Keeping your blogging mojo alive and burning

The ever fahbulous Jenny Hansen recently wrote a post on how being an introvert or extrovert can affect your blogging. In the post, she talked about a conversation she had with someone in regards to their struggle to keep the passion for blogging alive. The ever pressing question “what do I write about today?!??!” was killing her friend’s blogging mojo.

Ugh! I hear ya girl! It can be tough to keep the blog fires burning. I remember when I started out blogging in August 2010; I came out of the gate swinging. I was all fired up. I was pumped. I was a posting maniac. The ideas were endless. I had enough topics to blog for YEARS!

Not so much. After about 5 months, my blogging excitement waned, my posting schedule became erratic and slack, and my greatest fear started to be realized; I was running out of things to say!

WHAT?!?!? “Natalie ran out of shit to talk about?” I know…I was just as shocked as you. That does not happen to me! I am the type of person you can’t shut up. I was frightened. What was happening? Where was my blog mojo going?

That’s when I asked myself a question that totally changed things:

“When I am with my friends/family (cause that’s when I never run out of stuff to talk about),
what conversations do we have that I enjoy most?

My answer: it’s when I am making people laugh over some latest insanity (entertain) or when we have those deep and introspective conversations (inspire). BAM…That’s when the lightbulb went off.

I realized those were the types of convos I wanted to have here! And to do so, I had to think of my blog and my readers as my BFFs. I stopped worrying about saying the wrong thing, the right thing, too much of this or too much of that. I started to shoot the breeze with my BFF with the goal of either entertaining or inspiring. That’s it.

Now I think of my blog as the place to chat, hang out, and have amazing conversations about the most insane, mundane, tame, lame, and zany stuff. It’s where I come to talk about love, romance, fantastic shoes, amazing food, embarrassing moments, peeing outside, retarded redneck products, new sayings, funny/inspirational videos, writing, etc. WHATEVER!

There’s no pressure. It’s just me and my blog/BFF sitting around the table with a good cup of coffee (or maybe a cold beer) chatting about the stuff we LOVE to chat about! I don’t have to pretend. I don’t have to censor myself (ok, well maybe I don’t swear as much here as I do in real life). And it doesn’t matter what we are talking about, I can guarantee you it’s always interesting. I mean seriously, when have you ever had a boring chat with your BFF?

Sometimes when I discover a great urban word for Wednesday’s post, I’ll run it past hubby and he’ll kind of step back with a “you aren’t actually going to post that on your blog, are you?!?!” a tad surprised. Hell yes!!! My BFF and I have no issue talking about vajazzling, peeing outside, or farting. I mean, there isn’t much that’s taboo around here and that means the topics are endless.

And that dear friends is how I keep my blog mojo going!

How do you keep your blog mojo burning bright? How do you come up with topic ideas? What keeps you from burning out?

More blog deliciousness here:

About me and the superhero formula

I recently watched Clay Collins’ video on how he accidentally created one of blogopshere’s most viral “about me” page. I thought I’d take a crack at re-writing my ultra boring About Me page using Clay’s five steps superhero formula.

Superhero Formula

  1. Establish a common enemy with target market – fight against the enemy for them. You go to battle for them! Specific or idea.
  2. Super power – show it off – how do you make miracles happen for yourself and others.
  3. Purpose – your target market needs to know you are doing things not just for the money but for a larger purpose – and you must be truthful.
  4. Fatal flaw – your kryptonite – it will help target bond with you.
  5. Your original story – explains how you went from ordinary to extraordinary – how did you transform?

My answers:

  1. Common enemy: together, we will fight against boredom and bland colors.
  2. Super power: urban redneck powered by a tacky sense of fashion (who said a cowboy hat with stiletto heels wasn’t hot!?? Is there such thing as too much bedazzling???) and a stellar sense of humor. My secret weapon: hubby.
  3. Purpose: to entertain you, make you smile, make you laugh and bring you joy.
  4. Fatal flaw: procrastination and temper tantrums which can lead to occasional bouts of negativity.
  5. Transformation: Thanks to Kristen Lamb’s blogging to build a brand course, I transformed from a bland blogger using basic colors, a plain header, inconsistent and deadly boring blubbering to a blogger extraordinaire with a flair for color, content and consistency. The 3 Cs baby!

