By Tracey Arial
Blogging seems like a straightforward thing for a writer to do, but I didn’t find it easy to begin. The technical gibberish around the industry seemed too dense to navigate. It took years of consideration before this site was created. Now, I don’t understand what took me so long.
My journey into the world of freelance writing would have been similarly meandering without the advice of a helpful man by the name of Gary Provost. He wrote a handy little guide called “The Freelance Writer’s Handbook in 1982. Despite the havoc in the magazine and newspaper world since then, the 291-page guide is still a handy reference to thinking about all the things writers need to do to sell their work.
Provost knew how to turn everything writers do into a crucial tool for an independent writing business. He even describes typical flights of imagination, a disease I’m similarly plagued by, as crucial generators of potential stories.
Look everywhere for story clues,” he wrote on p28. “Yesterday, for example, I went for a walk and I saw a bright crimson kite bobbing in the afternoon sky about six blocks away. I thought: Aha! A man and woman are having an affair, but they can’t call each other because both are married. So he goes to kitchen window every afternoon and if he sees the red kite in the sky it means her husband is not home and he can come over.”
Provosts’ decision to share such wacky musings made his advice personal and particularly relevant to me. He was like a friendly coach towards continual persistence.
So when I began considering the world of blogging a few years ago, I searched to see whether Provost could offer some guidance. As someone who succeeded self-publishing years before, surely he’d have good advice.
Unfortunately, he died in 1995. Gail Provost Stockwell continues his legacy at http://www.garyprovost.com/, but the world of blogging was before his time. Too bad. His style of easygoing encouragement would be very useful now.
Technical side of blogging a barrier
Like pitching and writing an article, blogging seemed overwhelmingly difficult before I actually did it. I had so many questions, many demanding skills I care little about. I already had a website; how would a blog be different? Which platform do I use? How do I set up a blog that will grow with my audience? Can I sell advertising? What kind of formatting is available? Can I limit costs by setting up a single blog with many sections?
The most important question of all: how can I set it up so that I don’t have to learn new technology every year and a half?
A workshop about social media didn’t help answer any of my questions. Speakers were very inspiring about what I might blog about, but they didn’t want to go into any of the technical details. “It doesn’t matter which software platform you use,” said one. “Just pick one and do it.”
I also read through my “Missing Manual to Creating Websites,” by Matthew MacDonald. (This easy-to-read series is available at: http://oreilly.com/missingmanuals/). One chapter in that guide was very helpful, but it provided a step by step guide to using Blogger, and Blogger was on some sort of hiatus at the time.
(I’ve since read somewhere that bloggers today could use Drupal, Gawker, Moveable Type, Drupal or Crowd Fusion, but I didn’t investigate any of these and I still have no idea if any of them existed at the time. If you use any of these other platforms and enjoy your experience, please comment below.)
I ended up experimenting with WordPress, not really as a conscious choice, but just because it was available via my webhost, http://ca.godaddy.com/.
Experience Blogging on WordPress
Now that I’ve been blogging for a while, I’ve realized that few people other than programmers want to talk about the technical details of blogging, because it’s tough to remember what they are. Once you select a platform, choose a template and add plug-ins, all you have to do is write.
I typically compose stories in Word and then copy and paste them into a “new post” in WordPress. Then I just click various boxes to add photos, videos, tags, and other SEO formatting. From there, WordPress magically takes care of formatting, design and distribution, just like a traditional publisher would.
By using WordPress, I’ve created a partnership with a group of technical geniuses who worry about the details I can barely think about. They consider how to link to Facebook or Google+. They think about all the changes needed to ensure that my data remains secure and test and implement them as I keep blogging. They encourage me to use my blog to catch the most readership. They even tell me when I need to worry about the technical details.
When I sign into my account, my “dashboard” shows me what’s new in the WordPress world, with links to posts that might influence the world of bloggers. There’s also a link to the WordPress news blog, which today has their anniversary post from May 31: http://wordpress.org/news/2013/05/ten-good-years/.
If there’s a new release, my dashboard tells me to back up my data and upgrade. The friendly folks at Go Daddy walked me through the backup process once, so now I know what to do every time. I just follow the instructions they gave me.
Sometimes, there’s information about new upgrades, like the ability to use Canadian English. Yippee! Thanks, WordPress. Now, of course, I have to figure out how to implement it.
An awesome theme and a whole lot of great plug-ins enable me to continually change the look and feel of my blog, but I’ll write about those Wednesday.
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