Alright. So. I have been out here on the internet at this domain for 6 months officially. The lessons I have learned along the way are staggering. But, they began way before this domain name was bought and paid for. I hope that if you haven’t subscribed, you go ahead and join up for the ride.
Lesson 1. Don’t let the word subscriber confuse you. Having thousands of subscribers does not mean your site is being viewed thousands of times daily.
Don’t confuse subscribership with viewership. Subscribership is like the hunt before the battle. It is what you eat to fuel you through the war with coding, views, and comments. When you get a new e-mail subscriber or social media follower, the number increases instantly. It’s wonderful for the pride and the ego. If you work hard to find e-mails, solicit follows, then you will reap the reward. It takes someone five minutes of their life to support you and your site and if you engage then most people will sign up!
Viewership is more like the actual battle.
You have to navigate strategy and consider environmental elements. For example, your subscribers could be your ideal viewership. But, do they have the time to read what you put out? Are your subscribers even the target audience for your content? It is a sincere challenge to define what you are putting out and for who when a part of you simply wants a forum to create.
Lesson 2. Target audiences suck.
Target audiences. Blah. This is less of a lesson and more of a complaint. Lol.
Y’all. I just want to write. Ha. This whole thing started because I wanted a place to create. I read a ton of books, and I have a ton of opinions and every failed variation of the Herstun Writer before this one was about a way to bring together my diverse interests. A publication is a great way to do it, but still, the pervasive need to choose a target audience goads me in my nightmares. Tailor, specialize, fit everything to who you want to read your stuff. Market. Then,
Yet, even in the same breath that I make those admissions, I know I want to be free.
I want to be able to do what I want. Ha. The validation I feel from publishing things on the Herstun Writer that I love, last longer. It is still enjoyable to read posts like What Should I Read?, BBW, or Pretty. BROWN. Girl. I like going back and reading my favorites and imagining what else can be dreamed up.
And guess what I don’t include in those dreams? Target audiences. Ugh. Lesson learned. I reiterate my eloquently put opening statement – they suck.
Lesson 3. They ain’t lying; you will fail a lot before you reach anything that smells like success. And, even success will feel like a failure most times.
And, you will be the only judge of success. No one else will be able to tell you if you are achieving what you set out to achieve. Sometimes, I don’t even know what I set out to do because blogging makes me think on my feet.
My site development prior to Herstun.com was a lot of guessing.
The Herstun FM Readio
[Aw. I still love the FM Readio. Is it dead yet? Or am I just not capable of curating it to my standards currently because of time constraints? Sigh. I will meditate on this one day. I am getting an FM Readio shirt made and calling it ‘retro, limited edition.’ Big facts. Lmao. Let me hit up Maya’s Blings and Things.]
So, I do think of this version of the site as somewhat successful. It is an ongoing state, and it is something I strive to achieve always.
I rate it as successful in comparison with my past domain names.
Mari-X was a mostly political site that included some references to books and authors. The site did even better than herstun.com in viewership. The target audience was clear and fiery. People interested in politics are much more likely to read on their phones and interact on sites. By the measures of viewership and social media, the domain had considerable potential.
But to be honest, my soul grew weary of political diatribe. I wanted more space to frolic so to speak. (One of my favorite spaces on the site currently is visual poetry. My soul is happy there hanging out with Nessla1 and Flow the DJ.)
Zirah Childs was my massive break from Mari-X.
In hindsight, the Zirah Childs site might be a response to some of the political developments in America. I remember that so many young black kids were dying. How do you write about politics and ignore the staggering truths? How do you write about it, justly and truly every night and not let it change the way you see the world? IDK. Maybe pregnancy made me sensitive. Or maybe being a writer requires sensitivity. Either way, Mari didn’t quite make it. She got X’ed. Lol.
But Zirah Childs, she loved to cook. She specialized in reviewing homemade recipes and wrote a couple of funny reviews of her kitchen exploits, like Cupcake or Bust?! – yet there was still something missing. Childs also had a target audience and gained more popularity than I could have imagined. Again, I didn’t feel good about it.
But without those stabs in the dark, where would I be?
Probably looking at cats online right now. Which, there is nothing wrong with that. Just know that if you start a blog that isn’t about cats, your free time to look at cats will evaporate. Quickly. A random extra note of advice.
Lesson 4. Derive inspiration from anyone and anything. Trust your intuition. Blogging/site-building/writing, or whatever you consider it requires imagination and determination.
My family is full of creative people. My cousin Milton is not much younger than me and has been in my life for as long as I can remember. We spent Saturdays playing basketball or eating his mom’s boiled peanuts. He was one of my first battle buddies.
Understand that your battle buddies become your best friends.
But it ain’t romantic. This is not the type of friendship that you saw on Where the Red Fern Grows or Lassie. Nah. This is the kind of relationship that develops between two people that have no way out. It is love performed through repetitive acts of commitment. Even if that commitment is something as small as picking up the phone.
