Holy crapola you guys. I have been a blogger for one official year now. On Nov. 5, 2013, I hit “publish” on my very first ever blog post. Sooo much has changed since then.
In that first post, I wrote about how I have grown and learned so much in the past year than ever, and now one year later, I think I’ve learned even more since then! From a life checklist standpoint, November 2013-November 2014 was pretty quiet (I did start a new job, but that was the only major change), but I feel like a different person on the inside. And I credit this blog (and you readers) for a lot of that growth.
How have I grown? Well, I don’t know if I can pinpoint anything in particular, because humans are complex beings, but I can say that I feel a lot happier and so much more fulfilled. I was quite the pessimist for many years and got angry at everything for no good reason. I chalked it up to stresses from my previous job, but what I’ve realized since then is that I was choosing to be a Negative Nancy. I never believed in the power of positivity until I gave it a shot. Know why I gave it a shot? Ya’ll told me to. Countless posts throughout blogland finally convinced me to push aside the negativity and make happiness a priority. You guys were right; being a (mostly) positive person is soo much better.
I have also learned so much more about myself and my marriage, my family, friends and strangers just by tuning in to yall’s posts and hearing new perspectives. I did a lot of self-reflection and made being intentional and observant a priority. I actively try in relationships and commitments now. I put in an effort that otherwise was complacent for so many years.
Even though I’ve been a writer for awhile, I honestly never enjoyed it that much. Probably because I was writing what others wanted me to. But now, this blog has been the best outlet I never could have imagined. Coming here and just pouring out words from my own heart has been kind of life changing. Turns out, I really needed to use this as a way to release everything in my mind and forge new friendships because of it. This is the best hobby ever.
When I started this blog, my goal was to share all the wedding planning and marriage tips that I had floating around in my brain. Twelve months later, I did check off nearly all the posts and thoughts I had on those topics, and originally I thought once those were done, I’d be done. What else would I have to say? Well, as it turns out, lots.
In this year, I feel like I moved past that “newlywed” theme and turned into more of a lifestyle/random blogger. Not intentionally, but it just started happening and I rolled with it. I wrote what was on my mind. I still have a few wedding tips left, and lots of thoughts on marriage, but I’ve realized that I have other things I want to write about too. Ramblings about TV, food, my pets, my life.
What I didn’t anticipate was how much I would come to care about strangers…who I now consider friends. How freakin’ strange is blogging?! I’ve never met most of you, and yet I know details of your life, I care about you and I think about you. Likewise, you know details of my life! I mean, I just sit down and tell you the down and dirty of my life just because.
I never had any clue that I would make such meaningful friendships out of this. I hoped I’d connect with other women, but I didn’t know if I would, and I had no idea just how many people I would connect with. Is it sad that I have way more blog friends than I do real-life friends? Probably, but whatever.
I came here for me, but I’m staying because of you. All you beautiful, amazing, inspirational women who challenge me to be a better me, who support and encourage in a way that is truly touching. What an incredible community we have. I thank all of you from the bottom of my heart. Anyone who has ever emailed me, left a comment, read a post, shared a post, Tweeted me, thought of me: I love you. In a totally non-creepy way.
Well, I’m getting way more mushy than I intended, but that happens. I’m just blown away by this space. I really am. But I should stop rambling and get to the point of this post.
Let’s reminisce a bit. One year and 167 posts later, these are the most popular blog posts from the past year as determined by my site stats:
–40 Questions to Ask Your Spouse
–Couponing for Dummies
–I’m one of those skinny b*tches
–Wedding Day Confessions and Regrets
–Blogger Weekend in Grand Forks
–Refrigerator Oatmeal: A Recipe!
–What I learned the first year of marriage
My own personal fave posts, because they were so dang fun, are:
What I’ve Learned
There are so many rules to blogging. Like, countless lists out there telling bloggers what they should be doing. I’ve read many and have done my best to follow the rules. While some of them are important, I also realized they can make blogging a chore. And I never want my hobby to be so stressful that it becomes a chore. So what I would tell other bloggers, and what I have to remind myself, is that you have to do what feels right. Have fun with it. Don’t take it too seriously. Be genuine. That will prevail over any other checklist of things you should be doing.
That being said, a few tips are worthwhile, because they’re how you build community. Here are a few things I think are most important:
-Learn Twitter and use it often.