How I put the formula to use.

Natalie Hartford

Natalie Hartford is an urban redneck; a cross-breed of city girl and redneck. She loves high heels, bling, all things pink and sparkly along with ball caps, 4X4ing, camping, and drinkin’ beer. She often mistakes tacky for fahbulous! An avid golfer, don’t let the stylish and colorful outfits with matching clubs fool you; she’ll wrap that driver around a tree in a temper tantrum in 2 point 5 seconds (hello…she nearly got kicked off a golf course for her potty mouth).

By day, she sports dress pants, button downs, and suits putting her bachelor degree in journalism to good use working in public relations. She slings words for fact sheets, press releases, and powerpoints. From chairing meetings, to organizing and emceeing events, she rocks the corporate communications world.

By night and weekend, she used to flail around in cyberspace until she ate from the forbidden fruit and channeled super human blogging powers. Now her blog is a pink pallooza of fun bringing color and comedy to all the lands. Where once lived a bland blogger with inconsistent and deadly boring blabbering now lives a sparkling pink goddess blogger divine battling against the seriousness we all face in life spreading laughter, smiles, and zany word fun all over the blogosphere.

At the same time she sets fire to the page working on her first novel. Torn between chick lit, women`s fiction and paranormal, she`s getting to know characters, drafting scenes, sampling dialogue and plotting to her heart’s content.

She doesn’t do it alone. Her secret weapon, the Robin to her Batman, is hubby. He keeps her calm, neutralizes nap time, and blasts her procrastination. Second time around for both of them, they rock the romance by living and playing large. Best friends forever; you complete me; yin to my yang; K.I.S.S.I.N.G. When they aren`t having “shock and awe” fun sampling Natalie’s urban words in public, they sneak away to their rustic camp hidden deep in the New Brunswick countryside (so deep, there`s no cell reception or Internet). There they spend their days tearing up the trails in their 4X4 Rhino and nights pondering plot possibilities, cuddling and hanging with their trusted side-kick Tess (their beloved Nova Scotia Duck Tolling retriever). Ahhh…the life!

If you want more of Natalie:

Visit her at: http://nataliehartford.com
Talk to her at: natalie@nataliehartford.com
Follow her on twitter at: @NatalieHartford

What do you think? Did I rock the super hero formula or make a mess of it? Suggestions to improve? What do you think makes a kickin’ About Me page? Know of any fahhhbulous examples that rocked your read? Share the wealth…

More blog deliciousness:

Mastering social media madness

I got a special treat for y’all today. Normally I don’t post on Thursday’s but when the cats away the mice will play.

Elena Aitken is on vacay (hope you are enjoying Elena – don’t worry about us – everything is just fine over here!!!!) and she left a few of her peeps in charge of her blog while she’s gone. I KNOW?!?!? Can you believe that?!?!? Squeeeee!!!

Ok, so it’s called guest posts but I prefer to think of it as “running the show/head honcho/woman in charge/hero”…it’s all the same, right?!?!?

On Tuesday, Jillian Dodd did a fahhhbulous post on showing your significant other the love. Not just on Valentine’s but all days of the year! Love all your amazing tips and tricks Jillian. Hubby will be jotting you a thank you note shortly!

And today, yours truly is running the show with a post on my techniques for mastering the social media beast (so it’s not mastering me)! You won’t want to miss it!

RUSH right over and monopolize the comments section so she knows how much y’all missed her!!

See ya there!

My new muse

As most of you know, I’ve been working towards a revamp of my blog. It’s been fun and frustrating. But…there’s hope! Today I learned about a new tool that really knocked my socks off!! It is uberlicious in potential….eeeekeee….

It all started when I signed up for Kristen Lamb’s Blogging to Build Your Brand workshop. As I worked with the incredible #WANA711 group coming up with new content ideas and a posting schedule, I realized that content and consistency were only part of the blog picture for me. I felt I needed a new look to tie it all together; to make sure that visually, when you land on my blog you get a sense of me.

