1. Think big.
If I lived the way I’ve come to blog, I’d see some real progress in my life. On unsure terrain those early days, I started with posts that lined up with my interests. Homeschooling, for example. I felt assured I was “doing the right thing” posting the type of things bloggers were putting out. Gradually I tapped into what I was passionate about and the things that fascinated me. Last year, blogging stopped being a train of posts I shot out one at a time, wondering what I’d write about next. Rather than post linearly, I started architecting my blog. I figured how many floors (that is, topics) I would erect in the next six months, going backward to furnish the rooms (with posts for each topic). The blueprinting gave me direction, control, and purpose. But I wasn’t bound to my plans. There were plenty of posts that arose from whimsy and moments where life happened.
2. Stay flexible.
Stay tuned to your hot topics and see what you can do with them. Moving into 2014, I watched the post on Black Santa generate enthusiastic discussion and was reminded that everyone has something to say about race because it’s close to home as you can get. So I bit the bullet and launched the ambitious Race Around the World. It was the cultural tapestry we pieced together those 80 days that spun all those series the rest of the year: class, identity, belonging, guilt, shame, money, opportunity, hope.
3. Stay happily discontent.
Whether it’s wanting more out of your content or more of your subscriber base. We never arrive, do we? And success, especially in cyberland, is an endless stretch of horizon. A word on unfollows. I’ve seen funny posts with bloggers screeching that they lost three followers. I value every reader, especially the active supporters, but feel dependent on none. You will get unfollows. It’s the ease and democracy of blogosphere where people come and go. Don’t pin desperate hopes on anyone. Set your sights higher. And higher still. I tend not to reach out to readers who seemed to have stepped away. I don’t want to obligate them to visit if they’ve moved on, though I’ve discovered it’s usually that life pulled them away for a season. Or WordPress wiped me off their radar, an unfortunate glitch in our system.
4. Don’t play it safe.
The empty post page is like a blank check I write myself. Create opportunity, for yourself as well as others – if you want to – which can birth more opportunities. Twenty-two months ago I never imagined I’d host a forum where a worldwide community of artists and thinkers could share their history, fears, and dreams. Blogs are a safe place to test the boundaries that in life you may not be able to play with. Experiment, try new projects. You’re limited only by fear and your imagination. Staying static is like painting your whole blog one color and keeping it that way.
5. Remember how small you are – in blogging and life.
There’s always someone with more readers, someone faster, smarter, more talented and savvy. You’re not all that, and neither am I. That’s why I try to keep it real. For all the rewriting I do here, I don’t want to end up editing my image when you’re coming to me with a certain level of trust in my honesty.
6. Know how big you can be.
Not only are quantity and quality not mutually exclusive, but I’ve discovered quantity can improve quality as much as it goes the other way. Have you thought about why it is you want to grow your readership? The answer can be more meaningful and fulfilling than your own popularity, your ego. There is a satisfaction that comes from resonating with a larger crowd, degrees of insight and perspective a larger following can offer. You expand possibilities for yourself, viewers, and your community.
7. Know why you’re here.
I got chills watching him carve in the sky the triple somersault and half-twist before slipping clean into the water. Last summer, the commentator said of Gary Hunt who was known for his inventive cliff diving, “He knows exactly why he’s in the air.” The power, the grace. The hours and hours Hunt devoted in the search for his best self. In the writing, dreaming, collaborating, I’m exploring my capacity as an artist and a community builder. I create something bigger than me, something that extends beyond the bounds of my own life. The extraordinary discussions, synergy, stats were not my primary goals but the unexpected payoff of one simple purpose: excellence. I’ll never be a medalist but my blog is where I test my reach, and enjoy visible and lasting rewards for the time I put in. Know why you’re in the air or why you want to get there. Doesn’t have to be serious or profound but if you don’t know why you’re here, we don’t either.