Six Steps to Starting a Creative Blog

Whether it’s a creative blog, a lifestyle blog, a business blog… most posts with this title end up disappointing me. They are all about getting a domain, setting up your site on their web host and starting WordPress. I’m never looking for those things when I click on a post about starting a blog.

I want to know what makes a creative blog tick, what keeps it going, how they find juice for new ideas and what inspires them.  So, as a long time blogger, however good I may be, I will give my own version of how to start a creative blog.

1. You need a focus.

One niche idea which you can sustain (and promote if you are hoping to get noticed). Finding the right idea is more important than anything else. Your niche is what will keep you going when you run dry, lose patience, or give up on keeping your site. It is also how you will find kindred spirits among the masses of people online.

2. Brainstorm ideas.

Before you buy a domain and set up web hosting, push yourself to come up with a list of at least 100 posts you could make about your niche topic. Don’t skimp and don’t settle for half baked post ideas. Really work your brain muscles and make a great list. Think about the type of posts you would read yourself. Take a look at other people writing the same topics, not just online. Come up with an excellent list – posts you almost want to stop and start writing right now.

3. What can you sell?

Yes, it does come down to commercialism at some point. If you are going to create a site it will help you to see it get readers and make some money. Traffic alone won’t sustain you and reader comments occur far less often these days. So you will be happier if you can find your numbers coming from another source and money is nice.

You may think you have nothing to sell. But, put on your thinking cap and see what you can do. Think digital content. If you have art, illustrations or photographs you can sell those, or create digital downloads with your art on calendars, stationery, etc. You can sell information by having a paid membership site – but you need some authority in your topic for that. You can sell patterns for craft projects. See what other people in your niche topic are selling. As a last resort consider putting together an ebook and offering that to your readers. (In my opinion, ebooks have had their day in the sun).

You can also sell a service to creative people. Like workshops and courses they can download or have sent to them each week in email. You might offer to proofread for other writers. You might offer yourself as a reviewer and social media poster for book writers. Avoid making yourself a spammer but a lot of creative people would like help with the marketing side of things.

4. Build your site.

Design your site before you start looking at themes and templates. Get an idea of what you want – then find a way to make it work. If you are new to running a site consider Blogger, it’s simpler and you can always convert a Blogger site to WordPress later. (There are a lot of good plugins to make the change over easy). If you want to use WordPress, don’t use WordPress.com. It’s ok, but it is only ok and has a few too many limitations and options you can pay extra for. If you want WordPress, get WordPress on your own domain.

A website is all about navigation. Content may be king but navigation is what will make or break a site. Keep it simple, easily found and make sure it all works. Navigation starts by having a link back to your own site as a “Home” link in the navigation bar. Categories, tags and labels are also great to help people find their way around the contents of your site. Don’t forget an “About” page to tell readers who you are, what you are writing about, what you’re selling, and what your plans are for the site.

A pretty picture is nice but not enough. Make your site look nice but keep it readable. Pick fonts which are not too light or too complicated. Pick colours which keep your site readable. You can find out a lot more about readability and standards for things like alternate tags in image files.

There is a lot of work, planning and DIY (learning) behind a site. Invest in a good guide book, and if you use it, you aren’t likely to regret it. Try to build your own site because it can be done, without paying someone else to do it for you.

5. Start talking to yourself.

Write your first post, to yourself. Give yourself goals and a to-do list as your first post. Afterwards start using an editorial calendar to keep on track with goals and ideas as they come along. Use the draft post feature to keep ideas saved as posts while you work on them.

Everything you would have written as a first post would work as your “About” page, the introduction to your site and yourself.

6. Write your second post.

Pick your favourite idea from your list of 100+ post ideas and write that post. Proofread it before you publish it. Don’t take too long to write it, don’t make it overly dramatic or particularly perfect. (You can always go back and edit it later).

