Stuck About What to Blog?

HERE’S A TIP 

When you cannot think of a thing to blog, write a list.

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Below is my LIST of several reasons that I believe blogging helped me and can help you too. If you have not decided to try blogging yet, I hope this list will urge you to start blogging…NOW. And now, it’s all about me!

  1. Blogging keeps me sharp and helps me develop and learn.
  2. Blogging gave me an office of friends and co-workers around the world who were willing to share their ability with me, and keep me company right in my home.
  3. Blogging maximized my doors of opportunities in ways I could not foresee. Arcadia Publishing Company noticed a post about my town and asked me to write a book about Woodlake. What a thrill and an achievement of one of my lifetime goals! Next, I wrote two novels, two children’s books and now this book along with its longer counterpart, Because of Blogging  because a friend encouraged me to step out and do it!
  4. Blogging developed my skills in technology, writing, drawing, and photography. Using Photoshop and Adobe Illustrated to process photos, create flyers, and brochures is no longer a mystery. Miss Earningway even tried to sell some photographs – unsuccessfully, I might add, but it was an experiment. A Bamboo electronic sketch pad helped me to start drawing and publishing a few of my drawings.
  5. Blogging developed marketing and communication skills. Social media became my best friend, and I expanded from doing it only for myself to dragging in all the organizations to which I belonged, right in with me. WordPress publicized automatically to several accounts, so I had to set up and learn to use those accounts.
  6. Blogging refined and expanded my hobbies because writing helps you learn new skills.

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Chapter One: Sure I COULD Write, But Why Blog?

“The seasons are passing one by one.

So gather moments while you may,

Collect the dreams you dream today

Remember, will you remember

The times of your life”

Lyrics by Bill Lane, melody by Roger Nichols, Sung by Paul Anka

At age ten I knew I would be a famous writer. My fifth grade teacher liked a poem I wrote, so I must have shared my poem, my dream or both with my parents. My dad teasingly nicknamed me Hemist Earningway. Dad normally criticized more than he nurtured, and in my eyes he was an expert on everything. Buoyed with this showy bloom of fatherly enthusiasm, I sent in a writing sample to an address in New York from a magazine ad. Each day I rushed to the mailbox when I got home from school. I felt sure that the company would soon tell me I had talent, and send me a contract to write a book. The form letter finally arrived. I’m sure I cried. Maybe my dad was not as all-knowing as I thought.

TIP ONE

Being a good writer doesn’t bring you success in the blogosphere either, but read on and do not be discouraged. Eventually if you keep writing and learning, you will have a successful, well-read blog.

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Why Blog? Blogging Teaches Me New Skills and Refines Old Ones.

Before I started blogging four years ago, I was great at computer-based programs such as Word, Pages, Excel, Access. Internet programs such as Evernote for taking notes online no longer mystified me. I used Dropbox and shared files. Pridefully, I thought I was pretty digitally savvy. I probably figured I could blaze through Blogging 101 into blogging stardom, but I had a rude awakening when I stared at my new WordPress dashboard. Feeling young and much like a new puppy before its eyes open, blogging challenged me and did not let me stagnate after I retired.

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Getting Help From Home

Working at a county office of education spoiled me because I had tech support on site. As soon as I retired, that immediate access to help stopped. I had to learn to do what they did. Find my own answers. Search engines, my favorite is Google, continue to help me do almost every task from cleaning the deposits off my acrylic shower to how to edit a video. Now I am not shy about contacting authors of websites, videos and other self-help products. My biggest help, has been the friends I’ve met on WordPress whose work and personalities I got to know before I asked questions. Or their work may have prompted me to try push my boundaries and try new things.

Vocabulary

Vocabulary was, and remains, to be the most perplexing and confounding problem. Blogging vocabulary words are sometimes familiar English with new meaning applied to them, and I did not have a clue what they meant. That was frustrating when I was in the midst of doing something new, following instructions and could not understand half the words in the very first sentence or video clip. I could have saved myself hours of frustration by bookmarking sites and videos to help me.

Here are a couple of sites that might have helped me. Each of them has references to other sites.

