Another Year Older. Am I Any Wiser?

No, it’s not my birthday.  I just had my one year anniversary as a Blogger.  What have I learned?  What have I accomplished?  Has it been worth it?

What have I learned?  A lot.  And nothing.  I’ve learned that blogging is extremely time consuming.  I’ve learned that, with my type of blog, it is very difficult to make an income.  I’ve learned that writing can be therapeutic, and perhaps that was the point for me from the start.

I have not learned how to create the level of traffic I would like, while maintaining a full-time job and mothering two young children.  I’ve learned that I have no idea which posts will be popular and which will not.

What have I accomplished?  I’ve been asked to write for an online magazine, and I’ve been featured as a guest on a number of my peer’s blogs.  I’ve managed to help some people by being open about my struggles with anxiety, the challenges of parenting, and facing aging as an older mother of young kids.  I’ve made real friends and started my own blogging group.  I’ve figured out how to share my personal experiences without sharing too much about the people close to me (I think.  No one has expressed upset with anything I’ve shared anyway.  Although . . . come to think of it, I have later deleted a couple of posts that seemed questionable . . . ).

Has it been worth it?  Well, let’s think about what the cost has been.  There is a financial cost to a blog.  There is a time commitment.  It’s definitely cost me hours of sleep over the last year.  The writing part, while time consuming, is not as demanding as the promotion and networking.  It’s cost me my peace if mind, at times.

What have I gained?  Some confidence in my writing.  I’ve been given some affirmation that sharing experiences and thoughts can be beneficial to others.  I’ve learned that I am capable of creating something fresh, new and unique.

I’ve decided to renew the blog for another year.  So, I guess that means I have determined it is worth it.

Am I any wiser?  While I’m open to ideas and advice, I’ve found that not all advice works for everyone.  I’ve learned to accept that what I write about is not going to be everyone’s cup of tea.  That’s okay.  In some ways, through trying different approaches and different positions, I’ve come full circle.  My instinct from the start was that I had something worthwhile to offer, and I feel that’s proven to be true.  So, perhaps, so far, this little adventure in blogging has simply confirmed what I already knew.

I Took a Break – Now What?

My family and I left for vacation the day after Christmas, and got home today.  Before the trip, I was debating whether to write some things in advance that I could post while away.  I also run a facebook blogging group.  I post an opportunity every day.  I debated whether or not to keep that up while I was away, or maybe to ask some members if they would like to temporarily take over.

Instead, a couple days before the trip, I decided to take a break from all of it.  It was becoming tedious.  I offered members a chance to post their own opportunities, and said, “I’m taking a break until January 3rd.”

I felt uninspired.  Drained.  I decided not to look for things to post about while on vacation.  I thought I needed to evaluate what I was doing with the blog and the group.  Do you ever try to think of a word, or an actor’s name?  You try and try, but it doesn’t come to you.  When you stop trying – Bam!  There it is.  That’s because your brain is still trying to work out the problem, behind the scenes, even when you aren’t aware you’re still thinking about it.  That’s the approach I was planning to take while on vacation.  I got lots of sleep.  Spent time with my family.  Occasionally checked on my traffic (which was almost non-existent).  And hoped my brain would be working on what I should do without my having to actively think about it.

It didn’t work out that way.  I got nothin’.

I’m pretty much right where I was before I took a break.  But, more rested.  That’s something, isn’t it?

I still find myself asking, “What exactly is it I’m trying to accomplish?”  “Is it worth it?”  The answer to the first question is to inspire and connect with other people.  And, yes, I would like to make some money while doing it.  The answer to the second question is, “I don’t know.”  This blogging thing is a tremendous amount of work, with less than a tremendous amount of payback.  In addition, since I want to include ads on my blog, I have to pay a fee for that type of blog.  Am I willing to pay every year for a hobby?

If you’re like me, the unknown is tough.  I want answers, and I want them now.  The older I get, the less life seems to work that way.  The answer I had at the end of vacation was the same as at the beginning.  I’m willing to give it a little more time.

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Collaboration – What’s the Point?

collaborationLet’s see . . . how long have I been blogging now?  Eight months.  It sort of seems like an eternity ago that I took that plunge.  If you’re a blogger, you know what I’m talking about.  The learning and growing is intense.  More than I ever imagined.

I’ve had quite a few opportunities to collaborate as a blogger; I’ve created a few myself.  Some have been rewarding, and some disappointing.

