Niche vs. Not

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Credit: Pixabay

When I started this blog, I was certain that I would not pigeonhole myself into a ‘niche.’  I am complicated person with many varied interests and I wanted that to be reflected in my writing.

But current wisdom says your blog should have a niche.  I’m really struggling with this – because I get a lot of enjoyment writing for this blog.  However, I am also trying to make a go of a business venture with this blog, so I’m wondering how that’s going to work out for me, or if it will work out at all.

I think the thought process is that people want to read bloggers who are ‘experts’ on something and also ‘authentic.’  Which I get, because I look for those things, too.

But does that mean someone is only worth listening to or reading if they are an ‘expert’ at something?  And who decides whether someone is an expert?  I mean, if you look at ‘experts’ who appear in court, you can find ‘experts’ who say contradictory things.  So who is right?  And who is the real expert?  Can you only be an expert if you only blog/talk about one particular topic?

Does talking/blogging about other topics outside of your niche mean you are no longer an expert on the other topic?  Is this need for a niche because of our innate need to label/categorize everything?  What about the issue of authenticity?  Can I only be authentic if I have a niche?

Clearly, I have a lot of questions, so I’m hoping you all have a lot of answers. 😀

Reposting Etiquette?

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Credit: Pixabay

One of the things that is always stressed to bloggers is to write ‘evergreen’ content – content that is generally ‘timeless’ and generally useful, in order to keep traffic coming to your blog.

It does work, and I strive to write some of that ‘evergreen’ content on my own blog.  However, I recently came across an issue with this ‘evergreen’ content that I hadn’t encountered before.

I was reading a thoughtfully written post, and I wanted to comment on some of the things that were written because I had some personal experience with the topic.  The post was new, just posted that day, and it already had hundreds of comments and likes.  Great!  The blogger must be doing a good job, and I was excited to post something into what seemed like a busy community on the blog.

So I was confused when I scrolled down to comment and discovered that the comments were over a year old.

What?

Why would I want to comment on a post that was written over a year ago?  I mean, I could just leave a comment, but for me, the point of commenting is to try and build a community and interact with them.  On a post that’s over a year old, who’s still paying attention?  In today’s social media/instant gratification world, I have my doubts that anyone would be.

It got me thinking.  While I want that ‘evergreen’ content to keep people finding and returning to my blog, I don’t want my readers to feel like I did after my experience.

I felt – tricked.  If I had known from the beginning that I was reading an old post, I would likely still have read it and perhaps returned to read other things, knowing that I might find some new gems from this blogger.

But since it appeared the post was freshly published, it seemed a bit shady to republish something a year old and make it look like a new post.  If the blogger wanted to re-post it, why not just add a blurb at the beginning about it being an older post?  Or write a new post that links back to the old content?

I know a lot of bloggers share older content on social media and I think that’s fine, as it generally is apparent once you go to the post that it is older content.  But again, the way this post was handled, I ended up feeling tricked and unfollowed the blog because of it. Maybe it’s just my background in education, but not having a date on content is a pet peeve of mine.  If I’m looking something up, many times the information is time-dependent.  For instance, if I want to look up a comparison between Verizon and Sprint, a post about that from 3 years ago is probably no longer relevant today.

The whole situation just left a bad taste in my mouth and I wondered how other bloggers handled this issue.  How do you feel about this?  Do you re-post old content as if it’s new?  If so, have you ever gotten a bad reaction from a reader?

Separate Lives?

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Credit: Pixabay

Privacy has become a big issue in today’s world.  Big business owners like Mark Zuckerberg want to convince you that privacy is dead, while at the same time retaining a stranglehold on their own.  Why? Because they can make billions off your lack of privacy.  That’s all.  Simple greed.

