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Beginner Blogging: Lessons Learned


5 Lessons From My First 30 Days as a Newbie Blogger

My 30 Days to a Blog Challenge is done. Fin! This is my personal experience, and the lessons I have learned as an absolute beginner. Your experience may be completely different. Fantastic!

1. Set a Realistic Goal for Your 30 Day Blog Challenge

My main goal for my personal 30 Day Blog Challenge was to learn the basics of the process of setting up a blog and posting, and to finish the challenge. I only had a narrow window of time to work on the blog doing the following: researching, learning the basics of WP, and writing posts. I needed a realistic goal.

Many people choose to do a post-a-day challenge, but for me, I would have become quickly overwhelmed and would not have made it through the 30 days. I thought if I could write at least 15 posts, I would be satisfied, and 20 would be great. This is my 20th post. Woot! Recommendation? It’s your challenge, tailor it to suit your needs to ensure success.

2. Write in Your Own Voice and Style

Learning the basics of blogging in 30 days is a difficult enough task. Doing that while trying to be someone you’re not is Herculean. You’re a person: you have wants, needs, responsibilities. You will become tired, bored, and frustrated. Sickness will happen. Under stress, the veneer of your persona will develop cracks. People will know.

Either way, you will have readers who love you, readers who hate you, and many, many people who don’t read you at all. So save yourself from the unnecessary stress of faking a personality. Write as yourself. Most people can only sustain an act for so long. Ask actors.

3. Skip the Research, and Write About Something You Know

As a newbie blogger, a 30 Day Blogging Challenge is about 2 things: making it to the end of the challenge, and developing a habit of writing. Oh, and while you are doing all of this writing, you are trying to figure out the basics of the blogging process on your platform: headers and headings, pages and posts, menus and media, etc. And Grammar.

You have more than enough to worry about without the added stress of researching details for your post topics or fact-checking. You’re not writing an epic historical novel–you’re just trying to get to the end of the challenge without overwhelm or undue frustration.

My stress-free suggestion is to write about something you know or something you do. Is gardening your thing? Post gardening tips or how-tos for us poor souls born with black thumbs. Love craft brews? Do a month of critiques. Do your family and friends love your culinary skills? Post your recipes.

Don’t agonize over your challenge, or some unifying theme. The 30 Day Blog Challenge is your theme. Write what you know, and write for a successful end to your challenge.

4. Set a Dedicated Time for Writing

If you’ve made the decision that starting a blog is a worthwhile goal for you, then give it the attention it deserves. Everything in our lives that is important to us we give our time to: 3 days a week at the gym, weekly get together with friends, big family dinner every Sunday, monthly life goals reflection, yearly family reunion. We attend to what we intend to do.

For me, what works best is to give myself about 2 hours every morning before the household wakes up and my family obligations begin. My brain is freshest in the morning, and I work best distraction-free, so this particular time period is a win. If I choose to sleep a little more, I really don’t feel any better than if I had woke up early and just wrote.

One thing is for sure, if you don’t carve out a set time for writing, life will get in the way and your postings will become erratic. The newly-forming habit begins to unravel, and it quickly becomes easier to not write, rather than do the work.

5. Keep it Simple!

Again, the goal of the challenge is a successful end to the challenge while developing the habit of writing. All of this, while simultaneously learning all of the other blogging ‘stuff’ I mentioned above. At the end of your challenge, you want to feel that the overall experience was a positive one that you will want to continue.

I kept my blog simple for the challenge in several ways. First, I only had four menu tabs: home, about, 30 day blog challenge, and contact. My posts were published on my home page. Second, I only had 3 sidebar widgets: about, recent posts, and topics. I added a tag cloud and an archives widget in my footer, and that was it. Once I had the basic set-up done, I just had to worry about my posts. Simple=Successful. This formula worked for me.

Thanks for reading, and on to another challenge!


October is National Arts and Humanities Month

NAHM Promo

Who Knew? It’s the 30th Anniversary of NAHM

This is my 19th post for my 30 Day Blog Challenge; only a few more days left!

Americans for the Arts, the leading national non-profit organization (NPO) for advancing the arts and arts education, is holding its 30th anniversary of National Arts and Humanities Month (NAHM) during October. The celebration recognizes the importance of culture in American, and encourages all Americans to participate in the arts.

The organization encourages participation in NAHM in several ways:

First, Americans for the Arts encourages community involvement by encouraging everyone to attend an arts event or performance.

