Blogging 201: Off-Course

A little over a month ago, I had started the two-week Blogging 201 course. The first assignment required us to lay down three goals for ourselves that we hoped to meet in the near future. I had set three goals that I expected to achieve in the span of a month. Neither the time frame nor the goals themselves seemed unreasonable, and I thought I’d be sitting triumphant at the end, ready to push those goals even further.

So how did I do? Not well. Not well at all. Here are the goals:

  1. Double the number of followers on both my blogs by the end of August.
  2. Develop a story bank, mainly over the weekends, so I’m not scrambling to write and publish a new one every day.
  3. Create a weekly or monthly feature within the next 4 weeks that I can consistently deliver on.

And here’s what I’ve achieved so far:

  1. Followers:

    On this blog, I had about 85 followers a month ago. Currently, I have 101.
    On my fiction blog, I had about 145 followers. I now have 173.

    So not really close to double on either count. I’ve started participating in more writing evens of late, both as a means to keep flexing my writing muscles and as a way to build a stronger community. But still, progress is slower than I’d like. There’s something I’m missing here. On the plus side, both blog now have triple digit followers, so there’s that.

  2. I have not developed a story bank. It seemed like a solid plan, and a relatively easy one, but it hasn’t really panned out. I’ve got some stories in the pipeline, but I haven’t really written them yet. They’re more ideas, or concepts. For the most part, I still write stories as they come to me and publish them straight away. However, I have chosen to take a day off, to prevent idea overload. I think that’s been working for me.
  3. I have no idea what to do for a regular feature. I suppose I could run some sort of weekly flash fiction challenge, but that’s still undecided. I had two regular features on this blog when I started. There was a weekly humor piece that slowly turned into a monthly piece and was eventually buried. The sort of off-the-cuff humor I was going for was getting harder to write, and it seemed like I was repeating myself or relying too much on very silly jokes. The second was a weekly art showcase, where I published one of my little doodles. Those were consistently my lowest viewed posts, so I dropped that idea.

    Now I’m trying to figure out what to do for a feature on this blog, or if I even want to do one anymore. We’ll see what, if anything, develops.

So there you have it. Blogging 201. A short course full of some useful lessons that I haven’t quite been able to capitalize on. About the only worthwhile thing to come out of it is finding a theme and look for my fiction blog that I’m satisfied with. So there’s that.

Stagnation

It’s not easy being a neurotic blogger. Or just neurotic, generally. But when you add in a social platform, things just get worse.

I started blogging as a sort of writing exercise. A way to practice doing what I enjoyed, and to tell a few fun stories that I had in mind. I wasn’t sure if mine voice was a voice that people wanted to hear, though I hoped that would be the case. Things were slow in the beginning, and I wondered if I was doing the right thing. Would it be better just to shut it all down? Scribble my thoughts in a journal that nobody would ever read?

But then, things started to pick up. I started my blog over from scratch, and created a second blog dedicated solely to fiction. And people were reading! It was amazing to see my view and like count rising day by day. I was picking up new followers by the handful. Maybe I’d made the right choice after all. Blogging life was good.

Then over the past week or so, there was a downturn. My stats took a pretty sharp dive and don’t seem to have recovered from it. What happened? I have a partial answer to that question. The rush of new likes was too addictive. I forced myself to publish something every day, even when I couldn’t think of anything to write. I’d try and cobble a story together and send it off into the world, hoping it would survive. That seemed to work for a while. But I think I overtapped my creative well.

Surely that’s not all of it, though? Have my recent stories been that dull? I’ve enjoyed the challenge of creating something even when I didn’t have a solid concept in mind, and the process of forming a little tale out of thin air. I’m actually quite proud of the ones that come out of nothing. But few seem to agree of late. I’m not entirely sure if this is a temporary slump or if I’ve taken a wrong turn with my blog. I have no idea how to get things back on track. What if this is the future of my blog? Part of me knows that’s a ridiculous idea, but currently, a bigger part of me is freaking out.

I’m not as concerned about this blog because it is, ultimately, about my personal ramblings. Some people will appreciate them, others will shrug and go on with their day. As long as I’m reaching out to someone out there, it’s all good. But my fiction blog is my baby. I want it to be seen, I want the stories to be liked and to be discussed. There was just one major fear holding me back from publishing it in the first place: What if my writing isn’t good enough? About two weeks ago, that fear seemed laughable. Now, I’m not so sure.

