It’s my one year blogiversary! I’ve been blogging for a whole year!
This is exciting for me – I think this is the longest I’ve ever stuck with a blog and it’s been a really interesting project so far. I’ve gotten a lot out of having a space to work through my ideas and what I’m thinking and learning about writing. I’ve also really enjoyed seeing the blog “project” develop from vague idea on Twitter (thank you to Natalie K for the encouragement!) through to figuring out how to start a blog and get hosting happening and then how to stick with it.
I’ve had a pretty nice learning curve so far, blogging has never felt overwhelming and honestly the hardest thing was purchasing my hosting at the start, and even that wasn’t so hard! However, I have learned things and most of that has been around my expectations and the reality.
Therefore, in honour of one year of my blogging project – the things I’ve learned about blogging so far!
Blogging takes simultaneously more and less time than I expected. Thinking and writing about the posts takes more time than I expected and, honestly, as my writing style and approach to blogging has gone along and – hopefully! – improved this has gotten a bit longer.
What I expected to take a lot of time, namely set up and maintenance of the back-end and technical stuff, has taken next to nothing of my time. The only thing that has been even remotely consistent and draining on this front is clearing referrer spam, and I don’t even do that very often!
The time thing has been interesting for me, because blogging competes with fiction writing for my time and I haven’t yet found the “fix” for this problem.
Do I count the words I write in blog posts? Should I log my blogging words in addition to my fiction words, or should they get counted separately? I flip-flop on this. Some days I count them, most days I don’t.
Do I write the blog post first or the fiction first? The blog has an arbitrary deadline I’ve made and that usually makes it prioritise, even though it perhaps shouldn’t be.
Should I have a set day or time when I write my blog posts separate to my fiction writing? I’m not sure yet, but I think the answer is to keep the blogging and fiction separate priorities. It’s just a matter of how I separate them, either by time or words (which are basically different metrics for the same thing).
Allocating time to blogging and balancing that time expenditure against fiction writing expenditure is a challenge I didn’t expect or consider when I started blogging and it’s become apparent over time. Blogging time competes with fiction writing time and that’s something I need to work out.
I’ve enjoyed seeing how my blogging style has changed and what I actually write about on my blog rather than what I thought I would be writing about on my blog. They’re different things.
Before I’d even bought my hosting or thought up the name of the blog or done anything legit to start the blog itself I had made two lists for my blog. One was an extensive list of blog post ideas – one which I still refer to fairly regularly, but which is increasingly getting pushed aside in favour of blog posts about “what I’m currently thinking about”. The other was a list of blog optimisation, branding and marketing stuff collated from the hundreds of pro bloggers kicking around on the web who make their money from ads in their sidebars.
I haven’t ended up using many of the list posts recently and the “what my blog is about” section in my marketing-wank worksheet I filled out before I started blogging has turned out to be: a) wrong, and b) irrelevant to what I’m actually using my blog for and enjoying about it.
My blog posts have changed over time. My initial posts were short, sparsely tagged and linked and, looking back, half-formed. That’s ok, I was still figuring out my voice. I’ll probably look back on this post next year and wince that I even wrote a “blogiversary” post at all!
My posts have gotten longer, I’ve started drafting them and re-arranging them for structure and doing quick line-edits before I post. I’ve started making them more link-heavy and doing things like using subheadings where appropriate so the reader can follow the post better. This is all basic nonfiction or journalism writing stuff but that’s not my writing focus, it’s not something I’ve considered since high school. It’s a similar but different skill set and one that I’ve enjoyed playing with and watching develop.
I’ve enjoyed trying things out and dropping them without stressing about it if it’s not working. Despite being a “live” format it’s a pretty liberating and loose format. I tried things like “Fantastic Find Fridays” which I actually enjoyed collating, but I realised was making my landing page look like a bunch of “Fantastic Find Fridays” and about two posts with actual content. Also, because I try to post on Thursdays, having Thursday/Friday as my two blogging days just meant one post-heavy part of the week, rather than decently spaced across it.
