Since beginning this blog just short of a month ago, I’ve had a few people email me to ask me questions like, “Is it hard to set up a blog like this?”, “How did you learn how to do this?”, etc. While it is awfully nice that they would ask me these questions, I am a newbie. But it got me thinking about my experiences with blogging over the past few weeks, and I find that I have learned a few things. So, if you are thinking about starting your own ASD/special needs parent blog, here’s what I have gleaned so recently:
1. You can’t just start a blog and wait for them to come to you. It doesn’t work that way. You must use social networking to find your potential audience. Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and the like serve a purpose — they connect you in very different ways to people who share your reality. And, by doing that, you will find amazing blogs whose audience you wish to join. Most importantly, interacting with the special-needs community will teach you quickly that you are not alone.
2. Self-promotion can be a tricky thing and feel unnatural for those of us who’ve never worked in sales. You have to do it, or no one will find your blog. But you also don’t want to do it in tacky ways, so finding the right words when promoting your blog can be hard. If you are like me, it will be a test of your courage to step out on that stage for the first time.
3. As soon as you begin reading blogs of other parents, you may feel not worthy. Suddenly, the challenges you are facing with one toddler who is likely on the milder end of the ASD spectrum pale in comparison to the mom who is raising six kids with severe ASD, is in foreclosure, and battling cancer. You might feel like you have nothing to say or offer. You have to remember that everything in life is relative. No matter what our children’s challenges are, we all love and worry about them exactly the same. It is important to neither discount yourself nor discount others.
6. You will receive hate mail. You might get 100 positive and supportive comments, and only one negative one. Depending on your constitution, this might be the one your self-esteem fixates upon.
7. People are not always what they seem like online. There are sharks out there offering iPads, and special needs resources if you’ll just take a moment to give them all your private information. These people will try to befriend you and hitch their wagon to you before revealing their true nature. You have a moral responsibility to rid your blog and social networking from the appearance that you support these folks and not allow them to lurk around.
8. Having a post go viral or get Freshly Pressed (or some other such net attention) is exciting for a day, maybe two. Then reality sets in, your stats drop, and you wake up with blogger’s block. Most blogs that go viral, including yours, really will be a one hit wonder. Perhaps if your blogging intention is merely to make money, this might bum you out. If you are blessed to be blogging about something that is important to you and others, then obscurity isn’t all that significant. When it comes to blog recognition, we can’t all be Dooce, and most of us will probably have to keep our day jobs.
9. Those wonderful folks you are connecting to online are real people who matter. But the real people who live in your house and actually know your phone number and home address matter more. Of course I knew this before I started blogging, but I didn’t know how easy it is to get caught up online.
10. There are a lot of really stupid fake awards, badges, “contests”, etc. that you can clutter up your blog with and distract you from your real purpose – writing useful content. If all you have to do is register and copy/paste some code into a text widget, you really haven’t won anything. If your content stinks, visitors won’t be impressed with all those badges either.
11. There are a bunch of ethical considerations when blogging. Should you use your real name? Is it okay to tell the world about your child? Is it okay to make money blogging about something as serious as ASD/special needs? How do you balance honesty and advertising? Bloggers make different decisions about these for different reasons. It’s important not to judge others’ decisions and to find the answers to these questions that will suit both your blog and your conscience.
12. You might regret letting those in your real life know about your blog. Especially if you live in a small town. It really can stunt your writing. Suddenly you worry what your flesh and blood friends and family will think of what’s really going on inside your head. Once you start worrying about what other people think, you then aren’t as free to write what you really need to say.
13. There’s a world of people out there who know exactly how you feel. They are rich and poor, blue-collar and white-collar, religious and atheist, left-wing and right-wing, American and international, and every sort of dramatic variation there can be. But they know your heart and mind. They too have held a child tightly in their arms and wished it was possible to take away the challenges they will face or heal them with nothing more than a parent’s love.
14. Think twice before blogging about your mother-in-law. It just might get a little more traffic than you anticipated. And then you will constantly be looking around, waiting for the inevitable. Theoretically speaking, of course. 😉
I really do have a LOT more to learn. I am planning to move to wordpress.org — as soon as I get up my nerve. And I have a lot of technical things to figure out about optimizing my site, blogging support forums, something about a sitemap, etc. etc. Everything you need to know can be found online, of course. It just takes a little time to learn what you need to learn. But, overall, it has been a profound and cathartic experience. I urge those of you thinking about it to give it a whirl.
So, Fellow Bloggers, what have you learned from your blogging experiences?