Friends, starting next Monday I will be participating in the yearly April A to Z Blogging Challenge. And, as usual, for me (this is my fourth year taking the challenge), I will be adhering to my blog’s focus on the the arts and the creative process. The challenge will come from writing about a topic that starts with the day’s letter. I hope you will stop by daily to check out ARHtistic License and the other participants in the challenge.
It’s a common experience across the Blogosphere: you’ve made a commitment to your readers that you’ll post consistently on certain days, but, every once in a while, as the day approaches, you can’t think of a topic to write about; or your post is boring, even to you. What should you do?
What to do:
- Give yourself permission to miss one post a year. But unless you’re experiencing a life-crisis (like a death in the family, a birth, a move, a fire, surgery, prolonged illness, a flood), you only get one pass a year. Work on the following tips starting today, so you won’t become a habitual slacker.
- Keep a notebook where you jot down your brilliant ideas. I know from personal experience that no matter how vivid my ideas are, if I don’t actually write them down, they dissolve into the ether. Elizabeth Gilbert says something to the effect that if you don’t diligently take the idea and do something with it, it will go away and find someone else to birth it.
- Don’t have any ideas? Brainstorm. On a blank page, write down any idea that comes to you (even if it’s stupid) and let it suggest other ideas, along the same lines or totally unrelated. Make it a game to come up with at least twenty, then chose the five best to craft into posts (and you’re allowed to fine-tune them as you work).
- Your blog probably has a focus. Mine is the arts and the creative process. What aspects of your focus have neglected? Certainly you haven’t exhausted every possible angle. Or if you feel you have, think up something totally unrelated for a change. For example, I might write about garden tools (though it wouldn’t be hard to make that into an art or design article). Or take an outlandish position on something and work it into a humor piece.
- Interview somebody. It can be someone connected with the focus of your blog, someone you know or someone you’ve never met. Ask her. She might say no, but she might say yes. You can interview her in person, by phone, or by email.
- Tell about your life. I follow about 100 blogs, and I think I know these bloggers as well as I know my friends. Then they’ll post about something that happened to them and I realize I don’t know them at all. I’m honored when they share their private lives with me. You can tell your readers about an incident from your past, or what you’re going through right now, or come up with a list of interesting factoids about yourself (like your major in college, your first job, what cities you’ve lived in, your hobbies).
Being stuck for a blog post idea isn’t fatal. You can take steps to prevent yourself from running out of ideas, or you can inspire yourself to come up with an engaging topic.
Is there something you do that I didn’t mention that helps you keep going in your blogging life? Please share in the comments below.
Has this article been of help to you? Please make my day by clicking the like button and by sharing it on your social media accounts.
Art is one of my passions. Blogging is another. Here, in alphabetical order, are my ten most favorite art blogs:
- Artistcoveries. Judith started this blog in March, 2016 to share her process of discovery as creates. She’s self-taught, and it’s been exciting to witness her progress. She lists lots of resources that she’s found helpful.
- Beez in the Belfry. Sandy Steen Bartholomew is a talented illustrator, comics author, and mixed media artist. I learned of her when I bought one of her Zentangle® books (she’s also a Certified Zentangle Teacher). She blogs about the many facets of her life, even offering glimpses inside her studio.
- Colossal. Featuring artists working in all facets of art, design, photography, crafts, illustration, and more, Colossal consistently wows me.
- Living on the Edge of Wild. Deborah J. Brasket is a writer and artist. She posts about whatever is on her heart and what she’s recently painted or seen and shares her writing.
- Frugal Crafter. Lindsay Weirich is an artist, writer, and craft designer. She is also an excellent teacher, as evidenced by the wonderful step-by-step videos she produces, shared on the blog and on YouTube.
- My Modern Met. Similar to Colossal, this website showcases gorgeous art, design, photography, and more. I always find something new there.
- My Street Inspiration. This site displays examples of creative artistry you find on the street—murals, public art, graffiti, and street musicians.
