by Meg Dowell
In high school, I started a blog — as many before me already had. I’m not sure what finally made me decide to do it or what I expected to gain from it (if anything). But one thing I do know is, I had an absolute blast writing about my life.
It’s not that I loved talking about myself. Cringe — I still hate it.
What I loved was finally having a place to put all the thoughts, observations, and ideas I couldn’t fit into the margins of my algebra notes.
My blog became a place where I could start experimenting with words. I’m sure some of my friends knew about what I was posting — those two or three original readers had to come from somewhere. But to me, my blog was a medium for telling the world how I felt about, well, everything.
I’m not completely certain — I don’t have the means of looking further into my data at the moment — but from what I can remember, it took until about my fourth or fifth year of blogging to hit 25 followers.
For the first year, at least, I’m pretty sure I had exactly two.
I spent all that time writing to no more than two or three people. And I just kept writing.
Why did I do that, if people weren’t really reading or following me?
Because I recognized that something was happening.
The more I blogged, the more comfortable I became writing in my own voice.
This is probably one of the most important concepts I do my best to get across to my readers today: in the early stages of writing, your willingness to stay consistent and improve is essential. It’s more important than gaining hundreds of readers. It’s more important than getting thousands of comments.
It’s more important than getting noticed at all.
You will always be writing for an audience. When I didn’t have one, I wrote to who I ideally imagined would read a blog like mine (maybe other teenage introverts who liked to write — I really don’t recall). But I didn’t care that my audience was small. I cared that I was writing in a tone and style that reflected who I was — and the voice I wanted to carry as a writer.
If it weren’t for those early years of blogging, I’m not sure how the rest of my writing “career” would have turned out. Only when I gave myself a place to “go nuts” without a fear of being judged did I begin to find that voice every writer always fears they’ll never find.
If I ever get around to starting another blog, I want to write a dozen or so posts and leave them sitting there until I’m ready to launch. I want to find the exact tone and style and manner of communicating with my audience before I meet them. Because that’s how I ended up starting my first blog, in a way. I was invisible. The reality is, even if I started another blog today, it wouldn’t take long for someone to find it. That’s just what happens when you spend years developing a personal brand. You’re no longer invisible.
This is no longer my personal blog. I’m proud of what Novelty Revisions has become, and I don’t regret changing my blogging approach. But every once in awhile, a post will go up on my Tumblr page or Medium profile — some serious, some absolutely ridiculous. Something I feel I need to publish that doesn’t fit into Novelty’s brand.
I don’t do this because I expect people to read these posts. In fact, most don’t. I do it because sometimes, I still need to practice writing well while keeping things casual. I think everyone needs to refine this skill — even if you’ve already found and continue to strengthen your voice. Sometimes, I write for fun. I expect no payoff, financially or otherwise. I see absolutely nothing wrong with this — and neither should you.
Embrace your invisibility. This is your time to figure out who you are, what you want to say, how you want to say it. Stop worrying so much about how many people are or aren’t watching you. Work your way up to creating an amazing stream of written content so that when people do find you, they’ll be glad they did.
You may only be writing to two people. But that’s how you’ll find your voice. And you’ll have zero regrets.
Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a freelance writer and an eight-time NaNoWriMo winner with work published in Teen Ink, Success Story, Lifehack and USA TODAY College. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.