One Year of Blogging – Lessons and a Retrospective

I have a confession to make. It took me almost a month to completely write and edit this entry. Not because I found it hard but because I couldn’t find the right voice to write it in. Should I be blunt? Sarcastic? Sincere? Formal? How honest should I really be? And I couldn’t narrow down all my points that I wanted to talk about to save my life.

So you’re getting a novel.

This month marks the anniversary of 1 year since I started my blog. Around the 6 month blogging point I wrote a Revelations & Lessons recap about blogging. A lot of things have changed since then. The biggest thing being that I took the jump from a Free WordPress blog to a self hosted one and changed the name of my blog.

I had read that when bloggers reach this milestone in their blog, they tend to cringe when they when they read their early posts. Because as you go along with a blog, you fine tune it and finesse it and narrow down the direction you want it to go in. And then when you read back some of your first posts, they may seem to be candidates for a blog fail.

Believe me, mine are beyond in the qualifying range for that. Between long run on sentences to crappy photos it makes me want to go and press delete because some are just so completely mortifying. And even your tastes change. I posted things on here that I look at and go “Really I wanted this in my house?” And those are the entries that actually have somewhat decent photos.

Half my early thrift store entries were missing their photo galleries after my WordPress.com(free blog) to WordPress.org (self hosted) transfer and I would have had to have gone through hundreds of photos just to get them re-done in the imaginary 25th hour of my day. So after much debate, I deleted them. That wasn’t fun. But in the same breath it was very cathartic. I think I may do more of that.

Because of some of these experiences, I decided to write some more Lessons and a bit of Retrospective being a first time blogger for a whole year.

I’d like just say that this isn’t blogging advice per say that I am giving out, because I really believe sometimes you need to experience a lot of your own path when it comes to blogging to see what you’d like to get out of it. And we all blog for different reasons. Some of us blog for the sheer creativity of it or to keep a family journal. Others hope to parlay their blog into a business. So reading this will depend on your personal goal for your blog. I am writing a lot of this from a perspective that maybe you want to take your creative outlet to the next level. Take from it what you will.

Again, get comfy. This is long. Perhaps you’d like to take this time to get a stiff drink or re-fill your coffee depending on what neck of the world you’re reading this from.

Ok here we go.

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Don’t waste a good DIY/Craft/Project on a bad photo.

You just spent hours if not days trying to finish an amazing DIY. You poured blood, sweat and tears, pissed off every employee at Michael’s while shopping for your craft supplies as your child spilled glitter on their floor and already admitted defeat with the first prototype of the finished item.

Then are you wasting it on a crappy flash shot in the middle of a bad weather day?! I currently live in the darkness of Daylight Savings Time in our grey, cold Canadian winter. I empathize, I do.

But don’t settle for a less than stellar example of your finished item after all the time you spent on it. That’s not being fake either (because I have a huge problem with being fake), that’s called showcasing your work. There’s a difference. Take a better photo. And post bigger photos. No one needs to squint to see what the hell your furniture makeover looks like.

Alt Design Summit has a great write up on how set up a small photo studio in your home. In fact I recommend you browse their entire website for eye opening ideas on all that goes into designing and expanding your blog. Just a small FYI – I do half my craft photos on my freezer counter top in my kitchen and I try to use the most natural light. That’s my high tech photo studio that gets me shots like this. I also recently invested (read: dollar store) in some big white foam boards that I fold up and put away for easy storage, which I can port with me anywhere to do a product shot including outdoors on my deck in the middle of winter.

Half the bloggers that started out at the same time you did, won’t make it past 6 months.

Recently I checked my WordPress.com Reader under the Topic of DIY and noticed a whole new crop of bloggers that came out. Then I went through the list of blogs that I had started to Follow and realized that a whole bunch of them hadn’t posted in months.

Tell me if you have ever read this from a fellow blogger:

“Hey! Oh wow it’s been several weeks since I last posted! My bad, I promise to get back into the swing of it. Here’s what I’ve been up to.”

3 months goes by.

“Well, hello there. Real life has been super busy and I’ve totally neglected this blog. I really need to start writing more.”

6 months goes by.

“Hey. Ok well, I don’t know what to say. I’ve made it a new goal for the coming year to revamp my site and start new. And I promise to blog more”.

And then they’re gone. Half the people that started a blog around the same time as you did, won’t make it to 6 months.

Blogging, as gratifying as it is (and believe me it is, the amazing blogging friends I have met from across the miles that I never would have gotten to meet without this medium) is a lot more work, time wise that is (it’s not brain surgery), than people expect until they start their own. When you reach this point in blogging (and you will), you need to decide what your goals are for your blog and what you hope to get out of it, if not way before then. Actually decide your goals way before then. Possibly now.

The reality of having a blog and the pressures to maintain it when you’re not feeling creative can be eye opening. And sadly lots of bloggers quit because of this before they give themselves a chance to fully explore their potential with blogging.

Write your posts in advance and schedule when they are to publish.

While this may not work for everyone this changed how I blog more specifically with craft and DIY posts, especially around the holidays. I would do a whole bunch of crafts that I was doing for say Christmas, then write up all the posts I needed for them in one block of time and schedule publishing dates for each post throughout the month. That left me with more room to build content in the coming month and do other things. Like play with my kids. Spend time with my husband. Cook. Do laundry. Clean. Visit friends. Do more crafts.

Not live on my computer.

If you’re not happy with the direction of your blog, change it.

