Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Fog of Blog

Yesterday I took a one-hour class on “The Business of Blogging” with Julie Nowell of Three Chickens Consulting. It’s a 360Bliss course. If you’re interested, it was easy to get into, the content was valuable, and I would say that it was worth the time and course fee. I will also say that I am looking forward to their other classes and I absolutely plan to take more. (Added bonus, Julie seems both whip-smart and genuinely kind.)

For me, personally, though, I think that a lot of the content will prove more useful to me a bit down the road than it is proving right now. It is very difficult to determine how to make your blog a business when you still feel a bit in over your head with blogging in general.

It did further cement some other ideas I have been having, though…

Blogging is Easy to Do, But It is Hard to Do Well
Blogging is something that is easy to do but hard to do well. Anyone can hop on to Blogger or WordPress, set up a free account, and just start typing. There is no requirement that they write anything interesting or well – a fact I freely admit I have taken advantage of on some days.

The quality of a blog can range from inarticulate rantings to well-thought out and presented content that other people can gain some value from. It’s audience can range from family members and the few who manage to stumble in all the way to a readership that provides page views of over 1 million a month. If my blog was placed on that sliding scale, then… well, I thank you for continuing to read after you stumbled in.

So where do you find me on this fine day? Well, I will repeat: Blogging is something that is easy to do but hard to do well.

I prefer to do things well.

I am not doing this nearly as well as I would like.

Thank you to those of you who are sitting behind your screens saying, “But JoAnne, I think you’re great!” Well I think you’re great too, friend. I can say friend because odds are very good that you are actually one of my friends in real life. I deeply appreciate your support and I know that I can’t succeed with out you (so share my content far and wide, please).

The rest of you are bloggers. Depending on where you are on the blog scale you are either: blissfully unaware of what I am talking about, somewhere in this thick fog-of-blog with me, or one of the more advanced bloggers of legend that already knows what they are doing and are making a living wage doing it. Let me address all of you, in order:
  • To the blissfully unaware blogger – enjoy where you are. You are either new, a hobbyist, or someone that feels like they have time to develop. This is great. I sincerely hope that you will find the level of success you want without ever having to feel as lost and overwhelmed as I am currently feeling.
  • To the Fog-of-Blog bloggers like me – welcome! I adapted the phrase from Clausewitz, the great military strategist who wrote about, among other things, the fog-of-war. In a nutshell the fog-of-war is the idea that you can go in to an engagement with a clear and thoughtful plan, but then life will intervene. Things will happen that you don’t expect, you’ll begin to understand that you don’t know what you don’t know, elements of your plan will fail, and you will quickly be reminded that no plan survives contact with the enemy… or Google Analytics. You know what of I speak, and I appreciate your taking the time in your own busy schedule of being confused and trying desperately to do better to read this post.
  • To the Bloggers of Legend – honestly, I’m a bit confused as to why and how you are here. I don’t mean to sound ungrateful, because I actually am exceedingly so, but, seriously, I thought you would be too busy with your book deals and speaking engagements and general awesomeness to find me. Since you’re here, though… want to help a lady out? I’m not [all THAT] proud, I WILL gladly and gratefully accept your charity.

Seeing through the Fog: What I “Know” I Need to Do
There are a few things that I know I need to do to move to the fabled “next level”. Of course, even that is a bit of a stretch. I don’t actually KNOW anything. I’m guessing based off of things that I have read and forums and groups I have been a part of. Maybe something isn’t REALLY necessary. Maybe there is something not on my list that actually should be my priority (probably). I’m really just trying to feel my way around in the dark here… my greatest source of feedback is banging in to something.

Still, though, there are a few things that I [think I] know I need to do. Here’s the list as I have it so far, submitted for your curiosity, commiseration, or amusement:
  • Migrate from Blogger to a self-hosted blog (based on what I have read, it might actually be in my best interests to stop my list right there because trying to do what is necessary to bring that about might actually kill me)
  • Go through all past posts and check links, edit content, and possibly just delete the ones that I don’t think are any good (also a potential pitfall… I have very high standards and my writing rarely meets them – what if I end up with NOTHING left!?!)
  • Create an editorial calendar – meaning that I actually get organized and plan what I am going to write/post well in advance while also leaving room for events driven posts (there really isn’t a downside to this as long as I keep it flexible)
  • Plan my days – blogging is a job. No, really, it is. There is a LOT involved. Writing is only a part of what I need to spend time on. Planning, promotion, editing, networking, social media engagement, graphics… all of this takes time. I need to establish a day-to-day schedule so that I don’t end up going down a rabbit hole on any one of these things (though that does seem like a somewhat unfair phrase – rabbit holes are a perfectly acceptable place to be… I bet that bunny mom from The Runaway Bunny keeps a very tidy warren)
  • Write a business plan – if you want to make money blogging then you need to market your very particular set of skills (now I just need to figure out my particular set of skills… sadly, “able to destroy virtually all members of an Albanian human trafficking ring based, in part, on my ability to sound bad ass on a phone call” is not one of my skills. I will forever be disappointed in myself for that oversight in career development.)
  • Set up and operate ANOTHER website just for my business (because, you know, all the rest of this isn’t at all time-consuming)

Oh, and at some point, I also need to actually write, write for other forums and platforms, learn to write better, be a useful and helpful member of the blogging community, help with our other side business (which also needs a website, dontchaknow), do fertility treatments, be a good wife and aunt, and at least make an effort be a functioning member of society… or at least my household.

No problem, right?

If you’ve actually read all the way through this then you are either another blogger or a personal friend. Thank you either way. I hope that it made you feel at least a little better about whatever is on YOUR to-do list. I actually think that my niche, if I have one, is probably whatever it’s called when your target audience reads you to feel normal, or even superior, because they are secure in the knowledge that you REALLY DO NOT have your sh*t together… but you keep trying anyway – like an adorable Sisyphus. We’re either all in this together or you’re better than me at everything except being relatable in my mediocrity. 

I’m trying to figure out just what I should do next. Part of me is tempted to do a blog-style radio silence for a while as I attempt to rebuild myself bigger, stronger, and faster… On the other hand, I am afraid that would both tank my traffic AND delay my chances of joining certain blogging networks. Is it worth it? Should I just limit my posts and spend the rest of my time working on it? Should I just keep going as I am for right now?

I am open to feedback and suggestions.

No, really. Please provide feedback and suggestions in the comments, on Facebook, or on Twitter

first photo credit: CJ Sorg via photopin cc
second photo credit: Annie Willis

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