Brandyn Blaze

Life Between The Scenes

Category: Words Of Wisdom (page 1 of 7)

The 10 Biggest Blogging Mistakes I’ve Made and How To Avoid Them

I’m going to let you in on a little secret: until very recently, I was considering 10 views a day to be a “good day” for this blog.

To some of you, that may seem laughable.  To a lot more of you, that probably seems very relatable. Putting all the time and effort into creating the best content you can, only to have it read by a mere handful of people can be disheartening. It’s also extremely frustrating, especially if you’ve had some previous successes.

Before I shut it down, “Life, Motherhood and The Pursuit of Happiness” was doing really well. I was getting a few thousand views a month, tons of comments, and actually getting shares from other people. I had a fair amount of subscribers and the Facebook page for that blog had 700 followers, which I naively believed would just naturally migrate over to the new blog.

I was sadly mistaken.

A few people followed along, but I saw a dramatic decrease in traffic and watched my social media following stall out. As you can imagine, this also impacted book sales and brought my other ventures to a halt. It was terribly frustrating, to say the least. For the last year and a half, I have been plugging away, trying to figure out what was going wrong.

When my husband and I started kicking around the idea of me sucking it up and finding a “real job”, I knew I had to do something.  I’ve worked so hard to establish myself as a legitimate author and designer, throwing it away was not in the cards.

I began thinking about all the things I had done to make “Life, Motherhood, and The Pursuit of Happiness” a successful site and decided to apply all I had learned to this blog. Although this site has been up for close to two years, I had to start thinking of it in terms of a brand new blog and start from scratch. A daunting feat to be sure!

Within a week I noticed a dramatic change in my stats. Soon, I was back on track.

I decided to share what I’ve done to bring this site back from the dead in the hopes of helping fellow bloggers increase their reach.

 

blogging mistakes, blog tips

1. Being Generic

When I first started blogging, I was deathly afraid of alienating people. This led to me keeping things pretty bland, which obviously did nothing to keep people reading. I made the same mistake when I started this blog, in the hopes of looking more professional. In both cases, I found that as soon as I started publishing heartfelt pieces and injecting more of my true personality into my writing, my views went up. So did engagement. Don’t water yourself down out of fear. Trust that the right audience will appreciate your authenticity.

2. Not Joining Blog Hops or Groups

When I ran my first blog, I was joining several blog hops (also known as link-ups or linky parties) each week and sharing my posts in several blog groups across various social media platforms. Originally, I had avoided that on this site. To me, having those badges on the bottom of my posts (or in my sidebar) looked unprofessional. However, we all have to start somewhere and in the beginning you are basically writing for other bloggers. From there your audience can grow quite well, but it is definitely a community, not a one-man show.

3. Not Using Social Media Effectively

When I was starting out, I was barely using social media at all. Eventually, I found myself with the opposite problem and using it too much. You want to find the sweet spot and focus on the platforms you actually enjoy. Trying to keep up with 20 different profiles leaves little time to focus on creating content. Personally, I mostly focus on Facebook and Twitter. I also use Instagram for all my images, and have it automatically publish to my Facebook page and my Twitter account, which is a great time saver. I also have my Facebook posts publish to my Twitter account so I don’t have to write as many separate tweets. I use FPTraffic to share daily images and links to Facebook to cut back on the amount of time I have to spend posting things as well.

The other key is to avoid constantly promoting yourself. Share things from other sources as well, share bits about yourself and your life. Keep a well-balanced mix of content to avoid burning out your followers. This is something that has worked very well for me in the past and that I’ve been working harder on implementing for this blog with great results.

It is also worth noting that the occasional promoted post can do wonders. While part of me hates the pay-to-play aspect, if you have something you want to make sure gets seen it can be a useful strategy and can often result in new followers.

4. Not Interacting With Other Bloggers

This kind of goes hand in hand with joining blog hops and groups, but I think it’s important enough to stress here as well. You need to be involved in the community to grow! Comment on blog posts. When someone shares something on social media be sure to like, comment, and share. Email other bloggers. Strike up friendships!

