10 things I’ve learned from 5 years of blogging

tips-for-new-bloggers

 

This month marks 5 years of blogging for me. (My first post!)

In that time, I’ve gone through a lot of life changes & blog changes.

(I sum up those changes in this post.)

 

10 things I’ve learned over the years about blogging.

 

1. The need for constant improvement. 
I’m of the philosophy you never quite “arrive” in life, & this especially holds true in the blogging world. I’ve found it important to keep a positive, generous, & humble attitude about all the work you put out there. Technology & the platforms we use are in perpetual flux. It’s important to continue to learn about new platforms & educate yourself on ways to make your writing better; your images & recipes/crafts/what have you, better; your interactions better.

{For fun, compare the photo in this post, to to the photos this post–amazing what a good camera & some DIY photography skills can do!}

 

2. Don’t underestimate the power of proofreading, good formatting, & editing.
One of the beauties of blogging, is that the material is fresh. It’s not over-edited, overly thought out. It’s much more in the moment than say, a carefully curated package of personal essays submitted for a memoir.

That said, if you want your readers to value your work you must value their time.

Whatever content you put out, do your best to make sure it’s free of type-o’s & grammatical errors.

Do your best to get to your point quickly (like the first sentence of your post).

Readers are fickle (no offense). We have hundreds of things vying for our attention at any given moment, & if content is too lengthy &/or difficult to read, we’ll move on. I write a post, proofread it, & like a sculptor, shave off sentences & unneeded words here & there until in the end, my finished product is about half of what I started with.

For the record, I am not free from grammatical sin–one of my worst habits is confusing your & you’re, their & they’re, & for the longest time I was writing veges instead of veggies. Readers are often forgiving, but realize that writing that is laced with type-o’s & editing mishaps looks sloppy & can be irritating for many readers.

Spell check, thankfully, will catch most spelling errors, but it takes a well-trained eye (you!) to catch the other bloopers. You want to make your writing seem effortless. Good editing, formatting, & proofreading will help accomplish that.

{Mignon Fogarty (ie. the “Grammar Girl”) has taught me a great deal about the nitty-gritties of grammar via her free podcast–lots of awesome tips for sharpening your editorial skills.}

 

3. Evolve. 
I guess this ties in with #1. Your blog should evolve, just as you evolve.

My initial blog was a blogspot.com (hosted by blogger). The design was rather cluttered & rudimentary (there was definitely no designer or programmer behind any of it). It was fine for then, but I came to the point where I grew out of that space & moved to WordPress (a much more user friendly interface) & hired a designer to help streamline the look & feel of my site. In addition to aesthetic changes (can I say these were so important in improving the look & feel of the blog), I also became more comfortable with writing about issues & topics beyond just the scope of veganism (which, is how my blog began).

 

4. Find your distinctive voice.
Everyone has one. A bring joy reader & fellow vegan blogger, Kelli, sent me an email & had a few questions about writing. In particular, how do you shift your writing to include more of a personal voice, rather than just sharing a recipe?

My advice?

Write the way you speak. You’re not writing a technical manual, you’re writing from a personal perspective, which should easily convey your own authentic voice & personality.

Further, write & read. Read, then write some more. Jeff Goins has some fab tips & insights for better writing. And, here’s a list of my 50 fave books, movies, podcasts, & tv series, which have provided me with lots of creative inspiration.

You find your voice, just like a toddler does–by practice. In other words, by talking, writing, thinking. If you look back at some of old blog posts, especially from my earlier years, you’ll find a noticeable distinction between then & now.

It took me a few years to realize that it was okay to share more personal aspects of my life. That what I have to say, in the particular way that only I can say it, has value. Having confidence in your own thoughts & opinions is essential to gaining a grip on your authentic voice.

Take time every day to have think, to mull over thoughts, ideas. If you’re constantly plugged into “noise” (internet, music, tv, interactions with others), you never really give yourself a chance to enjoy your own company & explore your own opinions, thoughts, & ideas within the confines of your own brain.

My favorite times to think–first thing in the morning before my kids get up (I prefer to just lay in bed for 10-15 minutes & think, though it doesn’t always work out this way), or on my morning walks home from taking my kids to school.

Creating time each day, for just 10 or 15 minutes, to have complete freedom to think, is crucial for tapping into your creative well.

There will always be pieces of writing that you’ll look back & think, holy smokes–delete, delete, please! But, resist the urge to delete old posts. It shows progress. It shows evolution (see point #3). The only way to get better is to keep trucking along. Keep writing. Keep posting.

 

5. Make your blog interactive. 
Use social media to extend the conversation of your blog.

Respond to readers comments, as warranted. The way I see it, if there’s no conversation or dialogue, the blog as a media platform is dead & has no chance of survival in the years to come.

If a reader takes the time to comment, you can rest assure that what they are saying is important to them & more often than not, calls for some acknowledgement from you. Though I should say, I don’t respond to every comment left on the blog.

I once heard it suggested that a blog is like a dinner party–you wouldn’t respond to everyone’s thoughts/comments, but you would to many, depending on what is said & what you have to offer in response. I think this applies nicely to blogging as well.

