The Dichotomy of Starting a Blog - Both Soft and CrunchyJan 24, 2023
I am fortunate to know all the families on our six-mile stretch of country road. We have an unwritten code of supporting each other whenever we can.
Last summer, a couple of my neighbors needed to get their kids to swimming lessons, so I volunteered to drop them off at the community pool while I ran my errands.
During our thirty-minute drive to town, we engaged in some interesting discussions about school, summer vacation, swimming, and candy.
Yes, candy! It seems one of the kiddos’ favorite candies had come out with a new product. The sweet treat, one of those chewy, gummy things, now offered a soft and crunchy version in the form of a sucker. Hard on the outside, soft in the middle.
After some debate on whether they liked the new candy better or not, the only young man in the group (a hilarious ten-year-old), shared his personal opinion. “It wasn’t very good and it doesn’t make sense. How can something be both soft and crunchy?”
That simple little statement had me thinking. Can something be both soft and crunchy? Sure enough, I came up with a few ideas; ice cream cones, real fried potatoes, crunchy style peanut butter, S’mores, walking barefoot in the sand, and starting a blog.
Easy vs hard
I think of “soft” as being easy and “crunchy” as being hard. When it comes to starting a blog, that dichotomy is the first thing that becomes apparent. One person will tell you how easy (soft)it is and will promise to teach you how to get it done in thirty minutes or less.
All they actually provide for you is the basic instructions to set up the website. Just follow their step by step instructions and you are good to go.
But wait! They fail to inform you that it is also very difficult.
Getting all the moving parts working together is downright hard. Creating links to social media, adding images, setting up contact methods.
It gets downright crunchy trying to put it all together.
But, you’re still not finished! You have to figure out how you are going to grow and sustain your blog. The advice you get continues to be oppositional in nature.
Soft: following the step by step directions to purchase your domain name, select your hosting and blog platform and connecting. Or purchasing a done for you website builder.
Crunchy: All the other technical stuff.
Individualize vs follow the norms
Whenever you start something new it is human nature to want to have some type of roadmap to get you going in the right direction.
This is true about building a blog. There are plenty of ways to gather that information thanks to the internet.
Whether it is free advice or a paid program you can learn exactly what you should and should not do. Sort of.
Within those instructions, some will encourage you to be yourself, individualize your blog so that you stand out among the thousands of other bloggers in your niche.
Making your blog stand out may mean not following the norms.
How do you find that balance? Follow the roadmap is a soft task, but it gets pretty crunchy when you try to stand out from the crowd.
Soft: Doing whatever else seems to be doing — the Roadmap of norms.
Crunchy: Standing out from the crowd, individualizing, going against the grain.
Building vs knowing your audience
One way of finding the balance between the “norms” and “individualizing” is knowing your audience.
But what if you have yet to establish your audience? Don’t you have to build your audience before you can get to know them?
That’s when you are supposed to turn to your avatar; the prototype for who you are writing to, for, and about.
Current advice tells you to create your avatar by deep research (a crunchy task) which really lets you know your readers before you actually have them.
Then you provide content they love (which should be a “soft” task by now) that keeps them coming back and sharing with others.
Soft: providing content and “talking” to your perfect people (avatar).
Crunchy: researching and finding your perfect people (avatar).
What you love vs what your audience wants
So what do you write about?
It should be a no-brainer; you write about what your audience wants. This may be a bit “crunchy” in the beginning.
But you should also write about what you love. Pretty “soft” for most of us.
While this does not and should be a contradictory task, there may be times when the two do conflict with each other.
Let’s say, for example, you just love hummingbirds. You are just dying to write a post about those curious, busy little creatures.
Your audience, however, is not really interested in hummingbirds. They want some sound advice on staying focused on a writing assignment.
Spending time observing and sharing about hummingbirds may seem to have no relevance to staying focused. But there could be a connection.