After having surfed and admired a ton of pretty spiffy blogs designs, I developed a serious case of blog envy. This wasn’t surprising for me. I am definitely drawn to colorful, pretty things. For instance, when I took up golf four years ago, I had to have cute, matching gear; a pink bag, pink clubs, and matching pink outfits and shoes (in the right shade of pink, no less). Yes, I even have the cutest pink shot counter. It’s an illness, what can I say?

Even hubby didn’t find it unusual when I started talking about wanting my blog look to match all the new, great content (not to mention my sparkling personality) that I had planned. But…how???

I use www.worpress.com for my blog and the great thing about it (other than it’s free), is that it’s very plug and play. You sign up; pick a template and BAM, your blog up is up and running in minutes. And there is some functionality you can to customize depending on the template such as the header, background, widgets etc.

But with all these great, fabulous designs visions floating in my head, I am finding the template thing kind of limiting. I have surfed and searched through all of them and nothing speaks to me. Nothing stands out. Nothing rocks my world. I mean what I have is ok, it’s nice; but it’s not me.

When I read Carrie Spencer’s post on domain names and WordPress, it became clear to me that to gain the freedom I want, I’ll have to make the move to www.wordpress.org at some point. Although it requires self-hosting, meaning there is a cost, it gives you true design freedom. However, even with the thousands of templates and plugins to choose from, I still feel like I’d still need some CSS or web design knowledge to take my blog design to the Natalie level I envision.

Well then Adobe steps up the plate with a whooper in my inbox this morning and I’ve fallen in love.

They have launched a new technology called Muse (beta form) that enables graphic designers to use familiar, free-form tools that we are used to in InDesign, Photoshop and Illustrator to design and publish HTML and CSS websites—all without writing code or being restricted to templates.

SHUT THE FRONT DOOR!

Check out the videos at: http://muse.adobe.com and be prepared to have your socks blown off.

I downloaded the beta version immediately and am super psyched to get started playing around (stay tuned for my feedback in later posts). I mean, I am not graphic design genius but I certainly know my way around Adobe’s three design suites to perhaps pull something together.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t envision having my own blog designed from scratch tomorrow. I still have a lot to learn. I will stick with my plan and buy a premium theme this month to get the “pop” that I want while learning about web design via Muse. But at least now I feel like my web design learning curve may not be quite as steep as I thought. And that’s…uberlicious!

What do you think? Do you have enough graphics background to use this tool to take your design to the next level? Think you’ll try your hand at Adobe’s Muse?

Notice anything new with my blog?

The blog birthday bash revamp has commenced…

Last night I purchased my very own, personalized URL through WordPress. If you look up in the address bar, you’ll see it. I am now http://nataliehartford.com. I am so excited and it was so easy. A couple of clicks and it was done. And the nice thing is that WordPress will automatically redirect anyone coming to my old WordPress URL seamlessly.

It cost me $25 US (and it’ll need to be renewed each year) but to me it’s worth it. It’s a big step towards implementing the things I’ve been learning at Kristen Lamb’s Blogging to Build Your Brand workshop.

I have also created a URL-specific email to match (natalie@nataliehartford.com) through WordPress and Google Apps. This was a bit more complicated. To be honest, I had no idea what I was doing but I just followed the WordPress step-by-step instructions and voila, it works.

I am so pumped!

Have you considered moving to your own URL? What made you decide to do it or what holds you back from taking that step?

I’ve also been working on a new header for the launch of my new theme/layout. I struggle with this because although I am familiar with graphic design software like Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator, design is not my thing at all. I can typically “recreate” a visual but to start from scratch and come up with a concept hurts my brain. But, I did give it a try. I am still not 100% sure but I figure I’ve at least got something for the big blog birthday blowout and I can always change it later if I find it’s not quite “me”. I tried to make it fun, fresh, and fahhhbulous! I can’t wait to show it to y’all!

Sneak peek of my new header

Here’s a little sneak peek of the cartoon-type of image of myself that’s in my new header. Isn’t she uberlicious!?!

I updated my Avatar to match so when I post or add comments to other folks blog, this is the image that will appear to represent me.

What do you think?

Is it good branding to use the same image for the avatar that’s in a header to represent the person? Or do you think real pictures for avatars are better? What do you use and why?

