Thursday, August 23, 2012

How to be a Better Blogger: Part 1

Thinking Break


That sounds like an awfully arrogant title for a blog, doesn't it?

Or maybe it sounds like a know-it-all wrote this post. Or maybe it's the kind of self-help blog filled with daunting checklists of things you should be doing if you want your blog to be successful. The kind of checklist that makes one feel like an utter failure who should have just stayed in bed for the day.

But despite the dubious title, this post is not an arrogant litany of points for success (at least I hope not). It's not a lofty checklist of the best practices shared by successful bloggers everywhere. And I promise this post will not make you wish you had stayed in bed. This post is short (well, as short as my posts ever are), it's personal, and there's no checklist to make you feel bad about yourself or your blog. To be fair, this post is as much for me as anyone because I frequently need to be reminded of how to be a good blogger.

I've been blogging full time for just just over a year now. I left my full-time job in Cleveland, moved to Virginia Beach, and started cooking and blogging last July (here's my first post when I restarted last year) and after 12 months, here's the 5 most important things I learned about blogging (and life):

LoveWord
  1. Put Love First: Love is the most important part of life and it should always be first in whatever we're doing. I firmly believe this (even if I don't always measure up) and I have devoted a lot of energy to this conviction. When I remember to put love first, everything else falls into place. No exceptions.

    So when I begin thinking about a blog post, I first evaluate what I'm about to write to determine if it's motivated by love. If it's not, I take a step back and start over. The same is true for commenting, sharing, tweeting, liking, etc. If the motivation is not love, it's time to take a step back. In fact, when love is my motivation, nothing can discourage or derail my enthusiasm - concepts like page views, likes, retweets, and followers suddenly seem very silly and unimportant.

    Authentic
     
  2. Be Authentic: I'm not the Pioneer Woman, I'm not Ina Garten, I'm not Gordon Ramsay, I'm not Julia Child. I don't throw fabulous parties, I'm not sipping cocktails with celebrities, and my day-to-day life would be the cure for insomnia. I am Mark, I have my own personality and I have a story to tell - and that's what makes me an original. And originality is what makes me interesting.

    If that sounds like some kind of clich├ęd psycho babble, it might be. But it took me years to discover and even longer to accept its truth. And it is true. People can spot phony from miles away - and it doesn't matter if you're concealed behind a keyboard. None of us are interested in phony and it's dreadfully boring. We crave - and often go to great lengths - to seek out and expose the authentic. So take a leap of faith and share the authentic you - it's the most interesting part of you.

    No Bullies
     
  3. Never Bully: I can't stress this enough and it should go without saying. In fact, if love is your true motivation and you're happy enough with yourself to be authentic, you're not going to bully others anyway. Because you love them, because you value their perspective, and because it's WRONG! This was another really hard lesson for me to learn and I took a lot of well-deserved hard-knocks along the way - and sometimes I still need a reminder.

    It's so easy to get caught up in being "right" - I can't tell you how many times I kept badgering away at someone else's opinion or perspective because I believed I could help them - if I could just convince them I was right. But it doesn't matter if I'm right or wrong - bullying is bullying and it's ALWAYS wrong. So share your perspective - and then graciously allow others to feel differently.

    Positive
     
  4. Stay Positive: It's easy to stay positive when you have 100,000 followers, 3 book deals, company sponsorships, fabulous cars, a glorious kitchen, and a diamond tiara, right? The surprising truth is, happiness and positive perspective don't come from things or other people - it starts with us. And if you ask me, it originates with love as a motivation (but I digress). Just be happy with who and what you are right NOW and reflect that happiness in your blog.

    No one wants to be bombarded by a stream of negative energy - we have enough in our own lives. So when I find myself welling up with tears on the verge of an angry rant, I try to channel all that energy into a positive outcome - it allows me work through the negativity and potentially even help others in the process. By the time I'm through, I'm back in a positive place.

    Collaborate
     
  5. Collaborate: If you were stranded on an island with 100 people without readily available food, water or shelter, which strategy do you think would give you the best chance at survival? A) Everyone for themselves or B) Collaborate for solutions.

    The correct answer is B because we all possess different skills and perspectives that when combined together will far exceed the capability of a single individual. So if you want to survive in a starving pack all competing for the same limited resources, collaborate.

    Of course, you don't have to be stranded on an island staring starvation in the face to realize the need for collaboration - blogging is no exception. So don't be jealous of other bloggers' successes - collaborate. Don't defend your turf - collaborate. Don't try to be better than someone else - collaborate. Don't spam blog after blog after blog with "Love your blog, come check out mine"  - collaborate. Don't compete. Collaborate.

I know, I know - where are the actionable items for SEO optimization, social integration, and giveaways? I promise, I've got lots more to share and some of it will include actionable items. But based on my experience, the above five things are the real keys to better blogging (and even successful blogging) - all the actionable items in the world can't make up for a lack of these five. Which means I'm going to print off this post and keep a copy by my laptop.

