Ruth Dawkins is a 28 year old mother and writer who has recently moved from Edinburgh to Hertfordshire. She blogs as DorkyMum on everything from parenting and poetry to politics and photography. Before becoming DorkyMum her jobs included: environmental campaigner, Green Party parliamentary candidate, newspaper intern, and student union president. However, her favourite job was being a climate change ambassador for Ben and Jerry's; a role that involved camping in the Arctic and eating a lot of free ice cream (although not at the same time). When she's not engaging in armchair activism or entertaining her toddler, you can find Ruth wasting her time on Twitter and Facebook.
After nine months of blogging, I’ve finally got it cracked. I have the answer. I have worked out the single most important rule of blogging…
I know! Isn’t it crazy?! I thought it’d take years to discover it, but it hasn’t. Just nine months. And you know what? Because I’m a generous soul, I’m going to share it with you.
Come here. Lean a little closer, and I’ll whisper it…
“The most important rule of blogging is… there are no rules.”
There is advice. There are guidelines. And there are suggestions - some of which are helpful - some of which are less so. But there are no rules. Not a single one. If you write a blog, you can do exactly what you like with it. You can change your mind about how you do it, from one day to the next. You can ask people for their thoughts on what you’re doing and then, if you don’t like what they say, you can totally ignore them.
That’s a pretty controversial thing to say – and I may get slapped down by some of the more experienced bloggers out there - but I’m going to back it up by busting some of the most popular myths for you. Here are some of the ‘rules’ that I read before starting a blog, along with the reasons why I think it’s okay to ignore them.
Don’t Use Too Many Words!
The ideal blog post is around 450-500 words, I’ve been told. Long enough to hold your reader’s attention, but not so long that they start getting a fidgety bum before they reach the end. Well that’s just piffle. There is no such a thing as an ideal word length. If you want to write a 250-word anecdote about a funny conversation with your toddler, then go ahead and do it. If you’ve got a long personal story to share, or an issue that you feel passionately about, go ahead and write 2500 words on it. As long as your style is compelling enough, your readers will stick with you.
Use Lots of Photos!
The only reason for including a photo in every post is if, erm, you’re running a photography blog. Otherwise, don’t feel under any pressure. Of course including an image in your post can sometimes add a lot to it… but it’s not essential. Sometimes - if you’ve just done a Google image search and found a poor quality, pixellated pic that bears little relevance to your post – it can even be distracting, and detract from your writing. It’s another rule that you should feel free to break. Use your judgement about whether a post really needs an image or not, rather than sticking one in as a matter of habit.
Join Lots of networks! Go to lots of conferences! Promote Promote Promote!
Even since I started blogging, less than a year ago, there has been an increase in the number of networks available for parent bloggers to join. There’s BritMums, Love All Blogs, the NetMums Parent Bloggers Network, the Mumsnet Bloggers Network, BlogHer, In the Powder Room, Tots100… alongside these are the numerous blog conferences and meet-ups… and then there’s your standard selection of social media outlets and promotion tools; Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Tumblr, StumbleUpon, Google+ and the like. It’s enough to make your head spin. Every one of these sites has something to offer, and every single one has its ardent fans that are more than happy to talk about the benefits. But if you’re a new blogger, don’t feel under pressure to join them all right away. Take a little time to see where you feel most at home, and where there is a community that you feel comfortable with. Then focus your efforts there. It’s not essential that you have a finger in every single piece of the bloggity pie because, apart from anything else, there just aren’t enough hours in the day. If you find that you’re spending more time on the networking and self-promotion than you are on the blogging itself, then you might want to think carefully about whether you’ve got the balance right.
Post Every Day!
Or don’t! It’s up to you. The theory is that, to begin with at least, you should post every day to build up a loyal following and ensure that if someone revisits your blog they’ll always see something new. The reality is that very few people have the time, the energy, or the ideas to post something new and interesting every single day - or even every couple of days - so don’t feel obliged to post that regularly unless you really want to. Personally, I’ve always gone through spells where I feel like I’m bursting with things to say – so I’ll post three or four times in one week – and then I’ll have a dry spell where I feel I’ve got nothing of worth to say, so I’ll sit tight until inspiration strikes.
There are numerous other rules along these lines – update your About page regularly, find your niche, take part in memes and linkys to get your name out there and boost your stats – some of these have a grain of truth in them, others should just be ignored entirely.
It’s your blog. You can do it exactly the way you want to. Because while there are many, many rules out there, they’re all made to be broken.
(Apart from my rule about there being no rules, obviously. That one you should stick to…)
I hope you enjoyed Ruth's post as much as I did, don't forget to leave her some comment love. Be sure to come back tomorrow morning for another great post, this time from Helen who blogs as her 7 year old daughter at Actually Mummy. She wants to share with you her take on blogging nicely.