Lost My Writing Passion

Refresh your energy for writing your same old blogging project.

I have lost count of my freelance writing years but I know I started writing online in 1998, or 1997 if you count the personal online diary. Over this time I have had many highs and lows. There have been periods where I lost my passion, or the enthusiasm wore thin. It’s normal.

There will always be great energy and passion for a new project. As time goes on and you explore the ideas you wanted to explore the energy slows down and you begin to sink into the project. It’s not that you stop caring but you start using a different energy. You find yourself using a staying power sort of energy.

It’s a great time to refresh your enthusiasm. You might find something new, you might be impulsive and make a change or you might close down the project. If you really want to. But, that’s a shame when there are other options.

Look for inspiration in sites for writers.

Seven Ways to Love Blogging Again

You can find a new side interest, generate new ideas, combine ideas and so on until you have given your self a revamped project to work with. For instance a fashion blogger could write about lingerie instead of trying to fill the niche for all women’s fashion. Or, the same fashion blogger could include pet fashion which matches or compliments their owner’s fashion choices.

Change something of the administration and inner workings of your blog/ site. Try something other than Blogger or WordPress. (Did you even know there are other choices?)

Add a new element. Try building a web directory with your links instead of leaving them in the standard blogroll. Try Link Library, a free plugin which works with WordPress. There are other ways to create a directory of links but this is the best of those I have experimented with. Of course you can use the tags, labels and categories with your blog to create a directory within each post.

A web directory isn’t for everyone. Your strong point may be social networking and being social in general. Start doing more with Twitter, Facebook and look for forums and online groups in your niche or a related topic. Be social, get outside your box and bring new ideas and perspective back when you start writing your blog again.

Try a new blogging/ writing format. Become a content curator – link to great content you find in your niche, write enough to explain why you are linking to it and don’t forget to give credit to the original writer. This could even be a weekly thing, like a round up post. List links and posts you’ve read during the week as a weekend (or which ever day you choose) blog post.

Learn a new skill. Start drawing your own images to add as illustrations for your posts. Or try another art form like your own digital photos, ASCII art and all kinds of alter art such as collage. Anything you can turn into an image file and add to your blog will work.

Take a break, temporarily. Don’t write for a week, not even a list of post ideas. Hold out on yourself. This gives your passion time to rebuild.

My own experience as a lost, blocked and downtrodden writer.

I’ve been writing my current, main blog since 2004. It began as part of another site, now gone. I kept it going on my own. Having a schedule helps me with self-discipline. Though I was making weekly posts at first, I stepped up and went daily a couple of years ago. The schedule is good, the discipline is good too but… having a tighter posting schedule accelerates burnout.

So, in the years I’ve been publishing, editing and writing online I have had writer’s block and burnout more than a handful of times. I pull myself out each time. I will this time too. One or more of the ideas I’ve written about above worked for me. After all, I’m still here, writing, editing and publishing online.

Notice a Change?

I just added Genesis as the theme here. It needs some CSS to flip things around. I will likely get something done over the weekend. It does have a clean look, a bit too much space in odd places right now and not the font I like for titles and headers. Nothing I can’t work out. Maybe it will end up being a child theme by the time I’ve got it worked out.

There are a load of Genesis plugins. I think it relies on them a bit too much. I would say it is not a theme/ framework for anyone who can’t deal with some HTML and CSS customizing. The framework doesn’t come with many options for customizing it. Thesis was much better that way, more user friendly (until version 2 came out).

Update: The update is I’m not using Genesis. Seems the only way to use Genesis is to write your own child theme. At which point, what is the point of having Genesis? Right now I’ve gone back to another premium theme I bought a couple of years ago. Nice to get some use form them now and then.

Post Internal Links

Use internal links on your posts. It’s good for getting more of your posts read, keeping people reading your site, it’s good as a way to fight content scrapers who take your content and copy it on their own sites (all your links included) and it’s something the search engines will like too.

