It's time for things to get a little bit meta, with a blogpost on blogging.
Yesterday I went to a talk on "blogging and beyond" organised by SaveAs Writers. It was hosted by author Truda Thurai who interviewed Sarah Sturt (editor of Kent Life) and freelance history writer and blogger Rachael Hale.
This was part of a day with three other writing events, and I was so glad to see an event specifically on blogging. Blogging has become a big part of my life, so to hear from others with real experience within this, personally and professionally, was really helpful.
The first part of the session was Truda speaking to Sarah about her experiences. I was so impressed to hear she is the only full-time staff member on Kent Life, and the huge role she has in both editing and writing this monthly publication.
Coming from a journalistic background she also shed some light on different writing styles - and the difference between print journalism and blogging.
She spoke a lot about building up a picture through your words but also thinking about the visuals of your blog. Now, so many people read blogs through smart phones and so this leads to a narrow column (similar to how newspapers used to be) - and so it's important to break up your paragraphs.
This is something that I've definitely learned to do since I started blogging a couple of years ago. Looking back on my past posts the length of paragraphs is slightly embarrassing!
She also talked about writing being a personal platform to express your views and interests, but treating this professionally in the way you go about it, in terms of the time you put into your editing.
A great statement that stayed with me from Sarah was "trust your own voice, and your readers will too." This is something I struggled with when I first started blogging.
Initially I mostly wrote previews and reviews on theatre. It was reviewing Ruby Wax's Losing It that led me to talk in a more personal way about mental health. That sort of changed everything, and made me feel much more free to talk about the issues that interested me - outside of the context of theatre.
Back to the session, the latter half was Truda speaking to Rachael Hale. Her story is one that really inspired me. Through writing a personal blog about history, and then blogging for Kent Life - she has now found a job which allows her to research and write professionally.
Rachael talked about the importance of thinking about why you write - with a common theme to your posts helping with both inspiration and also encouraging readers to return. She also highlighted the importance of being creative - and how this is good for readers as well as for you. If you don't have time to write a full-length post, one image with a paragraph of text can work too.
Also, having regular formats to return to eases the potential problem of ideas running dry, while giving a sense of regularity and familiarity for readers.
She ended by saying not to get too hung up on blogging advice. I smiled as she said this, clocking us eager bloggers making notes as she spoke. However, a lot of the advice given was about being true to yourself - rather than specifics on when to post or what to write about.
Rachael also touched on some interesting ideas regarding marketing and self promotion - with ideas for tracking what people respond to. Also, the importance of having a bio page, so people can learn a bit more about you (now on my to-do list!).
Another interesting point was on networking and kindness - making connections with fellow bloggers, and always replying to comments people leave you.
The main thing I took away from the event was a real sense of purpose and determination: a bit of validation for my efforts, and some encouragement to keep going. It gave me ideas in terms of being able to post more regularly, as well as maybe looking at the idea of branding and looking again at layout.
It was also nice to meet and talk with fellow bloggers, about blogging. Writing can often feel pretty insular, and it highlighted the importance of helping out your peers.
I went to the event with Chloe after we spoke about writing the other day, and also met the lovely lifestyle blogger Cassy Fry - who I'd previously just spoken to online. You should definitely check out both of their blogs - links are below.
So yes, all in all a good day - and I really appreciated SaveAs Writers putting the event on. It's given me a lot to think about, and also made me reflect on the whole process of blogging in a way I hadn't before.
I started blogging in 2011, but the last two years I've really appreciated and got into it more. When I got really ill I wasn't able to perform anymore. I missed that creative outlet, but also I wasn't able to do much of anything.
So I clung onto what I could do - write. It was taking me longer because I couldn't concentrate so well, but I was still doing it. Amidst the difficulties, it felt like an achievement each time I clicked that "publish" button.
I think the more you write, the more you write - if that makes sense. You start viewing things, which might previously have been a passing thought, as potential posts. It gets easier and the anxious self-consciousness of writing (mostly) leaves.
Now, I'm back on my feet, but I've kept writing. I just really enjoy it. Even without feedback I would, but whenever I get a comment or tweet about my writing - it really does make my day.
On that note, thank you for reading if you are, and do!
I'm always looking to read more blogs - let me know yours by commenting below, or getting in touch on Twitter at @amyjanesmith.
Links to those mentioned:
SaveAs Writers - Twitter / Facebook / website
Truda Thurai - Twitter / blog / website
Sarah Sturt - Twitter / Kent Life website
Rachael Hale - Twitter / blog
Cassy Fry - Twitter / blog
Chloe Boulton - Twitter / blog