Sunday 31 March 2013

My Month in Numbers 2013: March

Hello, hello.

I should probably begin my summary of this month's noteable numbers with a mention of the clocks going forward one hour last night [and then subsequent counting up of all the clocks in the house to check they've all been changed] and also ... the number of Easter eggs consumed so far: but that's only 2 tiny ones.

So if you're in a sleep-deprived and/or chocolate-induced, stupor today ... just sit back and do a spot of gentle number crunching with me and the Pinterest board containing everyone else's contributions so far.

Starting with ...

5 = the number of posts I've published, so far, in my Push-Up Bra Blogging series. [If you missed any, catch the full list here.] And there's 8 left to go over a total of 6 weeks.

3 = the number of special guest posts scheduled. 1 already published with the remaining 2 to come in the next fortnight.

£500 = the fund raising target I've set over on my Just Giving page where I'm hoping to convert the free content of the e-course ... into support for the Save the Children fund.

29% = how much of my target has been reached ... so far. [I took the screenshot on Friday 29th but it's gone up since then. Hurrah!]
As I'm one third of the way through the series I was hoping to have reached at least one third of the target ... so ...

could you - my ever-faithful Month in Numbers bloggers help me out too?
  • If I pin your MinN post today [or over the coming month] would you consider making a small donation? £1 / $1 / 1Euro ... just a token ... to help me on my way? Please?
  • If you're in the UK you can text the code PUBB88 plus £1, £2, £3, £4, £5 or £10 to 70070.
  • However ... anyone from anywhere can donate online via card / Paypal. THANK YOU!! 
*Edited @ 14:53 to update* thanks to a total of 20 donations [not including my own] I'm now up to 39%! Thank you so much ... and, everyone else ... please keep the donations coming.

30 = the number of packets of Roast Beef Monster Munch I completed since January. [Note how I chose the word 'completed' over the more honest 'greedily inhaled'? That's my inner spin-doctor at work there.]

If you remember my January Month in Numbers post you'll recall how I was gifted a full box of the snacks on my birthday and now all that's left is ... an empty box plus the scrapbook page I made about them!

In my defence I didn't eat all 30 on my own. I did share [some of] them with James. 

[Which isn't the same as saying 'I didn't want to eat all 30' or I couldn't have managed to eat all 30'.  I easily could have! And then some!]

8 = the number of us who travelled to a cottage high up on the North Yorkshire dales for 3 [and a bit] days of food, fun and crafting.

Here's one of the views we had:
The sky over Wharfedale [I think][I know it's the sky. It's the Wharfedale bit I'm not sure on.]
But here's the view I saw more of:
My place at the table. Sticky tape, scissors, tea. The essentials. 
500 pieces = the size of the jigsaw we tried to complete while at the cottage:
One of my friends had a great idea to begin a jigsaw and leave it in a communal area of the cottage where we could all contribute a little bit on our way between rooms ... or when we wanted a break from sitting at the crafting table.

But, even if we'd had time to try to get that pesky sky pieced together ... we'd never actually have been able to have dropped all 500 pieces in place because ....

"Min 8 pieces missing" = the warning note left on the box by previous guests:
But we really should have updated that figure for the next guests because I think that note was a touch outdated. There were certainly more than a 'Min of 8 pieces missing'!

[And, no, we had not stolen any to use on our craft projects!]

3 out of 5 = the number of Saturdays in the month which I spent crafting with [give or take a few] the same set of friends.
  • The first was at the cottage then,
  • 7 days later we met again for the crop ...
  •  then 14 days after that we met up again for a workshop.
At this rate people are going to start getting the idea that we all actually like each other ...

14 = the number of us gathered to learn Kate Crane-style art journaling at a workshop. Which, appropriately enough, was taught by ... Kate Crane. [It really would have been rude if anyone else taught Kate Crane style journaling wouldn't it?]
I think we're all in this photo [except me behind the camera].
  • Kate managed to safely travel up to us despite all the snowfall in her town
  • Susan - who travelled down from Scotland over 2 days made it in one piece too! 
  • ... there was a lovely homemade lunch courtesy of  the workshop organiser [and my friend] 3DJean .... and ... 
  • ... I only got ink on the things I intended to get ink on! 
So I'm calling all those things the signs of a successful day! 

