Closeup of woman's hands typing on a laptop keyboard, representing an activist blogging about social justice politics
Activism

Blogging the Revolution: Why Your Voice Needs To Be Heard

With blogs being an almost ubiquitous feature of online life, at some point, you probably wondered to yourself, “should I start a blog?”

If you’ve taken the leap, you may have found that starting the blog was the easy part. Maybe you had some fun for a while, building your momentum and audience on a topic you were passionate about. The hard part was keeping it going.

Perhaps the reality of the hard work of blogging reared its head. You couldn’t remember what in the world possessed you to start this grueling unpaid side job. Maybe you ran out of ideas, paralyzed by the belief you were letting your readers down. Or maybe you struggled to find and keep your readers in the first place. And it started to feel as though you were shouting into an empty void.

Blogging can be a hard, monotonous, lonely journey when you’re trying to muddle through it on your own.

With the right frameworks in place, blogging can become deeply rewarding, edifying, and opens the possibilities for forming life-long friendships with your readers.

Activist blogging, especially from marginalized voices, is valued, important, and urgently needed.

Those of us who identify as women, LGBTQIA+, BIPOC, and disabled have all been taught at some stage in our lives to make ourselves small. To silence our voice and suppress our truths.

Blogging is a way to reclaim our voice and speak our truths.

Blogging can be our resistance and our healing.

Are Blogs Still Relevant in 2021?

There’s a staggering number of blogs on the Internet. Estimates suggest somewhere between 500–600 million blogs exist on the world wide web.

I can understand why some people looking at the sea of almost indistinguishable half-baked sites would think “blogging is dead”.

However, blogging is alive and more vital than ever.

Digital activism in the blogosphere has raised an entire generation on the hopes and ideals of social justice movements.

With blogs, children growing up in conservative, patriarchal households were exposed to feminist values and learned that they could do more and be more than what is narrowly prescribed in traditional gender roles.

From their mobile phones, they could learn about the importance of bodily autonomy and their right to equal, respectful, and consensual relationships.

They learned that they could have those relationships with anyone they loved and loved them in return, not only those who identified as the opposite sex.

Children who would otherwise suffer in silence, made to feel inferior and wrong, could find community and connection online.

Sometimes those blogs even saved somebody’s life.

The forms and conventions of blogging have changed dramatically in the last three decades. In fact, we’re seeing the beginning of a new era in blogging.

In the 2020s, readers want to engage with rich, detailed, valuable sites with focused content that educate, entertain, and inspire.

Gone are the days where you’d post sporadically whenever the mood struck about what you ate for brunch, your OOTD (outfit-of-the-day), and your thoughts on Spring.

(Unless you’re Kylie Jenner. Then you could probably post about anything you want and still have raving fans hang on your every word.)

For most of us, this intimate, ad hoc style of blogging has been replaced by social media. People can share their brunch, their outfits, and their musings on the seasons of life via Instagram and Facebook. Even political views and opinions can be pithily summarized in tweets.

Most blogs need to serve a greater purpose in order to build an engaged readership.

activist blogger
Photograph by Marcus Aurelius

Creating Value and Engagement

As activist bloggers, most of the value you provide will most likely be in educating readers about your cause and inspiring them to take action and change the world for the better.

Activist blogs generate this value in many different ways.

  • Some blogs like Finally, A Feminism 101 Blog, as the name suggests, offer foundational explainers about the basics of social justice movements. It’s about educating beginners who are curious to learn more about feminism as well as debunking the popular myths about feminism peddled by critics.
  • Other blogs like Feminist Killjoys are intended for feminist scholars and activists who want to expand their minds with philosophically sophisticated and inventive theorizations.
  • Feministing is a magazine-model blog that provides news and culture about feminist politics in everyday life in the United States.

Each of these blogs is clear about the audience they serve. They speak to their readers’ existing political knowledge and support their political aspirations.

