sometime in your blogging career you will buy a box of cupcakes just so you can take a million photos of a cupcake in order to hopefully get one that is semi-OK to use as a blog header.
You will not have just bought a box of cupcakes so you could eat a box of cupcakes. It will have been extremely important for the integrity of your blog. I can’t stress that enough.
9. It’s really hard to come up with ten things for a list.
10. Blogging is a lot of fun. No, really.
Blogging is fun. It’s creative. It’s analytical. It’s expressive. It’s informative. It’s emotional. It’s therapeutic. At least, for me it is. Sometimes I forget how fun it is to blog. How fun it is to just sit down in front of a computer with a blank page and just get all that stuff out of my head. And then edit it over and over and over until it makes sense and makes me laugh or cry or feel. Yes, that’s my idea of fun. There was a period of my life where I couldn’t sleep before I updated my blog on what’s I’d done that day. There was a period of time where my blog was my biggest passion. And, sometimes, I’m pretty sure it still is.
Plus, those blogging conferences man…
And…that’s all I’ve got. You now know everything I know about blogging and probably all you’ll ever need to know about blogging. You’re welcome.
And I now have ten years of blogging behind me, another 2,000 words written, and 1,686 blog posts written. And on to the next ten years.