“I know I should have a blog for my business, but it feels sort of overwhelming. I mean how much time is this going to take, and what am I going to write about? I’m not really a writer.”
If this sentiment sounds familiar to you, you’re not alone. A lot of artists dread the idea of sitting down to write a lengthy essay about their work even once, much less a few times a week for a blog. They know they should be blogging, but find the whole idea overwhelming.
Often the stumbling block is a very basic insecurity many of us possess. It comes from years of school assignments handed back covered with red ink, and a feeling of desperation the night before reports were due. The message that came through loud and clear then is still ringing in your ears: you are good at art, not writing. You aren't a writer.
Here’s the thing, though. If you can write an email, you can blog well.
And you should. Even if you’re business is humming along now, sales are happening and the future looks good, a regularly updated blog will help the future be brighter.
With a blog you bring your customers inside your world. You show them who you are, how you work, and what you care about. You give them a space to interact with you, and with one another. And this space is one you own.
Don’t build your sole platform on Facebook, where algorithms limit how many followers see your posts. Don’t build it in the Etsy forums, or anywhere else for that matter. All of those spaces are nice to have, but nothing is better than your own platform.
So how can you blog well if you feel that you aren’t a good writer? The best answer is to think small. A good blog post doesn’t need to be long or complicated. It doesn’t need to be an essay or tell a whole story. It can just be simple and true.
Geninne Zlatkis shows this well. Geninne is a watercolor artist who’s built a very successful blog with posts that are almost never more than two or three sentences. The text from her post on November 25 is typical.
“Freehand vine in dark blue I decided to paint above my studio window. Making it up as I go with acrylic paint and a round brush. Now I need to finish the other half.”
Three sentences accompanied by a single photo of her studio wall. That’s all. Maybe 30 minutes of her day to compose and publish.
Imagine if you just found Geninne’s work on Etsy. Pretty! But now that you can see her studio wall, you’ve got a whole new perspective. She lives in Mexico, in one of a series of modern houses her husband builds. She collects succulents. She sits at a desk in front of a window while she paints. She loves blue. Without a blog, Geninne is represented online by her work alone, in a sea of pretty artwork. With just these very simple 2-3 sentence posts she is a real person, an artist we connect to and feel we know.
“But her house is beautiful! I live in a rented apartment with a toddler and three cats. This isn’t the Mexican countryside. My husband isn’t a furniture maker. I need to vacuum.”
I hear you. Not everything in your house needs to be in your photos, and it’s okay to clean up first. Take a few minutes and arrange things. Move that pile of unfolded laundry. The key here is good lighting, focus, depth of field. You’d be surprised how beautiful your desk will look if you take a great picture. But you know this already. Photos are incredibly important if you operate online.
So here’s my successful craft blogging recipe for non-writers:
1. Begin with a picture. If you sell your work online, you’re already taking pictures. Take a few more. Casual pictures of your supplies, your desk, your work in progress. What have bought recently? Or found in your garden or at the thrift store?
2. Write like you’re writing an email to your best friend. Just a sentence or two is fine.
3. Read it aloud. Writing always improves once you’ve heard yourself read it. Spellcheck.
4. Post it. Share it.
5. Keep going. Commit to updating your blog three times a week.
Try it. Choose a blogging platform and get started. In the beginning very little will happen. You’ll post and feel like you’re getting nothing in return. That’s okay. Incorporate the ritual of posting into your daily art practice. See your blog as a way to reflect back to yourself where you are right now, and where you’re heading. If you can get blogging to serve some kind of selfish purpose you’re more likely to continue.
A blog is a public thing, though, and interaction is really motivating. Be sure to share. Add your blog URL to your email signature. Put it on your business card and on the messages you send out to customers.
“I already have a blog, but it’s totally neglected. This sounds good. Maybe I should just delete my old blog and start over.”
Don’t delete it! If you’ve started, keep going. It’s entirely okay to change direction. Identify what was inhibiting you from keeping up with your blog in its current state and then make some changes that will strip away those barriers.
If you felt like you had nothing to write about, remember to think small. Show us:
- Two colors that go well together.
- Three paintbrushes.
- The skirt you just cut out.
- What’s in your embroidery hoop.
- Your thread rack.
- New skeins.
- A sweater your grandmother made you.
- Six vintage buttons.
Tell us a little something about them.
Over time, when an idea strikes you, write a longer post about some aspect of your work, create a tutorial, or do an interview. But for now, just let us peek behind the curtain of your life as an artist and maker.
A blog with five long, perfectly edited posts a year is not nearly as good as a blog with 144 short insights into your life and work. Keeping it simple means you can keep it active.
If you have an online business, but you find blogging overwhelming, make 2014 the year you change your mind.
Perhaps you do aspire to become a writer, or a better writer? Let me recommend a book I read this year that has given me the confidence to work on my own writing. It’s On Writing Well: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction, by William Zinsser. This book isn’t technical. It’s an engaging read and when you’re finished with it you will be a better writer. I promise.
I’ll leave you with some thoughts from Zinsser that I think is really applicable to craft blogging.
“Ultimately the product any writer has to sell is not the subject being written about, but who he or she is. I often find myself reading with interest about a topic I never thought would interest me – a scientific quest, perhaps. What holds me is the enthusiasm of the writer for his field. How was he drawn into it? What emotional baggage did he bring along? How did it change his life? It’s not necessary to want to spend a year alone at Walden Pond to become involved with a writer who did. This is the personal transaction that’s at the heart of good nonfiction writing.”