Thursday 4 April 2013

Push-Up Bra Blogging [5]: The Groundhog Day Approach

Well hello there.

Welcome to Chapter 5 of Push-Up Bra Blogging! If you're someone who wants to get more out of your blog, and you've missed any of the chapters so far, then you can catch up with all previous posts here.

I know that quite a few of you found time to get up-to-date with the series over the Easter break ... but I'm hoping that you'll be able to put all thoughts of relaxation and chocolate behind you ... because this week we're starting to look at the real work of blogging!

[Feel free to go get changed into your best power-dressing suit complete with shoulder pads. I'll wait until you're ready.]

Here's where today sits in the grand scheme of the series:
  • it's the second of 3 'WHAT?' approaches to blogging I'm presenting for your consideration!
  • its focus is on blog 'CONTENT' / 'what  exactly you're going to put into that blog-space of yours'
  • it's the first of several chapters during which I'm going to offer you a 'way' of blogging ... a method ... a work flow ... a pipeline ... a system ... a means of getting blogging to fall into place on your terms. Rather than letting it beat you into submission!
So let's make a start by busting a big myth about blogging in:

I don't think there'll be anyone here who doesn't get the connection with Groundhog Day - but here's a link just in case. I don't think there'll be anyone here who doesn't get the connection with Groundhog Day but ... oh, OK ... you get the idea. I hope!

When you think about what to put on your blog do you ever  ...
  • get overwhelmed by telling yourself that every post you publish has to be filled with new, unique, shiny, sparkling-fresh blog content and ideas?
  • stop yourself blogging something in particular because you posted something similar last week
Well then ... here's the good news ... you don't need to reinvent the wheel with each and every post. You don't need to be wildly original every time.

In fact, a certain amount of plain old structure and repeating yourself might be just what you need to keep you blogging more consistently!

Using structure + repetition to unlock your creativity and clear out your blog-jam!

See if any of this if familiar to you in your non-blogging life ...
  • you ask someone what they want for Christmas / their birthday / their tea and they reply ... 'anything'.
  • Now then, ... they think they're being polite / helpful / open to suggestion / flexible / non-restrictive like they're doing you a favour by allowing you to find something you want to buy them or feed them etc ... however, on the other hand ...
  • you see it as bewildering / far too open / far too broad / you want, more than anything, for them to narrow down the options a little!
  • You want them to tell you they had chicken for lunch so don't want it again for tea or that they're collecting something and that your gift can add to it or that they've just run out of their favourite perfume.
You just need a little kick-start before you can set off and get creative on your own.

You need boundaries and structure ... and so does your blog!

Did you carry out the 'blogworthiness audit' suggested in Chapter 4, the eponymous 'Push-Up Bra Approach'?
  • If you did you've probably got a list of all the kinds of topics, subjects, moments, photos, events, musings, activities, projects etc etc that you could plausibly blog about ...
  • The next step now is to select from that list a few of those areas which could become regular, recurring blogging categories.  
For example over the last four years I've had a selection of different recurring categories I blog within, including:
  • My Month in Numbers: a regular, once-a-month feature which helps me combine 'life-documenting' outside scrapbooking with photography and keeping a diary. Plus, over time, this also led to building a community of other M in N bloggers who joined me along the way.
  • Overheards: something I blog fewer of at the moment - maybe one every few months or so, not for any deliberate reason, it just seems to have happened that way. I still love sharing snippets of conversations I overhear at my University job and on the bus etc and I have plenty in my notebooks to catch up with this year! Watch this space. When I do blog them I simply set them out like a mini stage play and add a photo from my existing files if I can find one that vaguely fits the theme of the conversation.
  • Quotes [I no longer have a page with all the links to these on, but there are some here]: I love a good quotation and at one point I mined my notebook back-catalogue to find all those quotes I'd scribbled down while reading or from lectures I've attended etc. I then simply typed them into a blog post and found a suitable photo from my own photo files which illustrated some aspect of the quote. I eventually ran out of all the ones I really wanted to share ... so stopped. Not that I'm ruling out ever blogging another when I feel the urge!
  • And then there's my more generic categories under which I blog my creative work: 'scrapbooking', 'cardmaking' and 'art journaling' with the occasional '3D Project' and 'shop news'. While these are quite general I think they help reinforce, to any new readers or anyone just dropping in for a quick look, what they can expect to find on my blog.
So, rather than spend time agonising over what fresh new thing I should blog all the time ... or trying to find something unique every month ... I can just fill the occasional post with something that I know already works well.