I grew up before the internet existed.  (Yes, it is possible to survive childhood without the internet, I promise.)  Cell phones were not ubiquitous – mostly because when I was a kid, they were hella expensive and the size of a dictionary. 😛

When the internet became a thing, we didn’t think about the consequences.  (Same thing as nuclear bombs and plastics and asbestos and cell phones and, and well, pretty much everything we invent.)  It’s new, so it must be good, right?

I’ve always been a private person, even as a kid.  Probably due in large part to my lack of social skills, but also because I’m an introvert, and being around a lot of people is mentally and emotionally exhausting for me.  I don’t like, nor do I want, everyone knowing my business.

So, why am I on the internet, you ask?  Good question.  I suppose because I get something out of blogging that I can’t find anywhere else, and also because the benefits to me outweigh the risks.

I think of myself as a normal person, but my sister constantly teases me about my tinfoil hat.  I’m not a conspiracy theorist by any means, but I don’t think it’s wrong to try and limit the potential risks of being online.

I pay bills online, I blog, I am hopefully at some point soon going to open an online Etsy shop.  But I do try to keep my real life and my online life as separate as I can.  Is that weird?  Do other people not do this?

I have a cell phone, but I really only use it for texting and (gasp!) phone calls.  I do have an email account on it, but that’s pretty much it.  I have a few apps (less than 5) that I have installed, most of the rest of the stuff on the phone are things that came with the phone that I can’t delete.

I don’t really do social media.  I used to have a Facebook, but I do not like their lack of ethics, so I deleted it years ago.  I don’t have an Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, or anything else.  I don’t like someone else (whether it’s a person or an algorithm) deciding for me what I should see and when.

Maybe because I grew up without the internet, being without those things doesn’t bother me.  On the other hand, my children, who have definitely grown up with the internet, don’t really do social media either.  They text their friends, and they play online games.  But neither one of them have a Facebook or Instagram or Twitter or Snapchat or whatever other new shiny has popped up lately.

As more and more information comes out about how companies are using data in unethical ways, I find myself trying even harder to maintain the separation between my real life and my online life.  Which, admittedly, is becoming more and more difficult.  Not only because so many companies are trading data as a commodity, but also because the people who use the internet (you know, us regular people), value authenticity.  (That’s what the prevailing wisdom says, anyway.)  Is it possible to be authentic and still keep your real life separate from your online life?

5 Things I Love About Blogging

I did a blog post about the 5 things I hate about blogging, so I thought I should follow it up with a post with 5 things I love about blogging.  I’m not a masochist, so there must be things I like about it, or I wouldn’t keep doing it.  I’ve been blogging off and on since, well, probably since around 2000.  (That was just, like, two years ago, right?)  So, what is it about blogging that keeps me coming back?

#1 – Writing

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Credit: Pixabay

I love writing.  It’s something in my life that I’ve been told I’m good at.  That’s debatable, but whether I’m any good at it or not, I love doing it.  And that’s what counts, right?  I love taking all the jumbled up thoughts in my head and getting them down on the page.  I do most of my writing on the computer these days, but sometimes I like to kick it old school and sit down with a pen and paper and just write.

I’d love to write a book someday.  (All writers/bloggers say that, don’t they?)  I think the problem has been that the book people tell me I should write isn’t a book I want to write.  I’m still trying to figure out what kind of book I would like to write.  Which is probably why I haven’t written it yet.

In any event, blogging lets me empty my head onto the page.  Then I have room for more thoughts – and so on and so forth.  Plus, it’s good practice.  What’s that old adage about practice? You have to practice something for 10,000 hours to be a master at it?  I’m not sure even 10,000 hours is enough to master writing, but blogging does let me at least get some of that practice in.  (Even if it still doesn’t keep me from ending sentences with a preposition!)

#2 – Community

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Credit: Pixabay

Blogging lets me find other people who are interested in the same things I am, without having to put myself in awkward social situations.  And if I’m in them, they’re generally awkward. 😛

We’re all searching for our ‘tribe’ – for me, that’s not people who have the same views and ideals I do.  I mean, those people are great, but I also like interacting with people who have different views and having deep philosophical discussions about why they have the views they do.  I hate small talk and chit-chat, but I love being able to have long, drawn-out, deep conversations with people.

