Watering the Cactus

While I admit to having a few guilty pleasures (this? I could read it all day), I’m not a big mommy-blog reader. Nothing against them; they’re just not my cup of tea.

But this morning, one of my professors tweeted a link to an old post from The Pioneer Woman – who, for lack of a better term, is the pioneer of mommy blogs – in which she shares ten important lessons she learned from blogging.

Lesson two stood out to me:

Whether you write a sixteen-paragraph essay about the cosmic implications of a free market system, a one-paragraph description of what happens to your soul when you walk into your godforsaken laundry room, or a simple photo and caption, consider your blog a precious bloom that requires daily nurturing.

And watering.

If you water a plant once every two weeks, it will shrivel.

Unless that plant is a cactus, and then it would thrive.

And to tell you the truth, I really can’t figure out how a cactus fits into this analogy, so forget I brought it up.

I realized that my blog is a figurative cactus, because I only get around to blogging every couple weeks. If I actually typed up every idea I had for a post, I’d blog eighteen times a day, but no one’s giving me a grade or paying me to blog, so those thoughts get pushed to the back burner.

Sometimes I’ll abandon post ideas because they’re not sports-related, and I typically think and blog about sports-related stuff. So this post serves a dual purpose: remind myself that it’s important to blog consistently, and remind myself that it’s alright to veer from the usual topics.

Here comes the veering:

Last weekend, I saw Midnight in Paris for the first time and absolutely loved it. Between smart dialogue, a solid performance from Owen Wilson and daydreams about dancing at a party with the Fitzgeralds, I was captivated.

I loved that the movie focused on how Gil, Owen Wilson’s character, fell in love with the city. Nothing takes my breath away faster than a spectacular, electric skyline, so I identified with Gil’s passion for Paris. I thought this quote was beautiful and worth sharing, so I’ll leave you with its eloquence:

You know, I sometimes think, how’s anyone ever gonna come up with a book, or a painting, or a symphony, or a sculpture that can compete with a a great city? You cant, ’cause like, you look around and every, every street, every boulevard is its own special art form. And when you think that in the cold, violent, meaningless universe, Paris exists – these lights – c’mon, there’s nothing happening on Jupiter or Neptune. But from way out in space, you can see these lights. The cafés, people drinking and singing…I mean, for all we know, Paris is the hottest spot in the universe.

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Thanks for reading my blog on Freshly Pressed!

Wow! What an exciting day for my blog. After noticing that I was getting some comments from people I didn’t recognize (usually the comments only come from friends and family), I wondered if my blog had been picked up by someone/something that was directing extra traffic.

Miraculously, it had! My post was (and still is for at least for a few more hours, I’m guessing) featured on WordPress.com’s “Freshly Pressed” homepage, a daily roundup of notable posts from WordPress blogs. While I haven’t had a chance to check out all of the other featured posts, I definitely will!

For selfish reasons, it’s awesome to have a busier-than-normal blog traffic day, but what the best part of today was the outpouring of support from commenters. Nearly everyone who commented included a message of congratulations, thanks or support for my sister, who is now an official West Point cadet. Thank you to all who left notes of encouragement. Since Hope and I can only communicate via snail mail while she’s in basic training, I’m going to copy some of the comments and send them to her – I think she’d find it cool to know that people all across the interwebs (no, not a real word) are thinking of her and are grateful for the sacrifice she’s making.

And another selfish note: if you subscribed to my blog because you saw it on Freshly Pressed, thank you! It means a lot to me that you want to keep reading, and I have a renewed commitment to writing (hopefully) entertaining, insightful posts. Also, thanks to WordPress for deeming my blog cool enough to be featured!

Thanks again for reading my blog and supporting my sister through your “likes” and comments!

Building a Better Blog

Today’s blog post is brought to you by the 3% curve in my Human Physiology class that bumped my grade up from a B+ to an A-. Yes!

Finals are over and it’s nice to be relaxing at home. With a relatively commitment-free week ahead, I decided I’d take the time to spruce up my blog.

I know nothing has changed yet, but that’s what this post is about. Right now, I’m using plain old WordPress.com, but I’d like to move beyond that. Seems like a lot of talk has surfaced lately regarding personal branding and SEO, and while I want to be ahead of the game on those fronts, I also want to create a blog that is consistently updated with valuable content and discussion.

Rather than dive in without a plan, I set forth three goals for my blog:

1)    That it’s a place where people can get smarter through conversation with others. I’m a student of public relations, journalism and new/social media. I have thoughts, ideas and questions and I definitely don’t know it all. My blog won’t become the center of the PR world but it can be a place where creative new ideas can be introduced and discussed.

2)    That I create an online “home” for myself. While I want to spark thought, discussion and action, I also want my blog to be a place where people can learn about me, what I do and what’s important to me.

3)    That it motivates people to act. A lot of times I’ll read a post, say “Oh, that was insightful,” and then move on. I know there’s a lot of content out there, but I want to motivate people to act on this content: to do something, be it in public relations, social media, their community, etc. I want to be walking what my blog is talking.