  • Link to other content relevant to the post you are making. Maybe you have already written about the same thing a year ago and this is an update post. Or, you may have written something similar with a different slant. Or, you may be arguing the other side of an issue. There are all kinds of reasons you can have a reason to link to one of your older posts. (If you are new and have few posts, write a series of posts for the same topic and link them all together).
  • Create the link using a keyword in your post. Pick one word or a short phrase. Don’t use a whole sentence. It ends up looking sloppy in your finished post.
  • Shorten a long post by creating a “Read More” anchor link. This will work as an internal link too.  WordPress has an “Excerpt” feature which will do this for you.
  • Make it easy for people to use your social links to share and connect your post. Don’t forget to add links to your own account/ profile on Twitter, Tumblr, Flickr, whichever of the social media sites you actively use. If you are not active, don’t promote the link. Mention it on your About page, but don’t send people there from your posts. Don’t promote and show off a slow, inactive account.
  • Exchange links with other bloggers.  Join groups and be active. Don’t join more than you can participate in regularly. Just join one busy group if that’s all you can handle.
  • Blend your own links in with links to other sites which offer good information and points you didn’t think of yourself. Instead of including their points in your own post, link to them as a resource instead. You could make a list of resources, adding your own older post on the same topic, to the list.
  • You can use a WordPress plugin which will add links to related posts at the end of each new post you make. But, you can also get a plugin which stays in the sidebar and brings up links to your old posts, or related posts.
  • Don’t go with a quantity of links, use quality links instead. Don’t load on links just to have internal links. One good, relevant, informative link is great. Don’t add more links if they really aren’t adding something of real worth to your post.
  • Use an author resource box at the end of each of your posts. This puts your name and social links right at the end of each post you write. You can even add a link back to bring people to the top of your site again, an anchor link to the top of your blog/ page.
  • Use links when you add images. Make sure they have a full link back to your blog (if they are your own images, created by yourself).
  • You can add a meta description and keywords to each post. Use this feature sparingly. Don’t go overboard on the amount of text you add.

Amy Lynn Andrews: How to Use Anchor Text to Boost SEO
SEOMoz: How to Improve your Rankings with Semantic Keyword Search

A Little Light Slacking

I feel like I’m endlessly head butting a wall, or trying to roll a huge rock up a hill. I’ve had this blog and this domain since 2006, or there abouts. Others seem to have made far more progress in far less time. I think it’s something about me. It must be, I’m the only one here.

Thank you to those who do come and read regularly, or now and then. Thank you to those who comment now and then.

This is not a swan song. I’m not closing down this blog, but I am not going to continue with daily posting. (As you may have noticed the last couple of weeks have not had daily updates). I need to pull back and decide where I’m going and what I want from all the time and energy I’ve been putting into this site all these years. Plus, I’m just feeling a bit tired of all that endless head butting and rock rolling. You can only keep going uphill so long before you need a break, some cold water and a chance to feel you’ve at least made some kind of progress on the hill in front of you.

PS – I’ve also begun to wonder if I was wrong about removing tags. So they are back, sort of. They are a mess, a bigger mess than they used to be even. I used a WordPress plugin to re-add tags mechanically/ automatically. So they aren’t all useful and won’t all make sense. A lot of them will be pretty useless I’m sure. Tags are still something I would gladly ignore. They create far too much work. But, over time I have seen my traffic peter down to about 2/3 of what it usually is. Of course, that could be my own growing lack of enthusiasm showing up in how and what I post. So there is no firm conclusion on the tag situation, but they are back. Sort of.

Add an Adult Content Warning to your Site

I run one adult themed blog. It’s mainly for myself, a place to keep things that I wouldn’t post to other sites. Basically, it’s another niche site, but the content happens to be about sex and erotica. Today I moderated a spam comment which I feel is pretty gross. It gives a link to a site selling sex toys. I will cut and paste the comment in but I’m not linking to the site.

This made me realize I don’t have an adult content warning on my adult blog now. I had it up on Blogger where they automatically add the warning. So I began to look for adult content warning information online. I wanted to know what to write and then I was going to decide where to put it on the site. Instead I found a plugin which will work, bring up the warning as a pop up. This is perfect. It won’t be something else I need to fit into the sidebar. Plus, it will stand out and not be missed when someone enters my site.

What I do find interesting (and backwards) is how few adult content plugins there were (one). Also, when I began looking for information all the posts were about how to remove adult content warnings from sites. In most cases if an automatic adult content warning comes up there is a legitimate reason. Blogger wasn’t doing it just for kicks.

