Our vacations have skewed away from cities in the last several years, instead focusing more on hiking, especially in National Parks. A friend and sometime fellow hiker once suggested that I write a blog. He was probably joking, or just showing some respect for the range of places we had visited. I thanked him and didn’t do anything about it for a couple of years. Then I did, and here we are.
After about 18 months of blogging, I have now become as much of an authority on blogging as I am on hiking. (Which is how much, exactly?) Here are a few of my observations about writing for this medium.
The one-page column by an opinionated author is a common feature in many print magazines. I think that “a magazine page” is a good target length for a blog post, because it doesn’t take that long for me to write, or for the reader to consume. However, blogging software encourages a focus on visual layout and user experience that is different from other writing. My site is built on WordPress , and most of their layout “themes” just assume I have at least one picture in each post. Apparently they’re right, because my more-illustrated posts have more readers. Even the software powering The New York Times website imposes a product with pictures, color and icons all over it. A quarter century ago, the printed Times reluctantly added color photos, after years of treating such ornamentation as a frivolous distraction from “all the news that’s fit to print”.
As a member of the WordPress community, I receive recommendations through the Reader app about other blogs I might like. Looking at those as a consumer, I am drawn to the ones that have good pictures, and that work the pictures into the text in a natural way. This is fairly easy to do for a travel blog: I went to see this arch. Here’s a photo of the arch. It’s less easy for an article about writing blogs.
Reader has helped me connect with other bloggers with common interests, and we cheer each other on while picking up travel ideas.
It’s probably possible to pick up some supplemental income by blogging. With a more deluxe subscription than I have, WordPress will connect you with advertisers as well as featuring your site more prominently in Reader and search engine results. I can’t comment on how much that could come to, but I should probably look into it. As it is, I’ve written more of these than I originally thought I would.
For me, the blog is a structured way of organizing my photos and memories, portable and easily shareable with anyone who is interested. I’ve made a few friends this way, and that’s good. I also believe that my writing has improved. WordPress has a free version if you want to give it a try yourself.