100 posts later…

Ever embark on something not having any idea what you’re doing? Or how it was going to turn out? Ever dove into a project feeling like a fish out of water but dove in any way?

Nearly one year ago, that was blogging for me.

Today’s post marks my one hundredth post (bells and whistles please) and in less than three weeks, this blog will celebrate its first birthday; the first of many I hope. And although I am certainly no blogging expert (yet), I will say I feel way more confident.

I started out with little to no knowledge or experience. I got interested when I started reading fantastic blogs and I felt compelled to join this amazing blogosphere. I started out by taking a 31 Days to Build a Better Blog workshop lead by one of my favorite bloggers, Walker Jones Thornton, who writes two blogs Beyond Words and A Woman’s Page. We were a small group of about a dozen women all starting out and the workshop helped us get our feet wet and set off into the wonderful world of blogging.

A year in review, I can see that my topics have been sort of all over the place. My blogging schedule unpredictable, I’ve tried to post a couple of times a week but it’s been hit and miss (and there was that unplanned April 2011 hiatus).

I thought that over time I’d get a stronger sense of my blogging voice…naturally??? On its own??? I thought it would sort of magically appear and my sense of when and what to post would…just happen? Hmmm…weird how that hasn’t really happened?!?! I mean, I’m definitely improving and becoming more and more comfortable but I am not exactly where I had hoped to be.

Where I’m at now…

So…it’s kind of timely that I find myself, a year later, taking Kristen Lamb’s Blogging to Build Your Brand workshop with a group of more than 40 people. I think it’s a big step towards making my blog come alive with my passion and personality (and consistency).

For the past month, although I’ve only been posting Tuesdays and Thursdays, I’ve actually been working like a mad woman in the background planning, researching, and designing. In mid-August, to celebrate my blog’s birthday, I will put everything I am learning in Kristen’s class into practice launching a new look, an added log-line, blog themes and a new blogging schedule.

I know it’ll still take me some time to get my new “groove” up and running smoothly but I hope in the end, this will give you, my faithful and loyal readers, a structure and flow that you can count on and enjoy immensely!

What I have learned over this last year is that blogging is a passion for me. I love it. I have a blast writing and connecting with people. It’s been awesome to focus my time and energy in Kristen’s workshop learning new skills and techniques to improve and build on my passion. I am super pumped and excited for the changes and the renewed vigor and inspiration.

I don’t know where this path will lead. I don’t know if my blog will ever have a huge following (where I’ll make a gazillion bucks off advertisements) and you know what, in the end, it doesn’t matter. Finding something I love to do and am passionate about is a gift and right now, that’s enough!

How have you discovered your passion? Stumbled upon it? Called to it by a higher power?

How do you stay true to you?

I am taking Kristen Lamb’s Blogging to Build Your Brand workshop and it’s been a great learning experience thus far. We are a little more than half way through and we’ve been soaking up Kristen’s expertise and advice on branding, log-lines, and how to write posts that have a broad, relatable concept and are emotionally charged. At the end of the course we should all have a better sense of how to use our blogs to connect with readers, create a community, and develop ourselves (our name) as a brand.

One of the most fulfilling aspects of the workshop has been meeting so many fellow bloggers and writers and creating a community of support. One such blogger Diana Murdock, took all of our lessons thus far and packaged them into a fantastic blog post today: When I Found Myself; I Found My Muse that I just had to share.

In her post, she wrote about how she lost herself for years in the business of life and the needs of others and how she’s rediscovering herself and putting herself first…and writing like mad.

Although I don’t have children of my own, the story resonated with me because like Diana, I struggle with making time for my personal priorities and dreams. I often get overly wrapped up in the busyness of my life whether it is work, friends and family responsibilities, household stuff etc and I put working on my dreams last. Even the pressure to get out and have as much fun as possible during our precious and limited summer days can take over my “dream” time.

It always comes back to the same thing: balance and prioritizing!

For me, blogging helps me stay true to me…Maybe I am not quite ready to sit down and start writing my book but I know deep inside that writing regularly is a priority for me. I love it and it feeds my soul. Blogging gives me that venue to write, to tap into my creativity, to reach out, to express myself and to enjoy the passion and pleasure I get from writing. In this way, blogging helps me stay focused on making time for my dream and keeping it a priority in my life.

