Friday, April 20, 2018

Help For New Bloggers-What I've Learned

Continuing To Be A Lifelong (Blogger) Learner

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I've been thinking lately about the old saying, "You can't teach an old dog new tricks." Well, I beg to differ. This "old dog" has been learning a lot of new tricks over the last 2 1/2 years that I have been blogging. To be precise, it has actually been 2 years and 9 months since my blogging journey began. And, I haven't stopped learning since!

The purpose of this post is to share some of the things I've learned about blogging as a "newbie" in hopes that it can help others who may be in the same boat as I was as a new blogger. That's just the teacher in me!

For me, trying to learn how to blog created a huge learning curve. I knew how to write, of course, and express my thoughts. That wasn't an issue. It was the technical side of things that threw me for a loop. My question at the time was, how exactly does one start a blog? I researched a lot over many months reading article after article about blogging. There is so much information out there about how to build a blog that it can be confusing for a novice. I went back and forth trying to decide whether to use a free platform or a self-hosted platform that required paying for the hosting. Many of the articles I read asked the reader to think about what they wanted to do with their blog. For instance, do you plan to blog as a hobby, use it mainly for family and friends to keep up with your life or do you plan to make a business out of it? According to the articles, how you answered that question would help determine what platform would work best. The funny thing is, that as I read these questions my answers would go back and forth between starting a blog as a hobby and making a business out of it. Sometimes, I would answer "all of the above!" In the end, I finally got exasperated one day, sat down on my couch and just did it. And, I was just sure my computer would explode. But, guess what? It didn't! So, what platform did I choose?

I decided to go with a free platform and chose Blogger (blogspot blogs) to build my blog.

I have been overall quite happy to have my blog on Blogger. I had read articles that it was known for being tech friendly and I have found that to be true. I literally was able to start my blog in just a few minutes and published my first post quickly thereafter. However, since I knew next to nothing about sizing images, tweaking how my blog looked, doing links, etc. I still spent mega hours (yes hours) researching how to do things online and fumbling my way through to figure out the rest. What I quickly learned, however, it that I truly loved the process of learning about blogging, so all of the time I spent was mostly joyful time. Blogging is hard work and there is an art to it, so the learning about those aspects continues for me. But, that is OK and is part of what I enjoy about blogging! There are articles that you might read online that are negative toward using Blogger as a platform because the writers say it is "old technology" and doesn't have "lots of choices" for plug-ins and templates for designing your blog. I can't speak to the other platforms since I have only used Blogger since starting my blog, but I can say that when I look at the layout and template choices on my Blogger dashboard, there is a lot to choose from! And, each template can be tweaked in many ways to fit the blogger's preferences. To be honest, I don't know what people must want who say there aren't many choices on this platform. Personally, I find that Blogger powered blogs tend to look better and are more readable and easier to find things on than other blogs I've seen. I'm not meaning to put other people's blogs down by saying this, it is just my opinion. One of the only negatives that I have found about Blogger is that it is challenging to find answers to questions about the platform. There is a Help button that takes you to a forum where you can either search for a question similar to yours or you can add a question to the forum. Answers come from other bloggers including some "expert" bloggers who are, I assume, chosen by Google. But, finding answers to your specific question can be frustrating. Most of the time, I researched until I found an answer or just figured it out on my own. 

It is true that because my blog is powered by Blogger, I don't actually "own" the blog because since Blogger is a free service there is no pay involved for self-hosting. I own the content I place on my blog and I own my domain name that I bought when I changed from being a blogspot blog to a dot com blog. So yes, Blogger could shut down my blog. And that is another negative you will read about Blogger. But, they would also need a reason to shut down my blog and I try my best to abide by the rules, so I can't imagine why they would do such a thing. Folks who choose the Blogger platform have Google behind them backing up and promoting content and keeping blogs overall bug free. For a non-techie like me that means a lot! And since I blog on a chromebook, keeping everything within the Google family is a plus. I don't have to worry about doing backups or tackling viruses on my own because Blogger through Google takes care of that. And, it's free

I have spoken with other bloggers about possibly switching to another platform with self-hosting in order to be more "professional." And, I've received various bits of advice along the way, including some that caused me to change how parts of my blog looked.  But, at the end of the day, I've decided for now to stay exactly where I am. And, I've also gone back in and changed some things on the blog back to the way they were. To the way I like it. After all, it is my blog. And that brings me to another important piece of learning that I have discovered since becoming a blogger. 

Be true to yourself and what you want to do as a blogger. And it's OK to change your mind as you grow with blogging. 

It's so important to be yourself and to bring your own unique self to blogging. It's tempting to look at all of the blogs that are out there and to be influenced by them. It's kind of like when you were in high school and everyone wanted to wear what the popular girls were wearing. But, sooner or later, you went back to just being yourself and wearing what you liked because you realized that their style just wasn't a good fit for you. The same is true with blogging. My blog may not have the latest "designer look" for blogs, but then, neither does the furniture in my living room. However, both my blog and my living room are spaces that reflect who I am and I'm happy to spend time in both places. Sigh...I guess that in my 2 years and 9 months of being a blogger I've learned that, like the stars in the sky, I'm only one of about 100 billion bloggers (give or take) out there on the web trying to be seen. And because there are so many of us, it is highly likely that my blog will not ever be a "Super Blog" that attracts millions of viewers, thousands of promotional offers and businesses clamoring at my door to be showcased on my blog. I earn pageviews one reader at a time and I have the best followers in the world who come back to my blog time and again to read and comment. They are a blessing and I get excited every time a new reader appears. 

Blogging is hard work but it is also work that brings great satisfaction. 

When I retired from teaching, I had already been blogging for over a year. My wish was that this new venture would give me fulfillment and purpose in retirement while creating a reason to keep on learning. I can honestly say that blogging has fulfilled all of those wishes and more. I hope that if you are considering starting a blog or are new to blogging, that this post has been helpful for you. It is a post that I would have liked to read when I was getting started. And, if you are not a blogger, I hope that in reading this you are challenged to apply the life lessons of blogging to any learning situations you may find yourself to be experiencing. After all, no matter where we are in life, there are always things to learn! And, you can teach an old dog new tricks! 

Whether you blog or not, I hope you will leave a comment. I love to hear from you!

Until Next Time,


Carol @Comfort Spring Station said...

It is ok and important to stay true to yourself and that certainly includes your blog. Keep growing and learning and blogging. I'm glad you're my friend and I look forward to the coming year of sharing.

Sharon said...

I learned so much from this blog post, Debbie. Being such a beginner at blogging myself, your post really resonated with me. I will refer to it again as I continue to learn.

Ginger Wroot said...

As our lives change and evolve, so should our blogs! I've found myself inclined to tinker with my own blog as time goes on too!--G