And finally:

12:53 - 13:53 = the very specific time slot during which I could anticipate the delivery of a lovely new top!
Fortunately for 'Richie' my Interlink Express driver ... he arrived at 13:09, well within the predicted time.

I wonder if he gets a bonus?


OK then ... if you're just happy to read along ... thanks! I hope it was mildly diverting for you. But ... if you're joining in then it's now over to you ... usual rules apply:

If you write a post and want to leave a link for myself and others to visit and/or pin please bear in mind the shared aspect.
  • When you swing by my blog to drop off a link to your Month in Numbers post - please leave a comment for me while you're there. Not because I'm needy ... but because it feels fair. Reciprocal.
  • Please link to my blog in your post. As much as I'd like to think that everyone who reads your blog already knows what 'My Month in Numbers' means... the truth is, they don't. So unless you explain where the idea comes from and how your readers can join you in doing the same next month, they are none the wiser.
  • Please take time at some point in the month to visit and comment on a few of the other posts too.

I've been working on something both fun and Month in Numbers-related recently which I hope to be able to share before next month's round-up .... so watch this space ...

Until then, happy April to you. If there's any fooling going on may you always be the fool-er and not the fool-ee.

Julie :-)

Friday 29 March 2013

Cardmaking: Tri-fold aperture card, with a hidden diver!

Hi, hi.
  • If you've swung by from today then 'Hello!', 'Welcome!' ... the tri-fold card's coming right up ...
  • And if you've landed here direct then 'Hello!', 'Welcome!' ... I've got a guest spot over at today where I'm sharing 'Five Ideas for using old book pages'. Just click on this 'sneak peek' photo to take you there:
Oh and, while you're here ... I've re-stocked the shop with £4 vintage paper packs in 'Mixed text', 'Numbers + Diagrams' and 'Foreign Language' themes. Drop by. Have a peek!

Right then, now we're all clear on who's from where and where to head next ... here's that post about a tri-fold card I promised you!
If I'm honest ... I don't know if 'tri-fold' is the correct term for this style of card ... but it does have 3 individual sections to it ... so I'm going hope for the best!

Because layered, framed and hidden elements are integral to the style ... one image alone isn't going to explain the construction behind it ... so  here are a few more shots to help make sense of what's going on. Here's the 2nd layer which is revealed when the top frame opens to the left:

I covered the sections with patterned paper before die-cutting a postage-stamp aperture with my Big-Shot and washi-tape makes a fun addition to the inner frame as it doesn't add any extra bulk or dimension. So you can add more interest but the card can still close.

Here's all 3 sides when the card's open:
And here's our plucky heroine [cut from an old children's annual]:
I made several of this style card in one sitting using just strips of A4 kraft card, scraps of patterned paper and a handful of embellishments and I'll share the remainder of them in an upcoming post or two.
Until then, don't forget to ...
Soon, soon.

Thursday 28 March 2013

Push-Up Bra blogging [4]: the Push-Up Bra Approach

Hello again.

Before we jump into today's edition of this *free* e-course I'd like to thank all of those who've already donated to my fund-raising via my Just Giving page.  And if you're not one of those ... and you find anything even vaguely useful or entertaining today ... please consider a small donation to help me reach my £500 target. It's for the Save the Children charity ... not me!

Onwards ...

