I don’t know about you, but I really love to hear stories from other bloggers on how they got their start! What’s cool about the blogging community is that everyone comes from different walks of life. There are certainly more bloggers that never had a formal education in regards to blogging (this girl included!) There is no required education for blogging, you just need a vision. While I don’t have a degree in social media marketing or creative writing, I am happy to share with you how I got my start and a few things I’ve learned along the way.
When Did You Start Blogging?
In February of 2016. I was a freshman in my second semester in college. You could often find me doing a boatload of research in regards to blogging in my dorm room. I had been thinking about starting a blog for several months, even though I barely had a clue what blogging really meant. In fact, at the time I started blogging, I didn’t even follow a single blog online. Other blogs might as well have been unicorns or leprechauns to me. 🙂
The kickstart to my blog was the result of a disappointment. Unfortunately, I had a lot more time on my hands than I had anticipated. I hadn’t gotten into the big musical of the semester that I really thought I had a chance of getting into. (I’ve since learned a lot about how to get into shows too!) So all the evenings that I thought would be used for rehearsal were open and I had nothing to do. I spent a lot of those evenings figuring out the logistics of blogging. I am glad that I turned a disappointment into a time of personal growth.
Why Did You Start Blogging?
Like I said, I had been thinking about starting a blog for several months. It goes back to the summer before college, when I worked at camp. Working at camp had been a time of great personal growth for me and everyone on staff. I had learned so much about myself, and about God, and about personal relationships. I felt like I had a really positive message to share. I just didn’t know how.
I hadn’t ever really considered myself a “writer.” You know the type: people who just have a natural thirst for writing. That usually means they’re pretty good at it too! That wasn’t me, but I knew I had some thoughts and ideas I wanted to share.
My blog has evolved quite a lot from my original visions. I always planned on writing content about faith and my life though. Then I discovered the college blogging community and I realized that blogging was a great way to meet other people! Now I love writing content about college; anywhere from writing papers to study help. I would call my blog a lifestyle/faith/college blog, which are most of the topics I write about.
Here is a special treat: this was the first header of my blog! I don’t know why I wanted an off-center orange theme, but that’s just what I had envisioned!
Why Do You Like Blogging?
My blog was the first thing I built completely from scratch and completely by myself. I had to go through some really frustrating moments to get what was in my head onto the screen in front of me, but I’m really glad I did! Starting my blog really taught me to dream big and pursue my goals. Furthermore, people are impacted and respond to what I write. I didn’t think there would be something in my life besides theatre that would have an audience! The months after starting my blog was when I felt the most empowered I had ever felt in my life.
The cool thing about my blog is that I can make it whatever I want it to be. If you are thinking about starting a blog, I would absolutely recommend it! Please feel free to reach out to me and ask questions. Most people are quite willing to help out a new blogger!
If there is a story behind the start of your blog, I would love to hear it!
When I was a new blogger I thought I would never run out of ideas. I think that’s the reason why most of us start blogging- because we have ideas. That’s great! Whether you are inspired by fashion, food, finances, or fob watches, we are all lucky to have the opportunity to write about the things that excite us. Feeling inspired is simply wonderful, but in case you haven’t figured it our yet, inspiration doesn’t happen all the time.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve watched bloggers bust out three posts a week while I’m still trying to think of a single idea. The wealth of inspiration I thought I had soon dried up. The ideas just weren’t coming.
Then I read “Big Magic” and everything changed. I love a good inspirational book, but this book completely blew away my expectations. I hadn’t even gotten to the 3rd page and I was already near tears. Immediately I could see how this book would not only help me in theatre, but blogging as well. In fact, I think this book could help everybody.
What is “Big Magic”?
Author Elizabeth Gilbert (Eat, Pray, Love) describes Big Magic as the relationship between a human being and the mysteries of inspiration. In other terms, it means creativity. The book is divided into 7 brilliant sections: Courage, Enchantment, Permission, Persistence, Trust, and Divinity. These chapters serve as a guide to creative living beyond fear, which is the ultimate goal for Elizabeth Gilbert and anyone who reads her book.
