Advice for first time bloggers

Last week I ran some training for first time bloggers. To give some personal insight I thought a lot about my own blogging practice and how I got started. And here’s the result.

In the beginning…

I started blogging before I was even aware of what a blog was. I was a teenager, working out who I was and what I wanted to do with my life. I created an account on diary-x and started writing. I’ve never thought about it before, but this means I’ve been blogging in some form for around 15 years. I’m comfortable doing it. I’ve developed a voice that I’m happy with. And yet I still get nervous every time I publish a post. I wouldn’t have it any other way – it means I care about what I’m writing and making it the best I can for the people who are going to read it.

I can’t tell you the number of blogs I’ve had over the years. I’ve always had at least one on the go, but more likely two; one personal and one professional. When I’ve set them up they’ve all had a clear purpose. Some I’ve set up and then handed on. Others were written for a specific event.

Deciding what to write about

There’s an easy answer to the question of what you’re going to write about – anything. Yes, really. As long as you’ve got a clear idea of the goal of your blog and the overarching theme, within that you can write about any topic. You don’t need to be an expert. In fact I think it helps if you’re not. What I’ve observed from interactions with the readers of my blog is that they’re looking to learn from the experiences of others in a similar position to them.

I’ve got the best response to posts where I’ve shared what I’m learning or what I’ve tried. The most popular post on my blog is about writing handover notes. I wrote it when I was looking for tips on how to write a good handover document and couldn’t find anything useful. It gets as many daily views (around 40) as it did the day it was published over a year ago. Why? It shares my experience, offers practical tips and covers a topic that isn’t written about much.

The act of writing

Once you know what the topic of your post is going to be, get the initial ideas out of your head. Put them down on paper or in a digital notepad, whatever works best for you. You might find it helpful to give yourself a time limit – I usually begin posts in my lunch breaks which gives me a deadline for getting something down. Don’t edit as you go along. You’ll end up with a rough draft or perhaps just a list of disconnected thoughts. The important thing is that it’s a start.

Now you can edit. I find it’s best to leave the draft for a while, when I come back to it with fresh eyes it’s usually obvious where to go next.

I find it’s easier to write outside of the blog environment. Only once I’ve got what I’d consider to be the final draft do I copy this to my blog editor. At this point I preview it to see how it looks in the template and give it a final proof. Once the final tweaks are made it’s finally time to publish.


And there you have it, my advice for getting started with blogging. I’ve summarised that stream of consciousness into a few key takeaways:

  • write about your experiences and share what you learn
  • give practical advice
  • choose topics where there’s a gap in existing writing
  • once you’ve got a topic, just get some ideas onto the page – don’t worry about order or style
  • give your draft some space and then begin to edit after a few hours

Do you have any top tips for beginner bloggers? Share them in the comments.


For thing 2 I looked at a handful of blogs from the list of participants on Delicious. How did I choose which blogs from the many to go to? Well, it’s all in the name for me. I did however try not to go to too many UK blogs, as I see the global reach of this programme a great benefit. I also tried not to pick too many academic librarians.

Of the 20 or so blogs I looked at I commented on four and I will be subscribing to their RSS feeds to follow their progress through the programme. They are:

And finally, I will leave you with a picture that sums up exactly how I feel about comments:

Ding ding, round 3

Over the next few months I will be participating in the CPD23 programme, 23 Things for Professional Development. Whilst the tasks that I complete as part of this will form the bulk of content on this blog over the summer I will also try to post additional stuff too. I did consider setting up a separate blog but as I use this blog as a reflection tool for my CPD already it seemed foolish to separate the two.

This is the third time I will be taking part in a 23 things programme, but this time there are some key differences…

Firstly, I am in no way involved in running it. Which is great! My two previous experiences of the programme have been as a member of the team delivering the programme so I’m really looking forward to taking part solely as a participant.

Secondly, the content and themes covered in this programme have a different focus. Both Ox23 and UoW23 were about introducing the participants to social media sites, showing their relevance to libraries and how they can be used by librarians. While CPD23 covers some of those topics, blogging and current awareness for example, it goes broader than that. It also looks at creating a personal brand, networking offline (as well as on), opportunities for training, and advocacy.

So that’s me and thing 1 done.