As part of the 2015 New Quilt Bloggers Blog Hop, there has been a Facebook group established to allow participants a forum to ask and answer questions. Last year when I was a participant in the blog hop, the discussions were the most beneficial element of the experience for me. Many questions were raised and answered, and while I might not have been at a point in my blogging experience to benefit from all the knowledge exchanged at that point, I have gone back and referenced those discussions many times over the past year.
One of the goals of the blog hop is to help answer questions, and as part of that environment, many bloggers have supported the effort by writing thoughtful and helpful Advice Posts (go check them out!). Several themes have risen to the top when I look back over my experience last year and as I have worked to mentor the process this year. Today, I would like to touch on 5 Blogging Pain Points. If an Advice Post that has previously been written is related to the topic, I have it listed in the applicable section.
If you have a post related to any of these topics, I would be happy to update this post and our resource list! Please leave a comment or email me [jetgirl8 (at) gmail (dot) com].
- Diana @Red Delicious Life: Pinterest as a Blog Organizational Tool
- Stephanie @Late Night Quilter: The Art of the Ultimate To Do List
I would suggest that one of the first places to start, when thinking about organization in support of a blog, is with an honest evaluation of where you are today. What are your current habits? What is the best time of day for you to write your blog posts? What works for you? What does not work for you?
I am a list maker, and one of my favorite tools is a good old pro and con list. I write them on paper, I use Excel to compare and contrast, I talk it over with my husband on walks, and I email friends to get their feedback. However you do it, make a mindful decision to set aside time from your day to think about these questions, and I think the results will guide you with selecting tools that will best meet your organizational needs.
When thinking about blogging, what needs to be organized?
- Photography for your blog posts
- Ideas for blog posts
- Your work space organized (or disorganized) to best support your creativity / writing
- Your time allowing you access to creating blog posts
A short list of possible tools and organizational strategies related are below. Not all these tools and ideas will be right for you, and that is OK! The list might not include something that you use on a regular basis – let me know in the comments what else to add to the list. 🙂
Short List of Possible Tools / Strategies
- Editorial Calendar – This can be physical (a monthly calendar hanging in your work space, a small planner you carry around with you) or digital (Google Calendar, an Excel spreadsheet); choose what works best for you. A monthly view of your blogging goals can be really beneficial. It can give you a sense of where holidays fall (do you want to have a Thanksgiving project done and blogged about before Thanksgiving?), it can remind you what weeks are going to be super busy in your real job / life, and it can give you a big picture view and understanding of how often it will be realistic to blog.
- Index Cards / Sticky Notes – These can be really handy to have around to document notes as you are working on a quilting project. I like to use index cards or scrap / recycled printing paper to jot down the fabrics I am using in a project, thoughts I have about what worked or didn’t as I am sewing, or any other inspiration that might strike as I am in my sewing room. I don’t want to have to get up and come to my computer station to do that, or I will get pulled into a social media time suck (guilty!). So having a small stack of index cards or pre-cut paper for notes like this has been really handy for me.
- Garbage Can – Do not underestimate the importance of knowing when to let something go. Whether it is an old post idea that isn’t going to work any more to an old to-do list that just needs to be written over, knowing when to purge is an important skill. Even purging old WIPs can be the right thing to do; but know that you can probably upcycle that to someone who might be excited and inspired to take on your old project!
- Notepad and Pencil/Pen/Colored Pencils – Keep a notepad with you! If you carry a purse, tuck a small notepad in there. While you are waiting at the doctor’s office, you can jot down any inspiration that might hit, doodle the carpet design (quilt patterns are inspired by our surroundings!), or review your previous lists and goals.
- Talk About Your Ideas – I am lucky to have a super supportive husband who listens to me talk about this hobby and blogging fairly non-stop. I also get a lot out of bouncing my ideas off of a circle of close quilting friends. A quick email can turn a mediocre post idea into something fantastic with just the right suggestion!
- Schedule Posts – It probably comes as no surprise to my long term readers that I am a huge advocate of scheduling posts. This is a huge organizational win because it allows me to write posts when it is convenient and then be shared with everyone over the upcoming week(s). This is clearly not for everyone, but I suggest giving it a try to see if it works for you!
- Set Realistic Goals – This ties in with an editorial calendar idea very nicely. By mapping out your time for a long duration of time (a few weeks, a month, a few months), it can really help you establish realistic goals for your blog.
- Celebrate Milestones – Don’t forget to talk up your successes! Big finishes, surpassing a number of blog posts, meeting a goal you set for yourself: let your readers know so they can celebrate along with you.
- Yvonne @Quilting Jetgirl: Creativity and Time
Time and organization are very related. It is not uncommon to take steps to get organized but to still feel a crunch for getting both quilting projects completed AND blogged about.
I am guilty of sitting down at my computer with the intention to write a blog post, only to find myself 30 minutes later still catching up on my blog reading, scrolling through Instagram, or playing a game on Facebook. If social media overload sounds familiar to you, you might want to check out Rescue Time. Rescue Time is an application you can use to track the time you spend on applications and websites, giving you an accurate picture of your day. If you really need to know where your time at your computer is going, this could help clarify what you spend your time doing so that you can mindfully make changes. It can also block websites after you have spent a particular amount of time on them. Drastic, but sometimes Words With Friends (aka online Scrabble with my mom) needs to take a backseat.
