This year is the fifth anniversary of this blog ‘Connecting the Dots’ and therefore I wanted to write about this personal commitment to myself, share my experience and insights from over this time. I am proud that I have consistently blogged monthly and although I am not sure who exactly is my audience, I do know that WordPress have a community of bloggers, I have about 120 blog followers and I do get some interaction on my blog posts. I am very active on social media and having a blog gives me one other excuse for sharing ‘stuff’ with you.
I think I also need to look at it from the point of view of – What if I didn’t blog? …If I didn’t blog, I won’t be discovering stories and content myself as I do sometime have to research topics from scratch. I also won’t get to the point of feeling confident enough about it putting ‘pen to paper’ or in this instance – text and images to WordPress in a blog post! As an information professional, my own blog allows me to focus on research, professional skills and insights, as well as getting to know about the various platforms that can be used for blogging or sharing stories.
Over this period of time, I seem to have stayed focussed on the type of content I write, and the word category is great for guiding me, but also by chance, I write stories subconsciously that they seem to have these subjects category interwoven. So it is good to think about your choice of subject content.
Here are some of my top tips for writing your own blog:
- Stories – with your own blog, you have the creative and artistic freedom to write the stories you want to explore, discuss and share. I work in business information and still have this professional perspective on most topics, but on my blog, I push myself to write about stories that are culturally, historically or geographically interesting to me. I can even share a memoir of my travel and family holidays with you. It is totally up to me. Some of the most memorable is my trip to New York for which I got a lot of feedback and views. I also have stories of my trips to my homeland in Trinidad, and even our 30th school reunion that was so great to write about. I haven’t as yet blogged about the region of Italy where we have family but perhaps, I can do so in the future. I have explored diverse stories such as Carnival, Holi, Diwali, Caribbean history, Immigrant cultures, the Library and Information Profession and general fun times over the five years.
- Schedule – I wasn’t sure that I could blog regularly when I first started this blog but to be honest, having a monthly schedule and a very vague and rough idea on what I want write about is great for literary freedom. I can set my own agenda and work towards the ideas and thoughts I want to share with my audience. I do have deadline pressure points having to fit the blog around work and family life, but some months are better than others and my commitment to the blog means I can plan when I want to start and when I want it published. Usually it is to the last minute but I honestly do give it some thought and organisation for at least a week in advance. I once blogged in Wales when I was away on a training course but needed to get the blog completed. I also blogged in Trinidad when I was on holiday. The software and equipment are easy to access so it is only the stories that need time to plan, organise and think about.
- Photographs – Photos are some of the best aspects of blogging as you can share context and stories but having images gives it another visual storytelling and evidence to what you are trying to convey. I am aware of copyright and tend to look for copyright free images if not using my own. I used the images for Holi from a photographer in the Caribbean as I didn’t have access to my own photos nor where they available from the internet freely. I have attributed them to the photographer source with their permission but I haven’t made any commercial revenue from this blog and in terms of fair use – I think I can safely say that I am just trying to tell a story. If copyright had become an issue, I would remove the photos, but it hasn’t and I grateful to share those photos. Being a library and information professional, I do know lots of way to get copyright free photos from archives and also from free sources but in actual fact, I use most of my own photos! I am hoping to write a blog post just about photography as an art, format and archive, but hopefully museums and picture galleries will be open again for me to get inspired! I love what the National Archive of Trinidad and Tobago are going recently – sharing amazing photos on their social media feeds.
- Research – Setting my own agenda on subject content means that at times, it is a new topic that I may not know much about. Therefore I have to research the topic and what others have written on it. I then decide what I want to ‘say’ and then share my thoughts or view on the topic. I usually look for articles on specialist databases and sources. Some of these topics that I recall are online retailing and the impact of Black Friday, gender issues, decolonisation and Covid-19. However, I do spend time researching before writing so I gain a lot more knowledge on a topic more than I can possibly convey and this is my reason for long blogs. I use social media daily for quick links and stories that I may never write about but get just excited in sharing then in short bursts of content e.g. Twitter. It has been recommended that the tone in blogs is more conversational rather than formal ways of writing. One unique aspect is that I really do tend to write like I speak, so hopefully the text and words used are easy to follow and lack pomposity. I really don’t care about perfect grammar or the punctuation police anymore.
