Just a Blogging Moment: Keep it Simple

 

My brain in not-so-simple mode.

My brain in not-so-simple mode.

I have a habit of making everything more complex than need be. Parenting, writing, dinner. You name it. I over-analyze it, over-write it, over-cook it, before—if I’m lucky—finding the simple, elegant, less time-consuming approach. And let’s face it, we’re all after that, aren’t we?

In my house that would ideally mean (sigh) the kids happily getting good grades and doing chores without being asked, a book contract in the mail for me, and a five-star meal for five bucks ready at 5 PM for hubby.

 

Mission impossible. Or not?

Well, while we’re still at the beginning of this year, I plan to start simplifying this blog.  Here’s why.

This week my writing friends sat me down and told me my blog posts were too long.  “Fit for a magazine though.” A sweet compliment meant to salve the critique that was code for: “Your long posts are scaring off readers.”  But my critique partners are right! That’s why they’re my partners. They help make me a better writer. I not only expect criticism, I demand it. If only my husband knew this!

Blog Readers Want a Moment of Inspiration Over Coffee

Award winning bloggers and friends Rudri at beingrudri.com, Linda, and Luanne at writersite.org offered me some great advice. Most blog readers peruse blogs two over coffee to take a tidbit of inspiration or learning into their day.

Until I can tame my zeal for longer stories, I’m calling a number of posts “Just a—Travel, or, Parenting, or, Food, etc.— Moment.” (I’m probably over-thinking this, but I need a little structure to break long-winded habits.)  According to my friends and the general blogging community, here are some helpful hints:

Stop thinking so hard!
Stop thinking so hard!

Things Successful Blogs Consider

Audience: is the blog for you or your audience?

(A stickler for me. I was having fun pouring hours of research into

complex articles when readers, including me, want to get in and out quickly.)

Focus: structure your content and style for larger audience.

Simplicity: keep it simple.

Posting frequency: posting 2-3 times per week regularly (eeekk!) is recommended to gain a following.

Post length: keep posts between 200-500 words. No more. (Gulp!)

Search Engine Optimization (SEO): use SEO parameters (say what?) and key words in blog posts to ensure readers searching for topics find your post.

 

Things blog readers love:

epiphanies

conversational style

solutions

a blogger’s: imperfections, foibles, weaknesses (oh boy, are you ready?)

So, Now What?

Bear with me. Along with finishing the last four chapters of that decade-old memoir, updating the kids’ chore list, I’ve set the goal of shorter, more frequent posts.

And now, about that five-star meal for five bucks, does anyone have any recommendations?

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38 thoughts on “Just a Blogging Moment: Keep it Simple

  1. I am so in the same place with you on this … I tend to write too much and I’m sure it puts people off especially those who just want a few pretty pictures to take them out of their everyday events. Long or short, I’ll keep reading as long as you still are you. Your voice is what makes this blog one I want to spend time reading, so please don’t edit that away into something less than.

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    • Elizabeth, thanks so much for stopping by. I read about your accident this morning and hope you are well. How things can change in a flash. Your pictures really emphasized how life changes moment to moment. Thanks for your words of support here. Means a lot from a blogger like you. – Renee

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  2. Simplify..what a concept! I’m trying to simplify other areas of my life, too, but I hadn’t thought about simplifying my writing routines. Fantastic idea, Renee. You are always willing to do the hard work, and that inspires the rest of us. Thank you for the blog tips above! I look forward to the new format 🙂

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    • Windy,
      You hit the nail on the head. Even simplifying is hard work… but it’s the practice that should make things better in the long run. Now, to actually do it! You so brighten my day when you show up here! Big Thanks, Renee

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  3. Hahahaha. Wonderful post ;), Renee! I can’t give you a recipe for a 5 star meal for 5 bucks, but I know a great salmon pasta dish that’s easy. Yup, salmon, not $5. I am the master complexifier, trust me, so I completely get that proclivity. On the other hand, I love your long gorgeous posts, so I hope you’ll still write those once in a while. Main thing: so happy to know you will be a regular blogger. And so happy to “hear” your voice in the blogosphere on a regular basis! xo
    Luanne

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    • Luanne,
      Love this line: “master complexifier.” Oh, ya! Thanks for stopping by! You are really marching through the blogosphere on a regular basis! Great posts you’re putting up too! Thanks, Renee

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  4. Ah, Renee, you and I are so alike! It is always you I turn to when I want an honest answer, even if it’s difficult to swallow.
    Dinner is always a struggle for me, as I enjoy my time in the kitchen and will use it as an excuse to get out of housework. But with two kids at different schools this year, I too am looking for faster and cheaper dinners. Last night we had trout: You can use a half or whole trout. Place each trout on a sheet of foil. Sprinkle inside with salt, pepper and dill. Slice a lemon and place slices in each fish. Wrap foil around fish, set on a cookie sheet, and bake at 350°F for about 20 to 30 minutes (depending on size of your fish). It is my kids’ favorite and it is incredibly easy to make. You can prepare earlier in the day and bake later. I find whole trout for about $2-$3 each.

