Warning: today’s post is narcissistic, so if you don’t want to read me writing about this site, it’s best if you just skip this one.
Today is the fifth birthday of Jerseys and Hockey Love. Even though I started a month earlier with a simple youtube video as a placeholder, my first blog entry was actually June 20th. And boy, was it crap. Also, starting a hockey blog at the beginning of the offseason was not the smartest thing I have ever done, but hey, what did I know.
More importantly for me, this blog changed my life. If it weren’t for starting this site, I wouldn’t have met so many cool people, several of which are now real friends. Prior to learning about hockey blogs, I spent a little time searching out information and checking hockey scores and stats on NHL.com or HockeyDB.com, but my use of the internet for hockey was fairly limited. Starting this site opened up a whole other world of online use for me. I had no idea that so many people were writing about hockey, and those numbers exploded a year or two later.
I started this site to talk hockey with people. I only had one person around to talk hockey with, and I needed another outlet. It turns out a blog isn’t a great place for conversation. It’s a great place to get your ideas and thoughts across, but the format is limiting in it’s ability to interact with people.
After a solid year of blogging here, I went back out on the road (I travel a lot for work), and let myself stop writing with any regularity, sometimes for months at a time. I would wonder if it was just time to end this blog and move on. I still think about it from time to time. But then I find that I have something to say, and start writing again, and I’m happy I have this place.
I don’t know if I’ve learned much after five years of having this site, but I do have a few beliefs that I try to live by, and I think I mostly follow them.
– If you have something you want to say, don’t let anyone keep you from saying it. Haters are going to hate. And there are plenty of drive-by jerks who will leave an idiotic comment just to be a jerk. Those people don’t matter. If there is something you believe in, post it. If you are worried about backlash, shut off your comments. One of the great things about the internet is that if you don’t want to have a certain part of it in your life, you don’t have to. You don’t have to read every blog; if one pisses you off, don’t read it. If someone is a jerk to you, block them. But don’t let it minimize your voice. This is the one thing beyond anything else that hurt my posting – worrying about what other people would think and hate on. Life’s too short, eh?
– If you don’t have something to say, don’t post it. Volume drives traffic. I understand that. This is the internet, and the old adage “content is king” still holds. But as Merlin Mann said, “yeah, but voice is queen.” And the thing people forget is, the more you post without using that voice, the more you dilute that voice, and the less powerful it becomes. Look at people who get stuck on a topic that pisses them off on twitter. They will tweet twenty times in a row about some injustice, and all you can think is, “give it a rest.” That hurts their voice as much as not posting for a while. Use your voice when you post, even if it’s a short post. If you aren’t, why bother?
– Don’t worry about traffic. If you can keep from looking at your stats, beyond seeing who links to you, then do it. When I first got a sitemeter, I stared at that thing way too much. It was new and shiny, and I wanted to see if anyone was reading my schlock. But it shouldn’t have mattered if I got ten or a hundred more hits on any given day. I didn’t get better at writing by watching my stats, I got better by writing. Which leads to….
– Keep writing, even if you don’t post. Why did you start a hockey blog? Is it because you wanted to write about hockey, or because you just wanted attention? If it was because you want to write, the best way to get better at writing is to keep writing. It’s the number one way to get better at writing (the number two way is reading). There is no better motivation than keeping your fingers moving, and watching something surprising and unexpected come out. Some of the best posts come from that place, where you didn’t know what was going to happen, but it just happened (example: here and here).
– Get better. There isn’t a single writer out there who just started writing and the great American novel just flowed out of them. Online, the great overnight success story usually took a few years to get there. If you really want to blog well, the best thing you can do is get better. If you work at getting better, it’s going to really make you care more about what you write. Getting better is also one of the more exciting things about writing. When you write something you didn’t expect, and it turns out well, that’s an amazing feeling.
– Go have fun. It’s good to take what you do seriously, but this is hockey blogging, not the end of the world. If you shut down tomorrow, life would go on, not only for you but for the internet. If I shut down Jerseys and Hockey Love, people might miss it a little, but there are plenty of blogs out there to pick up the slack. If you want to make writing about hockey your career, you should be taking it seriously. But even then, having fun with it is the best way to keep it fresh, interesting, and fun for the readers as well. It also keeps the drama factor low, and as I’ve seen elsewhere, the people who are doing this well aren’t into the drama.
Anyways, after five years of doing this, I can’t say that I have learned and completely lived my lessons, but that’s what I believe. Also what’s in the manifesto, which was written in one night of being pissed off at some forum, and wanting something I could stand by. Do you have anything like that? Should you?
So happy blog birthday to this site. It really did change my life for the better.
Bonus content: I haven’t had any bonus content for a bit, but this showed up in my RSS reader today, and it just fits perfectly. Hugh MacLeod, people. If you make things online, you should read him.