7 Suggestions Before You Start Your Blog

IMG_0779I hear it often. You want to start a blog, but you don’t know where to start. You don’t know what you’re doing. You are paralyzed by too many options, too much information, too many buttons, or the least simple saboteur: self-doubt.

Start here. You don’t have to know what you’re doing. Not yet.

  1. Ask yourself: why do I want to start a blog? Get in touch with your motivations before you proceed. This will help determine the technicalities such as hosting and template (you can’t use a free WordPress.com blog and expect to use Amazon affiliate links, for example), as well as your title and niche and so on. If you do not have passionate reasons for starting a blog, I suggest you rethink it.
  2. Adopt a blog notebook. This could be a pocket-sized journal or a file on your computer. I use a notebook as well as the application Evernote for scratching down posts and ideas. The more you write in your blog notebook, the more you will want to write in your blog notebook. Ideas are funny like that. Ideas also tend to generate posts. Go figure.
  3. Create a schedule. This is my weakness. My rebel nature means that I like to break my own rules. I try to avoid this by simply not setting any expectations, and not giving myself the chance to rebel. Fortunately I can rebel against my normative ways and therefore, change my behavior, with a bit of mind washing. Case in point, I undertook a 30 day blogging marathon to exercise my voice, grow my readership and see what comes up; promising myself I would set a schedule at the end. << EDIT/DISCLAIMER: I have still not taken my own advice of setting a schedule.
  4. Analyze the blogs you love. What makes them so appealing? Why do you keep coming back for more? How is this blogger different from and similar to you? What can you learn from this blog?
  5. Write your first week or two of posts, then ask a trusted friend or family member for feedback and support. Feedback and support are both necessary ingredients for longevity.
  6. Get active on your social media accounts. Don’t drop off the radar some days because you don’t think you have anything interesting to post. Comment, share, like. Social media will be your best friend when you launch your site.
  7. Educate yourself. There is a wealth of information to help you build your own blog. Invest time and perhaps some money into the site, and you will be glad you did. The internet is overly saturated with blogs. You may as well let yours be awesome.

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Storytelling Animals

“We are, as a species, addicted to story. Even when the body goes to sleep, the mind stays up all night, telling itself stories.” – Jonathan Gottschall in The Storytelling Animal

 What stories are you telling today? What stories are you repeating in your head about yourself?

Explicitly, does it sound something like this: I am a failure. I am not smart enough. I am unlovable.

Or like this: I am interesting. I have many gifts to offer. I love myself.

What stories are you telling about others? What stories are you believing? What stories are you questioning?

How are you educating yourself? What sites are you reading on the internet? What images are you seeing? What books are you reading? What entertainment are you seeking?

How are your dreams at night? Do you remember them? Do you want to remember them? How can we remember them? Do they evoke excitement or shame or fear? How can we change our dreams? How can we make them better?

Why do we use the same word to describe our mind’s stories, but also our mind’s deepest desires? Where do dreams start? Do our sleeping dreams come from the stories we tell our waking selves? Or is it the other way around? Where is the subconscious and how do we bend it? Can it be shaped or are we at the mercy of our place in this tangled web of storytelling animals?

Affirmations. Meditations. Physical fitness. Spiritual community. Yoga. Creative outlets. Gratitude.

You can do all of these things in an attempt to tap into your subconscious, but unless you remain aware of your stories in every moment of every day, you can lose reign on your thoughts. 

I returned home this afternoon after a full productive morning. I saw opened empty boxes and instead of feeling gratitude for the new bedding I ordered for my family, I saw messes. I saw unwashed dishes on the counter and instead of feeling proud that I cook for my family, I saw a dirty kitchen. I saw the opened suitcase with clothes spilling out and instead of recalling the sweetness of my weekend in Seattle, I saw more messes.

What if the piles of papers on my desk means that I am involved in my daughter’s education and what if the jumble of photographs in my desk drawer means I am rich with memories and what if my plethora of notebooks means I have multiple projects and passions and trains of thought?

These are little things, but the little stories add up to the big story. The more good things I believe, the more good I find. It’s a simple equation. It helps me write. The more I write, the more inspired I am. It helps me smile. The more I smile, the happier I am, the more I smile. It helps me understand others. The more empathy I have, the less I judge and the more I love. And love, I believe, is the only path to heaven on earth.

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When You Are Stuck

  Do one thing. Literally.

