Recently I was nominated by the wonderfully bookish and insightful Nandini @ Pages That Rustle for the #MyFirstPostRevisited Blog Hop. (Thanks for nominating me, Nandini!) And having celebrated my eighth blogoversary last month, now seemed like a good time to look back on how I’ve grown as a blogger since the day I launched this site.
First things first, though. The #MyFirstPostRevisited Blog Hop was created by Sarah Brentyn @ Lemon Shark. And since every blog tag has rules, let’s go over them now:
The Rules for the #MyFirstPostRevisited Blog Hop
- No cheating. You must highlight your first post. Not your second post, not one you love… the first post only.
- Link back to the person who tagged you (thank them if you feel like it or, if not, curse them with a plague of ladybugs).
- Cut and paste your old post into a new post or reblog your own bad self. (Either way is fine, but NO editing.)
- Put the hashtag #MyFirstPostRevisited in your title.
- Tag five (5) other bloggers to take up this challenge.
- Notify your tags in the comment section of their blog (don’t just hope they notice a pingback somewhere in their spam).
- Feel free to cut and paste the badge to use in your post.
- Include “the rules” in your post.
- Completely silly rules that I’m making up as I type:
- Write your post while wolfing down your favorite dessert.
- Do 10 cartwheels after you hit “Publish.”
So, What Was My First Blog Post?
My first blog post, dated July 12th, 2009, was titled “Welcome – and Pardon the Dust!”:
Welcome to the official website and blog for creative writer and freelance music journalist Sara Letourneau!
This site is currently under construction as of July 12, 2009. Eventually I’ll add pages about myself, my poetry, my fantasy novels, and my CD reviews and interviews for the online music store Sonic Cathedral. So, please bookmark this site and come back again!
Thanks for stopping by!
Well… that was… not very interesting. (*lol*) Obviously I was in the middle of building my blog when I published that post. But I can understand the mentality I must have had. If anyone visited the blog while it was under construction, this first post was my way of saying, “Hi! I’ll have more to share soon!”
Reading that first blog post also made me curious about my second one. So I checked, and the second post (dated July 30, 2009) was “CD Review: Stream of Passion – “The Flame Within.” In fact, my first two months’ worth of blog posts were links to my newest CD reviews at Sonic Cathedral and brief announcements of blog / website updates. I didn’t post anything bookish or writing-related until October 2009; and after that, my posts were a mix of CD review and interview links, other music I was listening to at the time, book reviews, and updates on the novel I was working on then (which, if long-time readers are curious, was not The Keeper’s Curse, but the WIP before it).
One Similarity Between My Music Journalism Days and My Current Writing Pursuits
As I looked through my oldest blog posts, my first thought was, “Sonic Cathedral… that seems like a lifetime ago.” And it is, in some ways.
I spent over 5 1/2 years (August 2008 through April 2014) as a staff writer for Sonic Cathedral, covering female-fronted rock and metal bands through CD reviews, interviews, and occasional concert reports. During that time, music – not creative writing – was my life. When I wasn’t writing about the bands or genres I covered, I was attending shows, following news and other updates on Facebook and various websites, and chatting about it with my ever-expanding “musical social circle.” I was immersed in it, blissfully and enthusiastically so. Anything else I was writing then was considered a “side project.”
Then in mid-2013, when I was writing the first draft of TKC and after my first published poems had appeared in literary journals, my interests began to shift. Writing fantasy and poetry, and learning everything I could about either genre, energized and inspired me… while writing anything for Sonic Cathedral felt like homework. And so I left the webzine in 2014 to focus on creative writing.
So what am I doing now, 3 years later? I’m drafting yet another novel. I’m writing poetry again after a 4-year break. I’m a columnist for DIY MFA and Writers Helping Writers. I’ve attended writing workshops, literary conferences in Massachusetts and NYC, and even a writing retreat in Iceland. I’m reading more books than I used to, and with more purpose and joy. Most of the blogs and social media I follow are geared toward writing, reading, or speculative fiction. And though I still listen to much of the same music I listened to during my SC days, I don’t follow it as closely as I used to.
