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I stopped blogging here some time ago when career changes commanded my full attention for a while. But I want to make you aware that I am now blogging regularly at my Front Porch Times blog. Please feel free to take a look. There is a subscribe button on the sidebar where you can sign up to get posts by email.

The posts are brief, for the most part, and contain quotes from books I’m reading, dry humor, nature observations, “aha” moments and inspirations.

Here are a few of my recent posts:

Wedding in Monona! – About my daughter’s wedding, my most popular post so far.

Sunday Morning: in praise of uncertainty and vicissitudes

It’s a nice day to st art again – a staycation trip to downtown Madison

Last night’s strawberry moon (with a side of Questions Before Dark) 

Why start blogging again? Seth Godin describes it well: “”Blogging is free, it doesn’t matter if anyone reads it. What matters is the humililty that comes from writing it. What matters is the metacognition of thinking about what you’re going to say. How do you …force yourself to describe in three paragraphs why you did something. This has become such a micro publishing platform that basically you’re doing it for yourself, to force yourself to become part of the conversation.”

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Image and video hosting by TinyPicIf you’d like to get better at everyday communication… or want to improve the writing or speaking you do for the public, such as blog posts, lectures to students, sermons, presentations at work, etc… then the below formula will help you.

Every communication should have what Aristotle called: logos, pathos, and ethos.

Logos – Something for the mind. This could be a new piece of information or tip that the reader/listener can apply. It could be a story that doesn’t outright teach but lets the reader come to the conclusion himself. It is the substance of what you are saying/writing. Make sure you actually have something to say and don’t tell them something they’ve heard hundreds of times already.

Pathos – Something for the emotions. Ask yourself how you want the reader/listener to feel afterwards. Uplifted? Sad? Motivated? Angry and ready to take action? When your reader/listener is feeling that particular emotion they will be more interested in what you say.

People tend to remember how you make them feel more than what you actually say. Also, they are going to feel a certain way afterwards anyway, even if you give it no thought, so you might as well give this consideration while preparing.

Above all, you should avoid making them feel bored. Get to the point. If you have a clear beginning, middle and end to your communication, it will help you avoid the trap of writing/speaking in circles until you find something to say.

I have several blog posts sitting in my draft file because I don’t have a good beginning or middle or conclusion to them. I’ve ditched many drafts of writing projects for clients for the same reason. Perhaps the most common mistake I see is when a writer/speaker has only a middle and no beginning or conclusion.

If your topic is dry in nature, you can still alleviate the boredom by making it more fun by adding visuals such as a video, photos or clip art, or telling an interesting story associated with the topic. The fun factor doesn’t have to be of the “hahaha” variety, but simply anything that helps make your reader/listener feel more energized by what you have to say.

Ethos – Something for the imagination. The reader should be able to imagine how your message will apply to their life. It should be clear to them what they are to do with your information. Don’t leave them hanging.

Speaking/writing is a two way street: you communicate your message and the reader/listener runs with it. It’s not all about you.

The word “imagine” is one of the most powerful words you can use. Storytelling is the best device for engaging the imagination of your readers/listeners and for applying this entire formula.

(H/T – Getting The Word Out Hollywood Style)

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On the Nobody-Cares Bears and blogging

Did you know Care Bears grow up to become Nobody-Cares Bears?

Kelly Parkinson, in a fun post on her blog, introduced me to the concept of Nobody-Cares bears.

While reading her post I also realized that there are certain Nobody-Cares bears that surround me as a blogger.

Here are some of them:

1. That’s-Not-Funny Bear – Erma Bombeck said it’s easier to make someone cry than to make them laugh.

This is why people are often prone to tell sad stories or to whine about stuff.

Whenever I write something I think might be funny, the That’s-Not-Funny Bear shows up immediately.

Because of that bear I’m sometimes reduced to showing the post to one of my older daughters first, to make sure it’s not lame.

2. What-Will-Your-Friends-And-Family-Think Bear. This bear is especially chatty and is the most ruthless of the bears.

This bear knows that having people who know you read your posts can be anxiety-inducing and milks it for all it’s worth:

“What will your friends/family think if they see that you read a book like that?”

“Your friends/family are going to roll their eyes because this post will make you look really shallow/silly and they will like you a little bit less as a result.”

