About The Green Study: Notes on Blogging

canstockphoto4839212Four years ago this week, I registered a blog with WordPress. With 310 posts and 13,000+ subscribers later, I thought I would do a little celebratory dance in the form of blog talk. I’ve received some emails from new bloggers asking for advice.

I don’t know if I’m the best person for these inquiries, because my advice would involve something like “slow and steady wins the race, if this were a race, which it isn’t, although it would be the most boring race ever, but it would be funny if there were blogger jockeys and a virtual betting window. What was the question again?”

That being said, I’m not a blogging expert. I haven’t made money this way, secured a publishing contract or created a world peace movement. What I have done is created a writing habit, learned to write outside my comfort zone, discovered my voice, and met a community of readers and writers who make great conversation. I’ve even made a friend or two.

I could write about blogging until I’m blue in the face and absolutely none of it might be relevant to your goals. So I write this less as advice and more as an example. This is what one blogger does.

These are the basic guidelines that I tend to follow for my blog:

#1   It is always about the writing.

This is not a niche-based blog, so I write about whatever hits me in the moment.  I aim to write well, regardless of subject matter. It doesn’t always turn out that way. Sometimes I’ll smack my head months later for typos or a turn of phrase that was really awful.

Since this is a personal essay blog, I try to write from a place of circumspection. I’ve talked about mental health, family dysfunction and a lot of personal issues, but I tend to write about those things after I’ve worked through them, so that whatever I’ve learned and whatever resources I’ve found, can add value to the conversation.

#2   The Mechanics of The Green Study

canstockphoto5910485Readability. Due to my old lady eyesight, I avoid using fancy fonts or complicated backgrounds. I use regular paragraph breaks, as well as capitalization and punctuation. Regardless of one’s view of grammar, it serves the purpose of cuing readers, as well as establishing the rhythm and flow of writing.

Length. I try to stay within a range of 500-1200 words, preferably around the 800 word range. For me, it’s long enough to develop an idea without becoming pedantic and repetitive.

Images. I use 2-5 images per post. I purchase images on Can Stock Photo, so I don’t have to spend hours searching for images or worrying about attribution, but there are some free resources out there as well. I do not use moving GIFs. The constant looping while I’m trying to read is very distracting. On occasion, I’ll use music videos from YouTube.

Tagging and Categories. I’m not particularly creative about tags or categories. I do some basic tags and category assignments for every post, but I’m not interested in doing much more than that.

Scheduling. Um. Nope. Can’t do it. I do try to post regularly, but this isn’t an actual job. Again, it depends on what your goals are – some people find self-imposed deadlines to be useful.

#3   Community

canstockphoto6433663Comments. My favorite thing about this blog now, is the relatively active community of commenters who don’t just parrot or fawn or do any other animal imitations, but instead add to the conversation. I like it when I see conversations start up between commenters.

I do my best to answer every comment. I have missed a few on occasion. While I do not actively moderate comments, I generally don’t respond to comments that are just self-promotion (Hey- look at my blog) or religious proselytizing (which I find presumptuous).

Contests and Promoting Other Blogs. In years past, I’ve done 3 or 4 contests and met some lovely bloggers this way. I’ll likely do more contests, but time management is always a primary concern, especially as readership grows. Also, it was really, really expensive to send The Green Study coffee mug to Australia in the last contest I had.

I used to do a lot more promotion of other blogs, but last year was a tough year personally, so there were more inward-looking posts. One of my goals is to get back to promoting other blogs. There’s so many to look at, that if you land on one you really enjoy, it’s worth telling others about it.

canstockphoto1691967Blogging Awards and Blogrolls. When you first start blogging and someone sends you an award, you feel like you’re walking on the red carpet. It takes a few more, with long lists of requirements to realize that someone has just sent you homework. I think they are worth doing early on, if only to propel you forward and make new connections, but it is dependent on your goals. Mine have changed to focus more on writing. While I appreciate and thank the senders for kindly thinking of me, I no longer participate in the interest of time.

When I started, blogrolls were a thing. Maybe they still are. My one attempt at a blogroll was awkward and frustrating, because it must be actively monitored and updated. It feels odd, like you’re trying to set up a special club. I tend to find blogs through the comments or links in others’ blogs, so I dumped my blogroll.

