Putting the YOU in blogging.
A year ago this week I started blogging.
Before that, the idea of me blogging seemed practically other worldly, like getting stuck in an elevator with Ian Somerhalder.
Just another dreamy idea. Sigh.
But the more hours I set aside for writing, the more the business/public side of this job of writing became apparent. I’d read an author’s blog, and somewhere in the cramped corner of my mind I’d think: I might have to do this someday.
Still it seemed like something other people did. Not me.
But then the idea planted itself and then grew until it poked at my gray matter. It was time to do something, time to take another step.
Time to EVOLVE.
So after stumbling across Kristen Lamb’s WANA blog, and then reading her books, I decided it was time to experiment with this blogging thing. I had no idea what I was doing, but I followed her advice (note: all mistakes are my own) and started learning how to BUILD A PLATFORM.
And very quickly learned –and this is going to sound ridiculous coming from someone who writes a blog–that I don’t really like talking about myself.
Okay I will wait while you laugh.
So if that’s the case, then how do you decide what to blog about, especially when the blog’s brand is YOU?
PUTTING THE YOU IN BLOGGING . . . BLUGGING?
“You’ve got to recognize, there will never be another you. It has nothing to do with ego; it happens to be the truth. There will never be another person the same. There’ll never be another you.”
~ Mickey Rooney
So be you.
Okay, but what about boundaries? The internet knows none. But not me. Filter is like my middle name, and TMI is a VERY distant cousin. This means I’m naturally less inclined to tell you what color underwear I am wearing. Doesn’t mean I don’t like underwear, or don’t wear underwear or don’t read blogs about underwear. Underwear can by a VERY funny thing to blog about (don’t believe me? Check out the very lovely Jenny Hansen at More Cowbell). Now maybe one morning I will wake up to hear the Today Show revealing a study that says:
UNDERWEAR NOW PROVEN TO BE A MAJOR SOURCE OF INSPIRATION AND MOTIVATION AND THE SECRET TO LIFE’S HAPPINESS.
Well then I’m going to have to reconsider the whole underwear thing, because I love me some inspiration.
Yup, I learned I DO like to sprinkle in some inspiration when I blog, but still I started somewhere WAY SAFER. I started with bonnets.
This is like the opposite of underwear.
There’s no place like the prairie. That was my first post. I blogged about my favorite books from when I was a kid–the Little House on the Prairie series. It kind of summed up a big part of me as a kid, as a reader.
And that’s okay. You have to start somewhere.
BLOGGING ISN’T EASY.
And unfortunately I’ve learned that I’m a PANTSER when it comes to blogging. No, I’m not talking about underwear again, being a pantser just means that I spend most Sunday afternoons with my face scrunched up in front of my computer writing Monday’s post.
Because I don’t plot or plan my blog posts. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE the idea of outlines and planning ahead–and let me say I’ve planned and executed some amazing and detailed family road trips, but setting up a blogging calendar?
Um, so far hasn’t worked. At all.
I’ve got my idea stash, but every week the only idea that sticks is something current, something with at least a tiny emotional connection, so yea, forget planning ahead.
It’s one reason why I do a lot of quoting around here.
But from other people. Sure I’m a source of wisdom here at my house. I’m handing out life lessons on a daily basis. Why just this morning I got to impart this little gem:
Diarrhea will never be convenient.
With jewels like that, you see why I like to stick with Maya Angelou or Albert Einstein.
Besides that sort of quote might not translate my brand all that well on a Google search–which brings me to:
WHAT IS SEO?
Search Engine Optimization. If you blog, then you will know at least a little something about this.
Me? I’m still struggling to understand this—The Real Housewives franchise (and even the LOST finale) make more sense to me than this, but I’ve managed to think of SEO like this:
The more posts I write, the more information I have floating out there in search land–and eventually the repetition of me AS A BRAND should add up in the center.
Okay this is rudimentary and quite possibly wrong (and did I just call myself repetitious?), but I can pull up the searches that have directed people to my site and get:
Teenager washing dishes (a parent can dream)
Teen stockade (ditto)
These are searches that would be in the outer circles, because while I write stories about teens, it’s not quite right. Like these searches:
Cooking with Pooh and liking it
Patrick written in poop
Toilet cake ideas
Again, not exactly at the core of what my blog is about, but I kind of like it because these searches also hint that somewhere in this blog is something funny.
