When I decided to start travel blogging in October 2014, I didn’t know it was going to be that hard. I thought it would be just me and my laptop, treating each other like old friends who agree upon everything: me typing fast, him making the letters appear on the Word page, us being happy together forever.
God was I wrong. And I know it hasn’t even been 6 full months since I started blogging, but I feel that the more I learn about it, the more I still need to learn, and I’m just wondering when I will finally feel like I know what I’m doing. Because seriously, it’s just too much: HTML, SEO, web optimization, mastering photography, becoming a full-time instagrammer and a social-media addict, enrolling into marketing courses, decoding your Google Analytics reports, making mini blogging strategies, et cetera, et cetera – this seems like a never-ending list.
And then you also have to produce high-quality content that will wow your readers. Like, make them fall in love with you. In my case, however, I just try to produce content and merely hope that somebody will genuinely find it interesting. Because truth be told, I’m struggling so much with what I need to be “as a travel blogger” that I forget what I am “as a person”. Which drains my creativity.
First of all, I’m a non-native English speaker. So I already feel pretty insecure about myself every time I stumble upon a blog of some 17-year-old smarty pants, whose choice of vocabulary makes me want to sleep with the dictionary on my pillow. Yes, I have a degree in English Philology. No, it doesn’t really help my tongue to roll and my speech to flow and all that.
It’s already a damn difficult job to find your voice as a writer – but how the hell do you do that when English isn’t your native tongue? When you look up words? Confuse between American and British Englishes all the time? Struggle with definite articles? When your English sounds like a literal translation from your mother tongue (Russian in my case)?
I tell myself that language is a skill. Patience, practice, persistence – follow these 3 P’s, and eventually you’ll be fine.
But then there comes another problem – what to write about. Usually they tell you that you have to be “relevant” and thinking “a step ahead of your readership”. What do your readers want to hear about? Forget about what you want – what do they want? To answer that question, you start researching keywords, learning your readers’ interests and preferences, and making a nice little folder compiled from your demographics reports on Google Analytics. Until you finally have a looooooot of data that you have to take into consideration when preparing your next big post.
But then you ask yourself what do you want to write about, and there’s nothing. Long pause, no answer. How did that happen?
It happened when you put your readers first. Putting your readers first is the biggest mistake any blogger can make. There’s only that much space on the blogging pedestal, and it belongs to only one person – you. Research for yourself, write for yourself, press “Publish” for yourself, and then you will enjoy what you do, and then so will other people, and then everybody will be happy. That’s going to be my blogging mantra from now on. No SEO. No scheduled writing. No oh my god, there’s Easter coming, where’s my easter-traditions-over-the-world post? Nothing that the blogging experts tell me I have to do. No pressure anymore.
I started The Russian Abroad as my personal web-space because in autumn 2014, I was far far away in Ecuador, struggling with Spanish and with many other things, and I needed a personal project that would keep me afloat, make me disciplined and organized, and teach me how to stop leaving things half-done. And to be honest with you, I have never had a hobby that I would be devoted to for 6 months straight, so my travel blog is already a personal achievement I can celebrate already – no matter how many readers I’m getting.