Social Media. Anyone who has read this blog regularly knows that I’ve eschewed any social media format beyond blogging. If I ever get a book published, I will have to eat my words, 140 characters at time, because I’m sure that is an expectation. However, many people use Facebook and Twitter to promote their blog posts. So I’ve heard.

Blogging Breaks. I have taken regularly blogging breaks over the years. There were a few times when I considered quitting and the breaks reminded me of what I liked about blogging. If I were going to be gone for more than a week or two, I notified readers with a simple statement at the top of my most recent post. Even if no one misses you, it feels respectful towards one’s readership.

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There are a lot of blogging resources out there. I enjoy the WordPress Daily Post. Outlier Babe just updated an entertaining post on blogging tips. If I were to come up with any sage advice of my own, it is this: Find what works for you, evaluate your blogging goals on a regular basis and really, just try to enjoy yourself.

canstockphoto7404562

Thank you to the readers who have joined the conversation in the last week and to the readers over the years who have willingly spent time here reading and commenting.

Please feel free to add your own blogging experience in the comment section – there’s a lot of new bloggers here!

 

117 Comments on “About The Green Study: Notes on Blogging

  1. I love #1. It really is all about the writing, as that is the reason I even considered starting a blog. Otherwise, I would have simply stuck with Facebook 😉 Commenting is also another positive to writing here. If there is one thing a blogger can do to truly interact with the blogging community, it is this. I look forward to hearing from regular commenters and having a “conversation.”

    Liked by 1 person

    • The conversations are the best. To me, this is a better indicator of blog engagement than traffic or likes. I try not to be too pompous and say it is ALL about the writing, because if that were the case, I could just journal my days away privately. The feedback and conversation that follows is what spurs me forward.

      Liked by 3 people

  2. This was a great re-affirmation of why most of us bloggers do what we do. While I would like to monetize my blog someday, I’m not there yet, and I find plenty to enjoy about the process right now…at this level. Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks! That whole monetization thing eludes me. There always seem to be more blogs selling that idea than there are actual blogs making decent money. I think I’ve always known that I’d never go that route with my blog – not out of some point of integrity, but I’ve never found a surer way to ruin a hobby than trying to make someone pay for it.

      Writing offline is a different story, though. Ooh, that was an awful pun.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. “I generally don’t respond to […] religious proselytizing (which I find presumptuous).”

    “Well then,” sayeth My Dark Lord, his green eyes flashing. 🙂

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  4. Ive only been joining your readership for the past few weeks and regret that it hasn’t been longer. Your blog is entertaining but as you state it’s the comments and your responses that are the most amusing. It is refreshing to be a part of the ongoing conversations- thank you for the opportunity!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks for the kind words about the blog and comments. It’s been a weird few weeks, just trying to come back after taking December off. My writing feels a little uneven, but I’m glad that you’ve enjoyed it. Thanks for reading and commenting!

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  5. Congrats, Michelle, on your blogging success. Good advice, too. I think we have a lot in common when it comes to our blogging outlook. I always care about my writing, no matter what the subject is, have no schedule and feel my community is the best thing of all.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Great points! I just did a post about Blogging ‘Mistakes’ – most having to do with readability. Of course, some ‘mistakes’ work just fine for some bloggers!

    I recently started a Facebook Page for my blog. I use the page to post all sorts of things I haven’t got time to blog about, but I find interesting – kind of like a scrapbook of ideas for the future. You can use the Facebook Widget so your Facebook Page postings show up on your WordPress sidebar.

    I’m also paying more attention to tags and categories. The WordPress Reader (Lists Manage – Explore Topics) – gives you a big tag cloud plus a search box for tags. If you click on any of the tags, you will see all the posts WordPress bloggers have posted for that tag.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Happy Anniversary /Birthday! !!! Your thoughts and advice on blogging are a huge help to me. I beginning to think I just was going in the right direction. You just gave me focus.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Lyle for sharing the link to that post. Your blog is a great example of combining blogging with photography – it really is a beautiful blog and the pictures are fantastic. As plodding goes, you’re doing a great job.