Second, by participating in the #ShowYourArt Instagram campaign. You can post your own art, art you like, and art events you attend, and share on Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, etc. throughout the entire month.

Although the website is geared toward organizations that receive funding from Americans for the Arts, such as art leagues and other art organizations, there is a lot of information for individuals, too. Information centered around the arts regarding public policy, cultural tourism, community building, funding, the economy, education, and the importance of the arts (and more!) can all be found on Americans for the Arts. This information is crucial not just for arts organizations and individual artists, but for anyone interested in the health and vibrancy of their community–actually, everyone!

I am grateful for finding this invaluable resource, and plan to use it!

Thanks for reading!

30 Days To A Blog Challenge–Day 18

day 18

More Tweaks and Edits

There are 4 days left in my personal 30 Day Blog Challenge. Since my last post, I’ve accomplished two things regarding the blog itself:

First, I fixed my Home page issue. When I logged in to WP and clicked ‘View Site,’ my ‘Home’ page would populate with all my posts. However, when I viewed my site without being logged in to WP and clicked the home tab in the navigation bar, my ‘Home’ page was  empty. How to fix?

Under WP Admin, which I usually use, my menu showed only one ‘Home’ page. But, under My Site, when I clicked menus, I had two ‘Home’ pages, one of which had the word ‘site’ next to it. That Home page was unchecked, so I clicked that, and my issue was fixed. I guess my real error was in thinking that My Site and WP Admin were just two different streets to the same destination, in a manner of speaking. From now on, I’ll make sure I check both routes.

Second, I fleshed out my ‘About Me’ page. For what seemed to be for too long now, the page included just the focus of the blog and why art is important to me. I kept thinking about it, but the words just wouldn’t come. Several nights ago as I was drifting off to sleep, the words came to my mind, so when I woke up, I edited the page. I finally added a definition for the term Cathartery, and a short bit about my background. I know it’s not completely finished, but I am satisfied with the result for now.

Thanks for reading!

Creating Art With Abandon

Guerilla Art Book

Pay It Forward With Creative Love

This is my 17th post for my 30 Day Blog Challenge.

I first discovered this movement about five years ago when I came across Keri Smith’s book, The Guerilla Art Kit. I admit, the term ‘guerilla’ hooked me. The premise and execution were both simple: make art, preferably out of recycled materials, and leave it anonymously for others to find and enjoy.

Yesterday, while reading about ‘make-it, leave-it’ artists and projects, I found an article by Drew Trachtenburg on the Daily Finance website entitled “The Art of Letting Go: Trend Sets Paintings Free, Randomly.” Trachtenburg recounts the story of Eleni Zatz Litt’s experience with abandoning art. She inherited almost 600 paintings from her father’s estate, and couldn’t keep them all, so she decided to give them away.

Also in his article, Trachtenburg included a link to Michael deMeng’s very active FB group, Art Abandonment, with over 20,000 members. Its description reads:

“Art Abandonment is a group designed to encourage random acts of art, left in various locations around the globe. The idea is that folks can make something and leave it for a lucky unsuspecting person to find. Artists can then post locations and photos of abandoned goodies…and finders can let everyone know that they are the lucky finder! O’ sweet abandon!”

For October, deMeng’s challenge is to create calaveras, in honor of The Day of the Dead. Interesting.

As my 30 Day Blog Challenge is coming to a close, I am in the process of thinking about the next 30 Day challenge. Making and abandoning art, and creating blog posts around the process, is a strong possibility.

Have any of you made and then abandoned art?

Thanks for reading!

Collage Perspectives at Swarthmore College

day 16

Five Collagists Showcased in Video

This is my 16th post for my 30 Day Blog Challenge, and I have approximately one week left to go.

Last night, I was meandering through YouTube, and did a search for “collage art.” I luckily found an inspiring, 10 minute video film by John Thornton entitled “Collage Perspectives at Swarthmore College.”

Collage Perspectives is the title of an exhibit held in the List Gallery at Swarthmore College in the fall of 2011. Although the exhibit was four years ago, the video is new to me and hyper-relevant as a beginner using this medium. Thornton’s film was narrated by the gallery’s director, Andrea Packard.

Five collagists are showcased: Njideka Akunyili, Arden Bendler Browning, Chie Fukei, Ken Kewley, and Elizabeth O’Reilly. All five collagists have five very different, yet equally powerful, styles and ‘voices.’  I would’ve liked to have viewed the exhibit to see the collages first hand. I am grateful to Thornton for filming the exhibit.

