I apologize for being so late in posting today’s Friend Friday responses. I started working on this yesterday and didn’t have a chance to complete my responses until after work today (Friday).
Today’s topic focuses on the art of blogging itself. How do you improve? How do you grow? How do you learn?
Where do you begin?
I started Beautifully Invisible in June 2010. It’s only been a few months, but I feel like they have been great months.
I have made some wonderful friends in the blogging community.
I have grown as a writer. I have grown as a blogger. I have grown as a person… and it’s all thanks to this little blog.
1. How has your blog changed over the months/years you’ve been blogging? I think the great thing about blogs – and bloggers – is that they constantly grow and evolve. As I mentioned above, Beautifully Invisible is a very young blog, yet it has already gone through a number of changes.
When I began this journey, I really had little experience in html and coding, and I was more than a bit intimidated by the idea of starting a blog. I picked Blogger because it seemed safe – it was easy to pick up, and the widgets were easy to use. A graphic designer friend of mine actually helped me with the design process, and came up with my original header and some of the other graphics that were on my main page. The blog went live on Blogger in June 2010, and I really just ran with it.
Content-wise, I always intended that the focus be on fashion and photography, but also knew I wanted it to be reflective of who I was as a person. Unfortunately, my initial posts ended up being about a topic I wasn’t expecting – heartbreak. Soon, however, it turned to fashion because I realized, quite frankly, blogging about fashion made me happy! And I wanted to be happy.
Once my blog became more established and I started to get a steady stream of readers, I really started to look at it with a critical eye. I even reached out to V of Grit and Glamour and asked her for an honest critique, because I wanted to see if the thoughts of a seasoned blogger matched some of my own concerns. She was gracious enough to agree to do so, and her input reaffirmed some things I had suspected. Since then, I would say the following are the biggest changes that have occurred:
- I simplified the general design of the blog, including my header and widgets. The photography I feature on my blog provides enough visual stimulation, so the rest seemed extraneous.
- I re-evaluated my posting strategy. The biggest change that came from this is that I stopped doing “daily inspiration posts” and instead began focusing on editorial content. As I mentioned here, I love sparking debates and conversations – the inspiration posts were pretty to look at, but there just wasn’t much substance there.
- I switched from Blogger to a self-hosted WordPress blog. This was the biggest and best change I made for my blog, and although nerve-wracking, I would do it again in a second. (I’ll be posting a step-by-step tutorial on this process next week, for those interested).
2. What was one thing you did wrong in the beginning and how have you changed that? I think my biggest problem in the beginning was post overload. I felt like I HAD to post daily, and it took me awhile to figure out that isn’t the case. If you don’t have anything to say – skip a day. It’s OK. It’s better than OK – it will help refuel your thoughts and inspire you!
Some background: because blogging was so new and exciting to me, I loved coming up with new ideas. As soon as an idea formed, I had to post it. Very rarely did I schedule something a few days out, instead the excitement led me to post it immediately. Instant gratification. This meant that I would often make 2, or sometimes even 3, posts in one day!
Once I began getting feedback and comments from my readers, this tendency to over-post actually became worse because I felt like I HAD to post every day, or I’d lose my followers. This is actually where the idea for “daily inspiration” posts came from. Those would allow me to interact with my readers every day. Even when I had nothing to say.
That was the problem really – why blog when I have nothing to say? My biggest fears were losing readers and not being interesting. Once I came to the realization that the more editorial content on my blog was really what was engaging my readers, I shifted away from the mindless posts. I started to focus on (I hope) interesting and unique content.
And I stopped feeling like I had to post, and instead posted because I wanted to (and, thankfully, the readers keep coming!).
3. When you visit a blog what’s the greatest turn off? The thing that makes you close the tab. For me, the greatest turn off is poor design, followed closely by uninteresting content. Those are both subjective complaints.
As the saying goes, “beauty is in the eye of the beholder”, and sometimes, a blog just looks unattractive. To me, poorly designed blogs are those that are cluttered. Those that overwhelm the eye. Those that show no cohesion. Those that make my head hurt. Too much is a bad thing, where blog design is concerned.
On the flipside, someone can have a beautifully designed blog, and content that is unoriginal and uninteresting. Regurgitated information and images. No unique voice. No unique perspective. Just blogging with no real purpose.
Truthfully, though – one thing will get me to close that tab every time: bad grammar!
4. How did you find your voice? I think your voice evolves and grows as you do. As I mentioned above, I started off blogging about relationships because I was going through a difficult time personally. I wanted an outlet of some sort, and turned to blogging. Yet writing about my failed relationship only succeeded in making me feel more miserable. That was the last thing I wanted.
I began to find my voice when I shifted my focus to fashion. Writing about fashion sparked something in me. It invigorated me and made me happy at a time when I was feeling anything but. My voice is still evolving, but I think I am off to a good start.
5. If you had three pieces of advice to give to a new blogger what would those be? Back in August, I participated in a wonderful study called the 5 Things Project. Grechen from Grechen Blogs asked bloggers to share 5 things we had learned about blogging and posted our responses on her site for others to read. At the time, the blog was only a little over a month old but I decided to throw in my 2 cents. This Friend Friday topic led me back to that post as I was curious to revisit how I had responded, and whether I still felt the same. I do.
Below is a slightly modified version of my “5 things” responses with one key message: don’t be afraid.
- Don’t be afraid to blog about a certain topic. If you have an opinion on something, share it. Make it your own. Chances are, it will resonate with someone and get a conversation going. Keep it fun by blogging about the things you are passionate about. Content is – and always will be – king (this fabulous survey study by V proves it!)
- Don’t be afraid to change your blog. Don’t let it become stagnant. Change it up. Re-evaluate it. Determine what its strengths and weaknesses are and adjust accordingly. You constantly evolve as a writer, so why shouldn’t your blog evolve with you?
- Don’t be afraid to take a day off. Blogging takes a lot more time than you’d think. Balancing the time spent on a blog with the rest of your personal commitments is a challenge. Why? Because putting 100% effort into your blog includes responding to comments and emails. It includes building relationships with other bloggers and helping grow the community as a whole. That is all very time-consuming. But it is also worthwhile. And it means that you sometimes just need some time to breathe.
What about you. how have you grown as a blogger? What changes have you made? What advice would you give?