One of the other appeals about blogging is that it allows me to reach people I would never be able to in real life.  I live in a rural area in a small town, and so being able to find people all over the world through blogging who share my interests is amazing.

#3 – Learning

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ALL the books! Credit: Pixabay

I am a lifelong learner – I love to learn.  I am one of those people who loved school.  I’d be a perpetual student if I could afford the tuition.  Blogging lets me explore all kinds of things I would never have been able to otherwise.

In the years I’ve been blogging, I’ve learned about SEO, marketing, technology, and a whole host of other things I would never even have been exposed to otherwise.  I tell my husband I’ve learned just enough to be dangerous – a running joke, because I have by no means learned all the things I could or should about those things.

Every day is a new adventure in blogging, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

#4 – Being Creative

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Credit: Pixabay

Everyone talks about “finding your passion” and “architecting your best life.”  I don’t like either one of those expressions.  Finding your passion and making a living at your passion are two completely different things.  Some of us are lucky enough to find a job/career that lets us do both, but most of us don’t.  Blogging is a passion because it feeds my soul in a way nothing else does.  That’s why I keep coming back to it – because being creative – whether with my writing or something else – feeds my soul and keeps me happy.  I’ll probably never make a living with my writing, and that’s okay.

As for “architecting my best life,” I think that’s a load of bull.  We only get one life.  So by definition, it is both your worst and your best, because it’s the only one you get.  I do the best I can, and I think that’s all you can ask of anyone.  Blogging is part of my ‘best life,’ because it helps me be a better and more rounded person.

#5 –  Stats

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Credit: Pixabay

I know I said in the previous post that I hate stats, and I do.  I have a love/hate relationship with them.  Because if my stats show growth, I love them.  But if they don’t, I hate them.  It’s like having someone constantly judging you and that is exhausting.  No one can be ‘on’ all the time – it’s not humanly possible.  But, of course, we all want to do well, and having concrete data that you’re not doing as well as you’d like can be soul crushing some days.

I take the same approach to stats as I do to social media.  I dip my toe in, but I try to limit the amount of time and energy I devote to them.  Because in the grand scheme of things, what random people on the internet think of me or my writing doesn’t matter.  I mean, I want you all to love me, of course, but it isn’t the end of the world if you don’t.  😀

What about you?  What do you love or hate about blogging?  What keeps you coming back?

5 Things I Hate About Blogging

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Image Source: Pixabay

I love blogging, I really do.  Sometimes just the process of getting my jumbled thoughts out of my brain onto the screen is all it takes to make my day better.  But there are some things I don’t like about blogging. Some are just annoyances, but some are things that make me want to avoid blogging all together.  I guess my ego is bigger than my dislike, since I’m here.  😀  Right, on with the list!

#5.  Dealing with the technology

I consider myself pretty tech savvy, but I am by no means a tech person.  I liken it to driving a car – I know how to operate it; I can fix simple things – gas, flat tire, blown fuse, etc., but some things are beyond my skills – broken engine mounts (which aren’t apparently as terrible as they sound), broken shifter linkage, suspension issues, and the like.  Same with tech – I can operate my blog and fix simple things, but sometimes things break and I have no idea how to fix them.

One of the reasons I have my blog set up the way I do is that I didn’t want to be responsible for security and other tech issues.  Maybe someday I’ll feel that confident, but not yet.  Technology is great – as long as it works.  😛

#4.  Finding people to follow and interact with

This is a big one for me.  I’m naturally an introvert, and I spend a lot of my time alone – some by necessity, some by need. I like to people watch and observe – interaction is difficult for me and not something I feel adept at.  So just hopping over to someone’s blog and commenting does not come naturally.  I’m constantly afraid I will come off as rude, condescending, or at worst, ignorant.