Not only is it always nice to add to your circle of friends, but you never know when you may need someone else’s expertise. You may even be able to help them out or join together in a project that benefits both of you.

5. Thinking It Will Take Off Overnight

Every now and then I feel down about how long it’s taken to get this site off the ground. However, when I think back on my first blog, I realize that it took me about two years before I finally gained some traction. It takes a lot of hard work to build your following. You’ll spend hours writing content, editing images, and promoting your work only to feel let down when it doesn’t immediately pay off. There will be times when you wonder why you are even doing this. Stick with it! One day something will stick and open up more doors for you. If you enjoy what you’re doing and have a little faith, you’ll find the right audience. Just keep doing the best you can and learning along the way.

 

blogging tips, quote hard work, working hard, blogging mistakes

 

 

6. Not Treating It Like A Business

Even if your goal isn’t to make money off of your blog, if you want to be successful you absolutely have to treat it like a business. Figure out exactly what you want out of your blogging experience and go for the gold! You need to carve out enough time to do it well and guard that time with your life. Let others know how important it is to you, and treat your blogging time with the same respect you’d treat your working hours at any other job. One of the great things about blogging is you can set your own hours and be flexible, but don’t let that slide into you putting it on the back burner. If you need to focus on writing next Wednesday and can’t agree to that lunch invite, plan lunch for another day. Do whatever you have to do to make your work a priority.

Half-assed efforts lead to half-assed results.

7. Not Knowing What Your Goals Are

Why do you blog? What do you want to offer to others? What results would you like to see? What are you willing to spend? How important is it to make an income from your blog? How much do you eventually want to make?

These are the sorts of questions you should know the answers to.

When I started blogging, it was just something to do to fill the time. I wanted to get used to sharing my work and to possibly help others as I shared my experiences as bits of knowledge I’d acquired. Eventually, I decided I wanted to turn it into a career.  For me now, this blog is a hub that allows me to express myself, andto  provide encouragement, support, and information to others. It also serves to lead people to my products. For others, the blog itself may be the product.

Whatever you wish to achieve, you must have it well defined in your mind. Write it down, and figure out how you are going to get there. Break it into smaller milestones and develop an action plan to achieve them. What do you need to do on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis to make it work?

I like to stick all those tiny, actionable steps in my planner and tick them off as I go. You may have another system that works better for you. Maybe you like lists or charts. Maybe you like to keep it all in your mind. Regardless of how you track your progress, you absolutely need to have a clear vision before you can make something a reality.

8. Not Having A Content Calendar…Or Being Too Reliant On One

I know, I know, that sounds contradictory. Allow me to explain.

When I first started out, I was just winging it. Sometimes this worked well, but more often than not it would lead to stress as I stared helplessly at my keyboard, trying to find something to write about. Eventually, I started keeping a list of ideas that I could pull from and that helped a little.

Then one day, I decided to plan out a year’s worth of posts in one go. I sat down with a fresh notebook and wrote down all my publishing dates (I used to post on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays), and then I planned a topic for each of those dates. Some of them were very concrete ideas (like a tutorial or recipe) and others were more vague (like “something about Father’s Day”). I remember feeling so relieved to have the hard part done. Now all I had to do was write!

What happened was, I still found myself struggling. Sometimes I didn’t feel about writing the post I had planned or it turned out I didn’t have as much to say about the topic as I thought I did. Other times, I’d get a great new idea I wanted to write immediately or I wanted to write about something that was currently trending. Then I’d stress for hours as I tried to rearrange my calendar. Often times I’d just let those ideas go to stick to my schedule and later wish I hadn’t.

What I’ve learned is that it is absolutely helpful and ideal to have a content calendar. Knowing what posts to write next and being able to write in advance and schedule things for later definitely eases the burden. However, shoot for smaller windows of time and allow for changes to be made. Sure, you may know that you want holiday themed posts on a certain day and can reserve those well in advance, but I find it is better to plan everything else a month or two out at a time and keep the other ideas in a separate list to get to later. This affords the opportunity to move things around more easily if the need arises.