Because mostly this post is a reminder for me.



27 comments:

  1. great post! I will definitely take this to heart.

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  2. i'm so glad you've started with these wise words and NOT gone on about SEO and bloody giveaways which are not an essential part of being a good blogger... 'being true to yourself' it the wisest words anyone ever gave me!

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  3. Great post JW and you are so right. I try to do all of these things for the reasons you've given, but it's not always easy and I don't always manage it so it's good to get a reminder. You are certainly a very generous and upbeat blogger so it looks like you are succeeding :)

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  4. That was a really nice post, so nothing with arrogance or psycho things. Those five points are really good ones. I will remember those a s well.

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  5. Lorraine @ Not Quite NigellaAugust 23, 2012 at 9:53 AM

    Great points JW! Absolutely be authentic-it must be a struggle to blog otherwise trying to pretend to be something you're not surely lol. And being positive and not bullying is absolutely the way to go :)

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  6. I'm going through a few rough days where it seems like everyone is being featured on Huffington Post, everyone has 1000+ hits from the same photo sites I use, everyone earns more money w the same ads I have etc. makes me wonder what I'm doing wrong. I'm not saying I have the best posts in the world (there will always be ppl better than me) but geez I'm not *that* bad. Your post makes me think about why I'm blogging, that I should keep going and focus on me and hopefully things will fall into place. So thank you for this reminder.

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    1. I have days where I get really down about stuff like hits and followers and feedback - which is one of the real reasons I wrote this post. It really was mostly for me as a kind of reminder to keep this five points in front of me. I'm so glad I could share and your blog is great and something you should definitely be proud of. Besides, numbers lie anyway ;)

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  7. Kayle (The Cooking Actress)August 23, 2012 at 11:44 AM

    <3 these. :)

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  8. True on all points. The blogs I enjoy the most are not necessarily famous ones but those that have original and interesting content.

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  9. Thank you so much for the kind words...

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  10. I agree with you, Dom - I actively ignore SEO and giveaways etc because I don't want any of it to influence my blogging. Besides, like you said, they're not essential anyway...

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  11. I'm so glad you enjoyed the post, Choclette - and thank you for the kind words. You've always been very supportive and encouraging which means so much to me...

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  12. Thanks Chris - I'm glad I didn't come across as arrogant! Just glad I could share what I've learned...

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  13. I would imagine it would be very challenging to maintain a phony presence! And I'm so glad you agree with these 5 points - that's very validating to hear...

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  14. I'm so glad, Kayle - I was happy to share...

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  15. I'm so glad you agree, Sarah - and I agree with you. Originality is what's interesting...

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  16. What a wonderful post. You are so right. Great five points. Thanks for putting this post together.

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  17. Congratulations on this huge milestone! I must have started following you almost a year ago...and I appreciate that you're kind, genuine and very approachable. I'm happy to have you as my friend!

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  18. I'm so glad you agree and happy I could share - thank you so much for your kind words!

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  19. Awww, thank you, Liz - that means so much to me. You were one of the first food bloggers I started following last year and you've always been one of the bloggers I really look up - I'm so happy to be counted among your friends...

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  20. mjskit @ mjskitchen.comAugust 24, 2012 at 3:27 AM

    You are spot on about every single one of these Mark! When I first started blogging (a word I really dislike BTW :) ), I knew I had to blog about something I loved and was passionate about and I knew it had to be different in a way. What I didn't know about was the collaboration, the community, and the support system. What a great discovery! Great post Darlin!

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  21. Happy one year! I am so happy our paths crossed because you are one of the young crowd that renew my faith in blogging and bloggers. Your list is perfect, and many of them I even talk about specifically when I teach writing. Be yourself, be natural, be passionate and be honest. And collaborate! I like that - and you do it so well. Thank you for all of your support and I hope that I can somehow inspire you in return.

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  22. You're right, MJ, the community was a surprise to me, although I suppose I shouldn't have been surprised because food brings people together. I'm very grateful to everyone who has provided so much support over the past year and I'm so glad you agree with these 5 points :)

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  23. Your blog has been an inspiration for me since I discovered it, Jamie. I love the union between writing and food - and how you weave both together to tell the story of your life an family. I'm so glad we think along similar lines and thank you so much for the kind words and support - I'm so grateful...

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  24. Jody_thehobbyroomdiariesAugust 29, 2012 at 1:15 AM

    That is a great list for blogging but, as cheesy as it sounds, it's a great list for living a good life, too. Happy one year of blogging!

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  25. Thanks Jody - I'm not officially celebrating a blog birthday or anything because it's technically not one, but it does feel good to have blogged steady for 12 months... And I'm glad you agreed with the list - these are so important to me...

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  26. At Anna's Kitchen TableSeptember 15, 2012 at 7:36 AM

    I really enjoyed that JW! I found myself nodding along. Sometimes it's hard to keep going when there are so many better writers, better food photographers out there, but then I remind myself that I'm doing it for me and my family and I find the strength to keep going. So thank you for that xx

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