Tag Archives: lessons learned

4 Lessons I’ve Learned About My Blogging Journey

Disclaimer: Wolfe Butler is a participant in the Amazon Services, LLC. Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. This post contains affiliate links. Any purchase made through such links will award me a small commission (or referral fee), at no extra cost for you. I only promote products that I use and have benefitted from.

It is overwhelming. The shear volume of information available about blogging could fill an entire library by itself. I would describe it as a tsunami but that word may not be a big enough metaphor.

Wave

If you are thinking about starting a blog you should do it. Anyone can do it. You can do it. I believe that wholeheartedly. Like achieving most things of value, a successful blog requires lots of time and hard work. And, as this blogger is finding out, lots of learning.

In the past month I have spent over 40 hours just learning about blogging.

Four items stick out in my mind from the last few weeks. I wanted to share them with you today.

1.      Blogging About Blogging is Not for Me

While I am very interested in sharing my journey as a blogger, I have decided I do not want this to become a blog about blogging. This may be a crazy idea as there seems to be a lot of money in blogging about blogging. My passion doesn’t spring from writing about blogging. If I let blogging become my niche, I fear I would quickly run out of enthusiasm.

Fiction writing is my true passion. Second to writing is reading. I love books. I mean I really love books. I have more book cases in my home than all the other furniture combined. And still some books are piled in corners around the house.

Great writing and reading are the identity I want for my blog. My intention is to hold true to that vision.

Book Pile

This does not mean that I am going to end the Tale of a New Blogger series. I enjoy writing that post once a month. It gives me a chance to take stock of my progress and to renew my enthusiasm about my blog in general. Look for that series to continue.

2.      SEO Requires Real Effort

The letters SEO meant very little to me just four months ago. I knew they stood for Search Engine Optimization but little more than that. One of my projects for February is to learn more about SEO and to update my existing and future posts accordingly.

But WOW. You won’t believe how much there is to know about SEO.

First of all, there are some 200 rating factors Google uses in SEO. 200! I had no idea. As I read through the list, I knew about five of them.

You can read the complete list on Backlinko’s website by clicking this line.

Just reading the complete list took considerable time. Brian Dean does an excellent job listing all 200. He gives a brief description of each item making it easier to understand all the rating factors.

Learning

The good news is that now I can honestly say I understand SEO.

Well, sort of.

The time and effort comes in with using SEO correctly. The best way to increase your SEO results is to do research before you write your post. That will take some time, especially when you are first starting out like I am. This is an item I will come back to in future posts when I am better qualified to offer advice on the subject.

Another great SEO resource is Gundi Gabrielle’s The Sassy Way to Ranking #1 in Google – when you have NO CLUE!: A Beginner’s Guide to Search Engine Optimization. This is book 6 in her blogging series. I have read four of the books, including this one, and they are full of valuable information. If you have Kindle Unlimited you can read them all for FREE.

3.    Social Media Takes Time

Yeah, yeah, we all know that. Who of us hasn’t wasted an entire evening catching up on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, etc. Trying to grow a blog following on social media is even more time consuming.

I am thrilled with my results so far. I have grown a considerable number of followers in just a few months. That said, trying to keep up with commenting, pinning, liking, sharing, etc. is more than a bit daunting. It can easily take up the whole day.

Ana from The She Approach just released a great new FREE 5-day affiliate marketing course. If you are looking to monetize your blog, this is the advice you need. I’ve learned so much from her that I have to recommend it to others.

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Setting up time limits seems to be helping me keep social media under control. If I know I only have an hour, I don’t spend a lot of time writing lengthy replies or looking at kitten videos. Yes, baby animals are my weakness.

4.    Writers Need to Write

This blog has taken up the bulk of my time for the last two months. I am not complaining. I love writing blog posts. And I love learning new things so learning about blogging is a fascinating adventure. But I don’t want my fiction writing to ever be sacrificed for the success of my blog.

I love to write. I NEED to write. That is the number one priority.