When I started out I was supposed to do a blog about our home renovations. A funny thing about home renovations, they cost money. And time. Lots of time between saving up that money to do the renovations and tearing down a wall and building a new one. It became clear to me within the first 3 months, that was not going to happen. When we re-do things, if it’s a great home DIY decor project then for sure I’ll share it. But to focus soley on home renovations didn’t work for me.

My blog had quickly evolved more into the things I did in and around my house/life – arts & crafts, gardening, thrift store shopping – than it was about renovating it. And when I sorted that out, my blog fell into place and the writing became easier because I was writing about things I enjoyed.

I wrote all that just as we’re thinking about painting the kitchen cabinets. Go figure.

The Watermarking Issue.

I am going to have a million bloggers disagree with me, but my biggest regret with blogging (aside from choosing a blog name that didn’t fit for me in the beginning so for the love of all that is good choose your blog name wisely) was watermarking my photos. I have a lot of great old entries that contain my old free blog watermark on them. I hate looking at them and I am constantly trying to update the photos in old entries, which is insanely time consuming. I can’t bring myself to delete a lot of them because not only are they memories of my life in the past year, but there are some great DIY’s in there that I am proud of.

I truly wish I had never watermarked my photos. I know why people do it, to avoid theft, to claim credit and so forth. The reality is, if someone is good at photoshop and they really want your photo, it’s not that hard to get rid of a watermark. In many ways a poorly done one can make your awesome final photo look like crap and not be featured on other blogs, because it’s so in your face taking over your photo.

And what happens if one day the blog that you started to write under the name of “Nurseries and Puppies” suddenly doesn’t fit with who you are as a person and you want to change directions. Suddenly you realize you have a lot of old photos that have that name all over them. Frustrating doesn’t even begin to cover it. If you’re going to do a watermark, make sure it’s a fitting watermark to your photos and style and not some crappy font that you ask yourself “Why didn’t anyone tell me how crappy it looked?”

So I’m telling you because I wish someone had told me.

Find what you are talented at and showcase it.

You know Sherry from a little blog you may be familiar with called Young House Love? She has often joked about how much she struggles with her sewing skills. Do you think that in anyway has hindered her/their blog success? Hmmm.

So you can’t sew/bake/craft in your sleep/refurnish furniture like other bloggers. But maybe you can write/paint/upcycle second hand items/style a living room like no one’s business. Everyone is talented at something. Find out what makes you tick and do it. You’d be amazed at how easy it is to blog about something that you really enjoy doing. Stop worrying about whether or not it’s popular or other people will like it. If you like it, it will show.

You know what that will do for you? Boost your confidence in what you can do. And in turn that will probably encourage you to try new things. Like sewing. And if you fail, blog about it. You’ll be amazed at how many other people will relate to it.

Write a blog that you would like to read.

We tend to be emotional about our blogs because we showcase projects and write about things we love and we think others will love them as much as we do. And when they don’t, we cry in our wine late at night looking at our stats pretending we don’t care but are secretly festering about them. Do you remember what life was like before Stats and View Counts?

Take a step back and look at your blog. Would you subscribe to it if it wasn’t written by yourself? What do you like about it? What could you improve upon? Are you happy with your layout? Is it clean and easy to read? Are you posting regularly?

No one’s commenting on your cute photos of your cookies, your home and your kids? Guess what? There are a lot of other blogs that post pictures of their cookies, their home and their kids. What makes yours different? (See the point about sharing your talents above). Do you respond to comments? Do you take the time to go visit other blogs and comment on theirs? Have you reached out to other bloggers whose blogs you admire and ask them for advice or help?

Take a step back and look at it from a different non-emotional perspective.

With great power comes great responsibility.

Voltaire and Spiderman can duke out the credit for that quote but it is very applicable to blogging. The bigger your blog gets and the greater your audience net is cast, blogging success may not always be what you think it’s like. Free products? Awesome. Trips? Amazing. Getting paid to write about doing creative projects? Are you kidding me? Dream job. However…

You know that small group of blogging friends that you chat with about projects and life that are always there to cheer you on? Get ready to start receiving your first hate mail from people who want to do nothing more than tell you how much you suck. Because there’s a lot of people on the internet who have way more courage behind the anonymity of their keyboard to say things to you in print that they would never have the guts to tell to your face.

All the comments that you were able to respond to and chat with everyone on a personal level? Try doing that daily when you have hundreds per post. And then when you can’t, the people that left them there think you’re ignoring them and get mad.

The cheques that you started to get from sponsors from your first ad sales that you were so proud of? The sponsors start emailing you asking why your views are slipping that month and that if they don’t increase their sales within the next 3 months, they’re leaving your sidebar.

So if you want a greater readership or you want to make a business out of your blog, you need be able to have the backbone to handle all of the ramifications of that decision, both the good and the bad.

Blogging is a Community.

Getting to know other bloggers is very important because they can really help you get on your feet. You can’t expect to sit back and have people come visit you when you’re a newbie. Well I mean you can. But the average blogger who writes about their home decor, their DIY projects, their crafts or their kids isn’t Ray Kinsella and “if you build it they will come” is like expecting the Grand Duke to show up at your doorstep with the glass slipper.

I cannot stress how invaluable some of the great blogging friends I have met have been for me during this year, especially after I left the WordPress.com community and went self hosted to WordPress.org. It is a great thing to be able to talk to them outside of the blog on a personal level about our blogs, brainstorming ideas for projects, discussing problems and concerns with blogging, our writing and the like. If you find a blogger that you click with, take the initiative and talk to them outside of the walls of your blog. Support each other with your issues. It’s like bouncing ideas off of someone that completely understands all you’re going through as a new blogger.

