Sustainable Blogging: The Challenge

95% of bloggers fail.

Writing a blog always starts with this euphoria of greener pastures: setting up the WordPress or Squarespace site, finding a great theme, tweaking it all to be exactly what you like, writing the infamous Hello World post, and promoting the heck out of it.

But sustainable blogging isn’t about themes, platforms, and promotion. It’s about writing, and after being asked by several friends how to start their own blog, I wanted to share about what I’ve found builds a lasting blog.

Why do you want to join this racket anyways?

Blogging is a ton of work, and isn’t a very profitable endeavor1. Blogging is about writing, and the successful writers are the people who use it as a way to think, share, and collaborate.

You should be writing for an audience of one: yourself. John Gruber and Merlin Mann gave a fantastic session a few years back about how to build a blog you’d be proud of. You shouldn’t write for the attention, because you won’t have much for a long time, and when many writers realize only their girlfriend and mom are reading, they quit.

What do you really want to write about?

So you really want to get into this, so start with finding something that you’ll still love writing about in 5 years. What excites you? What type of stuff are you actually reading in your Instapaper queue? Behind Companies started because I loved reading the stories of how companies were run.

Your topic becomes a lens to analyze everything you write about. It will help keep your pieces focused on a topic that your audience is interested in. Constraining yourself will help you find topics to write about, not limit it.

I used to blog irregularly about anything that caught my eye at MarceloSomers.com2, but it wasn’t until I picked the lens of how companies are built and run that I got into a consistent groove writing.

The Myth of the Expert

Many aspiring bloggers also fall for the myth of the expert: thinking that they don’t have anything to say because they don’t have the credentials in that field. There are two approaches to addressing this:

  1. Write as someone new discovering your topic. The couple at Young House Love started blogging to share their DIY reno of their kitchen. They had no idea what they were doing, but 5 years and hundreds of posts later they are now DIY experts who have published their own book. Taking the time to write a blog consistently will eventually make you an expert.
  2. Acknowledge that “expert” is a relative term. Most people are capable of having an educated view point on a topic that excites them. It just takes a bit of research and well-formed logic.

The Challenge

To make sure your next blog won’t fall into the junkyard of the web, take the next 30 days and just write. Don’t even bother setting up any tools: just grab the text editor of your choice (mine is Byword) and write. You don’t have to do it every day, but if you can’t crank out a few pieces in 30 days days, you might want to reconsider.

If writing is hard, don’t fret – getting in a flow can take time. Heck, two years later I’m still figuring out how to put together a blog post.

These 30 days will help you twofold: first, you’ll figure out if you even enjoy writing. Some people are cut out for other mediums of communication, and that’s ok. Second, when you launch your site you’ll already have a backlog of posts so you’re not just a “Hello World” post on an empty site.

In the coming days, I’ll be sharing thoughts on how I’ve managed to keep writing over a few years, including how to set up your blog and workflows to simplify your writing.

  1. And I say that as someone who has helped bloggers make money []
  2. Yes, my personal site needs a few hours of love. []
January 17, 2013