9. Paying Too Much For Hosting — Or Not Paying At All!

While I absolutely understand starting your blog on a free platform (which is where I began!), eventually you’ll have to pony up and pay for hosting. A website looks much more professional when you have your own domain name, and it goes a long way towards branding. There’s also something to be said for owning your own page.

There are many affordable options nowadays, so purchasing your domain name and getting hosting is a breeze. Shop around and find a company that fits your budget and needs–just be sure to do your research! Unfortunately, the internet is full of scammers, so always be sure you are purchasing from a reliable source.

Personally, I use Bluehost for my hosting. I have had great experiences with their customer service team on the rare occasion that things have gone wrong and they offer several packages that are easily affordable.

10. Worrying Too Much

This is by far the biggest mistake any of us make in our day to day lives. Whether it’s worrying about our blog stats or wondering if we are doing a good enough job, or worrying about something in our personal lives, this is something we could all stand to do a lot less. Worrying does nothing but rob us of joy and keep us from performing at our best. In fact, I’ve found that the posts I was most worried about have consistently been my best performing pieces.  Relax and enjoy your work! Keep learning and doing the best you can, and do what makes you happy! The rest will sort itself out.

 

quote abraham lincoln worry, blogging mistakes, blog tips

 

I know blogging, or any creative pursuit, can be full of hurdles. No matter what problems you’re facing, attack them head-on. Never stop searching for solutions and never lose site of the dream.

Learning To Overcome Indecision

I’m an overthinker. Something as simple as choosing a seat in a restaurant is overwhelming. I’m constantly thinking about every possible outcome of any decision that lies before me, and every variable of decisions that would come from that those outcomes.

This overkill of analysis can be paralyzing.

Suddenly, none of the options before you seem like the right one and you find yourself unable to make the simplest of choices. It’s what causes you to spend two hours adding movies to your Netflix cue, only to rewatch something you’ve seen dozens of times. It’s what makes questions like “What do you want for dinner?” unbearable. And it’s just as frustrating for us as it is for the people who have to witness it.

Something as small as deciding what to eat at a restaurant becomes an internal debate. You want to try something new, but you don’t want to waste money on something you don’t like. Sure, that steak might be good, but that sauce may not be as good as you think. You’d better order those chicken nuggets instead.

Of course, this habit of picking the safe option bleeds into the bigger decisions. You stay at the job you hate because it’s all you know. You put up with mistreatment because standing up for yourself could backfire. Moving to a new city gets put on the backburner. Asking for a raise or trying a new hobby remain passing thoughts. Success and failure both seem terrifying, so you just keep choosing the metaphorical chicken nuggets.

Ultimately, we are robbing ourselves of happiness by thinking too much about things that don’t matter.

In my “Instruments of Life” romance series, the main character, Maggie, is also an over thinker. As I watch her learn to relax and trust her gut, I find myself growing along with her. Taking calculated risks is definitely the only way to find success in whatever it is you’re trying to accomplish. Coupled with mindfulness techniques, you can absolutely learn to silence the endless questions and analysis and make decisions with a clear head.

It seems to me that with any decision we face, there are three options.

1. Go with the safe option. This is often wrapped up in the decision to do nothing at all.  Sometimes this is the best decision, but we must make sure it’s not chosen purely out of fear.

2. Allow someone else to choose for us. Either through inaction (not asking for a raise) or explicitly asking someone else to make the call, we often stunt ourselves or settle for something we don’t want out of fear. Again, sometimes we need that push from others to expand our horizons, but we must ask ourselves if this is what we truly want. Do you really not care where you eat? Or are you afraid of picking something the other person won’t like?

