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Beginner Blogging: Lessons Learned

finish

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!

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30 Days to a Blog Challenge–Day 8

 

day 8

Day 8 of my personal challenge. My one goal is an end of week reflection on the blogging process, continued.

Yesterday, in my Day 7 post, I reflected on what is working. Today, I will reflect on:

  1. What is not working, and for now, will change in some way
  2. Any questions I have

Let’s look at what is not working for me so far, or what I want to change:

First, the headings and sub headings thing. As a blogging beginner, I choose pure function over form. While still clearly a beginner, I am beginning to become bored with my headings. Yet, I know myself enough to realize if I abandon the format altogether, I will waste a ridiculous amount of time creating just the right header. I’m not cool with that. I know I’m entering a transition period as I move up the learning curve. I know that messiness and disorder is often a byproduct of this process. I don’t have a solution, so for now, I’m just riding the wave!

Second, ‘Cathartery’–what does that mean? I have yet to provide an explanation or definition for the term, either through the use of a tag line in the blog header itself, or elsewhere in my blog. It bugs me, I apologize, and I need to get that done this week. Again with the paralysis of perfection! At least I know myself.

Third, keeping track of what I’ve written and my questions. Since my posts are just entitled by number without a clue to content, after a week I’m struggling to remember what topics I’ve written in which post. For me, its a pain to keep toggling back and forth between screens. I think I’ll create a spreadsheet and include the date, title, big idea, and sub topics. I’ll also include any questions/challenges/inserted links. So, for example, an entry for today’s post would include: 9.21.15; 30D2aB#8; end of week reflection, what is not working; headings, Cathartery definition, remembering previous post topics, and link to Day 7 post. When I get the spreadsheet done, I’ll post a pic of it on my blog. Good idea, Win!

Any questions that I have

  • What is the protocol for acknowledging a blog follower?
  • What is the best way to thank them?
  • How do blogs with a huge readership show their readers love and thanks without necessarily following them?
  • Once the habit of posting is engrained, what is the next best thing to work on to ramp up my blog to the next level?

I think these are enough questions for now. Thanks for reading!

Day 8 down, 22 to go!

30 Days to a Blog Challenge–Day 7

 

day 7

Day 7 of my personal challenge. My one goal is an end of week reflection on the blogging process.

For my reflection format, I created several lists:

  1. What is working, and for now, will keep doing
  2. What is not working, and for now, will change in some way
  3. Any questions I have

I like the list format for analysis because its objective (ironic in an ‘art’ blog, I know), simple, and keeps me focused on the task at hand without getting sidetracked.

Let’s look at what is working for me so far:

First, the posting thing. While I wouldn’t use the word confident, I do feel comfortable with the process of posting. For now, I am keeping it simple. I copy a previous post, then change out the title and the image that appears at the beginning of a post. I write my post using the copied format, and insert any links if needed. I check or add a category, and insert any necessary tags.  Then, I edit for clarity and content, and do a final manual proofread for spelling. Done and publish!

Second, consistency of voice. I am writing using my natural writing style, and not trying to change my voice at all. Looking back and re-reading my previous posts this week, I am pleased that my writing voice is consistent.  When I am writing a new post, I do very little editing for writing style. Whew! One thing I don’t have to worry about!

Third, using WordPress. Again, to emphasize my statement from a previous post, anyone who claims you can have a blog up and running in 15 minutes has either done it countless times, or is outright lying. It took me about 4 days of fiddling with WP before I wrote my first post, and this week, I’m spending about 3-4 hours a day counting research time. So after about 2 weeks of using WordPress, I can comfortably create pages and menus, do basic appearance customization, and write and publish posts. Not a lot, but a lot for me!

Fourth, my writing schedule and personal time management. I get up early every day, between 5 and 6 am. This is when I do what I call my ‘hard’ writing–the kind that involves thinking. I basically have about 3 hours to myself before obligations to others kick in. If I finish a post in that window, I publish it. If not, I finish after 10pm, when my time belongs to me again. Otherwise, after 10pm, I am learning more about WP, researching, or creating. Still thinking, but thinking differently. I know that as my knowledge increases, the time I spend learning how to use WP for my needs will decrease, and my posting will become more efficient. This helps me to keep pushing through the grind when I feel tired or frustrated. So for now, my schedule is working.

I will address what is not working and questions I have in tomorrow’s post.

Day 7 down, 23 to go!

30 Days to a Blog Challenge–Day 3

 

day 3

Day 3 of my personal challenge. My goals today are:

  • Solve my ‘add media’ issues in my posts
  • Solve my ‘wasting valuable time by looking for just the right free image’ issue
  • fix my menu issues with WordPress via Help

I did manage, again, to accomplish my goals today, and here is what I learned:

First, It is much easier to insert the media first and then write the post, rather than the reverse. I wanted my text to begin under the image, not wrap around it. When I choose ‘no alignment’ to insert the image, I had to keep trying to move the text and it was a pain, so under the posts tab in WP Admin, I clicked ‘Add New’ and typed the same title, then inserted the image that was saved on my computer. After that, I just cut and pasted my text, and I was done. Publish. Woot!

Second, I learned very quickly that searching for just the right free and useable image for each post is a mammoth time waster. I knew if I used too much time doing this, then I would not be successful in completing the 30 Day Blog Challenge. That was just unacceptable. Solution? The Danielle LaPorte method, of course! Write the message on a sticky note, take a pic on my iPhone, and upload. Simple, efficient, and acceptable right now. Win!

Third, I wasted a lot of time trying to figure out the menu tabs thing. I created the pages I wanted in the order I wanted by dragging them. Little did I know I had to number them, too! After I figured that out, I couldn’t understand why what I was seeing under ‘menus’ (4 tabs) did not match up to what I was seeing under ‘view site’ (3 tabs). WTH? After over an hour of frustration, I finally went into help and actually READ about it. Sorry, 30 and under crowd, just ‘play with it and you’ll figure it out’ may work for you, but reading first is often more efficient. My truth. I mysteriously had created more than one menu, and was using the wrong one. Delete, problem solved.

Day 3 down, 27 to go!