I’ve been writing a blog for about three years now, maybe a little less, so for some I am an expert, but also far from a know-it-all and certainly still a newcomer to some of the older hands at this, but at the same time I’ve been moderately consistent and have had, for want of a better word, success blogging.
Of course, if you keep in some circles you may be forgiven for thinking that everyone is writing a blog these days. And this may very well be the case, I suppose. If you go looking for one of the increasingly updated definitive lists of English speaking bloggers in Korea you will find that this list is getting longer and longer.
I personally think that this is fantastic; the more people out there writing and sharing their experiences, good or bad, the better understanding newcomers and old-goers will have of Korea, and perhaps these stories will give people outside and unfamiliar with Korea a truer understanding of the country. Korea is a great place to experience, and while a little testing at times, I don’t think that I could say I’ve had an incredibly negative experience. That being said there is still enough that drives me up the wall. What bloggers do for Korea is they advertise the real Korea, one which is backed by the likes Korea.net or some other sunshine press.
But, you know, there are plenty of good blogs and then there are plenty of… eh… well I don’t know how to categorise them but they exist in some manner or form. With that in mind, when you start to blog do you really know what you’re doing? I mean, really? I know I didn’t.
When I started I just wanted to practice writing (over 240 posts and 30,000 hits later I think I’ve achieved that goal). I wrote long form essays on semi-academic obscure topics based on things that kind of had no relevance or connection, other than me trying to show off. I didn’t necessarily want to write about Korea, and I certainly didn’t want to make myself known aside from some ambiguous nickname. Don’t ask me why. But regardless of these intentions it didn’t take me long to start relating to stories and experiences in Korea, and I don’t think it took me long after that to start using my real name. Anonymity didn’t really suit someone who was trying to show off how fantastic a wordsmith they were.
So anyway, before I start to give another history my blogging experiences, I should stop immediately before I start to commit many a bloggers favourite past-time, which is waffling on for three or four thousand words without every really getting to the point. Let me try and stick to point here.
As I said, I’m keen on the whole blogosphere kind of thing, and I’m an eager reader of all kinds, but at the same time I want to help, I want to pass on my lessons learned and hope that someone else can fill another gap in the big wide prairie of the internet. So here are, I suppose, five relatively important tips you should follow when writing a blog in Korea.
1. Write about yourself!
Surely a no-brainer but you’d be surprised how many feel obliged to go off and talk about things they have no authority on, other than something they just came across on Facebook or Twitter, be it a random tweet or some disgruntled residents status update! There are a lot of pissed off people living in Korea who jump to conclusions on whatever it is that sets them off. There are an equal number of perfectly happy and satisfied people here too, so you’ve got to decide which area you fall into and then write about it from your own perspective. You can try the whole sitting-on-the-fence kind of social or pseudo political commentary, but take it from me, don’t bother. People read blogs for scathing opinions or amazing life changing revelations. So look inside yourself and think, what do I have to say, and then say it. If someone dislikes this, so be it, let them chew away on the wasp that is their own equally disorientated opinion of the world.
Another quick point – I see very little point in critiquing Korea, its politics, its society, and other parts of the culture, mainly because whether you think it may influence someone, believe me it’s not going to influence the right people. So sit back, enjoy (or hate) life and let Korea get on with its self without your pontificating. You may actually be surprised by your revelations.
2. Keep it focused!
Are you new in Korea and do you want to talk about your kindergarten kids and shopping trips to Myeongdong? Sweet do it. Are you particularly privileged to have insight into the inner workings over the Korean political establishment? Fan-feckin-tastic. Carry on. Are you a food obsessed adventurer who can tell what sea his san-nac-chi came from? Deadliness. Continue your scribbling. Do you just talk about being in Korea and everything that radiates around it? …ok you’re getting the idea.
My main point here is, if you are looking for readers outside of your immediate circle you’re going to have to approach a particular topic and keep at it. The more you concentrate on something the more of a name you’ll get for your particular subject that there’s a good chance that you’ll be called on to actually give an expert opinion. Yes. I said Expert! You can be an expert! But only if you stick to it – don’t believe me look at some of the biggest blogs in Korea and you will see guys who are actually making money of blogging in some manner or form.
3. Know why you’re writing!
I can’t tell you the amount of times where I’ve turned around to myself and asked, “ah sure what’s the fucking point of it?”, then not written anything for days before I turn around and belt out a few good solid posts. I don’t consider these the usual “what is life all about” kind of doubts, they are genuine doubts and concerns based on the futility of blogging in a foreign country in a foreign language to the large majority of the population, while at the same never seeing the kind of goals I have envisaged for myself when I first set out on this blogging journey a few years ago. But I still have the same goals. I still stick to the point. I have fellow bloggers to thank for that, fellow bloggers who, regardless of the time and effort taken to blog, continue to blog away taking up time from the work life and schedule to churn out informative posts for their readers. Sometimes when we get these notions of grandeur we forget what the whole purpose of writing actually is; It’s to be read. In the beginning you will have few readers but the more you strive to be read the more you will be read. Blogging teaches you this somehow. I find it to be a fun process.
4. Take your time!
Remember the ents. There is never any rush for something to be said. Blogs are a little slower than Twitter so use that expected difference to allow you the time to take your time and think about what it is you are going to say. Blogs are more permanent than twitter or Facebook posts, and the comments you make will always be searchable and found quicker than some status update or tweet you spent five minutes craftily scripting. Use that permanency to your advantage. Remember, it’s your blog and you are in control of what is said on it, so use it to control your thoughts.
Don’t post until you’re ready. Don’t post unless you really feel you have to (even if you have the whole “oh I haven’t posted for months and I’m sorry” blues). Ask yourself if you really need to write a 3000 word post on a kimchi making experience or what colour pants little Jimmy pissed in today, or whatever it is you feel to be so incredibly important to write about. Search around on the internet and see if it has been said already, and ask yourself how can I tell this story differently. This goes for every post you write. Respect your message and thoughts and your readers will respect you as someone who takes the time and care to create a worthwhile read. If you don’t have the time to say everything, divide it into bite-size posts, or actually think about what you have to say because maybe you don’t have to say everything.
Believe me, I’ve done all of these and had the expected results.
5. Don’t be an arse!
Yeah, kind of goes without saying and I believe most people have this covered. But just in case you don’t know, Korea is an incredibly different country which has only gradually begun to accept western conventions seriously over the past ten years, so give it a break when it does something different. Take it as part of the experience of living here. Korea is a place inhabited by people who have invested their lives and families in the social structures which account for it. Sure Korea isn’t perfect and it has its problems, and sure sometimes it may feel that there is a higher number of assholes wandering the streets that most places you’ve ever visited. However, if you look at it demographically, the country is densely populated so you’re bound to encounter more assholes per square kilometre that anywhere else. Anyway, like dealing with any asshole or shit situation you may encounter in your own country, roll up your sleeves and deal with it.
And if anything else, if you really want your blog to respected have a bit of self-respect and write what you would like to be read for – if that’s being an arse, well so be it, as long as you’re happy.
So with all that said and done, happy blogging!