How do you stay true to you? How do you find the balance between your life and your passions?

Dear blog…will themes make my readers happy?

I was recently reading a blog post entitled, Give a Dry Blog New Life–The Power of Themes, by Kristen Lamb, about the need for author blogs (wanna-be and successful writers who blog about writing) to use themes to create a great blog. For example, Kristen blogs about craft on Monday, Twitter on Tuesday, Social Media on Wednesday and anything goes on Friday. Well, I am always interested in ideas on creating a great blog so I read on.

Kristen wrote that a great blog isn’t about content, it’s about creating connections. Bloggers connect through engaging topics that generate discussions and eventually all that discussion forges a community. And voila, une hugely successful blog!

I can’t argue with her logic. That sounds pretty reasonable. As I come up to my one-year anniversary of this blog in August, this prompted me to ask myself; am I achieving my goals? Are they the same as when I started? What do I want to get out of my blog?

I think my original idea was to use my blog as a creative outlet while drafting my first book simultaneously building my brand (and interest) as an author. I also wanted to write about my adventures in life, things I love, things that drive me nuts, and the little nuggets of wisdom I have learned and continue to learn….in the hopes of inspiring. In the end, I figured if you write…they will come read.

My stats tell me that I am currently at 90 posts, 199 comments (although some mine) and my blog “hits” are at 4,067 (again, who knows how many of those are my own?) So in a year in, is that reasonable success? I honestly don’t know.

I want to have a successful blog. But what does that mean…to me? Is it tons of comments, tons of followers, off-the-charts stats, lots of people linking to my posts? Readership and comments are definitely a part of the equation although if you asked me for numbers, I wouldn’t know exactly what they are.

But I think it goes deeper than that; a successful blog to me is one that I feel good about; that I know and feel like I write about topics that people find interesting, inspiring, infuriating, engaging…that connect with readers. I want people to come back over and over again because they can’t wait to see what I’ll write next. I want to build a successful blog that connects with others, that speaks to them, that resonates. And I want to feel a sense of pride and accomplishment when I look over my blog.

When I review my blog content to date, it’s a bit of a mash-up of this and that. It feels a bit scattered brain. It’s a lot about my personal life, a bit on lessons learned in life, and a variety of general topics. There’s no definite rhyme or reason although I did try with categories. It seems to be more of a personal journal, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But how would readers interpret it? Does it engage and connect with them? And what would make them come back again and again; to hear an update on my dog? I am not so sure.

Ouch – whatever shall I do?

Kristen says that we should offer our readers a predictable schedule of content by applying a theme that helps bundle all kinds of topics together and offer the reader a sense of what to expect, yet at the same time afford the author tremendous flexibility. She says the trick to blogging for the long-haul is content that is refined, yet interesting and she suggests that themes will help me keep my content consistent yet fresh.

She wrote that themes shouldn’t corner me when it comes to topics. They should enable me to take in the world and package it in a way that informs, entertains or inspires. And she recommends that with each theme, I should brainstorm at least a hundred possible topics. If I can’t hit a hundred, I should try another theme.

Hmmmm???? Maybe that’s the missing ingredient? I know as of late, I’ve definitely struggled with consistency and feel a little like I am still searching for my blog “voice”. I guess I thought I’d have that hammered out by now. Unfortunately, I don’t think I have entirely although it’s coming slowly but in the meantime, I think my readership may be suffering because of it.

Maybe, after nearly a year of blogging, the questions I should ask myself are; what do I love to write about? What do I find “easy” to write about? What posts do I have a blast drafting? What posts seem to generate comments? What posts get the most hits, long after they are posted? What are readers telling me by what the visit and comment on?

Personally, I love writing about things that have changed my life and/or inspired me; things that wake me up and give me the “wow” factor whether it’s thoughts, feelings, realizations, experiences or books, blogs, quotes or movies; and things that really piss me off or frustrate me to no end…rants! And I love to sprinkle dashes of sarcasm or humor to either.

So with all that wonderful knowledge, how do I translate that into a theme or two that offers readers the structure they need while enabling me to be interesting and witty? I get the ideology but I am not sure I see exactly how to put it into practice….yet!