Post and go look at your blog, from the reader side (not the admin/ edit side). Admire what you have accomplished and plan what you will do next.

There is an Ice Hockey Photographers Association Niche

Everything has a niche if you just keep looking for it on the Internet. I love finding little groups, even if I don’t have an interest in them personally. It’s just so great to find them existing.

Today I found: Flickr: Ice Hockey Photographers Association

What niche could you be working on? Something interesting to yourself and a group of 2 or 3 people at most? The odd thing about these micro niche topics is how they grow. You start with one person, other than yourself and think that’s nice. But, once people begin to find your niche it just grows and grows.

I began my own niche group on Flickr (years ago). I didn’t do a lot to promote it and there was no SEO involved as far as anything I did. But, my group has over 600 members. Sure some will be forgotten accounts and so on. But, even half that many members is quite amazing for a little niche.

Pick a niche of your own and try it. Put up a free site to start with, post about it on social media and begin making posts to the site. Add photos, add ideas, etc. You might be pleasantly surprised.

The End of News Sites?

The rise of syndicated content hosted on social platforms is a disruptive model that will get more user eyeballs on the content, but spells commercial suicide for established media brands, says Andrew Pemberton, director, Furthr.

Source: ‘Homeless media’ will make media companies like Buzzfeed homeless | Marketing Magazine

Seems this is working for generic/ general or miscellaneous content feeds.

I think there is still value in building a niche feed. Something geared to a hobby, personal interest or a personality site with a combination of linked interests. The big sites can’t do that, they’re too big and inclusive. A niche site has the exclusive focus you want to find when you are looking for ideas and information on something specific. The rest are glorified news readers, just more available now.

The Sadness of the Fixing Things Obsession

I don’t know what the psychological meltdown would be called… that never stopped me.

I have a problem with trying to fix things, restore old and forgotten things. I like history, that’s true. But, it goes beyond that. I like helping the lonely things.

I do know there is a word for people who give personalities to inanimate objects. I don’t keep a lot of stuffed animals. I do have books by the hundreds. Mostly everything else I feel I must fix I find in little online niches these days. (I had to stop buying things to save from the thrift stores but it wasn’t easy and they haunt me when I go in there to look around). Instead of buying these little treasures I post images to Pinterest, or Scoop.it. But, I’ve found myself back at the dmoz directory again and that gives me another outlet for my obsessions with all these little things.

Why do we feel responsible for things?

I know I do. I’m somehow obligated to fix these lonely, forgotten, sad things. Don’t ask me why. I don’t know.

It’s a burden. I take on more than I can possibly achieve and then I feel I haven’t done enough!

Enough is a good word. Don’t ask what is enough. When is enough is the real question.

You really need to set limits on your obsessions, whatever they may be. I have learned to not buy the little knickknacks at thrift stores. I can take them home but I can not save them. I can not read all the books I have (but I’m not willing to part with them). Just like ideas. I can get thousands of ideas but I can not work on them all.

So I’m fixing myself. It has up days and down days. Often it’s sad. It’s hard to let go of things, especially ideas!

But you can save your ideas. You can save a lot digitally these days rather than keeping a physical (hard copy) of every knickknack and photograph and book. Ideas can be saved too. Write them down and maybe you will even come back to them someday. A lot of them are worth saving but not all of them are practical enough to get your full attention long enough to complete them.

Be satisfied with enough. Learn to love what you do accomplish rather than feeling sad for all you couldn’t do. In the future they’ll have robots to do the work of a hundred people. I can give them a list of things to do right now!

Find a way to make your obsessions sustain you instead of undoing yourself trying to sustain them.

Find a Writing Partner Online

Free interactive site bringing together writers, co-writers and sources for collaborative writing projects in any medium

CaptureSource: Co-Writers.com

I found this link today while looking at Dmoz. It’s an active site. For me, this seems like an interesting way to find someone else to trade ideas with. Better than joining a writing group and then not being able to participate enough to get noticed and meet anyone.