And be genuine about your interactions with other bloggers. For example, I don’t follow every popular blog just because they’re deemed popular. If I don’t share either the same interests, decor taste or enjoy how they write, then I won’t follow them. If I like a blog, I don’t care if you have 5 readers or 5 million readers. If I enjoy your blog, I enjoy your blog. And that’s how you should look at it too. Don’t feel obligated to hang onto people that are weighing you down or read blogs that you’re not enjoying. Chances are they probably feel the same way about you. You can’t expect to mesh with every single person you meet online. Get to know the people that you truly enjoy and are eager to read their posts when they show up in your Reader.

The Myth of Overnight Blog Success.

There is rarely such a thing as out of nowhere overnight success. What you don’t hear about with all the overnight success stories is the part about how much work they put into their blogs before that success happened. Even Ana White who is deemed a blogging Cinderella story for how quickly her blog took off, worked her tail off writing posts in the middle of the night while taking care of her toddler (read her actual response in the story link). She offered a free service (plans on how to build your own furniture) that people wanted and were actively looking for online, thus filling a void in a market. Then she learned a graphic program to provide her readers with these plans for free and after her initial Apartment Therapy feature, took the opportunity to build on that success and provided more free plans. All while building her own house with her bare hands. You know how long it takes to take a good photo or write a blog entry? Now imagine doing that, while saying “Hey honey let’s go build the roof today”. That’s hard work. And she values her readers and has a Brag Forum for them so that they can share their builds.

So even if you have an overnight feature catapult you to blogger view count heaven, you need ensure that you have talent and continued content to back up it up so that those views translate into readers. One post isn’t going to cut it. You know the expression, “Luck is when preparation meets opportunity”. Very applicable.

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As I was writing this I came across this quote and I thought how timely:

Too often after some time passes with our blogs, we start to itch for more. More readers, more exposure, more something. Validity? I’m not sure how to convey it. We see very well known bloggers and don’t realize how long they’ve been in the game to get to that point. Or we see new bloggers that pass us in popularity and think what am I doing wrong if we’re not happy with what we deem as success for our own pages.

It is not a competition. If you make it a competition you will set yourself down a dangerous path and it will take away all the enjoyment you feel when you blog. The thing that you reveled in doing will become a nuisance.

We all come from different backgrounds and capabilities. Some people have more money. Some people have more time. Others are born with specific talents. Some people just had good timing. To compare yourself to everyone’s corner of the internet is a recipe that will drive you crazy. Try and remember why you started to blog. To share your stories, to share your voice, to share your projects. Your self esteem should not be determined by your view counts or number of followers. Despite what your late night wine drinking sessions are telling you.

In the same breath, if you are genuinely unhappy with your progress, don’t sit back and be frustrated. Get motivated. Start to implement smaller changes. Show better photos and tutorials. Change your blog design. Get into the habit of writing more and posting more. Go self hosted. Do projects with other bloggers. Use social media to connect with people on a broader scale. The blogs that you see that are a success, usually are the ones that treat it like a job. One that they love but one that they consistently work at and have a long term plan for. When you’re organized on your site and with how you blog, things will flow easier than if you just wing it. You have to cultivate your blog just like you would any project that you do for your home.

If you’re not tired from reading, please leave your thoughts in the comments as I always love to hear other people’s experiences with blogging!

Cheers and I hope you don’t need glasses or an Advil now.

 

46 Comments

  • Reply
    Jolene Fournier
    February 19, 2013 at 7:46 am

    Alex, I’m so glad you shared this! I’ve been out of touch (no internet for the last 4 days) and lost a bit of motivation to continue blogging. Reading your post this morning is just what I needed. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Reply
      Alex@northstory
      February 23, 2013 at 9:16 am

      Motivation! Look at me. This is the first proper moment I have had to respond to comments. I have to carve out proper time to get onto my computer. Do not give up. There are days even now that I wake up, look at my pages and think but I have laundry to and the bathroom needs to be cleaned. Just write. Make a date with your computer for once a week. And every week you try, you’ll soon have a body of entries.

      When I made a switch to self hosted there was a 2-3 week span where I couldn’t write b/c of technical issues. And suddenly getting back into it was a grind. If you find after some time that this isn’t your thing then that’s ok too. Blogging is a strange beast and it’s much different than I ever anticipated it would be.

  • Reply
    Aubrey
    February 19, 2013 at 7:59 am

    I’ve been waiting for this post since you mentioned it! ๐Ÿ™‚

    I have had that same thing, of “really I wanted this in my house?” It’s why, and most probably haven’t noticed, my DIYs have changed drastically and still are. I have also deleted quite a few old posts and felt like you felt, cathartic.

    I just did a vlog on taking advice with a grain of salt but decided not to share it just yet, so I appreciate that you say that everyone has to take their own path. That’s the message I wanted in my vlog, that some advice is good for others where it may not be good for me.

    Oh I DO agree on watermarking. I’m not a fan of it, no matter how subtle the person makes it it’s still distracting from the photo, doesn’t prevent theft and sometimes even if the person wants credit people don’t take the time to go to the original source.

    Alisa Burke has a great post on doing what you’re good at and Austin, the author of “Steal Like An Artist” discusses the same. I think we’d be disappointed and stressed out if we tried to do what we aren’t good at just to be like someone else. It goes back to being yourself, accepting what you are good at and not good at and focusing on the good, hone in on it.