And it's all new content, I still get to experiment and be creative ... it's just within a structure. I have a starting point and I can save those creative energies for the craft projects I make or the words I write within the posts.

Your choice of recurring categories + themes you also reinforces that elusive idea of the 'blogging voice' we discussed in Chapter 1: the McFly Approach Part 1.

Remember we talked about how your creative / life / business priorities somehow manage to bubble to the surface and reveal themselves in what you choose to blog?
  • Well ... when you start selecting regular, recurring categories, themes and memes for your blog you can't help but reinforce - both to yourself and to your readers - just what exactly it is that's going on in this blog space of yours.
  • Those things that make you you and me me emerge through those things you decide to repeat regularly.
  • It's like I keep saying ... we are what we blog.
Similarly the last few blog headers I've made for myself also feature a few key categories which tell you at a glance the kind of content ... and the kind of blogger ... you can expect to find while you're here.

The latest, which you can spot up there ^^^^ mentions: "pondering; sharing; smiling; making" and these were selected by me first thinking 'what is it I actually do here?' ... then trying to narrow it all down so it fit into a few words on a simple heading.

See if those themes you're considering for your recurring posts fit with how you see your life right now. And when they feel 'right' to you ... start doing them on purpose ...

Adding an element of predictability + structure to your blogging frees up your brain for the fun stuff!

I don't know how often you want to blog ... but it doesn't really matter ... you can still work with recurring Groundhog Day style posts no matter what your preferred timescale is.

Once you've got a few categories in mind , of things you either already do blog about [maybe in a scattered, unfocused way, from time to time] or that you'd like to start incorporating into your repertoire then:
  • not only can you begin to develop a clear idea of what you're doing in a broad sense - almost like a Blogging Manifesto:  eg. my "pondering; sharing; smiling; making" philosophy ...
... you also create for yourself a useful, practical, working structure to follow.
  • you have the start of a schedule, a timetable
Remember that this is something that's completely flexible. You don't have to follow it slavishly. You're in charge! But once you've come up with a few categories you might decide that they could turn into:
  • something you blog maybe on a set day of the week or month [quite a commitment, but definitely 'doable']
  • something you blog every few weeks on an ad hoc basis [less commitment, but just as useful]
  • something you blog once a month without fail [eg.Month in Numbers]
  • something you blog occasionally [eg. Overheards]
  • something you fall back on whenever you can't think of anything else to blog that month
Once you've decided a few general time frames which seem to work for both you and the type of content you going to share regularly, then you're well on your way to streamlining your blogging experience:
  • you've given yourself a guide
  • you've created something to help you narrow down what to post on your blog.
  • You've helped reduce all those possible options of all the things in the world / in your hobby / in your life that you might, maybe, one day, blog about!
And with structures in place you're far more likely to be able to think of something which fits in that category ... then draft out a post about it ... and, most importantly ... hit 'publish' on it!

Then the beauty of it is ... you do the same thing a week / month later ... and repeat ... and repeat ...

In short:
  • You make things easier for yourself!
  • You develop a routine.
  • Blogging begins to 'fit' your life.
Once you've started developing a recurring category of posts you've created a strong base, a skeleton for your blogging,  which you can then flesh-out as and when time allows.

So what exactly are you going to start repeating? What exactly are you going start repeating? What exactly are you going to ...

Tips + inspiration for choosing a recurring feature for your blog.

OK then:
  • I've mentioned some of the categories I tend to blog about at the moment ... so maybe you can take inspiration from elements of those [and by 'take inspiration from' I don't mean 'steal'. Thank you!]  
  • And ... tomorrow [Fri 5th April] my special guest Gabrielle Treanor will share her personal take on this which will really help illustrate this particular blogging approach and then ....
  • Next Thursday [11th April] I'll share lots more inspiration around blogging using categories and recurring themes.
There's plenty more to come by way of offering you approaches to 'blog content'. So stick around!