You Might Change your Mind

“No matter what happens: Go buy books. Share the love of those books. Talk about them. Give them to others. Get on social media and crow about them. Don’t be afraid of ideas and politics and people who aren’t like you. Embrace it. Come into the pool. The water’s warm. The drinks are cold. The stories are amazing. Read on.” —Chuck Wendig

I like to read things I don’t agree with, in case I change my mind.

What is the Heaviest Thing?

What is the heaviest thing you can think of? Start with real things and move your way into creative imagination.

Would a grey whale be heavier than a 100 year old oak tree?

What if the tree were growing at the bottom of the ocean and the weight of all that water pressure counted?

What if the grey whale were swimming in outer space for years, weightless but then crash landed on Earth with all our gravity?

Carry on with your own ideas or start with your own ideas and see where (and how far) they take you.

The Rhythm of Language

Style is a very simple matter: it is all rhythm. Once you get that, you can’t use the wrong words. But on the other hand here am I sitting after half the morning, crammed with ideas, and visions, and so on, and can’t dislodge them, for lack of the right rhythm. Now this is very profound, what rhythm is, and goes far deeper than words. A sight, an emotion, creates this wave in the mind, long before it makes words to fit it; and in writing (such is my present belief) one has to recapture this, and set this working (which has nothing apparently to do with words) and then, as it breaks and tumbles in the mind, it makes words to fit it.

Virginia Woolf

Source: John Baker’s Blog — The Rhythm of Language

Why Have a Membership Site?

I’ve been thinking of ways to keep my domains active, other than using them as blogs. Keeping a blog is time consuming, every day. I’d like to have a few sites active as blogs (those I can sustain reasonably) and find some other use for the rest. A complimentary use would be smarter than spinning off in another direction.

So, membership sites came up as an idea. Not only could I find another way to use the domains/ sites but they could manage to pull in some money which would make the whole thing a little self sufficient.

However, what sort of membership content would work for me and what would people find useful? This is where I am in my planning. I did find a post which had me thinking…

I’m going to share two different ideas for members only content. The first, value content, appeals to your audience from a learning and business perspective, while the second, insider content, appeals to your audience from a more curious angle. Either approach can be effective. Ideally you find a way to use them both.

Value content is content that will help your readers make money or do something they’re really interested in. It’s especially useful and relevant to your readers.

Insider content gives your audience some insight into you and your work routine or life. Humans are naturally curious and interested in people we admire. Entire TV shows and magazines are dedicated to documenting celebrity life.

Source: 3 membership site ideas

I’m not sold on Members only content. Yes, it likely works for many people. But, it also makes more to keep track of and organize for the site owner. I’d need to schedule more content. Content in addition to my regular posts. Likely, longer posts which would take more time to write. Considering I want to work my way back to daily posting, this type of content is not sustainable for me.

Instead a membership could be for use of a discussion forum which the site owner moderates or live content/ chats. The live chat, podcasts and etc. could be kept available as archives (when the content is a month old, not so fresh that a membership has no real value) for your site readers. But, members get the time spent with you to ask questions, get feedback, etc.

There is also the ebook or newsletter. I’d consider an ebook, but keeping it fairly short. I’m not at all keen on the newsletter idea. I really don’t think anyone still reads those. I don’t.

Of these ideas the discussion forum seems the most sustainable for me. But, is it useful enough for people to want a membership?

Millions Of Houses Left Abandoned This Morning 

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Source: Millions Of Houses Left Abandoned This Morning – The Onion – America’s Finest News Source

How is your satire? Could you come up with a great headline like this?

Think of something obvious and spin it in a different way. Try it with a few ideas. It’s not easy but gets better once you get the hang of it.

Start just by changing a few words on the headline from the Onion:

Millions of Cows Robbed of Milk this Morning

School Children Sent Home at the End of the Day

Apples Found, not Far from the Tree