Over the last few weeks I've begun to feel a little overwhelmed with how much "stuff" is out there.
You know where I mean. Sitting on the Internet, legs-crossed, filing its pointed red nails, all the while passively claiming to offer an abundance of help, advice, entertainment, life-changing information and "if-you-miss-this-your-left-arm-will-fall-off" style blatant bribery, just to get me to click on a link. Perhaps you feel the same way about some of the tweets, posts and links your eyes gaze upon each day?
While there is a lot of value out there, it's getting harder to spot it through the blur of not-so-useful content. So I thought I'd share five blogging resources that really work for me. They work for very different reasons and it's possible you'll find one or two more useful than the others, but hopefully theres' something for everyone here.
Free Resources for Better Blogging
I met Mike in Rotterdam where we spent a whole morning laughing about people who don't exist; I'm talking about the characters from fictional stories we'd not written yet. For me, it was my favourite kind of meeting of minds. Over the last few years Mike has become something of a Lord of Storytelling and his latest email course"Storytelling for Bloggers" reveals why he's right to rise to such heady heights. I completed it a few weeks ago and already have a long list of things I must change about my blog and blogging process. He is far too passionate about helping bloggers tell better stories and he offers consultancy services to those seeking one-on-one help.
Here's a page of his storytelling resources and I also recommend you read this free pdf.
Sign up for his email course here (you'll receive just five short(ish) emails packed with inspiring words and other relevant links.) There's a lot of free but very valuable material there.
For many years I've been dipping in and out of Copyblogger. As an online copywriter, there are hundreds of posts that are of value to my "day job". What I was a little slow to realise was that these articles are also helpful to my blogging. While I find the articles not always easy to get into, I have enjoyed downloading and working through a number of their free ebooks, which you'll need to sign up as a member to use (which is free to do). It's also worth getting their newsletter just to see how the experts manage email correspondence, which has really helped me fine tune my own newsletters.
(On a side note, I find reading these ebooks on my Kindle or phone allows me to soak up much more of the advice compared with when I'm on my laptop or at my desk.)
You may also want to check out ProBlogger if you haven't already; there's a lot of there about the business side of blogging.
How I only discovered Leigh's blog in the last month is a mystery (but I finally did thanks to Mike's aforementioned email course) and I'm savouring her archives which are full of real-world writing advice, tips and encouragement. Leigh also kindly offers a limited amount of free feedback to a number of writing prompts so if you're looking for some personal guidance and interaction, you should sign up to The Future is Red newsletter right now.
My favourite posts (so far, I'm still working my way back) for actionable tips are 7 Ways to Commit to Writing and for celebrating the joy of books, Last Night She Reminded Me Why I Love To Read. And let's all bookmark this as a reading list we should all try and work through.
4. Buffer Blog
I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that the Buffer Blog is the best corporate blog I've read. They balance a number of not instantly relatable themes - productivity, social media and writing - and the content on each is interesting to all. Well, at least it's all interesting to me and I imagine that's the case for other bloggers too. Buffer also claims their blog is their biggest source of new business (the company is VERY transparent about its growth and financials - something we should all be inspired by).
Shake up your social media strategy by reading this post about recent changes to Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn (*sigh*) and digging deeper into these popular "How-To" posts from 2013.
This website won't be for everyone but the newsletter always has great advice for starting, continuing and improving your writing life. I may delete or archive one here and there without opening it (I try to practise Inbox Zero!) but the ones I do dip into have made me stop, read and think about how I write fiction, copy and my blog. A great mix of technical details and motivational content.
Try your luck at their grammar quiz and I have read this interview with Jon Morrow twice and got value from it each time.
My Tips for Better Blogging
For whatever it's worth... a couple of old Dutch Guilders, perhaps... here are the things that I feel have made me a better (and happier!) blogger.
Think outside yourself - My most popular posts are the ones that have offered helpful information be that the best vintage shopping in Bologna, the things I do that make me happier or how to get started in self-publishing.
Treat your blog like the wonderful thing it is - Respect your blog. It's your product. It's one of the biggest representations of you, your personality and your work ethic. So, be professional. Have a blog schedule. Stick to it. Brainstorm ideas regulary and write them down so you never run out of interesting things to share. And then...
Edit - For the first two years of my blogging adventure, I would write a post, check for spelling errors, get distracted by something that wasn't worth getting distracted for, then I'd go back to the tab my blog was sitting in and press publish. Now, I write a post, save it as a draft, wait maybe a day or two and revisit it and edit more magic into it. I edited this post three times before I felt it was "ready". You can always add more magic to a blog post.
Less is more - I try to avoid posts that are heavy in both photos and words.There will always be a lot of power in keeping in short and sweet and not too complicated. That's why I started the "In Photos" series to take the pressure of always having lots of written content.
Enjoy it - I'm very fortunate that I love blogging. If I could blog all day, every day, I would. But there have, of course, been times when I didn't want to edit photos, didn't want to write content and didn't want to think up new ideas. My worst posts (in terms of quality) were when I felt like this but blogged anyway. As the old adage goes, if you don't have anything worth sharing or saying, then don't say anything. Besides, the world will not end if you don't blog every day or if you take a week off.
Now here are some new (to me!) bloggers I really like and perhaps if I explain why, this will also be a little inspiring.
Love Life Eat
Not 100% new to me (I've been a fan for over a year), but Felicia's blog is near enough a daily read thanks to her pornographically well-lit food photographs and her unrivalled knack for finding an abundance of quotes I want to tattoo on the inside of my eyelids. I also love her unapologetic approach to blogging - she just writes what she wants - and so her blog posts invariably end up including a life lesson, a recipe and an update on her work. Felicia's also a constant source of relevant and interesting news on Twitter - a feat not many achieve.
Ten Penny Dreams
I think I first connected with Amy from Ten Penny Dreams via Twitter and I felt something similar to relief when I opened up her blog. Finally a "book blog" that not only reviews books I want to read but also blends life and travel and writing cohesively with well-thought out and beautifully composed observations about life as a writer / reader. I was honoured that Amy reviewed Shy Feet and also interviewed me for her very interesting Space on the Bookshelves series. Fall down the rabbit hole of Amy's Book Reviews at your peril!
Need Another Holiday
When I first met Clare (again in Rotterdam) I kept banging on to her about how much of a great concept her blog was based on. For all the travel blogs that are out there, very few of them actually focus on just "holidays". While I was almost certainly telling her something she already knew, I've loved watching Need Another Holiday grow thanks to a special combination of lots of information with her sharp and witty personality. Her (beautiful!) Facebook photos are always accompanied with a humorous comment and I really look forward to seeing where Clare, her blog and her holidays take her.
Sparrow in Space
Thanks to Monica of The Travel Hack (another fantastic read for pure wanderlust and practical travel advice) I found this pretty blog that once documented the young Dutch couples' travels, but now follows them as they settle back into "real life" in Haarlem. I love the photography and the effortless writing. A soothing space for me to seek escape and inspiration from just down the road!
The Edible Woman
It's not often you're introduced to the woman before the blog, but I was lucky that Emma was also on my dog-mushing trip in Norway. Aside from helping me survive outside of my comfort zone, I'm grateful to Emma for introducing me to snapshots of her life and travels on her relatively new (but packed full of stories) blog The Edible Woman. I love her writing in this piece about contemplating solitude in Mongolia, I smiled the whole way through her article about our dog-mushing experience and I will certainly steal some of these tips on writing by Henry Miller.
Now over to you - any resources, websites and blogs that make you a better blogger? I'd love to hear them!
Frances M. Thompson
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