Until then ... let me try to convince you further that setting categories really can lead to creativity ...

Think about your favourite magazine ...

... or maybe a newspaper you like, a professional blogger you read, and even a magazine-style TV show ...

I think it's pretty safe to say that they don't start each and every new issue / post / episode completely from scratch.

They don't stare at a completely blank sheet of paper wondering what on earth they're going to fill all those pages with .... as if the previous issue never happened.

Chances are they are guided by 'categories', 'slots', 'features' which recur over and over across the year. And, sure enough, they seek out interesting, fresh, content each time ... but they certainly don't erase their structure and start from the ground up when they begin each new issue!

Take my own experiences working on Papercraft Inspirations magazine:
  • they have regular recurring features such as '10 Ways with', '4 Quick Cards' the 'Masterclass' ... and more ...
  • and I've contributed to each of these .. several times ... without ever repeating the actual content of my projects!  [I don't think I'd be asked back if I did!] 
  • They're just a framework on to which each designer can add their own style, creativity and techniques.
Here's another example from a recent favourite magazine I like to read: The Simple Things:
The issues are each broken into 'Dawn', 'Day' and 'Dusk' sections and then - within those headings - as you can just make out in the photo above, they have other recurring features within those categories, such as the 'Wish List', 'Things to Plan and Do' and the 'Interview' segments.

And look here ... they even have their 'at a glance' content manifesto along the top of the magazine:
And it was only when I took the photo of these issues that I realised it's the same thing I was just talking about for bloggers, the reason I have those phrases across my header: it's an easy way to give a potential reader a quick 'in' to the content of the magazine, before even having to flick through it and check out the Contents page or, in our case ... for someone to scroll down through our blog, or through our posts list!

So ... now you've seen some concrete examples of categories in 'action' let's go back to your list and make some decisions shall we?

Go back to your 'blogworthiness' list and narrow down the possibilities by asking yourself:
  • Which do I really like the sound of?
  • Which do I already do - perhaps informally?
  • Which will I look forward to repeating?
  • Which will I not dread finding fresh material for?
Anything you don't fully enjoy will fall by the way-side all too soon. So choose something that you'll enjoy working on!

Or perhaps think about:
  • which idea would work well broken into short regular posts?
  • or which would be fun to build into a little archive [eg. I love looking back over my overheards and re-visiting all the places and moments I captured]
  • which photos / phrases / moments etc would lend themselves to a collection - a little grouping, over time, of similar posts.
And also ...
  • which subject / type of project / activity / idea lends itself readily to a quick, easy, straightforward post?
  • It's useful to think of having a category of post which is super-short and quick to throw together for those times when you've lost your mojo!
  • these could be one-liners / single photos / quick tips etc ... have a think!
And then ... once you've got a few ideas for your Groundhog Day style posts ...
  • set about making them clearly identifiable from your other general posts
  • give your feature it's own proper title - you can then add a subtitle to define each individual post;
  • add the title of your feature into your blog 'labels' or 'keywords' - to help you - and your readers - search for them more easily. [In case they want to read more];
  • if you're feeling creative - you could even create some 'branding' around it ... maybe a logo? A tagline? A Twitter '#' hashtag? The possibilities are endless!!
 Any of these little extras help lift your simple idea for a quick post into ... well ... a 'thing'.  A recognisable moment on your blog. Something which defines your blog as yours ... and sets you apart from others. eg 'Oh yes, I know her. She's the one who blogs overheards / her work desk / her kids funny questions isn't she?'

And who knows where it could lead ...

I remember reading Amber Dusick's blog when, in between her other arty / creative output, she'd occasionally blog a 'Parenting: with crappy pictures' post which was a funny snippet of life with little kids, illustrated with ... [her words] crappy pictures!