When you get your first opportunity to collaborate, it’s pretty exciting.  Your hope is that it will bring lots of traffic from the other person’s blog to your blog.  Maybe that happens for some, but that has not been my experience.  So, why bother?

A couple of months ago, I was asked to contribute to an online magazine.  The request was because one of the editors had read this article:  Is There Anything Good About Getting Older?

I was extremely encouraged by this.  The editor was very complimentary, and the revised version of the article she requested was received very well.  I noticed it had been shared on facebook over 120 times.  The comments were fantastic.

I gained about two hits to my own blog, which was linked in the article.  Seriously?  Where was the big pay back?  What a disappointment.

Yes, this was a frustrating outcome.  But, maybe not.  It depends on how you look at it.  Sure, I was hoping for more traffic to my blog, but what I gained perhaps amounted to more.  I received much needed encouragement to keep going.  I learned that my stuff is worth reading.  The challenge that remains – getting it out to more people.

There are other things to be gained from collaborating.  Sometimes you get a chance to help.  This might be sharing about a touchy subject such as anxiety or helping to keep the posts going for someone who is struggling.

I started blogging for a number of reasons, but the most rewarding is connecting with others.  Collaboration gives an opportunity to connect with other bloggers in a meaningful way.  You become a loyal member of their team, and they become a part of yours.  Who couldn’t use more cheerleaders?

12 Tips for Creating Quality Blog Content

12-tips-for-writing-quality-blog-contentI have been blogging for about six months, and I will be the first to admit, I am NOT a success in many ways.  According to most advisors, I have done many things wrong.  My traffic is not yet where I want it and I did not start my blog off with a bang!  That’s an understatement.  In fact, the appearance of my blog is still very simple (there are things I like about that, but I would like to get to a point where it looks more polished).

There is one area where I feel I have succeeded.  I post frequently, and I feel it’s quality content.  But, hey, I am biased.  I write about what I want to write about.

If you are a blogger with a specific niche, some of these tips may apply to you more than others.  I write about what inspires me, and I hope will inspire others, offer some useful information, and entertain.  I find myself in many roles, so I feel many people can relate to me.  The sky is the limit for my content.  However, I think even bloggers who write about very specific topics can find some of these tips useful.

It is very rare that I can’t find something to write about.  In fact, I’m often chomping at the bit to put out my next post.  For those of you who suffer from writer’s block, here are some ideas:

  1. Live Life
Live Life
Live Life

Blogging is a comparatively small part of my very busy life.  My happy moments, my frustrations, my epiphanies – these are all potential fuel for my next article.

  1. Try a Challenge

I read about a challenge of writing something that began with each letter of the alphabet every day.  I was not interested in writing a post every day, but I thought trying to write something that had a word in the title of each letter of the alphabet would keep me going, and stretch me creatively.  It worked.  As I have said before, it made for some weird titles at times, but I don’t mind weird.

  1. Stay Inspiredinspiration

I listen to KLOVE quite a bit, mainly because the music and stories lift my spirits.  I started twitter a short time ago.  I did not like it at all at first, but I have finally embraced it, and now I get inspiration from it.  I often choose to follow pages because I feel the relationship will help me to grow my blog in some way, but I also choose to follow some simply because it seems their posts will be positive.

I have always been a big reader, but I don’t have the time to read as much as I used to.  I find time to read a few pages here and there.  It can take me months to finish a book, but I keep at it.  In those stolen moments of reading just a few pages, I can find something that lingers in my mind for a day or two that eventually develops into an article.  I read the Bible every morning.  Sometimes, it may only be a paragraph, but even that small quantity often sticks with me, and keeps my mind working.

I read many other blogs as part of blogging groups, as an avenue to promote my blog (I’m sure most bloggers can relate).  There are so many that I genuinely enjoy!  Sometimes, reading a post makes me think of something to write about.  Obviously, don’t plagiarize.  I’m talking about taking a little nugget from someone’s post that takes my mind to something related, but original.

  1. Self-reflection

As a historically anxiety-ridden person, this is all too easy for me.  I used to constantly question and criticize myself.  I do still often reflect on how I handled situations, but I am much more kind to myself.  Could I have handled that situation better?  What did I do well?  What impacted my reaction?  All potential posts.

  1. Find the Inspirational and Relatable in the Little and Big Thingsfirst-steps

When you have kids, I think the small things become amplified.  Millions upon millions of children have taken their first steps and learned to use the toilet.  But, when it’s your little walker and pooper, it’s a big deal.  Other parents can relate.