- Nathalie’s Studio. Nathalie Kalbach is a mixed-media artist. She designs stamps and she shares her art journal and discusses her projects. She shares visits to museums and documents her strolls through the ‘hood, Jersey City, and Manhattan across the river. (Her photos make me homesick for New Jersey.)
- Sketch Away: Travels with My Sketchbook. Suhita Shirodkar always has her sketchbook with her and records what’s going on in her life. She’s also an art workshop instructor and makes recommendations about supplies she uses.
- Writing and Illustrating. Kathy Temean is heavily involved with the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators in New Jersey. Every Saturday she posts an interview with an illustrator, complete with pictures of their work and questions about their process, how they got started in the business, and everything else artistic minds want to know. She also deals with the writing side, and often picture book authors will offer copies for a giveaway on the website.
That’s it—my ten favorite art blogs. (Just so you know, I wrote a separate post about my favorite Zentangle blogs.)
Now it’s your turn. Is there an art blog you love that I’ve overlooked? Or do you blog about art? Share in the comments below.
As a writer, you’re probably seeking more exposure for your work. What if I told you there was a website where you could publish your writing and tap into a potential audience of 30,000 people per month?
Enter Medium. A blogging and publishing platform developed by Twitter co-founder Evan Williams, it’s a fantastic place to share new articles or republish old blog posts and reach more readers.
However, there are several steps you need to take in order to get your writing in front of Medium’s audience. When I first tried posting on Medium back in March 2016, my posts received very little views and interaction. Feeling discouraged, I stopped posting.
But in November a friend encouraged me to try posting again. One of her posts had gone viral on the platform and brought her several hundred new email subscribers. She advised that I try submitting to Medium publications. These publications are like magazines that exist inside the Medium platform and curate articles around specific topics.
I followed my friend’s advice, and the results were amazing. My Medium following grew from around 200 people to 1,800. Three of my posts ended up becoming trending articles in a publication and as of today have received over twenty-five thousand views. Another was featured on the Medium homepage.
Best of all, Medium drove traffic back to my website. Over the past three months, 550+ new subscribers have joined my email list with most of those subscribers coming directly from Medium.
Today, I’m going to share with you how to set up an account and all of the strategies I’ve used to turn Medium readers into subscribers.
How to Get Started on Medium
Step 1 – Set up a Medium Account
To get started on Medium, you’ll first need to create an account.
You can sign-up with your email address or with a Twitter, Facebook, or Google account. I recommend signing up with your Twitter account if you have one. Any of your Twitter followers who are also on Medium will automatically appear as Medium followers too.
Medium will also ask you to select your interests and will suggest people for you to follow. Make sure to pick the topics that you will be writing about. Medium will display articles related to those topics in your homepage feed, and you’ll be able to see the types of articles that are performing well.
Step 2 – Edit Your Profile
Now it’s time to edit your profile. (Click on the avatar at the top right-hand corner of the page to find your profile. Choose “profile” from the drop-down menu.)
Here’s a screenshot of my current profile:
Use a photo of yourself for the profile picture. This will give your account more authority and establish trust with your readers. I recommend uploading the same photo that you use on your other social media accounts so your followers will immediately recognize you if they follow you elsewhere on the web.
Finally, make sure to include a prominent link to your website or to your email list sign-up form.
Step 3 – Write Your First Story
To start writing your first post, you can click on “Write a Story” in the menu bar or choose “New Story” from the drop-down menu.
If you’re republishing a post from your blog, just copy and paste it and make the necessary formatting edits.
Alternatively, you have the option to import a post directly from your blog. However, I’ve had problems in the past where a post I imported displayed the date I first published it on the blog and not on Medium. This meant that it did not show up as a new story in readers’ feeds. I recommend just creating a new story and copying and pasting your blog post into the Medium editor.
The title, subtitle, and lead picture are extremely important for getting people to click on your article.
