The People's Rules of Blogging

Sometimes, I get really irritated. Things that set me off are kind of random. Having to repeat myself. People cutting in line. Teachers sending my genius kids home with ridiculous amounts of homework. Some random stranger telling me to be fair. Why would I get upset about fairness?

This is my story, and I'm sticking to it.

Last week, I was tweeted at by a local store owner. I'm assuming she found me by way of the opening of the new Whole Foods in Encinitas. I was so excited about that gem of a store opening, I couldn't keep my mouth shut! I had also tweeted around the same time that an H&M was opening up in Carlsbad. I was thrilled that our remote part of San Diego was finally getting some downtown amenities.

So in the middle of my elation, this random boutique owner pops in and pokes a big shiny pin into my high flying balloon.

There was no "Hello, neighbor!" No "I've been following you and I think you're awesome/beautiful/amazing/hilarious." No "Hey, Sugar... I'd like to invite you in..." Nope. Just something to the effect of, "Hey, since you wrote about H&M, it's only fair to write about my shop." At first, I thought, when did I write the H&M post? Was I drinking? Medicated? Both? After I remembered that I had not written about the store, but merely shared it in a tweet or two, I replied to this person saying just that. I tried to move on, but I just sat there, growing more and more irritated. I was rather stunned that someone would tell me what I should write on my own blog in the name of fairness. So I did what I usually do when someone irritates me like that.

I went off on Twitter about it.

I'm sure she thinks I'm a complete ass now, but you know what? I don't care! And as interesting as her store sounds, I'll never go in there now. She made a horrible first impression on me by approaching me like that. All I can picture now is a spoiled little Nellie Olsen pitching a fit. After cleansing my soul on Twitter, I felt a twinge of regret. I thought I might have been too harsh about the situation... but I wasn't really. I was being honest. And you know what else? I was right! It's MY blog. I don't HAVE to be fair! I have the freedom to write whatever. I. want. Just like Shop Girl gets to choose what she sells in her store. That's not fair or unfair.

It's just life!

There are so many unspoken rules that people want to impose on us everyday. They're not laws, so much as they are just things that everybody does in order to fit in and get along. Most social mores are innocuous. Sometimes, they're just plain silly. But other times, they begin to impinge on our rights to be ourselves. I guess... no, I know that's why I went off on Shop Girl. I get really rashy when other people's shoulds start to take over my thoughts and words and I find myself doing or saying things in order to avoid offending anyone, even perfect strangers.

A question came up in a Facebook group that I'm a member of. A new blogger wanted to know how to keep up on blogging. She wanted to know if any of us had schedules and how to follow them. Before anyone popped up with a strict editorial schedule idea, I shared that I follow the old non-rule of "Write when you have something to say." Others had some more defined answers for her, but really, there wasn't a lot of shoulding. We're a pretty awesome group like that. One recommendation, however was to read Content Rules by Ann Handley and C.C. Chapman. When I saw that comment, the rebel in me was all, RULES? I BREAK RULES FOR BREAKFAST!!

But then I had the pleasure of hanging out with co-author, C.C. Chapman.

On the first night of our Forward with Ford event, we were talking about all of this. He emphatically agreed with my "when you have something to say" non-rule. But we also talked about how we do seem to have quite a bit of somethings to say, and that maybe organizing those random thoughts somehow was a good idea. We left the conference with a copy of Content Rules as a gift from the very generous Scott Monty. Ignoring the rebellious teen inside my head, I decided to read the book on the flight home.

In Chapter 11, I found a list of blogging guidelines that are very hard to argue about:

1. Define your purpose. 2. Set a reliable schedule. 3. Mix it up! 4. Move beyond the written word. 5. Size matters. (hehehe... sorry... twelve inside...) 6. Learn how to write killer headlines. 7. Design is important. 8. Create momentum. 9. Consider comment moderation. (YES!) 10. Categorize and tag everything. 11. Write the way you speak. (Yes, yes, YESSSSS!!!) 12. Don't overthink. (or, as your old buddy Shoog would say, "Don't overnoodle it.")

In the book, the authors expand on these guidelines (not rules) one at a time. Note that number two says to set a "reliable" schedule. What does that mean? Ann and C.C. say, "That's entirely up to you and your ambition and calendar, but at least twice a week is optimal." How long should those posts be? The authors suggest, "Long enough to say what you need to say, but not too long... You want to make them long enough to cover the essentials, but short enough to keep it interesting."

Content Rules goes into podcasting, vlogging, and other media. They give great advice for webinars and ebooks, as well. The book is written in a way that's easy to read, as though you are being coached by a friend who's been there and succeeded. Reading through the book, I never found a khaki colored chapter called People's Rules of Blogging for Awesome Comrades.

Barring content like threats to government officials or defaming innocent people, we can pretty much write whatever we want. You don't HAVE to write about a store you've never been to just because some harpy Shop Girl thinks you need to be fair. It's your blog. Don't let anybody ever tell you what to write there!

*deep breath*

Anyway... go buy the book. It's pretty awesome. Although my copy is cooler than the copy you'll have. My copy is signed by C.C. Or as I like to call him...