So, this thing happened. It was called NaBloPoMo, and it was a national blog posting month, where some bloggers committed to trying to post in their respective spaces every single day for the entire month. You know, I’m not sure why we pick November for this when it is already No-Shave November and National Novel Writing Month and contains Veterans’ Day and Thanksgiving, but I’m pretty okay with it nonetheless. Here are a few thoughts I have about the experience and some ideas I’ve gathered for making my blog better in the coming year.
Lesson one: substance matters
as much as more than frequency.
Sure, more-frequent blogging keeps my page views up, but page views aren’t everything when the quality of your work starts to suffer. Lame, awkward, cliché posts are only going to keep even the most dedicated readers [Hi, Mom and Dad!] coming back for so long. After a few lame posts I started to feel embarrassed of my content and decided that I’d have to really write something or not post at all. This decision was made the day after a photo-only post that I thought would hold down the fort on the day I was too tired to write. A dear friend told me the next day, “So that fake blog you wrote? I clicked over and was disappointed.” And honestly, that’s how I felt too! So, here are my goals for the blog in the coming year:
- A Content Calendar. So many blogger advice posts out there say that this is the way to go, and I think it is time for me to try it out too. Now, having a content calendar may reduce the spontaneity of my blogs, but I think it will help keep things consistent and help me to meet my readers’ expectations. So, I’ve made plans for the rest of the month and will be trying out a few new things to see how it goes. I’m not committed to a full calendar — it may be better for my style to pre-select topics for one or two posts each week and let the remaining posts come as the inspiration does, but we’re going to try it out before making that decision.
- Target content. The most successful blogs have a subject matter or two that attract a certain type of reader — a niche, in other words. To build up a readership that will actually leave comments and engage in dialogue about issues I care about, I’ll have to actually write about those issues and maintain relationships with the kind of readers who will leave those kinds of comments. Thus far, my content is a little all-over-the-place, and I kind of like that. So, I won’t be picking one topic, but I will be keeping this in mind and will try to tie each blog post back to the things that this blog is really about: maintaining a positive work-life balance, physically, emotionally, spiritually, and adventure-ly. I’ll still write about what I am passionate about: cooking, religion, politics, social justice, travel and history, but I will try to keep in mind the reason I’m writing at all — to remember that no matter how busy and crazy life gets, who I am inside really matters, and what I care about deserves to have a place in my schedule.
- A network of bloggers. This year, I have fallen in love with some new bloggers. As I study and attempt to emulate their successful blogging patterns, it is clear that these bloggers are real-life friends with many other bloggers, and that they all work together to cross-promote, collaborate, encourage and support each other. When one blogger writes a book or joins an exciting initiative, their network supports the action, sends over blog traffic, and provides public and enthusiastic encouragement. It’s kind of beautiful. I’m not entirely sure how to find my own network, but I know that really connecting with my subject matter and readers is the first step. So, I’m going to work harder at “Like”-ing and Commenting on other posts, at using my twitter accounts to encourage dialogue and at supporting my special friends who are also blogging about their life-encounters. Lately, my blog reading has been done by Google Reader, so my favorites may not even know how dedicated I am to reading their content. That is about to change.
Lesson two: words aren’t enough.
When I decided to start this whole thing, one of my first tasks was to download a photo widget from BlogHer to add to my sidebar. I discovered (1) that my sidebar had disappeared sometime since I last revised my blog theme, (2) that a full sidebar with a single photo widget is quite awkward-looking, and (3) that lazy plans for filling up a sidebar can only get you so far.
Basically, my blog needs a makeover, in the beauty department. Nothing screams AMATEUR like poorly photo-shopped headers, random formatting glitches, and blurry snapshots. Here are my plans for the new year:
- Professional photography. And no, not by me, obviously. I’m thinking it would be cool to have some new photos related to the blog–I’m going to pick out a cool new briefcase and try to get really creative and fun. And honestly, it’s time for this. I need a professional headshot for my linked in account and with this I can kill two birds with one stone.
- To learn all about widgets, sidebars, and other blogging gadgets and gizmos. I honestly have no idea what a lot of these things are about. What in the world is HTML? And how do I change fonts, font sizes, etc.? I have no idea, but I want to find out.
Lesson three: Blog challenges are fun!
So, I’m not sure I’m going to post a blog every single day forever — but it was a pretty fun challenge! I did pretty well at it for about 60% of the month, and was almost perfect during pre-Thanksgiving November. There are blog challenges going on all the time, and trying something different with your writing shifts your perspective and deepens your sensitivity as a writer. It’s a good idea.
- First up: WordPress‘s weekly writing challenge. I may not do it every week, but I’m going to throw in the ones I find interesting from time-to-time and encourage you to do it with me. It could be really fun!
- Community challenges. Once I find a blogging community or two that fits into my writing genre(s), I’d like to participate in link-ups as well. This connects back to the first and second lessons too, but I would really like to learn how people network together, how bloggers choose partners and get guest bloggers, and how to build a conversation in this space. All in due time, of course.
So, that’s a wrap. NaBloPoMo, or post-almost-every-day-in-November-until-Thanksgiving-distracts-you-from-everything was a success. I’m so glad I did it and hope to carry these lessons into my blogging for the next year.