A constant stream of articles floods readers’ homepage feeds. The only way yours will stand out is if the title and picture catch readers’ eyes. For example, here’s how one of my posts would show up on a reader’s homepage:
The picture makes the story stand out, the title is intriguing, and the subtitle further explains what the title is about without giving too much away.
I’ve tried not including subtitles on posts, but I’ve found that the articles usually do not perform as well.
Read my post here for tips on how to write compelling headlines and more suggestions on how to format the body of your Medium post. You can find free stock photos to use as lead pictures at Pixabay and Unsplash.
To continue reading this article, click here.
ARHtistic License is three years old today!
In the past three years, I’ve published over 1,735 posts. ARHtistic License now has 465 subscribers.
But sometimes I wonder if all my work is worth it.
I subscribe to a hundred blogs, and I check out at least twenty new-to-me blogs a week. Some of the blogs I see are fabulous—and I share their posts on social media and through Flipboard and Creative Juice.
But some of the blogs I see are, frankly, poorly written and unattractively designed—and yet have thousands of subscribers.
I must be doing something wrong.
Two measures of a blog’s popularity are views and likes. Views are the traffic your blog gets; likes are the number of people who enjoyed your post enough to click the “like” button.
Here are the top ten posts on ARHtistic License in the past year, based on views:
- Serb Fest (267 views)
- NaPoWriMo Day 21 (152)
- Diva Challenge #334 (100)
- #DC345: Christmas Star (97)
- #DC346: Phicops and Huggins (93)
- #DC350: Rimana Heartstring (74)
- #DC362: Somnee (71)
- Cozy (71)
- Inktober Day 24: A Composite (71)
- #DC360 Shattuck vs. Tripoli (69)
I think I know why the first one got a lot of views. My daughter sent a link to a Bosnian friend. I think Daria must have posted it online, where lots of her friends are among the Balkan community (thank you, Daria). I also posted it on the Phoenix International Folk Dancers’ Facebook page, which also generated some views.
The other nine posts were responses to challenges. The NaPoWriMo people featured one of my poems on their website. (Unfortunately, it was not one of my favorite poems. I like this one better if you’re interested.) The rest were zentangle challenges from I Am The Diva. Laura’s devoted fans support each other by checking out one another’s entries.
Here are the top eleven posts on ARHtistic License for the past year, based on likes:
- NaPoWriMo Day 21 (20 likes)
- Strategy (20)
- Wordless Wednesday: My Neighbor’s Pomegranates (20)
- Wordless Wednesday/ Flower of the Day (19)
- Wordless Wednesday/ Flower of the Day: Tecoma Yellow Bells (18)
- My Favorite Photo of 2017 (18)
- Christmas Recipe Challenge (18)
- 12 Worst Blogging Mistakes (17)
- Beach House (17)
- Wordless Wednesday/ Flower of the Day: Hibiscus (16)
- Ahwatukee Festival of Lights (16)
Isn’t it interesting that there is almost no overlap between the two lists? Again, most of these articles are responses to blogging challenges, especially photo challenges (photographers are very supportive of each other—thank you, shutterbugs).
Two articles that didn’t make the top lists but which I feel are among my best work this year are I’d Rather Be Dancing: Phoenix Folk Dance Festival and Walk in the Art District. Both are photo essays which required many hours to shoot and edit
Isn’t it also interesting how low the number of likes is? The same NaPoWriMo article that had 152 views only had 20 likes. Does that mean that the other 132 people who read it disliked it?
I know the “like” button is peculiar to the WordPress platform (which ARHtistic License utilizes) and fans and users of other platforms might not be tuned into it. Also, to click the WordPress “like” button, you must sign up for Gravatar, which requires a username and an email, and, optionally, your website. This gives you a little identifying avatar (of your own provision, or one will be generated for you) which also makes it possible for others to view the profile you submitted—and can help others find your blog. I know it involves time and some people are uncomfortable releasing their email addresses, but it’s a requirement for adding comments and interacting with the WordPress blogging community. Consider that you do your favorite bloggers a disservice when you don’t let them know how much you enjoy their work. Like me, they might feel as though they wouldn’t be missed if they quit.
