Why should I give advice to young bloggers? Heaven knows I’m not a techy person. I’ve grown up in the computer age, but my experience with electronics has been a lot of trial and error, learning from mistakes (or just continuing to make them) and doing things the long, hard way.
In other words, this post couldn’t be a techy post if I wanted it to be. I started blogging in 2007 when I was fourteen years old. I used Blogger and my focus was on appearance. I now realize that blogs have innards too. There are important things to be kept up and tinkered with on the inside of a website. I really didn’t know that when I started, and I still understand very little of it. I have since made the switch to a self-hosted WordPress site (viola!) If you want to know more about getting started on WordPress, I highly recommend this series by Gretchen Louise. She is a techy person. As a matter of fact, I sometimes think she’s my guardian angel. She just knows stuff and doesn’t cry when she’s working on my blog. Unlike me, who does. Cry.
But on the other hand, I’m only twenty-one and I’m already sort of a veteran blogger. There are some downsides to starting so young. I will be writing soon about the “spiritual puberty” the whole internet watched me go through. People saw me change and go back on my words and say things that I disagree with now, and that’s uncomfortable. But it’s not wrong. I will always be changing, even in the realm of beliefs. I don’t regret having published my thoughts at such a young age.
So this post is for the young bloggers. The bloggers who think that maybe they’ll regret what they say now when they’re, ya know, old. For the bloggers who are just jumping in and feeling a little scared and very much addicted. This is my advice to young bloggers:
1. Consider using a pen name
This may seem like a funny place to start, but I really wanted to make this point. I started using a pen name because I was young and the internet was a scary place in 2007. The truth is, it’s still a scary place in many ways. Pen names, when used as actual anonymity, can help protect your identity online. Other ways to do this are to name your house (ahem, Eyrie Park) instead of listing your town and never post pictures of the front of your house, your license plate, identifying information, etc. However, this isn’t the main reason I recommend pen names!
The reason I still use my pen name after all these years, even though most people know my real name, is because Everly is so much easier to remember. Everly catches your eye when I comment on your blog. It’s unique. If your name is already unique, you might consider using your real first name and leaving your last name off, or something like that. For me, as much as I love my real name, I know that my pen name gets me good recognition and helps create online friendships.
2. There is techy help to be had
If you have a technical question about your blog or your online presence, don’t just throw in the towel! The blogging world is made for ordinary people. You are techy enough to blog. I promise. :) You can always use the “help” bar on your blog, google your question or visit sites like gretchenlouise.com for help. You might even consider hiring a VA (virtual assistant) to get over a bump in the road. I recommend Chantel Brankshire.
3. Promotion isn’t selfish
This might be the hardest lesson I’ve had to learn as a blogger. Has God given you knowledge and wisdom on certain subjects? Does your story need to be heard? Are you unashamed of your message? Then promote it. It’s not about “me, me, me!” It can be very much about Jesus. Be prayerful and sincere in your promotion. Remember that your favorite writers promote their work. If they didn’t, you’d never have the pleasure of reading their words. Hide it under a bushel, no!
4. Think before you speak
With that said, remember that your words are very powerful, even if you feel small. They are pebbles in the great lake, creating ripples somewhere. Be careful what you say. Don’t spout off. Don’t ever address something publicly that should be addressed privately (in otherwords, your blog is not your diary, your method of revenge or a place for personal confrontation.) Anne Lamott is often quoted as saying,
“You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.”
In theory, this is true. But there’s such a thing as mercy. You don’t have to air everyone else’s dirty laundry just because it has stunk up your own room. There is mercy and grace and forgiveness and patience. Jesus didn’t rise from the grave and go this friends and say, “Did you see what those Romans did to me?!” He moved on. Sometimes we need to do that too.
5. Controversy isn’t everything
Don’t write about something solely because it’s controversial. Controversy dies after a while. Write out of your own real passions. Write what needs to be said, yes, but don’t make a career in ruffling feathers.
6. Authenticity is gold
“Aim at authenticity, never at style, originality, or “creativity.” -Elisabeth Elliot
We want nothing more than to hear your real story, your real heart, your real message. The blog world used to be a place of facades and fake lives. We don’t want your glossy magazine life. We want you.
7. Own your work
Learn how to put a watermark on your images. Use your own graphics. I love picmonkey for this. Don’t let other writers use your words without permission or recognition. This is just common courtesy.
8. Stick with it
There is definitely a time to take a blogging break, but don’t give up entirely. Change your writing style if you want. Create a new blog. But don’t think that because of one technical issue (or a lifetime of them, if you’re me!) or one negative comment or one bout of writer’s block that you’re not meant to be a blogger. There’s room here for you. What do you have to tell us?
9. Join the beautiful community!
This is probably the #1 greatest advantage to blogging while you’re young. The community is like no other. I have developed relationships here that I would’ve never had if I hadn’t been blogging. Relationships that are strong online and then become strong offline! Older bloggers have taken me under their wings, invited me in and validated me as a writer. I have been given opportunities to learn and to teach. I have grown so much in my faith because of the words that I’ve read, spoken to the world at large and to me personally. Find a community. Do a link-up. Leave a comment. Tag a friend. Join a group. Start a mastermind group. Submit guest posts. Ask for guests posts. Offer critique. Encourage one another. You are not too young, too small, too new. Reach out and I promise, you will find a hand to grasp.