As far as awkward conversations go, being a blogger should be pretty far down the scale, all things considered. I mean, it should, shouldn’t it?
If you think that, though, you’ve obviously never had to spend 40 minutes staring at your increasingly embarrassed face in one of those inexplicably unflattering salon mirrors, while you stumble your way through an explanation of how you, like, take photos of yourself? Wearing clothes? And then you post them on the internet, and that’s somehow your JOB? No, really, it is! I swear it is!
If you’re already a blogger, on the other hand, you probably know exactly what I’m talking about here, don’t you? God knows, you’d think it would’ve gotten easier by now (Everyone’s heard of Zoella, after all, right?), but actually, ‘fessing up to blogging about your life – or whatever it is you choose to write about – can be surprisingly difficult, and can open you up to a whole world of Judgey McJudgersons, that you didn’t even know existed until you bought your first domain name, and sat staring at the WordPress dashboard, thinking, “What the hell do I do NOW?!
Which brings me to this week’s reader-submitted question, which comes from Katie. Hi, Katie! Sorry it’s taken me approximately a million years to answer your question!
My name is Katie and I’m 19 and thinking of starting up a blog, however I’m worried about how it may be received especially by the people around me and I was wondering if you had any advice or what you think about this? I found your blog today and it was honestly a breath of fresh air, particularly the post on “things pale girls are sick of hearing” being an extremely pale girly myself and understanding those struggles like no other!
Any advice would be greatly appreciated and I think your work is so fab.
So, this question is actually a little bit tricky to answer without knowing a bit more about why, exactly, you’re worried. Are you planning to blog about something very controversial or personal, say? Or is it just that more general feeling of, “Well, THIS IS awkward!” when someone – inevitably – asks why you’re crouched over a coffee and a cupcake, trying to take a photo of them for your blog? Because the fact is, while those of us who’ve been either reading or writing blogs for years think it’s the most natural thing in the world to dump the contents of your brain into an empty WordPress page every day, there are still plenty of people out there who find that really, really, strange – and, if you’re anything like me, those are the people you’re going to encounter most often. Sorry to break that one to you.
So, how do you tell people about your blog, and deal with their reactions? Here’s my advice…
01. Be as upfront as possible, as early as possible
When I started writing this post, I had the idea of telling you all how I told people about my blog when I first started it, but then I realised that I can’t actually remember that far back. I bet you’re glad you asked me about this, huh? While I don’t recall the specifics, though (I mean, I know I didn’t sit anyone down and be all, “Look, we have to talk: it’s just… I’ve got a BLOG,” or anything like that…), I do know that I told pretty much everyone I knew, and I told them right away: not because I wanted them all to read it (Honestly, it’s WAY easier to share something with the entire internet, than with the people you know in REAL life, sometimes…), but just because I knew that, if they were to find out about it somewhere down the line, things would get awkward, fast. I also didn’t want to spend my entire blogging career worrying about what would happen if someone close to me stumbled across my blog by accident, so I figured it was best to just be upfront, and hope they’d all just forget about it.
As it turned out, some people DID more or less forget about my blog, while others still follow it to this day, and are some of my most loyal readers. I can honestly say that not one person has had a negative reaction to finding out about my blog – or not to my face, anyway – and I suspect that, had I been starting out today, as opposed to ten years ago, people would have been even more accepting of it, as blogging is far more mainstream now than it was back then. My point, though, is that, if I’d been worried about telling people about it, I needn’t have been, as, so far, the world is still on its axis, and everyone is still speaking to me. Which brings me to my next point:
02. Never, ever write about the people you know “in real life”.
When I say that everyone who knows about my blog is still speaking to me, that doesn’t mean no one has ever been annoyed by something I’ve written about here. I learned very early on that it’s best not to write about the people you know in “real life”, even obliquely, because not everyone wants to appear on the internet, even anonymously, and sometimes what appears to be a totally innocuous comment to you, can end up causing real-life drama you just don’t need. Not everyone understands blogging, and even those who do, can end up getting the wrong end of the stick, or misinterpreting something you’ve said, so I will only mention friends in passing, and if I’m going to be writing something that involves a family member, say, I’ll always make sure they’re OK with it, first. I never, ever post photos of other people without their permission, and my main rule of thumb is to write absolutely everything with the assumption that everyone I’ve ever met is going to read it: because, when you have a public blog, they very well might.
It can honestly be a bit difficult at times, knowing that everyone is potentially reading (I often say to Terry that it’s a bit like going to work, and having all of your friends and family members constantly hanging over your shoulder, and commenting on every thing you ever do), but it’s definitely the safest way to blog – so if you ever find yourself writing something, and thinking, “God, I really hope so-and-so doesn’t read this!” then it’s probably time to hit the “delete” key.
03. Manage people’s expectations
Once people know you have a blog, some of them will feel obliged to follow it (or will just want to follow it), purely to show their support, and regardless of whether or not they’re interested in what you’re writing about. This is amazingly kind of people, obviously, and I really appreciate the gesture, but I also hate to think of people feeling like they HAVE to read a 2,000 word post about shoes, or blog tips, or whatever, just because they know me in real life, so I do my best to make it clear that while I’m grateful for the support, I won’t be in the least bit offended if they choose not to follow my Facebook page, or comment on my blog posts. Some people will still do it, obviously, and that’s their choice, but I like to try to make it clear that it’s not expected, and that I don’t require them to read it, any more than they expect me to turn up at their workplaces and show an interest in their jobs.
04. Refer to it as “a website,” rather than as “a blog”, if you think things might get awkward
It’s true, after all: blogs are just websites which happen to arranged in a chronological fashion (And sometimes they don’t even have THAT to differentiate themselves from magazine sites these days), but, for some reason, the word “website” carries more gravitas, and is more easily understood, than the word, “blog,” and, “I run a website,” sounds more acceptable to people than, “I’m a blogger,” does, so I go with that, and don’t elaborate unless specifically asked.
05. Be as vague as you like
When I am asked about my job by someone I don’t think will be very receptive to the idea of blogging, I tend to say that I write about “fashion”, rather than saying that I write about what I wear personally. The word “fashion” – while not strictly correct, in my case – makes people think of magazine-style writing, which is easy to understand, and to see as a “job,” while the latter option just makes me sound like a straight-up lunatic. Which I’m just going to go ahead and say is ALSO not strictly correct, despite what you might think. Ahem. I also just stick to that single subject, rather than delving into the whole, “Well, I mostly write about what I’m wearing, but it’s also, like, a personal journal, so I take photos of my clothes, but I also write about the stupid things people say about pale skin, and that one time I touched an electric fence.” Again, saying I write about fashion makes me sound like I have a vaguely normal (albeit totally silly and vapid) job, while the latter option just makes me sound… well, you get the picture.
And, I mean, don’t get me wrong: if I’m speaking to someone who seems genuinely interested, and not remotely judgey, then I’m more than happy to get into the nuts and bolts of what I do (Seriously, I can talk about blogging aaalll day long. Just ask Terry. Or my parents. Or that hair stylist who made the mistake of showing a genuine interest…), so it’s not that I’m ashamed of it, or want to mislead people – not in the slightest. It’s honestly just that I don’t often have the energy to explain what a “blog” is over and over again, to someone who’s not really interested, or to defend myself to someone who’s determined to turn their nose up at me, so I keep things vague, and save my energy!