Wednesday, January 28, 2009

So You Want to Start a Sailing Blog?

I received an email today from a guy I met sailing around here. In fact he has even featured in a couple of my posts under one of those dopey pseudonyms which I use to protect the innocent when I make fun of them in Proper Course. Apparently he is thinking of starting a sailing blog and he is asking me for advice on how to go about it. Being a smart guy he started off with some excessive flattery of my blog so I will be motivated to help him. Here's what he wrote...
[Another local sailing dude] recently turned me on to Proper Course, which I have been reading diligently to catch up on lost years. It's very entertaining, and sometimes insightful, and I think you are a terrific writer! As a former English teacher this compliment should carry some hefty weight. Note the exclamation point.

I have been talking to [the other sailing dude] about starting a blog to discuss our experiences, express enthusiasm for sailing, and rant against the local Killjoys who thwart, rather than promote out efforts.

Have you any advice in a nutshell?

How do you get any readers as you project out into the universe? It seems like beaming a message to Alpha Centauri, reporting on how things are going here on earth.

How could I resist a request like that?

Basically I have five pieces of advice...

1. Use Blogger. It's easy and it's free. Some people will give you the opposite advice and tell you that if you use Blogger you are placing yourself at the mercy of the big bad evil Google empire, or that you won't be able to have the snazziest sharpest blog design, or that you can't customize it, or that it's not cool. Whatever. I like easy and free.

2. Participate in the sailing blogging community. One thing non-bloggers often don't understand is that bloggers are (usually) not lonely nerds living in their parents' basements beaming messages to Alpha Centauri that nobody will ever read. The way to help people find your sailing blog is to interact with other sailing bloggers. Leave interesting comments on other sailing blogs (using your ID that links back to your own blog of course). Respond positively to any folk that leave comments on your blog. Place links to other blogs that you like on your own blog; with a bit of luck the writers of those other blogs will reciprocate.
Participate in those group writing projects that some blogs (like this one) run from time to time. After a while the readers of those other sailing blogs will start reading yours too.

3. Be yourself. Let your own personality shine through in your blog. Express opinions. Rant. Do something different from the herd. There are about a million new blog posts written every day, so you had better give folk a reason to want to keep coming back to read your posts.

4. Write regularly. If you want readers to keep coming back, then you don't want to be one of those bloggers who writes every day for a few weeks and then goes silent for three months. I've not been very good at following this advice myself the last few weeks. But there are several well-known ways to overcome the dreaded "bloggers block", one of which is to answer a reader's question. Hmmm.

5. Encourage readers to give you feedback. Ask questions such as, "Does anybody else have any different advice to someone who wants to start a sailing blog?" Seriously, do you?


Captain John said...

Tilly, once again you rock!

I’d add: provide an email address on your blog so readers who are too bashful to comment publicly can email you.

And don’t worry if you find that you have 100’s of readers from around the world after six months and none of them will talk to you.

The time will come when you’ll discover that the guy on the next boat is a blogger too, secretly reads your blog, but won’t email you.

Greg and Kris said...

Hey, what the heck? Stop blogging, fergawdsakes. It's getting in the way of the commenting. Now I gotta scroll a mile to get to the good stuff.

PeconicPuffin said...

1. Use Typepad.
2. Participate in a blogging community other than your own.
3. Be somebody else (a puffin, a tillerman, a horse etc.)
4. Don't write regularly (look what it's done for the Tillerblog!)
5. Encourage readers to buy you drinks.

tillerman said...

Hmmm. Good to know someone has some different ideas.

What do you mean about "participate in a blogging community other than your own"? As in "hang out with real sailors not just windsurfers" or "join some totally unrelated community like Long Island Fans of Sarah Palin"?

And Puffin, when do I get my drink?

EVK4 said...

Write only about yourself. People love this. Seriously though, if you're not comfortable writing about yourself, you can write about me. How come I don't have a Fan Blog?

PeconicPuffin said...

