Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Post 500: What I've Learned about Blogging

Guess what? This is my 500th post. Some bloggers celebrate anniversaries. To me, that date hasn't really been important. What is important is the fact hat in some four years of blogging, I've managed to hit 'Publish' five hundred times.

In the course of those posts, this blog has dramatically shifted in tone. It started as a place where I passive-aggressively whined about how I thought I could make better content than other people on the internet and, ironically, images I stole from other sites. It was about quantity over quality and posting things I thought would get views. Over time, it became less about everyone else and more about me. It became more positive. It became less about writing and more about documenting.

My 500 posts have covered the entire spectrum. There are probably hundreds that you could delete and I would never notice, but there are so many that I am incredibly grateful for. They are the ones that probably mean nothing to anyone else but me, but I'm so glad I took the ten minutes, an hour, sometimes even a day or two, to create.

And there are posts I wish I would delete. There's only ever been one that I actually deleted, because it was too negative and too mean and it wouldn't have accomplished anything. It's been a lesson in 'If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all'. It's been a way of analyzing afterward the type of energy I put out.

Alright, enough with the sappy stuff. Let's get on to all the stuff I've learned about having a blog through 500 posts.

1. Every post should have a picture. Like this one:

It's not great, but it took me 15 minutes and each time I make one of these, I'm getting better at it. 

It's important to include an image for three reasons. One, the all-mighty Pinterest. Two, many blog readers/feeds have a thumb-nail of the first image from the post and it can weirdly be a make-it-or-break-it image. Three, that little 'Recommended Posts' feature at the bottom of posts works much better with images.

Basically, it can be summed up as images draw people to click.

2. Find out what makes you unique.

When I first started, I just copied and regurgitated all the same crap I was already reading on other people's blogs. It was a comfortable starting point, I suppose, but I wasn't contributing anything meaningful to this space. It wasn't until I started blogging about the random things that make me me that I really started to connect with people.

My most popular posts to date are about two subjects: Stitch Fix reviews and my Mara Jade costume. They have one hundred times more hits than any other of my post. Both are popular for one reason: a unique point of view. If you google 'Stitch Fix review', thousands of posts come up. Most bloggers write raving reviews, get referral credit, and start all over. However, I didn't have such great experiences. I'm one of the few blogs that pops up if you google 'Stitch Fix review negative'. I wasn't intentionally being negative as click-bait, I was just being honest to my experience. And it connected with some people who either had similar experiences or wanted the full picture before trying it themselves.

On a different note, my Mara Jade posts make me incredibly happy. Before I made my Mara Jade costume, if you searched the web for costume ideas, only one post came up. Now, two do. And it may not seem like a lot, but I've had at least a half dozen people email me for the 3D prints of the harness buckle so they could make it for their own costumes. That's amazing! There could be other people out there wearing something I designed, thinking, 'How cool am I in this costume.'

3. Stretch yourself.

As weird as this sounds, I like to treat my blog like an odd, little course. I'm the teacher and the student and I try to give myself a structure and assignments to help myself grow. If you're going to put so much time and energy into something, you might as well try to get something out of it in the process.

My blog initially had a very negative tone. I had a lot of emotions and opinions I needed to express them and a blog was a healthier outlet than my new husband. In order to reign it in and force myself to be more optimistic, I started writing 'Fan of Friday' posts to focus myself on the positives of my week. Surely, I could find one thing a week that made me happy. When you frame it like that, it became really easy. Although I don't post 'Fan of Fridays' as often as I used to, I still make notes and drafts of posts about things that make me happy when I find them.

I also have plenty of experience on the other end of it when I've pushed myself too far. Every year, I try Blogmas, where I post every weekday to get me in the holiday mood, trying to force my blog into making me more 'festive'. However, I have yet to successfully complete Blogmas and post every day. It just burns me out by the end of it. I may try again this year, but it is slowly making me see that it may not have the affect I was hoping it would have.
On a related note...

4. Understand the line between 'Consistency' and 'Obligation'.

One of the most common tips I come across in 'how to grow an audience' for your blogger in the advice to post consistently.  I guess that's probably important if you're trying to turn your blog and yourself into a brand, but I've always struggled with it. Sometimes, my life has had so much going on that I've been able to post every day or three times a week and schedule posts long into the future. Other times, I got absolutely nothing. At first, early in my blog, when I had nothing, I should have just acknowledged the nothingness and not posted. Instead, I 'filled'. Hence, why I have so many purely deletable posts in the archives. Now, four years later, I understand that writing pointless posts was, in fact, pointless. Maybe if this were my business, having a schedule and handling the obligation to post on regular intervals would be important, but I would much rather write only when there is something to write about.

5. Lastly, don't feel the need to have a point of view.

Most articles I've read about blogging talk about the necessity of having a focus. There are beauty bloggers, fashion bloggers, food bloggers, travel bloggers, etc. It's OK to not have a point. To write just to write. To write about everything. To write about nothing. Over time, maybe your blog will turn into something. Maybe it won't. But if you're only blogging for followers, what are you trying to prove?

For me, this has never been a 'business opportunity'. I never wanted or expected to have thousands of followers and be able to make a reasonable wage off selling ads. There's always the dream it will go viral and it could become that, but I don't act like that's the case anymore. This blog has become a place where I try to express myself. It's a place where I hold myself accountable. It's a safe place to explore who I am, who I was, and who I want to become.

I've never been able to keep a journal this long before, but I hope I manage to keep this one going long into the future. So here's to many more posts to come. Thanks for being a part of it.

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