The first couple of posts in the Push-Up Bra Blogging series - from The McFly Approach Part 1 and Part 2 to elements of Caroline South's lovely guest spot yesterday - covered the 'WHY?'element of this course.
  • We've looked at a few general reasons why someone might feel like boosting their current blogging schedule and why occasionally making a little extra effort might be worthwhile.
And, if it did its job correctly, and it motivated you to think again about what you could get out of blogging ... :
  • then round about now you might just be starting to feel like logging back in and drafting out a post. Maybe?
  • So let's take advantage of that boost to your motivation shall we? Because today I've got some suggestions as to what you could fill that draft post with in ...
The first of our'WHAT?'based approaches [and the approach after which I named the entire series]:-
It's been tricky for me to describe this series in a brief, easily tweetable, lift-pitch, headline phrase because: yes, it is kind of about blogging more... but, then again ... not really.

[Who wants to blog more for the sake of blogging more?]

But ... then again, at the same time ... it kind of is about blogging more often ... so ... well ... errrrm ...

You see my difficulty?

More is more ... except when it's just an illusion!

Just because you might be wanting to blog more often it doesn't necessarily mean you're going to need to find the time to make more crafty things or visit more blog-worthy places etc etc 

[Unless of course you've been wanting to do more of all those things anyway. In which case, why aren’t you doing them already? With or without a blog? But, hey, stop getting me side-tracked! That sounds like the topic for a whole other e-course!]

No, what I’m actually suggesting is that you follow the example set by the average cleavage enhancing brassiere, because:

A push-up bra doesn't physically create any more 'boobage' ... it just collects together what's already there ... and puts it on more prominent display!

Take this approach to your blogging and you'll easily have at least one good solid post per week for the rest of your life!

Example 1:
  • Scrappers: I don't know how many scrapbook pages you make each month ... but there's a good chance it adds up to more than I make [remember, I've read some of your Month in Numbers posts ... I know what you get up to ... so I'm not just talking out of the top of my hat here! ;-)]. 
  • Now ... how many do you blog?
  • Because I blog just about all of mine in a post of their own.
Example 2:
  • Cardmakers: you know when you make birthday cards for everyone close to you because if you gave them a shop-bought one they'd feel slighted?
  • Do you photograph each one and then blog it?
  • Because I do. Pretty much.
In fact ... here's my Dad's latest birthday card as evidence!
And, do you know what?

I probably don't make any greater amount of 'stuff' than you ...

... I just happen to blog the majority of the 'stuff' I do make ...
 and that has the tendency to fool the eye ... like a blogging tromp l'oeil!

This is an idea I develop even further - including the number one tip of the series about how to get all the necessary photographing and blogging of stuff completed - in a post 3 weeks from today [I know, I'm a tease!].

But, until then, before we move on to thrusting it all out there, you can get yourself prepared by beginning to think about how much you already have to push together and fool the eye!

Carry out a 'blogworthiness' audit!

Spend a short while with your diary, notebook, scrappy bit of paper [I know from experience that papercrafters are the least likely people to have any scrap paper on hand in an emergency, but do try!] ... and:
  • Make a list of everything you already do [within reason people ... within reason! Oh my!] eg. hobbies, activities, pastimes etc ...
  • Be specific eg. "make samples for the classes I teach" / "make a handful of cards per month to give to the kids' school friends"/ "read with the kids"/ "walk the dog" /etc etc
  • And be general too! List other things you dabble in or which only happen occasionally eg. scrapbook layouts / cards / journal pages / try a new recipe / fiddle with your DSLR settings / take photos on your phone / listen-in to other people's conversations on the bus / receive gifts which other people might like to see /  experiment with clothes or make-up... etc etc
  • Be thorough ... I bet you're far more interesting than you're giving yourself credit for!
  • Now read back through the list looking for which items fit in with and reflect with that blogging 'voice' we talked about last week. 
You might want to:
  • focus on one key area on that list to give your blog a specialised theme ...
  • or you might want to bring in a more 'lifestyle' / eclectic approach ... and combine several of your favourites. Whatever works for you!
Based solely upon what it is you're looking to share, what the theme of your blog is, what category you fit into, what best reflects what you're trying to portray etc on your blog ...