Funny is important to me.
“Comedy is defiance. It’s a snort of contempt in the face of fear and anxiety. And it’s the laughter that allows hope to creep back on the inhale.” ~Will Durst
Funny is like a balm to me. Sometimes life just sucks a big lemon. People that I love are dealing with divorce, recovering from disease, suffering with pain, or money problems. The world is filled with insane people. And of course I’ve got my own obstacles to figure out—from the unexpected (my health) to the expected (but not easy) evolution of parenting (learning to add more “let go” to the love equation). But it doesn’t even have to be BIG issues, it can be lots of tiny ones that kick up into a terrifying dust bunny of the mind.
So yea, funny is good. And sometimes you read a blog because you just want to know that someone else feels the same. When I see searches like these collecting in my virtual Venn diagram:
How to find the courage to try something new
Embrace your story
I feel happy. Because it’s positive and what I hope is a big part of the core of this blog.
Which brings me to another lesson I’ve learned:
BLOGGING IS A COMMUNITY EFFORT
Yes, there are weeks when I think—maybe I don’t want to do this anymore, maybe I don’t have something to say. Especially when all the hard things about life come to wrap themselves around me, poking at my heart, making me want to fold up instead of sharing.
Except I belong to an AMAZING community of writers and bloggers. Friends who randomly tweet things like this:
And then I’m reminded that what we do, what we say or even what we blog about MATTERS. Maybe we will never know the impact of our words in any given moment, but if it matters to you, it probably matters to someone else. Maybe it’s someone at home or all the way across the world in Australia.
I have been lucky to come across amazing writers and bloggers first through Rachael Harrie’s writer’s platform building campaign, and then Kristen Lamb’s WANA (we are not alone) community (click on her site link above or see #mywana on Twitter or click on the beautiful peacock graphic in my sidebar). It’s like your key to a writer’s Narnia.
I told myself I was going to do this for a year, an experiment of sorts, to not only see what I could do, but what could happen and also give myself the footing to be able to make the best decision for me when it comes to publishing.
I am learning as I go. I am remaining open and curious.
Which leads me to my favorite part: Question time!
I love when you take the time to read–and I love every comment and email. So if you are a blogger, it would be super cool if you share with us in the comments how you put YOU in your blog.
If you don’t blog, then tell us why you read blogs, or Facebook posts or tweets or watch YouTube videos. Do you do it for inspiration, motivation, laughter? I’d love to know.
HAVE A GREAT WEEK.
66 thoughts on “Putting the You in Blogging: What I’ve Learned So Far”
Lots of wisdom in this blog post, Coleen — and yours was the first Venn diagram I got on the first read.
How do I put “me” in my blog posts?
First, I’ll admit my initial attempt at blogging,um, failed. I was having fun … but I wasn’t connecting with readers. And, looking back, there were reasons for that.
So I closed up the blog and just waited. And thought and thought and thought.
As a writer being told to build a platform, I knew I was supposed to blog, but I was done with blogging because I “had” to.
And then, thanks to a night of insomnia, I found my blogging “why.”
I love quotes.
Other people commented whenever I posted quotes on my FB page.
So … why not blog about quotes?
I ran the idea past my agent — who told me that I needed to have insomnia more often! — and that’s how my blog “In Others’ Words” was born: What I like + What Others like + Insomnia.
The other thing I do is keep it short.
This is also me showing up in my blog.
I’m a journalist turned novelist — I write short.
Except in this comment today, obviously.
Sorry about that.
So glad you stuck at blogging. Love reading your posts!
I love your format Beth–it seems I start that way ie photos, quotes and then at some point I take a turn to Quirky-ville. Apparently there’s no hiding the real me. 🙂
Thanks for always cheering me on!
Congrats on your blogiversary Coleen!
Thank you Susie! I think of you as a blogger to emulate–fun and full of spirit! And your blog parties are the best 🙂
Awww! Thanks so much Coleen! You are the sweetest!
Oh my, I was not expecting that – I had no idea it was your blogoversary! Congratulations, Coleen 🙂 You read to me like someone who’s been blogging a lot longer than a year, and it was so lovely to hear your story…I also love that you’re still a flying by the seat of your pants (am assuming that’s where ‘pantser’ comes from) a year in. Cheers to you for another successful year ahead!