Yes indeed I meant "hang out with real sailors not windsurfers." Vang tension and all that. Superblog guy who doesn't inspect the top of his mast. Also Bonnie Bonnie Bonnie to learn about lobster rolls and organic cucumbers.

Re the drink, you haven't encouraged me to buy you one! Meanwhile "Messing..." Adam and I are going to splice the mainbrace a week from tomorrow. That's blogging!

O Docker said...

Offer a free hat to anyone who reads your blog.

You'd be amazed how excited some people can get about a free hat.

Mal's Team Gherkin said...

Write what you know, from experience, then seek greater wisdom from your readers. Yell your stories, because everyone has stories in them. But they are yours. And write for yourself. in the end, you may be the only person who actually reads your blog! Don;t sweat it. lol.

SweetSkunk said...

Hey how is everyone doing, I was surfing around the different blogs looking for info on how to write a proper blog! I think it is very ironic that while searching for info on the proper way to write a blog I've come across proper course which is very well put together by the way and has offered me much insight so I thank you very much proper course!
If anyone has any tips for me place them in the comments
On my blog!
Thankyou for your inspiration proper course!!

Captain John said...

EVK4 - isn't Tilly your fan blog?

David said...

I'm with you, Mal. Just start blogging and don't worry about whether you have any readers or not. (or course, this is coming from someone who a year into blogging had only managed to get his mother to read it.)

B.J. Porter said...

David, I don't think I've even been able to get my mother to read mine.

David Fuller said...

Good Advice. Blogger is the place to start. The other advice that I wholeheartedly agree with is keep it regular.

There are a couple of other ways to get yourself read. Once you have your blog, use FEEDBURNER to convert it to an email that people can subscribe to. As google own both Blogger and Feedburner this will probably become standard in blogger soon enough.

Check out twitter. Twitter is micro-blogging. You only have to think of 140 characters to write. There are a couple of other advantages to twitter 1) barely any sailors are doing it, which means you become an authority quickly. 2) you can drive people back to your blog.

Good luck.

Anonymous said...

Which one has more pork?

Not sure which one is scarier…


Greg and Kris said...

Sonya Tillerman has not accepted my friend request yet. Should I offer her a free hat?

Pat said...

I didn't know that compliments could teach English!

"As a former English teacher, this compliment should carry some weight."

Do you think the requester really taught English if he or she lets modifiers drift around like that? But, perhaps the school in question realized they'd hired a compliment instead of a teacher.

I suppose that hiring a compliment instead of a teacher was just an extreme case of the big fad a few years ago of doing anything to boost the self-image and esteem of "alternatively successful" students.

Seriously, you should be more worried about something I discovered and discussed recently on, potentially involving the intersection of the Racing Rules of Sailing with turtled Lasers.

tillerman said...

On second thoughts my friend, do NOT start a sailing blog. You will only attract anonymous political wingnuts, lecherous middle-aged men trying to pick up busty young women on Facebook, and nit-picking leadmine owners working too hard to impress their English teacher wives.

tillerman said...

Oh, I forgot a sixth piece of advice. Feel free to abuse and insult anyone who leaves comments on your blog. They love it and always keep coming back for more.

Greg and Kris said...

That's it. I'm leaving. I resent the implication that I own a leadmine.

See you all tomorrow.

Pat said...

Fear the lead mines! How many bullets could my survivalist wing-nut buddies cast from a 1900-lb. keel?

Greg and Kris said...

I'd say to anyone who wants to write anything for an audience, that it's important to keep them in mind when you're writing. I don't always do this and surrender to the urge to be a flippant witticist far too often, I'm sure.

However, if you keep in mind that writing is all about connection and you try and make that connection from that higher self place of wisdom that we all at least have access to, then you're doing something worthwhile. William Kittredge said something like, "We all want two things: meaningful work and to belong to a community of people we respect." I believe it and I believe speaking with respect for that community, and writing what you know to be true are the things that make for a successful blog. Now, go and do as I say ... because about half the time you shouldn't do as I do. Or more.

O Docker said...

Hmm, reading this post and discussion, it seems most bloggers are desperate for more comments.