And then that feature really caught on ... and eventually ... she was given the opportunity to write a book on it, and so the much acclaimed 'Parenting with Crappy Pictures' book came to be!  [Please note I'm not affiliated in any way with Amber. I've just enjoyed following her successes via her blog over the last few years!]

And I guess it's another clear example of ...
  • when you do what makes you happy, makes you laugh / inspired / pause for though etc etc,
  • when you're posting things that strikes a cord with you - the blogger - first ...
  • then it's bound to have a genuine connection on the other side of that screen, with your readers.
  • Maybe it'll lead to a book deal [that creaking noise you can hear is me crossing my fingers oh so tightly! ;-)] ... maybe it'll simply lead to a new reader subscribing to your blog or someone leaving a comment that'll make you hoot with laughter ... or move you to tears.
Whatever it is ... you'll realise:
  • that really good things truly can emerge from something as initially dull sounding as 'giving your blog some structure'.
  • that repetition can simplify your blogging + free you up for more creative thinking!
  • that repetition can simplify your blogging 
  • that having a few of your own original category-type posts will help you stand out from the blogging crowd, making you more easily recognisable ... and memorable!
  • ... and that repetition can simplify your blogging ...
Push-Up Bra Blogging continues tomorrow so drop back then to meet my special guest or catch-up on earlier posts by clicking the image:

If you'd like to chat more about today's topic, or anything else from the series do leave a comment here or use my Facebook page. Or if you use Twitter how about sharing your favourite tips from #PushUpBraBlogging over there?

Thanks for reading today.



You can do this via my Just Giving page where I'm hoping to convert the hours I've worked on this series into at least £500 worth of aid for children worldwide.

**Please don't feel uncertain about adding just £1 to the pot. If most of the readers who stop by my blog in a single day left just that  ... I'd have reached my target by bed time of the first day.

£1 is plenty. You're wonderful. Thank you. x


  1. Once again, I agree with so much of what you say. I have weekly memes I follow (something on Monday about my life; look up//look down on Wednesdays; and often Paint Party Friday). There are monthly memes, too, such as "Simply a moment," "Storytelling Sunday," and "PHoto-Heart Connection." That's 13 posts a month! I've also developed on my own "my photographer's eye" to showcase my instagram photography paired with a story which I do whenever the spirit moves me (but probably about once a week) and "let's talk" (about once a month). I also like to join in Abi's "Cup of Tea" posts. Add my semi-regular class reviews and art journal pages; and I've always got something to blog about!

  2. I'm back on a blog reading fest today after a break over Easter..and I knew I wanted to come here as a priority and see what you had to say. There's no doubt that a few days away can help you sort out what you want to see when you get back!

    There is plenty to think about here. Can I get back to you? :)

    The Titanic snacks are sitting here..I just have to get to the Post Office at some point soon..

  3. You have named something I was aware of but not thought about consciously. It makes so much sense to have regular posts, and I do dip in to some that others write & I participate in (Simply a moment, WOYYW, Storytelling Sunday). This is something I need to give much more thought to - it sounds as though it would really make my life easier. I have a heap of 'draft' blogs and a mountain of ideas, but they are too big and uncontained so they do not get posted. I need some order in my chaos!! Thank you for highlighting this, a really interesting and helpful post :)

  4. Thank you for this series of blog posts, really finding them useful :) been reading but not commenting, and after reading your comment somewhere about the lack of comments I thought I probably should :)
    This post in particular got me thinking about the things that I have managed to make a habit of (something I find hard!) and I'm going to start blogging my monthly round up of My365 from now on so thanks! That's 12 blog posts a year you've added for me :)

    (have donated btw, may do so again when the bank allows! Cheers and good luck getting to your total!)

  5. I join in with WOYWW about once a month or so and try to do Photo-heart connection. I am really bad at keeping up a regular schedule and if something has to be done daily or at a regular time then I always feel it has a built in failure button for me.

    However reading this has given me so many ideas of regular features I could add to my own blog - things I want to post about anyway as well that I am tempted to think about introducing some, esp ones I can plan ahead for regular posts or that can be done ad hoc.

    (Do I admit to now having a written list of regular idea features?)


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