Thanks Alarna!! Yup, as much I love to write lists and check them off, I really am flying by the seat of my pants. 🙂
What a super cool, fun post for your blogoversary! Your words could’ve been my own. This blogging journey has been filled with so many different emotions, it’s hard to bring it all down to just a few. Like you, I’m a pantser. I try to plan ahead, but it’s usually whatever idea keeps poking my brain.
I’m looking forward to many more years of your blogging insanity. Oh, wait… is that my blogging insanity and your blogging wisdom? Yeah, I think that’s how it goes. 😉
Thank you Tameri!
We will either go insane together on this blogging journey or become the Dalai Lamas of the blogosphere! LOL
Colleen, this was a great read. Which means that I actually READ it, from start to finish, and liked it. I was inspired by it. I’m needing that last push to sit my butt down and start doing what you’ve done in the last year. So we might just have the same blog-iversary. Though now that I type that I feel like a teenager talking about their first week-aversary (Yes, I realize my spelling is, um, flexible here). 😉 Hmmm. Maybe I’ll write about that. Snort!
I made you feel like a teenager? Oh my, the blog is working. Ha ha.
I just looked at your site–you have cookies and books. Um, yay! Two perfect ingredients to kick start anything 🙂
Happy blogiversary, Coleen! How cool that you’re a total pantser about your posts. They’re amazing on a consistent basis and each post gives an insight on one aspect of you. Just what the WANA Mama proscribed.
I read your blog because it makes me to feel good. There is wisdom and quotes and sometimes awesome photos. And fun stories. I will always remember your grandma’s outhouse experience. I’m also enjoying the teenage reader interviews.
As for my own blog, I don’t think that I have given my readers deep personal glimpses into me. I share music that I enjoy and the choices are somewhat revealing. I also share links (including deep stuff and fun stuff) that show what I find relevant, important and funny. But I should dig deeper and talk about what things mean to me. Pantsing and writing most posts on the same day don’t make very stellar posts, though.
But I’ll keep learnin from you 🙂 Blog on.
Thank you Reetta!
I am in awe at the amount of work you put into your link posts, but you’re right it’s not always easy to go personal. I have second thoughts a lot. Especially today when I realized I not only mentioned underwear but um, poop and diarrhea.
Just crazy, right?
I love this post, Coleen! It’s been so much fun sharing in your blogging journey. I’ve always dug your posts, but have to say–you’ve evolved big time. I sense more YOU in every post. This one gave me chills, even before that touching shout out. Thank you! Please keep writing and blogging. We love ya!
Thanks August! It really is so much more fun sharing the journey–glad to get to share it with you too! 🙂
Happy Blogging Anniversary! I always look forward to reading your posts. This one had me LOL…nice diarrhea quote.. I may have to borrow that!
I watch youtube videos for inspiration (musical) and read FB posts just to stalk people. Totally kidding! I think it really is all about feeling a connection to the world and the people in it.
Thanks for the laugh! 😀
Thanks Em 😉
I am so on the verge of starting another blog- this time using my words instead of my photos- to impart not so much wisdom as observances and memories to share with my son. And with anyone else who might be interested. The reason I plan to embark on this new adventure is that my mother succumbed to Alzheimer’s 11 years ago and each day that passes I fear the same for me. Not that there are any symptoms, just fear. So I want my son to know and understand some things about me. Not exactly an exciting subject for a blog. But I’m hoping to make it so with humor. Very similar to what you exhibit here on your blog. So I was wondering…. Would you consider ghost writing for me? We don’t have to tell my son. And I’ll appear to be witty and charming and, well, maybe a little effeminate but we can fix that in the editing. PS, if it’s not evident. I love your “voice”, your writing, your blog!
But I love your format Paul! The story you added this week was a perfect pair to the photo. I don’t think you should change a thing. Although I get the fear–alzheimers, for lack of a better word, sucks. My great aunt has it–such an all-consuming disease.
But whatever you decide I will be happy to cheer you on in my effeminate and charming (can you be charming if you mention diarrhea?) way.
I skipped the diarrhea post so yeah, you can still be charming. But I would suggest not pushing it!
