A year ago today I sat very ignorantly down (very ignorantly) and published my first post on VMMV. I had no idea how difficult, frustrating, fun, irritating, hilarious, ridiculous, silly, adventurous, and exhausting it would be. What I’ve loved though is how it’s changed the way I look at things and think about things. Blogging is intensely self-reflective and puts you in a rather vulnerable position. You’re choosing to let anyone who might happen across your space a look at your creativity, your writing, your thoughts, your voice… basically a journal of your life. And as you expose it, think about it, write it and then re-read it, you learn your own limits and realize parts about yourself (good and bad!) you never knew. I still have so, so, so much to learn and maybe tips and hints coming from a baby-blogger aren’t that significant but I think you can learn a lot from rookies that you can’t from the pros: We’re still in the trenches, still feeling the uncertainty of figuring things out, the trepidation of getting in over our heads, the nitty gritty emotions of learning, and throughout all those emotions you discover things pros probably already did, but perhaps have forgotten about. So, here’s eight things I’ve learned in my first year bloggin.’ They aren’t so much tips, but more of a look at the dialogue I tell myself everyday: the eight things I need to work on the most to hopefully become a better blogger:
Perhaps “stop counting” is a little ironic on an anniversary post, but especially in the early stages of blogging, counting is a sure path to discouragement. If you’re weighing the worth of your posts quantitatively instead of qualitatively…you’re gonna be over it really, really, really fast. So, stop counting views, subscribers, how many people “share” a post, “like” a post, and comment on a post. Stop counting how many articles you post, still need to post, or haven’t posted. Sure, have a schedule, a goal number of articles you want to publish weekly or monthly…or else count or not, your readership will be a big fat zero…but pay attention mostly to content instead of numbers. If you write
it good stuff, they will come! (right??)
I was a slow learner on this one. It wasn’t really until I decided to re-design my blog and move to my own domain name when I discovered how important this was. When Jordan and I first started working on the design, she had me look at other blogs I liked so she could see where my aesthetic I had imagined was best represented in real life. Every blog I showed her that I was drawn to, I began to notice that I was drawn to them because they were so clean: They used the same lighting/hues in all their photography, used the same fonts throughout their posts regardless of how diverse their content was, and, on the whole, used the same design elements and layouts in all their collages. When I first started blogging, almost every single post I did I was using different design elements, different fonts, different photo layout, different lighting…ahhhhhh embarrassing! And I suddenly realized how disjointed it was looking. If you want your blog to be a brand, something about each and every post has to be recognizable even when your content isn’t directly connected to your blog (i.e. pinterest, tumblr, etc.). Choose a few design elements to use in your layouts, a few different fonts to spice up photographs, but then STICK TO IT. Keep your aesthetic cohesive…it will make your life a lot simpler putting content together, and your reader’s eyes will thank-you!
Seriously. WHATEVER THE HECK YOU WANT. When you blog, the whole real point seems like it would be readership…and it kinda is in some ways…so pay attention to what your readers like, and then give it to them. BUT, if your readers like something you don’t really like writing about, may I suggest (without offending anyone I hope) that you’re maybe attracting the wrong reader? If you’re writing for numbers instead of writing for yourself, you’ll reach burnout quicker than you’ll reach any kind of success. Eventually readers will be able to tell your heart isn’t in your post and will drift away…I mean, YOU will also be able to tell your heart isn’t in your content and feeling completely fake really isn’t that great of a feeling. Most blogs I read daily I don’t necessarily always love the outfits they put together, the recipes they make, or the DIY’s they create, but I read them because I love their writing voice, how transparent they are about their lives, their emotions, their dreams, and their fears. Reading their posts feels more like reading an excerpt of a really great novel or short story instead of a daily dose of superficial crap. Don’t be another poster of superficial crap!