Has anyone ever made me feel that way?  No, of course not.  Have I ever felt that way about anyone who interacts or comments on my blog?  Nope, never.  Just my own demons following me into the digital realm.

I also apparently suck at searching for other like-minded blogs to follow.  I have a wide range of interests, but it can be difficult to find blogs to follow even then.  Like everyone else, I’m looking for good content, but also consistency.  I’ve found some great blogs, but then discover that the owner hasn’t posted anything in months.

#3.  Blogger’s block

I suffer from this a lot, mostly because I have that little voice in my brain that says that no one will care about what I have to say.  Plus, as mentioned in #2, I think consistency is important, so I try to stick to my posting schedule.  The pressure to post regularly can lead to brain drain, and I have trouble finding a topic I think is relevant that I want to post about.

These days to combat blogger’s block, I either go draw or I go for a walk.  It’s amazing what a little exercise can do to get my neurons firing.  Even if I don’t end up finding a topic, I can at least get myself out of that negative headspace you get into when you are blocked creatively.

#2.  Bragging about yourself

I don’t think most people start a blog thinking, “Hey, I need a forum to brag about myself.”  That said, a lot of the time, that’s what it feels like I’m doing.  Ultimately, I’m trying to get people to listen to me, follow me, and hopefully, spend some money on things I’ve created.

But that darn imposter syndrome is always there, lurking behind me.  There’s always going to be somebody who is better than you at whatever it is you’re doing.  I think we’ve become so conditioned to compare ourselves to others that it can be extremely hard to recognize when you’re doing it.  In the same way, we’ve been conditioned not to brag about ourselves and I find it hard to do.  (Though now that I think about it, social media is mostly that, so maybe it’s just me?)

#1.  Stat tracking

This is my absolute least favorite thing about blogging.  I want to grow my audience and attract followers, but keeping track of all the stats just gives me a headache.  Again, I understand the basics, but drilling down too far makes me want to scream.  Numbers are not my thing – words are.

Plus, I am never sure what stats are more important.  Visits? Views? Comments? Number of followers?  Keywords?  Ugh, I’m making myself tired just writing about all of this.

 

While there are things I don’t like about blogging, what I do get out of it more than makes up for it.  It’s work, for sure, but I enjoy the process, even if I don’t think I’m good at it sometimes.  But that was the point behind this blog – to be public about my successes and my failures.  Now, if I could just figure out how to clone myself so I have time for everything I want to do!

iPad Posting Fail

img_0087-1I’ve had many blogs over the years and one thing I always wanted was to be more mobile with my blogging.  I’m old and have terrible eyesight, so blogging on my phone has never been an option.  My eyes are too bad, my fingernails are too long, and my patience is too short to write posts on a dinky phone screen.

I’ve always been a PC kinda gal, so I am most comfortable writing that way.  A full-size keyboard is my friend, especially one with a great ‘feel.’  I learned to type on a manual typewriter (yep, I’m that old) and keyboards with no feel drive me batty.

However, over the last year or so, I’ve been using my iPad more and more.  Especially now that I am drawing on it, I tend to take it everywhere.  So I thought I would try out blogging on my iPad.  It couldn’t be that hard – even though I loathe the new ‘block’ editor (it’s not that new anymore, I suppose), I’ve been doing okay with it on the PC.

My thoughtful husband bought me a bluetooth keyboard that I could use with the iPad so that I could type with an actual keyboard rather than the on-screen one.  (I am active on some forums and let me tell you, trying to select text with the built-in keyboard is a freaking nightmare!)

I also had intentions of participating in Inktober (notice the past tense there) and had drawn up a mandala for the first prompt.  I drew it up, decided to post about it, and wrote up the post.  Simple, right?

As if.  :/

It took forever for the iOS WordPress app to load up my jpg image of the mandala.  I think it took about 5 tries before it finally loaded.  I finished up my post, proofed it, and published it.

