It’s a poorly-kept secret that I have my little passion project in the form of this blog. I started in about five years ago when Sean and I left for our first post in Dushanbe, Tajikistan, and I’ve kept it running (fairly) consistently ever since.
Occasionally, I get asked the very difficult to answer question: how do you start a blog? Or, how do you come up with ideas for posts? I have a hard time answering these questions because for me writing is like breathing. I’ve always needed to find some sort of outlet for this – I hate to say “creative” but for lack of better words – creative energy I have built up inside.
In the wake of COVID-19, I’ve gotten the question of “how do you blog?” much more frequently than usual. I think more and more people feel compelled to write down their thoughts during this time of uncertainty. I’ll do my best to share my favorite tips for starting a blog, and maintaining it – which, honestly, can be the most challenging part.
Choosing a Blogging Platform
There are so, so, SO many different blogging platforms these days. I currently use WordPress and I like it fine, but there’s also Wix, Square Space, and Blogspot just to name a few. If you’re more tech-savvy than me, you can build your own site completely from scratch but, quite honestly, I have no skills in this area. On WordPress, there are tons of pre-designed templates you can customize, and if you are so inclined you can pay for your own custom domain. It really depends on how much time and money you want to invest in your project.
Write About What You Like
If you want to write about classical music? Go for it. If you want to write about plants? Go for it! The beautiful thing about the internet is its ability to connect people from all over the world with similar interests. I promise you, even if you think it’s silly, someone, somewhere will connect with what you have to say. For me personally, Latitude with Attitude is what I would call a very loose travel blog. Yes, I write about our vacations and expat oddities on a regular basis, but I also take time to tell silly stories that I want to capture. This includes a celebration of my dog’s fourth birthday, the fantastic fails of my holiday cookie decorating, and a love letter to my favorite little camera. Which brings me to my next point.
Treat it Like a Diary
My blog is public, but I have plenty of friends who write on private platforms that are meant to only be shared with a few people. I don’t by any means put my WHOLE life on the internet, but I think writing from a place of authenticity helps connect you to readers.
Find Your Style
As a “travel blogger,” I sometimes feel pressure to write differently than how I would naturally tell a story. I suppose I could write like everyone else, but something about that feels wrong. I think if I stripped the posts down to a bulleted list of “this is where we stayed”, “this is where we ate”, “this is what we did” it might give the same information, but for me, it wouldn’t feel like my writing anymore.
Put Yourself on a Schedule
For the first few years, I didn’t do this. I would write as inspiration struck or when something “interesting” would happen to us. This is fine, but, for me personally, it fostered laziness. It was particularly challenging to write during the 10 months between Dushanbe and Tbilisi where I was home in Maryland doing normal everyday things. In January of 2018, halfway through our stint in the States, I forced myself to write once a week. This helped me break out of my funk, tell some stories I wouldn’t have normally, and establish a much better routine. However…
Don’t Let Your Schedule Run Your Life
I really went from one extreme to the other with this scheduling thing. At one point I was posting twice a week and I wouldn’t take a break for any reason. I had pre-scheduled if we were going out of town or if I was busy. These posts that were fine, but in retrospect felt rushed. I’ve since allowed myself to relax. If I miss a week or two because life gets busy, oh well. If I don’t upload EXACTLY on a Tuesday, it’s ok. People will still be there when I return.
Don’t Get Hung up on Follower Count or Readership Numbers
I am by no means a “big” blogger. I have friends who have a large presence on WordPress, Instagram, and other social platforms. This used to bother me, of course, but I think a large part of getting over this is growing up and trusting your voice. I also think ignoring these numbers helps you write about what you actually want to talk about, rather than getting stuck writing about what you think people want to read about. I can tell you from experience, you’re going to be wrong if you write what you think people want to read. People respond best to authenticity and personality more than anything else.