Blog readers are increasingly expecting long-form content of at least 1,200 words. This trend was spurred when search engines like Google began using post length as a sign of quality in their algorithms since 2011. Search results now prioritize longer blog posts, which trained readers to expect in-depth explainers and guides.

(Read the detailed analysis about the best blog lengths for search engine optimization and see this other terrific resource for ideal blog post length.)

Again, short-form content is more suitable for social media than blogs. Instagram and Facebook have become robust platforms for micro-blogging. For examples, see @blackgirlreading and The Everyday Bigotry Project for engaging social justice content on these respective platforms.

However, I find micro-blogging is more arduous than long-form blogging. While each post may be shorter, these platforms tend to demand original multimedia content and daily publishing schedules.

Website-based blogs can be opportunities to slow down, research, read, and reflect, and craft more in-depth pieces.

These longer pieces can be made more accessible and readable through the use of multimedia.

In 2021, we’ll likely see more blog posts liberally complemented with striking visuals (articles with images get 94% more views). Graphs and infographics also help communicate dense and dry statistics in more visual ways. Some blogs blend audio (e.g., podcasts) and video content to offer multiple ways to consume their content.

As more and more readers switch to using mobile devices to browse blogs, walls of text deter even the most patient readers.

You’ll see in the ways I structure my posts that I’ve defenestrated all the grammatical conventions I’ve been taught as an academic.

I break up my paragraphs into 1–3 sentences, bold the most important points for skimmers, and write how I speak.

Thoughtfully integrated multimedia content will also help break up the walls of text with engaging illustrations of your key ideas.

giphy

Why You Should Start A Blog

Blogs can be powerful and rewarding vehicles for political activism.

For marginalized people, speaking your truth on your own platform is a critical tactic for taking up space and intervening in an imperialist, white supremacist, capitalist, cis-heteronormative, patriarchal world.

Before the Internet, activists built networks around printed newsletters from the 1970s. As mainstream media outlets did not always welcome feminist or anti-racist messages, small runs of socially exchanged newsletters and zines allowed social justice activists to disseminate information about their values, aims, and strategies.

Blogging is a natural extension of the ways we have always organized and connected with one another.

Media platforms controlled by cis-gender straight able-bodied bourgeois white men and women, whether that be mainstream newspapers, magazines, or academic journals, are not always familiar with or sympathetic to our political knowledge and practice. These platforms may not simply understand your writing or the importance of your message.

To be accepted onto traditional platforms, many of us would have learned to contort our message in ways that are comprehensible to a ‘mainstream’ audience. In other words, we learned to write in ways that are not too threatening to our oppressors.

Blogging is a way to speak directly to your community, your tribe, in a language that is comfortable and natural to both you and them.

There are no rules (not even my guide) that should limit your self-expression.

For me, academia taught me to write like an upper-class white man (three things I’m not). That was the only way I could be seen as intelligent and my knowledge accepted as legitimate.

Blogging allowed me to reconnect with a more courageous voice, one that is ready to stand in my truth and call out the violences in the world.

One unintended shortcoming of cancel culture is that some people in progressive circles have become intolerant of anything short of perfection. Blogging is a way to counteract the punishing expectations that those who struggle for social justice need to be infallible, coming out of the womb knowing precisely the wokest ways to think, speak, and behave at all times.

Blogs are visible sites of development and growth. We can document our fumblings through ignorance, curiosity, wonder, and then (perennially partial) consciousness. Blogs show that we all start somewhere. They demonstrate that it’s okay not to know the answers to everything, to figure things out over time, and to make mistakes that we accept, address, and correct.

I speak from Australia, a nation-state in the Global North where I can enjoy privileges and protections for what I choose to say online for now. My guidance here in this post assumes that you, too, can safely blog about political opinions without risk to your freedom or your life.

Activist bloggers elsewhere around the world risk so much more to claim their voice and speak their truths. Citizen journalists are regularly detained, arrested, and abused for speaking out against their governments.

If you’re at all concerned about your safety and the safety of your loved ones through what you write online, please take care. Osman Husain has an article about how you can take measures to blog anonymously.