3. Take the reigns ourselves.

Obviously, we want to take control ourselves. That’s why we run over all the angles in our minds until all the options seem terrible. Overthinking allows us to think we have a little control. We tell ourselves we are trying to make an informed decision, while blocking ourselves into inaction.

So, how do we break free from this cycle?

 

overcome anxiety, overthinking, indecision, worry

 

Start small

You don’t have to make giant leaps right away. Maybe you start with ordering something unusual from a favorite restaurant, or you take a different route home from work. Shake up your rut a little bit and get used to getting out of the safe zone. Then move on to bigger decisions. Answer honestly when someone asks where you want to go. Choose the movie. Once you get more comfortable with this, you can apply these decision making skills to bigger quandaries.

Slow down and breathe

Give yourself a moment to think about what you really want and figure out if this is something that needs to be decided right now. Clear your head so you can focus on the task at hand.

Know when to distract yourself

Obviously, distraction shouldn’t be your go-to move, but it can be useful. If you’re anxious about a decision and it doesn’t need to be decided right this minute, find something else to focus on. You may find that after your brain gets a little break you’re able to figure it out. Just don’t distract yourself to the point where you don’t make any decisions at all!

Ask yourself some questions.

How big of a decision is this really? Anxiety can make even the smallest decisions seem insurmountable. Think about it in the grand scheme of things. Does your decision really matter in the long run? What’s the worst that can happen if you choose either option? Is the worst really that bad? What do you stand to gain from choosing ___________? Is it better than not doing __________? Instead of bouncing around from possible outcome to possible outcome, think about the reality of those outcomes.

Put on the breaks.

All those questions can turn into an endless loop if you let them. Tell yourself firmly to stop the line of questioning once they’ve all been answered. Going over them repetively isn’t going to get you anywhere. Quiet your mind once more and make a choice.

Stick by your decision!

Don’t scare yourself out of doing what you know in your heart to be best.  Follow through with it. A note here, while I wouldn’t suggest easily letting others talk you out of something, if someone presents a fact you hadn’t thought of, take it into consideration. Ultimately, though, your choice must come from you, no matter how big or how small.

Practice, practice, practice!

Like any skill, you can’t expect to master this overnight. In fact, I would be lying if I said that I am anywhere near perfect myself. I still have moments where I can’t make up my mind to save my soul. I still worry over the same decisions and get nowhere. However, I find myself getting better and better as time goes on.

In the end, you have to decide you want to control your life. And it all starts by making decisions.

 

 

Embracing Your Song: A Story Of Personal Growth

I have always been the kind of person that is easily embarrassed. I prefer to keep things to myself and have never been one to show off.

It seems weird to say that. After all, I regularly spill my guts out for strangers to read on the internet and have released 3 smutty romance novels to date. I’ve put a few videos on YouTube, and used to use Periscope pretty regularly (which is something I’ve recently gone back to). I get drunk and sing karaoke whenever I get the chance and I used to be in bands.

By all accounts, people could be forgiven for thinking I’m an outgoing person. However, the fact remains. I’m not a very open person in the real world. I tend to shy away from sharing my talents with others.

With this in mind, I would like to tell you about a very recent breakthrough in my personal life.

For years, I have refused to play guitar in front of anybody.

There was this very real fear that I wasn’t good enough. I know a lot of guitar players who are much better than me, and I just knew I was opening myself up to comparison and criticism. Knowing that I’m a sensitive person by nature, I didn’t want to put myself in a position to have my passion ridiculed to the point where I could no longer enjoy it.

 

fear quote, embrace your song, be you, small step towards happiness, playing in front of others, guitar

 

Now, the logical solution to that problem would have been to practice more and get better. Yet, fear once again dampened that impulse. I didn’t want people to hear me struggling to learn something new. I figured it would be offensive to force the soundwaves on others and I figured no one wanted to hear the same few songs over and over, day in and day out.

To combat this, I resolved to practice only when I was home alone. Occasionally after a few drinks I’d play in front of my best friend or my husband, but I mostly kept that to myself. I’m pretty sure people began to think I just kept my guitars around for decoration.