This is my first learning experience involving embedding video in a blog post. Please contact me if there is no video above.

Again, thanks for reading!

30 Days To A Blog Challenge–Day 15

day 15

More Tweaks and Edits

It’s three weeks in, and this is my 15th post for my 30 Day Blog Challenge. Why post 15 and not 21 if you’re three weeks in, Kelly? My challenge is not a post-a-day challenge, but rather producing quality posts during my ‘learning to blog’ process. My goal is 20 quality posts, and I think I’ll meet that challenge.

In my Day 13 post, I wrote about changing my header image. Since then, I’ve changed it again. While the image itself is the same, I altered the text. I kept Cathartery in all caps–stylistic choice–but changed the font so the letters had more space between them and didn’t appear so jammed up.

Next, I also discovered that the title wasn’t centered. It looked funny to me, and so I finally measured it with an old-school ruler to confirm my suspicion. Back to Picmonkey for a redo of the image with the title centered. At this point, I also added a tagline for clarity regarding the blog’s focus and purpose. My new header image is the current one you see on my blog now.

The last change I made was to my Gravatar text in my sidebar. I also needed this text to reflect and clarify the focus/purpose of the blog. People have to read, discern, and absorb so much information now, clarity is King. More Hemingway, less Shakespeare. Those of you who know me personally also know how much this hurts.

In three short weeks, I finally feel the most satisfied with the blog. The theme colors, background color, and header image all go together well. My tagline, Gravatar text, and About Me text also all reflect the same focus and purpose of the blog. My ‘About Me’ is too short, but I will edit it by the end of the challenge. I’ve written three posts on art topics, rather than just beginner blogging, and I’m happy with those. My writing style is fairly consistent, and I recognize when I am beginning to digress, and so edit without bad feelings. I am truly beginning to enjoy this ‘blogging thing.’

Thanks for reading!

Art, Design, and Visual Thinking

art books

An Amazing Intro to Art Resource

This is my 14th post for my 30 Day Blog Challenge. Initially, my topic was going to be an analysis and review of sorts. I was going to read blogs by 10 different artists, and analyze what kinds of posts were to be found on their blogs. A practical post.

I scanned/read through two, and found the same exact term on both blogs. Visual Language. Coincidence or cosmic collaboration? Naturally, I stopped reading and googled ‘visual language of an artist.’ Result number one was Wikipedia, so I clicked on result number two–“The Language of Design–Art, Design, and Visual Thinking.”

What I had found is indeed an amazing resource. Art, Design, and Visual Thinking is an online textbook created by Professor Charlotte Jirousek at Cornell University. The online text is divided into four sections: The language of design, Media design and the fine arts, The evolution of visual language in the modern era, and Non-western approaches to art and design. The topic for my blog post instantly changed.

The website/textbook is massive. Because the text is written for a 100 level course, all of the terms are clearly defined and explained with examples. As a mostly self-taught artist with no magical MFA letters behind my name, I deeply appreciate clarity as it applies to the practicalities of learning about art.

I read through section one–The Language of Design–nine long pages of text. This fact is not to discourage, but to impress. During my reading, I read about many things that I thought I knew, but not well enough to talk about in a conversation, or else knew them subconsciously. I had many ‘aha!’ moments–a worthwhile resource I will return to multiple times, I’m sure. I am deeply grateful to Cornell University for leaving the textbook online, despite Professor Jirousek’s death last year.

My CTA? Check out Art, Design, and Visual Thinking!

image by Dorcus*at*1000 hours to be

30 Days To A Blog Challenge–Day 13

day 13

Changing the Blog Header Image

Early on in this blog challenge, I knew my header image had to go. Despite my affection for late 19th century advertising and anatomical art, it was time to move on and move up to something a little less tacky.

It was difficult to do because I had made the header image myself in picmonkey. I wasn’t attached to my product per se, but I spent about 8 hours making it, including time spent finding the images to edit. Here is the header image, below:

cathartery collage

My header had ceased being a mere image, but had become a symbol. It represented two things: First, the blog itself, in a way. It was the second major task I did in setting up the blog, after I decided on the name. Since the header included the name of my blog, it also became my blog’s identity. It was hard to change identity.

Second, learning rudimentary photo editing. I used picmonkey because it was both free and recommended for beginners. Even though the image is definitely amateurish, at the time I thought it was a solid representation for Cathartery–a mash-up of the words ‘catharsis’ and ‘artery’–exactly what art means for me.