... start thinking how, without having to do anything more than you already do, you can make the most of all those current very 'bloggable' opportunities you're neglecting!
  • Stop trying to find time to make more or do more if you're already busy enough ... and pay more attention to what it is you're already doing!
  • Start seeing them all as individual blogging opportunities;
  • If appropriate / feasible ... collect some of them together or photos you've taken of them previously;
  • Or else decide to take more photos of them from now on.
  • And, pretty soon, you'll inevitably have a basis for several - if not plenty - more posts!
As I mentioned earlier ... do hang on in there for my best piece of advice [coming in 3 weeks' time] on just this subject [I love it so much I gave it a title and post all to itself!!] But until then, in short:

Start shoving all that perfectly share-able fodder - that you're currently hiding under your jumper - into a virtual push-up bra for all to see!  

Now ... with that image floating awkwardly in the air around us ... let's move along swiftly to just a couple more ideas for the kinds of posts you could turn to to boost that blog of yours.

How about blogging a review, demo or some hints + tips about things you already have or already know about?
This kind of thing needn't be a full-blown professional type of post or one which is sponsored.

[That said, plenty of bloggers do go down that route if that's something you feel like following-up. Just bear in mind that it's seen as good blogging practice to mention when you're getting payment for a post or when you've been given something for review purposes. OK. End of lecture.]
... but these kinds of posts can be another simple way to connect with your readership without having to have spent hours planning / preparing unique craft projects etc. For example:
What about a simple, quick, overview of a new product you've just bought?
Be it a new range of paints, a new tool, a new lens or yarn etc etc ... as we tend to buy so many of our crafting materials online these days we're shopping without the benefit of being able to see, squeeze, prod and scrutinise items before we make a purchase.
Your readers might find it useful to see ...
  • a quick 'compare and contrast' with an earlier version or a different brand;
  • whatever it is out of its packet and in your hand - to judge its size for example. [Leave that one alone ... I was, for a change, not trying to sound risque there!]
  • how many items / sheets there are of something in a pack;
  • a few detailed close-ups to be better able to judge quality or colour etc;
  •  and so on and so on ....

It can be so annoying to spot something in an online shop which you think you might like .... but then not be able to find a decent photo of the full contents anywhere? Not even on the manufacturer's site! So it's great when someone shares better images and more accurate details on their blog.

I still recall how useful I found a post of this kind on the Sarah's Cards Design Team blog a while ago now [I know it's a DT blog, but I think the principle would apply anywhere]. The blogger had opened a packet of journaling tags / cards and laid out all the different designs to demonstrate exactly what was inside because, from the packaging you just couldn't tell. And they didn't have to make anything from the tags for it to be a useful post. [And, for the record ... no, I didn't get paid to mention them! I genuinely just remember it being a practical category of post!]

Maybe you could demonstrate a tool or a product and explain or explore how it works to share your knowledge and build links with less experienced readers: 
  • Can you demystify the inner workings of the ATG gun, the Bind-it-All, the Gelli plate? etc etc 
  • Can you share it in a couple of photos or a quick video?
  • Can you remember back to when you were confused by a new technology / software / techniques etc ...?
  • Can you blog a list of shortcuts, things to avoid and general advice for newbies to .. whatever it is you can demonstrate!  
This kind of peer-to-peer learning,in normal, friendly, everyday language can often make more of a lasting impression on us than any dry, technical manufacturer's instruction sheet.
For example ...
... ever since hearing one crafty-friend yelling 'die face up' across the room at another crafty-friend ...
... I've never forgotten the best way to load cutting dies into a Big Shot  !
And finally, while we're on the subject of useful advice, why not ...
Try a'skills audit'to identify some of the skills you've picked up over time + build them into a set of posts.
  • Just jot down a few of the things you can already do ...
  • then break it down into one key piece of advice ... or several understandable chunks ....or a series of step-by-steps  ... or short video  ... etc
And suddenly ... without having to learn anything new yourself, without making anything new, reinventing the wheel or even leaving the house ... you're filling your blog with content which makes you a useful person to follow, to subscribe to, to engage with.