      I remember that I had read initially that the average lifespan of a blog was something like 2 years, so I’m grateful to still be here at the 4 year mark. Thanks for the good wishes!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I agree with your comments about blogrolls. For me it was just too static or too much work to keep fresh. Thanks to blogging101 and poking around in wordpress a bit more, I discovered a widget that allows you to show the last x number or blog posts that you “liked”. This allows me to share my favorite bloggers (like you!) with my followers in a very fresh, dynamic way.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Initially, it sounded like a tit-for-tat scenario with people agreeing to be on each others’ blogrolls. I never liked to do that, so I just put together a list of blogs I regularly read. Then some of them disappeared and I had to constantly keep grooming that list. It was too time-consuming.

      I use that function you mention as well, showing the last 5 posts that I liked. That’s a useful tool for showcasing other people’s blogs.

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  9. This was very helpful ! I’m a new blogger. I made a post about today being my one month mark! I’m committed to a short daily blog for 6 weeks. I will need encouragement to continue! This helped!!! Thank you!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I don’t know what a blog roll is. Can I eat it? If not, I’m probably not that interested. The blogging world is somewhat mysterious when you start out. I’ve been blogging regularly for a year now and still can’t understand the networking aspect. Like you, I just want to write well and try to stay relevant. It’s a large community and represents many different kinds of writers. I appreciate your thoughts on how to create a successful blog without focusing on building a following. I don’t go to church, but if I did I would want to hear important and uplifting words, and not listen to constant nagging about building membership up. So that is how I feel about blogging. Thank you for sharing your experience with some of us newer, lesser bloggers Michelle.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Newer, never lesser! A blogroll is simply a list of blogs you follow. It used to be a thing to ask other bloggers if you could add them to your blogroll in exchange to being added to theirs. Like an uncomfortable networking event where people awkwardly offer up their business cards.

      I never read other people’s blogrolls because most of them were lists with no description of the blog. It just didn’t pique my interest and I figured people would feel the same about mine. Even having done this for 4 years, there are a lot of functions and features of blogging that I’ve not used.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Pingback: About The Green Study: Notes on Blogging | Docta Fiz

  12. Newbie here too. I just started my blog about two weeks ago and among some of the other important things that have prompted me to start a blog is #3 on your list, Community. The peeps I already share social media posts with are all so enthused and eager to be the best representations of themselves as possible and we to share with like-minded : ) I’m really hoping to give them a platform to do so.
    I found your whole post helpful, thank you!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Great – I’m glad you found something useful here. It took me awhile to catch on to the community aspect of things. It’s been a bit of a sanity-saver since I started working at home, which can be an isolating business. Good luck with your blogging adventure!

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      • yes Michelle, I can relate to the “isolating” as I am newly running two businesses from home. But at the same time, loving it as I’m sure you do too. thanks again

        Liked by 1 person

  13. I’m with Ilona, what is a blog roll? Okay, I’m just a newborn in this blogging world so I found your advice, very helpful!

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    • It’s just a list of blogs you follow and are promoting. It takes a lot of work to maintain and keep current, because blogs frequently disappear.

      I’m glad that you found something of use here. Good luck to you!

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  14. Interesting post, thank you! I did not know half of those things existed. Between work and getting a Master’s Degree in Counseling, I have very little precious time to blog. I can only hope that slow and steady wins the race and that over time my blog will be read by those who find it helpful or at least entertaining.

    Liked by 2 people

  15. Thank you, Michelle! I admire your humility and honesty. Your writing appeals to so many because you are real. I feel as though we could have the conversation of your posts over coffee in your kitchen or mine. It’s so encouraging that you have done this for so long! I only launched my blog last April, and it feels at the same time forever ago and yesterday (like much of life feels, as I get older…). Thank you for being here to process life together, it’s a privilege! 😊

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thank YOU, Catherine. I think the blogging community is a better place for having your blog in it. I have been terrible with keeping up with my blog reading, but I never come away from reading one of your posts without a desire to be a better, kinder person.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Wow, Michelle, you have made my night, what a compliment! I will keep this post of yours for a while, as the advice is both practical and wise. I feel so lucky to know such thoughtful, articulate writers to share with and learn from. Write on!! 😄

        Liked by 1 person

  16. Hi michelle, just came across your post and instantly i knew i had to follow it.IN the recent past i tried to start blogging but couldnt because of the less interaction with people. But after reading your post i feel positive to begin writing again. After all its all about writing. Thanks for the tips and suggestions.It was if great help!

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    • That is the tough part about beginning – learning to write into a void. I spent my first 8 months or so like that. This is where focusing on the writing is useful. Eventually, once your readership grows, remember that people will be going back to your old posts to read them. They may not be read right away, but they will someday. Best wishes to you!