“Your friends/family are going to laugh at how confident you sound in that post because they know you really are a wimp.”

“Your family is going to say, ‘Yikes, I’m related to her?” when they read that.”

“Your friends will say, “I used to think she was an interesting person but then I started reading this blog. Oh well.'”

I told you that bear was ruthless. :)

3. TMI Bear – This is the bear that is very, very afraid what you’re about to post has Too Much Information (TMI) about your life or weaknesses.

When the TMI Bear shows up, I remind myself  how this post is one of the most popular posts on my blog.

More people bought copies of the book I mention in that post than any other book I’ve mentioned on this blog (I know this because I get a teeny tiny commission on Amazon purchases readers make from my Amazon links).

In that post I share how I didn’t at all have my act together that day and I guess it resonated with people. So there, TMI Bear.

4. Who-D0-You-Think-You-Are Bear. This is the bear that I can count on to say, “Who do you think you are to write anything about anxiety/depression/marriage/friendship? You’re not a counselor/professor/author.”

5. OMG Bear – This is a catch-all bear that brings up anything the other bears may have missed. “OMG, why are you wasting time writing blog posts?”

Maybe you face the Nobody-Cares Bears too even if you aren’t a blogger.

Anyway, if you ever thought blogging was about personal fulfillment or ego, then I hope this post has showed you how that’s not at all the case.

Blogging is instead about fighting the Nobody-Cares Bears, sipping from the elixir of anxiety, discovering who you really are beyond your roles in life and ultimately, I hope, becoming a better person in the process.

Off to do some bear hunting…

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Is your blog an introvert or an extrovert?

I came across this Myers-Briggs test for blogs, where you type in your blog link and it figures out the Myers-Briggs personality type for your blog.

A couple of my friends have told me that my writing voice is very different from my in-person voice. Specifically, they said I come across as fun in confident in my blog posts and in email. Which I guess means I’m boring and timid in person? :-)

I see this test confirms that. My Myers Briggs personality type is INFJ yet the type for my blogs is the exact opposite, ESTP:

The active and playful type. They are especially attuned to people and things around them and often full of energy, talking, joking and engaging in physical out-door activities.

The Doers are happiest with action-filled work which craves their full attention and focus. They might be very impulsive and more keen on starting something new than following it through. They might have a problem with sitting still or remaining inactive for any period of time.

I’ve thought of my blogs (this one in particular) as a place where I’m totally myself as a writer. Yet the blog’s personality is opposite of my actual personality, which is amusing. Maybe there’s a diagnosis for that? :-)

By the way, even if you don’t have a blog, it’s fun to run the links of your favorite blogs through that analyzer to see what their type is.

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How to start blogging, part 8 of 8: A Final Checklist

If you’ve read the other posts in this series about blogging, you now know the basics of creating a blog and attracting readers.

Today I want to leave you with a final checklist of things you should do regularly as you maintain your blog:

1. Mix it up – Keep things interesting by adding variety to your posts.

If you write a long, philosophical 750 word post one day, post something short and more upbeat the next day.

Occasionally add a photo to your posts. Post a link to a video from time to time. This provides visual interest as people scan your home page and encourages readers to linger.

2. Watch your fonts – If your default font isn’t already set to Verdana or Ariel, or is too small, go correct that right now. It’s inexcusable to use a tiny font size or a font that is hard on the eyes. Also, always use black. Don’t get cute with the colors.

3. Watch your traffic – Sign up for StatCounter or Google Analytics. As part of the sign up process they will give you a piece of code to copy and paste into your blog template.  After you do this, the program will track how many people visit your blog, what search terms they used to find blog and from which website they found your blog.

Once a week or so, log in to your StatCounter or Google Analytics and see how many visitors your blog received that week. Click on the “recent came from” report to see the links of websites where people found your blog. If you find that one of these blogs or websites gave your blog a recommendation, you should go leave a comment there and thank them.

Also be sure to pay attention to the keywords people used to find your blog. You’ll be amazed at the search phrases people used to find your blog. This will give you a lot of laughs sometimes…and it will also give you inspiration for new blog posts and show you what your audience is interested in.

4. Comment on other blogs – Read blogs every day and try to leave several comments per week, being sure to include your own blog link in the comment.