-Make “pinnable” graphics for your best posts.
-Join blogging groups.
-Go through a few free or cheap pre-made templates/themes before you commit to a custom design. That process will make you realize what design elements matter the most to you when you can’t change them.
-Email other bloggers and tell them how much you like their blog. It means the world.
-Reply to every comment on your own blog. Period. Even if you get behind, better late than never.
-Sponsor other bloggers and repeat sponsor the most amazing ones. (Shout if you want to know who I keep going back to.)
-Do loads of ad swaps. What can it hurt?
-Use Adproval to manage even just your swaps if you don’t have an actual sponsorship program. Ain’t nobody got time for manually adding and deleting ads multiple times throughout a month.
-Don’t pass up a guest post opportunity. And when you have one on another blog, respond to the comments yourself.
-If you’re posting someone else’s post on your blog, don’t title it “Guest Post.” Title it whatever the topic is like you would your own post. Write a genuine introduction to pull readers in and don’t just say “Today I have Susie Q posting. Take it away Susie.”
-Try new things. Some may flop but some won’t, and with great risk comes great reward. Ask a nearby blogger on a blate. Host a linkup. Start a series. Do a giveaway. Record a vlog.
-Have standards and be OK saying no. You can’t do everything that everyone emails you about asking for a product review or a free guest post. Make sure that you fully believe in it before saying yes. Otherwise it just takes away some integrity, and I can often tell which sponsored posts were genuine or not.
-Be vulnerable. As someone told me recently when I was seriously struggling with my first difficult post, the hardest posts are the most rewarding. Boy, is that true. I can’t believe I almost didn’t even post that recent one about being skinny out of fear of judgment. Open up, and though you should be ready for criticism, be even more ready for love and support.
-Balance is tough, but life has to come first. My husband is more important than my blog, and I sometimes have to force myself to keep that laptop shut so I can be a better wife to him.
-Don’t blog for the sake of filling a quota. Every post has to have value and be genuine. Even if it means you post once a week rather than every day. People can tell when you force it. That said, don’t be afraid to bounce between heavy/deep posts and fun light ones. Just like life has to have balance, so does a blog.
-Picmonkey is a lifesaver. Use it unless you’re one of those people who actually knows how to use Photoshop. I will never be that person. Picmonkey for the win over herre.
-Don’t offer paid sponsorships unless you can do it really well. I did it for a couple months and even with only two paid spots promising a few Tweets, I was overwhelmed. I have no clue how you others do it, but with a full-time job, a blog and a life, I couldn’t handle it. The small amount of money I made was so not worth the work that went into managing it. Ain’t no shame in sticking to just swaps.
What’s In the Future
Even though I started blogging in November, I did it for several months using the free WordPress. In March, I finally bit the bullet and went self-hosted and bought a domain. I went for the one-year option because I wasn’t sure where I’d be down the road with this whole blogging thing.
Now though, I feel like a new direction is needed to reflect how I’ve evolved. I’m sick of theme templates and am going to finally get a custom design. I am planning on a name/domain change. P.S. If anyone else has done both a new design AND a new name, I’d love your advice. Planning a rebrand is kind of scary, yo.
There may be content changes too. I hope to never ever do a filler post again (which I am guilty of in the past back when I tried to follow all the “rules” like post every day). I want to be intentional with my posts, and even though I have a rough goal to post at least 3 days a week, I want each one to have a purpose. Even if it’s a thoughtful post that I think will be helpful, or a ramble/rant about something random that I need to get off my chest. But sometimes life happens, things get busy and I may not make my 3 a week goal, and that is OK.
I want to be more vulnerable. I feel like I’ve been holding back to some extent. I was so afraid of not being liked or being offensive, and I wanted to please everyone. I avoided controversial topics. I chose words very carefully. I kept things mostly light. I didn’t share much of my personal life. I kept opinions to myself. While my blog was still me, it felt like only partly me, like something was still missing. The other side of me that my husband and friends see was not represented. I was scared of how you readers would see me, and I also was nervous that people that know me IRL would think of me differently (family and co-workers too). The silly, goofy, TMI, inappropriate me was gone. And that’s been weighing on me. This is my space, and I want to be true to me and open up more with less of a filter. So I still hope I never come across as offensive, and I’ll always try to be sensitive, but I need to stop caring about how I’m perceived. I hope you still stick around.