It’s hard to believe that I first started blogging one year ago to the very day – Tuesday, the 1st September 2015! Sometimes, it feels like I have been blogging a lot longer, even though I find it equally astounding that I have actually written 89 posts, including this one! It’s been a great year and I have thoroughly enjoyed this new medium of expression, with no signs of slowing down yet, so I thought I would share with you my ten good reasons for blogging, as well as what I have learnt, not only about the blogging process, but also about myself!
Ten Good Reasons For Blogging
- It is a verbal and visual record of the development of our garden, my career as a textile artist and our new life here in this beautiful area. Already, looking back through old posts has reminded me how much we have achieved, as well as how much was in bloom at the same time last year- consoling reassurance for the impatient gardener that I am in late Winter/ very early Spring!
- It’s FUN! I have always kept a daily diary – a very useful tool when trying to remember the last dental or hairdresser visit! I love writing and really enjoy putting words together. Writing a blog is a way of organizing my thoughts and making me contemplate on how much we have achieved and how best to describe my thoughts. I have always been a keen reader and library user. I learnt to speed-read during my university studies, which is great for editing and quick perusals, but completely destroys my enjoyment of good literature. Words, and the way they are strung together, need to be savoured slowly, so if the book is particularly well-written or poetic in its language, I often read it out aloud to my husband, so it slows me down! We also get the shared enjoyment of a good book and can discuss the plot and characters together. The only drawback is that Ross often snoozes off while I am reading, so I often have to recap the plot at the second sitting and I swear that I am not a monotonous reader, but it works every time! And finally, I am a very keen photographer and take far too many photos, most of which are good (even if I do say so myself!), thus making it extremely hard to be selective! Keeping a blog allows me to display the very best and be able to access them easily!
- It’s creative. I really enjoy the presentation aspect as well. In the old days of photo albums, I used to really enjoy organizing the photos- something I miss in these digital days, so blogging is a way of enabling me to continue this pleasure. I love producing a beautiful post and find it endlessly challenging. I also love flower arranging for the house, so the blog is a great visual record of my endeavours. I have also featured my daughter’s artwork in each monthly Feature Plant post, and even though she much prefers to paint animals, it has been good practice for her, as well as increasing her exposure and giving us some beautiful individual artwork in the process!
- Sharing : It is a very accessible and easy way to share current news and photographs with family and friends, without having to write huge emails, though I prefer to think of it as more like the chapters of a book, rather than a group Christmas letter! Through my blog, I can share thoughts, books, films, recipes and links to other interesting blogs.
- You become part of the growing blogging community, making new friends and connecting with like-minded people, even if it’s only on a digital level! The blogging community is a very generous and supportive group, encouraging others with blogging awards like the Liebster Award for new bloggers or the Sunshine Award for positive, creative, inspiring blogs, both of which I was honoured to receive! Answering the questions, and formulating your own, makes you really think about what is important to you, heightens your awareness of other blogs and increases your own blog base (as in the blogs you follow!), as well as your own exposure! I have found the communication very stimulating and enjoyable! Blogging can be seriously addictive, so much so that you have to be careful to still maintain your life off the computer!
- It’s inspirational, both for your readers and yourself! I love reading other people’s blogs and responding to comments. It opens your eyes to any myriad number of future topics- a bit like Pinterest, both in the way it inspires you with all the wonderful things in the world, but also in its ability to lure you into addictive behaviour! I have also really enjoyed revisiting other peoples’ gardens, which we visited through the Open Gardens Scheme and community events in my Favourite Gardens post. Researching the gardens and selecting old photos makes you really appreciate the gardens and gives you renewed enjoyment.
- It’s therapeutic and diversionary! Both for those times when life knocks you for a six or when things seem a bit slow in the depths of Winter, when everything hibernates and it seems to take FOREVER for seeds or bulbs to emerge and plants to grow- particularly hard for ‘right- now- kind- of- mice’ like myself! It certainly keeps me off the streets! It is also a way of promoting beauty and positivity in a world, so often dominated in the news by the latest disaster, thus maintaining equilibrium and happiness. It is so important to appreciate the small things of every day life and focus on all the good things. The world is an amazing place with some wonderful people and incredible beauty and uniqueness!