5. Google is your friend – If you’re stuck on a technical aspect of blogging, Google will have the answer. For example, if you’re not sure where to put the Google Analytics code on your blog, just type “where do you put Google Analytics code in blog” and you’ll get an answer immediately.

I’ve asked Google hundreds of questions like these since I started blogging five years ago. Sometimes I’ve had to spend several minutes digging through search results but I’ve almost always found an answer that works.

6. Be yourself – If this is your first time blogging it can be nerve-wracking to expose your thoughts to the world. If you’re nervous, ask a couple of supportive friends to read your blog so that you can have a friendly audience right off the bat.

As a blogger, make an effort to learn from everyone… but seek approval from no one. Approval is a drug – one hit is never enough. Rather than second-guessing yourself, just hit the “publish” button. You can always delete the post later if you want to. Even though there are 80 million other blogs out there, your voice is unique and deserves to be heard.

Even if your audience is tiny, blogging regularly keeps your writing skills sharp and organizes your thoughts. Before long you’ll have a body of work that you can turn into a long article or book. The sky’s the limit once you start blogging.

7. Thinking ahead – After you’ve used a free Blogger or WordPress blog for a while you’ll probably outgrow it. You’ll want more control over the design and other features. Maybe you’ll want to start monetizing your blog and making money from it.

When that day comes you’ll need to buy a domain (cost is $8 per year or so) and a hosting plan (I recommend Host Gator and it costs $10/mo). WordPress will come free with your web host plan and it’s the only blogging program you should consider using to create your blog. When the time comes you can either hire someone to create the blog for you or teach yourself, like I did.

Thanks again for reading this series on blogging. I will put these posts into a downloadable report soon, for your convenience. I’ll let you know when it’s ready.

Happy blogging!

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How to start a blog, part 7 of 8: 7 Ways to Get Traffic

Getting a blog up and running and writing your first few posts is a big accomplishment. If you’ve made it that far already, congratulations!

After you have several posts under your belt it’s time to start thinking about traffic.

Here are some tips on how to bring traffic to your blog and expand your audience:

1. Put your blog link in your email signature. All email programs give you the option of automatically inserting a signature in each email. Include your blog name and link in the signature field. This way everyone you send emails to will become aware of your blog.

2. Leave comments on other blogs. By now you should be following and reading several blogs. Occasionally leave a thoughtful comment on these blogs and be sure to insert your blog link into the link field of the comment.

If the blog is a high profile blog you can potentially receive a lot of traffic to your own blog this way because readers of that blog will see your comment and click on your link. In my experience this has been the best free way to drive traffic to my blogs.

If you comment regularly, the other blogger will develop a rapport with you and possibly mention your blog in one of their posts. You should occasionally link to other bloggers’ posts in your blog as well. This builds goodwill.

3. Participate in online forums in your niche. Do a search of Google Groups and see if there are any forums with lots of discussion. Many forums let you put your blog links in your signature field or at least on your profile.

You can also get a lot of blog post ideas simply by reading posts and paying attention to the types of questions being asked.

Forums can become time-consuming so limit yourself to a certain number of minutes or visits per day.

4. Social media. Twitter and Facebook can be ways to drive traffic to your blog. In addition to posting the link to your blog on your profile, you can post links to each new post after you publish it.

You can also sync your blog to Facebook so that new blog posts automatically appear on your Facebook page.

It’s also important to promote other bloggers’ blogs on your Twitter and Facebook accounts. If you read something cool by another blogger, post it to your Facebook or Twitter.

You don’t have to have a Facebook and Twitter account, but I do recommend having at least a Facebook account. Remember that Facebook has good privacy controls and the only people that will see your Facebook information are the people you approve to have as Facebook friends.

6. Register your blog with a blog network. Some popular networks/directories are  Blogburst and BlogHer (if you are female or your readership is more than 50% female). Millions of people belong to these networks and this gives your blog a lot of exposure.

7. Blog carnivals.  A blog carnival is like a magazine. An author will launch a carnival on a particular topic and collect posts from contributing bloggers. These posts will be published on both the carnival site and the author’s own blog. It’s a great way to get traffic to your blog.

Blog Carnival.com is one of the most popular carnival sites. As you follow various bloggers you’ll also find out about various carnivals that way too. Anyone can host a carnival, so feel free to host one sometime.

