What I’ve learned in a year of blogging
On October 13, 2016, with a deep breath, a prayer, and a mix of trepidation and pride, I hit “publish,” sending my first blog out into the great beyond.
Blogosphere, here I come.
I’ve written 48 posts since then. It’s been the hardest professional challenge I’ve faced and there’s no paycheck on Fridays. The compensation has been in personal growth. I could fill a book, but instead I’ll give you some snippets on what I’ve learned:
I hate listicles.
That’s why I didn’t give this blog a title such as “Twenty nine blogging mistakes that made me pull my hair out.”
Listicles attract readers, I’ve learned, but they’re rampant on the web with not much distinction among them, and they’re uncreative, IMO. I don’t read them so I don’t write them. (With one sort-of exception.)
Besides listicles, I have a whole new vocabulary.
Click-bait, linky party, SEO, web-host, RSS feeds, vlogging. I try not to show off at parties, but I do feel smart.
Speaking of feeling smart, I’m not as technology-challenged as I thought.
My resident tech guru (i.e., my husband), knows nothing about building a website, so I couldn’t use him as a crutch like I used to.
I clicked a lot of tabs or buttons, not knowing what they would do, and that’s how I found out what they did. (Duh.) And I had to read online instructions S-L-O-W-L-Y, several times, and watch and re-watch the videos.
As a result, I learned. And actually REWROTE A LINE OF COMPUTER CODE to tailor my RSS feed. Yup, ME.
Some of the writing rules have changed.
For example, double spacing after a period is taboo in the digital age. Oops. Old habits die hard.
Some rules are the same but I was absent that day in english class.
I know that it’s means it is or it has (duh).
But I think I was out with the flu during the lesson on its—with no apostrophe—which is the possessive of it. As in “The apostrophe lesson and its importance were lost on Karen.”
And I must have had lingering head congestion when I returned because I never grasped where the punctuation goes with “quotes,” (inside), or with parentheses (outside). (Unless the whole sentence is contained within the parentheses.)
Maybe I slept through the invention of the em-dash and en-dash, too, but I was perfectly content with a simple hyphen anyway.
Writing is humbling, whether you follow the rules or not.
When I have a fantasy that a post will go “viral” and all I hear is crickets, it keeps my ego in check. It’s a reminder not to write to please others; but to tell my own truth.
My truth is that I strive to be an excellent writer.
Some blogs are all about linking with other bloggers, or selling, or giving advice. My blog is about stories told well. I’m not The New Yorker quality yet, but that’s the gold standard to which I aspire.
I’m an artist and my medium is the written word.
Just as a visual artist starts with a blank canvas, I start with a blank page and transform it through the creative process.
I AM a writer.
A year ago, I would have said, “I do some writing.” Today, I know in my heart, and the universe has confirmed that I AM a writer.
I must be a writer because I have muses.
People who weren’t absent in English class may know about muses, but I didn’t until I had four of them arguing in my head. These characters created themselves and all I did was write about them. I’ve heard about that phenomenon, but to experience it was fascinating.
Apparently my muses aren’t enough company because I’ve started talking to myself.
“OK, Karen, finish editing chapter four, then you can break for lunch.” Or, “Where did I put that cupcake scene?”
Sometimes I’m funny.
Sometimes I’m not.
When I cry, I know it’s good.
When I finish writing a piece, sometimes I cry, not because it’s sad but because it’s good. They are shameless tears of pride.
I’ll stand up for my words.
Even if I haven’t always stood up for myself.
Blogging is a full time job.
Some bloggers give themselves twenty minutes or less to write a post.
It takes me multiple days and many hours to give you my best work. Then there’s managing my website, marketing, and learning my craft. It’s a real time suck.
Writers sometimes need to refocus.
I’ve gotten pressure from my muses VORonica (Voice of Reason) and Voila! (Voice of Inspiration) to devote more time to my memoir. They remind me that telling that story—of surviving my young son’s brain tumor—is why I became a writer in the first place. And my muses know it’s not going to happen unless I make some changes.
They’re right. So I’ve decided to cut back from weekly blogging to a couple of times per month.
You’ll still get stories from my simple life and you’ll see more morsels from my memoir, including scenes and sections that have fallen to the editorial floor.
You’ll get a better feel for the story so you’ll know why I feel compelled to tell it.
It’s the final lesson I’ve learned this past year: that finishing my memoir is my ultimate goal as a writer.
I’ll hope you’ll stick with me!
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Good job, Karen! Just getting started–and living through it–is winning half the battle!
Thanks RoseMary! It should all be easy from here, right? LOL?