Never fear, help is near! Kristen actually teaches a workshop called “Blogging to Build Your Brand and Your Fan Base” where she has writers go through exercises to get a sense of their unique creative style; she helps them create a log-line that helps set the tone of the blog; and then works with them to mine their passions and interests for content to help them shape and plan their author blogs.

Fahhhbulous!! It’s $40 and runs through July. DANG!! I was thinking of signing up for it but with the dog’s surgery and pending “time intensive” physio (as described by the vet), I am not sure I will have the time to commit! Grrrr…priorities Natalie!  

Perhaps I’ll give implementation a whirl on my own with a focus on bringing my continually refining vision into reality; a successful, consistent, fresh blog featuring kick-ass content that keeps readers coming back for more!

What do you think makes a successful blog? Ever use themes or log-lines? What works for you for keeping it fresh and interesting?

The science of social media

Yesterday morning I attended a presentation on the power of social media (SM). The presentation covered everything from hugely successful social media campaigns such as Pepsi’s Refresh Project to some of the bigger blunders. Even though I was there representing my work, brainstorming for ideas on how we could implement a SM strategy, it got me thinking about it on a personal level as well.

The more I get out there blogging and surfing around, the more I see people are interconnecting themselves between their Facebook, twitter, blogs etc. And at yesterday’s presentation, the speaker talked about companies maximizing and playing off of this interconnectivity so that you have a comprehensive social media presence all feeding off each other – Facebook, blog, twitter, and YouTube accounts all connected and driving content on your website homepage for example. Wow!

On a personal level, obviously I have a blog. The only other social media platforms I really tap into are Facebook and twitter.

I would say I am pretty prolific on Facebook. I am near the 300 mark on friends. I post status updates fairly regularly (although not hourly), use Facebook to plan events, and I post a lot of photos etc. For me, it’s a great way to stay in touch with friends and family. I like to see what old junior high and high school friends are up to by visiting their profiles from time to time, seeing the “goings on” of family located around the world running through my news feed – it’s fantastic. And I like that the relationships are not time or investment intensive. The people I am close to, I have more personal conversations, emails, and face-to-face time with. But Facebook allows me to stay connected to them, as well as those more distant acquaintances, with the click of a button when, where, and how often I want.

Twitter on the other hand, has me a bit lost. I don’t understand the point. I’ve been login on more often to try to get a sense of what people tweet about – how would I use it – how can I leverage it but I am still lost and don’t really see the point yet. 140 characters – do people really want to hear what I am doing right now, where I am at, what I am working on? I don’t think so. I get the news tweets – those make sense. And some of the tweets from our local leaders are interesting. But I still feel like I am missing the point of twitter for personal use.

Although, the SM presentation did highlight how now that I am blogging, I could use both Facebook and twitter to drive traffic and feed off one another – and drive content. Interesting and it’s pretty clear how effective and easy it would be and how those mediums would really enable me to gain readership.

The catch: I haven’t yet “come out” as a blogger to all of my friends and family. I don’t advertise my latest posts on Facebook or twitter, and I know this means I am missing out on an untapped readership. So why haven’t I yet? As of now, I write with a certain level of freedom that comes with anonymity and I am not sure if I want to sacrifice that in the name of blog stats. Or maybe (and more likely) I am just scared of being judged by those who know me? Perhaps a crisis of confidence.

Either way, when I am ready to go “viral”, I can certainly see how tapping into social media platforms will enable me to make the leap!

How do you use social media professionally or personally? Do you capitalize on different platforms to enhance your blog readership?

To theme or not to theme…

As I surf around and read other people’s blogs, I have to admit, I have a bit of blog envy. I admire the great post ideas, the creativity, the amazing writing and storytelling that draws you in and leaves you wanting (and waiting) for more. And sometimes…I covet their blog design.

How often can one change-up the theme? Is this something frowned upon in the blog community? With WordPress giving us so many glorious, beautiful themes and such flexibility with the click of a button, I want to try them all on. I want to change it up, explore, have fun and go wild. But will my readers hate me for my inconsistency or lack of commitment to one “look?”

How often do you change it up when you see something else out there that you like better – that screams “you” just a little bit more?

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