Liz (I always called her Liz when I was reading this book 🙂 ) fills the pages of Big Magic with stories of her own struggles and triumphs in her personal journey to creative living. She has gathered a multitude of vivid examples in a stunning narrative that will leave everyone feeling inspired. Big Magic is nothing if not empowering to the creative soul. I could go on and on, but I think it’s best if I just tell you the most important things I took away from the book.
Top 5 Things I Learned
My perspective on inspiration has certainly shifted because of this book. What I love most is that Big Magic doesn’t just give you inspiration, it teaches you how to use it. I cannot express how full this book is of ideas, so I narrowed it down to the most impactful things that I took away from it.
1. Fear is not needed
Who among us does not have some degree of fear? I believe that bloggers have their own special brand of fear. Fear of not reaching our goals, fear of criticism, fear of taking a risk, or fear of investment. However, living a creative life doesn’t leave any room for fear in our work.
“I also realized that my fear was boring because it was identical to everyone else’s fear. I figured out that every one’s song of fear has exactly that same tedious lyric: ‘STOP, STOP, STOP,STOP!'”
We are tied down by fear. It is the force that compels us to behave like everyone else and avoid taking creative risks. The sooner you learn to let go of fear, the sooner you will feel more at ease and more pleased with the work you have done!
2. Education does not always equal creativity
I am pursuing a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree, however, Liz allowed me to see that achieving my degree is not the key to my life as an artist. Like many other creative souls, I enjoy studying something I love and I can see how it will benefit me. However, I have now chosen not to let the weight of my future fall on the education I am getting now.
“…I worry that what students of the arts are often seeking in higher education is nothing more than proof of their own legitimacy- proof that they are for real a creative people, because their degree says so.”
I’m glad she said it because somebody had to! I see people every day in my department that need to be reminded that school does not have the final say in their futures.
I think bloggers are an excellent testament to this idea. I mean, have you ever heard of someone getting a degree in blogging? No. Yet people are continually succeeding in this field without a specific diploma. Your past experiences and your creative vision are all the education you need.
3. You need to give yourself permission
If you think a diploma is the only thing that can give you permission to be creative, think again. People like to look for permission from their family, their friends, their schedule, their career, or even their past experiences when the only person that can allow you to be creative is you. The best way to write your own permission slip is to embrace the idea of creative entitlement.
“Creative entitlement doesn’t mean acting like a princess, or acting as though the world owes you anything whatsoever. No, creative entitlement means believing that you are allowed to be here, and that -merely by being here- you are allowed to have a voice and a vision of your own.”
I think creative entitlement is a struggle for most bloggers at some point in their career. When you compare yourself with other bloggers who have been going at it for twice as long and seem to have 10x the traffic, your sense of belonging can be skewed. Learning to find permission from creative entitlement means that you are content with expressing your own voice no matter how loud it may be.
I believe many bloggers share this focus! Who doesn’t want to earn a little cash from all the work you pour into your blog? As college students, it can be especially appealing to have your blog pay your rent. I think we would all rather work at home than work in a cafeteria. However, our dear friend Liz says to be cautious about this.
“There is no dishonor in having a job. What is dishonorable is scaring away your creativity by demanding that it pay for your entire existence.”
Of course, making money off of your blog isn’t a bad goal to have. You just can’t expect it to be a genie in a bottle that grants all your wishes. The moment it becomes more of a job than a source for creativity, our inspiration suffers.
5. The back-door creative method
“Einstein called this tactic ‘combinatory play’ -the act of opening up one mental channel by dabbling in another. This is why he would often play the violin when he was having diffuculty solving a mathematical puzzle; after a few hours of sonatas, he could usually find the answer he needed.”