I tried to, anyway.

After hitting publish, the app just sat there with the loading wheel spinning and spinning.  So I closed it and tried saving the post.

Nope.  Wouldn’t save either.

I tried publishing it again.  Again with the loading wheel.  I thought, well, I’ll just give it a few minutes and see if it worked.  I did a few chores around the house and came back.  Nope – still the spinning wheel.

Argh.

After about an hour of trying to post, I finally gave up.  I don’t know if WordPress hates Apple or Apple hates WordPress or they both hate me, but I was so frustrated I was ready to spit nails.  Oh, and during this whole process, I also discovered that posts I had saved to come back and read later in the app have also disappeared.

All of them.

Sigh.

So for now, I’ve resigned myself to drawing on the iPad and posting on the PC.  Not exactly what I wanted, but we can’t have everything, right?

Motivation Vacation

FailLife has been kicking my butt lately.  I’ve got a lot of things going on (I know, who doesn’t?) and I am not using my time effectively.

I’m not sure when I got lazy, but I just don’t seem to be as productive as I used to be.  10 years ago I got a lot more accomplished in a day than I do now.  I mean, yes, I’m 10 years older (and tireder!) but I still need to get things done.  My motivation has taken a vacation, though.

Another facet of my OCD is that I like routines.  Routines keep me busy and feeling balanced.  So on days that I don’t have a routine, or that I don’t really have to follow one, I find myself doing a lot of nothing.  Which can be nice, but then I’m left feeling guilty because I didn’t get all the things I wanted to done.

Most of the things I want to accomplish are personal goals, so I don’t have someone in my ear or over my shoulder making sure I meet deadlines.  With my willpower heading out for summer vacation early, my guilt is eating at me lately.

So I’m trying something new.  Go me!  I’ve long subscribed to the theory that you can do anything for 15 minutes.  Can’t find the motivation to (insert task here)?  Just do it 15 minutes at a time.  What I usually discover is that my dread of whatever the task is has made it seem overwhelming and hugely time-consuming, when in fact, it probably doesn’t take much more than the 15 minutes I’ve committed.

Like this blog post, for instance.  I wrote several posts and scheduled them ahead of time, so my self-imposed deadlines for writing more came and went without any new posts.  But once I sat down to write, it actually went pretty quickly.

I’m still trying to figure out this whole online business thing (and failing), but life is providing motivation.  Bills don’t pay themselves and money doesn’t grow on trees (more’s the pity), so I’m gonna have to buckle down and get busy.  Let’s hope my willpower returns from vacation soon!

Finding Images for Posts

Image Credit: Pixabay

I’ve written in multiple blogs in my life, and I’m always on the lookout for great places to find images that I can use without worrying about copyright issues. Pictures and graphics just add that something extra to your posts, but finding them can often be a headache, especially if you don’t want to subscribe to a paid service like Shutterstock or others like it.

And with the passage of Article 13, things may change. I’d like to say that it won’t affect me, since I live in the US, but the internet is worldwide, so it probably will.

Just googling (remember when that wasn’t a word?) ‘public domain images’ will net you some great results. However, I have two sites in particular that I like to use – Pixabay and Unsplash. Both of these sites have public domain images that you can use with or without modification in your posts. There are some exceptions (because of course there are), but it’s easy to find an image that works without having to worry about the copyright/attribution headaches. Or am I the only one who does that?

If you’re looking for a text graphic or a graph, there are sites like Canva and Stencil that let you design your own using their templates. Some have free options, some don’t. Some require you to sign up for an account and some don’t. I used to have an account with Canva, but after a long hiatus from blogging, signing up again and having yet another password to remember wasn’t at all appealing.

I’m sure there are other sites, but those are my two go-to sites when I don’t have images of my own to use.

What are your go-to sites for images or other blogging resources?