I promised you guys listiciles, so here's a double whammy. A post with two—count'em—TWO listicles. It's a total of eight numbered bullet points! It's not quite a "10 Ways to ... " or "25 Types of ... " post, but just give me time!
Should you start a personal blog?
That's a question I've been asking myself. I've been thinking of rebooting my blog Go Create Now as a personal blog (the one you're now reading) for quite some time now. I often felt that I pigeon-holed myself with my old blog, structuring it around the single topic of creativity left me feeling a bit uncreative. Like ... isn't that ironic? But it could've been worse. Considering how irregular I posted, it's a good thing I wasn't writing about productivity.
I felt it was time for a fresh start, so I looked to my favorites for inspiration. The blogs I keep going back to defy easy classification—durable classics like Brain Pickings and kottke.org. Most of these began under an earlier freeform model of blogging, where the subject matter of a particular blog was often diverse and even delightfully random.
The earliest blogs were essentialy variations of personal blogs. Many of these blogs weren't always personal in the sense of a diary (though they could be). More often these blogs were personal in how they reflected the sensibility of their authors. If they could be said to have a niche, it was in how the authors presented their varied interests in a particular way.
After posting around a specific topic, going back to this old school model of a personal blog can be hella liberating. So much so, that I've started to write a lot of nonsense. But I'll keep the nonsense out the next section, because I'm about to deliver five actionable points in a concise list! This is serious, you guys!
5 Benefits to Starting a Personal Blog
There is something about the personal blog, yourname.com, where you control everything and get to do whatever the hell pleases you ... This is how blogging was in the early days. And this is how blogging is today, if you want it to be. — Fred Wilson : The Personal Blog
Okay, we've all probably read the benefits of picking a niche for your blog. If you want to make tons of money while lying in a hammock, that's the way to go. There's gold in them thar niches! But there's also clear benefits to starting a personal blog, here's 5 (FIVE!!!):
It's your corner of the web. In an age where we're sliced and diced into social media silos, and prodded into pushing our content on other platforms, the model of having your own blog at yourownname.domain hands the power back to you. You own that space and it reflects you in a very authentic way. You not only control the content, but how it's presented.
It grows more naturally. As I mentioned, from a content marketing perspective, there's pressure to find your niche—a specific topic to focus on. While this is a valid approach, I find forcing it too early can be counterproductive. Having a personal, more open-ended blog helps you discover what you enjoy writing about. Then you can apply what works on more focused content, either on your own blog or elsewhere.
It builds your web-writing skills. When you don't have to stick to a single subject, you can shift your focus to form. Writing for the web is one of the most valuable skills to have, and it's not the same as the type of writing we're typically taught in school. It has to be concise, easy to skim, and personable. A personal blog is a great vehicle to hone this skill.
It builds your curation skills. Curation involves sorting found web content and presenting it in a meaningful way. Many of the early blogs such as Robot Wisdom and later tumblelogs such Anarchaia centered around curation. Whether you're curating for a company project or managing a Twitter feed, curation is a vital skill to have, and the personal blog has always been the primary model learn it.
It makes blogging fun again. It's easy to take blogging too seriously when the sole purpose is to make money or build a huge audience. Personal blogs are a place where we can put our feet up and cut loose. Want to write about business or your skill set? That's fine. But you can also write about comics or the latest episode of Mr. Robot. Even post those vacation and pet pics. The fun stuff takes a fresh and more in-depth perspective when it's off of Facebook and on your own site.
3 Things You Need to Start Your Personal Blog
So there's some benefits. If, like me, you decide to take the plunge, here's the three essential things you need to get started (or maybe I'm just in a mood for listicles):
A Frictionless Platform. As someone who's learning WordPress development, I won't deny the content marketing possibilities that platform offers. But for a personal blog, I prefer something simpler. I use Ghost, because I love their minimalist markdown interface, and I find it's the most frictionless route from brain-to-blog.
Time and motivation. Like all creative endeavors, writing a personal blog takes time. A personal blog may take even more self-motivation, because the benefits are not always apparent. But once you get into the swing of it, you may find it just as enjoyable as other hobbies, like watching Game of Thrones.
Something to say. On the Signal v. Noise blog, Jonas Downey wrote an interesting post entitled Asking Why. He questions assumptions that we often hold about having a personal website. Is it just a hub to collect social media links, showcase professional work, and dabble with web tech? Do we keep one out of obligation? The same should be asked of a personal blog, otherwise it will be quickly neglected. Ask what's unique about what you have to say, and why people would read it. Then it will result in a blog that offers a fresh perspective.
So there you have it, some legit reasons to return to the ancient art of personal blogging. And who knows, it might take off. Many personal bloggers like Jason Kottke and Andrew Sullivan have built huge audiences. With a personal blog, readers know they're connecting with a real human being in a very authentic way, and that's the biggest selling point of all.