When I started out blogging, I realized when I was asked about my blog or talked about my blog, I was kind of apologizing for it…What are you doing these days? “oh, you know, just working a little on my blog *awkward, dismissive laugh*”… What’s your blog about? “Oh, kinda everything, I’m just sort of figuring out what I want to do.” Why did you start your blog? “Ummm, just for fun, I wanted something creative to do.” Those answers where all true, but when I heard them ringing in my ears each time I said it, I thought, how stupid are you? You know exactly what it’s about, exactly what you want it to be, and exactly why you’re doing it so…SAY IT! Make blogging important, every time you sit down to do it, every time you talk about it, every time you think about it: make it a legitimate pursuit so when you set aside time for it, it’s also a legitimate use of your time…otherwise, if you think of it as a hobby or an excuse, that’s really all it will ever be.
I read a lot of blogs and the first place I go when I discover a new blog is the “about” page. I like to see who the person is behind the blog. Usually, just like meeting someone for the first time, if “about” pages are written right, you get an instant connection or an instant turn-off to the writer and you know you’d like what this person has to say or…you just won’t. So many blogs I’ve read though (really successful ones too!) the ladies behind the blog always say how obsessed they are with blogging, how they would blog from sun-up to sun-down if they could, how they’re up to midnight after their full-time jobs working on posts, how they’re posting 24/7 on pinterest and facebook, how they’re instagramming every family vacation and every weekend activity and I think…no! stop! Their approach to blogging is probably a majority of why they’re so popular, and I’m quite impressed by their devotion. These ladies live and breath blogging, but if that’s the only way to get thousands of readers then I’ll stick with just my few because you know what? Blogging really isn’t that important. If it’s taking away your energy, your time with family, your privacy on intimate vacations, your every spare second and every spare thought…then it’s just too important. It’s hard not to let it be a time-sucker: social media is so fast, people want updates and insights, new content and constant entertainment and if you’re not keeping up, readers won’t really stick around. But figuring out how much time you have to give before you say no is a really important limit to reach. Set a limit and then just stop: Stop browsing online, stop taking your camera to every single event, stop logging in to instagram, stop pinning, stop posting, and give time to just normal, every day, blog-less, old-fashioned life.
Blogging is a pretty saturated field. As soon as I start thinking I’ve come up with a really unique point of view, unique content, unique titles and labels, images and layouts….I find about ten other blogs doing exactly what I’m doing…only better. And then you think: well, crap, what’s the point? Be patient. Don’t just be patient about readership numbers, about blog traffic and how many people are re-posting and commenting, but be patient about your own creativity. You can’t force it. Even if you start out with what you think is a clear point of view, a clear voice, and a clear theme, it can always be more finely tuned, more focused, more creative…and all those “mores” take a lot of time. No, not weeks, or months….years. So, get over it, nothing big is happening any time soon, just keep going…
I wrote about patience in January, and then I think again in the spring, and the summer, and….get the theme yet? Yeah, it’s sort of my number one biggest problem. The good thing is I’m already to the stage where you acknowledge bad behavior (isn’t that pretty high up on the recovery ladder???). I resolve on changing and then a few weeks later I browse around my daily blogs and think ughhhhh how are they so successful and I’m no where near that? What could I possibly be doing wrong? And then I realize about 500 things I don’t know about blogging that they do–which seems like it would be reassuring–but in fact my ignorance is just an accelerant to my downward spiral into more impatience. So I start over, I write about patience, try to follow my own good advice, get impatient, fail, realize it, write about patience….
While writing this post and thinking about the last year, I also looked forward to the next year because this next one is going to be so much different. I won’t have the time I had to devote to this space, to building content and trying to figure out more technical things about it, and I have to be open to changes: To maybe not doing some things I wanted to, and to start different things that fit better into my new schedule. It’s hard. With creative things, sometimes I latch onto an idea and won’t let it go until I force it to work. But being open to the idea that sometimes forcing isn’t as good as just letting go is something I need to learn. This next year is going to be incredibly busy, difficult, and exhausting. I need the change as much as I’m dreading it, and I suppose if I can’t learn to stop forcing things, to learn to be open to changes, beginnings, and ends, I guess they will just force themselves on me…oh control, how much you evade me.
If you’ve been on this year-long journey with me, I can’t thank-you enough for your readership and support, the readers who comment, who share content…thank-you! And, if you haven’t been reading long and just learned about this space, I hope you’ll see what happens in the next year of VMMV! Love to you all,
– <3 A.