20 Jul 4th Blog Birthday: 4 Things I’ve Learnt Over the Years
Today kaityhall.com turns 4 years old! How time flies.
I knew I started this blog in July a few years ago but I didn’t realise it has been four whole years. The realisation made me sit back in my seat. Combining these four years with the years I ran my first blog, the years I’ve worked in marketing and also my freelance work, I can say that I’ve racked up over eight years of content writing experience (I’m not old ok, shut up). So, for the first time I want to give myself just the tiniest pat on the back!
How should I mark this blog milestone though? I didn’t want to put together a sanctimonious post about the do’s and don’ts of blogging or ten steps to starting your own blog (if you want that type of post may I direct you to Pinterest?) I don’t want to tell you how you should or shouldn’t run a blog – it’s been done before and will be done until the end of time.
However, I do think I have a few pearls of wisdom I can share with you all when it comes to blogging. And since kaityhall.com is 4 now, I’ve done one pearl of wisdom for each year. Clever, eh?
While none of this is revolutionary and some of these things you may well have encountered on your own blogging journey, allow me to contribute my two cents.
1. Blog guilt is a thing
There’s so many facets to the world of blogging I’m quite certain that I’m really only scratching the surface and as a result can wind up feeling a great deal of guilt about it.
For instance, I’m not great at self promotion, I’m not particularly good at connecting with the blogging community, and because it has so much overlap with my actual job, the social media marketing side to my blogging is minimal. When you’re already uncomfortable about the shameless self promotion aspect to having a blog, marketing a personal brand can feel well, overwhelming.
In an ideal world I’d have the perfect balance of all these things but this is a hobby and I want to keep it as enjoyable as possible. Accepting your limitations but also knowing when to give yourself a gentle to nudge to try something new has been very key for me.
Whenever I feel blog guilt I try to remember and hold on to why I’m doing this whole blogging thing in the first place. Your reason might be different to mine but what it has always boiled down to is a love for writing that has always been a part of my life. I lead with that and trust that the other things will fall into place with more experience.
2. There’s a lot more to blogging than writing
I used to think that if I could just do the writing side of having a blog and have someone else take care of all the other things like social media and analytics that would be awesome.
Unfortunately however there’s a lot more to blogging beyond the act of writing. I say unfortunately quite tentatively though because it isn’t necessarily a bad thing. From SEO and Google Analytics to HTML and CMS; I’ve picked up a lot of useful skills through blogging that have only been complemented and strengthened through work.
Not just specialising on the writing side of things has been a necessary evil, one that I still drag my heels about sometimes but also one that has been a real learning curve. If you’re not keen on photography, scared by the idea of Google Analytics or some other aspect of blogging that you aren’t completely confident with, I would encourage giving yourself a gentle nudge. There’s fun to be found in the process and often it’s just taking the first step that’s the worst.
Also, don’t be afraid to ask others for help. Even if they aren’t directly working on something just talking through what you want to achieve can get the ball rolling. Friends, colleagues and paid professionals have helped me out with many things from photography to branding advice in the past and I never regretted asking for their help.
3. The importance of being inspired
So we’ve met Blog Guilt. May I introduce you to Blog Slump? They’re best friends and like to hang out together. It’s a thing. They are just the worst.
When I get into a blog slump it’s usually an insidious and very potent mixture of feeling overwhelmed and uninspired. On the flip slide I noticed that when I’m in the mood to write I’m excited and can’t focus on anything else. In those moments I must get it out of my system. It’s like a caffeine high that I can only ride the wave of and enjoy it while it lasts.
I started to wonder where this writing high came from and if there was anything I could do to nurture it. The answer was so obvious I couldn’t believe I hadn’t seen it before: INSPIRATION. How did I miss it?
These days I make sure I have time carved out to just play. That’s quite vague because it encompasses so many things. I am inspired on a daily basis by a diverse myriad of ever-changing things. Recent examples include: a YouTube video about obscure horror films from the 80’s, a discussion about languages with a friend, going for a run – you get the idea.
Inspiration is a funny thing and it sounds cliche but I’ll say it: it often arrives in the moments you least expect it. Ew.
Cliches aside, I do think that we stay inspired by tapping into our interests, being curious and learning new things. It’s not something you can force but it’s certainly something you can nurture. I try not to lose sight of that.
4. Only blog about what interests you
Notice how I used “blog” as a verb for this point – that’s very key here.
I consider myself to be a very versatile writer who can get under the skin of many different topics and write about them with skill and curiosity. However, that being said, working in marketing and also freelance writing I have to make a distinction between blogging and content marketing.
I once just referred to it all as writing. However, they are very different styles of writing. This blog is very different to the blog on a website selling furniture for instance.
Both blogs are sustained by the act of writing, and there’s definitely overlap between blogging and content marketing but I’ve found that for me blogging can only be personal. And for it to work I need to lean into that. I mean, the blog is literally named after me, it needs to be personal.
After years of trial and error I’ve found that this means I can only blog about topics that I am truly enthusiastic about. That may sound obvious but it’s something that is very easy to lose sight of when it comes to brainstorming titles for future posts.
If I’m not enthusiastic about a topic it just won’t happen. I’ll dig my heels, procrastinate and just really avoid going near the post. I’ve understood that this is usually a post, more often than not, I need to abandon.
Sure, there’s a certain level of discipline that needs to go into writing – some weekends I really have to coerce myself into opening the laptop. The difference is that when I do finally open the laptop I get lost writing for an hour or two. If every paragraph is a struggle it may not be coming from a place of authenticity and you may be trying to force something that isn’t working for you.
This little blog has come a long way, there’s still lots I want to do with it but I’m delighted it has come this far. Whether you’re a new reader, someone who has dipped in and out, or someone who has been here since 2016 – I’m so happy you stopped by to spend time here.
I decided to end this post with a round up of my top FOUR favourite posts I’ve written over the past four years – one from every year of course.
When my weekly German evening classes were cancelled at the beginning of lockdown I went into overdrive trying to make sure I didn’t start forgetting all the German I’d learnt – almost two years of progress. This resulted in what was essentially language immersion at home. I came up with some interesting ways of filling a language into every nook and cranny of my life. And then I decided to create a little Lockdown Learning series. I still have one more post coming up for this too.
Probably one of the highlights of 2019, being invited to the grand re-opening of Hillsborough Castle last year was a pretty cool moment. I loved exploring the rooms filled with artwork and beautiful furntiure. I just have a thing for old buildings, ok.
This was a cathartic piece to write. Anyone who knows me or reads this blog knows how much I love horror films. I’d spent most of the summer of 2018 excited about the upcoming release of The Nun and man oh man was I disappointed. Soon my disappointment transformed into anger and I decided to write about all the reasons I hate this film.
My home city plays a big role in this blog. I’ve covered lots of cafes, restaurants and events in Belfast but this post about Belfast’s Street Art is probably my favourite to date. I feel it really captures that special something about the city
Whenever I started this blog I was embarking on a slight obsession with herbal teas, something that I’m still excited about to this day. I’ve done quite a few tea reviews over the years but this was my first one about a little tea set I picked up on a trip to Edinburgh. It feels so long ago!