How do you blog? What makes your blog so popular? What's your blogging secret? These are three questions I'm often asked. The simple answer to the second two questions is: I'm not sure. And because I think the first question is about the practicalities of blogging, the ins and outs of it and why I do what I do, I'm going to write about that today.
I started this blog on 14 May, 2007 with a post about Brandywine tomatoes. Since then I've written 1624 posts, 44,333 comments have been published, there are 3672 followers and there have been over 4 million visitors. When I started, I thought I would write about our everyday life and that would make a fine record for us about when we planted and what we harvested, and as one of our sons was living in Canada then, he could see that everything was fine and dandy at home. I had also started writing a book that I couldn't get published and I had a lot of material that I thought was worth sharing, so I logged into Blogger one day, and here I am. I never set out with the idea of creating a popular blog. If you care too much about being popular you concentrate on the wrong things, and it comes across as desperation. My aim was to connect to like-minded people and to share what I know - it is my responsibility as an older woman to do that. It surprised me when so many people connected with me here, and stayed. When I first started collecting statistics for my blog, I thought the counter was wrong because it kept telling me there were always a lot of visitors.
In the beginning I wrote every day as I was firmly convinced, and still am, that to create a relationship with any readers who wandered my way, I had to give them something original and interesting to read when they arrived, and the promise of something new tomorrow. Writing every day gave my early readers a little unspoken promise that if they came back, there would be something waiting. It also revealed a little bit of Hanno and me, and the life we were living, and I hoped that visitors would take the time to give a little bit back too. That happened, we made the connection I wanted to make and over the years I've developed friendships with some of the readers here and built up an idea in my own mind about what many of you are like in real life. Each comment adds to that.
I used write my blog when I got up every morning - 4am. If I did that, I had enough time to give it the attention it needed while still having time for the work I did later in the day. One thing is for sure, you can't write about a life you don't really live. I put my camera in my apron pocket in the morning and if I do something I think I might write about, I grab the camera and take the photo. Now I find it's better if I start writing the blog the afternoon before, then I edit it, or add to it, the next morning. I usually have it published some time between 4am and 6 am.
My subject matter often comes from what I do during the day but it also includes occasionally responding to emails, step-by-step guides, recipes and thoughts I have about this and that. I am not self-conscious at all about writing my thoughts on death and ageing and I hope the posts I write on those subjects, as well as the unrealistic desire for perfection, help bring those topics into general discussion more. At the moment, not many people talk about those things and they are as important as happiness, health and slowing down.
I have no formula - I don't write a certain number of words, I just stop when I feel I've conveyed what I hoped to. If you read about what makes a successful blog, many writers say you should be mindful of keywords and to create headlines that reflect popular keywords. I don't. I think the way to get readers is to write well, almost every day, and to comment on other blogs similar to your own and join forums about your subject. And you have to give it time - time to write well, time to develop your own voice and style, and time for readers to find you.
I have never set myself up as an expert. I just want to share what I know and what works for us here. I think there are many ways to live a simple life, ours is just one way. I hope that what I write helps people believe they can make the changes they want to make. Over the years I made sure I was not swayed by advertisers and people wanting space on my blog - I get emails almost every day asking for that. I have done some bartering deals and lived true to my values, and despite being offered some incredible incentives, I only blog about and promote products I use here. I couldn't honestly recommend anything I haven't used myself and, more importantly, would continue to use.
Now that I've been writing for so long, I think, but I'm not sure, that if there is a secret, it's regular interesting content. And you have to write from the heart, you have write well, you have to be believable. I hope I have done all that. There are still many things I have to learn, there are always changes being made here so I guess while we keep evolving, I'll keep writing. To tell you the truth, this blog has become a friend to me and I would miss it if I stopped. In the silent early morning hours, with a cup of hot tea steaming beside the keyboard, I've shared many thoughts and words here but I am still amazed that from this silent spot, as soon as I hit "publish" these words travel out in to the wide world, to you. Don't you think that's incredible?