This list isn’t exhaustive, and you certainly don’t have to do all seven of these things. But start doing a least a couple of them (and definitely #2).

In my final post about how to start blogging I’ll show you how to track your traffic so you can see where it’s coming from. I’ll also include a final checklist of things to keep in mind as you go forth and blog.

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How to start a blog, part 6 of 8: Sources For Content

Today I will talk more about how to get ideas for content for your blog.

In addition to writing the occasional series of posts about a topic and having a goal of a certain number of posts per week, I find it helpful to devote certain days of the week to certain posts.

For example, on this blog I’ve started Fun Friday, where I post something fun as a mental health break.

This helps give your blog a structure, which makes it easier to create content.

Google News

If you’re stuck for an idea for a blog post, go to Google News.

For example, I recently typed the word “golf” in Google News and found a cool story about how coyotes have made frequent appearances on a certain golf course.

The article goes on to talk about how, over the years, seagulls have whisked away golf balls, thinking they are eggs, and how alligators sometimes make cameo appearances in water hazards on golf courses in Florida.

It also mentions that rabbit holes were the inspiration for the invention of the sport of golf back in the 1500s.

So if you had a blog about golf, you could get an interesting blog post from that article.

When using Google News don’t limit yourself to searches in your niche.

There’s usually a way to take any current events story and use it in your blog.

Amazon

Amazon is a source of ideas for blog posts too. If you go there and type in a term, you’ll get a long list of books on that topic.

Maybe there’s a book there you’ll want to read and review for your blog.

Also, simply scanning all the book titles can give you ideas for content or maybe even a how-to series of posts. The book titles show you which topics are popular in your  niche.

For example, I typed “tomatoes” in the book category of Amazon. One of the top books about tomatoes right now is called “Carrots Love Tomatoes: The Secrets of Companion Planting For Successful Gardening.”

So if you had a blog about tomatoes or about gardening, you could write a post or series of posts about companion planting.

Your assignment is to set a schedule for your blog and write your first few posts if you haven’t already.

My next post will be about traffic. Writing awesome blog posts is great, but you want people to read them, right? I’ll show you how to get readers and how to find out how to monitor how much traffic your blog receives.

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How to start blogging, part 5 of 8: Writing Posts

It’s time to write your first post if you haven’t already.

Fonts

First you’ll want to make sure that it’s easy for your readers to read your posts.

If your font is too small or too hard to read, people will be less inclined to visit your blog.

I recommend using Arial or Verdana font style, size 10 or 12.

You can select your font before typing each post but I recommend changing the default font in your template so that you don’t have to remember to set your font each time you write a post.

Here are instructions on how to change your default font in Blogger.

Set a Goal

You’ll lose momentum if you don’t push yourself at the beginning and set a goal for blogging.

I recommend writing one post per day your first month.

If that is too demanding for your schedule, choose a different goal, but make sure you write posts regularly.

The more posts you write, the more traffic your blog will receive, and the more you’ll get the hang of blogging.

Post Topic Ideas

Here are some post topic suggestions:

*An introductory post that tells your story and what your blog will be about.

*A series of posts about a particular topic. For example, if you have a photography blog, you could have a series of posts about how to take photos of birds.

*Post a link to a YouTube video about topic that is pertinent to your blog. This is a good post to do when you don’t feel like writing a post.

*Look at the news and current events of the day and write a post about that news item that ties in with the topic of your blog.

Categories and Labels

Be sure to choose labels and/or categories for each post. This will help readers be able to find all your posts about a particular topic.

In the next post I’ll give you tips on how to find content for your blog and the best way to do research for your blog posts. Until then, happy blogging!

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How to start blogging, part 4 of 7: Creating your Blog

Now that you have a Google Account and know the basics of social media, it’s time to create your blog.

Blogger or WordPress?

There are two free blogging platforms that I recommend.

One is Blogger.com. The other is WordPress.com.

They are both easy to use and free.

If you don’t know which one to use, go with Blogger because there are more theme options and you can place ads on a Blogger blog if you want. WordPress doesn’t permit this.

You’ll need a Google account to use Blogger. If you read part one of my series, you’ve already done that.

Two Things To Do Before Creating Your Blog

Before you create your blog, choose a title for your blog and choose a URL (i.e. link).