Walk down the block. Turn around.
Turn on a workout video. Tell yourself you don’t have to do it.
Text one friend one time. If she/he responds and you can’t respond back, that’s okay. [You did one thing.]
Go to a yoga class. Spend most of it in child’s pose.
Read one page. Just one. Put down the book.
Sing one line. [I dare you.]
Do one pushup. Do it on your knees if you must.
Write one poem or post or paragraph. Stop.
[Double dare you.]

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Measuring Failure

 Failure comes to everyone sooner or later. Failure is not a symptom of defeat, but rather, a step on the way to success.

Often upon encountering our perceived failures, our minds project onto the people who’ve succeeded.

The people we believe have succeeded. This always depends on how we define success.

Maybe we define success as a happy marriage or 3 kids or a new house with a landscaped yard. Maybe we define success as luxury vehicles or a “perfect” body or frequent vacations. Maybe it’s a profitable business or a book on the shelves or leading philanthropic efforts in Africa. Maybe it’s an extensive social circle or accomplished kids or a beautiful Instagram feed. Maybe it’s happiness. Maybe it’s “just” joy.

Wherever we are, whatever comparisons we make or conclusions we draw, our failures are not mistakes to erase and correct. They are experiences. They aren’t going to look like anyone else’s experiences.

Comparison is futile. Comparison is not how to understand yourself, unless you compare yourself with yourself: the person before the failure, or the success. The you whose grown up and moved on, but forgets not.

Failure paves the way for success. If we admire someone who makes it look easy, let them be our inspiration. But also understand they have a different set of circumstances, a different set of failures, a different set of successes.

May we dwell not on failures nor successes. May we dwell in the moment, which we can make into anything we want. Here is where our power lies.

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Four More Agreements

Four More Agreements

If you have yet to read Don Miguel Ruiz’s “The Four Agreements” I urge you to do so. It’s one of those small books with grand effects. A book that should be required for entrance into life.

Naming the agreements does not have the same profundity as reading Don Miguel Ruiz’s explanation of them, but for the sake of brevity, here they are, in quotes from the master:

  • Be Impeccable With Your Word. Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean. Avoid using the word to speak against yourself or to gossip about others. Use the power of your word in the direction of truth and love…”
  • Don’t Make Assumptions. Find the courage to ask questions and to express what you really want. Communicate with others as clearly as you can to avoid misunderstandings, sadness and drama. With just this one agreement, you can completely transform your life…”
  • Don’t Take Anything Personally. Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering…”
  • Always Do Your Best. Your best is going to change from moment to moment; it will be different when you are healthy as opposed to sick. Under any circumstance, simply do your best, and you will avoid self-judgment, self-abuse and regret…”

Every time I go through these agreements in my head, I forget one. Not the same one, but one. Always one. I can only name three. I have to look up the fourth. And when I look it up, I cannot believe I could not remember that agreement, because that agreement has changed my life. All of them have, but clearly, I still have a lot of work to do to master these tenets.

I am no sage nor shaman nor Toltec spiritualist. But I have written four more agreements. For myself. Maybe for you. They come from mistakes I’ve made and lessons I’ve learned. They come from existential longings, from a deep desire to love life and make the most of it.

  • Do What You Love. Can we all agree to do what we love? Can we all agree to put aside the pretenses about career and security and prestige, and do something we love doing? It’s not going to be perfect, but if you love something, you forget about it being perfect. It’s enough to just do it.
  • Don’t Pass Judgement. Don’t judge others, don’t judge yourself. A wise friend whose lived and traveled all over the world had the recent reaction to judgment: “they are doing the best they can.” What if we are all doing the best we can? (See fourth agreement above: Your best is going to change from moment to moment.) We don’t know what other people have gone through, we don’t know what they are up against, how can we judge their behavior as poor? I see this as a hybrid of Always Do Your Best and Don’t Make Assumptions, but for me and for many, it deserves its own bullet point.
  • Surround Yourself With Positivity. This is going to be hard for idealists to hear, but it’s the truth: not everyone has your greatest good in mind. Not everyone wants you to shine. Different people have different values and different lessons to learn and different purposes to fulfill. You must edit the people you let in. You cannot avoid all toxic people, but you can close yourself to them. You deserve love, you deserve good vibes. Don’t settle for less.
  • Practice Forgiveness. Towards others, but also, yourself. You can talk your way into being right in an argument. You can convince yourself you made a huge mistake in your head. But for every moment we hold onto a grievance, we taint the next moment, and the next. The sooner we forgive, the sooner we can return to our natural state of joy.