Creating a blog post can be a considerable time sink. There are pictures to take, pictures to edit, writing to do, and writing to edit! What works best for me is to be in my quilting space and integrate photography into the process. I keep my camera in my sewing room, and I try to remember to document my process as I go along. I then chose a different time to sit down at my computer and edit the photos. I work at still a different time to write my post rough draft. At that point I either know what photos I need to try to capture or re-create, and I come back for a final edit at a different time. For me, that breaks up into creating / photographing, evening photo editing, and either evening post writing / editing or most likely weekend post writing / editing. I have found that I do the majority of my post writing on weekends while my husband sleeps in. It is just the time that works best for me.
What works for you? If you are a sit down and get it all done at one time kind of person, embrace that and make sure you set aside enough time once or twice a week to be able to do just that!
Experiment and try writing at different times. You will know pretty quickly if it is going to work for you or not.
Another time sink with blogging is interacting with the blogging community and visiting other sites, commenting, and replying to the comments from your own blog! Again, I suggest experimenting both with when you choose to read other blogs and how many other blogs you follow. Also, give yourself permission to not read every post in your reader list. Especially after you have been on a wonderfully relaxing vacation and come home to 99+ blog posts to read. Do you really need to go back and catch up on every one?
3. Posting Consistency
Quilt projects can take a long time to finish, so coming up with a post when you feel like you will only be talking about the same thing again can result in a lot of time staring at a computer screen (and yes, we’ve all thought that about our projects!). If you would like to maintain consistency and are looking for ideas, there are a few really great linky parties that I would suggest that can translate into quick blog posts to write up:
- Sunday Stash hosted by Molli Sparkles – This can be a really fun link up and you can literally go to your stash for inspiration for a post!
- Main Crush Monday hosted by Cooking Up Quilts – The invitation is to link up to anything at all that you are feeling super excited about – it can be a fabric line, a print, a project, a block, a pattern, a new tool, your sewing room, sewing machine, an entire quilt, whatever. Pretty open ended and I know that I might not ever make a particular pattern but still be crushing on it!
- Design Wall Monday hosted by Patchwork Times – This is literally the link up for you if you have a long time WIP that you are working on!
- Tuesday Archives hosted by Val’s Quilting Studio – Each Tuesday has a theme. You can search your archives for something that relates and link up!
Looking for more link up opportunities? Check out the list curated by Terri Ann at QuiltAlong.net.
My biggest advice when confronted with the realization that you have slipped on consistently posting to your blog is to be kind to yourself. I am a quilt blogger, but quilting is my priority over blogging! If my ability to post slips up… well, then it needed to slip. Don’t compare yourself to other bloggers; we are all working with different time balances. Right now I am very lucky to be able to devote most of my waking hours to quilting and blogging. Some day that might not be the case, and I will need to remember my own advice!
P.s. All of you with full time jobs, kids, quilting and blogging, I think you are super human and you never, ever need to apologize to me for prioritizing your family and quilting ahead of your blogging schedule.
4. Social Media Balance
I am definitely seeing a very strong theme emerge from these blogging pain points, are you?
When it comes down to how to prioritize how much time to devote to all the various social media platforms (your blog, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Pinterest, etc.), think about your goals. Each social media platform is honed for a slightly different target audience. The time you chose to spend on a platform will naturally ebb and flow as your time availability shifts and as your goals update. There is nothing wrong with not having the time to invest in a particular platform. In fact, I would suggest that you experiment with something new for a while and then evaluate if it is beneficial for you. I added in social media platforms one at a time and am currently in the process of evaluating if I need to keep all of the platforms I have interacted with or not (honestly, I don’t understand and don’t have the bandwidth to invest in better understanding and utilizing Twitter or Google+).
If you have organized yourself and evaluated your time, I think that finding the right social media balance will fall out of those evaluations.
Sleep and sanity are important!
5. Photo Quality
- Amy @13 Spools: Taking Great Photos
- Ruth @Charly & Ben’s Crafty Corner: Tips and Techniques to Improve your Photography (a 10 part series!)
This is a topic that I continue to work on and improve for myself. I would highly recommend exploring both Amy and Ruth’s advice posts above; they have fantastic advice.
I personally am a believer in starting right where you are and evolving over time. When I started blogging, I knew that my photography was not the greatest, but it did not hold me back. If I had waited until thing my photography skills were perfect or just right… well, I’m not sure I would have gotten started yet (my photography has come a long way, but I’m no professional!).
Part of the photo quality topic is related to your goals. Are you taking product photography so you can list your quilt for sale on Etsy? Are you documenting your work in progress and in the middle of a big project? I think that the photography quality required for those two examples is pretty far apart. I love seeing honest in-progress photos in a craft room. To me, that is honest and real and not something that needs to be 100% crisp and perfect. But that is also my opinion and aesthetic. You might have a goal to have a much more crafted blog appearance and that is OK. If that is the case and you are worried about your photography, I would suggest trying to find a local class to take to improve your photography skills.
Blogging is a commitment that takes time and energy to maintain. Figuring out what works best for you will come with time and experience, and I hope that some of the advice posts, discussions, and thoughts here about what works for me will encourage you to explore the right tools to help you on your journey.
To wrap it all up, I think that William Shakespeare said it best, “This above all; to thine own self be true.”