I was so honored when Hilary from Dean Street Society asked me to be a part of the Happy Hour Blog Tour to start the conversation about her new book The 4-Part Entrepreneur Cocktail. Throughout the month of November a bunch of bloggers are starting conversations about blogging… from motivation to monetization. I get asked questions all the time about blogging, particularly why to start and how to stick to it, so I knew this was something that I wanted to participate in.
When I started blogging, the environment online wasn’t what it is now. Social media simply wasn’t #SocialMedia. I’m actually so so so glad it wasn’t. I never felt like I had to do something to “get followers” or write a certain way to “stand out” or feature something to “make it.” I was just navigating the waters and doing what felt right to me.
I think that is the key to successful blogging: doing what feels right for you.
A successful blog isn’t about the page views, the readership, or revenue. A successful blog is about the blogger creating her own space on the internet and sharing what she loves. I think there’s an enormous amount of pressure on bloggers right now to be “successful,” but often the definition of success is incorrect or misdirected.
To me, blogging really and truly (as dramatic as it sounds) saved my life. Or at the very least, directed my life in a much, much better direction. I’m coming up on my fifth anniversary and I really can’t imagine my life without “The College Prepster.”
The idea for the blog came about because I was seriously miserable at school. Classes weren’t going as well as I had imagined it would go. I wasn’t making friends like I thought I would. And I definitely wasn’t having the kind of fun that everyone told me I was going to have. My grades were abysmal, I felt terribly lonely, and I didn’t think getting drunk was all that fun. I wanted out… but I took an “out” in the form of a distraction.
Blogging turned into something fun, something to do that wasn’t graded, and something that allowed me to learn and grow and share… and no one read it. I didn’t care, mostly because I didn’t expect anything or have anything to compare it to. I just loved sitting down a couple times a week and quickly writing something. No schedule, no pressure, no worries.
As social media started growing, I was continuing to develop my blog and turning it into more than a distraction. But what I like to remind people is that I fell in love with blogging for two years before it ever really started sticking with an audience. An audience wasn’t the goal, enjoying the process and owning a little space on the internet was the goal (whether or not anyone was on the other side).
I did start taking it a little bit more seriously when a friend told me I wasn’t a “real blogger” until I had a 1,000 followers. So basically, I started blogging because I was failing school and grew my blog because I wanted to prove my friends wrong. Maybe not the best strategy, but that’s the truth!
Blogging has brought me so much: Happiness, friends, opportunities. I’ve learned a lot about myself: What I’m good at, what I’m not good at, what I love. I’ve taught myself many things: How to communicate better, more about technology, and the importance of growing a thick skin.
The idea of quitting has never really occurred to me. I love it way too much. A handful of times in the past I’ve considered making it private. For every ninety-nine people who say they love my blog, there’s one who doesn’t. And they’re vocal about it. I used to get really upset by it. Now I honestly don’t care. My dad thinks it’s funny and I just ignore it. (Over time, I’ve actually learned to embrace it and see how it’s really helped me feel more comfortable and secure with who I am.)
The biggest tip that I can give a new blogger or a discouraged blogger is to blog for you. The first two years of blogging when no one read it were critical for both me and my blog. I grew so much as a person and my blog grew organically because I was putting in genuine love into it. Embrace the time when no one is reading because it’s sort of an incubation period. Carve out your space and you can grow and learn and make mistakes. Focus on the growth of you as a blogger before focusing on the growth of the blog itself.
Find out what you love. Discover new ways to share your passions. Embrace the new experience.