The sharing of personal, genuine, tried + tested advice is a staple of many a successful blog. and there's no reason yours can't be added to that list any time soon!


Any responses, bursts of inspiration, nods of recognition ... send them all my way - it's great finding out which bits of the series are ringing true with you and hitting the intended target! 

So, drop me comment, use my Facebook page or if you use Twitter I'm @notesonpaper over there.

If you miss a chapter then you can catch up any time via  the full 6 week Push-Up Bra Blogging course schedule.

  • The next installment - another of the 'WHAT?' approaches to blogging - will land here one week today [on Thurs April 4th].
  • But I'll be back this Sunday [March 31st] with a business-as-usual Month in Numbers post.
Until then ... keep pushing it all up where we can see it!!

Julie ;-)


You can do this via my Just Giving page where I'm hoping to use this blog series to raise at least £500 worth of aid for children worldwide. I can't do it without you.

Wednesday 27 March 2013

Push-Up Bra Blogging [3]: with guest Caroline South

Hello you.

Last week - the first week of Push-Up Bra Blogging - I set out what's possibly my blogging manifesto ... and which could be yours too: to blog what you want to blog, what feels like you, what benefits you and what makes you smile.

Because really, that's half the battle towards blogging more consistently: when it's fun to do, when it represents you accurately and sincerely, when you feel it's having a positive effect on your self-esteem and sense of creativity and community ... then it's far easier to set time aside to blog!

Someone who I feel has balanced all of this so beautifully is Caroline South and so ... I asked her to share 'The Caroline South Approach' to blogging with us all today.

It's an approach which any of us can feel inspired by ... and which mothers of young children can feel doubly so!

Hi I'm Caroline and I have a blog called 'scraps of us' where I share my family adventures and everyday life.

I like to use my little space as an online journal...

... capturing little snapshots of our everyday happenings, as something I can look back on later on.

My posts are usually made up of lots of photos, with just a little text.

I pretty much always have my camera to hand and just snap things around me, whether that's out and about ...
... or just at home.

Sometimes I will share snippets of our home, the occasional crafty make or my latest vintage finds ...

... really I just try to capture whatever happens to be going on that I feel I want to record and share.

I don't generally plan ahead on my blog and just use my latest photos as the basis for a post. I tend to just upload any photos I have and pick out any I think are suitable,that way when I have time to put a post together I have the photos ready and just need to add a few words to explain what they're about and remind me of the details.

I might then put together a few different pictures and use them in a round up of my week...

... adding a simple explanation for each picture or if we go somewhere different I might just pick out a few pictures that I feel best sum up the day and just add a few words.

I find blogging in this way, with lots of images, works well for me as I already have the photographs so I can put a post together fairly quickly and easily.

I don't feel the need to write lots as I like my pictures to tell the story and I'm much more of a visual person than a wordy one. Writing lengthy posts is something I would struggle with and would take lots of time - something I don't have much of with the little ones.
That's one of the things I love about blogging, just doing bits here and there when I have a moment.
I love how I am not only keeping a journal for myself to remember our days, but I am able to share it all with other lovely fellow bloggers and like minded people and I have made some great friends in the process.
To see more of Caroline's beautiful photographs and her inspiring, graceful, life-documenting style and her eye for retro treasure make sure to visit:
Thank you so much for sharing your approach with us Caroline!
I'd love to hear what you feel you can take from Caroline's approach ...
  • can you see yourself using it to blog more efficiently or confidently in future?
  • was there anything that's made you ponder ... or change your mind about blogging?
It would be great if you could leave some support for her in the comments here  or on her own blog.
And while you have a think ... I'll be back soon with another approach to help you make the most of your precious blogging-time and energy!
Catch up on all the posts of the Push-up Bra series so far by clicking the image above ... and ...

I'm hoping to convert this blog series into £500 worth of aid for children worldwide and if everyone who reads my blog in one day threw just £1 into the pot we'd reach that tagret before bed time!