    I’m not going to lie I used to get bummed when my posts got very little comments. I don’t much look at my stats because comments really tell me who is reading and enjoying it. However, I’ve come to accept that I’m not of the norm, and thus the majority are not going to like what I share. So when someone does it’s extra special and is likely someone I have something in common with. Since I’m not trying to grow my blog to make any money I just don’t care for stats anymore and if I get a comment then it’s icing on the cake. As long as I post what I love and am an honest person then I am happy with the outcome.

    “Luck is when preparation meets opportunity” is one of my FAVORITE quotes!! ๐Ÿ™‚ Also, on the topic of success, I always step back and want to ask, what do you view as success because it’s likely different from me? Some view lots of views as success. Some view making good money off of blogging as success. Most often, in life, money is tied to success. Personally if I impact just ONE person even in a small way then I’m successful. So I would add, and I bet you would agree, that the word success is relative. ๐Ÿ™‚

    I love that last quote! I had saved it on my Pinterest a while back. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Validity is exactly it! If I find myself seeking validity in blogging, in life, then I stop what I’m doing and move on to something else.

    And I love that you say it’s not a competition. It’s why I don’t like when bloggers put their stats (number of subscribers on their page, viewers and such) because that immediately makes it a competition, a “look at me, aren’t I awesome?” It drives me nuts and I normally, if I don’t have some other attachment, leave if they do.

    Well put together and lovely post Alex! I even broke my “don’t get on the computer before 2pm” rule to read and comment. ๐Ÿ™‚ But I’ll get off now. I just couldn’t sleep and this was a nice thing to read in the morning.

    Cheers!
    Aubrey

    • Reply
      Alex@northstory
      February 23, 2013 at 9:23 am

      I totally believe everyone almost has to try out blogging and find their own path b/c what works for you may not work for me and vice versa. We tend to look at successful blogs and think ok that’s the formula and then realize we’d much rather just write for the sake of keeping an online journal.

      I loved your whole post on How to Steal Like an Artist and ITA with you completely. Too often we play the comparison game for projects and writing and think I did something similar why did theirs take off and not mine. And a lot of it are factors that are so out of our hands.

      I love comments b/c I love to meet new people if even if virtually b/c I find that this is the one medium where you take people from all walks of life and even if you’re living completely different lives, you can find common ground in say the joy of a vintage items or good books. It makes you see other people in a different light that you may not have gotten the chance to do in person.

      The word success is definitely relative. My version of success is probably very different from that of a blogger who wants to be the next big thing. I actually want to get into that in a future post. What our blogs mean to us.

      • Reply
        Aubrey
        February 23, 2013 at 11:11 am

        Oh I agree and my view on what a “successful” blog has changed to. Heck, over the years, my view on what “success” is has changed. It is relative and, like you, have thought of touching on it on my blog. I have found, like you mentioned, that I just enjoy blogging for the sake of keeping that online type of journal. If people show up and say something then it really is icing on the cake.

        I had to google what ITA meant. ๐Ÿ˜‰ I am not good with texting lingo, so bear with me. I agree, a lot are factors out of our hands. More often, for me, a lot are factors I’m not willing to do or compromise myself to do. I know, for example, that if I participated in link parties that I’d get a lot more ‘followers’ but it’s not something I agree with. So I’ve found that what some people are okay with doing to get followers, I am not.

  • Reply
    Lynne
    February 19, 2013 at 8:57 am

    Love. Love. Love every single word you wrote. One billion percent agree with every single word you wrote. Love you to bits !!!!!!!!
    Lynne xx
    Blog on ~ You beautiful blogging goddess. I feel proud to call you my friend.

    • Reply
      Alex@northstory
      February 23, 2013 at 9:25 am

      I love how a simple feature on your treehouse in AT made me find you b/c it’s true. You’re like a long lost partner in crime. ๐Ÿ™‚ I am so thankful for all of your advice and support and venting sessions. XO back!

  • Reply
    Pillows A-La-Mode
    February 19, 2013 at 9:15 am

    I love being around people who are able to reflect on their lives and experiences . . . thank you for such a thought-provoking post, Alex!

    • Reply
      Alex@northstory
      February 23, 2013 at 9:27 am

      Thank you so much for all your great project inspirations! I think we all should sit down from time and time and see if what we are doing makes us happy or if this medium of blogging still fits in our lives. And then make any changes that work. I appreciate bloggers who has a genuine passion for sharing their craft .

      • Reply
        Pillows A-La-Mode
        February 23, 2013 at 10:18 am

        I agree. For Lent this year, I’m working on balancing time spent reading and writing blog posts with the time I can “make stuff” and do all the other things I love to do. Baby steps so far, but your post was an affirmation, and I appreciate that. Have a lovely weekend, Alex!

  • Reply
    Gilit
    February 19, 2013 at 9:40 am

    I don’t need Advil, but I need a nice glass of wine and I think you should join me. Canada is totally close to NY right? (Swear I know it’s not) I think you’re so right about everything. One thing that particularly spoke to me is treating blogging like a job if you want more from it. Sometimes I feel like it needs to be more “successful” before I can validly treat it like a job, but I think I’ve got it backwards. So lets say in 12 hours? The bar down the street?

    • Reply
      Alex@northstory
      February 23, 2013 at 9:31 am

      I am totally about a 2 hours drive away…ok maybe a lot longer but still it’s driveable! It’s been apparently more than 12 hours b/c I haven’t been able to get back on here to properly respond to comments but we can always do it in another 12 hour block!