I always had these simple goals in my head. I dreamt of playing guitar and leading sing alongs around a campfire or in my backyard with all my friends and family. I dreamt of entering open mic nights and playing in little cafes. I dreamt of playing in my living room without fear.

Every now and then I’d go through spurts where I’d play more often and learn some new songs. I’d build up a little confidence and pack my guitar for family camping trips. This time, I’d play. Inevitably the guitar would stay in the car and I’d be hit with an intense wave of disappointment. I could never bring myself to shake off the fear that held me back.

After a while, I gained a little bit more confidence and decided to put a few videos up on Youtube. Let me tell ya, that was a hard thing to do! I was nervous about sharing that part of myself, especially knowing that I’m not exactly a virtuoso. Still, it was invigorating to put myself out there. Sure, they never got any shares or anything, but I didn’t get horrible comments telling me how bad they were either. That’s a win in my book.

 

embrace your song, small step towards happiness, fear, ralph waldo emerson, quote, quote about fear, playing in front of people, guitar

 

However, even with the little bit of confidence that such a leap brought, I couldn’t bring myself to play in front of people in real life.

A few weeks ago, my husband and I went to visit his parents. A couple friends of ours were there and they got out a guitar. I watched with envy as they played for one another and discussed techniques and influences. Both of them are far more talented than I, and I longed to be included.

After a while, one of them handed me the guitar. With shaking hands, I accepted the instrument and began playing a few songs I knew I couldn’t possibly mess up. That’s when my mother in law said something that shook me to my soul.

“You know, I’ve only ever heard you play 2 or 3 times in the 10 years I’ve known you.”

I looked at her like she’d grown three heads. I’d lived with her for a significant amount of time, surely she’d heard me more than that. She disagreed and pointed out that she’d seen me play more in my videos than she ever had in person.

Of course, I found myself slightly embarrassed at the comment and it got me thinking. Why had I hidden it away for so long? All these years  I had waiting for an appropriate time, when I could have created those situations for myself. I had let fear win and rob me of great memories.

A few weeks later, I found myself sitting on the dock at my in-law’s pond. A guitar was placed in my hands and I fulfilled a small dream of mine as I sat there and played through some of my favorite songs. My mother in law walked by and gave me this proud-mother smile, and I breathed a sigh of relief.

 

brandyn blaze, embrace your song, playing guitar on the dock, small steps towards happiness, journey, growth

I could spend my whole life playing by the water and watching my daughter swim.

 

 

It’s a small step for sure, but it’s a step that will lead me further in my personal journey.

I’ve spent a lot of time on this blog blathering on about following your heart and being your true self, and yet I was still denying a large part of my soul. While I have always believed that there’s no such thing as bad art, somehow deep down I thought that didn’t apply to me.

Clearly, I have more work to do in order to let go of all of the insecurities that have held me back. Fear does nothing but steal our joy and hold us back from truly living. In order to live authentically, we have to be willing to open up and be vulnerable. We have to do things that scare us a little bit and learn to quiet that voice that tells us we’re not good enough, that we’re not ready, that things could go wrong. We have to run headlong towards our goals and embrace where we are at every stage of our development with pride.

So embrace your song, take a small step towards happiness, and stop hiding away!

With that said, I have recorded a new video and put it up on Youtube to share with you all and to mark this moment in my journey. I hope you enjoy it as much as I enjoyed making it!

 

 

Linked up at: Thinking Out Loud, No Rules Weekend Blog Hop 

Rethinking Your Schedule: Cut Stress and Find Your Path

I’m not sure if I’ve let you in on this before or not, but I love lists. Lists, schedules, file folders…I love to feel like I have everything together.

Lately, I’ve been trying the bullet journal thing, and I have to admit it’s made a huge difference. Keeping all my lists in one place and being able to combine my diary entries and daily planner has been a great move. However, this isn’t really what I want to talk about today. At least, not entirely.

