The trouble with starting a blog

When you’re a PhD student, you get a lot of mixed messages. There’s that pesky debate about qualitative vs quantitative research, multiple ideas about the ‘right’ way to write your thesis, different opinions from multiple supervisors, etc etc etc…the list goes on.

But if there’s one message I’ve received consistently since I started my PhD at the Open University last year, it’s this: you should write a blog. Yes, you. You should write a blog. You should be blogging this. YOU. SHOULD. WRITE. A. BLOG. JENNA.

It probably doesn’t help matters that Katy Jordan‘s desk is right behind mine, who is the PhD student blogger success story cited in all of those ‘you should write a blog’ discussions. Or that I’m from the same department as King Blogger Martin Weller. Or that I can just walk down the hallway and bump into the frequently-blogging OER Research Hub team. Or IET’s growing Leverhulme community of Phd Students, all researching topics in Open World Learning. Okay, okay, okay, guys. Message received.

But ‘you should write a blog’ is a scary idea to a new PhD student, and so it stayed as one of those ‘maybe someday’ ideas that I regularly thought about, but never actually got around to doing. That is, until Sheila MacNeil’s recent visit to the OU, where the subject frequently centered on, you guessed it….blogs (see her own blog post about the visit or a recording of her talk). Her visit sparked a conversation between IET PhD students such as:

So, not wanting to disappoint Janesh or Sheila, I made my fancy wordpress site. Then I stared at that horrifying ‘start a post’ button for days, convinced some brilliant, ground-shattering idea would come to me to start this blog off with a bang. Spoiler alert: it didn’t. Thus, I’ve opted to write my first blog post about the very topic that’s been plaguing me since I started this journey: the troubles you encounter when you decide to start a blog.

So without further ado, here are the questions I had when I decided to start this blog:

  • WHAT DO I NAME MY BLOG?
  • What should my domain name be?!
  • Should I use American or British English?
  • Will anyone read this?
  • Can anyone spell my last name and find this?
  • Should I be formal? Informal? Somewhere in between?
  • Am I going to say something ridiculous and end up as a cautionary social media tale for new PhD students?
  • Do I have time for this? Is it going to sit vacant for years?
  • Is this going to end up like my old MySpace account, where I have to go back and purge everything out of embarrassment in 5 years?
  • How much of my personal life am I willing to share? Is this blurring the line between my academic and ‘real’ life?
  • But, seriously, will anyone read this?
  • Will someone steal my ideas and publish before me?
  • Will my non-academic friends find this and make fun of me?
  • Shouldn’t I be publishing instead?
  • WHAT DO I EVEN WRITE ABOUT?
  • What if I make a spelling mistake? Or *gasp* confuse something like affect and effect by accident?
  • Am I just procrastinating?
  • Am I adding more stress to my life?
  • What if my ideas are bad? Or worse, wrong?
  • What is my ‘theme?’
  • Why would anyone care about the opinions of a 2nd year PhD student?
  • Is this going to be a burden? Will I regret this?
  • Is this the worst idea I’ve ever had?

I don’t have the answers to all of these questions, but I did manage to settle on a blog name and domain name. I suppose if you’re reading this, just know you’re doing your part in alleviating some fears.

Until next time…

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6 thoughts on “The trouble with starting a blog

  1. Well done Jenna, you’ve taken a big step and the first post is always the hardest to write. Trying and take ownership of your blog. If it is to work, it needs to work for you and be a space you are comfortable in. This is a great start and I’m looking forward to following your blogging adventures and finding out more about your research

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Great stuff. As you say, there are a lot of bloggers out there in IET and beyond. And a research blog is a great way of recording what you have done and what you have thought in a way that is easy to refer back to, access and share. Adding categories and tags to your posts really helps with that process.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. It’s hard to know whether it is the worst idea you’ve ever had unless you share some others for comparison 🙂

    Welcome to the blogosphere – there are lots of branches so if one doesn’t work you can try some of the other bloggy-type spaces, I’m sure that Martin has told you about Blipfoto or you might weave in some vlogging; the world’s your lobster!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Love this, You’ve just said everything in my head for all the reasons why I haven’t done one and I work with that OER HUB team -No magic powder rubs off for inspiration! 🙂 So well done on your first blog .. looked forward to the next one (ohh no the pressure!!)

    Liked by 1 person

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