      That’s a great point you make. We often think we need to achieve success before we can promote, advertise etc. And then you realize well I need to work on a body of work, practice writing and network, network, network. It’s very much like a start up company. You need investors, clients and funding to help get you on your feet.

      Or you can just say to hell with this and celebrate with a good bottle of wine and keep it for the creative part of your brain. Whatever makes you happy!

  • Reply
    Victoria Elizabeth
    February 19, 2013 at 10:04 am

    Best book Iโ€™ve read in a while!! Iโ€™m in awe of the sheer length/time/energy you put into it. I know exactly the task it was to wrangle all of these thoughts into something organized, readable, fun, helpful, insightfulโ€ฆ

    I count you as one of the greatest things to come out of my blogging experience. You are funny, snarky, creativeโ€ฆ I only wish you lived next door!!

    When I started out, Iโ€™d read other bloggers say how they made โ€œfriendsโ€ blogging, and I was like, that is totally weird. I would never consider some random stranger a friendโ€ฆ but I was wrong.

    I donโ€™t know what to add that we havenโ€™t already hashed out in long, incoherent emailsโ€ฆ but I really like your retro typewriter!

    • Reply
      Alex@northstory
      February 23, 2013 at 9:35 am

      And to think originally it was about 20 points longer. I cut out SO much stuff. Some of it I may save for single entries at a later point just b/c there is so much to talk about.

      If you lived next door that would mean my house would look much cooler and have a front porch and be a kick ass Victorian not my awesome McHome in the burbs. I’ll gladly take you up on that.

      HA! I remember reading blogs and all the comments sections had bloggers that talked to each other and I am like how do you people meet?? Surprise. It’s just like us. I find your blog. You find my blog. We develop a deep appreciation for each others sarcastic and thought provoking writing and think where has she been online all this time?

  • Reply
    Time With Thea
    February 19, 2013 at 10:04 am

    Hi Alex,
    So enjoyed this post (and all of yours). Thank you for sharing your wisdom based on your experiences. I had to go through a blog name change which has been an interesting experience. I now have a lot of photographs watermarked with the old name plastered all over Pinterest. I have only changed a few because of the time and I am not sure how much difference it will make. I have learned that it truly is the quality of the blog content, the photographs and just happening to hit a topic that is timely that really creates a following. I also so agree with you that it is about the blogging community that makes it rewarding. I am still working with a WordPress.com blog and am planning to change over in the summer to the self-hosted version because it offers so many more possibilities but I just don’t have the time right now as I also work full time. It is a pretty overcast wintery looking day right now on the Western side of Canada so I am glad I took my photographs when it was a lot sunnier on the weekend. I know exactly what you are talking about when it comes to taking pictures.Thank you again for the connections and for your wonderful reflections. ~Thea

    • Reply
      Alex@northstory
      February 23, 2013 at 9:40 am

      Thea if I have to thank anyone it’s you. Your single pin of my bulletin board garnered me more blog traffic than any project I had done all year. Something clicked when you posted it, which is a great example of how you can’t make a post go viral on your own b/c I posted it on Pinterest and got maybe 1 repin. So truly, Thank You!! You had the right audience for the subject matter whereas I pin more kitchens and nature shots.

      On that note of timing that you mention, I really believe a lot of it is hitting the online world with the right project or craft at the right time. And it’s hard to plan something like that b/c in many ways it happens organically and it usually happens with the projects that you least expect.

      Good luck on your switch this summer! If you have any questions, shoot me an email. I’d be glad to answer anything.

  • Reply
    Stacey
    February 19, 2013 at 10:37 am

    It may have seemed like a long post to you but for me it read in 30 seconds…. it was that good! I totally got lost in the moment as I read and shook my head.. “yes, that’s true”, “OMG, that’s exactly my thoughts”… (laughter)… and more “she’s reading my mind”.

    You and I have exchanged plenty of emails in regard to blogging so you know exactly how I feel about it but reading this just makes me realize how fun and exhausting it can be. The” work” and the emotions you go through — and the experiences you never expected to have. It’s a roller coaster ride, for sure. Well said, Alex!

    Lots of great advice here and I guess we should really pour a drink and celebrate because we’ve made it longer than 6 months. I’m too am surprised at how many people I use to follow who are just DONE! As hard as it is sometimes to put it all together… the joy outweighs everything else so I’m here for the long haul. I’m glad you are too!!

    And thank you to your fabulous refrigerator for providing such a lovely backdrop for your perfect photos! If I did that my project would be lost in dust! ๐Ÿ™‚ Great bloggers always find a way.. and you are one of my favs! Wonderful post, lady.

    P.S. Great opening photo ….. since it’s not watermarked I’m going to steal it and use it as my own. KIDDING!

    • Reply
      Alex@northstory
      February 23, 2013 at 9:46 am

      I know you understand this, but I feel like blogging is so far removed from how I thought it would be when I started, when we all started. And because of it I see other people’s blogs in SUCH a different light than I did when I was just reading everyones. I respect their time and effort into tutorials and page layouts and really appreciate how much went into getting that money shot of their finished project.

      I miss some of the bloggers that quit b/c there were ones whose projects were SO good that I thought oh man I can’t wait to see what else they come up with. And they never came back. It’s hard to understand why until you do a blog and then you get it. I fully respect that it is not for everyone.

      HAHAHAHA! Steal away.