Maybe I should join the Professional Blog Commenters Guild and start getting paid for my efforts. The nice thing about PBCG is that the rates are standardized so there's no haggling with the blogger about money.

The per paragraph rate is reasonable and I like that they pay commenters extra for verse.

To get into the Guild, I'd have to submit a portfolio of comments in each of the four categories: Exuberant Praise, Feigned Shock, Sarcasm, and Wit, but I could probably steal some stuff off the web for the Wit category.

How do you think the big boys like Huffington get all of those comments? Their posts aren't any more interesting than Proper Course. They've just got dozens of pro commenters on the payroll. Well, that, and they give away free hats.

tillerman said...

They do? I've given up hope for a North Sails hat. How do I get a Huffington Post hat?

Carol Anne said...

Actually, Pat doesn't own the lead mine ... I do. He owns the fleet of Sunfish.

tillerman said...

I stand corrected. I apologize to Pat for calling him a leadmine owner. Anyone who owns a fleet of Sunfish is a good guy as far as I am concerned. Even if he is a nitpicker.

Anonymous said...

One other piece of advice. After a couple of months, you will hit a wall, when you will wonder why you are doing this. When this happens post about it as you will be surprised that you have readers who care. They will keep you going. After that no whining/more blogging.

tillerman said...

Oh, and after four years you will hit another wall when you will wonder why you are doing this. When this happens, follow Adam's advice and don't whine about it; just stop posting for several weeks. You will be surprised to find that you have readers who care and who will leave even more comments about your not blogging than they ever did about anything you actually wrote.

At this point you might be tempted to give up blogging altogether... or to write dopey posts with titles like "Ten Things I Will Never Write on this Blog". Don't.

O Docker said...

I've worked at newspapers for the past 35 years (as a photographer for 25 years and computer drone for the past 10).

The plum job in a newsroom is 'columnist'. You work your way up to that.

No daily assignments, no cop beat, no city council meetings, no floods, no fires. Write whatever you want. Many reporters drool at the prospect of landing that job.

But after a few years of it, some are drooling for other reasons. The stress of facing that blank screen every day drives some over the edge and leaves them grateful to have an assignment editor once again.

Bloggers are today's columnists, bless your hearts. I've thought a few times about starting my own blog, but, besides wondering who the heck would want to read about my life, I keep thinking about that stress, and about the responsibility of keeping something going. I usually end up concluding a blog would be like a puppy that never grows up. Who's going to change the papers when I want to be out doing other stuff - like sailing.

My hat is off to all of you guys. Take your time, take your vacations. If words sometimes fail you, you will always have your voice, and that's really what readers are listening to.

Those of us with less courage than you will be here to torment you when you get back.

tillerman said...

Someone ought to start a blog called the "The Collected Comments of O'Docker". It would be an instant hit.

Greg and Kris said...

Es verdad. I realized at some point that I was scanning for O'Dee's comments, sometimes even before reading the actual blog. He's sort of the puppetmaster, you know? Like in Being John Malkovich, except he's Being Tillerman.

tillerman said...

I think it's more of a Single White Female obsession than Being John Malkovich Being Tillerman.

O Docker said...

This is great.

Look at all the money I'm saving on a shrink.

But it is a little creepy having the session in public like this.

No way I'm doing any Rorschach tests though. Those inkblots all look like Elle Macpherson naked.

Greg and Kris said...

hey! I've got the same affliction as you O'Doc, except it's the aversion version. Yeah, all Rohrschach blots look like Phyllis Diller naked.

I just referenced Phyllis Diller. How old does that make me?

JP said...

Prepare to say goodbye to an hour a day (or so)

Remember its your blog so you can do what you like with it - blogs can change

You'll actually find it hard to stop, so remember you are free to walk away if you want to (seriously, why all this anti drugs campaigns and no "blogging - just say no"?)

Pat said...

Carol Anne, don't forget the Other Lead Mine -- the one that's still "some assembly required". and there's also the nineteen-foot project cat -- not sure what category that puts us into.

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