In other words, I’m as immersed (if not more so) in my creative writing pursuits as I once was in music journalism. Then again, when you’re passionate about something, whether it’s your full-time focus or something you’re fitting in part-time, you naturally gravitate toward people and activities that further fuel that passion and pull you in deeper.
Five Things I’ve Learned About Blogging Since My First Post
So what have I learned in the 8 years I’ve been blogging? Here are five of the most notable lessons so far, as well as how each one has helped me grow as a blogger and writer.
1. Having a Niche Allows You to Stay Focused and Attract the Right Audience
When I first started blogging (and for several years afterward), I wanted to pursue every blog post idea I could. Book reviews, CD reviews, writing tips, updates on writing projects, “field trip” reports on interested events or places I visited – to me, they were all adorable Pokémon, and I wanted to catch ALL of them.
(Sorry. Couldn’t help myself. *wink*)
That ambition has its ups and downs, though. Having so many ideas meant that I was inspired and would stay busy for a while. But it also meant that the blog had no “niche,” or no central focus. (In fact, I’d never heard of the term “blogging niche” until 2 or 3 years ago.) So for my first couple years here, I was sort of throwing various colored globs of mud on the wall, paying little attention to what was sticking and what wasn’t. And I probably confused a lot of visitors along the way.
Today, I understand the value of a blogging niche. It encourages you to be focused, purposeful, and selective with your topics. That way, when visitors check out your site, they’ll accurately realize your role and interests and decide whether they’ll enjoy or benefit from following you. And, you’ll be willing to let go of some of those cute Pokémon – er, ideas – because they no longer have a place in your overall vision. Or, you can limit them to a periodic blog series (e.g., my monthly What’s Making Me Happy posts, where I highlight five sources of joy from the past month that aren’t related to books or writing).
2. It’s Better to Honor Your Limits and Adapt Over Time Than to Overcommit Yourself
One of my worst habits, then and now, is spreading myself too thin. Not only did I have so many blog post ideas, but I also hated letting any of them go or turning down worthwhile opportunities. This led to another downside of being overly ambitious with blogging: You don’t have time to pursue everything. And if you don’t honor your limits or foresee necessary changes to make, you risk burning yourself out.
I’ve reached that point twice with blogging – in just the past year alone. The first time was last September, when I was trying to maintain a three-days-per-week posting schedule on top of novel revisions, my day job, and traveling to Cape Cod every other weekend to visit my parents and eventually exhausted myself. (Admittedly, this also happened after attending a writing conference and being a bridesmaid in a friend’s wedding.) The second time was this past February, in response to changes to my daily routine and personal life – and the resulting anxiety I needed to address.
In both cases, I realized I couldn’t keep up with the blogging schedule I’d created. It was tough, because I enjoy blogging and connecting with people here. (Plus, everyone wants more time for the things they enjoy, right?) But each time, it reminded me to be more selective about what I post by prioritizing, decreasing my schedule, and recognizing when my “personal energy tank” was running low.
Today, when I sit down to blog, I take care of my DIY MFA or Writers Helping Writers deadlines first. If there’s time leftover, then I work something for this site. Sometimes that means posting quotes for both Weekly Writers Wisdom and Thursday Thoughtfulness in one week, or postponing a post until it’s ready. And when I’m on the Cape, I’m often too busy to respond to comments or visit friends’ sites. But that’s OK. At this point in my life, I need to be more strategic and flexible with my blogging… and I’ve finally begun to feel more relaxed about it as a result.
3. Quality Matters More Than Quantity
My blog posts lean toward the longer side. It’s partly because the topics I enjoy writing about require an in-depth approach to result in a satisfying article. But it’s also because I tend to be detailed (maybe too detailed at times) in my writing. Either way, longer articles take more time to write, which impacts one’s blogging schedule as much as other limitations and responsibilities. The only times I write short blog posts are for “news updates” or Weekly Writers Wisdom / Thursday Thoughtfulness quotes, or (to be frank) if I half-ass the post.