Without my battle buddy, Milt, in my life, I wouldn’t be writing this post. Without my younger cousin, I wouldn’t have this site to celebrate. Milt is never afraid to challenge me. For some reason, he believes that I can just… Do anything. Whatever it is I decide, before I tell him, he has made up his mind that I can do it. And to be frank with you, sometimes that makes me want to slap him.
He was the first contributor I ever hosted on a site.
Part of letting Mari-X die was the feeling of sheer insignificance. Why am I doing this? Blogging and writing, or so time-consuming. Why am I wasting away at this trade? I didn’t even consult Milt before I let the site die. I just didn’t pay the fee.
When I came back with a new domain and fresh ideas he was hesitant. He was hurt. My cousin had believed that I could do anything. And somehow I neglected to turn to him when I needed help and reassurance. Milt let me know that he had students that read the website all-time. My cuz told me that the kids really enjoyed the content. Sigh. Thats the thing about target audiences y’all. Sometimes, you can’t target who God is trying to reach through you. When you try to see too much, like I can at times, you miss the message. And so you just have to keep pushing, writing, and doing the best you can. It was another huge lesson learned.
Lesson 5. Sometimes you feel unstoppable. Other times you feel like a complete waste of space.
It is that simple. Sounds like it is a life lesson honestly. One of those strands of wisdom that is applicable to everyone everywhere.
Blogging and writing make that reality even more harsh at times. (Perhaps any creative pursuit does.) Sometimes, the site is perfect. There are times when I am so happy with the amount of time it takes for the product I create.
Other days, the blog zaps me. I question whether it has a purpose or if this is a waste of my freaking time. There are even moments when I want to delete it all, walk away, and spend my free time reading books and being ALONE.
But, if you are driven to doing something, and you don’t quite know
For example, social media ain’t my favorite thing at all. For the most part, it makes me feel pretty terrible. Ha. So I choose to focus more on putting out content that I like and trying to find the time to put it into groups and forums with like-minded individuals. But, man, social media is a lesson on its own.
Lesson 6. Social Media is one of the most powerful tools at your disposal. Take risks with it. Make mistakes with it. Do dumb shit, learn, and recover.
Social Media is why the Writer has more than 6,000 subscribers. Twitter is a huge source of love and support for my subscribership/followership. More than anything, Twitter is a source of camaraderie. When I find myself backed up against self-imposed deadlines or dealing with tricky contributors, I can count on any of my 5,000+ #writingcommunity buddies on Twitterverse to make me chuckle. (I can’t wait to hit 6K on Twitter!)
Bloggers and writers on Twitter do not visit the site a lot. But, they subscribe to the website in droves and from all over the world. I am super appreciative of the support and some of the word of mouth referrals my Twitter buddies have given the Herstun Writer. It’s truly humbling and much needed.
Facebook adds to subscribers. But the actual pull of facebook is viewership and clicks. People click my blog links on Facebook. It is a refreshing break from the crowded Twitter, and I find it’s the most straightforward social media network to hold a conversation.
But Instagram is still one of my favorite places so I dedicate a lot of love and sorrow to a feed that gives me hell. Ha. I know that a part of my problem is that stupid target audience thing but oh well. Being stubborn is a two-headed coin. On the one hand, it keeps me pushing and on the other it can keep me back.
So, social media can change the game for your blog but there is a huge catch.
If you don’t have the content or the skills to create content… What are you sharing on social media? What does your #linkinbio connect people to?
I do not think that the link needs to lead to anything grandiose. A lot of times we are our own worst enemies by expecting perfection from Day 1. Some people are online just to share their words and knowledge. Other folks appear to be here to share a message. But everyone is out here creating content. Let me repeat, everyone is out here creating.
And that takes guts.
In my opinion, one of the biggest keys behind some of the successes of herstun.com is coding. Over time I have become more and more comfortable with WordPress and basic frontend web design and code.
Lesson 7. Coding is how you will make the site of your dreams come to life.
This is self-explanatory.
The ability to speak the language of the internet is priceless when the internet is your primary medium. Coding is challenging. And frustrating as hell. But for my site, and for my own skillset, it’s a challenge that I readily take on every time I sit down to create for this platform.
The coding piece is really what adds the hours to blogging. There are plenty of themes and tricks or tools to avoid learning. I think that everyone has different needs and uses for interweb. Coding is critical for me.
However, I have been on so many sites that do not prioritize coding. Instead, they focus on writing plain and simple; and the result is impressive. One of my favorites is An Angry Old Man Reviews Books. If you fall down that rabbit hole at my recommendation, then you are welcome.
Long Story Short – Lesson Learned.
If you are looking for some more life lessons, then start something new. (Or join the Herstun Writer if you dare, lol.) Set some goals and try to get passionate about achieving them. These are all things that I learned from trying to start a website. But they are lessons that have been repetitive in my life at various stages for years. I am thankful I continue to have opportunities to learn.