In the big scheme of things, making a perfect pie crust is not going to create world peace, but since many people struggle with this aspect of baking, it can become inspirational and relatable.

  1. Just get started.

I can’t tell you how many times I had just the germ of an idea, but decided to start writing even if it was not fully developed.  The act of starting got my writing juices flowing and some of those have been my most successful posts.

  1. Be Honest.authenticity

Being honest does not mean you have to disclose everything.  You have total control over what you decide to put out there.  That said, people will find you more interesting if you share how you learned from doing it wrong the first time, than if you just talk about how you do everything perfectly and great every time.

  1. Keep a List

I still use a paper planner.  I know – I am a dinosaur.  But, it has some blank pages in the back where I can jot down an idea whenever it comes to me.  Whether it’s your phone, or a spiral notebook, have a way to record an idea right away before it escapes!

  1. Get Uncomfortable!

Write about something totally outside of your expertise that requires you to do some research.  Other lay people will appreciate and benefit.

  1. Relax and Stop Thinking so Muchrelax

When I was working on the alphabet challenge, sometimes I would get stuck on a letter.  While thinking about it, I would come up with the posts for the next three or four letters.  I would write those down and use them later, so it was not a waste.  An idea would come to me when I wasn’t thinking about it, and I would try to come up with new titles for that idea that would fit in with the challenge.

    1. Take Lots of Photos

12-tips-for-writing-quality-blog-content

I have young kids, so I take many pictures.  Sometimes, I can look at them, think about what was going on when I took the picture, and an idea for an article comes to mind.

  1. Shelve It

trashI had an idea for a post about funny things kids say a while back.  I asked bloggers, and then non-blogger friends for stories.  Some of the stories were very funny, but they just weren’t coming together.  A great relationship with another blogger came out of my request for stories.  While I never did write the article, I did feature just her story on my blog.  In addition, she and I have worked together on some other things.  Don’t be afraid to abandon an idea.  Good things can still come from the process.

 

 

This Very Strange Blogging World

IMG_1920I started blogging about six weeks ago, and it has been quite a journey already.

Did you know there is a blogging sub-community out there? I didn’t, but I sure do now! It is very active and it is full of wonderful people, users, braggers, helpers and people who try to put in minimum input for maximum rewards. It’s just like real life, full of unwanted drama and beautiful surprises.

I had been thinking about starting a blog for quite some time.  When I finally took the plunge,  I jumped in and posted, with a rather amateurish looking site (still is. . . I’m learning as I go along), and an unclear picture of what would develop.

I thought, if I wrote thoughtful posts that inspired, traffic would come.  I still do.  But, it is much more work than I realized!  I mistakenly believed that I could pin my posts on Pinterest and, like many of my other original pins, my posts would be re-pinned and I would have instant traffic!  How wrong I was!

Trying to build traffic quickly is beyond a full-time job, and some people take it very seriously.  I, however, have another full-time job, a husband, and two small children.  So, I have to accept that my blog will have to grow slowly, if it grows at all.

My group of followers can hardly be called a group.  You see, it includes myself, my mother-in-law, and the very kind blogger who nominated me for Liebster Award.  Need I say more?  Part of the problem could be that I did not have a place on my blog where people could sign up to follow me (thank you very much to my mother-in-law for alerting me to this fact!). The other problem is that I just have not yet figured out the best way to build traffic.  But, all learning experiences are good, right?

In six weeks, I have had over 400 visits to my blog.  More importantly, currently I have had 123 visitors.  To me, that’s not too bad.  But, then I see others who say they have 10,000 followers in their first month and I feel a little discouraged.  This is when the little lesson I’ve learned called, “Don’t Compare Yourself To Others”, comes in handy.

Now, on to some really excellent things that have happened in this journey.  I have had personal contact with people from all over the United States, and a few from other countries because of this blog.  I have been asked to help some people and contribute.  I have had visitors from over 20 countries, including Greece, Australia, Germany, Saudi Arabia, France, and the Czech Republic.  I find it amazing and terrifying that people all over the world have read my thoughts about my insecurities and triumphs.  I have already succeeded in expressing myself, touching some people, and from some comments, even inspiring, which is my ultimate goal.

I have learned about blogging groups on facebook, and that I need to maintain my integrity, by following through with commitments.  I have learned that, as with everything, I need to pray before and during every post. . . that if it’s meant to be something, then it will be.

My biggest failure so far is that my posts are currently only reaching other bloggers, for the most part.  So, the next step is making my blog known to the “real” people in my life.  Here goes nothing . . .

 

 

 

 

 

 

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