      Liked by 2 people

  17. Thank you! For me, I wanted to connect with other like-minded people. I want share my story and my never ending curiosity about the human condition. My quest for knowledge about concepts like happiness, courage, integrity and boundaries. My goal is to find enough like-minded people where could hold in-person seminars and connect people in person. So, in a way my goal to build my own community 😌. Sending gratitude❤️

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  18. Gosh, Michelle. Until I read this, I had no idea how alike we are as bloggers: Practically twins! You have blogged for four years and have 13,000 followers. I have blogged for five years and am only 12,750 followers away! You try not to exceed a length of 1200 words. Me, too! It’s now only very rarely that my comments go over that limit.
    🙄
    Thank you very much for the mention of and link to my WP Tips page.

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    • Blogging seems to be an uneven path and no single blogger travels the same way. Thank goodness it’s not an actual contest.

      Glad to mention your tips post, as it was helpful to me and I’m sure will be to others as well.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I am just as grateful for every one of the few who read my blog as I’m sure you are for your many. Considering that I write never-ending posts on unpredictable topics, post sporadically, and read other blogs rarely–except for my “core few” I started with, like you–I am blessed to have any readers. I am doubly-blessed to have intelligent, interesting, often witty, and always kind readers. The WordPress community seems bursting with these. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  19. I have just started writing my blog and found this very insightful and helpful. I am wanting to explore ideas and personal experiences like yourself so thank you for sharing helpful hints and tips.

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  20. I’m with you, Michelle…A true blog (IMHO) is ***not*** a facebook entry, or tweet. In fact, 2 years ago, I hesitated to begin my blog because of the basic shallowness of the digital age (is that ‘old-lady’ talk?!)

    Right now, I’m needing to take a blog break and have been struggling with just how to ‘announce’ this. Your reminder that it’s only considerate to do so is helping me to not just close my eyes and pretend like the post will write itself! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    • Old-lady talk is welcome here. I don’t think the digital age is the harbinger of shallowness. People seem to manage that quite well on their own.

      I’ve taken 6-8 breaks over the last four years and it’s really a minor thing. I should have mentioned that the other reason I let people know I’m gone and when I’ll return, is that bloggers often disappear with no notice. Enjoy your break!

      Liked by 1 person

  21. Thank you for sharing. I am relatively new – only 8 months. I am enjoying myself; not too worried about the traffic. It is like a record of my thoughts; maybe some day my kids will find something they were looking for.

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  22. Thanks for sharing Michelle, I think it reconfirms what many of us bloggers are doing even without thinking about it. I feel it gives you a voice and an outlet to strengthen your writing skills. It also provides me with an outlet to provide my learnings in life in general and hopefully provide learnings and or entertainment to those who read them. I enjoy reading your blog and seeing other people’s different styles of writing. Please continue to share your thoughts!

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    • Thank you! I remember starting out reading all those advice articles on blogging and being very, very confused. As you say, you end up with your own rhythm and guidelines without being particularly intentional about it. Best wishes to you as you continue your blogging journey!

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  23. Thanks for this Michelle. I have just started my blog after many years of self doubt and fear. It is nice to receive some great advice so thank you. I too am concentrating on the WRITING and establishing a habit of writing on random topics that affect me personally.

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    • I like reading you because it’s direct and straight from the heart. I’m blogging too and agree that if you are an aspirational writer, or one who likes to express eloquently through the written word, then a blog helps discipline you to write regularly and improve each time you do so. It also opens up your mind to opportunities that might be material for a blog. You are more aware of your own thoughts and what else is going on around you. Thanks much for sharing.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thank you. I think writing regularly does help to cultivate awareness. Or, as in my case, gives me someplace to put all the writing I do in my head when I do observe things. But blogging is definitely about the habit and it has helped me tremendously. Thank you for reading and commenting!

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  24. This was full of some helpful reminders. (And also things I don’t know about. What is a blogroll? It sounds delicious). A writer friend of mine pointed out to me recently that a blog is social and that I need to comment on other people’s work, but it feels embarrassing, like being told by your mom to go make friends with some kid on the slide. I’m trying. But I’m even antisocial in my social media, so it’s an uphill battle. Love your blog. Xo

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    • I laughed about the phrase “antisocial in my social media”. Me too! I think one of the problems of being an introverted writer is that I can get too far down in my own navel. Reading and interacting with other bloggers forces me to look around more, take a breather and get some perspective. Thanks for sharing yours!

