- The post about how you haven’t written a post in a while. Nobody cares. Don’t do it. This kind of post is also a really easy way to continue to not actually write a post.
- An intro post. When you have only one post on your blog, the only person who’s going to read it is somebody who already knows who you are anyway. Just dive in and write the post, and trust that the details will be illuminated for your reader as the blog unfolds. (I have also spent a lot of time down rabbit holes trying to put pieces together and connect the dots with blogs I’ve just discovered. It’s thoroughly engaging. Dare to be an enigma!)
- The post where you express your feelings about the same controversial topic that everybody else is posting about. Unless you have an extraordinary point of view onto the issue, and even then maybe close your browser and think for a week. You are not obligated to wade into fracases. It probably doesn’t serve you. It’s unlikely that it even serves the fracasee.
- The post where you finally get real. This usually comes about after somebody has spent a few months presenting an online self that has proven unsustainable. The best way to avoid this post is to start out real from the outset. Be unabashedly yourself. Don’t try to fit into an online template. If keeping up with your posts is more work that you’d like it to be, find a way to cut down on the labour. The other reason why you shouldn’t post like this is because using your pain for clicks can get to be a bad habit and make you miserable. It is better to be happy and obscure than viral and desperately wounded.
- The post where you upload that political meme. Don’t do it, least of all because it means that your online space will look like everybody else’s, but also because there’s never just one story and if you’re going to pontificate on something, at least do the issue a service by bothering to use your own words.
Feedback is something bloggers ask me about a lot. What is the etiquette for responding to comments? Does one need to respond to comments at all if a response does not seem obvious? Is one obligated to entertain comments at all? To which I say, emphatically, NO! A few of my favourite blogs don’t feature comments, and sometimes I even appreciate that as reader—like, just getting out there and reading blogs is a whole lot of work. And so not having to write anything in response to them is just one more thing knocked off my to-do list.
Of course, in the early days of blogging, comments were highly important influential, the single space where the writer and reader could intersect, but this is very different in the days of social media, which is basically early blog comments brought to life. So much so that you might feel as though you already have enough people yammering on in your ear that your blog might be a place where there could be quiet.
One of my favourite bloggers, Rebecca Woolf, doesn’t blog anymore, but her Instagram is definitely her blog in micro-form, and she wrote about this recently in a post responding to questions about why she sometimes turns comments off: “Immediate feedback has a tendency to push me in directions that are less honest and more performative. I will find myself naturally leaning my words in the direction of affirmations which, a lot of the time, isn’t my truth./ Anyway. When I close comments it’s for me. So that I can write without wondering if people will understand me or like me or want to scream in my face about how wrong I am. So that I can share without reinforcement./ It is the only way I have found I can write freely. The paradoxical beauty of boundaries is that, when set with intention, they allow us to unbind.”
“When I close comments it’s for me.” I love that. The same should be true if you welcome them. If you respond to them. Your blog is your space, and how you proceed with the matter of feedback depends on whether or not the feedback serves you—brings you traffic, or insight, or connections. And is it useful? You get to decide.
I don’t think you need two Instagram accounts, two Facebook accounts (personal or professional!) or two blogs, or especially more than two blogs. Which feels a little bit hypocritical for me to write because here I am writing it on…my other blog. But case in point, this here is my secondary blog, the one I use to augment my business and support its website, as opposed to my primary blog, which I’ve been investing my heart and soul in for years. What I would really love is to have this blog be a filtered version of my main blog, in which all content relating to blogs and blogging appears—but I don’t know how to make that work between two different websites, and also it helps my website search rankings if there is original content here that is not posted elsewhere. And so here we are.
But I still don’t have two different Instagram accounts, and here’s why (and all of these are lessons I’ve learned from blogging, as I use Instagram as a microblog after all):
- I have already built up a modest following on Instagram. Starting again from scratch would be hard.
- It would be especially hard because I think the people who follow me on Instagram are there for the human content anyway. It would take a special kind of person to go for the offer, “Hey! It’s me, but less of my face and I’m just trying to sell you stuff.”
- Maintaining two Instagram accounts (or two blogs…) is a lot of work. In fact, maintaining one Instagram account and doing a good job of it is a lot of work. And none of this is work that pays well, if at all, so I want to keep the labour as minimal as possible
- You’re right, I could just duplicate my content to two different accounts, personal and professional, but that would be really boring for anyone who bothered to follow me in both places
- Compartmentalization is hard on the soul, my friends. Online advice is often trying to fit us awkwardly into compartments where we don’t quite fit, and I say bully to that. Be your marvellous multitudinous self….