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Photography and Photo Processing

I started with no processing skills, and amateur photography skills. One of my friends, Leanne Cole from Australia impressed me, not just with her photography, but her blogging skills. We have had a few video chats, and one lesson. I just purchased her newest publication, a magazine called Dynamic Range. In photography, dynamic range is the difference between the lightest light and darkest dark which can be seen in a photo. Once your subject exceeds the camera’s dynamic range, the highlights wash out to white, or the darks become black blobs. Blogs need some kind of visual material. I could steal from the web, subscribe to many services, or develop another hobby. I chose the latter. 

Writing Techniques

An elementary school teacher, not high school or college English professor, nonetheless, again, I thought I knew more about writing both fiction and nonfiction than I did when I started blogging. Once my eyes opened, I read books, read blogs, copied and practiced styles, improved my grammar, and became a little more of a perfectionist. I still make a lot of mistakes, and have a long way to go, but I’ve improved. You will learn more about that later in the book, too.

Technology

A computer geek since the 1980s, I always pushed buttons when it came to technology, usually meaning the patience of my techy husband and our technology support staff at work. Every platform’s dashboard, the screen that shows your blog’s creative center, is a new challenge. WordPress is similar to Blogger, Weebly and other platforms, but not the same. Even different themes within WordPress are developed by different web designers and have different dashboards. I learned what all teachers sometimes take for granted with their students. Learning is not all transferable between similar skills.  For example just because my student knows his two multiplication tables does not mean that learning the seven table will be easy.

My Areas of Interest and Expertise

Whenever and whatever I write about causes me to increase my knowledge. Many times I have had to look in books or go to the internet to check my facts whether I write about quilting, food, history, movies or books. Whatever I share with others, I do not know enough to sit down and write without facts around me. The result is that I become more of an expert in my own content area, and as I become that expert, people start to call me or ask me to speak. The result, of course, is that I learn even more.

Social Media

Blogging pushed and continues to push me to try new products, new technologies. Vivian Kirkfield started fiddling around with landing pages and static pages three years before I even knew what one was. I’m still learning about landing pages, as you’ll learn in later chapters. Blogging and marketing go hand in hand, even when you don’t have a thing to sell, which I did not when I started. Blogging enhanced what I already did with social media, and took me to a new level, building my credibility in my real world as well as my virtual one. No one takes out their wallet and buys a packet of credibility, but that’s a post for a different chapter.

1931X Woodlake wag-in train

Hang on, if you decide to blog, you board a train headed for unknown territory, even if you think you are the content expert in your field. Learn how you can stay vibrant and develop new skills whatever your occupation, age, or financial status. Start a blog.

Summary

  1. Blogging opens doors of opportunities I can not foresee.
  2. Blogging develops skills in technology, writing and photography.
  3. Blogging develops marketing and communication skills.
  4. Blogging refines and expands my expertise in my areas of specialty.

Three Best Articles for Writers and Bloggers Today

As a writer, I read constantly, even more than I write. Since my education was not about writing specifically, I have to educate myself additional subjects that will make me a better writer and marketing director of my books. In the last four years I have read and written about how to use social media, how to create blog posts that people want to read, how to write dialogue, how to write first paragraphs, and anything other how to post that captures my interest and need. I’m sure you are doing the same. Then I have to keep track of all that stuff. That’s how I use my blog.

Today I read three wonderful article published Jane Friedman on her website. I want to refer back to these again, so I’m writing about it here. The website where I found it came from a Writer’s digest email advertising creating websites. Friedman’s website gets 100,000 hits a month.

Best Practices for Author Facebook Pages and Groups by Kirsten Oliphant

Great article to understand the difference between pages and groups, and learn how to effectively use them. Best advice:  Post on your page up to eight times daily, and some go as many as 20 times daily because only a few of your LIKES actually receive the updates.

How to Find and Work with Beta Readers to Improve Your Bookby Kristen Kieffer

Best advice: if you work with Beta Readers, learn to love criticism, and to pick and get to know your readers. Learn how in this article.

How Writers Can Optimize Their Book’s Description on Amazon by C. S. Lakin

This is an essential read for self-published authors who want to their books to sell. Best advice:  Cut and paste descriptions from about 10 best-selling authors in your genre, highlight, and then construct your own.

Feel free to suggest some articles that you have read recently that helped you. #writers, #bloggers, #amwriting, #amblogging

 

Four Fast Tips to Get More Traffic for Free!

