Read on Medium.
If you think that a website for a writer is about purchasing a domain, slamming WordPress on it and picking your preferred theme, you couldn’t be further from the truth.
Technicalities are there — and not trivial — but the hardest part is not in them.
When you start blogging, you usually begin in one of two ways.
Path “A” is your own blog, maybe on one fossil platform. You sooner or later discover that nobody cares about it, and you switch to path “B.”
Path “B” is a community platform, like Medium. So, if you directly start with B, you’re already one step further.
A community on a third-party platform, if you do your job well, brings followers and connections, but… it’s a third-party platform. They can change the rules. And they do. They can hide your content, buried under a “better” algorithm. And they do. They can own your contacts. And they do.
Unless you’re a top player of that platform — and it can only happen if you massively write exactly what works on that platform — your dream remains your own website. A significant piece of your “platform.”
You’ll have your fans, a growing newsletter, a portfolio to show, an airstrip for search engines.
Just a matter of time. Isn’t it?
At some point, on a soporific afternoon or in a morning when you get five new followers in a row, you start experimenting.
WordPress (com or org?), Squarespace, Wix, Ghost, whatever.
They say that after a couple of hours you have your website up and running.
After a couple of hours, you not even have a hint of what solution is “best” for you, and you start wondering if you’ll ever know.
So, you pick one and start experimenting. Cool! But. Mmm. No. Let’s try another one. Oh, that’s it. But you can’t do that? Really. What a pity. Next one.
And so on for a while. Sometimes hours. Sometimes days. Sometimes weeks.
Again, two paths. Either you end up with something you’re ashamed of (or you should) or you return to your third-party place with your tail between your legs.
Who are you, at least in this slice of your simply complicated life? A writer, of course. Better (or worse), a blogger. So, the website will be about your writing, with your posts inside it. Obvious. What’s the issue here?
But, if you didn’t notice the issue before, you start seeing it when experimenting with the tech options.
Suddenly, your writing being a bunch of random stuff shows up. And when it doesn’t, it reveals someone that it’s not you.
Maybe you mostly write about writing, and the website doesn’t look like you’re… a writer.
Maybe you write about psychology, but the website doesn’t look like you’re a psychologist. Because you’re not.
You rant about politics, but you want to be a science fiction writer so… what’s the point of looking like an activist?
Well, the problem is that your website will show an identity, and your true identity either does not show up or is not still there at all. It’s even possible that you don’t know what it is.
Writing in public
Identity or not identity, you’ve got good pieces to publish. Or good pieces in mind, that you’ll undoubtedly publish one day. You write your heart out. You write about your lost mom, you write about that trauma, you write the lesson learned from that ungrateful ex. You even share opinions on religion. Or sex.
But, if you promote your website, your friends may read it. Your significant one. Your parents. Your colleagues. Your boss.
Your writing is read by a specific community, now, on the platform that you don’t own. And a good part of those strangers is well-disposed for that kind of reading. That’s why they’re there. A few stories are read by a handful of specific and interested real-life friends too. But, on a website, it could be like a signboard out of your home. The thing you wanted may suddenly become exactly what scares you.
Is your own website worth?
You could remain stuck in the “platform” dilemma for years. And the solution can only reside in what’s your end game and what you’re putting in it.
You have to learn the ropes, so starting on a popular platform, without binding yourself to specific identities or losing time with technicalities, is an essential playground. You not only have to learn but to put yourself in comparison with others, to learn from them, and to get feedback from the readers.
But at some point, you should be able to see if your writing is platform-bound or platform-independent. If it’s platform-independent, you can still thrive on a specific platform, but you have to consider if that platform can offer all that you need in the future. If the platform is severely capping you, and you’re serious about your writing, you need something else, even if at the beginning it seems ten steps back.
But pay attention that what you need may not be a website. You may need “just” a newsletter, for example. Or you may need to explore traditional publishing. Or you may just need a different third-party platform. You have to explore your options in terms of channels.
And how you plan to earn your living won’t be a detail, especially if your writing is expected to contribute.
A website is only part of the puzzle and not necessarily what needs your attention first, or even need it at all. A website means nothing, without a strategy around.
If you’re still undecided, that’s a clear sign that a website would be a huge waste of time.
And finally, my website saw the light
I started with Blogger. With a splendid idea of insightful stories on digital life, in Italian.
And it went nowhere, of course.
When, at 48, I had to reinvent my life, I started blogging more or less seriously on Medium, in English. And that worked better, even if “better” is not a paid writing career.
The problem is, I must restart a professional life too, and my writing has nothing to do with it. It took me three years to find a way to adjust my different identities. Not that my life is “solved” now, but some pieces of the puzzle found their place, and it’s only now that I can decide what has to stay on the website.
And even after that, a major problem arose.
I mainly write in English, but my native language is Italian, and I write in Italian too.
So, I wanted a bilingual website, and I started dealing with the technicalities of a multilingual website.
I was ready to publish in Italian too when — seeing my posts there — I discovered that… I didn’t want my posts in Italian to be read by everyone. I didn’t really want them on my website, at least for now.
I still have to process parts of my growth as a writer. Who isn’t?
The tech thing — for how silly as it may seem — had a role in revealing to me what I wanted on my website. And the platform itself has not been an easy choice. For the interested, I landed on self-hosted WordPress, with the Elementor plug-in.
And now, my writing website, in English, with only part of my writing in it, is there. And I’m proud of it.
But I’m not proud of it because it’s a stepstone of my “writing career,” if I’ll ever have one. I could have been proud of it in my dreams, before, when I imagined it.
Now I’m proud of it because it’s a milestone of an internal process. A personal discovery of my own identities, and the ability to managed them.
I’m proud of that website because it’s part of me, and it’s what I want to offer to my readers. Or, at least, it’s the beginning of it.
It’s my “container.” And I’m not proud of that tiny result because it’s there, but because I reached clarity in my personal journey about sharing. And that is not tiny for me.