Better Blogging in 31 Days? Start Now.

BlogHer Original Post

Maybe you want to write better, more often or with more focus. Maybe you take photographs but have no idea how to edit them or where they'll work on your blog. Maybe your blog is bumming you out.

What great things could you do for your blog in a month? And can you do them by having the courage to suck at them

Yes, these are related questions, at least for me. 

Call it a writing slump, Twitter overload, or the fallout from going back to a full-time demanding job as a college teacher while grieving the loss of my grandmother, but in recent months my personal blog, and in some ways my creative output in general, has suffered. (And no, the creative drought isn't all Twitter's fault. I know.)

My ideas sound stupid in my head, and I don't want to let them out of their cages of stupid so they stay safely locked up. My photos that have brought me so much joy for the past four years seem uninspired. I have flashes of said inspiration and they're gone. I sit down to write or to upload, even about things that previously would have come easily, and it's nothing but the blank white Typepad box blinking up at me. I feel weird about my space in Blogland, as a life and photo blogger with nary a child or even a pet now in a virtual zip code that seems increasingly niche-oriented, mom-centered (sorry, I feel bad even uttering that, some of my best friends are mommybloggers, etc.) and marketing crazy. 

The blog that I've loved, I kind of hate it. Our fourth anniversary is in ten days, and I'm thinking we either have to take a mini-break and reconnect or break up. I have existential, and in my opinion kinda elitist blogging angst. Because really, worrying intensely about the direction of my blog is not up there on the list of things that will solve the world's problems. 

It matters to me, though, so it's a thing. It's been suggested that I should quit it, but I don't want to. I love writing online. My site is the best of what came out of a crappy personal era. It's an archive and an ongoing record, and of all the things I've ever hoped to write, one of those "please beg me to stay-I'm so quitting my blog-you can't stop me-please stop me" posts is at the bottom of the negative list. So we soldier on, me and my archives and outdated sidebar buttons and template I can't figure out how to change because I've never really taken the time, because one of us doesn't want to break up, and the other one? It can't, because it's a software application and I tell it what to do, duh. 

Enter Darren Rowse at Problogger, the man who Tweets what the morning is like in Australia just as I'm shutting down for the night, pretty much every day. His 31 Days to Build a Better Blog series  starts today, April 6 (wherever you are, and whatever time it is.) 

The idea behind this is simply to have a group of bloggers setting
aside a month of their time to work at improving their blogs. While we
all want to have better blogs sometimes it becomes one of those things
that we’re going to do…. one day.

I personally find that I improve (in all areas of my life) when I’m
more intentional and set aside a specific time to make the
improvements. That’s what this project is about.

Every day, he says, he'll offer some background instruction and a takeaway task, which is what I'm looking forward to the most. The link to Day One's topic hit my inbox bright and early this morning - crafting an elevator pitch for your blog, a 30-second or 150 word synopsis of what your blog is about, what it offers, and what you have to say (Or show. Or do. Or whatever.)

On of the most important reasons to do this exercise is that to develop
an elevator pitch YOU as a blogger to have thought through and
crystallised in your mind what your blog is about.

If you’re fuzzy on what your blog is about it’s unlikely than anyone else will have much of an idea either.

Some of these ideas will likely sound very business and marketing-heavy right off the top because, well, the challenge is hosted on Problogger. And if, like me, you do not like to talk to strangers on elevators and the thought of trapping them there for 30 seconds telling them about your BLOG horrifies you, well, see, that's why we never get anywhere, being all narrow-minded like that. Use the concept, and the next time you're in the BlogHer buffet line and someone's all "So, what do YOU write about?" you'll only have a 30-second spiel hanging between you and that brownie.

And rest easy in the knowledge that you'll never be that person who badgers people on elevators.

And whether your site is a creative labor of love or you're hoping to make some money from it, that's ok. I'm a life blogger who'd like to get better, who'd in fact actually like to get back to the business of writing something, anything. I'm also a photo blogger who thinks heavily on the way to the refrigerator sometimes about setting up a site where people may actually pay for my prints, at the very least a guilt-inducing link to send to family members in return for all the Girl Scout cookies and gift wrap I've shelled out for over the years. (Kidding. Kinda.) So I'm using this as an exercise in business, creativity, and general ass-kickery, and don't much care what comes out on top. 