When you have some time, watch this insightful hour-long interview below with social justice blogger Lutze Segu about the principles and practices of writing as an activist online.

My Blogging Story

I’ve been blogging since I was thirteen years old. I’ve seen (and survived) countless trends, from when all my friends and I had Livejournals where we’d gripe about our classes to the emo personal blogs of the early 2000s. I’ve created and followed Blogspot craft blogs in the late 2000s and followed the travel/food blog boom of the 2010s.

I’ve kept a lot of self-indulgent blogs in my time. When I started blogging, blogs were mostly treated as online diaries where you could share the intimate details of your life with an audience. Blogs almost never exceeded a small audience of friends, and you wouldn’t expect them to.

The first blog I started in earnest was a restaurant review blog with my partner in 2012. It was called The Nomsters and we committed to weekly reviews of the great food we found around Sydney.

We had a lot of fun with our gastronomic adventures through The Nomsters. But our posts were first and foremost about helping our readers discover great places to eat. Food blogging was already quite heavily saturated by then, but we became known for our consistent posts and beautiful photography. We steadily started building a following, and we would be happy every time to hear readers say that they discovered their new favorite restaurant through our site.

The Nomsters was very different to Disorient yet it taught me so much about blogging. It showed me the importance of centering the reader in my writing, providing inspiration (for what to eat) and knowledge (and where to find it) in every post.

It also cautioned me that blogs are much more work than they can look. To sustain it for any meaningful amount of time, your blog needs to be grounded in passion and planning.

When you begin blogging, you might struggle with writing, generating ideas for content, or working out the coding, tools, and technology. If you didn’t choose a topic you love, blogging can very quickly become a grind.

Love alone doesn’t build a solid framework for reader engagement and community-building. You need a work schedule and editorial calendar to plan your content and sustain your momentum.

the nomsters blog
Pretty cute right?

We started The Nomsters after one evening at our local restaurant when the waiter guessed our entire order — the same three dishes we always ate — the moment we entered. We decided then to expand our gastronomic horizons and used the blog as motivation to become more adventurous. Those days exploring new restaurants, taking photographs, and writing up our stories were some of the simplest yet most contented days of my life.

Being a foodie is a very different ambition to being an intersectional feminist, but The Nomsters showed me that blogs can be avenues for personal growth. I strengthened my writing, design, photography, food styling, and organization skills through blogging.

I reached back out to blogging in June 2020 during a particularly dark period of my life. The news of George Floyd’s death rocked me, and I found myself slipping into hopelessness and despair.

Blogging felt like a way I could metabolize the pain of life within the imperialist white supremacist capitalist cis-heteropatriarchy.

That tiny spark of inspiration was enough to reignite my energy, my joy, and my hope. For four months, I set myself the goal of an October 31 launch and worked every day on Disorient behind the scenes.

I created Disorient as an opportunity to read more about intersectional thought and activism. To foster connections with other scholar-activists. To refine my vision and praxis for social transformation.

Person at Black Lives Matter protest holding up a colourful sign above their head saying "Black Lives Matter", rally for social justice in front of a government building and statue in the distance
Photograph by Clay Banks

Planning: How To Set Your Blog Up For Success

To create a blog that’s engaging, rewarding, and sustainable, you’ll need to take some time to lay the groundwork and set it up for success.

Choose a Blog Topic

The first step is choosing a focused topic for your blog. You’ll want to find a topic at the intersection of 1) what you already know the most about, 2) what you’re most interested in learning more about, and 3) what you think will create the most positive, meaningful impact in the world.

Venn diagram showing three circles: your expertise, your interest, and your vision, overlapping in the middle to determine "your blog topic" for social justice blogging

I go more in-depth into choosing a topic for your blog in my step-by-step guide for building an activist blog.

When you’ve decided on your topic, brainstorm the subtopics you could post about. These subtopics help you map out the scope of your writing and then become the categories for your blog. My subtopics here on Disorient are (1) thought, (2) education, (3) activism, (4) spirituality and self-care.