I haven’t really given a writing update for a while. I am currently working on two novels. Plans are also rolling around in my head to write a non-fiction book on mental health experiences. And I want to turn my I’ve Learned series into a Kindle book.

My goal is to publish all four books this year.

This year? I know that sounds crazy, but we’ve already established that I am crazy.

Bear with me a moment. I have the circumstances right now to write nearly full-time. Some of my time is going to freelance gigs. It probably doesn’t have to be, but part of my brain is panicking about no money coming in. But the majority of my time is free for writing.

Writing

Since that is the case, there is no excuse for me not writing.

I was disappointed to realize last week that I had not worked on my primary WIP since January. For over two weeks I had not even opened the file. The books I am planning will never get written at that rate.

Toward the end of last week, I set out to rectify that problem. On Friday I decided to write before I did anything else. I wrote for less than two hours but knocked out almost 3,000 words! I am ecstatic about that.

It proves to me that my true love doesn’t need to be neglected for the success of my blog.

To give myself some accountability, I will share my goal. I intend to have the first draft of my sci-fi adventure completed by the end of March. In future posts I will comment more on that writing journey.

What lessons have you learned recently? Please share your comments below.

Lesson 6: … I don’t know much

I’ve learned that I really do not know very much.

Years ago, I read an illustration about our own perceived intelligence. I cannot remember it verbatim, but to briefly paraphrase it said, as teenagers we tend to think that we know everything. In our twenties and thirties, we still think we know most everything but also start to see the need to get some instruction from others. By middle age we realize we only know half the things we need to know. And finally, in old age, we realize that we know nothing or at least very little in the grand scheme of things.

I am not an old man, at least from my perspective. A sixteen or twenty-year-old might view me that way, but I am determined that I am not old. It’s the whole, “Build it and they will come” mentality. If only that worked.

Up until now, I have always considered myself a relatively intelligent man. I keep up with current events and have always been an avid reader. In this digital age, I still prefer to read my news or instruction manuals rather than watch videos. Everyday I make it a point to learn at least one new thing and am always looking for ways to improve myself.

Over the last few years, it has become increasingly more obvious that in reality, I know almost nothing. Never has this truth shined brighter than the last couple months of starting a blog and self-publishing a book. All my dear writer friends, why didn’t you warn me? As I read more blogs, interact with more writers and consider their work, I feel overwhelmingly unqualified and outclassed.

I did not just jump into blogging and self-publishing without any guidance or forethought. I read blogging advice for several years before finally committing and starting one of my own. I perused publishing and writing journals for years contemplating publishing options, comparing traditional to self-published routes, whether to get an agent or editor or not. I felt like I had done all my research and was prepared to move forward. Wrong!

Wrong

Jumping into the arena, or fire as it might be, and getting started has revealed a whole world of things I never thought to include in my preparations. There have been hundreds of questions that I did not know to ask. Should you monetize your site? How do you keep a posting schedule? What social media sites should you use? What should you be posting on them? How should you interact with your followers? How often? And on and on and on. In addition, there have been systems and procedures that I did not know to implement and unexpected expenses I was not fully prepared for. Add to the fact that I was still working a full-time day job for the first two months, and it is amazing that I have any hair on the top of my head. Although it has grown noticeably grayer in the last two months.

I had been in my prior career field for 18 years before decided to leave and pursue writing full-time. I was the go-to person for a lot of my colleagues because I had put in the time and was constantly working on learning more and improving myself. To go from a seasoned veteran to a flailing newbie has been a true test of my mettle.

Please do not misunderstand me. This is an amazing experience and a dream come true. I worked so hard for so many years so that in time I could devote myself to my writing passion. Never was I so naïve as to imagine that this would be a seamless and painless transition. Still, to interact with all the amazing writers I have had the pleasure to interact with, has not only made me feel like I am out of my depth, but that I need to get out of that Olympic pool and go back to the kiddie pool. Probably floaties would not be a bad idea while I am at it.

yellow bath duck toy

On the flip side, oneamazing, heart-warming and completely unexpected lesson I am learning is that writers are true kindred spirits. We are all laboring to bring our wordy offspring into this world. It brightens my day to get on social media and see how writers are constantly supporting other writers, supporting me. In the financial world, it was every man for himself. This sense of community and support has been my biggest buoy to keep afloat as the waves of what I don’t know keep crashing over me. My hope is that in a year or two or five that I will be the veteran writer, blogger and self-publisher that is out in the world encouraging others and convincing them to continue forward.