  • Reply
    ScrapAndSalvage
    February 19, 2013 at 11:49 am

    great post, alex! i enjoyed it with about 1 1/2 cups of coffee, which made for a great morning. i agree and appreciate your pointers, especially about enjoying the process and caring about what you write about. i think my favorite and unexpected thing about blogging is the community. i love seeing yours and other virtual friend’s blogs and reading comments and commenting… what’s not to love?! so cheers on making it a year, alex! keep up the good work, great photos and awesome DIY projects. i’ll be here to read what’s next…

    • Reply
      Alex@northstory
      February 23, 2013 at 9:50 am

      Do you know I read that as 11 1/2 cups of coffee and thought Man I know I ramble but…

      The community thing is huge. I underestimated how nice it is to meet people who you can talk to about crafts and vintage items and home decor. Which I’ve got to tell you when you stay at home with your kids, the last thing you want to talk about is your kids (at least for me). I am always so excited to see other peoples homes or what awesomeness they found at the curb and painted to upcycle.

  • Reply
    thethingaboutjoan
    February 19, 2013 at 12:00 pm

    Congratulations on your blog’s birthday! So timely that you’d post these thoughts because I also just passed my one-year blogging milestone and have been wondering what to do with mine. I look at it like I do my house — What was I thinking when I decided to design it that way?! Perhaps it’s time to paint…

    I really appreciate the reflection that you put into this post — I found myself nodding along as I read. And oh, the food for thought on the watermarking issue! Good stuff.

    I agree with you about scheduling the posts ahead of time. I’d have never made it through the summer (let alone, the holidays) without that handy little feature. I also think that joining up with some group postings — such as the Collectively Creative series from Kelly of Cupcakes, Cobwebs and Crayons that you do as well! — really helped me rejuvenate my writing and connect with other people.

    Can I suggest that these lessons learned and reflections about blogging and migrating a blog from a free to a self-hosted site would be an excellent e-book? Just something to noodle over….

    Thanks again for the great, thought-provoking post. Excellent as always!

    • Reply
      Alex@northstory
      February 23, 2013 at 9:53 am

      I think the first thing you should do is write your own reflections on your experience with blogging this past year. I’m betting it’s similar yet completely different to mine. It may help you to hone in on what you’d like to get out of your blog for the next year.

      Scheduling is the best thing ever and it took me a long time to figure that one out (but that was a technical issue on my end) but when I did it was so helpful.

      Me? Ebook? Oh you’re hilarious! IWith my honesty, ‘d probably get sued by WP.org and their lawyers in court would be like It’s not us, she just can’t speak in CSS.

  • Reply
    Nina Badzin
    February 19, 2013 at 1:49 pm

    Excellent advice. I especially love the tip to write the blog posts you’d want to read. That seems obvious, but people often do the opposite by writing the posts they think OTHERS want to read. The difference is everything. Congrats on all your success in one year!

    • Reply
      Alex@northstory
      February 23, 2013 at 9:55 am

      Hi Nina! Welcome! I am always so excited whenever I see a new voice on the comments b/c if there’s one thing I have learned is that so many people who visit do not take the time to comment and whenever I see someone new, it’s like Christmas!

      Love your blog tips on Twitter. I just rejoined this past month after 3 years of disappearing and it’s a whole new world on there. I look forward to going over your blog to learn more.

  • Reply
    Jennifer @ Brave New Home
    February 19, 2013 at 5:45 pm

    I knew I would like this post from the photo alone : ]

    First off, congrats and marking your one year of blogging! That’s exciting stuff. Second, thank you for sharing all your lessons learned thus far. I can really take almost each and every one of those lessons to heart.

    Your photos actually inspired me to try and start taking better photos of my DIY projects.

    I kinda snickered when I read about the watermarking issue. A real life friend, also turned blogger, asked me how I deal with my readers being offended by my watermark. My response? My readers haven’t told me they’re offended by my watermark! Since then, I scaled it down but I think this is cause enough to remove them completely. They take time to add and you’re absolutely right, I myself have no problem removing others’ watermarks so if anyone wanted to steal my images I bet they would be able to easily.

    Your point about writing a blog you want to read is also cause for re-focus. I know exactly why I read the blogs that I do but guess what? The content I subscribe to only comprises maybe 10% of my own blogging content.

    And finally, thank you for being part of my personal blogging community. I appreciate you taking the time to respond and empathize with my blogging woes : ] Keep it up, Alex!

    • Reply
      Alex@northstory
      February 23, 2013 at 10:10 am

      Jen you’re hilarious! Can I tell you Craftgawker turned down this submission b/c of the header photo? They told me it was poorly lit. Which I actually got a good kick out of b/c it is intentionally staged to make fun of my past year – my love of vintage, my thrift store finds, the rainbow party crafts that took over my summer and whiskey (just b/c I love Wiser’s and live by the Hemingway rule of Write Drunk, Edit Sober). All that’s missing is my old watermark. I should add that.

      I am still constantly working on my photos and if I had a time machine would go back and re-do a lot of the older projects (especially cards) and shoot them in way better lighting and angles. Can’t get them back b/c they’re mailed out.

      Offended by your watermark? Oh Lord. That’s so funny! I think the best way in which a watermark works is to be subtle enough to be there yet not in the middle of the photo. Or do one main photo that’s good for sharing with it on it and leave the rest blank.

      I think writing a blog you want to read is important – well at least to me. I’m making a conscious effort in that every time I make a new post I ask myself, is it funny, is it providing information, is it showing someone how to do a craft, offer a tutorial? It has to fulfill a need that I would want to see/read when I read blogs (but this is b/c for me my blog has evolved into something more than a journal of my life at home). And I fully realize that not everyone will read every blog entry I write and that’s totally ok b/c I follow masses of blogs in Bloglovin and I don’t have the time to read every entry everyone writes.

