Jul 1, 2015

Matthew Selwyn

Can blogging change your life?

Chances are you or someone you know runs a blog (even if that blog hasn’t seen a new post for the last three months). After all, there are more than 150,000,000 blogs on the internet today. That’s a lot of content being generated (Wordpress sites alone account for 6 new posts every second) so it’s hard to imagine a new blogger diving into such a vast pool and making even the smallest splash. But if you’re considering starting a blog, whatever it may be about, I want to tell you one thing:


Let’s be clear about this, blogging is a hobby for most people. Some are lucky enough to make a little bit of money from it, a very few people are even making a living from it. But if you want to get rich, you’re better off looking elsewhere. Blogging has to be about sharing your love for a particular topic with the world, not about trying to earn a few pennies from advertising, or selling people products. Leave that to the big companies and business bloggers. At its heart, blogging is about connecting like-minded people and allowing them to share their interests and knowledge with one another.

So, how can blogging change your life?

There are a huge variety of blogs splattered across the internet, covering a huge range of topics, from beauty products to relationship advice, books to opera, comics to video games. Each and every one has its own character and a blogger behind the scenes who has poured hours into making the site as engaging as possible. Each of them has different goals, but I want to share with you exactly how blogging has changed my life.

I first started my book blog www.bibliofreak.net back in May of 2011. As I fired up www.blogger.com and registered my own URL, I was filled with dreams of becoming the definitive voice in book blogging, building a following of thousands within weeks, and being paid major dollar to endorse anything and everything. That dream lasted approximately two minutes and fifty seconds (roughly the time it took for me to discover the hundreds of fantastic book blogs out there, filled with smart, informative posts, and beautifully designed layouts – comparing these to my empty shell of a site I knew I was out of my depth).

Of course, being a chipper sort, I didn’t let this deflate me for too long and I was soon banging out opinionated book reviews at a rapid pace. Sadly, these literary nuggets passed largely unobserved by the billions of web users who, apparently, weren’t waiting on tenterhooks for a pretentious young writer-sort to come along and pronounce judgement on all manner of books from Camus’s The Stranger to the slightly less high-brow Football Manager Stole My Life. In the face of such seeming indifference, I had to re-evaluate exactly what I wanted from blogging. So, with a brand new theme installed on my website, I pressed on afresh with two very simple goals in mind:

1.       As an aspiring author, I hoped that blogging would get me into the routine of writing regularly and help me learn the craft of both reading critically and writing for an audience.
2.       I hoped to meet other young writers and avid readers whose company I could share across the web that connects us all.

After this, things picked up and I began to discover all the great benefits of blogging.

Getting social

With my ambitions pared down from world domination to slightly humbler goals, I found very quickly that people were interacting with my blog and that I was meeting a raft of new people not only on www.bibliofreak.net but across social media. I’m pleased to say that I consider many of those people friends today, and I’ve enjoyed an enormous number of enriching conversations with readers from around the world that I simply would have missed out on if I hadn’t started my little blog.


An unexpected side effect of building my blog into one of the most popular in the UK, was that I slowly become inundated with requests from authors and publishers hoping that I’d review their books in exchange for a free copy. Besides being a massive and unneeded boost to my ego – aha, people do care what I think, clearly I am the voice of my literary generation after all! – this was hugely exciting for me: as a bibliophile, the idea of getting free books, often before they were published was an unexpected and wonderful boon. In fact, I had to stop myself accepting every request I received for fear of drowning in the already overflowing collection of books that lay scattered around my bedroom.      


Another pleasant surprise of becoming known in a few blogging circles was that publishers started to invite me to book launches and other literary events in the real world (you know, that place where things don’t happen on a computer screen). The first time I accepted one of these invitations and attended an event, I couldn’t quite believe that my ramblings in a tiny corner of the internet had led me to be holding a flute of champagne while I made (awkward) small-talk with assorted big wigs of the publishing industry – until that point, I’d seen no real connection between cyberspace and meatspace (as some bloggers rather charmingly call the real world). The fact is, blogging is all about connections, and those person-to-person connections can lead you into all sorts of exciting experiences. The biggest invite I’ve had was to the first ever Folio Prize award ceremony, which took place in a swanky London hotel – to be rubbing shoulders with award-winning authors and members of the media seemed bizarre to me. But did I mention, blogging can change your life?

The big one

When I set out on my blogging journey, there was one goal I had which I didn’t really share with anybody. It was the end-game of all the reading and writing I was doing for the blog, and an ambition I’d held for some time. The fact was, like so many people, I wanted to be a published author. It’s quite a leap from self-publishing blog posts about any topic you fancy writing about, to putting together a novel that actually appeals to readers en masse. It’d be wrong to say blogging was the sole reason I managed to achieve my goal of having a book published, but it was the thing that gave me the confidence, discipline, and connections to get it done. I’m pleased to say that my debut novel ****, or, The Anatomy of Melancholy is out now and has had favourable reviews in such world-class publications as The Lancet (truly the furthest from my little blog I can imagine getting)! Perhaps a little ironically given my blogging background, the book looks at the dangers of the internet and how isolating it can be.

Advice for new bloggers

The beauty of blogging is that you can write about whatever interests you. For me, that was books, but there is an audience for just about any hobby you enjoy, be it premium make-up brands or something more niche, say, taxidermy of small reptiles (that’s fairly niche, right?). I hope hearing a little about how blogging has changed my life, helping me achieve some of my goals and providing an entrance to the literary world I’d yearned to join for some time, has been helpful if you’re just setting out on your journey. You don’t have to have grand goals for your blog: making a few new friends and sharing your opinions is, in honesty, the simplest and most pleasurable part of blogging. But if you want something more than that, there’s very few places that blogging can’t take you. If you do it right.

Matthew Selwyn is an author, librarian, and student from London, England. The hardback of his debut novel ****, or, The Anatomy of Melancholy was published in May 2015. He writes book reviews at www.bibliofreak.net and his author website can be found at www.matthewselwyn.com. You can also follow him on Twitter and Facebook.

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