Before blogs, there were personal journals. They were private. You bought yourself a blank book and a pen and you started to write. If you were like most people I know, you stared at that first page for hours, wondering exactly what you should write.
It had to be brilliant. It had to be pithy, witty and wise. It had to be insightful and beautifully written. Otherwise, it didn’t matter what you wrote in the rest of those 300 pages. This first page was your introduction, your hello to the world, your opening act that would set the tone for the rest of the entire journal.
One of two things probably happened: either you never wrote that first sentence at all and that journal stayed empty until you finally gave it to one of your eight-year-old nieces, or you wrote a first sentence, maybe even a page or two.
Then you read what you wrote, decided it was silly, felt uncomfortable or just wasn’t good enough. And you hid that journal back in a drawer somewhere so no one would see how inadequate you were.
It’s the 21st century. Journals are still around, but they’re being replaced by blogs. And blogs are here to stay.
You’re probably at this site because you want to know how to write a really great blog that people love. You may or may not be planning a personal journal venture in which you expose your life and struggles. You may or may not be thinking of starting a blog on your favorite hobby or passion. You might or might not be considering a blog for your itty biz.
Whatever you’re thinking of blogging about, you have a problem. The problem is that first sentence, the first page, the very first blog post. What will you write? What should you write?
What You Shouldn’t Write
Most bloggers start their blog with something that goes like this: “Hi everyone! My name is Karen and I started this blog to talk about my experiences with gardening. I love gardening and I want to write about it, so here goes!”
This post is usually followed by two or three weeks of no other posts.
This is because our friend Karen here has given herself nowhere to go with her thoughts. She’s also given her readers no reason to continue reading. With no inspiration for herself or her readers, she’s stagnant.
Her blog will likely join the thousands that start just that way and then peter out after a few months of sporadic posting.
So what’s the alternative?
There are two ways to go about your first post – the long way and the short way. They are the Mission Statement and the Essay.
The Mission Statement: More Fun Than It Sounds
When I started my blog at Men with Pens, I wrote a brief post – only two sentences long. It was, quite simply, the following:
“This is the beginning of a blog where words matter, quality counts, and freelance writers or those in the writing industry can share their thoughts and opinions. We hope to provide you with valuable information to help you in your endeavors.”
Now, before you go ragging on about it, bear this in mind: that was my very first post on a blog that has since grown to be incredibly successful and popular. We have a huge following and we are in the number two slot – right behind Copyblogger – for the top writing blog every year.
That first post is obviously not how I continued to write on my blog, or we’d never have become that popular. But should any of our loving readers become curious as to how we became such swinging hip cats, they can look back to that very first post.
They’ll discover that the reasons we started the blog in the first place are the same as the reasons we continue to have a blog today.
The virtue of the mission-statement post is that it gives you a touchstone for your focus. I have never yet written about my goings-on around town, and that’s partially because I’m a private guy, but it’s also because it has absolutely nothing to do with what the Men with Pens blog was supposed to be about.
We started our blog to provide writers a quality place for information and a community to enjoy. Unless what I did last Friday night somehow relates to that mission, it doesn’t have a place in the blog.
Now, you may think you won’t have this problem and that you don’t need a mission statement. Let me ask you this: What’s your blog about? If your automatic response is something like, “My life,” or “My business,” I’m here to tell you that isn’t specific enough.
Give yourself a touchstone, a guiding star. Write your mission statement – even if you decide to go the Essay route instead.
The Essay: Not Just for High School Anymore
The mission statement is short and sweet, but it doesn’t explain why what you write about is important to you. If you look at my mission statement, I mentioned what I wanted to put in my blog. I didn’t explain why I wanted to have a blog where quality counted.
I could tell you; I could go on for days. But then I would have written an essay.
Let’s take my blog as an example yet again. (Yeah, I know it’s egotistical, but I’m my own best example of a lot of good blogging habits. It’s why I’m here.) My mission statement said I wanted a quality place for writers to get good information and find a community of peers.
If I had written an essay, I might have talked about how difficult it was to start out in the writing industry not knowing any other writers. I might have talked about how many scams there were out there, people claiming to have all the secrets to the writing industry if only I plunked down a couple hundred bucks for their seminar. I might have talked about how I got totally screwed a few times and made it my life mission to fight evil and use the power of good.
I might have talked about how important I thought free information was to writers, about how much I felt writers should stick together, how strongly I felt that no other writer should feel as though they had no resources and no community to lean on as they took their first step on the path to being a professional writer.
I didn’t do any of those things. But I could have, and it would have been a nice, long, solid first post. I would have concluded it with something very similar to my mission statement. I would have said. “That’s what this blog is going to be about.”
The Essay is a powerful post to write for your blog. It establishes who you are, why you’re here, and what you’re going to do with this blogging platform. It tells readers why you’re qualified to write about this topic, what you feel most strongly about, and what issues they can expect you to focus on.
Ask Yourself Why You Want to Blog
On a personal level, it might be because you’re a single mother who’s a little lonely and you want to talk to other single moms out there about the trials and tribulations of that lifestyle. It might be because you’re starting a new project – you went back to school, you just started a new job, you got married or divorced or pregnant. You want to write a novel. You want to learn to do karate. It could be anything.
If you don’t think you have a reason for your blog, ask yourself again: Why do you want this blog? It’s different than writing in a private journal. A blog is public, which means other people will see what you write – why do you want them to see it? Why is it important that other people know what you’re going through?
Answer that question, and you’ll have yourself a great first post.