Well done, Karen!! Keep reaching and striving and writing and writing some more… 🙂
P.s. I still double space after a period, too, my friend. Rules were meant to be broken! We’re rebels like that! 🙂
Thanks Barbara! Well, I’m not too much of a rebel,lol, but this whole experienced has challenged me to find my niche and reject some of the "politically correct" blogging rules. Like getting on Pinterest. Sigh. (Maybe some day when I can hire an assistant!)
BTW – did you notice I double spaced above? Just for you!!
I want to hug you so hard right now! I have no clue as to why I feel so proud of you, because it’s not like I’m connected to any of this, but reading this just gave me a thrill this morning. You fought, you persevered, you kicked ass. You learned not to put two spaces after a period, "its" and "it’s", and how dashes work (you didn’t mention Oxford commas, but we’ll leave that for Year #2, yes?). And you wrote damn good stuff that got published in a bunch of places! So yes, dear lady, you most certainly are a writer, and a good one at that!
I want to hug you so hard right now! I have no clue as to why I feel so proud of you, because it’s not like I’m connected to any of this, but reading this just gave me a thrill this morning. You fought, you persevered, you kicked ass. You learned about two spaces after a period, "its" and "it’s", and how dashes work (you didn’t mention your stance on Oxford commas, but we’ll leave that for Year #2, yes?). And you wrote damn good stuff that got published in a bunch of places! So yes, dear lady, you most certainly are a writer, and a good one at that! And for some reason I just think that’s really, really cool.
Jack, you are so sweet and supportive as always!!! I didn’t admit that I had never even heard of an Oxford comma before all this, and now I actually do have a position on it! I wish I could get that hug– (that was supposed to be an em-dash, BTW, but I think my commenting system hasn’t heard of it) in fact, the next time you and Deb are heading to Poughkeepsie, we should plan to meet up. Wouldn’t we have some awesome posts about THAT on Medium??!!
I know how hard it is to call yourself a "writer". When I started taking pottery classes and then had a studio in my home I had a hard time saying I was a potter. My usual response to inquiries about my interests I usually said "I just play with clay." It was empowering for me as I am sure it is for you to own my talent.
I remember that Pat! And now I speak of you often, with pride, as a "potter." So it’s empowering for the artist to own your talent, and cool for others to recognize it!
Learned something new. I still use two spaces after a period. Will try to start using one. I have enjoyed your blogs. I have found them to be inspirational, thought-provoking, and funny. You are a gifted writer. Keep on blogging.
Thanks so much Kathleen! The space thing is a hard one to break … good luck!
I found you on Medium and while I would love to subscribe, I just have way too many emails already, I hope you understand. I will still visit though, I am interested in your story and your journey (us writers have to stick together, no?) so, nice to meet you and come visit me sometime too. http://www.kimmy1563.wordpress.com Kimmy’s Patio if you’re interested. 🙂
Oh Kim, I completely understand! My inbox is always overstuffed, too, as is my brain. So for me, it’s easier to subscribe, that way I don’t have to remember what sites I want to visit. LOL. I did check out your site – do you not have sign-ups? Also, I’d love to follow you on Medium (if I don’t already?) How do I find you there? (If you don’t want to post it here, you can email me at email@example.com.) Thanks so much for taking the time to comment!
Congrats Karen on a terrific year! I hope you continue to reap many rewards for your hard work and talent.
I am still in disbelief over this period spacing change. Two spaces has been a practice with consideration that more white space is typically preferred. I am such a sticker over this and don’t know if I can (or want to) change!
Thanks Paula. I felt the same way about the two spaces- I refused to go along. Then I read an article by an editor where he said that if he received a writing submission with double spaces, he didn’t bother reading it – he just hit delete. I became an instant convert!
Hi, Karen. I think it’s funny that you say you don’t like posts with lists, but this post is essentially a list. Good job on sticking to your truth and blogging just for you. Like you, I’m also working on a memoir, so I thought it might be fun to connect. And your pop-up opt-in is the greatest!
I hope you are working on your memoir every day. I run a very tiny group for writers on Facebook called The 300 Words Project, and if you’re having trouble sticking to a schedule, we are a devoted (and small) community of writers who hold each other accountable for writing daily. I think you’d be a wonderful addition to the group, if you’re interested. It’s free, it’s small, you’ll write more, and it’s fun.
Hi Amy – Thanks for your comment! Sadly, you may not see my reply – it’s a feature I don’t like on this web host (Squarespace) – that commenters don’t get automated notices of my reply. But just in case …
I’m so happy to connect, and I’m honored for your invitation. However, I’m going to have to decline for now. Sadly, I have a chronic illness that I have to make my priority right now. It means I can’t keep to a writing schedule. It’s very discouraging, but will never make me quit. May I follow you elsewhere? Blog/website/FB?
Also, you’re right that this post is a list, but it’s NOT a listicle! lol. And I’m glad you like my pop-up – thank you!