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The Smallest Moments

The Smallest Moments

Lately I’ve found the greatest joy in the smallest moments.

Like the time I pulled out of the driveway for a quick grocery run at bedtime and I saw the outline of a little head in the window, watching me leave. I could not see my baby’s face, but I knew it was filled with longing. This is the sweetness of life. By loving deeply, I am deeply loved.

Or the morning I dropped off my big girl on her second day of kindergarten. I watched as she enthusiastically followed the procedures she’d learned the day before, hanging up her backpack next to her name card and retrieving her snack and dropping it into the snack bucket. When she looked up to notice me, her face lit up and her hand waved, ready and willing for me to leave–without more hugs or more kisses or more goodbyes–before I was ready and willing to leave. I will never forget how she looked when she smiled and waved across the sea of children and parents.

Or every time I pick her up, when I see her happy face emerge from the classroom, her baby sister calling her name. The best part of my day, five days per week.

Or the Pisces super moon rising over Napa Valley last weekend, the magnificent golden orb against sapphire sky, the last night of my husband’s thirties. We first saw the moon as we walked “home” to our hotel from a dinner at everyone’s favorite restaurant, our daughters frolicking in the vineyard alongside us, all long dresses and glittery purses and curly hair, Pisces in their sun, moon and rising, collectively. This life, it never ceases to line up.

There have also been small moments that rock me. That stick with me. That tug at my edges.

Like the time my big girl and I walked in different directions at school pick-up and I couldn’t find her for a good one or two minutes and then I saw her, from the other end of the hall, hovering near the front door of the school, her profile silhouetted by the sun. I will not forget that instant of sweet relief, my heart still pounding, but wrapped in my children. Perhaps losing track of your child at her own elementary school does not merit panic, but it is what it is. This moment is sticky.

Or like the day she got hurt at school. She didn’t eat lunch because she was too upset by the owies she’d gotten on the playground after colliding with a little boy. When she confessed she hadn’t told an adult about the incident because she didn’t want them to clean her wounds, when I fully understood how vulnerable she is at school, without me there to hold her when she falls–I won’t forget any of that.

Nor will I forget what happens inside of me every time my sweet toddler screams at the top of her lungs because she doesn’t want to be in the carseat and I know she’s tired and should be napping and I made a scheduling mistake. Her pain is my pain. I cannot separate myself from it. Or maybe I just don’t want to. Is there a difference? Between not wanting and not able? Between her and I? These things are not completely the same, but not completely separate.

These small moments, like strong winds they knock me over and they push me and they carry me. They shock me and they shake me. They open me and they mend me.

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What I Learned in 30 Consecutive Days of Blogging

The hardest part was not writing the posts, but hitting publish.

By committing to posting daily, I found myself publishing things I’d written that I wouldn’t usually have looked at twice.

I carried my blogging journal around with me. I opened it even when I didn’t feel like I had anything to say. Usually I opened it because I had something to say.

I started in the journal. I expounded and organized my thoughts in Evernote. I moved the clump of words for a third and final time to WordPress, made a few final edits, added a picture and categories and tags, and then, regardless of how ready I felt, I let it out into the world.

I pushed beyond my comfort zone. I opened my eyes wider. I felt purposeful and connected, allowing a greater peace to the beginning of my days because I’d accomplished something that mattered beyond my personal microcosm.

I enjoyed asking questions and getting introspective and feeling my way through pages of thoughts.

I loved having the “excuse” to write creative non-fiction. I loved how posts arose organically when I was not under pressure to promote or sell or generate revenue. I loved finding the flow of consciousness and riding it for a couple hundred words.

I had more posts in me than I thought possible. Instead of succumbing to the lack mentality that I needed to save good ideas, I cultivated them, and I used almost all of them. Like many things, ideas beget ideas. Thought knows no limitations. Language, while limited, allows abundant expression.

But there is always a shadow side.

Blogging daily sucked me dry creatively. My fiction, my art, suffered. Yes, blogging is its own art. But its not my first priority as an artist.

Blogging daily borrowed precious time and presence during vacations and visits with loved ones

Blogging daily took a lot of time. Time well-spent, but time nonetheless.

So what’s next for me and this blog?

To be continued…

This is day 30 of 30 consecutive days of blogging. I made it! Thank you for joining me. If you liked this post, please share using the buttons below. If you have something to add, feel free to comment openly or anonymously.

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