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    • Awesome recipe recommendation Lisa! I can be pescatarian (or however the hell you spell it) for a day, right? I’m so glad you of all people bit at the recipe request! There is another food nod that closes a post I have scheduled for Friday! Hint: maybe you’ll have some suggestions for jazzing up Mac-N-Cheese! Looking forward to seeing you guys this weekend! – Renee

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  5. Renee,

    Thanks for the shout out. I am such a fan of your voice, poetic musings and epiphanies. Perhaps as a compromise, you offer readers some variety. You can offer short posts during the month, but once or twice, publish longer works as a way to satisfy those who crave that style. Either way, your writing is golden. xoxo

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    • Rudri,
      Thanks for the insightful endorsement! That means a lot coming from someone so well versed in the blogging world! As well as such a mystically lyrical writer! Thank you! – Renee

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    • Thanks so much! Your Cooking In Tongues blog is sooo amazing! I’ve learned a lot from stopping by your blog! I am excited to see Greece for this summer and hope to garner some insights from your blog!

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  6. A good reminder! I too love to over think a post to make it perfect… which then it sits in my draft box until the novel is finished. Talking with other local writers their advice was just the same. Keep it simple, true to you, engaging and consistent not perfect.

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  7. I try to keep my posts short, because I don’t really read a lot of blogs with very long posts. Having said that I haven’t ever noticed that yours were too long. Maybe that’s an indication of the quality of your writing. The other thing I don’t enjoy in other people’s blogs is a long line of photos with no text, or lots of photos that have been copied from elsewhere. What did you end up cooking?

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    • Jillian, you are an amazing artist! With PBS films on your resume, a blog will be cake! Just like in your book, it’ll be akin to the day you drive a different way to work!

      Great to see you here and keep me posted on your blog.

      Renee

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  8. One of the things I saw in you from the first time we met was your ability to be straightforward and honest with people. That’s a very attractive quality. I’m being honest when I say I rarely take time to read a lengthy blog. I need a blog that has a short powerful punch with a message that is meaningful to me. There are moments when I have time to prepare and eat an elaborate dinner and then there are moments when I throw all the essential ingredients into the crockpot for a hearty stew. Both meals satisfy and fill me in different ways.

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  9. Harhar… I just finished a post and thought, “Why are mine always so long?” Indeed, I know that according to blogosphere law I should write shorter posts, but really, I’m writing about my experiences for me. They help me think through challenges sometimes, serve as a record of my experience mentoring a kid half a world away, and help refine my voice for the eventual book.
    I met with some (high priced) marketing young ‘uns last fall who gave me tips on how to expand my blog audience and get more followers. I write marketing copy for a living — I’m not going to bastardize my stories about me and Mtuseni by frontloading them with SEO terms.
    Writers write — and it’s a pleasure to read the work of those who do it well (like yourself) in any length. Thoureau, whose Walden Pond cabin is up the road from me, said to simplify. He didn’t say to compromise one’s gift to satisfy the masses on the iPads.
    I’m just sayin’. 😉

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    • I’m so with you. I attended a Pitchapalooza conference in which a local, NPR commentator also said she doesn’t give a crap about SEO and that her blog hasn’t yielded much traffic. But, what it has yielded is a place where she germinates and tests ideas for articles. I liked that. It gave me hope that it doesn’t have to be perfect in neither writer- nor techno-craft. Thanks for your candidness here. I can just hear your voice! Keep on! – Renee

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      • Ahhh, Pitchapalooza. Reminds me of my time writing screenplays 15 years ago. Don’t get me started on what passes for movies these days! Lots of noise, sophomoric humor and kicks to the groin. Give me some single malt and an old Merchant/Ivory film any day.
        Indeed, too many people online want their info in the size of those tiny mini-Chiclets they sold 40 years ago. The average attention span gets shorter and shorter… and I wonder what this attitude will do to human brain size over generations if it continues. If Chiclet-brains want to read my stuff, excellent. I’m not gonna cast a net for them, though.

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      • I hear you on the the attention span of the average American. A friend of mine was valedictorian in 1988. He spoke then that the average attention space of the human being had dwindled to 17 seconds. It’s certainly less than half of that now. We’ll be ready to revert to our hunter-gather days if we keep it up… “Squirrel?” (That’s my kids favorite short attention-span reference from some movie… BTW!) Love your commentaries! Keep them coming! Chiclets – great image!

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    • You’re floating pretty darn well. Read and write are the best things you can do without a critique group. Try on new voices, try out different styles. In leiu of a crit group, blogging will eventually yield feedback, but you need to go out and comment on other blogs, find blog buddies like you’re doing and get your feedback there. Direct market feedback can be very effective. My friends who have found success and writing work via blogging said it can take a year to find your blogging voice and niche… Another friend-blogger was just offered a regular online publication opportunity after blogging for three years. You could start a crit group too. Find a local book store, create a book/reading/writing club. I found my crit group members from various writing conferences, classes and workshops in my city… just keep networking and stay in touch. Also – online networking forums for local cities (NOT Craig’s List…) such as Meetup.com are a great place to look! – Stay in Touch and above all Keep Writing! Renee

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      • Thank you for the advice! We’re in Costa Rica so I’m pretty much dependent upon online communication for my networking/resources but that’s ok. It seems to be an expansive tool. [places tongue in cheek]
        … And I’m grateful for the encouragement.

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      • I hear you on the remoteness thing – lived in remote villages in Alaska for a while. Be sure to write about that place – if you’re not ready to blog about it, keep a journal. I would be fascinated to see more writings about where you are and how you feel about it! I was once offered a column in magazine when I lived in Alaska… turned it down b/c I wanted to publish articles — and my writing skills were up to neither at the time… and where I missed the boat was in not taking good notes one year. So do yourself a favor as you build your skills, learn how to keep good notes on where you’re at for when you want to access that place and those people in your writing! If you want to send me some notes or writings about Costa Rica at the email address on my contact page, I could send you a couple thoughts. Best, Renee

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