Congratulations on your anniversary. I chuckled through much of your blog as I could relate. Blogging has definitly taken over my life and this summer I had to put on the brakes and find some balance after 17 mos of blogging. So, I’m sorry I haven’t been around much. Needed to focus on my WIPs and attended a fabulous writing conference. The positive side is all of the wonderful bloggers I’ve met, like you!
Thanks Patricia. That writing conference you went to did sound so amazing! Sometimes it takes something like that to get us back in balance. Happy writing!
Great post, and happy blog-versary. I think I have the opposite problem – I reveal too much But then, I’m like that in person too. Hubs and friends are constantly saying: Sure you want to blog about that? Sure you want to share that? I tell it like it is – good or bad. I’ve always found your posts revealing without being too personal.
Thanks Lisa. I like your tell it like it is style! I haven’t forgotten your post about the sounds of spring outside your window! 🙂
Thanks! A week after that post, my next door neighbour came over to tell me how much she enjoyed reading my blog. *blushes* True story.
From being stuck in an elevator with Ian Somerhalder, to the very inspirational, ‘diarrhea is never convenient’ (please, please, please never let these two things happen at the same time!)…you’ve covered a lot of ground today, Coleen. Just as you have this past year…congratulations, by the way! That’s quite an accomplishment!
How do I put ‘me’ in my blogs? Hmm. I might not write about underwear (though I think I might have mentioned the standard ‘Mom’ warning…never wear yucky underwear…you never know when you might wind up in an emergency room), I’ve shared my septic tank nightmares, stories about my autistic son, my zoo, hypothyroidism… Probably WAY TOO MUCH information for readers, but that’s just me. 🙂
Thanks Kristy! I think you’ve got the YOU groove going on your blog too. 🙂
And I so agree–for the Ian thing to work, you must be feeling spry and healthy.
Congrats on your blogoversary! Where do I begin with this wonderful post? I guess I should tell you how very glad I am that you blog. When I come to your blog, I feel a warmth from you. I feel welcome here. That’s probably why I leave you rambling comments all the time. But you’re someone I feel I can “talk” to. Thank you for blogging. You make me laugh often, and you’ve brighten my days many a times.
You are a spectacular writer. 🙂
Ok Emily, you are going to make me cry. Thank you! It’s friends like you that make it easy to keep on blogging.
Congratulations on your first blogging birthday!
The thing about you is that you’re ‘real’ and always on my side, even when I’m sort of nuts. And if anyone’s blog’s a pantster blog it’s mine! But you’ve stuck by me through thick and thin and I love you for it. You even spoke to me when you were on the journey to your holiday!
I love this blog and I especially love your teenage interviews, they seriously rock!
So, Happy Birthday!
Well thank you Christine–and you’re not nuts, you’re fun and bubbly–a great friend to have in the blogosphere! 🙂
Keep writing! I want to keep reading!!!!
Thanks Ellie–and right back atcha!
Happy Blogoversary!! Blogging is hard- it seems to take conscious effort sometimes, but the relationships formed are definitely worth it!
Why thank you !
Congrats on the blogiversary, lovely lady. it’s funny to think you struggled with this, because I’ve always thought of you as a natural.
Thanks Louise–that’s high praise coming from you! Appreciate your support 🙂
Your blogs always make me smile. I planned mine so well I forgot to post today. 🙂 I’m still figuring out how much of me to put in mine – so for now I’ll keep blogging about stuff I love, mainly local history and books. ”Gratz on the blog anniversary!
Thanks Jennette–and I think your posts are unique and you’ve definitely put Dayton on the map for me. Just the other day i was watching something and they mentioned a place to go in Dayton—immediately I thought of you!!
You may have been blogging for only a year, but it feels like longer. I think you’ve totally got your sense of self on your blog with your subject matter and voice. It’s very natural, and it’s so fun to visit. Cheers!
Congrats, Coleen! Keep em coming! Have enjoyed reading and revisiting our childhood memories! Love the prairie picture! Too funny.
Thanks Margie! Yea, that prairie pic always cracks me up too. I’m going to have to dig for more old photos 🙂
Congrats on your blogoversary. Mine is rounding the bend, and like you, I’ve been doing a lot of soul-searching about what it really means.