It took several weeks to arrive at the ‘ok, lets just do this’ destination, but I did. So back to PicMonkey. I wanted something simpler, cleaner, and less tacky. Overall, it took about 20 minutes, but to be fair, I wasn’t using any images. Still, a lot less time spent than before. Here is the new header image, below:

Cathartery Header 2

In PicMonkey, I started with a soft pink canvas, then went to textures. I chose ‘paint’ and moved the texture around until I was satisfied with the image. Next, I clicked on text, and chose ‘Felix Titling’ for my font from ‘my fonts.’ I didn’t want either solid black or stark white for the font color, so I ended up with this pinkish color that I’m not really satisfied with, but liked the other choices less. In WP, I am using the Mystique theme, the background color is a pinkish-gray, and I changed the color that appears behind the text in my sidebar tabs to gray.

For now, I am satisfied. The overall look is cleaner, and more cohesive and unified. I’m sure I’ll want to change this in the future, and when I do, it won’t be as painful.

Thanks for reading!

30 Days To A Blog Challenge–Day 12

Day 12

Tweaks and Edits

After only about two weeks into the blogging thing, I realized my blog needs tweaking. Instead of thinking: Are you kidding me? More work already?, I thought: Wow, that didn’t take very long to realize! This is a win because I automatically framed my thought in the positive, rather than having to think about how to reframe it. Yay, me. The following are the tweaks and edits I did over the past two days:

First, I changed the image on my About page and my WP gravatar. Actually, its mostly the same profile picture, only instead of being monochromatic blue, its a typical full-color image. I’m not sure why I chose the monochrome originally, but the full-color is definitely better.

Second, I made some changes on my 30 Day Blog Challenge page. I changed the image here, too. The calendar image I used previously was not only blasé, but was too dark. My new image is of the Mayan Sun Stone. I like it better, but am a little concerned the reference might be a little too abstruse.

The next thing I changed on the page was clarifying my personal definition of the 30 Day Blog Challenge. While some people aim for a post every day, that is not my goal. I am aiming for 20 quality posts in 30 calendar days, with the focus on the lessons I am learning while beginning a blog.

Third, I edited my blog post on the Mütter Museum. Since this is an ‘art blog’,  I realized I had not clarified the connection between my visit to the museum and art. I added another subheading and wrote about the tie-in. Then, I instead of the category “Must-see Museums”–what was I thinking?– I categorized the post under “Inspiration.”

I’m happy I realize my blog needs a lot of work. I’m also happy because I have a list of tasks to do to improve my blog. I’ll save them for another post.


Thanks for reading!

30 Days To A Blog Challenge–Day 11

day 11

In yesterday’s post, I broke my default Blog Challenge format by writing a post about a topic other than what I’m learning about the process of blogging. It was the hardest post to write, so far, because it was so time-consuming.

First, It took a long time to find the images. Because I was writing about a museum visit where picture-taking is taboo, I had to rely on images I found on the web, instead of ones I took myself. Also, I used multiple images in that post, rather than just one under the post’s title, so finding images consumed more time than I wanted to spend just for one post.

Second, It took some time finding just the right info to link to. In this case, I wasn’t linking to another blog post, I was linking to hard information. For hard information, I wanted to find the right information presented in a certain way, which takes time. For this post, I did use Wikipedia for one link, because the Company’s website gave less info than Wikipedia, and was more visually heavy rather than informative.

Third, the writing itself took a lot longer than I wanted. Because the post contained many facts, I had to keep toggling back and forth between the museum’s website and my new post page to keep from writing the wrong information. Then, when I was writing my next to last paragraph, I changed my mind about the post. Instead of writing factual descriptions that can be found in many places on the web, I wrote about my personal experiences at the museum. So then, naturally, I had to re-write the whole post.

Lastly, headings and sub-headings. Because this was a stand-alone post about a topic other than the blogging process, I wanted more interesting headings and sub-headings. I liked my title, catchy but descriptive. Initially, I just had the catchy part, but then added the descriptive part. I wanted all readers to know what my post was about, not just readers who have been there. I also wanted my sub-headings to be more interesting, since the museum itself is an unusual one.

Overall, even though it took a ridiculous amount of time to write, I was much more satisfied with the entire product. Again, I’m sure that as I write more posts in that vein, my time spent on each post will decrease.

Thanks for reading!

11 down, 19 to go!