 

6. Socialize with other bloggers. 
I was a reclusive blogger up until about 2 years ago. Prior to that, I pretty much just wrote a post, hit publish, & then went on my merry way.

Now I read blogs & take time to comment, especially if they’re a friend. Some of the awesome friends I’ve made over the past few years include Gena (Choosing Raw), Joy (Frock Files), MJ (Pars Caeli), Ricki (Ricki Heller), Dreena (Plant Powered Kitchen), & Wendy (Cooking Quinoa), among others.

{Here’s a list of blogs I like & try to make time to read on a regular basis.}

 

7. Figure out why you’re blogging.
Is it for money? Fame? Artistic expression? To get a book deal someday? To build a platform for something larger, like a brand or product?

I hate to be the naysayer here, because I love blogging & feel blessed to have this outlet, this space. The truth is, perhaps I’m just not well suited to the money making aspects of blogging.

I’ve talked about the reasons why I blog, & those reasons haven’t really changed. I have a few ebooks in the works (you can get my first one for free, here) that I intend to sell (& hopefully make some money that way), &  I now make a (very) small commission for being a part of the BlogHer network & having a few affiliates, but this is not why I blog.

For me, I see it as a way to continue to keep my brain sharp; to hone my skills as a writer, photographer, & recipe developer; to share & connect with you; & to be a part of a group of like-minded individuals who value the same things as me.

From a purely practical perspective, now that I’m a full-time mother, I also think it’s even more important for me to stay connected, to keep one foot in door so to speak. I know my kids won’t always be around, & when that bittersweet day comes for me to step fully back into the workforce, I believe my having blogged all these years will help me with that endeavor.

 

8.  Filter. 
One of the most important attributes of finding success in the online world is having the ability to filter. You know what I mean.

There are your Facebook friends who share everything, down to what they ate for breakfast, what shoes they’re wearing, & what they’ll be doing tomorrow at 8:17 am. Or those bloggers who seem to post stream-of-consciousness style (which worked for Virginia Woolf, but doesn’t for the average blogger). And then of course, the TMI folks.

Readers connect with writers who are honest, who share things that they can relate to/with, & who have a solid grip on discernment of what information is necessary, & what is not. Readers appreciate writers who filter & only provide the necessary/essential info. If the filter is not there, or it is poorly applied, readers will jump ship, quick.

 

9. Set boundaries.
It’s important to set boundaries.

For me, that means I don’t share certain things in the online world. I don’t blog on the weekend, or at night when Joseph is home. I don’t have a smartphone, so it’s rather easy to corral social media activity to only when I’m sitting at my computer.

 

10. Have a life. 
There have been periods, particularly early on, where I lived & breathed the blog. It was a bit pathetic. It had, at times interfered with my quality of life–sleep, interactions with Joseph & our kids, housework, meal prep.

One of things I love about having blogged so long, is I’ve gained some hard-earned wisdom & perspective. The online world is a fickle place & doesn’t give back much, especially in terms of the tangible. Yes, I love my interactions with readers (a huge reason I continue to blog), but at the end of the day, it’s just Joseph & I, & the kids. These relationships with my family, & my real world interactions will always be infinitely more valuable than any amount of interaction I may have in the online world.

Though it sounds obvious when stated out loud, I know from my own experience the lure of the online world. How enticing it is to think you can throw all your time & energy into blogging (even at the expense of your real world life) & then you’ll “arrive” or “make it big.”  It’s a deceptive thought, & one that I know can only be combated by setting boundaries & making sure you have a daily dose of positive real world interactions with other people.

 

Also see:
Blogging: 13 things I wish I’d known sooner 

What do you have to add? If you’re a blogger, why do you blog, what’s helped you along the way? Please share!


Comments


  1. Vanessa
    on May 1, 2015 at 7:32 pm said:

    Thank you for sharing such an honest, experienced, and well-written post! So helpful and really insightful 🙂 I just found your blog so I look forward to reading more.

  2. Tashina
    on March 15, 2014 at 10:48 pm said:

    This was a really great post. I love how insightful each point was. Post like these are always great to read no matter if you’re a new blogger or have been blogging for years.

  3. Suzanne
    on February 15, 2014 at 1:59 pm said:

    I’m so glad I read this post! These tips are perfect for a newbie blogger (like myself!) and I will try to employ every one of them. Thanks for sharing! #SITSBlogging (I’m a day late with my comment! Have a great weekend!)

  4. Deryn @ Running on Real Food
    on February 14, 2014 at 9:39 am said:

    I’ve only been blogging for a year and still have a long way to go but I completely agree with you on so many of these. Especially staying positive, humble, interacting with your readers and other bloggers and of course, having a life!!!

    Thanks for the post! Glad I found your blog today 🙂

  5. Pingback: Friday Finisher 2/14/14 | Strength and Sunshine

  6. Ricki
    on February 12, 2014 at 6:27 pm said:

    Sorry I’m a bit late to the party–but CONGRATS on hitting this milestone! Many wise words here, as always (somehow our names are meant for us, don’t you think?). 😉 I’m so glad you DID decide to reach out and start commenting on other blogs, and so glad to be considered among your friends in the blogging world.