      So I thought about what ones I enjoy and usually they were b/c I was looking for certain content, decor ideas, a subject I wanted to talk about or a product review. And I also accept that I may not be able to write about certain things I like to read just b/c that’s not my area of talent or passion. But you should still look at your blog and think I like that entry and I think it has something to offer.

      I love leaving comments and I just found you on Twitter too (I am total twitter newbie so forgive my complete and utter confusion on there).

  • Reply
    Kelly (Cobwebs, Cupcakes And Crayons)
    February 19, 2013 at 7:59 pm

    What a great post, Alex. I am entering the 9th month of blogging and I found so much of what you said to be true. Some of my old posts make me cringe. I set out to write an organizing blog, and it has evolved to include so much more. I am currently working on redesigning my site (what was I thinking when I created my current design??) so I am sure I will be reaching out to you (read: sending you frantic emails) as I move along. I am so glad to have found your blog. Your voice is consistently and refreshingly honest (with a sarcastic edge that I adore). Xo, Kelly

    • Reply
      Alex@northstory
      February 23, 2013 at 10:14 am

      Kelly some of my old posts are totally on their way to never never land. If only b/c my blog has finally found a direction and a lot of the earlier stuff was like reading a scrambled egg mess.

      Listen my first blog design was horrendous. I remember the first page of it and I was like ok really, you wonder why people didn’t come by.

      Send me emails anytime! I am always open to talking and helping out where I can. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Reply
    thethinkingcloset
    February 20, 2013 at 2:07 am

    I read this post earlier today, and now I’m re-reading it again more closely to soak up all of the juicy deets. I can tell you put a lot of thought and time into it…and it paid off!

    PHOTOS – I couldn’t agree more about the power of a well-taken photo. I’m still learning how to use Mark’s DSLR, and I’m really glad I picked up some white foam boards to use as a backdrop.

    SCHEDULING POSTS – I need to work on this…big time! While I often have a plan for what general day I want a post to go up, and I have several drafts going at a time, I don’t usually schedule more than 12 hours in advance. That makes for more stress than need be. That’s a great idea to do Christmas crafts in advance and schedule the posts throughout the season. Must. start. doing.

    BLOG DIRECTION – I am with you on the importance of letting your blog grow and change along with you. I’m committed to post on what I’m excited to post about – – even if it’s not in my “niche.” As a reader, I know I’m more interested in reading authentic posts than the same kind of post over and over again from the same blogger.

    WATERMARKING – I think your first comment on my blog was in relation to this! And you really brought a new perspective to me on the topic. While I watermark (not necessarily to prevent stealing, but more as a way to connect my work with my blog even if it’s not properly linked), I think you make a great point that if our blog title might change…ever…then it’s better NOT to watermark. Or to watermark and be prepared to live with the consequences.

    POWER & RESPONSIBILITY: The situation you describe about feeling responsible to sponsors – – that’s what freaks me out about the idea of opening up my blog to sponsorship once I migrate to self-hosted WordPress. Although I think it’s a direction I’d ultimately like to head in, I want to protect my love of the game. I think I’ll need to build that in to whatever system I adopt.

    COMMUNITY: yes, yes, and yes.

    OVERNIGHT SUCCESS: This was a really useful reminder. And it makes me think of the book, Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell. Maybe you’ve read it, but basically, Gladwell has done research on people who have had high levels of success, and one common denominator for them all is that they put in time and hard work. And usually at around 10,000 hours they had a breakthrough. That book sort of dispelled the myth that some people are “lucky.” (Which fits with that quote you shared.)

    Alex, thanks for writing this post and sharing your thoughts with us. While you’re right, we all need to find our own way and have our own mistakes and discoveries, I know I appreciate hearing what others have learned…and connecting my experience to theirs. This was really insightful!

    • Reply
      Alex@northstory
      February 23, 2013 at 10:25 am

      Lauren if there is ANY blogger that I have met in the past year that I have no doubt will be the next YHL, Centsational Girl, etc it is you. You know and understand more about blogging that I could have comprehended and even still am learning about. You’re talented, funny and a great commentator. Plus you really understand the importance of networking and working with others. I fully expect to be saying I knew you when… ๐Ÿ™‚

      • Reply
        thethinkingcloset
        February 23, 2013 at 1:57 pm

        Wow, Alex. I don’t know what to say. Your words carry weight with me, so this comment meant a whole lot. I think I need to re-read this every time I’m feeling a bit down or discouraged or need an extra boost of go-get-’em.

        A LOT of what I’ve learned about blogging has come from you, dear Alex, so thanks for really being a great buddy and mentor to me. If it weren’t for you, I’d be tackling this migration thing on my own…and probably running into a million snafus. (Which by the by, my new site should be up and running next week. Ahhhh! Excited / scared.)

  • Reply
    now at home mom
    February 20, 2013 at 10:01 am

    Congratulations Alex on your one year of blogging! I read your entire post this morning and I loved every thing about it! thank you so much for sharing this; it’s motivating!!! ๐Ÿ™‚ I agree with you in all points! specially : community ! YES! I have met wonderful people and now have beautiful relationships with them too! I also agree on the photos, sometimes it takes days for me to get the right photo because like you we always have crappy weather here and when the sun is out; my son doesn’t let me take a good pic! ๐Ÿ™‚ I got a black and white board from Staples for the background like that I can take the picture in the room with the most light! as for the camera; I’m using my iPhone for now; sometimes my camera but I haven’t figured out everything about the camera yet! Again Congratulations Alex for your success! ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Reply
      Alex@northstory
      February 23, 2013 at 10:28 am

      I think it would be awesome to have my own lighting studio don’t you? A mini product one. Which I do in many ways but one that I could just leave out vs having to set up all the time when I need to take a photo. I think when you have young kids – you understand this – it’s a gigantic effort to get all the photos and items ready to be shot b/c about 5 mins into your photo shoot there will be some ‘crisis’ over a toy etc.