- Blogging Community – There are other bloggers who actually have been successful in creating businesses, profitable income and influence by blogging. I frequently have to convince new businesses that they should blog about their business. I do believe it is great for sharing the topics that you think your audience, and in this case, customer want to hear about. I also try to follow persons who blog too and follow my blog – one good turn deserves another! There is one gentleman from India who shares great recipes and I try to read them with every alert I receive. Other persons market their blog extremely well and therefore get a large and committed following and obviously have a great impact on their audience. They actually become Influencers – there are some great ones out there and they really do work their blog magic!
- Social Interaction – I specifically decided to call my blog ‘Connecting the Dots’ as I wanted to make a connection with the topics I wrote about. I also had a loose idea five years ago to write disjointed topics and incidents in my simple life and then build stories around them…as if I was connecting the dots and I still use this technique to write my blog. I literally brainstorm a topic as well. However, the main aspect of doing it is making sure that I get some feedback and interaction from the final product on all the social networks I share it on. I hope to literally ‘hit a nerve’ with my audience to like, comment or feedback on what I blogged about. It makes it all worthwhile when you get someone interacting with your content and it propels you to continue with blogging. Even if there was no social interaction…doing it for myself is self-gratifying as I would have thought through the topic as part of the process of a blog post.
- Getting Help – Blogging is not easy if you didn’t have publishing experience in the past but nowadays there is so much help online, courses you can attend and support from bloggers. I must give credit to my colleague Neil Infield (his own blog ‘In from the Outfield’) for supporting me in the beginning and for some of the other professional times I blogged before I started. There is still so much more I can do to ramp up my blog but having a full-time job make this less of a priority for me. I still think back to when I did a course on PageMaker at university in the early 1990s and the principles still come in handy. I know most technical issues about blogging but there is always something to learn.
- Technology and Analytics – When choosing your blog, there are lots of platform to choose and some have come in and out of flavour. I chose WordPress as I was familiar with it in the past, Neil could support me if I had any queries, and it also has a whole blogger community when you publish your content. The analytics are also great to tell you the number of views, engagement and geographical metrics of your content. I am happy with the metrics I get and certainly can promote my content more, but my blogs can be a bit ‘dense’ and I think you have to be in a certain wave length to understand where I am going with my stories and content. Regardless of the variety of topics and stories – I do get a respectable level of analytics to encourage me to continue with blogging.
So to the next five years! There are lots of other aspects I can share with you but for now, I would like to say that I still come across so many new discoveries and stories I have never heard before. I like looking at old and new subjects and finding more about them. I am curious and you can probably tell from my social media shares. I know my blog is only like ‘short essays’ but it has given me lots of confidence in the skills I need to research and note about interesting topics. I certainly feel that given the time and space – I can possibly write a tale of fiction or fact about growing up in the Caribbean or coming to study in London over 30 years ago. There are unique, deep and funny stories I could tell, and even if no one buys the book – it will be a memoir for my family. We need more writers with diverse backgrounds and experiences. For example, I am loving Netflix for the story on Simon Bolivar and also La Reina de la Indias y El Conquistador – I know they are film but there are so many adventurous stories that can be told from a different perspective and experience that may be richer and more culturally diverse than those on offered in the near past. It also takes a lot of imagination to bring these stories to life but if you have lived them – they seem more real and easy to put ‘pen to paper’. Don’t hold me to this as I am not sure how the next five years will be but my blog has certainly given me an idea to explore creative writing.
Thank you for reading my blogs over the five years. Do come back again and I wish you a happy and healthy year ahead in this challenging time.