This is my weekly post where I offer a slice of a british writer and bloggers life in the Florida Keys – what I’ve been up to, what I’ve been reading online, and of course a few anecdotes from my life in the Florida Keys.
Happy New Year!
Welcome to my fourth edition of Notes from the Backpack. There were no posts over Christmas and new years as I was busy celebrating my first Christmas away from the UK, and my first Christmas with palm trees and hot weather… (which was bizarre!), so welcome back and merry christmas!
For new readers, this is basically a personal note from me to you, for the readers that know me, for the frequent visitors to the site, and of course to any newcomers. I moved from London to the Florida Keys in January this year and have been having a lot of laughs adjusting to this easy, breezy, Keys’y life. You can read the last post here.
What I’ve Been Reading This Week
I just read the most beautiful novel, which honestly was probably my favourite book of 2016. Moonglow by Michael Chabon is a lovingly crafted memoir of the authors grandfather’s life. Part fiction, part non-fiction, from Germany during WWII, to his time in prison, to working for NASA, Chabon writes all about his Grandfathers colourful life in such a compelling and well crafted way. But above all, it is a love story, and really lingers long after the last page has been finished.
What I’ve Loved Online This Week
- This article and video all about how some friends of mine in the Florida Keys dive up to 200ft to spear lion fish, in order to help protect the reefs, is really interesting.
- My Brother-in-Law, Rob, recently did a New Year’s Day swim in Suffolk, England. I thought he was crazy, but apparently cold water swimming is actually addictive, and here is why you should try it.
- I don’t remember the last time I read my horoscope. Start the new year on the right foot – read your January horoscopes here.
- I am still working on creating the perfect island-style home. Recently I discovered that Urban Outfitters do the most gorgeous homewares, and can’t wait for the DHL truck to arrive as I have ordered some lovely things!
- Rogue One was my favourite Star Wars film to date, and it was even better as it offered a final silver screen cameo for the late Carrie Fisher back as young Princess Leia. She was a very inspiring woman, and this article all about her legacy of being outspoken when it comes to mental illness and depression is a good read.
- Bloggers – join the Blog + Biz BFFs facebook group page here for a serious community of bloggers on hand to help with every blogging query you might have.
- I’m still getting to grips with my new Happiness Planner, and will post a review very soon for all of you still looking for the perfect 2017 planner.
This Week’s Story – A Year of Blogging
It’s coming up to a year since I started this blog (!) I always find that the end of a year and the start of a new one always brings a certain sense of reflection and questions, such as…
What can I do better next year?
What do I want to change about myself?
What are my resolutions?
This made me think a lot about blogging and why I do this every day of my life, because it is literally a full-time, every day thing, whether you do it for the money or not.
I used to write for an event blog in London, and crafting and researching my posts as part of my full-time job was such a joy. Having that creative space amongst my busy calendar was something I treasured. But we also had a full-time marketing manager who would schedule the Social Media posts to accompany the blog, and work out what we were going to post about and when. Because as much as a ‘blog’ can appear to be carefree musings from the heart, there is a science behind it. There are formulas. There is a method. And doing it on your own is hard work.
If you are thinking of starting a blog, are a blogger, or just want to know more about what it entails, this is the wisdom I have to impart upon you after a year of blogging full time.
1 – It is overwhelming at times
Putting yourself out there, in cyber space, and having control of a website that people actually read can be daunting. There are so many elements that go into it too, and sometimes this can feel totally submerging. It isn’t as simple as just writing, there are all different elements, including designing, hosting and maintaining a website, working out what the hell SEO means and using it to your advantage, marketing, reaching out to companies to work with, taking good quality photographs, research… the list goes on!
2 – You never feel good enough
There are so many fabulous blogs out there, some with amazing content, some that look amazing, some that post really frequently. It is easy to feel like your own website isn’t good enough, or your voice isn’t engaging enough, or your stats aren’t high enough. But honestly, everyone feels like this.
3 – There is just SO much information in the world
The internet can be so overwhelming. For every question you type into google, there are hundreds of thousands of answers. For every element of my blog I want help with there is a multitude of people trying to sell me their product or e-book. I learnt pretty early on to not be overwhelmed by everything, to learn which voices I trusted and to listen to those.
4 – Blogging isn’t as easy as everyone says
As I mentioned in my first point, there are so many elements to running a blog that it is actually a full time job. Making it a career can be extremely rewarding, but it isn’t as easy as just writing a blog post every few days. There is a formula, and there are a lot of technical things to master, but once you have it all down it is a constant adventure.
5 – Every small win is a triumph
If you wait to hit 100,000 readers before you recognise achievement you probably won’t stick at it. Every tiny achievement is worth patting yourself on the back for. From my first 100 email subscribers to the first time big brands shared my posts I have felt a sense of achievement. With blogging there are no fixed terms of success anyway, and the definition of a popular blog is not set in stone. Be proud of every achievement.
6 – Success comes when you least expect it
I have spent weeks working on a post, and churned another out in a few hours, only to find that the latter was exceedingly popular. At other times, just when I was getting fed-up with everything I would get contacted by another blogger or a company saying something encouraging and wanting to work with me. You see, success is no simple walk in the park, and certainly keeps you guessing.
7 – People want to know everything
Honestly, I know that if I write something a little more personal it will be so much more popular that a generic post about travel. Some bloggers share everything. I read a story recently about a fashion bloggers struggles with IVF, and another about a divorce. I also follow a blogger who literally shares her whole life on Snapchat, down to what she is eating for breakfast. I don’t know about you, but in my opinion there is definitely a line not to be crossed. I would never share everything on my blog, that’s for sure. But if I did, I know people would want to read it!
8 – You can never switch off
As I use most social media platforms in addition to the actual website, there is never really an ‘off’ switch that can be flicked. A lot of my readers are from the UK, and therefore my phone is often already buzzing by the time I wake up here. If I kick back and take a week or so off, I lose momentum and everything slows down, and when it comes to blogging, consistency is key, and this is my biggest lesson so far.
If you make a schedule, you have to stick to it. If you work hard, blog consistently, and plot time to answer emails and post on social media, then you finally get to point where you truly can take the time to switch off. Otherwise blogging really is a full time thing!
So there you go, a little insight into a bloggers life and the things I’ve learned after a year of blogging full time.
Have a great week and see you next Sunday,
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