Blogging is a mysterious beast. I wish that I had known, before I started, what it would mean to my life. One of three things happens when people begin a blog. Most people post a few times and then abandon their blogs to obscurity forever. This happened with my once-upon-a-time Xanga diary in highschool. Other people post somewhat frequently and easily, reposting content they love from other blogs and happily typing about their days to family and friends. The third group is more serious. Maybe they are blogging for fame or for business or from the sheer competitive spirit of growing readership and seeing how far they can take something.
In thinking about this lately, I came to the slow realization that I am now a serious blogger. Not that that means I magically grew more readers. I didn't. No matter how hard you stare at Google Analytics, new readers do not appear out of nowhere. More that I am very purposeful about what I am doing here. The above Blog Dreams Mind Map is a manifestation of all my recent thoughts on blogging, organized and laid out so that I can more easily remember what my focus is. If you have an interest in blogging or if you are just curious about what happens behind the curtain, read on. (If illustration is more your thing, you can check out my Illustration Mind Map, too!)
The most important area above is about what I want the spirit of my blog to be about. I define my 'Tag Line' or Mission Statement, which is going to sit in a place of priority on my blog and explain to everyone who shows up what I am trying to do here. I tried to make the tag line "Make People Explode With Happiness!" but that seemed a bit ambitious so I stuck with "An Illustrator in search of happiness, sanity, and inspiration."
All blogs are different but I want this one to be a happy place. From day one I had guidelines in my mind about topics I would and would not cover here. Although I love funny stories, I aim to only mock myself since hurting other people's feelings or embarrassing someone is the last thing I intend. The new tag line allows me to expand my posting into more of my illustration work and will let me include more of the things that inspire me on a daily basis. I am SO excited to blog more about these topics.
Another focus in this section is original content. It's really important to me that this blog be a strong representation of who I am and for this reason all work will be written by me and if any imagery is borrowed, it will be clearly labelled and approved by the artists.
I spend a large amount of time organizing and preparing my content. Illustrating an image for a post takes 2-7 hours. The writing takes 30 minutes to 2 hours, depending on the length and edit time. There is an editorial calendar organized using the Asana Project Management software which breaks down each post down by time, illustrations needed, season, notes on plot lines, etc. Original content takes it's sweet time.
Although I have always had features (The "You Know What Makes Me Happy?" posts have been around since day one), a recent Blog Love course by Elsie Larson helped me to clarify this as an actual concept in my mind, and helped to pull together loose ideas into a concrete and recognizable list of regular features.
A weakness of mine is my writing. Sometimes I don't spend the amount of time editing that I should. This is a goal of mine for 2012. I also spend a lot of time doubting whether or not I am funny. This is especially true once I am done editing, since nothing is funny to you after reading it 20 times. (For instance I didn't think the shoe salesman post was funny at all).
Design is a very personal choice. The mind map outlines choices I want to make as well as outlining some of the areas I need to remember and focus on. It's easy to forget that contrast draws attention, or that the top left quadrant of the page is first thing people look at. My knowledge of design is a mix from a thousand sources. I have a Bachelors of Fine Art, but certain books on web design in specific can help you in this area. I have always loved The Zen of CSS Design, since it reminds me of the little things, like letting the eye flow down the page and that how people interact on the internet is so different than with paper.
Every blogger wants more readers. Most of these tips are ones that I have gleaned along the way, although, again, Elsie's Blog Love Course does a great job of solidifying them all into firm goals. I have been obsessed with twitter for a long time (some of you may know this), but it's nice to have rules for how you want to treat social media in your mind so you don't come off as over-eager or desperate. I don't want to annoy people by posting about my new blog post three times a day. To be truthful, doing that is boring even to me. I would rather be reading other people's links and promoting them if I like them.
Word of mouth is the best option. If your content is good, people will want to share it with their friends and that's the BEST feeling. (Almost as good as when people leave comments).
Too competitive. Self-critical. Strapped for time. Broke. These are all me. Asana has been a lifesaver since I discovered it about 5 months ago. Planning posts saves me that time spent sitting staring blankly at paper, willing a blog idea to come to mind. I also block out time for both blogging and advancing my illustration career every week, and make goals to accomplish a certain number of things a month.
It's hard not to get jealous of the larger blogs with tons of contributors who post multiple times a day with fresh and witty content. When my competitive spirit rises, I make an effort to focus on the benefits blogging has already brought to me and not on what I am dissatisfied with. If I think "I wish...", I try to use that to narrow in on things that I can improve on and research to find ways to bring that skill/style/feature to my own blog, in my own way. For instance, envying someone else's new blog header is not as productive as reading about blog design for a while, getting some new ideas on paper and hunkering down on photoshop for a day or two until I AM happy with how my blog looks.
Everyone measures success in different ways. I am blessed with readers who comment happily and regularly, which I LOVE. Blogging is so much more rewarding when people embrace your words enough to write back to you. I have also had a huge amount of personal growth as a result of blogging. It has drastically improved my time management, writing, and illustration skills. I hadn't drawn seriously since high school until I blogged the first day. Now it's my dream career. Jay knew me through my blog before he ever met me in person. It's kept me in touch with so many people that I may have drifted away from. I've met and bonded with many new friends. In all, I am more than happy so far.
Thanks for making it all the way through, I know this post was longer and maybe drier than some of my normal posts. But hopefully this will help to explain some changes coming down the pipeline and maybe even help you to refine your own blog, if you have one!