Thursday, July 25, 2013

Tips on Starting a New Blog

If you follow my Goodreads then you'll know that I've been reading Starting Your Career as a Professional Blogger by Jacqueline Bodnar. Now, I'm not a professional blogger and don't have any serious intentions of becoming one in the near future, but this book has brought some new, yet basic ideas to my attention.

 I recently started another blog on photography, A Splash of Photography, so these tips are really hitting home. I wish I'd learned them earlier, but I didn't, so I wanted to share these tips with you in case you find yourself in the same situation. Whether you're new to the blog-o-sphere or an old hand, these simple ideas are always helpful when creating new blogs or simply improving our current blogs.

Choosing a Blog Name:
-It's important to really like the name of your blog as it will become your "brand" and what people remember about your blog. Changing your blog name shouldn't be done lightly. Wait for a week or so if you're having trouble coming up with a name. It's better to wait a few extra days for the perfect name, then start right away and hate the name your choose.

-Let your name be vague enough to allow tons of topics to fit under it, so you don't run out of ideas that fit in your niche. For example, "Writing Historical Fiction" would be very specific and difficult to come up with new content after awhile, but "Writing Fiction" would allow you to branch off from just historical fiction, if you wanted to in the future.

-BUT don't let your name be so vague that it doesn't give a clue to what your content will be. Try to include keywords that goes with the content on your blog. For example, if you're writing about cooking, use the word "food" in the title.

-Less is more. The shorter the title, the better. Longer names are harder for people to remember and pass on to their friends.

-This last one is pretty obvious. Don't use long, complicated words in the title that are hard to spell for the same reason as the last

Creating the Design:
-The font needs to be readable. It's best to stick with fonts that are fairly average (Arial, Helvetica, Times, Calibri etc.) and a big enough size (12pts. is usually good) for the main body of the blog. It's okay to have nice, fancy fonts for titles, but when the whole blog is written in a font like French Script it can be hard to read. The knee-jerk reaction will be to navigate away from the blog if it's hard to read. 

-Make sure the design is compatible with other browsers. I use Google Chrome as my main internet browser, but I know many others like Internet Explorer, Firefox or Safari. It's important to check out your blog using other browsers just to make sure everything works. Ask friends and family to look at it if you don't have any other browsers installed on your computer. 

-This one is also a compatibility issue, like the last tip. Make sure you don't make your blog body too wide. When you're working off of a computer with a huge screen 
it's important to remember that not everyone will have a big screen. I do all my work off my 15.6 inch laptop, and I always know when someone's created a blog on a way bigger screen, because I have to scroll left and right on the webpage. Avoid making your reader scroll to the horizontally for your blog; it can be very annoying. Again, ask friends and family to check out the blog on their different computers and see how it shows up. I had an eye-opening moment when I looked at my blog on my Dad's desktop computer, maybe you'll have a similar revelation. 

-Make your colours compatible. If you're matching-colours-challenged consider using a site that does it for you like

-Remember colour pyschology, when you're choosing the blog's colour scheme. Red means love, lust and passion; Blue means calm, competent, etc. etc. blah blah blah. You've heard this before, I'm sure.  

-Avoid busy layouts. Don't have three sidebars or fifty widgets floating around the blog. If the reader is overwhelmed they are likely to leave your blog. 

Hopefully this post has reminded you of some of the blogging basics. If you'd like to read more posts on SOI about blogging, click here, and to read my two part post about gaining blog traffic click here and here. Now that I've shamelessly plugged a bunch of other posts on my blog, let's hear your thoughts. Have any tips for the first steps in creating a new blog?

What I'm reading: Starting Your Career as a Professional Blogger by Jacqueline Bodnar
What I'm listening to: The Fray's album Scars and Stories
What I'm watching: Covert Affairs 

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

To Journal or Not to Journal

Here's a picture from a baseball game we played with the kids.
For the past week, I've been away on a missions trip of sorts. A team of twenty people from my church went to Manitoulin Island to run a day-camp on a native reserve. Despite some of my opinions on short-term mission trips, I felt this one was truly beneficial. In case anyone was wondering, that's where I've disappeared to these past few weeks. However the blog was not completely forgotten, I had some interesting writer-y thoughts on journaling while I was away, so a blog post was in order.

 I was introduced to journaling at a very young age, thanks to books like these:

I really don't like reading novels in diary format now-a-days (except for the Beka Cooper books by Tamora Pierce), but as a kid I ate those babies up. I must of read all of those Dear Canada books and the Royal Diaries ones. I think that reading those books is what subconsciously got me thinking so highly about journaling. At least that is my Freudian-esque theory on the matter.

Anyways, back to the present.

While we were away I took up journaling. Last year when I went on this same trip, I didn't write anything down except some half-hearted, vague scribbles of memories. I looked over that page that I wrote last year a few weeks ago and found that I couldn't even remember what half the references were to. So this time I resolved to journal in detail.

However, my plan was met with a few obstacles. The main one being time. I learned very quickly that "journaling in detail" takes significant time set aside each day, not just a few minutes in the tent before going to sleep at night. If you've ever been away with twenty (or even two!) people for a week, I'm sure you know how distracting (in the best way possible, of course) their presence can be to any writing you may want to do.

Here's the real question of this post:

Is journaling really worth it?

In short, yes, I believe it is.

Here's my new-found policy on journaling.

I will not journal everyday. I have in the past, for a few weeks at a time, but I usually end up failing miserably. I feel good about my decision not to journal everyday, because to be honest, I don't want to remember every little detail of my life. Especially since I know that I would mostly be complaining about whatever irks me that day. It's usually better to just let minor annoyances pass by me as they come, instead of dredging them up every night in my journal. Also, it'd get kind of boring after awhile.

Dear Diary,
Today I had PB and J for breakfast. Then I went to work. No creepy customers today. Ate supper, came home and watched an episode of Suits. Speaking of which, I still need to finish watching Merlin before stuff on Pinterest spoils the last season for me. Read my book and went to bed. 
That's all for now,

BORING. I know that journaling is supposed to be deeper than that, but sometimes by brain can't handle being deep. Which is why I've adapted this system...

I will journal when important events come along in my life. This trip is a perfect example. Every time I do something or something of some consequence happens to me, I'll journal a little bit about it. For me, the purpose of journaling isn't really a therapeutic one; it's a record of my life and feelings for myself and eventually others in my life. A record to remind me of where I was and where I'm going.

What about you? Are you a journaler? Do you write everyday or just on occasion like me? Favourite book written in journal-style?

Also, just a quick plug for my new blog. You should go check it out: So far I've written about street photography and taking pictures of fireworks. Thanks for the support guys.

What I'm reading: Article Five by Kirsten Simmons
What I'm watching: Covert Affairs
What I'm listening to: King Charles
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