I’d rather not do the latter. I take a great deal of pride in my writing, and the idea of not giving an article the time and attention it deserves makes me cringe. So, I focus on quality instead of quantity, ensuring each article is as well-written, engaging, or informative as it can be before I consider it done. And judging from the comments, the number of returning visitors, and the popularity of certain blog posts here, readers seem to agree with this philosophy, too.
4. The Right Social Media for You Can Help with Publicizing Your Posts
For my first few years of blogging, the only social media I used was Facebook. At first it was a convenient place for sharing posts. But over time, the links drew less traffic, probably because most of my Facebook friends are family and real-life friends or acquaintances – people who, despite their personal connection to me, might not have been interested in what I was blogging about. Eventually I branched out to Twitter in February 2014, and Goodreads and Pinterest not too long after.
So, guess which social media has been most helpful in increasing this site’s traffic? Yup. To me, Twitter is an easier place for writers to follow and support one another, and less focused and time-consuming than Facebook. Plus, the writing community on Twitter is incredibly generous, frequently sharing or retweeting links to articles they like. In fact, most of the Twitter referrals to this site have been from other Tweeters, not myself. (If you’re curious, Pinterest has been my second most successful social media for publicizing blog posts.)
Other bloggers may have a different “recipe” that works for them. The point is, social media really can help increase traffic to your blog. But first, it’s important to figure out which social media sites best fit your needs, schedule, and personal tastes. It may require time and “trial and error,” but the rewards you’ll reap when you find what works for you will be worth it.
What’s weird, though, is that as I’m writing this post, I’m on an extended break from most social media. I’ll explain why and how this happened in next week’s post.
5. Be Yourself, Be Genuinely Interested in Others, and Be Pleasantly Surprised
I couldn’t single out one of these last three lessons to share, because they’re all important. So I’ll summarize them briefly:
Your blog should reflect you. After all, it’s your corner of the Internet. So once you’ve decided on your niche, make sure you feel at home with the rest of your blog, from the topics you discuss to the color scheme and other aesthetics. Even your blogging “voice” should reflect who you are, down to your unique ways of expressing excitement, frustration, and other emotions.
Blogging is a great way of cultivating relationships with like-minded people. I’ve met so many writers, book bloggers (especially SF&F readers), and other wonderful creatives from all over the world. Some live only a couple states away; others, as far as the UK, India, and Japan. And while I can’t recall how I met them all, I know it must have been a combination of responding to comments on my blog posts and visiting other people’s sites. Do the same in your blogging ventures, and you’ll encourage people to return to your site while making new friends.
Allow yourself to be pleasantly surprised by readers’ responses. Sometimes I have trouble gauging how readers might receive an upcoming post. I always hope they’ll like it, but it’s easier for me to focus on what interests or fascinates me within my niche. And for the most part, I’ve been blown away by the overall response. I could go on about which posts I never expected to be so popular, which ones are still going strong statistically, and so on. But more than statistics, I appreciate the discussions that certain posts have encouraged, or comments such as how one bit of advice or a Thursday Thoughtfulness quote was “exactly what I needed right now.” This kind of feedback does more than warm my heart – it also motivates me to keep writing and blogging.
My Nominees for the #MyFirstPostRevisited Blog Hop
Here are my nominees for the #MyFirstPostRevisited Blog Hop. As always, don’t feel obligated to accept the challenge, or to do the in-depth look-back that I did. (Check out Nandini’s post here to see how #MyFirstPostRevisited is typically done.) But if you’re interested in “tagging along,” I’d love to see what you dig up. Just link back to this blog post so I can read yours once it’s live. 😉
- Jessica @elDimensional
- Mei-Mei @ Jedi By Knight
- Sarah Zama @ The Old Shelter
- Zezee @ Zezee With Books
- YOU – in other words, anyone else who wants to revisit their first blog post
What are some of the lessons you’ve learned during your time as a blogger? How have you changed as a writer since your Day 1?