My goal in starting my blog was to stimulate a dialogue among people I enjoy—intelligent, artistic, creative people. I haven’t succeeded. If someone leaves a thoughtful comment, I will reply, especially if a question is asked. But I get so few comments on most posts.
What am I doing wrong?
Between now and my next blog birthday, I need to decide how to improve my blog so that it becomes what I want it to be—a place where creatives exchange ideas—or, decide if I want to scale it back or discontinue it altogether.
Here’s how you can help me:
- If you’re not a subscriber to my blog, please sign up today! (See the third item on my sidebar.)
- If you enjoy something I’ve posted, please click the “like” button (a great way to give feedback on any blog).
- If you have something to add about a topic, please leave a comment.
- If you’re on Facebook, follow the ARHtistic License page.
- If you’re on Twitter, follow me.
- If you’re on Instagram, follow me.
- If you have any ideas about how I can improve ARHtistic License or attract my target audience, please tell me in the comments below.
Thank you. I think about my readers every day, and I’d love to get to know you better.
I read a lot of blogs. I follow nearly 300, and I check out new blogs all the time. If you follow me or you’ve left a comment on ARHtistic License or you’ve tweeted something that interested me, I’ve probably taken a look at your blog.
There are thousands of great blogs out there. And, sadly, there are thousands of terrible blogs out there.
How do you know if your blog is one of the bad ones? Here are some signs.
- Pop-ups. I hate it if I’ve just started reading a post on your blog and a pop-up blocks my view. If it asks me to sign up for your blog, I dismiss it. How do I know I want to sign up for your blog if I haven’t even read a post yet? Please have a sign-up option prominently (and permanently) located on your blog. If I can only sign up without reading your blog, I never will.
- Old school look. Honestly, there’s no excuse for the 1990s-retro-look websites. So many platforms will allow you to set up a good-looking blog for free that there is no reason to keep a dorky-looking one. Start new.
- Tiny text, or text that doesn’t show up against the background. Some of us have old eyes. If I can’t read your blog, I won’t come back to it.
- Poor grammar and spelling. Please learn the basics. You can get a free version of Grammarly to help you.
- No illustrations. Beautify your blog and drum up the interest factor with pictures. There are lots of sources for free images you can use on your blog.
- Long, unbroken paragraphs. Nothing looks so formidable as a huge expanse of words. Throw in a little white space. Try to limit paragraphs to no more than five sentences.
- Posts that have no point. If you’re just writing your daily to-do list, you really don’t need to release it into the blogosphere. Write something an audience would love to read. Content is king.
- Your articles are sales pitches for your affiliates. I get it—blogging is time-consuming. It’s nice to earn some money at it. But if you’re not giving me meaningful content (see #7), I’m not going to read your blog.
- No sharing buttons. Sometimes I like an article so much I wish all my friends could read it. If I can’t just hit a button, but I actually have to open my social media and cut and paste a link, I’m way too lazy. You lose.
- No “like” buttons. I’d love to let you know I enjoyed your article, or at least show you I visited, but sometimes I’m too lazy to write a comment. I wish I could just click my approval.
- Your newsletter is a never-ending sales pitch. If I like your blog and sign up for your newsletter, I expect to see content like what you post on your blog, except better, more personal, and with incentives, like an occasional giveaway or contest. If issue after issue just urges me to buy your book or sign up for your online class, I will cancel my subscription.
- No way to contact you. If I love your blog, I might want to ask permission to use one of your pieces as a guest post or offer my help with something. If you don’t have a contact form or a blog email account, you might miss a chance to network. I’ll have to connect with a different blogger instead.
So, there you have it—my blogger pet peeves. If you recognize your blog above, it’s not too hard to improve it. Your readers will thank you—and you may attract some more!
Are there any other big blogging mistakes that I’ve missed? Share in the comments below.