A personal blog can be about any subject in the universe and beyond. After all, the “blog” is just an extraordinary, easy way for anyone at all to write and publish whatever they like to the entire world just by typing and hitting a couple of keys. Unfiltered. Uncensored. Then the blogger can communicate directly with readers, again by typing and hitting a key. No editor, no rules (except general internet protocol), no teacher, no constraints. We forget just how revolutionary, liberating, and terrifying this is.
But it’s hard to write well without constraints. If I said, “Write a blog about any subject in the whole universe. You have 30 minutes. Go!” what would you write? You’d probably spend 29 minutes deciding what to write about.
That’s one reason why, even for the most personal of blogs, it’s good to start with a topic or a theme. It will probably change as time goes by, and that’s OK.
You may have noticed some broad topics that occur frequently in personal blogs. You could even call them categories.
Fashion, fitness, food, health, lifestyle, makeup, grand/parenting and travel are hot topics for personal bloggers of any age. Blogs about reading and writing, lifestyle, art, and inspiration abound. Blogs about a certain age or stage of life are numerous — you’re reading one right now as I approach 80, but you’ll find many blogs about being in your 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s and beyond. (Blogs about business success and associated topics are out of bounds for this article, but I suspect they dominate the blogosphere.)
If you search for blogs about sustainable economy, anthropology, neuroscience, astrophysics, feminist linguistics or pure mathematics (for example) you will stumble across an interesting mix of the personal and professional.
Now that looks straightforward enough. Pick a topic. But maybe you want to blog for the sake of blogging, or to express yourself with no constraints, and so you blog about your “musings”, “ramblings”, “thoughts”, or daily doings. That’s OK, some of my favourite blogs are precisely (or rather, imprecisely) like that.
Handcuffs, short leash or long leash?
Handcuffs. With a very specific topic (tight constraints!), people will read because they need information about that topic. Moreover, they will search for your topic and find you. For example, if your topic is parenting, your blog may never turn up in search results — but as a writer, you’ll feel free to explore and expand on other topics such as being a grandparent, or the “parent” of a book, or your own experiences as a child. If your topic is parenting in Dubai, your target audience will read you eagerly, but the audience will be limited and your blog will have a natural end when you move or your children grow up.
Short leash. Some bloggers choose a theme rather than a topic (although the demarcation can be blurry). This gives you more wriggle room: the blog can traverse many situations and change with time, but it all holds together with a common theme. If, for example, you chose a theme such as forgiveness, that can be relevant to topics as different as an overcooked egg and a government policy.
Long leash. With a vague topic (such as “musings”), followers will accrue because they know you or identify with you, or because your style is compelling. This looks like an easy choice (no constraints!) but I personally think it’s a difficult one.
So what’s the message?
Just think a little bit about these things before you name and launch your blog.
- Search in WordPress Reader for blogs on a topic that interest you. Notice the enormous variety of types and titles and headlines. Notice which titles really tell you what the blog is about, which ones you like or dislike, and above all, which titles you click on.
- If you should lose interest in your original topic, or if it becomes irrelevant to you, would you want to keep the blog going with a somewhat different topic? If so, think about how you could you do that.
- If you make a “wrong” decision, what’s the worst that could happen? (It’s no big deal. Remember, it’s easy to stop blogging. It’s easy to start a new blog. It’s OK to swerve from your original plan. You don’t need to answer to anybody for your decisions. And you’re doing this because you want to.)
Then choose a topic and a blog title and go for it.