- Because it’s interesting! I am totally up for your professional self, and the good things you have to offer the world as an artist/therapist/guitar picker in Nashville, but I get to know that professional self even better if I’m also privy to photos of your lunch, your cat, and your sunsets. Showing up as yourself is an act of generosity, and I appreciate that, and I am more inclined to be generous myself and support the business of somebody who does so.
- Being your whole self also makes you stand out in your professional field—you’re one of many poets, perhaps, but you’re the only one with a really fat cat called Snowflake who likes to sit on your head while you’re writing. Or maybe you’re obsessed with gluten-free baking, or 1970s cult films, or you collect shoes made out of vegan leather. Online spaces are hybrid spaces, technologically speaking, and there is no reason why the content shouldn’t be too.
- There are parts of our lives where it’s important to draw a line between the professional and personal—I definitely like to put my laptop away at the end of the day. I take holidays from the online world throughout the year. All this is very good for my well-being, but I don’t think insisting on such a line for my online identity would be as much. It’s easier (and more sustainable) to just be a human person everywhere I go.
- This also helps me show up with integrity, when my private self is public facing, and think more deeply about the choices I make, the life that I am living. It helps too when my online connections become real-life connections and people realize that they really do know me from knowing the person I am on the internet
- And yes, there is a price to be paid in being real. There are definitely advantages to having a polished brand and perhaps I would be much more successful if I’d shown up that way…but I don’t actually believe this. I would have been bad at being a polished brand (and looked just like all the people I was trying to emulate, but a poor copy) but I am really, really good at being me, and I get to do it without even trying, which is so much more sustainable and interesting than the alternative.
Now, I am don’t claim to be a social media expert. Perhaps you might be advised to take anything with a grain of salt when it’s coming from that woman who posts on Instagram nine times a day, but I also post a lot because I really like it, and for me that’s the biggest indication that I’m doing something right.
The PARAGRAPH toolbar, which I talked about in a previous post, comes up when you click the PLUS SIGN to create a text/paragraph block in WordPress. (See Image below.)
When you select IMAGE instead of PARAGRAPH, however, you’re going to get a different toolbar that looks like this.
So let’s start at the beginning. You have to have an image to add. This image should be your own image (a photo or a graphic you’ve made) because it’s illegal to steal other people’s work and also using your own work will make your blog look like your own. If you can, resize your image if it is very large (500-1000 pixels is fine for web) but you will also have a chance to resize the image once you’ve uploaded it.
When you go to add an image, a new box pops up that looks like this:
Click UPLOAD and select your image from your computer. (Select from MEDIA LIBRARY if you’re using an image you’ve uploaded to your website already.)
And your image should appear like magic.
But what if you want to make changes to the way the image looks on your site?
Time to explore the tool bar!
Use the arrow keys to move your IMAGE BLOCK up and down between the the other blocks in your post.
Use the alignment key to centre your image or align it with either of your margins.
*If you would like to embed your image within a block of text (as I am doing in this paragraph, as opposed to above where the image is centred), you will often have to resize the photo down, but that’s easy to do. Do you see the SETTINGS menu on the right-hand side of your screen? (If it’s not visible, it should appear when you click the button that looks like a cog on the top right-hand size of your screen.) The menu will be different based on what kind of block you’re working on (PARAGRAPH, IMAGE, etc.) If Image is selected and you scroll down on that menu, you should see something like this:
The options for IMAGE SIZE are “Thumbnail” (very small!), “Medium” and “Large.” I selected MEDIUM for this image, and then I clicked the alignment key in my toolbar, selected RIGHT, and the image was embedded automatically.
*You can see that I also added ALT TEXT to make my site more accessible to users with visual impairments!
Use the LINK button to add a link to your image, if that makes sense for you to do. Users are usually compelled to click on interesting images. I often blog about books and when I use an image of the book’s cover, I will usually add a link in the image to where the book can be purchased. When you click on the link button, a space will appear for you to paste the URL to where your link will direct.
The final button is EDIT. I don’t typically edit my images in WordPress, and feel more comfortable doing it with other software, but you can play around here and see what happens.
If everything goes wrong, remember that pressing COMMAND Z on a Mac or CONTROL Z on a PC will take you back a step so that you can get unsnarled—always good advice to remember.
