Monday, January 18, 2016

10 Lessons From Blogging

Yeah, so technically my blog is two years old. However, I've only been blogging consistently for one year. So I'm sticking to that story. So what has all that time taught me? What stands out amidst all the bumps in the road that I can share with you? Ten come to mind right away. I hope they help you grow as they've helped me to grow.

1. Explore Possibilities 

I've struggled with the whole niche deal. Knowing and occupying your niche can be really important to establishing a name for yourself in the blogosphere. You want to be known for something. But, at the same time, I might let that limit me.

As I prepare post subjects I might think, "Does this fit with my image?" or "Does it fit with the theme?" These are good questions to ask! But not if they keep me from writing! Your niche cannot become your limitation. As you go through life and experience new things, you'll have new content to share. So don't be tied down by a niche or the idea of an "image" you have to be like.

Look around in your life for the things that interest you. Write about those things. Explore the endless topic possibilities. When I first started blogging, I didn't think my personal experiences fit in with a writing/history blog. And that's another point! I couldn't just stick with a writing blog or a history blog. I had to have both in one and make it my own.

Explore your possibilities and don't be tied down by niches.

2. Plan in Advance

I've learned that if I don't write an idea down then it won't get done. Same goes for writing posts for a blog. If I don't write down ideas when I have them....I'd never get any posts done. So that's one tip: keep an idea cache for future ideas.

Whenever an idea for a post strikes you write it/type it down somewhere. I keep my idea cache on Evernote by using the checklist function. The free version of Evernote has been enough to save my blog from death many times. I can't say enough good things about that software. You can use it on your laptop or your iPhone. If you keep a well-stocked idea cache then you have a backup plan for no-inspiration week.

I don't keep to a strict calendar of posts, but I usually have several ready to go topics in the cache. What I like to do is pick four or five of those ideas and group them together for the coming month. If I'm being super productive I'll work on them in advance whenever I have a spare minute. But there's always room for a last second idea to take its place if needed.

3. Deadlines Keep Me Motivated

I'm one of those people who work really well under pressure. Well, maybe I should say I'm one of those people who work well when I know I'm going to be under pressure soon. That's why I make deadlines for myself. When I know something is coming I tend to work to get it done on time. If I don't put a deadline on myself then nothing would ever be done.

When it comes to blog posts I set a deadline for when I need a plan for the coming month. Another deadline is for outlining the post, writing the post, and finally publishing it. For my Monday posts, I try to have a draft completed by Wednesday. I let it sit after that and spend Thursday or Friday making the graphics. The weekend is for polishing and starting on next week's post. First thing Monday morning the post goes public and the cycle starts again.

Find a deadline schedule that works for you and fits your lifestyle. Not only do they help you get stuff done on time, but they help you feel accomplished for the day.

4. Set Aside Time

It's the same as deadlines. If I don't set aside the time purposefully then I will end up writing things last minute. That equals a poor post and then I've let you all down.

You can put it on your calendar, or you can keep it in the back of your mind, but you must set aside time in accordance with your deadlines to write. Take an amount of time and make it all about blogging. If you don't do this then guess what happens? You. Won't. Blog.

5. But Remember to Be Flexible

Life happens. Sometimes I don't get to spend the set-aside time on my blog. I've gotten used to it.

Flexible can mean two things. The first is that your plans to blog may fail and you have to accept that you won't have as much time to finish as you thought. In that case, don't beat yourself up about it. Just be flexible and do your best when you can.

The second meaning for flexible is to take advantage of free time. Did that lunch date fall through? Did class finish early and you have a free half hour? Is there suddenly a free patch of time? Be flexible and take advantage. Write for your blog! Who cares if you scheduled to do it later today? You never know when plans will change, so take advantage of every opportunity to get a little bit of blogging done.

6. Tackle a Post in Bite-Sized Portions

When I started blogging I tried to write whole posts on the morning they were due to be published. Please don't do what I did when I first started blogging.

Posts that are worth it take time to finish. If you've planned ahead, set deadlines, and set-aside time to write, then you can easily tackle a good post in bite-sized portions. You can start with an idea, then an outline. Then you can tackle the graphics. Do little things in your post and before you know it a full post is waiting to be polished and published. No going crazy or rushing involved.

7. Doubts will Come

As soon as you press publish you're going to doubt what you've just put out there for the world to read. It happens to everyone. You're going to wonder if you missed a grammatical mistake. You're going to wonder if you sounded stupid or not. I've learned that doubts will come for every single post. Whether I post about something I love, or about something personal, I'm going to feel a bit uneasy because it might not be perfect.

That's the root of the issue really. Obviously, we as bloggers want to write and present our content well. That is not a bad thing. However, we can't let a small perfectionist streak keep us from sharing what we feel compelled to write. I've adopted two little habits to deal with the doubts when they come.

First, accept that sometimes your post will not be perfect. It happens. Strive to do better next time.
Second, trust yourself that you did the best job you could.

Doubts will come. Will you be ready for them?

8. Treat Yourself like a Professional 

Your blog may be a lot of things. It could be a public journal, a hobby, or the way you make money on the side. Whatever it is, and however you see yourself as a blogger/writer, you have to treat yourself like a professional.

What does this mean? It means learn your trade as a blogger. I'll tell you this now, it's about more than just writing a few paragraphs. Before I even started my blog I wanted to have a firm understanding of what it meant to blog. I researched platforms and read articles on how to build a pretty blog. I read about the elements of a readable post. I researched lots of things, okay?

Did I implement all I learned? Not exactly. I took what I wanted and have worked hard to apply it to my blog so I and others can take me professionally. That doesn't mean I do this for a living. I've just learned that when I treat myself as a professional and take mastery of my trade, I can fee more confident in my work.

9. Never Compare to Others

I've been there. You're scrolling through all those awesome blogs you follow and thinking.."I wish my blog could look this pretty." Or, "I wish I wrote witty things like that." Or even, "That blogger is so much more interesting than me."

Stop. Right. There.

Don't play the comparison game. Just don't. Unless you're researching new ways to update your blog's content or design then you shouldn't be comparing! Applaud the other creative bloggers around you. But, never lose focus on what you've done yourself.

10. Always be Proud of what you've accomplished

There have been a lot of mistakes in my short blogging career. There are posts with horrible formatting and many misadventures with Blogger. But what ultimately do I see when I look back on my year of posts? That all depends on how you look at things. Ask yourself that question.

Are you going to focus on your failures? Or are you going to be proud of all that you've accomplished?

At the end of the day, I've learned to always be proud of what I've accomplished. If I made a mistake then I learn from it and become better. If I had a success then I can celebrate and learn from it too.

That's it! My ten lessons from blogging in my first year. Were any of these helpful to you? What lessons have you learned from blogging so far? How long have you been blogging? Make sure to comment below! I'd love to hear from you. 

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