On this day exactly one year ago, I launched this blog. I can't believe it has been a whole year already, and how far I've come since then. To mark this VERY special day, here are some things I've learned in my first year of blogging, and some goals I have for the next year. Although I feel like I still have so much to learn, I hope the insights I've gained so far will help or encourage some of you who may be starting out on your blogging journey.
6 Lessons I Learned:
1. People are interested in what I have to say!
It took me the longest time to summon up the courage to put my writing out there; I thought nobody would be interested in my thoughts, or they would think that what I wrote was stupid, or not very interesting, or irrelevant. But the more I wrote and shared, the more I realised that this is not true, and I was just talking myself down. I didn't really believe it until I shared a translation I had been working on, and the comments I got were so positive - it made me realise that there IS a place for my work, and there is an audience that wants to read it.
2. 'Don't overthink it' or you'll miss the boat.
I'm that person who redrafts an email 5 times, or agonises over the wording of a tweet, and then sometimes I end up not sending it anyway. I'm also that person who chickens out of submitting something I was writing, because I'm afraid it's rubbish, and then I regret missing a chance. I'm taking the sage advice of Anne Bogel aka @ModernMrsDarcy in her excellent book, 'Don't Overthink It'! It doesn't have to be perfect, it only has to be good enough; better to actually get something written and out there, even with a few flaws, than to hesitate and miss the moment altogether. This applies equally to blogging, creative writing, or any other creative endeavour.
3. Be consistent; it all adds up.
This is one I often struggle to follow. My posting frequency has been a bit erratic over the past year, but I have tried to post something every month as the very barest minimum. When I look at my post archive it's heartening and quite surprising to see how much I've managed to do do in the last 12 months.
4. If you don't ask you don't get.
One of my book-blogging goals when I started was to be in a position where I could receive ARCs to review. But I had NO CLUE how to go about achieving this! I spent some time writing reviews of books I had bought or borrowed, hoping publishers would see them and somehow magically want to send me ARCs. I also signed up to Netgalley and waited to be approved for the books I requested, which did and didn't work; I would either be approved for lots of them at once, or be left waiting for weeks. But more recently I've plucked up the courage to write directly to publicists, and have been sent copies of amazing books that I was thrilled to be able to review (thanks @sumaiyya.books for tips on approaching publishers!). I may write a more detailed post on this at some point.
5. They're not ignoring you - it's the algorithm!
I've realised that some social media accounts I'm actually interested in have been buried by the vagaries of algorithms. If that can happen to those accounts then I'm sure it can - and does - happen to mine too. Which is why frequent and regular posts are so important. It also means that if you get fewer likes than expected on something, it's probably because people haven't seen it, rather than that they've seen it and deemed it lacking. See Lesson #3 above, and Lesson #6 below:
6. The 20:80 rule:
A gem of wisdom related to me by the wonderful PiyaMedia (who I worked with to design and launch this blog) says that content creators should spend 20% of their time making content, and 80% promoting their work on different platforms. 80%!!! It usually takes me quite a long time to write a well-thought-out post so this was a bit of a shocker for me. But it makes sense. There is no point in writing the most insightful, engaging pieces, if nobody sees them. And if you're worried about boring people by spamming all your socials with the same thing, remember that not everyone uses every platform, so your audience will not necessarily be the same people across all of them. (For more insights check out this article about PiyaMedia's lessons learned in the first two years in business.)
6 Goals For Next Year:
1. Post more regularly.
I am going to aim to post every week again, and never to go below once a fortnight. Watch this space to see if I'll stick to it!
2. Mix up my content:
I feel I can afford to be a little more adventurous with the content of my posts; reviews make up the bulk of them so far, but I am intending to branch out into topics related to books in other ways, such as writing and education; I would love to do some guest posts - get in touch if you're interested! I would also like to be able to share some more of my original creative writing.
3. Revive my FB page & group:
4. Continue growing my platform:
In a year of blogging I haven't managed to acquire the thousands of followers that I see some bookbloggers have got in the same length of time. This doesn't bother me so much as I don't want this to stop being fun, which I feel it might if I become fixated on stats. But at the same time, it would be nice to be able to reach more people. Hopefully Goal #3 above will go some way to helping me achieve that.
5. Devote more time to creative writing:
I'm doing this again after a long hiatus. I'm going to devote some time consciously, every day or whenever I can, to get back into it and flex those writing muscles that have gone a bit flabby from underuse.
6. Submit my writing:
Related to Goal #6 - I'm going to be braver about submitting my work to publishers / workshops / development programs - and not worry about being accepted or rejected. Submitting is the goal. A big thank you to my lovely friend Rachel, who told me something rather brilliant about reframing how we see the purpose of submitting our work. "Aim to get a certain number of rejections" she said. Seeing it like this immediately takes away from the feeling of failure when you get the inevitable rejections, and it keeps you motivated to keep writing and sending things in. That's the idea, anyway. I'll report back this time next year and tell you how it worked.
That's all. Thank you to everyone who has read, shared and said nice things about my blog over the past year. You're all wonderful!
Looking forward to an even better year ahead.