For Canadians I found a site, CyberTips, which asks people to report children being abused online. If you find a site trying to sell to minors, etc. It’s about protecting children and stopping child pornography. What it doesn’t seem to have is a way for those who run adult sites to know what they should or should not do. I guess we are left to our own judgement, which is why people are trying to remove adult content warnings rather than making sure they have them up.

Last point, the site which was linked to in the comment spam this morning has an adult content warning. Hidden at the bottom of the site and it doesn’t really say much. But, it does claim to be in compliance with the US laws. Is it really though? Or are the laws not tight enough in their protection of children? What do you think about adult content online?

See also:
Text Ed
Respect Yourself

WordPress Plugins for Writers

I got the idea to make a post about WordPress plugins for writers. I use a few which help me and thought I’d share them. But, I found something interesting when I started looking around to see what other writers like to use. Almost every plugin written about as being “for writers” was for SEO in blogging. Almost none of the plugins reviewed as “for writers” were about writing. Does anyone else think that’s kind of a sad reflection on writing?

Here are the plugins I use which help me with actual writing online (not blog promoting – but blog writing).

  • Custom About Author – Add your social media links and a blurb about yourself to the end of each of your posts.
  • Dashboard: Scheduled Posts – This adds a feature to your WordPress desktop where you can store and view posts you have marked as scheduled/ saved as drafts to be finished later. I use this a lot!
  • Sideblog WordPress Plugin – Run a side blog (in your sidebar) for short posts like quotes and notes.
  • Drop Caps – I used this for awhile but didn’t stick with it. Fun for awhile, but not essential. It does work and was simple to set up.

The following are plugins I have not used myself but they sound interesting. Some of them I will download and try.

  • NetBlog – Connect posts and external resources (websites, pdf, doc, data). Use Captions, Footnotes, Bibliography. Netblog is highly customizable.
  • WP-Typography – Improve your web typography with: hyphenation, space control, intelligent character replacement, and CSS hooks.
  • In-Series – I was thinking to use this to connect posts that I didn’t write as a series originally. I use related posts but this might be a way to hand-pick posts and turn them into a series.
  • Graceful Pull-Quotes – Allows you to make pull-quotes without duplicating content. If the plugin is disabled the pull-quotes disappear seamlessly.
  • Table of Contents Creator – Table of Contents Creator automatically generates a highly customizable dynamic site wide table of contents that is always up-to-date.
  • WP Table of Contents – Add a table of contents to your post. This would be lovely for people who write long posts.
  • Add to All – Add content to your header, footer, etc and keep it even if you change blog themes.
  • Front-end Editor – Edit your typos without going back into the Admin screen.
  • FD Word Statistics – Shows word and sentence counts plus a readability analysis of the post currently being edited using three different readability measurements.

Just for fun – not about writing.

  • Quiz – An alternative to word verification, give commenters a question to answer instead.

Dynamic WP: 11 Useful WordPress Plugins for Wrtiers – These may be useful but they are not free. Some of them I didn’t think were useful when I read down the list but I’m adding the link here as a resource.

Today’s To-Do List

Today (this week)  I am working on:

  • Setting up a newsletter for the ASCII Art blog.
  • Deciding how to add ASCII art by others without merging with my own creations.
  • Thinking about a newsletter for Word Grrls. Looking at plugins and other practical stuff.
  • Exploring the options for selling art online.
  • Working through link rot on Word Grrls. Fixing and finding what I can.
  • Setting up One Word Blog Day with a page of it’s own.
  • Must find and mail a receipt for the Acer computer thing.
  • Need to pick up more coffee. I am drinking the last of it this morning.
  • Laundry, even though it is not the cheap time of day for it. Yes, I do feel a bit guilty and I will feel more guilty when I get the hydro bill.
  • A Valentine’s Day post for each blog. One with a paid link for lingerie. I’m not sure I will do paid posts again. But… someone has to pay the bills.
  • Two hours of writing as per the 90 Day Plan.
  • Should go to the coffee night group tonight, especially when it is Valentine’s Day.
  • Starting a St. Patrick’s Day ASCII Art post for Hubpages.
  • Check the usual places for any interesting freelance work that might pop up.
  • Look for post ideas to be rewritten for HubPages.

