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For the past 10 years I have been writing a blog about Melbourne’s visual arts. My first blog post on Black Mark, Melbourne Art and Culture Critic was on February 16, 2008. It was ‘Faster Faster Pussycat’ about Phibs, Debs and other street artists painting a wall in Fitzroy. Now over a 1000 blog posts later this is what I have I learned about blogging.
- It can motivate you The first thing I learned was that writing a blog was motivation to do more in life; I was already going to many art exhibitions but now there was more motivation to go to places, meet people and do other fun things. Soon I started to get invitations to do more things and meet more people. Blogging changed my life; although it wasn’t actually the writing, nor the taking endless photos, or the posting online that really made the change.
- You probably won’t make money Do not expect to make money from advertising on your blog but there are a variety of other ways that you can use a blog professionally from promotion to networking. My friend Professor Alison Young, who I met through blogging, uses her blog Images to Live By, to introduce herself. Middle-aged academics are not a typical part of the street art/graffiti scene but now Alison is ‘Banksy favourite criminologist’.
- You can make friends I have made many new friends through writing the blog, which has improved the quality of my life. One reason why I have made so many friends blogging is that I mostly write about what other people are doing.
- You learn how to manage enemies I have learned how to deal with hostile comments, trolls and other idiots. You can’t predict what will get people to write hostile comments – it could be pigeons in Coburg. I have never shied away from controversy, writing posts about the persecution of Bill Henson and Paul Yore. When I have hostile comments I always remember that the person writing them will forget about it after a day or two. If they don’t, that I can always block them from making comments, but I’ve only had to do this once in ten years. Comments are not indicative of anything; no comment does not mean a bad post. Out of 1,077 post I have only had 2,099 comments; half the comments are my own because I generally reply to all comments but I avoid feeding trolls.
- You need a focus My blog is focused on Melbourne’s visual arts but I do post about other things on it. Having a clear focus for a blog is important but it is a balance between a very narrow focus and ranging too far. With 13 categories on my blog I’m not sure that I’ve got it right but it is a lesson I’ve learned.
- You get to do a lot of people watching Vox pops can make a good local blog post. These don’t have to be direct quotes, but observations on how people are reacting. I like to watch how small children react at art exhibitions; are they engaged or bored? ‘Why does a tree need a sweater?’ is an example of how one observation of an angry man made a successful blog post about yarn bombing.Another local blogger and people-watcher is the writer Jane Routley, who writes about her day job in Station Stories, life as a Station Assistant.
- You might get a book published In 2015 my first book, Sculpture of Melbourne, was published by Melbourne Books. I started writing and researching the book on my blog and before I started my blog I couldn’t have imagined writing a history of Melbourne’s public sculpture. I am now working on my second book about true art crimes in Melbourne.
- You should follow your analytics I learnt from watching my stats the there was an interest in Melbourne’s public sculpture. What the public wants to read about art is different to what many arts writers want to write about. There are a lot of different kinds of feedback that you can get on blogs from comments to stats. Lots of stats, numbers of subscribers, views, repeat views. In ten years I’ve had approximately 537,000 views from 155 countries around the world (still no views from Greenland, Cuba, Iran, South Sudan and various central African countries). Stats can be addictive – you get the idea.
- Blogs can be works of art.
My blog isn’t but the artist Peter Tyndall’s blog was exhibited at the NGV in 2013’s Melbourne Now exhibition and there are other less notable examples.
- It is hard work but satisfying
You are your own boss, your own editor and you make your own deadlines. Ignore the advice about blogging that you have to post regularly. Writing a blog may not be for everyone but it has worked for me and I will continue.