Are you obsessed with your statistics?  They are fun, and free. They greet you every time you open your dashboard with a friendly little circle that blinks as you wait impatiently thinking, “OPEN, OPEN, OPEN.” My husband, Vince, asked, “Why are you interested in more people visiting your website, anyway?  Don’t you have enough?  Do you want everybody to love you?”

No, I'm not quitting my day job.

He does look sad, but that’s a thought-provoking question.  It relates right back to the website’s purpose. Even though I had a vanity blog, my real goal was that somebody would notice my blog and say to me, “Marsha, you are such an awesome blogger, would you mind if our publishing company bought some of your material?”  I did get “awesome blog here” every day from spammers, but it did not jump starting my  writing/photography career. For a vanity blog, there really isn’t a need for more traffic, but for authors who want to sell more books, or for photographers promoting their art, traffic is important.

Content Is Key

Bloggers become less concerned with statistics as they gain blogging experience. It takes time to develop good blog posts. It takes time to process photos or art. I read all the WordPress articles about bringing in traffic. Consistency is one that I took seriously. I wrote and published nearly 650 posts on TChistorygal.net. Some of them are good, some of them I removed. I thought I had to post something every day to attract traffic. On my Blogger website, I concentrated on history and Woodlake. I have 15% of the number of posts and 33% of the number of views. Yet, it was one post I did on both of the blogs about Woodlake, that attracted an editor who offered me a contract to write a book about the history of Woodlake. She liked my style of writing, but it was the content that she needed for her publisher.

Blah sky photoshopped into blue.

  • Use Tags: Since content matters, your reader has to find your content quickly. WordPress tells you which of your tags are searched most often.  Statistics exists to tell writers what subjects are most often searched, but I found that approach tedious. If you have skills, write about them. Develop, practice and refine your skills, just as I am doing with writing. Readers skim. If they like the topic, they might read it.
  • Start Well: Just like the opening paragraph captures a reader’s interest in fiction, if the first few words of an article sound boring, I look for something else. I’m working on that in my writing. I’m reading authors I like and paying close attention to how they begin each chapter. In non-fiction blogs, we can’t murder the protagonist’s best friend in the opening paragraph, but we have other techniques that work. Good authors and speakers often start with a quote from a well-known or loved person. I have a Brainy Quotes account, and I search for specific topic I’m planning to cover. Questions sometimes attract a reader. Shocking facts grab attention, too.
  • Tell a Story: Even non-fiction has a narrative.  The other day an author friend of mine came over to see me. He’d been looking at my blog, and decided it was time that I published something else. “You have more than enough material to start publishing now. Let me show you what I’ve done, and how easy it was for me to do it once I had published one book through a traditional publisher.” I sat spellbound for probably two hours as he narrated the awkward tale when he learned the truth about his birth. You can read his story, April in Paris Rendezvous with my mother. Non-fiction does not need to be boring.
  • Use Photos and Video: Our technology team at Tulare County Office of Education, where I was a consultant before I retired, spoiled me. If I needed to know how to use Photoshop, Edmoto, Google Docs, or any other program, I could get a private tutor. (The gurus learned the programs from YouTube.) This is not the case now that I’m retired. Now I have to run to Google and I search for videos. For example, when I was the Executive Director of California Council for the Social Studies, I did not have a secretary. I was it. I needed to do a mail merge, and could not figure out how to make it work. Lucky for me some kind blogger created a video just for me and put it on YouTube. I do not have any writing or blogging videos, or I would embed them in my post. You may have skills that someone needs to know. Record them. You may go viral. Just like authors make money and get established making speeches, my husband tells me that folks creating videos can make millions of dollars just posting their work and selling advertizing.

Authentic AssessmentsR

My experience confirms that content will draw in traffic quickly if someone wants to know what you are doing. My editor told me, “Marsha, you do not need a big following of readers. We look for people who have readers, and have relationships with readers, but not necessarily lots of readers.”

We have no idea when we first start blogging who will read our content. The most popular post I ever published on my random blog is “Authentic Assessments for History Social Science.” I had written part of a project for California Department of Education that may or may not have ever been published, but I learned from it, and wrote this article as one of my first blog posts. Every year it gets hundreds of hits because at least one university teacher uses it with her college students.

If we tag our posts accurately, create a catchy beginning, weave the story, and make it visual and auditory, we will quickly draw an audience, without having to pay $29 per 500 clicks or $10 per boost. So what content will you use to build your next post? No one can do it quite like you do. Enjoy the process.

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