 

Broken Links and Microfiction Monday

I’m tidying up my links, using a plugin to check those which are broken. I like to find the site at a new link but most of them are just gone. Kind of sad to see someone’s project lost, forgotten or abandoned. Anyway, one project which I can’t find new or continued anywhere is Mircofiction Monday.

Microfiction Monday: The challenge is to write a 140-character long (or shorter) tale based on the photograph or illustration provided every week.

There won’t be any more photographs or illustrations from the original source. Why not pick something yourself and try to create a full story in just 140 characters? You can use Twitter to edit your characters to exactly 140, or a little less.

This illustration is from Brian Kesinger. A steampunk Valentine.

Edna’s faithful robot waits in the old ruins of a Victorian dream house. He holds the photo they took on a long forgotten Valentine’s Day.

Working on Excerpts, Thumbnails and Teasers

I’m back to figuring out how to get my images to load with excerpted post with this blog (running Thesis) as easily as they do with Clear Line on my other blogs.

With Clear Line I just add the image into the post, click to make it the featured image and then click to add it to the post. That is all. Clear Line takes care of all the behind the scenes thumbnail, excerpt/teaser stuff. I love it. The image is sized for the excerpted post without me typing in a thing extra. I’d like to know how it works so I could make it work here. So far I’ve made progress, but it is still wonky compared to Clear Line.

I still like Thesis, this is not bashing the theme,  just looking for a solution to a small problem.

So far I’ve used two plugins to try to get where I am with Clear Line via Thesis. The results are imperfect. But, at least the images are showing up now. Also, the Regenerate plugin went back and fixed the old images (a great thing with over 1,000 posts here).

Thumbnail for Excerpts

allow easily, without any further work, to add thumbnails wherever you show excerpts (archive page, feed…).

Regenerate Thumbnails

allows you to regenerate the thumbnails for all of your image attachments. This is very handy if you’ve changed any of your thumbnail dimensions (via Settings → Media) after previously uploading images.

Addendum: I ended up adding some custom code and now things are working, not exactly as I planned but better than they were yesterday. Using this code the thumbnails come up without me adding extra code, typing the image URL in or anything else. I just pick the image I want as the featured image. I can set the image size in the WordPress Settings Media section. The code I’m using includes CSS to add space between the image and the text – that was something I couldn’t find at all but really wanted too.

Addendum 2: I found a site called Thesis Customization and a post about using thumbnails on Thesis which suggested Thumbnail for Excerpts AND explained how to use it with CSS code to modify it. This is what I am now using.

I also found Web Training Wheels which finally helped me understand what I needed to do to use thumbnails on Thesis. Even though I know what I was doing wrong before I’m sticking with the customization I picked up from Thesis Customization. It’s simpler than remembering not to click “Add Image to Post”.

Resources for Clear Line:

Is Your Blog Empty Content?

Ben posted his list of WordPress plugins, in 3 parts. In the last post he mentioned a plugin for putting your writer profile/ bio at the end of each post (which I do) or keeping it at the footer of your blog, not in the sidebar. I disagree with this. Yes, there may be other things you would like to give that blog space to, but… what else gives people their first impression of your site and yourself more than a little blurb about you and what your site is about? I really think this is important. Here is what I wrote in the comments on Ben’s blog. It’s in two parts because I made two comments and Ben replied in between. Go read it from his blog to see everything. I only quoted myself.

I don’t agree about the author bio being relegated to the footer or just at the end of the posts. The first thing I look for on a new blog is something about the author and the intent of the blog. I can skim down the list of posts and guess at who wrote them but it’s not the same. If I read the about or a quick bio/ profile I am far more likely to identify with the blogger and become interested in reading the blog. I will also link to another blog just because I liked the bio and felt it was someone worth keeping track of. (Even if none of the current posts really caught my interest).

I come to read your blog because I know you. Over years online you’ve become a familiar face. When I visit a blog for the first time, it’s stepping into a strange land, new territory. Finding something familiar, that I can identify with makes a huge difference in my first impression and it will decide me on whether or not to stay and read. If I don’t find something to identify with I’m very unlikely to return to the blog. The content would have to completely amaze me and almost no blog does that any more. A lot of people won’t see your footer to find you on your site. It can give the first impression of being empty content, written and left out like a brochure. I think people need to see that there is a person behind the site. I think I just gave myself my post for the day. 🙂