That said, I need to create a blog that will allow me to do all of those things. Have you made the switch from a WordPress.com blog to another host, like WordPress.org? Have you bought your own domain name? Played with HTML? If you have, I’d truly appreciate your advice regarding how to go about that process, as inexpensively, reliably and easily as possible. Feel free to leave a comment with any tips or resources, or send me a tweet or an e-mail: paige (dot) landsem (at) gmail (dot) com.

Being Social with Social Media

The “social” part of “social media” has been rocking my world lately: I’ve been able to meet TONS of awesome new people through Twitter and the blogosphere.

Every new person I connect with opens my eyes to something exciting and new: I learn about new places, new blogs, new ideas, new opportunities and most importantly, new people.

One of the best examples of connecting with new people came early last week. I was looking for recent college grads to tell me about their job search process. To my happy surprise, I received a lot of response on Twitter and three extremely detailed, thought-out responses via e-mail from young professionals Kaylee Hakwins, Case Ernsting and Kira E. Young. It was refreshing to make a connection via social media that lasted longer than 140 characters. Sometimes I’m so focused on upping my follower count or getting a lot of @replies that I forget how much I can learn from those people if I dug a little deeper.

I think there’s another awesome, if more superficial, side to awesome social media connections. Hopefully I’m not the only one who has a “Twitter crush”: someone whose tweets you love to follow, find humorous or teach you something interesting. Last fall, I was elated when Grammar Girl tweeted me and commented on my blog after I mentioned her book in a post. Not really earth-shattering, but cool at the time.

For the last few days, I’ve wondered what people consider their “best” social media connection(s).  Did a blogger you idolize re-tweet your post? Did your blog or your tweets help you get the job or internship you currently hold? In what other ways have your social media relationships benefited you? As I start concentrating more on building connections and adding value to conversations, I want to hear from (and connect with!) others who might be doing the same thing.

*Brief self-promotion: If you’re looking for some kick-butt job search advice, check out the post I wrote for my journalism class – a post I could not have written without the help of social media connections.

Inspiration (Or, Why I Only Post on Mondays)

For you, what is the hardest part of blogging? Finding the time? Finding something to say? Writing?

I am interested in hearing your thoughts because for me, the hardest part is the intersection between finding inspiration and actually writing the post.

Often, I’ll find a cool article, insightful blog post or entertaining tweet that inspires me to write. But as soon as inspiration strikes, so do the feelings of “Oh, someone’s already written that” or “That will really create nothing of value” start to creep in.

There’s also the time factor. As much as I’d love to be a full-time blogger who just surfs the web and writes about general awesomeness five days a week, I have school and two internships that also fight for my time. I’ve found that the vast majority of my posts come on Monday or Tuesday, because I only find quality blog-writing time on the weekends.

I know everyone has similar time constraints. How do you deal with that? Do you write furiously on the weekends and then post throughout the week? Can you do that but still offer relevant content?

I am so impressed with bloggers who have successfully participated in the 28 Days of Blogging challenge that Scott Bishop started. Not only have I appreciated their commitment to blogging, but I’ve also been inspired by their ability to produce interesting, insightful posts day after day. After reading some excellent posts from Colby Gergen’s “College | Caffeinated” blog and Leia Ferrari’s “A Work in Progress,” I’ve decided to try for two posts a week (for now). If I want to make my blog a place where valuable content, opinions and thoughts are shared, I’ve got to start committing.

It’s not all about my commitment, though. I’d love to hear your thoughts on blogging inspiration. What inspires you? What keeps your blog posts fresh?

Less Doubt, More Do

After almost a year of experimenting with blogging, I’m still struggling to figure out what I want readers (and myself) to get out of the experience.

At first, my goal was to say insightful things and get loads of page views and comments. I started blogging because I thought it was my duty as a journalism student and because it seemed like all of the social media/PR “cool kids” were doing it.

Yesterday, I read this fantastic post by Matt Cheuvront from his blog “Life Without Pants.” He gave several tips for hesitant bloggers, and even though they were more geared towards those who had never blogged before, his points helped change my perspective.

In summary, he said (and I’m quoting him here):

  • You don’t have to focus on one topic.
  • You don’t have to be a great writer.
  • You do have to invest (some) time into it.
  • You have to make it past the three-month milestone.
  • Stop doubting and start doing.

The first and last are especially difficult. A lot of really successful blogs are devoted to one general topic: social media, television, sports. It’s hard to narrow down a focus because I have lots of interests and opinions.

But now I’m taking Matt’s advice. I’m going to stop doubting and start doing.

It may take time to find my niche, but I have to break away from believing that my worth as a blogger is defined by my page views, comments and ability to be super-smart about one topic. I must start understanding that my blog can evolve with my interests.

What about your blog? What’s your motivation? What’s your focus? How have you evolved as a blogger in the time since starting your blog?

*Note: Sydney Owen, a blogger who works in PR (and is also a fun person to follow on Twitter), wrote a great follow-up to Matt Cheuvront’s post. She talks about her experience as someone who does PR for a living but not necessarily a blog topic and how it’s important to write about your passions. Great thoughts all around.

Almost forgot: You can follow Matt Cheuvront on Twitter here.