A good yardstick for where to begin is with 3–5 subtopics.

If you find you’re listing out 15+ subtopics, that may be a clue that your blog topic is too broad. Consider narrowing your focus.

If you’re laboring to come up with even three subtopics, your focus may be too narrow.

blogging social justice
Photograph by Marcus Aurelius

Schedule Your ‘Blog Time’

To prevent your blog from running out of steam, you’d want to decide how much time you’re willing to commit to it.

When I came up with the idea for Disorient, I decided that I would dedicate 1½ hours every day to writing. Most days this was after dinner from 8 pm and when I started teaching a postgraduate evening class on Thursdays from July 2020, I maintained my 1½-hour commitment in the morning.

I can commit this time because of my privilege in having a stable job and no children or other loved ones I’m wholly responsible for caring.

Your own ‘blog time’ might look very different from mine and it would be no reflection on you, your capability, or your dedication. Give as much time as what feels good for you.

Some of you may be able to devote much more time than I and others much less. Although the more time you could invest in your blog the faster it’s likely to grow, there’s no right speed to building a blog except what’s right for you and your life.

To prevent your blog from spiraling out of control and turning into a full-time grind, you’d also want to maintain boundaries around your blog time.

I fulfilled my commitment to my blog time virtually every day but I resisted the temptation to work beyond them, even when I was available and willing. I force myself to take breaks in between blogging to stretch, hydrate, and attend to my physical, mental, and social needs.

To sustain our writing and activism, it’s vital to maintain relationships, hobbies outside your blog, regular exercise, and rest and relaxation.

Create an Editorial Calendar

From your ‘blog time’, whether you’ve carved out 2 hours a day or 2 hours a week, estimate how many blog posts you’ll be able to write regularly and build an editorial calendar from there.

Consistency is more important than quantity with blogging. It’s easier to sustain reader engagement if you’ve explicitly set the expectation that you’ll have one post a month for the next year than to post 12 posts in your first month and never update the blog again.

(Don’t overthink this point, though, as quality is more important than both consistency and quantity.)

Review the 3–5 subtopics you came up with earlier and brainstorm as many ideas for blog posts as you can in those categories. This process may reveal that one subtopic can really be broken up into two. Or that two subtopics should be merged together.

When you begin planning out your editorial calendar, look through your brainstormed list and find what excites you the most. Which blog post ideas are you most passionate about writing?

Try to pick 10 or so ideas spread out across as many of your subtopics as you can. This will allow you to test out the different categories of your blog with your audience to see what your readers resonate with the most.

For example, if I launched Disorient and for the first month all you saw me publish were 10 posts about self-care, someone looking for explainers about intersectional feminist theory would probably get confused and leave.

Again, blogging is about generating value for your readers and you can use the early days of your blog to work out what your audience wants and needs.

Use whatever planning system that gives you the most delight.

For me, I use Google Calendar to plan my day job, so I use Trello to create a dedicated space for my blog schedule. Using the Calendar power-up in Trello, I can map out my post ideas, works-in-progress, and my editorial schedule.

trello blog board
Command station for Disorient

You might prefer to map out your calendar by hand in a paper planner that sits on your work desk.

Once you’ve planned out what you’ll publish and when, block out your ‘blog time’ in your calendar/planner and specify what you’ll be working on in each session. For example, if you know you want to publish a post on Sunday and you’ve set aside an hour for your blog every day of the week until then to complete it, specify in your planner what precise tasks you’ll be working on to advance that post.

It may look something like this:

  1. Monday: Research and read 3 articles about [blog post topic]. Outline post.
  2. Tuesday: Write 300 words for post
  3. Wednesday: Write 300 words for post
  4. Thursday: Write 300 words for post
  5. Friday: Write 300 words for post
  6. Saturday: Proofread post. Format and insert images and other multimedia. Schedule post for publication.
  7. Sunday: Promote post on social media accounts.

