Somewhere, someone is thinking about writing. They are confused where to start. Maybe they think they can’t write well at all? Perhaps they even think they’ll run out of things to say? Guess what?
Why A Blog?
Social media has taken over as the primary form of communication for a great majority of the population. Status updates, wall posts, and picture montages are the way we tell everyone what we’re up to. But this kind of communication is fast and ephemeral. Can you recall tweets you made seven months ago? Unless you can remember a keyword, Twitter and Google do a horrible job of searching for anything past a few days old.
Blogs represent something different. They are the long form record of what we know. They expand beyond a status or point-in-time posting. Blogs can exist for months or years past their original post date. They can be indexed and shared and amplifed. Blogs are how we leave our mark on the world.
I’ve been fielding questions recently from a lot of people about how to get started in blogging. I’m a firm believer that everyone has at least one good blog post in them. One story about a network problem solved or a cautionary tale that they’ve run into and wish to save others from. Everyone knows one thing that few others do. Sharing that one thought is what sets you apart from others.
A lot of blogs start off as a collection of notes or repository of knowledge that is unique to the writer. This makes it easy to share that knowledge with others. As people find that knowledge, they want to share it with others. As they share it, you become more well known in the community. As people learn who you are, they want to share with you. That’s how a simple post can start an avalanche of opportunity to learn more and more.
How To Start
This is actually much easier than it appears. Almost everyone has a first “Starting A Blog” post. It’s a way to announce to the world that your site is more than a parking page. That post is easy to write. And it will hardly ever be read.
The next step is to tell the world your one thing. Create pictures if it helps. Craft a story. Lay out all the information. Make sure to break it up into sections. It doesn’t have to be fancy, just readable. Once you’ve gotten all the information out of your head and onto virtual paper, it’s time to tell the world about it.
Publicize your work through those social media channels. Link to your post on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and anywhere else you can. The more eyeballs you get on your post, the more feedback you will get. You will also get people that share your post with others. That’s the amplication effect that helps you reach even further.
Now, Keep Going
Okay, you’ve gotten that out of your system. Guess what? You need to keep going. Momentum is a wonderful thing. Now that you’ve learned how to craft a post, you can write down more thoughts. Other stories you want to tell. Maybe you had a hard time configuring a switch or learning what a command does? Those are great posts to write and share. The key is to keep going.
You don’t need a set schedule. Some write every week to keep on track. Others write once a month to sum up things they are working on. The key is to find a schedule that works for you. Maybe you only do something interesting every two weeks? Maybe your job is so exicting that you can fill a whole week’s worth of posts?
The worst thing in the world is to have a rhythm going and then stop. Real life does get in the way more than you think. Jobs run long. Deadlines come and go. Missing a post becomes two. Two becomes three, and before you know it you haven’t posted for six months or more.
The way to fix the momentum problem is to keep writing things down. It doesn’t have to be a formal post. It can easily be bullet points in a draft. Maybe it’s a developing issue that you’re documenting? Just jot down the important things and when you’ve wrapped up all the hard work, you have all the beginnings of a great blog post. Every support case has notes that make for great blog subjects.
I still consider blogging to be one of the most important ways to share with people in our community. It’s very easy to write down tweets and status updates. It’s also very hard to find them again. Blogs are like living resumes for us. Everything we’ve done, everything we know is contained in several thousand characters of text that can be searched, indexed, and shared.
If you are sitting in a chair reading this thinking that you can’t blog, stop. Open a text editor and just start writing. Write about screwing up a VLAN config and how you learned not to do it again. Write down an interesting support case. Maybe it was a late-night migration gone wrong. Just write it down. When you finish telling your story, you’ve got the best start to blog you could possibly hope for. The key is to just write.