Coming late to a WeNurses Twitterchat last week, I caught the last bit of a conversation on nurses and blogging.  I think it was called ‘Why don’t nurses blog?’ or something similar – you can find it here .  I made a few comments but I was really too late to join in the main conversation and I was cross with myself because I wanted to contribute.  I’ve been blogging for nearly four years and I’ve learned quite a lot about the process in that time.  If you’re thinking about starting a blog and you’re a nurse or a student nurse – then just do it.  Try it.  Don’t betray any confidences,  don’t abuse people,  be sensible in terms of the NMC Code and their guidance on using social media.  Find a platform (of which more later) and get what you want to say out there.  If you enjoy it,  and you’re not frozen by fear of what people might think, then start to work at it a bit more seriously.  Looking at some of the questions and concerns from the Twitterchat, the following might be useful.

What would I blog about? Blog about anything that moves you enough to want to share a view.  You might give your blog a theme.  This blog is about nursing, but sometimes I write about other things on here.  This question really should be Why would I blog? Here are some reasons why I blog:

To give my opinion on something I feel strongly about.  To provide information, or to add information to something if I think it might be useful.  To agree with something and to be  persuasive to encourage others to agree, or at least, to think again about something.  To disagree with something or to challenge something.  To tease, needle, irritate or provoke.  To be controversial and start a discussion.  To berate or to rant if I’m cross enough about something.  To educate or explain or debate.  To sympathise, empathise or otherwise show solidarity.  To describe and share an experience or my feelings.  To encourage people to think and think again.  To help myself think a bit harder.  To rethink.  To amuse.  To make contact.  To entertain.  Lots of reasons.  Often I am prompted by a snippet of conversation, a news item, a Tweet, something I’ve read or heard.  Sometimes people ask me to blog about something in partiular.  There are no end of motives for me.  You will find your own motives, and when you do, you will want to write.

Don’t blog if you haven’t got anything to say, or if you really don’t want anyone to hear/see what you say.  The whole point of a blog is to have your words read by other people.  Some people say that a blog might be helpful as a reflective tool just for them personally, and not shared with anyone.  It might.  It probably will.  But that’s not a blog.  It’s a diary, or a personal journal.  A blog is meant for an audience.  It is public.

Why would anyone want to read what I have to say?  This is the question on every start-up blogger’s lips.  And there are quite a lot of answers to this; it’s a much more sophisticated question than it seems.  First – You are part of a very large professional group.  So even if you don’t have very much to say, quite a lot of people will just swing by and read it anyway, just because you are a nurse, and so are they.  They aren’t reading YOUR blog, they’re reading a blog by another nurse.  Sorry to prick your ego straight away, but there you are.  The trick is to get them coming back to read YOUR second, third and fourth blogs etc.  And that’s about content, which is Second – Your blog is interesting/informative/topical/thought-provoking/amusing.  These are the things that bring people back.  If people get to know that your blog is interesting/informative/ topical/thought-provoking/amusing – they will come.  Your blog may not quite be their ‘Field of Dreams’ but it will engage them sufficiently so that they want to hear what you have to say.  Note that list doesn’t include ‘exquisitely written’, ‘grammatically awesome’, ‘spelling perfect’.  Not yet.  If you are interesting etc. then your readers will forgive quite a lot in terms of indifferent writing skill at the beginning.  That’s at the beginning – so don’t ignore the Third – Your style is easy to read.  Craft your blog a little more.  A Joyceian stream of consciousness is fine occasionally, but not all the time.  It’s difficult to read.  As is text with very poor punctuation, very bad grammar, a lot of spelling mistakes.  Very long sentences.  Very long blogs.  Eventually, it will put people off.  So work on your writing.  Be concise.  Go easy on the adjectives.  Use paragraphs shorter than this one.  Edit, edit, edit.

So, when you start, it’s less about what you have to say and more about what you are saying and how you are saying it.  Lots of blogs are written by people who aren’t ‘famous’, don’t hold positions of power or authority; their names are not well-known within the profession – and their blogs are very successful.  Sometimes they’re anonymous.  Nobody knows who is the writer and it doesn’t matter because the content brings the readers in.  Using your name or being anonymous is a matter of choice.  If you’re employed and you want to be controversial and you are scared it may have repercussions at work, then anonymity may be the way to go.  But what happens if you also want to write stuff that you would be proud to put your name to?  That you actually want people to know who has written it?  Just think this through and I’ll address it a bit more in part two of this blog.

How do I blog? Google how to blog.  Find a platform – there are free ones – WordPress and Blogger are two of the most widely used.  This blog is written on WordPress.  It’s reasonably simple to use, fairly intuitive to set up as long as you are patient, and there are good choices of template to use.  Generally speaking, you will need an email address, a name for your blog, and a name for your account.  A photo or two may be useful.  A bit of customizing, which can all be done through menus, and off you go.  Ask someone who already has a blog to help you.  At the top of your blog menu there will be a page called ‘About’, or something similar.  This is where you tell people what to expect from your blog.  Whether it’s focused or eclectic.  Whether it’s weekly or infrequent.  Whether it’s truth or fantasy.  You might also want to give a little information about yourself.  Maybe a photograph.  Take a look at my ‘About’ page above.  Read other blogs to see a variety of format and layout.  Keep it simple to start with unless you are a whizz at these things.  Once your template is set up, write your blog, tidy it up, be sure you are happy with the way it looks (you should be able to preview it) and press the ‘publish’ button.  Your words will be out there – available for however many zillions of people may choose to take a look.  That feels a bit scary at first.  Less so when you check your stats and see that only 6 people have viewed your post…and 3 of them are probably bots.

Next post – how do I get people (other than my friends and family) to read my really interesting blog?  To be continued…