“Don’t forget, you’re the least important person in the room,” was advice that Decca Mitford’s governess delivered her and her sisters in their storied childhood, which is not very fashionable guidance a century later from a psychological point of view. And yet it’s useful to me. Perhaps because I was fortunate enough to be brought up with love and support and self-esteem, the audacity enough to believe that I matter—which is audacity that sometimes needs to be tempered a bit.
I love the advice, “Don’t forget, you’re the least important person in the room,” because with it comes the freedom to do whatever the hell you want. Nobody’s watching. Nobody cares. Blogs, by their nature, are marginal, obscure. (Remember: “well-known blogger” is an oxymoron.) Blogs are different from the scrutiny of social media too, timelines unfolding in threads. Nope, it’s likely on your blog that nobody’s watching, and there is opportunity that comes with that. For you to worry less about what other people think, and it instead partake in an in-depth study of what you think. To try stuff out, to ask the questions you don’t quite know the answers to, to dare to (thoughtfully) be wrong about something.
And why not? No one’s watching. Which permits you to write with lack of self-consciousness that—paradoxically—will make readers actually be interested in what you have to say.
“But here’s the kicker. I want to see you working just as hard (and ideally, harder) to build your digital presence OFF Instagram as you are building it ON Instagram. [Don’t build] your digital castle on someone else’s land…” —Avery Swartz
The foundation of my blogging courses are the gospels of imperfectionism, which is basically license to be human in public. And last night, while I was reading Ijeoma Oluo’s Mediocre: The Dangerous Legacy of White Male America, it dawned on me how much imperfectionism is a privilege that people of colour don’t always have access to. To be raw and unpolished in public, and still be taken seriously—that is white privilege (which is the very point of Oluo’s book).
And so what can I do to change this? How can I help create space in the world for people of colour to be free to be as flawed and sloppy and uninhibited as I am in my blogging life? One thing I can do right now is reserve one free space in each of my courses for writers of colour on a first-come-first-serve basis.
My next MAKE THE LEAP intensive course runs this February, and any writers of colour who are interested in taking part are encouraged to reach out to me using the “Keep in Touch” link at the top of the page.
“I try to have a schedule, but I’m extremely bad at keeping schedules. I have watched corporate blog after corporate blog go to crap, because there was a posting schedule where you had to write five posts a day. I think that everybody would rather just write when you have something good to say.” —Deb Perelman
There are so many levels upon which the trajectory of 2020 has been full of unexpected diversions and strange surprises, most of them on such a grand scale that it’s easier to discount the little things. Like that I wasn’t sure where Blog School was heading as the year began. I launched Blog School in September 2019 with a self-guided course only, thinking that blogging itself is pretty solitary even IF the point is connection, and so a self-guided courses seemed to kind of make sense. (Maybe also I was lazy?)
But the people wanted more! And so I designed the MAKE THE LEAP program to run in February, my Blogging Spark course condensed into the shortest month. And an absolute DREAM TEAM of writers signed on to be part of it, and it was the best thing ever. I loved it. We had so much fun, and it was so inspiring, and I have never ever loved “work” so much. It wasn’t “work” at all.
I was planning to run the course again in June, but then the whole world went off its rails. Instead of a formal course, I decided put together more of a hang-out. LET’S GET TOGETHER ran in June, just as protests against police brutality and racial violence were taking place around the world, a harrowing and heady time, and it was a lot to process—but the bloggers in our group were doing it, putting the pieces together to make sense of it all, to write their way toward racial justice. It was inspiring and amazing.
And then a small group signed on for another MAKE THE LEAP session in September, and I loved this group just as much—who would have thought it possible? Another fabulous group of writers whose central feedback required was just mainly me shouting, “Yes! Yes! This EXACTLY!! Keep doing it!” It was really, really good.
Some of the blogs that were born or developed out of all this:
- Topaz Literary
- A New Tea Leaf
- Becoming Janine
- The Wilderness of This
- Loving a Spouse Who is Living with Dementia
- Beyond Word Count
- Littlewood Art
- Lisa Bradburn at Medium
- Julie Paul’s Blog
- Rhonda Douglas’s Blog
There are more, but I particularly wanted to highlight those which have been updated in the last month or so, those whose writers have discovered the key to blogging success, which is DON’T STOP DOING IT!
Thank you to everybody who has played a part along the way—those of you who read blogs, who’ve participated in my courses, those of you who keep writing, all of you affirming that the future of blogging (still!) is RIGHT NOW.
MAKE THE LEAP is running next in February 2021, and registrations are beginning to come in! Sign up today to claim your spot (and a reminder that
three two left! discount spaces are reserved for people who have signed up for my self-guided course already).