I also don’t know how much value or use those posts were to anyone – including myself. I’ve gone back to my older content posts to find links to things I find useful, or to re-hash older ideas, but I can’t see myself ever going back through those link posts. I can’t see anyone else doing it, either. Sharing links is great and a useful dialogue tool on other platforms – I swap articles with my boyfriend constantly throughout the day, and I’ll sometimes share relevant ones on Twitter, but that’s not a blogging thing. It didn’t fit.
I’ve found there’s common themes that come up again and again in my thinking about writing. This has been cool to identify and think about, as well as move past. Yep, Neil Gaiman’s great, but who else can I get inspired by? Similarly, there’s topics I struggle to write about – not because I don’t have opinions or ideas for posts, they just don’t flow for me. I don’t think coherently about them on the page or it turns out there wasn’t actually much depth to the idea in the first place. I’ve tried to write a post about “Strong female characters” at least 3 different ways and it’s just not a thing that works for me. Maybe because everything I feel needs to be said on those topics has been said elsewhere, maybe because talking about that stuff, while important to me, isn’t the sort of stuff I use my blog to write about.
I’m not writing about what I expected to be writing about. My blog doesn’t read like I thought it would, but I really enjoy what it is and how it’s growing. It’s been a really great sandbox for seeing my work develop and grow over time, it’s like a long portfolio project and it’s something I don’t get as easily from my fiction writing. It’s not all in one place, in the same format and therefore easily comparable.
I’ve enjoyed playing with widgets and customising things such as my tag clouds, tweaking my layout, and starting to learn about things like SEO. While I’m not pushing this side of blogging very hard, I’ve enjoyed playing with the new skills required and learning a bit about it.
Finally, I’ve been considering a theme upgrade because my old one, while serviceable, was a bit dull and had done its time. I was reluctant to buy a fancy theme at the start because I wasn’t sure I would stick with the blogging thing. I promised myself I could buy a fancy theme if I made it to my one year blogiversary. Here I am! And here it is!
I’ve actually secretly been looking at blog themes for months and got overwhelmed by the options available. The majority of paid themes I like are set to include pictures, and while I’m aware that stock photo places exist and that I prefer to read blogs with cool images I’m on the fence with using them myself. I worry about how much more time it’ll take to curate and include that sort of stuff, and about copyright. And I wonder how many artful ways you can create images that link to writing because writing isn’t a particularly ‘stuff filled’ artform.
And then I found this one. It had everything I wanted. Simple, a few pictures but not much, mobile responsive and not overly expensive.
I was worried that the upgrade process would be difficult but it was actually pretty straightforward. When I was researching how to set up my blog WordPress was recommended by pretty much everyone and I can see why, it’s well supported and easy to use and this theme had solid documentation to help me through the process.
I’m still working on getting ‘settled’ with the new look and layout – I’m not quite happy with my sidebar yet, I want to find some more images and maybe play with the colour scheme, and I’ve lost my beloved Twitter and Goodreads widgets – but so far I like it!
Future blogging goals
At the start of the year I said I wanted to keep trying to blog once a week. While that hasn’t quite happened it’s still what I’m aiming for. Trying to post something new more Thursdays than I don’t. That’s still ultimately my goal but I think I’d like to add a sub-goal to that list.
Blogging isn’t really supposed to be a soapbox, at its best blogging works like Twitter – it revolves around conversations. For my next blogiversary I’d like to be more active in the writer blogger community. It’s thriving and full of other bloggers like me talking about and caring about similar things. It’s like long form Twitter and I’d like to see what’s going on out there, and what it’s like in the wider blogging world.
Happy first blogiversary Chapters in Flux – here’s to another year!
 Excepting back when LiveJournal was “the place to be” but including an ill-fated attempt at food blogging a few years ago. Important take away from that experience: I don’t like photography.
 I’m a bit embarrassed to admit but for the first three months of my blog I kept checking back to see whether my view count was high enough to make Amazon affiliate links worthwhile.