It's the structure, even if it's artificial, that I'm looking forward to. Darren's right about the intentions part. I went to SxSW Interactive last month and came home with some cool new ideas. I've already changed a few things up on my site, like updating ancient buttons and sidebar links, adding a Twitter widget, but they're minor. It was movement, though, which was a good thing. And as my friend and Movable Type guru Skye Kilaen pointed out, go me for finishing NABLOPOMO 2007. Um, let's move on.

I mentioned courageous sucking in the beginning, a concept Merlin Mann wrote about in one of my new favorite pieces on 43 Folders in December. It's the tolerance for the potential of sucking that allows him to  find satisfaction in a fairly new photography habit, in spite of the discomfort that can go along with an unpracticed skill.

I’m not doing anything special here, and I don’t claim to have a
magic formula for creativity, let alone for getting a half-decent photo
of a rubber shoe. All I know is that sticking with things that don’t
arrive with instant mastery does have its own reward, even if
you’re the only one who ever collects it. Because the more you push
through the barriers for these little avocations, the easier it becomes
to remember you always have everything you need to just keep banging
until you’re satisfied with any work that’s thrown at you.

Next time I need inspiration to get through a bad patch, or to get
past that persistent feeling that I’ll always be stuck in the lowest
creative gear, I hope I’ll remember to stop and ask myself what exactly
is keeping me from just laying on the sidewalk until I get my shot.
Even if it’s cold, even if I look like an idiot, and even if I risk
missing the first crucial minutes of Judge Judy.

I'm a procrastinating perfectionist with a hatred of learning curves and this makes sense to me. I have some new domain ideas and some design inspiration that is in danger of never happening because I'm afraid it'll be terrible. I have blog posts in my head that I'm not sure will work. I might look like an idiot.

He's right. So what? That's what I need to ask myself, anyway.

Here. Here's a rainbow. A "so what" rainbow.

If you choose to accept the 31 Day Challenge, and if like me
you could use some structure while you shake things up, here are a few
kindred spirits and places you can maybe reclaim or expand your blog mojo.

This is a good time to try a great project. Part of my 31 Day Challenge is to be a better blog citizen. There are
great things happening online every day and it's not hard to get
involved, it just takes focus and a choice to spend the time. Aimee at
Greeblemonkey (and yes, @Greeblemonkey) returned from SxSW with an inspired St. Patrick's Day resolution: Do Epic Shit.  If you're looking for a cool project, the Kids Art Auction inspired by her son Declan last year is up and running again. This year she's working on it with her friend Amy (aka @fruitlady)
and proceeds will go to the Nature Conservancy. If a young artist in
your life would like to contribute a piece or you'd like to bid, stop by the Flickr pool and see what you can contribute.

If it's writing inspiration you seek, I'm having a good time on Plinky.  Their tagline "sometimes you need a push" comes in the form of daily writing prompts, a guided multimedia submission method and a community (of course) of other writers. 

The Monthly Scavenger Hunt is my new Flickr photo inspiration.  Look out for April's challenge.

NABLOPOMO's April challenge is  "Growing (Up.)" Human Girl is giving it a try this month.

Alease Michelle signed up for the challenge, simply because "it's time to get serious with this blogging stuff."

Melissa at MoxVox Design in Australia was one of the first challenge commenters this morning, and the first identifiable female.  Check out this list of activities on her blog (I'm curious to see what she's going to do to improve): 

I design, paint, sew, craft, dj, click, pixelate, build, cut, collect,
reuse, hoard, create, rip, destroy, draw, sample, hang, style,
decorate, remix, fold, mould, bake, cook and probably don't clean
enough.

Around BlogHer, fellow contributing editors Liz Rizzo and AV Flox are also on board with the challenge. Prompts will be on the Problogger site every day, even if you don't sign up. We'd love to know about it if you give it a try.

Laurie White currently writes at LaurieWrites, with assorted accompanying photos on Flickr.

 

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