i can’t believe it’s been an entire year since, following much deliberation and obsessing, finessing and freaking the fuck out, i quietly and haltingly, over several glasses of wine, took the password protection off this bad boy and unleashed it on the world. i was so nervous, y’all. what would anyone think? maybe no one would ever read it and that would probably be way better for everyone involved.
i was utterly shocked the next morning when i woke to find that in fact, i had not died of embarrassment. not a single person had texted, called, Facebooked or commented to ask me what the hell i was thinking. in fact, not much at all happened. i had a couple likes on my most recent post and a couple follows. follows?!?! okay. shit was getting real, y’all. i didn’t know what else to do, so i kept posting. and for the most part, i didn’t stop.
a year later, i still don’t talk about what i do here much. friends and family members are looped in mostly on a need-to-know basis. i still feel a little like i did that first night. and i’m still a lot unsure as to what my focus is here and what kind of thing this is supposed to be. sure, i would love to get hugely popular, get a book deal and quit my day job (duh. who wouldn’t?) but i’m not there yet — with the precision or the passion it takes (or, frankly, the hours in the day). and right now, i’m totally fine with that.
through both fertile periods filled with inspiration and energy, and dry spells, where life just got in the way and enjoying and conquering it in the moment was way more important than trying to document it here, a few things happened. i gained a few hundred followers and felt the exaltation of “omg, they really like me!” moments when traffic and interaction spiked. i met some people whose writing, perspective and conversation i really enjoy. i learned a lot about myself, my work ethic and what really excites me. and most of all, i wrote more for pleasure (and guilt) than i have in i don’t know how many years. it’s been a fun ride, y’all!
so while i’m by no means an expert, nor do i have even close to a definitive or exhaustive list of things new bloggers should do, i wanted to share a few things i’ve learned about this whole process/experience/myself. i’d love to hear your thoughts. and, of course, i want to give a big thanks to all the new friends and supporters i’ve met along the way here. you guys are absolutely awesome and i hope to get to know you better in the next year!
1. keep it in perspective. (see paragraph 2 above.)
remember in 7th grade when, in a grueling round of truth or dare at midnight in someone’s basement, you finally admitted to your BFF Melissa and 2 other girls that you had a crush on Ricky and you thought by Monday the entire school would be talking about it? and they weren’t. life is full of 7th grade girls, ya’ll. everyone is worried way more about their own stuff than yours. do what you do. own your victories and own your awkward, but don’t expect them to be the focus of anyone else’s attention unless you specifically ask for it.
2. this shit is way social.
when i was writing 6 different versions of a blog for a bunch of years all locked down for fear that anyone might read it, i never interacted with anyone. it was me space. i didn’t really get the communities and the fact that people actually want to connect and talk about stuff in this venue until i moved over to WordPress and started reading a lot of other blogs, joining groups and interacting with other people doing the same thing. the positivity, connections and support i’ve experienced — going both ways — is amazing. i need to be better about it.
3. consistency is key.
i find when i am posting almost every day, i am more focused and motivated. and for what it’s worth, my engagement numbers are also always higher with regular posts. it’s like they all feed off each other. i haven’t quite figured out the sweet spot for the math on all that, but there is definitely something to it.
4. challenges, workshops and prompts are killer for productivity and engagement.
Blogtober14 was my first post-a-day challenge. it really got my creative wheels turning and my inspiration level up. the combination of daily posts during that and a November of NaBloPoMo really seemed to keep engagement numbers high and keep me producing lots of content. i regularly look to other prompts and challenges as filler when i’m feeling like i need to write, but have no idea what to put down.
5. i’m not that crafty.
i went through some phases early on last fall/winter of coming up with DIY projects and documenting them. it was actually incredible for me in thinking about what posts i was going to do and pre-planning some stuff around the holidays. some of it was probably stuff i would have done anyway, but the whole exercise of doing the thing and stopping to take a photo of every step was crazy. it’s like that with me and cooking, as well. so maybe the lesson here is i am just not that blogger. take me as i am, y’all.
6. i love a content calendar.
over Christmas last year, i took a page from my work life and actually sat down and made a content calendar for this blog for like the first 3 months of the year. i captured date, post title, content and any links or things i would need to do in advance to write the post on an honest-to-god spreadsheet. i love the organization of that and need to get back to it. seriously. it totally trumps my current method of a bunch of ideas scrawled on a bunch of different notebooks. and it totally helps with really executing on number 3 above.
7. don’t let regular features become a rut.
i went through a long phase of Monday chalkboard quotes, wine Wednesday, Friday favorites and Sunday supper. it’s cool. people like some routine and like to look forward to certain content. do the things that work. but i even got bored posting on the same themes over and over again. see #4 above if you get stuck here.
8. always go to France. and work it on social media.
not that i’m all that concerned with views and shares, but let’s be honest, they rock. during this whole year, my off-the-charts page views and engagement came during our April trip to France. i posted about every other day while i was there and was sure to tag local interests — hotels, city tourism accounts, etc. — in my posts both on the blog, Instagram and Twitter. i got tons of follows and shares, which drove up traffic — mainly i think from Strasbourg folks wanting to see what some American tourist wrote about their town. hey, whatever works.
9. this shit is hard.
but i make it look so easy, right? lol. no, really. i have so much respect for the folks out there who are posting every day with better stories, more beautiful photos and generally more pulled-together everything than i have. sometimes i tell myself it’s all about time management. sometimes i just flat out get jealous. so when i have my good weeks and am making things for here that i’m proud of and that make me happy, the reward of just being able to do that makes every second worth it.
10. have fun!
the times this year when this seemed like a chore or just one more responsibility, i put it down for a minute. blogging should never be that. and it wasn’t as if my audience was demanding a performance! lol. the more i work at this, the more fun i have. true story.