I can totally relate to the difficulty you faced with blogging because it meant talking about yourself. I have to stop myself from thinking, who the heck would be interested in me??? They never were before. but I know that’s because I never bothered to find out before, I was too busy with my writing to look up, look around, and figure out if anyone really cared about what I had to say.
So, yes, blogging is a huge milestone. I think you’ve put together an amazing blog in a year’s time, truthfully. You definitely seem like you’ve come into your own. 🙂
Even though I thought blogging wasn’t for me, I’ve come to realize it actually “fits” me more than I think. Otherwise my mind gets pretty crowded 🙂
Looking forward to your blogiversary Kate!
Holy cowbell…TOILET CAKE IDEAS??!! Who searches something like that?
Love the post. I’m so glad you came into the WANA fold to entertain the rest of us. And most of all, I’m glad you’re enjoying yourself. That’s all a blogger can ask for (besides funny undies).
Thanks for the link! MUAH!!
Jenny if you google toilet cake you will be amazed–actual professional cakes in the shape of a toilet. Even more gross are the ones someone decided that needed to be an unflushed toilet.
And then they expect someone to eat it?
So happy to share the WANA sphere with you Jenny 🙂 Thanks!
Wonderful post, Coleen! Congratulations on making through a full year! Woohoo! I’m so glad I met you. I could stand to learn a lot from you. Come over here and teach me, will you? 😉 I seem to be taking a blogging break. Not necessarily by choice. Just can’t seem to make it all work while I have the kids 24/7. It’s all good. Like you, I can’t seem to build any buffer as far as posts go. So be it.
Blogging breaks are a necessity–and of course family comes first 🙂 I am down to one post a week and I’m totally fine with it. The days I posted became so consumed with social media that it well, consumed me. Posting at the beginning of the week helps me create some much needed distance during the rest of the week for my fiction writing.
I’m so glad we met too Debra–it’s great to share this crazy, but fun journey with you!
Fabulously funny as ever Coleen. You rock at blogging! Congrats on a year, I feel like I’ve been coming way longer than that. And all the best for many more blogging years ahead.
Thanks Catherine! So glad to know you and I look forward to sharing in our blogging fun together! 🙂
Love, love this post. I’ve been blogging for awhile but my purpose for the blog has kind of evolved from just writing for family and friends to using it as a platform. I am often at a loss on how to focus my blog. Focus, see that can be tough for me as my mind explodes into several directions at any given moment. I try to balance the serious with the funny, but I find usually land more toward serious and I’m not sure that’s the best “picture” of me. This blogging thing is tricky, just like nailing myself down to one genre! But I think you do a fantastic job, and I have to say I really love the picture of you and typewriter- priceless:)
Thanks Kara! I like the vibe I get from your blog. I don’t know if I’d say it’s serious, but I definitely get a sense of home, the importance of family and always some great photos! 🙂
And the typewriter photo was my husbands idea–that thing is HEAVY! 🙂
“Sometimes life just sucks a big lemon.” – I love that. I don’t know if that’s an original you line or if it’s common, but I think it’s awesome.
I struggle with the line between letting people get to know me and revealing too much. In person, I’m hugely private, and there are things I don’t feel are appropriate to discuss in public (or on a blog). I think we all have to set our lines. I think you do a great job with where you have your lines set.
I don’t know if it’s original, but it flowed out of my head pretty easily. Probably because it’s true–sometimes it just does.
Figuring out that balance is not easy, I still haven’t quite figured it out. Some days I cringe feeling like I said too much, but you guys are all so awesome that I breathe a sigh of relief. Like you, I’m sure I like to keep my comfort zone intact. 🙂 And as for your blog, I always love how you are able to pull out life and writing lessons from whatever subject you are discussing!
Coleen, I look forward to the email announcements that tell me you’ve got a new blog post up. You may be a pantser, but your posts rival those of the most meticulous planners. I appreciate the thoughtful quotes you choose, the funny photos, and your turn-lemons-into- lemonade message. I’ll never board a plane without thinking of your fear of flying, and I’ll never again throw on a denim jacket when already wearing blue jeans. Thank you for sharing the Dead Sea, bonnets, your family, blue hair, the outhouse, and the innards of your refrigerator. You may think you don’t share enough of yourself, but your posts ring with joy, humor, and love of family.
Pat, do you have a motivational email service I can subscribe to? 🙂
Thank you for your awesomely sweet words—so happy to know you and share this writing/blogging journey with you!
