Four things you need to start a blog

It seems that 2022 will never cease to surprise us, and it continues with me — of all people — sharing thoughts and recommendations on how to blog…

The other day I was asked by a friend what platform to use if they wanted to start a simple blog. Their question was mostly phrased as whether they should use Wordpress or rely on a platform like Instagram only.

I think this platform-first approach to blogging is a good start, but I believe it is incomplete: blogging should not be reduced to the tools used to publish and eventually to write, it is obviously more than that. So I came up with this car analogy — which turns out to be one of my favourite analogies when it comes to blogs.

Here are the four main things one might need to become what the world calls “a blogger.”

1. A direction, or where to steer the wheel

Before even starting a blog, define what you want to write about. Before taking a road trip, you need to know where you’re going. You don’t have to focus on one particular topic, but you’ll have to identify the ones you want to write about right from the start, the ones you’re most interested in and comfortable with, and identify the ones you’ll want to skip. If you end up writing about all the things you have on your mind, it may work too, but there is a risk of it being confusing for your future audience and even for yourself.

You’ll also want to define what kind of formats you want to publish: simple links, quotes, comments, columns, etc. You can do all of them, but some focus will guide you and make your posts more consistent, and your work more iterative, which may end up being more efficient for you, and more pleasing for your audience.

2. Sincerity: the energy source of the car

Once you start writing, don’t think about the writing itself, but think about the ideas. Be yourself, find your own voice, write like you talk, write like you think. It may not end up being the best prose ever — just look at this blog for further proof — but it will read like yourself. Without this sincere approach, your writing will feel unnatural, not only to you but to your audience too, and you’ll end up lacking energy and fuel to go any further; your car will feel heavy and you will stop on the side of the road before you even started.

This is why I don’t bother using editing tools despite English being my second language. Trying to write “better” only adds friction between my writing and the publishing part. A light review before publishing is good enough for me: it already takes too long as it is, I don’t need to overthink this step. My words sure can use a lot of extra editing, but this added process would certainly slow me down, make me write less, and it would not really feel like myself.

3. Curiosity: the engine that makes the wheels spin

If you plan to start a blog, this one should be easy, especially if you already know what topics you want to cover. If you find something interesting, try to learn more about it, follow the author on social media, subscribe to the RSS feeds, etc. Curiosity will feed you ideas for your next posts, and writing your next post will also increase your level of curiosity on the next topic. This is arguably the most time-consuming part of blogging, because it requires a lot of reading, a lot of note-taking and highlighting, but it pays off. The different parts of this curiosity engine will work together to make your next ideas come to you more naturally, and help make your posts get better and better.

My Feedbin account currently follows around 70 feeds, including Twitter feeds and a few newsletters. It may sound like a lot but most of them don’t publish every day, so the daily amount of new “curiosity seeds” I get to consume is rather limited, which is a good thing. Don’t drown yourself in subscribing to everything at once, take it slow, cruise along: build up your list of favourites over time, cherish quality over quantity.

4. A platform: the road itself

You can find very smooth motorways on which to drive, with a lot of services and restaurants built on the side. These motorways may be a little disconnected from the rest of the country, but they are fast and comfortable. Or you can pick a twisty country road instead: the ride will be bumpier and the trip much longer, but it will be better for sightseeing, and for the pleasure of driving. Both roads do the job of taking you somewhere, and both have their perks and annoyances: you’ll eventually have to decide which is best for you, but what’s important is to find a blogging platform that doesn’t get boring over time or slow you down.

Want to use a platform as simple as possible? Try Montaigne, or Blot. Want something minimal and simple? Try Bear. In the end, the platform doesn’t matter that much. Try, try Tumblr, try a static site generator… The platform should help you publish more, that’s it: try a few different platforms and see which one fits your style and daily habits the best.

The choice of platform is very often the main topic of blogging guides but as you can see, it’s only part of what you need to start a blog. The platform, like the other things I mentioned can of course be changed along the way, it’s a blog, not a printed book.

There you go. The four things I identified to be essential to have before starting a blog. The rest of it should be much easier: domain name, writing app, computer choice, desk setup, blog title, etc. Now I just hope this post will convince at least one reader to start their own blog: it would make it 100% worth it.