This is perhaps the most impactful message I have taken away from this book. Liz provides several examples of this “back-door-creative-method” as I like to call it. Ulterior creative methods can range anywhere from gardening to painting to playing ukulele to soap making. As bloggers, we cannot rely on our blogs as our only outlet for creativity. If we do, our creativity will suffer. Investing in other creative outlets has been nothing but a good experience for me and I would recommend it to anyone who wants to feel more creative! For myself, I have taken up playing guitar, word art, and even a little bit of watercolor. What I like best about these hobbies is that I haven’t put any pressure on myself to impress others. I am simply playing.
So Why Read It?
You are not a creative person because you are a blogger, you are a blogger because you are a creative person! You will be most happy when you abandon fear and embrace the creative gifts you have been given. Even if you are not a blogger, I would totally still recommend this book. Why? Because everybody can live a creative life in some way! Personally, I found that this book was exactly what I needed to invite inspiration into my life and embrace my creativity.
I hope this was helpful and inspiring for you! Have you read Big Magic? If so, I want to hear what you thought about it! What are some other inspirational books that you would recommend? I am always looking for new suggestions. 🙂
These days, every good blog has a small bio of the author usually near the top of the page. Usually, this bio contains the first photo that a visitor sees on a site. The best blogs show a friendly face to the people who are kind enough to visit their blog. Think of it as a first impression!
Being a theatre major, I like to put things into actor-terms. Think of your profile photo on your sidebar as a headshot that an actor would use when they are auditioning for a role. Essentially, you are a blogger auditioning for an audience. When an actor prepares a headshot, they make sure that their photo is an accurate representation of their features. As a blogger, you want your photo to represent not only your features but your personality as well.
Let me tell you, seeing a bad profile photo of a blogger on their site is a such a turn off to me and other readers. Not choosing the right profile photo can cause a disconnect between you and your audience, and your readers won’t feel connected to your blog. Make sure your sidebar photo encourages a connection between you and your readers as if you were meeting them in person. Here is a compilation of common mistakes that I see bloggers using in their profile photos.
How Not To Choose A Photo
The Serious Sunglasses
What’s wrong: Well, first off we can’t see your eyes if you use this photo. You will see that not having a clear view of the eyes is a recurring problem. People like to wear sunglasses in their photos because it might make them “look cool”, but it also adds a touch of mystery to the photo. Anybody could be behind those shades. That, combined with a slight pout, can make for a pretty fierce photo. However, your audience doesn’t want to see a mystery, they want to see you.
The “I’m so cute when I look at the ground”
What’s Wrong: What better way to look adorable than by smiling to the ground, right? However, this photo doesn’t really give us a good view of your face. You can’t see your eyes and your features get distorted because we can only see this viewpoint. Think of it this way: If Snapchat couldn’t put a filter on your face, you probably shouldn’t use that photo.
The Longshot Profile
What’s Wrong: Well, don’t you look cool! However, your audience couldn’t really recognize you if you decided to wear a different outfit. Remember, your audience should be able to have a clear view of your face. Not that this is a bad photo, it just doesn’t give your audience a clear introduction to your face. Save it for Instagram.
The “I’m too cool to look at you”
What’s Wrong: This photo presents an immediate disconnect from your audience. Even if there were no sunglasses, your focus isn’t at a place that would be easily relatable to your audience. Honestly, it looks like you have better things to do.
The Shameless Selfie
What’s Wrong: Selfies (no matter how good) don’t present the kind of professional atmosphere you want if you plan on running a successful blog. Be aware, we can always tell when you’ve taken a photo yourself. Always. Simply grabbing a friend to snap a couple pics of you in some good lighting is miles ahead of the Shameless Selfie. Also, don’t have a duck face in the first photo your readers see of you. Please.
The “I’m gonna punch you in the face”
What’s Wrong: Who doesn’t love a good serious photo? It makes us all feel pretty epic sometimes, but use caution! If you look like you want to punch your audience in the face, they won’t feel very welcome on your blog. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve visited a blog with a serious photo of the author and thought “Dude, stop taking yourself so seriously.” Lighten up! Think of your profile photo as a friendly “hello!” welcoming your audience into your space.