I enjoyed reading your story, Coleen. Happy Blogoversary! Your blog is one of my favorites =)
Thank you Ruth–that means a lot coming from you!! 🙂
Hi Colleen! Sorry I’m late to the party. Just hopped over here from Rhonda Hopkins’ Sunday Mash-Up. Great post. Congrats on your first year of blogging and finding YOU within the process. I’ve had moments, too, when I wondered if ny blog was accomplishing what I’d set out for it to do (I’m a WANA graduate, too!). One day, I was late posting my weekly Margarita Moment and my readers came out of the woodwork, emailing me and asking if everything was okay! I had no idea my coworkers looked forward to my mostly fun or Key West-related articles. Or extended family I hardly ever see, or friends in cyberspace who generally lurk but rarely comment. That was an eye-opener. So of course, I have to keep blogging. I love talking about ways to find a little fun and relaxation in the craziness that is our modern rat race.
How do I find myself in my blog, without the focus being on me? I write about childhood memories and ask people to share theirs. I write about my experience raising a special needs child, my love of travel to tropical getaways, and of course, the mighty margarita. Most readers can connect at some level to the trials of parenting or caring for a loved one with needs–whether a child, ill relative, or aging parent. Most people enjoy hearing and sharing travel stories, especially if photos of beautiful vistas are included. I try to make most of my posts read like a personalized travel guide. And who doesn’t appreciate a good cocktail, appetizer, or comfort food recipe?
I’m proud of the quality work I’ve put into Margarita Moments & Other Escapes, and its another side to my writing. I like the conversation that can ensue as a result. That’s when I truly know a post has succeeded.
Like yours has, here. 🙂
Thanks so much for coming by and sharing Jolyse! I have learned so much from bloggers like you–and I agree so much with your perspective, especially: “I love talking about ways to find a little fun and relaxation in the craziness that is our modern rat race.” It’s exactly what I love to read and what I hope to do here. 🙂
Hi, Coleen. Happy Blogoversary! I love your blog and it is one that I always visit and truly enjoy reading. I am a bit like you in that I was very uncomfortable putting too much of myself out there. I am coming up one one year as well and I definitely notice that as each month passes, I seem to lose more and more of my inhibitions. Speaking of panties or underwear, I recall actually leaving a comment on a blog post announcing to the world wide web that I seldom wear panties (unless of course, I am wearing a skirt and other necessary times). This is the exact definition of TMI. It was a comment on Cassie Mae’s blog-funny how that girl can bring out anything and everything from her readers.
I recently read Kristen Lamb’s book, Are You There Blog, It’s Me Writer and I loved it. She has an endearing and humorous personality which made it so easy to learn from her book and her mistakes (as she readily admits in the book). I have contemplated joining and participating in WANA (I can see the enormous benefits), but I have already spread myself so thin that I don’t want to get involved in another group until I feel confident that I have time to be a contributing member. I can tell from I read that you have put her ideas and advice to good use. You have done an excellent job of putting the “you” in blogging. Your voice is distinguishable and adds a lovely and humorous element to every post that you write.
Thanks for sharing your journey and the wisdom you have gained along the way. I enjoyed reading this as it is full of useful advice and with the unique spin that only you could add. I think that having such a fresh voice is best way to make your blog stand out and you have mastered that. I always look forward to reading your blog.
It’s so funny how easy it is to start getting comfortable and sharing! But I think I’ve also learned that if I feel at least a little uncomfortable with what I’ve put out there, then people end up relating. I’ve been learning the whole stepping out of my comfort zone thing 🙂
Thanks so much for coming by and saying such nice things. I look to your blog as a source of advice–I can’t believe you haven’t been doing it that long! You display a natural confidence! Thanks Melissa.
Happy One Year Blogoversary Colleen!!! Whenever I come to your blog I know I’m guaranteed to smile, which is why I love it so much! =)
Thank you Amanda! MUCH appreciated 🙂
Great post, Coleen! Thanks for the sweet shout out. 🙂
I feared that I’d seem too all-over-the-place with my blog when I started, but it’s all worked out–namely because of what you well articulated: Being ourselves resonates! I write posts based on my gut instincts, about whatever I’m compelled to write about. I’m so glad you started a blog. It, and you, ROCK.