Without a schedule, this is what your week might end up looking like instead:

  1. Monday: Research and half-read 12 articles about [blog post topic] then scroll through Instagram for ‘inspiration’.
  2. Tuesday: Decide that everything about the [blog post topic] has already been covered by everybody else and wallow in despair that your blog is doomed is fail.
  3. Wednesday: Write 500 words for post.
  4. Thursday: Delete 450 words of what you wrote yesterday.
  5. Friday: Scroll through Instagram for more ‘inspiration’.
  6. Saturday: Panic that you don’t have a blog post for tomorrow and write 1,150 words, most of which is typo-filled gibberish.
  7. Sunday: Consider giving up on the blog.

Community-Building: Making Your Blog More Than A Diary

One of the most rewarding things about blogging is how it allows you to develop a connection with your readers.

Some of you old enough to remember the Livejournal days might recall how we would have long back-and-forth dialogues in the comments sections at the bottom of blog posts.

Unless your blog has a long-established community of readers who are used to communicating with you in this way, more and more contemporary blogs are doing away with the comments form altogether.

Bloggers I know who have maintained their blogs for the last 10 years or more have also observed that fewer visitors are leaving comments as they used to.

Rather than encourage comments, consider linking one social media platform with your blog to foster interaction and community. It can be Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Twitter, TikTok, or any other platform you enjoy spending time on.

I’d advise against joining all five at once and trying to stay active on them all.

Consider one platform first. Perhaps the one you already use the most or choose the one where you know most of your potential readers hang out.

Every time you publish a post on your blog, make an announcement on your social media account and drive followers to your new post.

Three women bloggers gather around a mobile phone on a table, representing the importance of social media for activist blogs
Photograph by Ketut Subiyanto

Engage in dialogue with your followers. Ask them what they thought about your post, invite them to post their questions, and regularly seek their feedback about your blog and what they’d like you to write more about.

In these early days of Disorient, I’ve decided to focus on writing. I want to build a solid foundation of content on this blog and not spread myself too thin with social media.

In order to foster connection with my readers, I’ve created an email newsletter called Moon Rites. Readers who are interested in hearing more from me are able to subscribe and receive an email from me every two weeks (on the new and full moons).

I plan out the content for these emails as thoughtfully and meticulously as I do my blog editorial calendar.

With this more intimate group of readers, I can share more personal stories and give subscribers a peek behind the scenes of the blog.

Sustaining: Ongoing Writing As Activism

Sustaining your motivation and momentum is one of the toughest challenges with blogging. Before you start a blog, you need to understand that blogging is a long game.

Nobody can build a lively, polished, and encyclopedic blog without consistently showing up and doing the work for 12–24 months. You need to start your blog knowing that maybe only your partner/sister/best friend will be reading your blog for the first year.

Practice patience while holding firm to the vision that your blog will eventually make a meaningful impact.

Even with this wisdom, nothing can guarantee the prevention of blogger burnout.

Many of us who’ve blogged before will understand how it feels to hit a wall in our blogging. Perhaps some of you are even reading this post in the dark throes of blogger burnout now.

Related: How To Create Your Self-Care Day: A Detailed Guide

For some of us, burnout comes when we’ve been pushing ourselves too hard, setting demanding goals for writing or growth that we’re unable to meet.

For others, it may be that we’ve been blogging for a few months for a non-existent audience and we’ve become demoralized by the sound of crickets every time we hit “publish”.

Or maybe we’ve just sunk into a slump when the seasons changed, life circumstances altered, personal crises appeared, and our brains staged a protest against the relentless expectations for productivity.

I’ve been there.

When that happens, it’s okay to stop.

You must remember that it’s your blog and you can do whatever you want and need for it to feel good for you.

When you experience blogger burnout, take some time to rest. Set a clear intention to yourself that you’re taking the necessary time to care for yourself and put your blogging blockages into perspective.

Mentally and emotionally detach from your blog as much as you can while on your break. This is not a time to spiral into guilt, shame, or self-resentment.

