Cross-posted on Medium as
"There's a Story Behind Every Blogger"
Two weeks ago, ReelCarina from Stepabout tagged me in the Blogger Interview Series. It’s been quite a thing for some months now among bloggers. I wondered if I should actually talk publicly about the backstage of my blog — for it often smells of insecurity, doubt, stage fright, fudge cake and unvoiced dreams…
And then I thought: “Oh well.”
“How did you get into blogging?”
It’s kind of a long story, so I’m gonna try and keep it short(-ish). If you don’t care, scroll down to the next question of the interview!
I started travel writing a few years ago when my wife gave me a beautiful travel notebook as a birthday present. Once a year, the two of us leave for a long journey and this travel notebook (and its successors) has become a must-pack, an essential part of our travels: it is our memory. The witness of our peregrinations, sensations, anecdotes, one that will not age and forget details. Every time we leave, even for short trips, I put my travel notebook in my backpack.
In the meantime, the political debate around marriage equality started in France. I opened a Facebook account, because my wife was tired of me reacting to articles and debates by connecting to her account. Of course, every time, I asked for her permission to do so, and I added the mention “Carrie speaking” next to her name so that the readers knew that those were my opinions and words.
Sometimes, the debate was escalating. I felt I needed to be an advocate for the cause of marriage equality. I felt the injustice. The intolerable fact that, on the French internet, the people who were making most of the noise, who were making themselves heard the most, often were just big-mouthed straight men who had never experienced discrimination and who felt France, at last, needed them to speak their words of good sense and truth. (If you are a straight man reading this, I know how it may sound and I am sorry. But believe me, I kept stumbling upon these jerks; in those troubled times, they just seemed to be everywhere).
Months passed and I was spending so much energy, I was putting so much passion in my words, that people… started to like it! They would exclaim “hear, hear!” or tell me: “You should write, you know.”
At that point however, writing was hurting me more than it was doing me good. Once, I debated for a whole evening with a guy who’d get very personal and mean — the more I tried to be objective and thorough in my arguments, the more personal and hurtful he’d get. I ended up crying and turned off my laptop. Although people’s reactions indicated that I had “won” the debate, I had lost my evening, my happiness and my peace of mind.
Since that day, I stopped engaging in digital debates. Finally, marriage equality was voted and my wife and I got married.
For a short while, I stopped writing and commenting on Equal Rights; however, I never stopped travel writing. I was even becoming — in the words of friends — quite good at it. Therefore, last year, I decided to have an “expert stranger” read my travel notebooks. By expert, I mean someone with some experience in the writing and publishing world. By stranger, I mean someone who wouldn’t feel like they had to be nice to me.
So I gave my travel notebooks to a colleague of mine who, in a previous career, had been an editor for a major French publishing company. I did not give her the original notebooks, but the groomed versions I now post on my blog as “travel journals”.
She loved them. I was honestly surprised; her enthusiasm pushed me into the “why-not” phase many of you may have experienced. Shortly after that, a friend of mine who blogs and also publishes children’s books suggested the idea of starting a blog instead of submitting printed texts to publishers: it would be easier to start with, rewarding and inspiring.
After a lot of reading about blogging, a lot of thoughts about what I wanted to do and a lot of work on an offline version of my blog, there it was: “Carrie Speaking” was born. Travel writing, Books, Women, Equal Rights. I had exorcised a meaningful nickname and transformed writing into something that would do me good.
"What advice would you give to a blogger just starting out?"
It is difficult to give general advice on that topic. Every choice I made seems to be so specific to my blog, to what I wanted it to be and become! But I’ll give it a shot.
If you want your blog to be a personal platform of expression, something that you’ll let your family and/or friends and/or perfect strangers read if they feel like doing so, if you want it to be something that you would not particularly advertise, then I’d say there’s no rules: enjoy yourself, write, create, treat yourself with daily words and images that will make you grow. Your blog will mirror that growth and keep track of things for you. It might become a major blog or remain relatively private — in any case, you’ll still have your personal platform of expression.
However — and this is not mutually exclusive with what I just said — if you want your blog to be a semi-professional project (I say semi- because I’d be quite unable to give advice to those who want to earn money through their blog and make their blogging activity their main job), then there are three things that, looking back to it now, seem essential to me:
1. Decide in advance how often you will post and when.
Except if you plan to be a full-time blogger who posts several times a day, make your audience know when to visit your blog and how many times a week. Let’s face it, people won’t be clicking “refresh” on your main page, Facebook page or Twitter account to keep track of your writing. During the first days, weeks or months, they won’t even know you exist.
It appears that regularity is more rewarding than quantity when it comes to audience growth. People can’t read everything, everyone, all day long.
Personally, I thought it would be safe to announce two articles a week, one on Wednesdays and one on Sundays. Then, occasionally, I’d be free to post one extra article — which I tend to do more and more with Medium exclusives and the great opportunities offered by being a writer in Medium publications.
Since the very first week, I stuck to it: no matter what, come what may, I would post two articles a week, on Wednesdays and on Sundays — when an article is ready before that, I don’t post it: I just wait for my rendezvous with my readers.
Finally, if you are lucky enough to leave for long holidays, announce it to your readers and plan automatic updates for your blog: this can be the perfect occasion for specials and a new blog series. This summer, while I travelled New Zealand, my French-speaking readers could travel Scandinavia with me through the 18 entries of my Scandinavian journal. I also published a live photojournalistic article from Wellington.
2. Be thorough and considerate in your usage of social media
(Using social media such as Facebook and Twitter to announce your posts seems so obvious to me that I didn’t even think of mentioning it as part of this list of advice.)
To announce your last article on your Facebook page, don’t write
hey i posted sth hope u like it [insert here numerous emojis]
Call me old-fashioned (however, I do make lovely spice & banana muffins and I know my tea blends — come and say hello anytime), but if you do not care about each and every one of your posts, chances are that few people will. Post the link to your article without adding anything to it, or say something articulate about it.
3. Read other people’s blogs
Even if you do, you’ll never do it enough. Great content (or at least the sincere conviction that you are posting great content) is essential. But you also need to go outside of your blog if you want the door to be left open for readers to come in. As I was telling my readers recently, bloggers get their inspiration from life, and the work of others — and both need to be shared. You’ll get a sense of people, you’ll get opportunities to contribute to Publications and to other people’s blogs. Blogging is weaving.
“What would be your dream campaign?”
I guess it would be something about Travel Writing, as both Carrie the blogger and Carrie the person do that. As I was telling you a few paragraphs above, it is both the starting point and the core (or, one of the cores) of my blogging activity.
"Do you have a plan for your blog?”
Actually, I do. In three months, my wife and I are taking a leave of absence and flying off to British Columbia, to live an entirely different life for 8 precious months. During this experience, far from letting my blog down, I’ll develop it. There’s been rumors of free travel books and a photography project. But shhh! I didn’t tell you anything, and you never read these lines…
“What do you think about rankings?”
Now to the trick question!
Rankings, stats and other figures will both keep your heart pumping and ruin your day, I guess. Let me say something irritating that Master Yoda would say: have consideration for them, and beware of them; let them give you a sense of your value, but do not reduce yourself to them; be grateful, and be a snob.
I hope you enjoyed this post. I did. Thank you for reading.
a.k.a Carrie Speaking
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