As a writer, I sometimes amaze myself on my ability to correlate two seemingly unrelated things to one another. As in busy hummingbird focused on gathering nectar and busy writer focused on completing a blog post.
Soft: Writing about the things you want to write about.
Crunchy: Writing about the things your audience wants to know about.
Conversational tone vs sounding professional
Another contradiction I have encountered in getting my blog started is in the style of writing used in creating a post.
Everyone out there will tell you, “Write in a conversational tone as if you were talking to a friend.” I consider this an “easy, soft” piece of the puzzle.
The hard or “crunchy” part comes into play with contradictory advice to sound professional and display a voice of authority. You would think that would come naturally to a long-time teacher.
Oh no, no, no! It is so difficult for me to not edit as I write, write in a casual voice, and allow myself to start sentences with “and” or end sentences with “for,” and worse of all, use incomplete sentences.
But the reality is, that is how we talk and if you want your blog to be conversational…well, you just need to do it.
Soft: sounding like a friend, being part of the community.
Crunchy: finding a balance between sounding like a friend and being authoritative, oh yeah, and breaking grammar rules.
Compare vs don’t compare
Starting a blog is not as easy as people think. Yet there are thousands of bloggers out there seeing great success.
Some do it for fun. Some do it for a living. Some do if because they have something important they want to share with the world.
Most do if for a combination of those reasons.
As a newbie blogger, I do read and follow several other bloggers. From them, I learn tips and tricks and gain ideas for future posts or ways to improve my site.
I appreciate every little tidbit, but I have to admit I suffer from “blogger envy.”
Blogger envy is the annoying little voice in the back of your mind comparing what you are doing, how you are succeeding (or not) and what you are writing to how things are going for other bloggers.
It's so soft and easy to fall into blogger envy.
Common sense (and experienced bloggers) will tell you not to compare yourself to others. Definitely hard and crunchy to do.
After all, we are at different stages in the game, playing in different fields, and may not even be using the same equipment.
They will remind you we are all one big community, there to support and help each other in any way we can.
Blogging is not a competitive sport which seems so contradictory to the fact we are all seeking to score a winning blogging career.
Soft: giving in to blogger envy, feeling discouraged, use as an excuse for not moving forward.
Crunchy: stop comparing, keep at it despite feeling a little discouraged, reaching out to the blogging community.
Earn money vs give it away
Which brings me to my last thought about the dichotomy of blogging. Earning money versus giving things away.
Could the two things be more opposite?
Yet this is the advice given over and over again. If you want to build your audience, if you want to eventually earn a living from your blog, you absolutely must give away some of your best ideas.
Wait a minute!! I had to think this over for about three seconds. It makes sense. Yes, soft (freebies) and crunchy (selling products or services) can work together.
People love “freebies,” especially things which help them out in some way or entertain them or inform them about something important. Anything that makes their life a little easier.
Providing something useful will encourage them to come back for more and share your information with others, which will bring them back for more, etc.
Then you begin creating products or services to sell. The crunchy part. Not so much the creation, but the switching from providing freebies to asking your community to start handing over the moolah.
Soft: creating products or providing services (it’s work but easy in comparison to the crunchy side of things)
Crunchy: going from free to paid content or services, concern about creating content or services of value to your community, finding the balance between the two.
Getting on the merry-go-round
It’s a little like a merry-go-round. Once you create your blog, you can build your audience. Once you build your audience, you can get to know it well. Once you know your audience well, you can provide content that is meaningful to them.
Meaningful content brings in more readers, builds your audience, and around it goes.
Like eating the latest version of the gummy candy sucker, sometimes you have to eat through the hard, crunchy stuff — determining what is sound advice and what isn’t — before things get soft and easy — knowing your audience well, writing and communicating regularly.
Yes, soft and crunchy are contradictory in the literal sense. But contradiction is part of the human experience.
Life is one huge dichotomy of events which we must sort through, manage, and learn from. Building my own blog is and will continue to be, a soft and crunchy experience.
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