Because of my love of a well-defined routine, I decided to set out my blog schedule for 15 months. The idea was to use the time between books to write a ton of posts and schedule them out, so that I wasn’t trying to juggle both parts of my writing life at once.

This worked well for awhile. At the beginning of the year, I wrote 15 or so posts and scheduled them out. I focused on my next book, and it ran like clockwork. Then I stopped writing posts to add to the queue. Now that my book is ready for release, I decided it was time to get out in front of the blog posts again.  Until I looked at my schedule.

A few of the ideas no longer felt like a good fit, and even more of them seemed too time consuming. I know I’ll get back to the “harder” ones once my brain has made the shift out of “book mode”, but it still highlights a very common struggle in my life: overestimating what I can do.

 

de-stress, get rid of stress, bullet journal, unclutter your mind, overestimate what you can do, relax

 

One of the things my bullet journal forced me to do was shorten my daily to-do lists. I have my progress trackers for long term goals: daily word count, exercise, guitar techniques I’m working on, and so on.  I also have longer lists of various projects I want to tackle and things I must do. This cuts down my daily to-do lists considerably, so that I can focus on two to four things I know need done.

Somehow, I stayed locked into my old blog plan, though, and it seemed to be causing me more grief than necessary.

Today, I was “supposed” to share a short story I’d been working on. Because I’ve been focusing on my impending book release, it obviously didn’t get finished. I still felt that I needed to put something out, so I started this post, hoping I would find something I wanted to say.

And I did.

After thinking about the stress my rigid schedule has caused, I decided to let go of it. Instead, I have a list of possible post ideas that I can pull from. I can still write them in bulk and schedule them out like I have been, but now there’s more room for new ideas. There is also more room to move things around as needed.

The other day, I posted on Facebook that despite the fact that nothing major had happened, I was feeling very blessed. Everything has been humming along rather smoothly lately and I am constantly amazed at how much love fills this house. I can’t help but think that this new shift in my prioritizing has had a big hand in that.

Instead of constantly thinking about all I have to do, I’m focusing on what I can do today. I’m giving myself permission to relax and to let go of the guilt I’ve always felt when I don’t check off every single item on my list. I do what I can and catch up the next day if I need to, which is a big change for me.

 

don't stress, relax, all i can do is all i can do, rethink your schedule

 

I’ve been putting a lot of emphasis on getting rid of stress and mental clutter lately, and I have to say, it feels great. I’ve also been trying to focus on using the inevitable stress we all feel to propel me into action, which is tough when you’ve always used it as a reason to avoid something.  Reminding myself that doing something now will cause less stress in the long run has really gone a long way.

And that’s the point I want to get at. Never stop looking for a better way. We weren’t meant to spend our lives stressed out to the max or pushing through things that bring us no joy. Sure, there are times we have to do things we don’t necessarily like (scrubbing toilets, anyone?), but we can always change our perception and focus on the payoff instead. And if there is no payoff? We can change our course.

 

less stress, relax, change your path, quote, thousand wrong roads

 

This journey has been incredibly eye-opening. Each and every day I am working towards building the life I had always dreamed of, and I know each one of you can do the same. The trick is to not get discouraged and keep trying new methods until you land on something that works. Don’t fret over what hasn’t worked, or things that have epically failed, just keep charging forward.

Two years ago, I would have told you my dream was to own my own home, to have a happy family, to write full-time, and have time for my music. Today, all of those things are a reality. Don’t get me wrong, there’s still some kinks to work out, and the steps towards those goals started many years before that, but we got here. Now it’s time to focus on the details to bring that picture into focus.

I wrote about dreams awhile back and how important it is to have a clear vision of what you want. I still believe that’s true. You need to know exactly where you want to go so that you can create a roadmap. However, sometimes the only way to figure out what you truly want is to start hacking away at the things you don’t want so that it can reveal itself. You also have to be prepared to take the scenic route and get lost a few times along the way.

Have you figured out where you want to go yet? I’d love to hear all about it in the comments below!

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