Around a year ago, I went to a talk for people interested in getting into journalism. And by the end of that session, I had learnt something very important: without a blog or Twitter account, I was never going to make it as a journo. This probably sounds like astoundingly basic journalism 101, but before that talk, I had viewed both of those mediums as rather contemptible: just further means of online self-indulgence than was already available through the likes of Facebook. But what I never anticipated was how much I would enjoy them, particularly blogging. As someone who had been involved with the trade since the age of 13, I'd written hundreds of articles - but all for people who had specific visions of what they wanted me to say. But with my own space on the web, I could rant and rave and talk about whatever I wanted. Just think: me, writing about things I actually felt like writing about! That would be published! I'm not sure I'd ever experienced such dizzying heights of freedom before that point.
Blogs I'd seen by people my own age seemed to verge on either the incredibly intellectual (and to my mind, inaccessible), or online diaries that revealed far too much and tried far too hard. So I decided that my blog would start out as a light hearted, current affairs style opinion site where I could essentially rant and rave but look a little more sophisticated doing so. I wrote my first post on April 8th, 2011, bemoaning people who write overly emotional Facebook statuses. This seemed to get a reasonably positive reaction from friends, and things took a slightly more political turn as I continued. Within that first month, I posted five articles discussing things from homophobia in Britain to France's burqa ban, and I genuinely loved the liberation of writing about things I actually cared about.
But with having a blog came responsibility: I had to phrase things sensitively so that they couldn't be misconstrued, write about things people actually wanted to read and, worst of all, try to be funny where need be. None of these things was easy, particularly as being a lone blogger means you have nowhere to hide behind when people dislike your work. I also had to think carefully about what my blog was actually about. It had started off being entirely about current affairs and pop culture, but as time went on, I realised that I didn't have to pigeon-hole myself to just one genre and began including theatre reviews, interviews and, perhaps what I have enjoyed writing most, my travel diary.
My blog is by no means perfect, but given my limited understanding of web coding, full on degree schedule, social life and part time jobs aplenty, I'm happy with it. One of the most valuable things I've learnt since becoming a blogger is to really listen to the advice of others who are willing to give it: when I wasn't sure if I should start adding my theatre reviews to the site, my sister told me I should; when I wondered how to spice it up after a slow month, I spoke to a fellow blogger whilst on work experience who told me she interviewed people and put that online. And so I did it. I emailed a friend who is in a band, featured them on my blog and enjoyed (what was then) the best site traffic in a day I'd ever had.
And blogging isn't only about taking advice, but getting creative with it and expanding wherever possible. Seeing the hits pour in after my first interview inspired me to continue working hard as Television Editor of my student rag, where I was pursuing celebrity interviews. I had soon spoken to the likes of Bear Grylls, Embarrassing Bodies' Doctor Christian Jessen and so many more, and decided to start uploading them to my blog. I then began using my newly created Twitter account to ask my interviewees if they wouldn't mind retweeting the link to my blog, and the hits soon started coming in thick and fast.
This post certainly isn't intended to purport that I'm some kind of super blogger - far from it - and I'd be lying if I said I didn't get a bit downhearted on days when the site doesn't get many hits. But for those unsure if they should start their own blog, I really can't recommend it highly enough: there's really no better way that's as easy and enjoyable as being able to write your own stuff, on your own time. The Huffington Post wouldn't be the same without the thousands of contributors it has airing their opinions on everything from the credit crunch to Christina Aguilera, so drop your inhibitions, reserve that domain name and get writing. You won't regret it.
Follow Charlotte Lytton on Twitter: www.twitter.com/charlottelytton