I guess all I can do is keep writing.

Hey, what the – ?!

I feel like I should change the name of my blog to ‘Hey, what the – ?!’, because that’s how I feel when I realize I haven’t posted as much as I wanted to. And that’s something that’s been happening a lot of late. As an example of a ‘Hey, what the-?’ (copyright pending) moment, I just found this post in my drafts that I had meant to post a couple days ago but apparently forgot to finish writing:

“So here’s a good example of how frazzled I’ve been this week: I published a post called ‘Traffic Flow’ a few days ago, and I don’t remember writing it. Apparently, it’s gotten a few likes, and I see it’s there among my blog posts, but I do not remember sitting down and firing out a 600 word post recently.

Maybe it was the elves in my laptop. They’re usually troublesome, slowing everything down and causing windows and tabs to freeze up, but maybe they decided to try something new by publishing phantom blog posts. Or maybe I just really need a nap. One of the two.”

Not only have I forgotten about a post I wrote, I’ve also forgotten about writing a post on forgetting about a post I wrote. It’s a slippery slope to becoming my own grandpa from here, folks.

Almost Done?

“Wait, what happened?” I find myself saying for the second time this week.

Blogging 201 is almost done? Just one more day left? That sucks!

I haven’t devoted nearly as much time to this course as I wanted to. Guess I’ll have to work on the assignments on a slower schedule. And the last few assignments have been tougher to work on without having some time on hand. Day seven’s assignment was about creating a blogging event or participating in one, day eight asked us to establish an online presence on different sites and connect them all back to the blog, and day nine deals with guest blogging.

For the past two months, I’ve been thinking of participating in a blogging event, but I keep losing out on the time to do so. Really, some days I wish I were unemployed just so I could have the time to write all day. Though I’d hate to lose out on the sweet, sweet money. I really need to set aside some time one evening or on the weekend to get to that.

Assignment eight is a bit of a puzzler, as I’m not quite sure how to create another online platform that would reflect the nature of my blog. That’ll be a much more long-term strategy for me.

As for guest bloggers, I would love to have some! There are a lot of amazing talented people out there with some great stories to tell, and I’d be honored to host those stories on my sites. And I would also love to write a guest post for someone as a way to get my voice out there and to supply some extra content. The only problem is who to guest for….there are so many choices and I only have so much time in the day (and, sadly, that pocket of time seems to be diminishing of late).

Looks like there’s still plenty of work to be done to help expand the reach of my blog, and the lessons are almost through. Tomorrow, the folks at WordPress will say “I have nothing further to teach you”, like the kung fu masters in schlocky martial arts films and, like the plucky roundhouse kicking protagonist, I’ll have to go out there to apply my skills.

Time to wax on.

Traffic Flow

Finally, it feels like I have a moment to breathe. I’m still woefully behind on blog reading, but I’ve also got some catching up do with the Blogging 201 course. The good news is, I’ve got less to catch up on there, so that shouldn’t be hard. I’m about four days behind right now, so I’m going to discuss the previous three assignments in one go, then do a separate post about today’s assignment.

On day four, we had to do a stats analysis on our blogs to get an idea of what kind of content is the most popular, and when the most people are reading. Based on that, we were tasked with creating a 30-day editorial calendar. That’s pretty exciting, and also in line with one of the goals I’d set for myself at the start of the course. Unfortunately, with work being so hectic, I haven’t had time to actually do that. I do have a basic idea of my popular posts, though, just based on the number of likes and the frequency of notifications I get. Dark humor is always a hit, as is anything to do with strong emotion (like a post about a bad day, for example). My very short poetry is pretty consistently popular, but even there, I’ve seen some fluctuations based on the subject of the poem.

As far as reading time is concerned, there appear to be two peaks throughout the day: right after work (which s the start of the day in the US), and when I’m sleeping (which would be the evening). There is a small peak in the morning as well, from Asian and European readers. I’ll need to do a more thorough analysis to determine when would be the best time for me o make my posts.

Day five’s assignment was about highlighting older content for new readers, either through an archives page or a ‘Best of’ section or something along those lines. Currently, I do have related posts displayed under each blog post (well, for my fiction blog, anyway), but I have been wondering for quite some time how to draw more attention to older stories without pestering my readers to scroll through them. So once again, this assignment is right up my alley. I’ll need to play around a bit with the site design and some widgets (I cannot tell you how much I love playing around with widgets), and also check out what other blogs are doing. This is, of course, as good a time as any to get suggestions from my readers. How do you highlight older posts or popular posts that you want new readers to find?