    I love the analogy between blog and dinner party–what a great way to look at it. For me, I think many of those same reasons apply, and one of the most gratifying aspects of blogging–and perhaps the most surprising–is learning that my recipes and information has helped people struggling with candida, sugar addiction or allergies to deal with their situations. Any time someone tells me that my recipes have helped to ease the transition to an anti-candida diet, something in me lights up and makes anything neagative in my life disappear for a while. I’ve also met so many great people through blogging, and so grateful for the relationships that have been forged this way. One day, we’ll all meet up in person!! (I’ve been dreaming of visiting Texas for quite some time. . . ) 😉 xo

    • Ricki
      on February 12, 2014 at 6:28 pm said:

      Oops, please ignore my grammar error up there! Typing too fast. 😉

  7. Valerie
    on February 12, 2014 at 1:42 pm said:

    Thank you for these tips and congratulations! Your blog is one of my favorites!

  8. Kelli
    on February 8, 2014 at 8:22 pm said:

    Thanks for this, Janae ~ such great tips and reminders. One thing I’m realizing as I read it is that when I think I’m “too busy” to post (thus minimizing the number of new posts that go up), I’m really just not wanting to do the work to push into new territory – whether it’s being afraid to do it, or just being too lazy to try something new. In fact, I had a thought last week that seemed to be something that I could write a quick post about – just ideas and thoughts, no recipe involved, but something that I think others could relate to. And of course, I’ve been writing the post in my mind for the past week, but it has yet to make it onto the computer. Guess it’s time to make the leap 🙂 xo

  9. Gabby @ the veggie nook
    on February 8, 2014 at 4:37 pm said:

    oh and congrats on a wonderful 5 years 🙂

  10. Gabby @ the veggie nook
    on February 8, 2014 at 4:37 pm said:

    This is such a wonderful post so full of wisdom! I really liked your advice to write how you think and talk. When I first started blogging, I did not think I was a good writer, so I just wrote how things sounded in my head! Since, I’ve been told that I’m actually a great writer and my voice is relatable so go figure! 🙂

  11. Heather @ The Soulful Spoon
    on February 7, 2014 at 11:15 pm said:

    Joy, this is beautiful. Thank you for sharing, and so helpful and true. You’re a gem of a blogger and I love following your blog!:) I’ve finally let go of thinking what I “should” do in blogging and trying to give myself some time to take care of myself so I can give my blog what it deserves. It can be easy to start out with the right intention, and let the blogging world take you by storm. I have finally realized at the end of the day, it’s your blog, and that means staying true and honoring it for its original intention. A creative space to inspire and share. And for me, that’s why blogging really is now. Thanks for sharing this post!:)

  12. Rebecca @ Strength and Sunshine
    on February 7, 2014 at 2:43 pm said:

    Love these lesson! They are all so important to remember. I started blogging at the end of June so I am still a “newbie” blogger, but every day, every week, my blog grows and I make more connections. It keeps getting better and better! I love the interaction and my heart leaps every time I get a comment. I have been trying even harder to make sure I comment on the blogs I love too. I read so many that it is so hard and time consuming, but I want to share the love so I try to comment on at least 6-10. I need to work on having a life outside of blogging. I am in my senior year of high school and I spend most of my time though blogging, working out, and cooking. I need to be reminded ot be kind to myself and give myself a break, but it is so hard.

    • Janae Wise
      on February 8, 2014 at 11:12 am said:

      Rebecca, I had no idea you were so young! You are doing so awesome, especially as I’m sure you’re very busy with school & other things. Really, you should be proud of yourself for all your work as a blogger, but like you said, you need to remember to give yourself a break–hope you take time to enjoy your last year of high school. Goes by super fast, especially the last few months!

      ox

  13. Emma
    on February 7, 2014 at 2:41 pm said:

    Super post Janae and congrats on 5 years blogging. Although it’s been just 6-7 months for me I’ve learnt a lot along the way- some of the same things as you mention like connecting with others and setting boundaries especially. I’m trying to proofread my writing more closely too as I can’t stand spelling and grammar mistakes on other blogs and imagine it’s the same for my own readers.
    I hope Coconut and Berries can evolve so positively as Bring Joy has!

    • Janae Wise
      on February 8, 2014 at 11:09 am said:

      Emma, I can’t believe you’ve only been blogging for such a short amount of time–could have fooled me! You’re work, recipes, images, & site design are stellar.

      About setting boundaries, I think one of the most important things is to make sure there are “internet free” times. It’s a blessing & curse to be able to connect 24-7 & a lot of discretion must be applied (especially as a blogger, where we want to make sure not to miss anything!) so that we have time that is set aside where we are not checking email, fb, twitter, or other blogs. Otherwise, we could literally spend our waking hours delving into all things blog related & that’s just not healthy.

      You’re doing awesome Emma, & again, you are WAY, way ahead of most newbie bloggers out there. It took me three years to realize I probably should get a twitter account 🙂

      Thanks for all your kindness.

      ox