How Identifying The “Why” Of Your Blog Can Give It Backbone

UPDATE 1PM: I just made some cosmetic tweaks to the web log, so if you notice that the current tagline is no longer “Writer, blogger, daydreamer,” don’t be alarmed.

I wrote a draft for a post yesterday afternoon, a combination of some bits and pieces I’d done with the site and some well-intentioned but airy waffle in response to another fellow’s posting on uncovering the “why” behind my blogging activity. I will admit, it’s a topic that’s been bothering me for the last few months. Robf.com.au needs more of a backbone than it does at the moment. I mean, just look at the current tagline: “Writer, blogger, daydreamer.” So what? I’ve just described most of the blogging population. Who cares about another one of those?

But just what will that back-bone be? Why am I putting all this work into turning my ordinary web log into more of an attention-getter? I don’t have anything that resembles sell-able fiction right now. Hell, the first draft of my novel has been on the back burner since early May. That sort of counts out “writer,” doesn’t it? All that’s left is blogging and daydreaming. Yawn.

I wrote in yesterday’s blog draft that Ollin Morales’ post asking why I blog was pretty good timing. Now I reckon I had no idea just what good timing it was.

I want to take a quick tangent about why I’ve not done anything productive on the fiction front since May. I have the horrid feeling that I’ve been expecting way too much of myself this early out of the gate. Sure, I hit the goal of 50,000 words in thirty days for last year’s NaNoWriMo and then finished the first draft of The Second War Of The Worlds a few months later, but really, that’s only the start. If I’m to trust my instincts, I need to listen when they tell me that I need a heap more practice under my belt before I can begin to put myself out there as a producer of quality, sellable fiction.

Compounding the problem is the pressure I’m putting on myself to do something that will bring some extra money in, and quickly. You know that I wrote a few months back that our financial situation isn’t great, right? Things were looking up for a bit after we got our tax return back; we paid one credit card off and had taken a chunk out of another.

Then a small lump on Zelda’s right flank turned into a large one. I took her into the vet yesterday and he agreed with our suspicions; the lump is likely to be a mast cell tumor like the one the vet cut out of her over a year ago. She’s booked for surgery tomorrow morning.

After Zelda woke me up at around four this morning for breakfast – she decided a couple of weeks ago that she gets too hungry to wait until I’d otherwise get up at around six or seven and has given me pre-first-light, wet-nosed nudges since – I couldn’t get back to sleep. Zelda’s surgery is expensive; it’ll knock an even bigger hole in our credit cards than the one we filled with our tax return.

The thought keeping me awake this morning was that we really don’t have the means to pay back more than a trickle on either of our credit cards right now. Should another expensive emergency eventuate… well, unless we win Lotto (which you can’t win if you don’t play), we’re stuffed.

Ergo, even more pressure to bring some extra cash in.

In that post about picking myself mid-May, I wrote about becoming a freelance writer. I’ve made progress in the intervening three months; I’ve bought the robf.com.au domain name, set this blog up, signed up on some freelance writing job sites and sent off a couple of applications. So far, though, no paying gigs.

Part of the problem has been an inability to ask for help when I really need it. For weeks I was stalled at one of the simplest steps – buying the domain name – because of one option in the purchase form I wasn’t sure I needed. One phone call to Marcus would have solved that, but the first time I called he was busy at college and… it was over three weeks before I called him again so that he could answer my query quickly and easily.

And a current example: Just recently I spotted a request on constant-content.com for an article that’s outside my usual area of expertise but I reckon I could do something good with. It’s a list article, though – you know, those “ten things you can do to achieve X” articles you see all over the net – and I’ve only come up with six or seven things. I know a few people I could ask for more ideas – and yet I find other things to do instead of asking. These people know I’m a wannabe writer too, so that shouldn’t be a big deal, yet… I keep quiet.

The main thing that’s been hanging me up, though, is this very web log. See, since I did Joanna Penn’s author branding worksheet a while back, I’ve been of two minds over how to develop this site – which, according to a lot of folks in the know, is the heart of my brand, my “story,” my pitch as a writer. There’s the me who wants to write comic books in prose form and entertain folks with the products of my imagination. Then there’s the me who wants to put my skill with writing articles toward earning immediate revenue. Much as they’re both writing, they seem at odds with each other. If I pick one, do I give the other up until such time as I have the resources to build it as a separate brand?

See, that’s what I’m really good at – building myself these mental hamster wheels out of pure panic. Business has been thriving since sometime in the early eighties, I’m sure.

Then this morning, after noodling over the issue in bed for an hour, the light bulb switched on. No matter which direction I pick, my goal is the same:

To write my way out of debt.

Holy crap: There it is. The story I’ve been looking for, the “why” behind robf.com.au. It unifies both my writing “angles;” I can work on making money through freelance article gigs and submitting short stories for magazines and collections. I could even put up serials on robf.com.au that I could later sell as collected works. In the meantime I can blog about my progress, give other folks who’re trying to figure it out the same way as I am some moral support, encouragement and – who knows? – maybe even some practical advice.

It’s gone six AM now and we’ve got a Sunday of garden work ahead of us, so I’m going to log off and try and catch up on another hour or two of sleep. While I’m out there I’ll percolate some on what short-term changes that goal suggests for the site (I keep thinking I’ll need to revamp my categories, which are mostly holdovers from the old web log anyway) and see what else floats up. I might even take another tilt at Ollin Morales’ “why?” questions again.

I might even sleep easily.

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