So now we come to the end of the Blog Overhaul, and I must admit, pink am I tickled. I originally decided to write about overhauling my blog as a way to share the process with other Gonnabe Writers who might be thinking about their own web presence…and also as a kick in my own pants to clean up around here and start looking like a professional.
My goals for “overhauling” the blog were pretty basic and simple. I wanted it to be more readable, more pretty, and I wanted more people to come by and hopefully enjoy it and tell their friends. As far as meeting all the tasks on the “Overhaul List,” things went great. Tasks were completed and blogged about. I am happy with how the blog looks, and I feel it looks more professional than my “old look.” Mission accomplished!
But I got way more out of doing this series than a better-looking blog. One of the best things to come out of all of this was all the “oh-ing,” “duh-ing,” and forehead slapping that was happening on this side of the keyboard. I think I may have opened up a few new connections in the old gray matter. Yes, lightning may have occurred a few times.
For instance, in the first post of the series, “Blog Overhaul, Day 1 – Layout,” my intention was simply to share a few blog templates I liked and discuss their pros and cons and why I chose the one I did. No biggie. Like shopping with the girls, right? “I liked the white one, but the black was more slimming…but my Carlos Santanas are red….”
Shopping so can too be a learning experience. Not only did this little exercise force me to pay attention to what I like and don’t like in websites, but it forced me to learn my blogging software. YOU MUST LEARN YOUR SOFTWARE! It doesn’t matter if it’s blogging software or word processing software…whatever. Whatever you need software for, if you learn it, your life will be better. (And no, I still haven’t fully mastered my court reporting software…but it is so on the to-do list!)
And by the way, I want to emphasize that all of these seemingly technical aspects of designing the look of your blog are really very easy. WordPress’s software is like one big blog wizard. Once I sat down and just played around with all the buttons, I really got to understand how much control I have over how I present my content. This, in turn, has made me think much more strategically about how to direct readers to information that I hope they will read and like.
For one thing, I have learned to link to relevant past posts, as you’ve probably noticed. I used to consider individual blog posts as having a rather short shelf life. And if you’re blogging every day, it’s easy for things to get pushed quickly down the screen and off into the archives. But by linking past relevant posts, not only do you give your content a second chance at life, so to speak, but it gives you an opportunity to catch a new reader up to speed in an easy way and give a sense of continuity. And why wouldn’t you want to point someone in the direction of past relevant content that you worked so hard to produce, right?
(By the way, if you’ve noticed my emphasis on linking to relevant content, you get a happy face. 🙂 Why is this important? People get annoyed at being pointed to “dead ends”…at least I do. It’s important to make sure that your description or hint of the content attached to the link matches the clicker’s expectations and makes sense in the context of a post. Just saying….)
I also now pay closer attention to how each post looks on the page, where it appears, and how long it looks like that, depending on the content. There are so many things that you can tweak and customize for each blog post. It kind of geeks me out. It really does.
In my effort to improve my “About Me” page, I ended up murderizing it…which led me to reconsider my approach and do a quick study of other authors’ bios…which helped me to figure out what kind of information was important for people to know about me in this blogging context. In addition to helping me create a new “About Me” page I was happy with, it also helped me learn more about me — just kidding. 😉 I couldn’t resist. Seriously, though, the effort was worthwhile and meaningful, and it helped to put me into a professional mindset. I know, kind of boring, but I can’t always be a kook.
The next thing on the list was dealing with my “welcome mat,” something I had never, ever paid attention to before. Sure, I read them on other people’s blogs, but it never occurred to me that I should explain to new visitors where the hell they’ve landed. I know. Captain Obvious here. Anyway, being as my target audience is other writers and creative types, it only makes sense to let them know that they have arrived in friendly territory. Park the mother ship around back.
The last thing on my little to-do list was to update my blog header image to something more pretty and relevant than the old blog header, which featured a snapshot I took a while back of a sunflower. I must admit, it was a little uncharacteristic of me to embark on something more elaborate than finding something on deviantART that I liked (and could get permission for), but the DIY spirit was in me and I wanted to make it mine, if that makes any sense.
The resulting blog post, “Blog Overhaul, Day 6: Epic Photo Shoot,” was selected to be featured on WordPress’s Freshly Pressed page, a tremendous honor in these blogging parts. This was truly an unexpected, serendipitous gift for me. In many ways, it gave legitimacy to what I’ve been doing here at my desk all hours of the night with my hair unkempt holding court to a gang of dirty coffee mugs. That this particular post was selected means more to me than I could ever articulate. I received so many kind and encouraging comments, you guys made me feel epic. Thank you.
(I am still working my way through all the comments with much gratitude, so if I haven’t responded to you yet, please do not feel slighted.)
Funny thing, I started a draft of this post a few days ago, before being anointed by the Powers that Press Freshly, and I’m chuckling at this line: “…discuss how much my traffic has increased…[due to posting daily].” At the time I wrote that, I was a proud and beaming momma over a best day stats of 55 views. I still am proud of that day because those were views I got myself. However, since being Freshly Pressed on Friday, I have had over 3,500 views and counting. Boggled and flabbergasted, stunned and humbled, thrilled and SQUEE! about covers it.
It remains to be seen what the long-term effect will be of this wonderful honor, but in the meantime, I feel galvanized, inspired, and lightning-powered in my blogging efforts. I may, sometime in the near future, blog about how the post-Freshly-Pressed stats are coming along, but if you’re interested in reading about other bloggers’ experiences of being Freshly Pressed, I recommend you start here.
Lastly, if you’re reading this far — and I apologize for the length of this post — I hope you will forgive me if I light a stick of patchouli and wax a little metaphysical.
Anyone who knows me best knows that my favorite book is Steven Pressfield’s “The War of Art.” In the chapter entitled, “Approaching the Mystery,” Pressfield writes: “…when we sit down day after day and keep grinding…a process is set into motion by which, inevitably and infallibly, heaven comes to our aid. Unseen forces enlist in our cause; serendipity reinforces our purpose. […] When we sit down each day and do our work, power concentrates around us.”
Every time I sit down at my desk to write, I always have this image in my head of something strange and powerful in the aether raising its head in expectation, eager to read over my shoulder…and when it likes what it sees, spinning its fingers joyfully in the threads of the Universe, somehow shifting things in a way I can neither predict nor imagine. But it’s always something I can rely on if I do my work.
I know this makes me sound like I wear lots of rings on every finger and clackety sets of teeth strung with feathers around my neck, but I swear it’s true. I believe it. I have seen too many things in my life not to believe it.
I also believe that we are all here to fulfill some potential that is uniquely ours, and when we put effort towards that potential, somehow we make the world a better place and more good things come our way.
All right. End of sermon. You can all put your lighters away. Thanks for listening. Namaste.
Anyway, I’m done fiddling with the blog…for now. My only goal for it next month is figuring out how to migrate the whole thing over to my own domain name. But that’s for next month’s concerns. Tonight, I rest…and watch a bunch of episodes of “Lost.”