If you want to start up a blog about your hobby, I have only one question for you: Do you enjoy reading other blogs about your hobby? If you don’t like to read, or don’t think you have time to read, then you certainly don’t have time to write.
I love reading about my hobby. As a compulsive reader, I often stay up late reading blogs about my own hobby, woodworking. When a new woodworking magazine comes in the mail, I read the whole thing, including the classifieds, within 48 hours. My monthly book budget dwarfs my tool and lumber budgets combined. I also teach writing professionally, so my hobby and my profession coincide on this blog. I write about my hobby because I can’t help it. You may not be a habitual writer, but you can still write and maintain a successful blog.
First the bad news: most blogs go dormant after one month. The reason is that writing is a lot of hard work. Good writing is not a talent; it is a learned skill. It is a craft just like your hobby is. There are principles for good writing, just as there are principles for good pottery, good needlepoint, or good wood carving. Like all crafts, writing takes time and patience to master the basic tool kit—words, sentences, and paragraphs. It is also immensely rewarding once you learn how to write effectively.
Fortunately, writing gets better, even easier, with practice. Keeping a blog will force you to write often, but it will not force you to write well. Improving your writing begins with reading examples of good writing to get the rhythms and habits of effective English into your head. You will never be a good writer if you are a not a good reader. So find some well-written books and blogs about your hobby and read, read, read. After that, it is a matter of paying attention to what you are writing, and of resigning yourself to rewriting, revising, and editing multiple drafts of your work.
That said, some of the blogs I enjoy reading aren’t all that well written. The writing is passable, but not excellent. The authors tend to ramble or fail to proofread their work, yet they use words clearly and precisely enough to convey the information that they are presenting. You need not be an excellent writer in order to blog well about your hobby, but you must not let bad writing get in the way of good information. Writing that is vague, disorganized, cluttered, or imprecise is death to a blog about a hobby, especially since most hobbyists go looking online for information that is presented straightforwardly, precisely, and concisely.
Most importantly, the bloggers I respect write in their own voice. If I read their posts aloud, I hear a real person speaking. However, let me be the first to tell you that your natural, unedited voice is typically vague, redundant, convoluted, and disorganized. A good writer has the discipline to work and rework each bit of writing until it sounds just right. It will still sound like the writer’s natural voice, but it will sound like his or her voice at its best. Good writing has always been rewritten. (This post has gone through four distinct drafts, plus two major edits and a final proofreading.)
It is very satisfying to maintain a blog, partly because good writing takes skill and effort. I like writing about my woodworking almost as much as I enjoy the woodworking itself. Whatever your hobby, you can learn to enjoy keeping a blog about it–sharing tips and tricks of the trade, chronicling the development of your skills, sharing pictures of works in progress, or encouraging others to take up the skills you have learned. So first, learn to enjoy reading what others have written about your hobby.
In the next installment, I will give some pointers about organizing a blog post effectively.