When you’re ready to start reengaging with your blog again, try some of these tactics to re-spark your motivation.

  • Reconnect with your purpose. Go back to any notes you wrote about why you wanted to start your blog or when you brainstormed possible topics. Read these to remind yourself of that initial flame.
  • Go back to where you started and read the very first posts you wrote. You’ll likely have two realizations: (1) that you’ve come a long way and have made formidable strides as a blogger and (2) that your voice is unique and special and deserves to be heard.
  • On the chance you also have a third realization: (3) that your blog was started for all the wrong reasons and now you don’t want anything to do with it, appreciate this learning experience for giving you your newfound clarity. If you’re so inspired, make a fresh start with a new blog.
  • Read your favorite bloggers, listen to your favorite podcasts, and watch your favorite video channels. Read a classic book related to your cause or read an exciting new release.

In this video below, Sam Oh covers ten tips for beginner bloggers that will help your blog gain more traffic and be successful.

Making Money with Activist Blogs

You might also be wondering if political blogs can make money.

After all, running a financially viable blog goes a long way to sustain your efforts. If a blog can cover your domain and website hosting fees, or better yet, cover a living wage for you and anyone else you may eventually hire to help with running the blog, you’ll be able to invest more of your time and talent into growing your blog into a truly impactful platform.

Disorient is still very much a living experiment of this belief, but I do think it’s possible to generate an income from activist blogging.

However, I think for political blogs to make money, they need to develop creative forms beyond the ‘news’ model. As people increasingly consume their news via social media, it’s getting increasingly difficult to sell people on buying subscriptions to an online newspaper or a magazine on the promise of content alone.

I believe political bloggers need to adapt to models that foster community. Membership sites bring like-minded people together and enable readers to make meaningful personal connections.

Bloggers also need to be prepared to use their voices beyond the blog itself. The blog can become a way to grow your audience and eventually sell books, speaking engagements, workshops, courses, training, consultancy, or coaching.

Some of you may have no interest and no need to make money from your political blog. If that’s the case, it’s an enormous privilege to be able to keep your blog as a hobby, which comes with many liberties that a monetized blog can’t enjoy.

Celebrate that privilege and keep growing your blog into something beautiful.

For now, my conviction that activist blogging can be a way to earn a living through work that aligns with your values is not yet proven through my first-hand experience. I hope you’ll stay around and join me on the journey to growing Disorient into a financially viable project.

In the meantime, may my first wobbly steps back into blogging help inspire you to claim your voice and blog the resistance.

Getting Started Now

My detailed Blogging Guide for Activists will hold your hand and walk you through the six steps to coming up with an idea for your blog, getting set up with a website, and writing and publishing your first blog post.

From long before the Internet-age, social justice activists have formed networks and fostered communities with kindred spirits. Exchanging and circulating their writings, feminist, anti-racist, queer, trans, and disability activists were able to raise collective consciousness and organize around their politics to create change in the world.

Blogging provided a digital platform where knowledge-sharing and coalition-building could happen.

While many might still think of blogs as online diaries with short-form posts about the blogger’s life, blogging in 2021 is evolving into new forms of communication. This post detailed the recent trends that have seen blogs become sites for in-depth long-form that generate rich value for the readers.

And for the bloggers themselves, our writings become opportunities for self-development, expression, and even healing. Blogs can also become sites of community-building, reaching out a digital hand to like-minded folx who may be feeling alone.

I don’t need to know who you are to know that your voice matters.

If you’ve been thinking about starting your blog, read my detailed how-to guide and get your blog set up by the end of the week.

Or perhaps you’ve started a blog in the past but struggled with planning and sustaining your writing, and it’s now collecting cyber-dust?

Allow yourself to turn over a new leaf and start again with a fresh plan and map out your schedule from there.

Please reach out and let me know if you’ve been inspired to blog. If I can provide any other guidance, don’t hesitate to tell me what further resources or guides you’d like to see.

Featured image by #WOCinTech

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