Is it just me, or do others out there see being a blogger as like going on a journey into the unknown?
You start out tentatively, with those awkward first posts, and that hurriedly chosen theme. Your sidebars and widgets are undeveloped, and there is so much about WordPress that you just don’t get at all. The dashboard menus are confusing, and adding images doesn’t seem simple either. Then there are the Categories. What do you call them, and how many should there be, if any? Tags might seem obvious to some, but I had no idea how to tag posts. When I first started out, my posts had almost as many tags as text. Then I found out that it is best to only use five tags or less. I wondered which ones to use after that, and looked at other blogs to get some ideas.
Then came ‘Publicize’, and ‘Sharing’. I didn’t have a Twitter account, or a Google+ identity. So, off I went and created accounts with both. Many new bloggers already use Facebook, so that might give them some idea how to do all this stuff, but it was all Greek to me, as the old saying goes. It took me a long night to discover that I had to add images to my ‘Media Library’, before I could insert them into a post. Then a lot longer to realise that my allowance would soon be eaten up by adding too many photos. After a while, I decided to stick with what I had, even if it didn’t look anywhere near as good as the other blogs I was reading.
Remember that feeling of excitement, when someone viewed your post, and WordPress told you that you had a ‘Like’? You had written something, put it out there, and someone somewhere had not only read it, they had ‘Liked’ it too! Then came those first comments. What to do now? Do I reply, even if an answer doesn’t seem necessary? Then when I decided that I would, I forgot to click the ‘Reply’ box first, so my answer just appeared as another comment, with me suitably oblivious to that fact. The someone actually ‘Followed’ my blog. I was amazed that they would actually want to, and still new enough to be unaware that not all ‘Followers’ are really going to follow.
After a while, I suddenly thought that maybe I should be following some other blogs too. After all, some were kind enough to follow me, and the least I could do was to follow a few in return. Very soon, I started to be aware that we were all in a community. We followed each other’s blogs, commented on comments, and regularly posted more and more stuff. It started to all feel very ‘normal’, and routines of adding images, sharing, re-blogging, following, and commenting, all became second nature. It was like that moment when you have just started driving a car. Although you have passed your test, it feels strange to be out on your own. Then one day, you know your way around, no longer worry about what gear you are in, and feel just the same as all those other drivers.
But there is still more to learn, more tricks and tips to pick up. How to avoid Spammers and scammers, who not to follow, and who you should be following. Adapting your style to suit the blogging format, and making sure to keep your blog fresh and active by varying your posts, and keeping the flow going. Remembering to comment, to check your notifications for things you have missed, and adding replies to comments on your own blog, when appropriate. By now, you have got a long way into that journey, so what next?
For me, it was a change of Theme. After a long time with that original theme, I was becoming fed up with looking at it. And if it was getting that way for me, then what must it be like for those reading it? A change of theme, a different font, and a sort out of those categories. Adding the ‘Like’ button for comments was my next move. At least anyone who commented would know that I had read it, even if I hadn’t had time to reply. On the advice of a fellow blogger, I removed the long dull list of archive months and years from the sidebar, and replaced it with a drop-down menu instead. More advice from someone else made me move my ‘Follow’ buttons higher up, so it was easy for new readers to follow, if they so wished. My final addition was the ‘Choose language’ button. I know that the translations are far from perfect, but you are at least letting non-English speaking readers know that you value them too.
That was it for me, my journey was complete. For now, at least.