The assignment for day six is a little tougher: social media engagement. I currently have a Facebook account that’s rarely used, and is pretty much there as a means of interaction with one very close friend. I handle my company’s Twitter account, but otherwise don’t use it. In recent months, I’ve developed a major Instagram addiction, so I’d say that’s my social network of choice, but I have no idea how to promote a blog on it. This is another one where suggestions and ideas would be most welcome, as I would love to engage with people on a platform other than just the comments section of my posts. Help me out, blog world!

With that, I’m almost caught up on my assignments. By which I mean, I’m almost caught up reading and thinking about my assignments. Completing them is another matter entirely. My first step is to finish tweaking my site design. I had received an excellent idea for my fiction blog’s Home page in the comments for a previous post, so I’m looking to implement that. And I’m keen to work out an editorial calendar and make that a regular habit. Once that ball gets rolling, I will hopefully be able to follow through with the other assignments and build a better blog.

Tech-Free Friday

The weekend in Dubai, as I’ve mentioned before, falls on Friday and Saturday. And because Dubai has no use for free time, many companies have six-day workdays. I’ve got five and a half days, which still means that I only get to sleep in once a week. Hurray.

Anyway, Friday is the one day when I’m free of all obligations and just get to do my own thing. And what I’ve come to realize is that I end up completely neglecting my computer on Fridays. Well, maybe ‘neglecting’ ins’t the right word, because it feels pretty great being free of it. I’m usually out, and even if I’m at home, I prefer reading or watching a movie or finding some way to entertain myself sans internet. Usually, I’ll end up checking my email or something just before going to bed.

So I’ve decided to officially make Friday computer-free. I’m thinking of just making it a tech-free day in general, where my phone will function only as a phone and not a mini-computer. The only hurdle there is that I draw on my phone, and occasionally write short blog posts there too. I suppose it’s as good an excuse as any to get back to pen and paper. I could write in my journal (which has been sitting sadly neglected, and that does seem to be the right word in this case) or draw in a real sketchbook instead of on the app.

I usually end up missing posts on Friday anyway (except for on my fiction blog, where the posts are pretty short), so I may as well make it a deliberate thing instead of going through every Saturday thinking, ‘Oops, forgot to post again’. It does feel liberating to not rely on the computer for all my information and entertainment, and it’s nice to be out for the day, even if Dubai’s not the most ideal city for summer outings.

Then it’s back into the Matrix on Saturday.

Forecast: Scattered Storms Throughout The Week

Today has been an absolutely miserable day. I mean, just a fucking trainwreck. I was contemplating putting up a post that was just the word ‘Fuck!’ written over and over, but I figured I can manage a bit more eloquence than that.

As a matter of fact, this whole week has been pretty awful, in terms of work. Somehow, I haven’t been able to do one thing right. Every little thing I’ve done has been criticized for some reason or another. And today was just the shitty icing on a turd of a cake. Somehow, everything I did today was completely ass backwards and met with instant disapproval. I sent an email earlier today, just a simple email (that my boss was copied onto), and apparently even that wasn’t written properly and didn’t quite convey the message I was supposed to get across.

I’ve also had a couple of dinner reviews this week, which kind of sucks, because a dinner review means I don’t get home till late at night. Because of the length of the commute, it doesn’t make sense for me to go home and then leave later to go to the restaurant. So I end up just hanging out and killing time until the review, eat, take notes, go home, sleep and star the next day. No real free time to speak of. And hanging out in my work clothes with my backpack and work stuff is no fun. Basically I lose a whole evening. Don’t get me wrong, it’s nice going out to dinner, but after a long day at work, I’d just like to slump onto my couch and laze around for a while. Not too much of that this week.

As I’d mentioned earlier, we’re currently in the middle of marketing a new expansion to our site, so my time’s been split between contacting various restaurants about that and writing reviews. I’ve tried to balance the two things out, but apparently I’ve done it all wrong. When I spend a day making calls and sending emails, the next day I’m asked about unfinished reviews. When I focus on my writing, there’s other stuff I should have been doing instead. It’s just been a constant nightmare. My only consolation is that it’s the last day of the work week. I can snooze during my (one day) weekend, and I hope to the Masters of the Universe that next week will be an improvement.

Or else it’s a post full of fucks.