What’s Wrong: A close cousin of The Cut-off Eyebrows and The Half-Face. As they say, the eyes are the window to the soul, so make sure you show your sparkling eyes! If someone runs into you, they won’t recognize you because of your collarbone. Never cut off any part of your face in your profile photo.
The Over Edit
What’s Wrong: This is an easy trap to fall into, but never over edit your photos. Adding filters and upping the saturation may to wonders for your complexion, but it looks fake. Over edited photos make it look like you’re trying to hide from your readers. People respond to authenticity, so don’t be afraid to not look perfect in a photo.
Choosing a good photo
Just like there are so many ways to choose a bad photo, there are equally as many ways to choose a good one. With that being said, here are a few pro-tips when it comes to the profile photo on your blog. 🙂
1) Your photo does not need to be perfect. In fact, your audience may find comfort in being assured that there is a really human running your blog
2) Use the same photo across all your social media accounts. It easier for your followers to find you all across the internet if they can immediately recognize your photo.
3) You are part of your brand. Having a face to associate with a brand is essential when you are growing your blog. People are willing to trust someone who is ready to show their face.
Here are some pretty amazing bloggers that really intrigued me with their profile photo on their blog.
Kayla is one of my favorite bloggers, and I think her headshot is just stunning! You can clearly see her whole face and she is smiling. Not to mention the overall photo has a bright and brilliant color that enhances the theme of her blog. This is a great example of a professional photo!
Kelsey is another college blogger who started blogging about the same time I did. Honestly, her profile photo is one of the reasons I keep coming back to her blog. She just looks so happy! I can definitely see her positivity that she portrays in her blog coming out through her photo.
Ivy is another blogger who started her blogging journey about the same time I did, and I must say, she is killing it! Her friendly face is just the beginning of the community that she has created around her blog for bloggers and other people with chronic illnesses like her. Way to go Ivy!
I am a pretty new follower of Brooke’s blog, but I just couldn’t ignore such a great profile photo. I particularly like her Wonder Woman stance in her photo. This is a great example of showing off some of your personality in your photo, but still keeping it welcoming and professional!
Adjusting to college isn’t the easiest thing to do, but I think the hardest part of the whole experience was adjusting to the people and how they interacted with each other. Have you ever been in a situation where everyone seems to be talking but nobody is actually saying anything?
I think it is natural for people to put up their defenses around people they don’t know very well, but there is something so liberating about speaking from your heart! Sometimes showing a little bit of vulnerability is a great way to gain the trust of others and make some genuine friends.
I was having a casual conversation with one of my academic advisors recently who clearly wasn’t afraid of asking honest questions. Amidst all the surface level conversations I have everyday, it was like a breath of fresh air! I couldn’t help but wonder why everyone couldn’t just speak honestly?
I don’t want to make this a very wordy post; I want to hear your words! Answer one, or two, or all of the questions that resonate with you. Unlike the beloved Coke or Pepsi questions, I think this questionnaire is a great way to help us better understand our character.
One last thing: this is for everybody! No matter if you found this post by accident, sought it out, or you are 50 years in the future! It takes all kinds of stories to fill the world. 🙂
1) How do you deal with disappointment?
2) What is your greatest success up until now?
3) In what ways do you hold yourself back?
4) Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
5) What book/movie/artist/musical has influenced you the most?
6) What is your greatest failure? Did you overcome it? How?
7) What is something you haven’t done yet, but you would like to?
8) What are you an expert at?
9) Who is your personal hero?
10) What is a belief that you cling to?
11) What is your story?
12) What do you struggle with?
Let’s not be afraid of vulnerability! And most importantly, we must take the time to listen to others.
Here are some of my posts that in which I have a “real talk” 🙂