Six years ago I thought, “There should be a website about me where I voice my opinion.” That thought birthed WhoIsJreed.com AKA TheReedersBlock. This was before I became an Adjunct English Professor. At the time, I was a grad student navigating the nuances of higher learning and finding my voice. I couldn’t have predicted the success of this site that focuses on all things from self-help to politics. To say it’s been easy would be an untruth. Having gone from grad student to Adjunct English Professor over the lifetime of this site, I’ve interacted with the good, the bad and the beautiful.
When I started WhoIsJreed.com, I’d already tried starting blogs before, all of which failed. From those failed experiences, I gained humility and insight into the difficulties of running a successful website. I had to create content to drive traffic to my site, spread the word and be consistent. Instead of being fueled by unreasonable expectations and no experience, I approached this site with goals and a plan, even if they weren’t specific enough.
Creating this site fit well into what I was already doing as a grad student in the MFA program: writing and blogging. Because I was already doing so much creative writing in my program, I used class assignments I’d done as content for my website. With my professors’ highlighting the errors in my assignments, I didn’t have to proofread as much.
Also, my bachelor’s degree is in English Professional and Technical Writing. I already had a good grasp of English Writing, so I didn’t struggle to put my ideas into writing. They flowed naturally from the tips of my fingers to the screen of my computer without many errors, not to say there were none. I’ve found regardless of how much I proofread a piece before publishing it, there’s always an overlooked missing comma, awkward phrase or something to correct. Having studied English made it easier to write with fewer mistakes.
Also, I employed what I had learned in college: always edit, revise and proofread. Being familiar with the writing process, I understood the importance of each of these steps. The average blogger who doesn’t have an extensive background in writing may publish five or ten articles or blog posts weekly. However, because they have so many errors in their writing, their audience doesn’t take them seriously. Their audience loses interest. The tighter a piece is, the more likely it is to inspire repeat visitors. So, I made sure to clean up my pieces as much as possible.
Creating good content is hard because it requires being in the know. In grad school, I was around an assortment of writers who had blogs, websites and podcasts. Having them to converse with and bounce ideas off gave me insight into what people were talking about. Using this information, I created content in connection with some of the biggest news happening. Because of this, almost all my content is successful, and some is extremely successful. The more relevant your writing is to your audience, the more successful it will be.
When I started TheReedersBlock.com, I just wanted a space to say what I wanted when I wanted. Other than readership, I had no long-term goals. If my site made people smarter, more active or feel better, then I’d done my job. So, I created entertainment, political and self-help content. I didn’t understand how to use my site as a funnel to sell more of my books.
In hindsight, you deserve to be paid for the content you produce, but creatives always feel icky for selling things. Asking somebody to buy your books makes you cringe harder than you do listening to the telemarketer trying to sell you a vacuum. I suffered from this too. As introverted as I am, the idea of trying to convince somebody to buy something made my skin crawl. Now, I don’t think it’s a bad idea to put a monetary value on what I produce. You don’t have to be a starving artist.
Though TheReedersBlock.com keeps a steady stream of visitors, the content varies so widely that readers are here for various reasons. Because of that, it’s difficult to funnel some of the visitors to my books. I don’t plan on slimming down the content areas of TheReedersBlock. However, PainByAnyName.com –my newest site — is succinct, focusing on helping people cope with pain, be it physical or emotional. With a newsletter, books and cheat sheets centered around the subject of pain, my niche will be more fulfilled.
TheReedersBlock.com has acted as a public journal for me, allowing me to vent into the world and have somebody care to read it. I don’t know many of my readers personally. I’m not sure why they come the first time or what makes them come back. I do know thousands of people from over half a dozen countries visit my site regularly. My hope that they found hope keeps me going. This site is my therapy.
During grad school, I worked hard getting straight A’s. On nights I had a paper due or content to turn in for the university’s blog, I toggled between working and working on this site. It was fulfilling to be putting what I was learning into action. Sometimes, you ask yourself, why am I in college? Whenever I asked this, my site reminded me. College was my vessel to make connections and learn how to be effective in my writing. Maintaining my site became its own form of therapy.
The most beautiful part of running this site is the many visitors. I may not know all of you personally, but I appreciate you nonetheless. You make this site relevant. Without you, who am I writing to? So, thank you all for caring what I have to say. This site documents my transition from student to teacher (professor) literally, and if it weren’t for you, I probably wouldn’t have documented it.
So, that’s my life as a blogger over the past six years. Follow PainByAnyName.com to get new articles and a newsletter by me surrounding coping with painful situations.