As I tend to do, I have again gotten completely off track. My life lesson learned is that the older I get, the more I recognize just how much I do not know. I am trying to own that and seek guidance from as many sources as I can find. I will never know everything, but tomorrow I will know more than I did today.

Until next time.


Lesson 5: …to be flexible

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Lesson 5

Lesson 5

Dear readers, let me start today’s post by saying I am a little OCD. {Pause for comedic effect.} Okay, if those of you that know me personally would stop laughing now, I will admit that I am perhaps a lot OCD. I have mellowed some with age, but I still prefer most things to be done a certain way. I am also a big fan of schedules and routines. Think Sheldon on The Big Bang Theory. Thursday night is laundry night and Chinese food.

When I was a young man it was much worse. I liked training people to do things because then I knew they were being done the right way. Most of the jobs I have had throughout my adult life have involved some form of teaching or training others.

The little things are very important. The toilet paper should come over the top. The toilet lid should always be closed when not in use. The shower curtain should always be closed. When cooking, most of the prep dishes should be cleaned before the meal is ready to be served. Shoes should not be worn in the house unless they are house-only shoes. The house should be quiet by 9:00 PM to give everyone some quiet time to unwind before going to sleep. And do not even get me started on the big things.
Toilet

It is no wonder that my first and only roommate was an utter and total failure. We lasted about seven months, and our friendship did not survive the experience. Though in that instance, I am confident that our friendship would not have lasted regardless. But I digress. My point was that I was a difficult person to live with, to date or even be friends with.

I cannot say when it was that things finally started to click in my mind of just how insane I was acting. We all know that there is more than one way to do most things. It was not a problem of not having the knowledge. I was just particular. That sounds nice, doesn’t it? Particular. Except that it would probably be more accurate to say that I was exacting and inflexible and, sadly, at many times, unreasonable.

What was probably the craziest thing was that when someone did something differently than I might have, it not only frustrated me, but tended to make me very angry. It felt like something was wrong with the universe, or like a personal affront to me. Now you can see why my wife sometimes called me, “The Beast.”

angry-1297540

Credit for my change must largely go to her. My dear wife had a way of training me in such at way that at the end it felt like it was my idea from the beginning. That seems to be a skill that God only gave to women, and maybe that is why as men we are so often frustrated with each other.

The details of what had happened are long forgotten, but her words to me still echo loud in my head. Something had been done in a manner I did not like. My wife reasoned with me that the important thing was that the task was now complete. That should have been the important thing, but once again I found myself fixated on how it was completed. When she finally got me to admit that, yes, having the job complete was all that mattered, she moved on.

“Now as to how it was done,” she had a sparkle that would appear in her eyes when she was accomplishing a goal and a little hint of a smile that always melted my heart. “Does it really matter?”

“No,” I answered begrudgingly, “I guess not.”

“Because, as you can see, the task was completed, and the world did not end.”


She turned around and walked away from me then to give me a chance to mull over her words. She knew I was a wordsmith even with the spoken language, and that sometimes those words too quickly became vicious. She seldom allowed any conversation to get to a point where negative words would even start to be spoken. That might have been the secret to our marital success.

It took a lot of effort, but in time I was able to assign tasks to people and celebrate the fact that they were completed even if in a manner different than what I preferred.

Don’t get me wrong. There are still days when I would much rather take over a job than to watch someone do something the “wrong” way. For the most part, though, I hear my wife’s voice in my head, and it holds me back. When the task is complete, I can tell myself, “And the world did not end.”

Couple Bench