- It’s good writing practice for future writing. While I will probably never write a novel- I really admire people who can!- I could possibly write a craft book if I get enough experience. And through blogging, I have already produced a digital recipe book and a guide to the local area and national parks nearby!
- It can promote your business interests and gives you a public digital presence.
- By showcasing our local area, our beautiful little village and community events, it’s a way of reciprocating and thanking this wonderful community, which has welcomed us.
What I have learnt about blogging
At the start of my journey, it was a very steep learning curve, but through trial and error, I have gradually developed my blogging skills, though there is still much to learn! Here are some of the things I have discovered:
- Word count is best kept to less than 5000 words- preferably 3000 words, though I struggle with this constantly, as I like cover a topic thoroughly!
- Reduce the size of your photos. This is really really important- right from the very beginning- otherwise you will chomp through the storage megabytes in no time at all! For Word Press, photos only need to be 800 mm x 600 mm and most cameras produce far larger photos- 4000 mm x 3000 mm or 5184 mm x 3888 mm. I use a program called Irfan and reduce my photos to 20 percent, though this varies- some of my older photos are 1600 mm x 1200 mm, so they are reduced to 50 percent of their original size. You can also specify particular dimensions, if you want all your photos to be exactly the same size. It is well worth it, as Word Press has a huge amount of photo storage, if used wisely.
- Regularity is important. I always post late Tuesday afternoon, with the odd Thursday post thrown in occasionally for special occasions like this one ! It develops good writing habits, as well as being easier for your audience, who know when to expect a post from you. I have not had writer’s block yet, but if words are slightly slower to come, I start from the photos and before I know it, the post has written itself!
- Planning ahead is also important to avoid last-minute stress! I plan my post topics throughout the year and like to stay ahead by 5-6 drafts. When I started in September last year, we already had 6 months of gardening to catch up on, then from September to January, I posted a garden post on a Tuesday and another topic, varying from recipes to local area posts, on a Thursday. To avoid repetition in 2016, I reduced my blogging to just Tuesdays and changed my format to : one post on a Feature Plant, which dominates the garden that month; a post on Favourite Gardens, which we have visited in the past; a monthly garden post describing our own garden developments and blooms and a random post on recipes, our local area and national parks or thoughts. In 2017, I plan to focus on my beloved Old Roses with a monthly post on Old Rose types; a Favourite Rose Garden post- if I run out, I will also include a few posts on special individual gardens! ; a Favourite Book post- starting with Garden Books of course! ; and a continuing monthly garden post with updates on our garden and building projects.
- Help is at hand and the Word Press staff are very helpful if you have any problems and can usually suggest alternative solutions. For example, I had an issue with linking to other websites on the new WordPress, but was able to still do it on the old Word Press Admin page. Fortunately, the problem has finally rectified itself- I think!
- Edit several times, including that final moment before you post, as there are always things you miss! Having said that, you can still correct mistakes after you have posted and update the post. Also, always check your sharing button is still current, if you post on Facebook as well.
What I Have Learnt About Myself!
- I LOVE research and writing, though I already knew that!
- I find it really hard to be selective, especially when it comes to word count and photographs!
- I am still safety conscious and not very adventurous when it comes to the digital world! I like stability and once I have a format and layout, with which I am happy, I tend to stick with it, rather than experiment. I am sure there are lots of nifty techniques to increase my readership, but since I write predominantly for myself and my family, it is not my primary concern, though I do enjoy attracting new followers and connecting with the blogging community.
- I can be obsessive and need to curb any addictive tendencies and restrict my blogging to certain days, otherwise I could probably blog forever and never get anything else done!
- I have greatly improved my computer skills and even though I still get the occasional stressful moment, I have discovered that everything is usually retrievable and fixable, even if you have to use a roundabout way to achieve the desired results.
I would highly recommend blogging to anyone who likes writing and photography! My life has certainly been enriched in the process!