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  25. Crap. Whenever I forget to check my email for a day or two, you post something fun and there are *92* comments by the time I get here. Did I say Crap already? Because I love how funny and smart your readers are and the conversations that get going–but 92!

    Enough whingeing. I’m glad you didn’t quit.

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    • The joint has picked up quite a bit lately, but blogging posts do tend to be busy. Don’t worry, I’ll be writing something inane and pointless soon. You’ll be able to get in on the ground floor, no problem!

      Liked by 1 person

  26. I love your thoughts on blogs that can’t be pigeonholed into a particular theme or topic. And about scheduling (or lack thereof). I have those same issues and I’m glad to hear from someone else who has them too and is successful on her own terms.

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    • I like the idea of being successful on one’s own terms. It takes awhile to figure out what those terms are, but it’s like running – you have to give yourself time to warm up and settle into a comfortable pace.

      Liked by 1 person

  27. I agree about the blog awards. They were fun and inspiring and helpful to begin with, but later on, they felt like WORK.

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      • I agree. It takes a lot of organization, too, because if you get a lot of them you want to spread the “wealth” around, and you have to do more than chat on blogs “by the seat of the pants” as I do.

        Liked by 1 person

  28. Hey 🙂 I’m a new blogger (I literally just published my first post yesterday) and this really helped. Particularly the writing about whatever hits you ‘in the moment’ part of it as I find that when people write like this, it always ends up sounding a lot more genuine and inspirational. Thank you for the advice! x

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    • I’ve written before that schedules can really produce some poor writing for me. I don’t feel the same about offline writing, since I’m more invested in the outcome. Congrats on starting to blog – best wishes on your journey!

      Liked by 1 person

  29. What a breath of fresh air: funny, frank, insightful. February is my month to expand my blogger universe and see what others are up to. What a great place to have landed!

    No one else has commented on it, but I think you’ve done a terrific job of aligning design and writing goals — you’ve got a thoroughly fresh, clean aura that is just plain impressive. I am reminded how much we can learn by watching one another at work. Thank you!

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    • Thank you for your kind words about the blog. I think the blog has come to reflect my intent – nothing fancy or sophisticated, just an uncluttered read and conversation. I’ve played around with it, but every time I come back to the same format. We just like what we like, I guess and no amount of blogging advice will change that!

      Liked by 1 person

  30. Big dittos on most of your points. I do tend to have a formula in favor of funny at my place, mainly because that’s who I am, but also because I think it’s expected. But I do break out of that mold occasionally when speaking to a topic that really hits home.

    I love how many good writers are blogging – that’s #1 for me as well, both in what I try to put out and in what I want to read. Many bloggers seem to be in it just to create buzz, however, either because they want to push a book or because they want to be famous or popular. I read their posts and there’s nothing THERE. That tires me.

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    • It is hard, I think, to have something like a book that you want to promote without having it overshadow things that would be of interest to readers. If I am ever in that situation, I don’t know how I’d manage it. Most likely I wouldn’t sell jack, because I’d hate even mentioning it.

      I wondered if you felt the pressure to be funny every time. Your posts are humorous, but on occasion some of them have an underlying punch. That’s some of my favorite kind of writing.

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  31. In truth I am not an experienced blogger. I’m just a shy introverted kid. Starting a blog was my way of getting out of my comfort zone, putting myself out there and doing what I love most – reading&writing. Sometimes I question whether this was a good idea, other times (like now) I feel like giving up. Your blog keeps me going, one foot in front of the other. Thank you for being you.

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    • I’m an introverted person as well, which makes blogging ideal for practicing public writing and engagement. I think, especially when you’re starting out, it’s really important to focus on the habit and quality of writing. It’s too easy to get distracted by statistics and feel like you’re not making progress. I wish you the best on your blogging and writing journey!

      Liked by 1 person

  32. Thx! Using suggestions: No bogroll, awards, fancy fonts, lengthy quotes. Readability: max 500-800 words and bullet points!

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  33. hello. I’ve stated a blog recently, since I’am a complete dummy and I’m not getting much attention by readers, i want to ask you how you overcame bad time where you fell like you’re about to giving up?! p.s all tips and advices are most welcome

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