The name and URL don’t have to be the same.

For example, you might want to use your name in the ULR.

Then, if your blog is about a topic such as scrapbooking, you would choose a title like “Wonders of Scrapbooking.”

Choose a few different titles and URLs because sometimes the URL and title you want to use won’t be available.

Your assignment is to create your blog. It will only take about five minutes to do this.

It’s very easy to create the blog but if you want to follow a step by step video, click here for a video on how to create a Blogger blog and click here to create a WordPress blog.

Good luck! Let me know if you have questions. Next time we’ll discuss how to write posts and a few tweaks you should make to your blog.

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How to start blogging, part 3 of 7: Start Socializing

Today we will discuss social media and Web 2.0 and the role they play in your life as a blogger.

Back when the internet started, websites were static. You would visit the website and read it.

Today you can visit a website and, in many cases, interact with it by leaving a comment, writing a product review, asking a question in a help forum, etc.

This is what we mean by Web 2.0. The web allows for two way conversation.

The social aspects of Web 2.0 are called social media.

Social media sites include Facebook and Twitter. Social media sites are where you go to be social and keep in touch with friends and family.

Facebook and Twitter will play a role in your blog, even if you choose not to open Facebook and Twitter accounts of your own.

Facebook

Among teens and twentysomethings, Facebook is the new email. If you want to stay in touch with younger people, a Facebook account is almost essential.

As a blogger, I encourage you to create a Facebook account so that you can share your blog posts with your Facebook friends.

Also, the people that read your blog posts will sometimes share them with their own friends on Facebook.

If you don’t have a blog yet, Facebook will help you become more comfortable with expressing your thoughts online.

When you post status updates and links on your wall, your friends will sometimes leave comments, thus the social nature of Facebook.

I’m not going to go into detail about how to open a Facebook account here. If you have a teenager or an adult Facebook user in your life, they can show you the ropes.

The one thing I will emphasize here is that once you have a Facebook account, make sure all your privacy settings are set to “friends only.” This will ensure that everything on your Facebook page remains private and only your Facebook friends will see your profile and posts.

Twitter

Twitter is like a mini blog, where you write posts that are up to 140 characters in length.

You can sync your Twitter and Facebook so that your Twitter posts (“tweets”) automatically post on Facebook.

If you intend to have a blog to promote your business, I recommend opening a Twitter account.

On Twitter you can quickly meet people in your area of interest and share ideas back and forth.

On Twitter you will also post links to your blog.

The best way to learn Twitter is just to open an account and start following some people.

The best way to find people to follow is to go to this directory.

When you follow someone, about half the time they will follow you back.

So if you want to start a blog about scrapbooking, you could open a Twitter account and find people interested in scrapbooking and start following them.

In your Twitter posts you would share tips about scrapbooking and then occasionally link to one of your blog posts.

Blog Comments

If you read the first two parts of my blogging series, you should by now have several blogs that you read regularly.

I encourage you to leave comments on those blogs from time to time, especially when you benefited from a particular post.

You don’t have to use your last name and you can even leave your comment anonymously if you want to. Most blog comments have a space where you can post the link to your own blog if you wish.

If you leave quality comments on other blogs, those bloggers (and the other people reading your comment) will click on your blog link and start reading your blog too.

As a blogger, it’s very important to leave comments on other blogs and to be social in this way. Start getting in the habit now, even before you have your own blog.

Each blog post has a comment section at the top or bottom of the post. This is what you click in order to read and leave comments.

In closing, I want to emphasize again that you don’t have to open Facebook or Twitter accounts in order to be a blogger. But I do encourage you to at least open a Facebook account.

As your blog grows and people get to know you through your blog, you should know that many readers will look for links to your Facebook and Twitter profiles on your blog. As a blogger it’s good if you can be accessible in that way but, as I said, it’s not mandatory.

Your assignment is to start leaving comments on the blogs that you read. Aim for 1-2 blog comments per week. Your comment doesn’t have to be fancy. Even just a “thanks for the great post” is fine.

If you have any questions about Twitter and Facebook, leave a comment or send an email to me through my contact page.

In the remaining four posts of this series I will focus on the nitty gritty of creating your blog and writing posts for it. Stay tuned and thanks for reading!

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