[EN] Personal Blog Redux, Part I – Or What Not To Do When Starting Your Blog (Apart From Avoiding Stupidly Long Blog Titles)
As I mentioned in my introductory blog post, this is not my first time at blogging. It's my third try! Today I'm talking about my first (failed) try, and what lessons I learned from the experience.
Twelve years ago, I was into webcomics. I had a long list of webcomics I read daily, it would take me at least half an hour to go over them all. In my childhood (and through my teens), I used to draw a lot, and my dream was to be a cartoonist. But while I could draw, I never had any genius comic ideas (or so I thought), and I always deemed my friends' ideas not good enough. The reality is, I have a big perfectionist streak, and I have a tendency to be very critical of myself first, and others second (I am more forgiving of others' efforts than mine). This has often prevented me from going and actually doing things.
So then, I had just quit my job in Montréal and moved back to my (smaller) home city. I was on a semi-sabbatical, doing remote freelance work on-and-off, and I had time on m#100DaysToOffloady hands. I had this one idea I thought was good enough to finally act upon: I would make a webcomic based on my cat.
#100DaysToOffload Anyone who lives with a cat (believe me, there are no cat owners) will have stories to tell about their companion. I thought I could tell funny ones people could relate to. Feedback from family was enthusiastic. So I started planning my webcomic:
- It would be a typical three-panel or more comic strip, with the punchline in the last panel
- It would be based on the WordPress blogging engine
- It would use a webcomic-specific extension to provide navigation arrows to go back and forward through strips without having to scroll down
It would take me a year of mostly procrastinating to finally launch it. I registered a domain name. I registered with a shared web hosting service. I installed WordPress, searched for WP customization, extensions. Registered on a forum to get help on setting up a webcomic extension (made friends with a professional French cartoonist, which was very cool). I made a list of strip ideas.
And so, my webcomic was finally online. But as I didn't have any content to publish, I posted a placeholder or two, among them an old gaming-related comic strip I had made 12 years before for a computer club's monthly zine. I posted a few sketch studies trying to define my webcomic style. As a joke, I posted a “false start” strip, where I finally introduced my character... But it actually wasn't! (Older readers will instantly recognize this emblematic comic character – copyright holders, please don't sue me!)
(Translated from French:)
“And now, here's the one we were all waiting for... Here's” “... FELIX!” “- Uh, no, he's not the one we were expecting!” “- Really?” “- Not at all!” “- Ah.” (“- Also, the other one isn't being paid...”) (“- Riiight!”) “Sorry! Casting error! Don't call us, we'll call you!”
And... that was it. I let my blog fizzle and die. My blog had been online for eighteen days.
After three years of neglect, I finally pulled the plug.
I spent all my energy on building the website and forgot to work on the most important thing: the content. When my website was close enough to what I wanted, I was fed up with it all, and I had no more motivation to actually work on the comic strips.
What I took away from this experience was that I was obsessed with the medium, when I should have cared about the message. (I guess that means I disagree with Marshall McLuhan. :-P )
Rather than starting working right away on the website, I should have started with the webcomic itself! Defining the drawing style, putting ideas to paper, and most importantly, building up a buffer of comic strips ready to go. All crucial things I hadn't bothered doing.
Among other things, this is one of the reasons why I chose WriteFreely for this blog's engine. I don't want to spend time on configuration, customization, a custom banner, custom CSS and what not. I want to focus on the content.
So, I modestly offer this advice to anyone who wants to start a blog or any project, really: don't lose sight of what you were aiming for in the first place. Stay focused, don't get sidetracked! And foremost, content is what matters.
Thanks for reading, kuddos if you made it to the end!