      Hey my Instagram photos I joke are better than the ones I try to stage. ๐Ÿ™‚ if it works it works!

  • Reply
    the home tome
    February 21, 2013 at 10:53 am

    Bravo Alex! All of this is great advice – it is so important to do this for the right reasons and enjoy the ride. I guess that’s true of life in general. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Reply
      Alex@northstory
      February 23, 2013 at 10:50 am

      When you think about how many blogs are out there it can feel so overwhelming to think that your voice can be heard. Then you step back and realize b/c there are so many people out there, there are bound to be others just like yourself. And in some strange way, you always find each other. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Reply
    Kate
    February 22, 2013 at 11:13 am

    Alex, this is the best post I’ve read on any blog, anywhere. Really. I can’t believe you’ve only been blogging for about as long as I have – I assumed it was years and years!! (that’s a compliment, by the way…). What you said resonated so strongly with me, particularly about how a blog evolves over time, the challenges of what happens when you reach a bigger audience (dissenting voices! people who seem to enjoy tossing negative comments over the wall anonymously! losers!), and the discipline needed. Congratulations and thank you on an awesome & informative piece… love it.

    • Reply
      Alex@northstory
      February 23, 2013 at 11:01 am

      Oh Kate do not get me started on the “voices”. I remember when I came across your features on AT I was so happy that they acknowledged your talents. And then you go to the comments and all I could ever think was “Really, you couldn’t find anything else you wanted to say to her at this moment?” When did we become such an online society that it’s somehow acceptable to downright tear apart peoples work online.

      I have a post that I am contemplating writing about the subject of judging other bloggers b/c it seems for every person who for example loves Pinterest or design/decor/craft blogs there is another audience who is greatly offended by it and think that the design/decor/craft blogs are showing off and making them feel bad about themselves. I had a bit of an eye opening moment in regards to this this year and I think others would like to talk about it.

      Again just thinking about it if only b/c if I post it it’s opening a hell of a can of worms and I don’t know if that’s the direction that I want to take my blog. That is there are other forums that I can discuss this on and arguing with strangers on the internet seems like a stress inducing waste of time.

      Your blog is by far one of my favourite discoveries of this year and I was actually going to use you as example of how you don’t have to post every single day to make a successful blog. B/C you don’t post every day but when you do, even if it’s once a week, your posts and projects are always so well thought out and planned that I really look forward to them appearing in my Reader.

      • Reply
        Kate
        February 23, 2013 at 12:58 pm

        Thanks Alex:-), and yes, I agree about AT; in fact I emailed them a couple of weeks ago and thanked them but asked them to stop picking up my stuff because I came to realise that rather than it being a pleasant surprise, instead I would read comments like ‘huh, that project looks good for the photo but what a mess it would make’ etc and think, ‘I really, really don’t need this kind of sh*t…’ – I’d rather have a smaller, altogether more positive community that come read my blog because they want to… (I’ll stop now, I could go on for hours but we really need a bottle of wine for that too…)

        • Reply
          Alex@northstory
          February 25, 2013 at 4:39 pm

          Kate I need to send you an email! We can drink wine and chat off the grid. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Reply
    Danielle from Storypiece
    February 23, 2013 at 5:06 pm

    Girl.. I adore you! This is so well thought out and said. You nailed it!! Every point. Your first photo made me laugh and I loved the quote. It’s all so true. Thanks for the tips on photography. That has been heavy on my brain for a while and I’m eager to grow in that area. Your pics always look amazing.

    Happy Anniversary! Looking forward to many more.

    • Reply
      Alex@northstory
      February 25, 2013 at 4:39 pm

      What you don’t want some rainbow ice cubes? I’ll totally mail you some in a custom made ice box that I find from a vintage store. Oh wait that’s on my to find list for years now.

  • Reply
    Growing Up in the Garden
    February 24, 2013 at 11:06 am

    Great post, Alex. I am coming up on a year next month. All your points are spot on. I think if we stay true to ourselves and vision we will have just the kind of success we need. Congratulations!

    • Reply
      Alex@northstory
      February 25, 2013 at 12:14 pm

      Thank you! I hope you get a chance to write a retrospective on your experiences as I really enjoy reading everyone’s take on blogging.

  • Reply
    fynesdesigns
    February 27, 2013 at 6:29 am

    Great read Alex! Congrats on your Bloggiversary! Have you checked out any publishing networks? I’ve signed up to Blueprint Social and its really great. I think you’d be a good fit… you get free craft supplies, who doesn’t love free stuff?

    • Reply
      Alex@northstory
      February 27, 2013 at 11:44 am

      The only ones that I am familiar with are She Blogs, Blog Her, Babble and I am blanking on the other one. I have not heard of Blueprint Social but I am totally going to go check it right now. Thank you!!!

  • Reply
    Kerrie @ Family Food and Travel
    March 31, 2013 at 12:41 am

    Love, love these thoughts. Really great suggestions, and advice.
    I am new to your blog so looking forward to reading more.

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