Monday 25 March 2013

Cardmaking with Plundered Pages: Using names to personalise a project

Hi, hi.

If  I say I'm taking a break from push-up bras today ... I'll just have to hope that you know what I'm talking about. If not, well ... that could be a little awkward for the pair of us ... so you ought to click here.

Now let's step away from bras and move to something more papery ...

One of the things I enjoy most about collecting old, abandoned, long-forgotten books ... and then giving them a new lease of life.

[Look, you may call it 'cutting up boks' or 'sacrilege' ... I'm sticking to 'giving them a new lease of life'. OK?]

... yes, one of the things I enjoy most is finding snippets of text which I can use to make a scrapbook page, a gift, collage, or card etc highly [and thoroughly delightfully] personalised.

Which is precisely what happened here on the engagement card I made for a friend:
Whenever I'm leafing through the pages of one of the books I'm happy to cut up [believe it or not ... I don't cut up every book I buy!!] ... I'm always thrilled to spot, somewhere on the page, in a story, in a caption etc ... a name I recognise!

And, if it's the name of someone I can see myself, at some point, making something for ... I cut it out and save it for the right occasion.

So, when my friend announced her engagement to a certain 'Hugh' ... I finally got to use this perfectly serendipitous snippet:
p.s: the cotton, pointed edge, trimming is available on one of the Couture Collection embellishment kits [or can be added into a custom kit if you prefer].
I've often wondered about keeping a register of all the names I spot while I'm browsing my books ... in case anyone ever asks for something specific in a custom pack of Plundered Pages!

Remind me one day to share the fun I've had on my pages after finding a 'James' and even a 'Julie'!


See you on Wednesday with the first of my special guest-blogger posts of the Push-Up Bra Blogging e-course.

And, if you haven't already, please do consider the smallest of small donations to my fundraising efforts. You can even text a donation [only if you're in the UK I think]: Full details here.


Julie :-)

Friday 22 March 2013

Push-Up Bra blogging [2]: the McFly Approach [Part 2]


If you read yesterday's post - 'The McFly Approach Pt 1' [the first blogging approach we're looking into for the Push-Up Bra Blogging series] - then you'll remember that:
  •  I began to set out a few ways in which blogging more consistently [which really doesn't have to be the same thing as 'more frequently'can actually have a positive effect on your sense of self and on your sense of community amongst your blog readership.
Now today I'll be putting an even more practical spin on the idea that blogging really is 'all about you' ... but that it can give to you as well as take precious time and energy!

A few concrete, ways in which you can benefit from taking care of your blog ...

Once again - as I set out in my Introduction - if none of this appeals to you, if it's not up your blogging-alley at all ... then it's not for you. And it doesn't have to be. Just catch up with me in another post in a few days.

But if it is for you ... then let's leap straight in to:

Blogging can help you form good habits.

I've always written for pleasure. Always.

From being tiny I would dabble in poetry and story-writing after school. When I didn't need to. I'd even spend my pocket money on text books to help me pick up additional tips and skills then later I got a degree in English. And yet ...

 ... it wasn't until I started to blog that I developed a true, consistent, full-on, regular, almost weekly, writing habit.

A way of life.
the cover of a notebook a friend gave to me
And if I dared to add up the word count of 4 years of posts here ... I've no doubt it would be the equivalent of a Phd or two, or ten ... or maybe a slightly shorter sequel to War & Peace. And I know that:
  • not only has the frequency and amount of blogging I've done helped me get better acquainted, more mindful, of priorities in my hobbies, my work and even my day-to-day life [as discussed in Part 1] ...
  • it has, without question, also improved my writing abilities and allowed me to identify my writing style which was always there ... but now it's evident. Finding my 'blogging voice' led to me recognising my 'writing voice' too. 
Acquiring a habit through blogging:

Now then ... you may not want to use your blog as a way to develop your writing skills but the same principle - of regular practise and then regular sharing via a blog can be a great way for you to:
  • work on your own ambitons;
  • finally seek out those skills you'd like to develop;
  • work on that grand plan;
  • develop any new [hopefully 'good' but who am I to judge] habits;
  • finally turn an occasional pastime into a practice which becomes a regular part of your week ... and so much more. 
Once you know what it is you want to do
  • eg. learn photography skills; lose weight; do more scrapbooking; decorate cakes; learn a language; do one good deed a week etc etc  ...
  • ... you can use your blog as a platform to present your work, your stories, your progress ...
But, why should this work? What gives blogging the edge over good old-fashioned will-power and determination?

Well, the answer's simple. So simple in fact it could be answered by a giddy two-year-old bursting to demonstrate how they've just learned a new swear word!

We're all doing it for one key reason ...... the attention!

Gasp! I know! It's almost as daring a thing to say as whatever it was that cursing-toddler just yelled on a crowded bus isn't it? But ...

I don't care how modest you are - or claim to be - if you are sharing things on a blog you're doing it for attention.

And so am I!

And so what?

Now, don't get me wrong, that's not the only reason I write, or why I scrapbook, or make cards, or art journal etc.

But - logically - it must be one of the main reasons I then go on to blog it all afterwards!

Otherwise I'd just keep it all in my work room where it would have an audience of one.
  • We are absolutely kidding ourselves if we think we're blogging for pure, noble, reasons. Unsullied by anything as seemingly distasteful as 'attention-seeking'.
  • The idea that we use our blogs to generate positive feedback and friendly comments truly isn't anything to be embarrassed about!  
  • We're social animals - even the introverts amongst us! 
  • There's nothing wrong with us wanting to feel seen / heard / appreciated / supported / encouraged / liked / admired etc.
In fact ... I'd be more concerned about you if you wanted to hide all the time or if you felt you didn't deserve to be appreciated. Again, even us introverts!

I admit that ... occasionally ... when I think 'Oh, I should go there/ do that/ make one of those because that would make a good blog post' ... I'm reminded of the old philosophical question:

"If a tree falls in the woods and there's no one there to hear it ... does it still make a sound?"

... only its more like:

"If something happens / if I make something ... and I don't blog it ... did it really happen?'

I know this can get out of hand ... with some people feeling overly pressured to keep making things, so they can blog things, to get feedback ... but extremes can happen in any hobby, especially with certain personality types. But if you keep a check on your own responses and motivations, I don't think you'll go too far wrong.

And, you know what? Sometimes the ends do justify the means ...

Blogging can help keep you accountable in whatever area you choose. Ask me how I know ...

OK, so you [and by 'you' I mean 'I'] might occasionally make a visit to a particular place spurred on by the idea that it will make fun blog-fodder afterwards ... but who cares? You got off the sofa. You had a nice day out. You then shared it with people who enjoy a nosey-about into other people's lives. Win, win, win!

Or you finally got that mini-book finished because you think it'll make a good blog post. Cool. You've finished a project! Go you!

Or you've announced to the blog world that you're going to:
... whatever it is ... having the blog there as an occasional accountability partner to:
  • motivate you;
  • keep you going;
  • boost your will-power,;
  • generally help prod you into getting 'stuff' done 
... can be a perfectly fun and harmless way to achieve successes, small and large, and to feel the satisfaction of crossing some tasks of your To Do list ... or even your Bucket List!

Just because this is online doesn't automatically make it wrong or part of some sinister decline into virtual living! It can be as simple as pinning your colours to the mast, declaring what you're aiming for and creating a network around you who [and we can only hope for the best here] really do want you to succeed.

Isn't that why people have been joining 'real-world' support groups - to lose weight for example - for years?

If - like me - you're someone who responds best when given a deadline to work to ... blogging the spoils of your hard work can be a highly useful motivating factor that you can exploit to your own ends!

So .. now you're nicely warmed up ... let's wrench that blogging-self-esteem up yet another notch shall we?

Why not use your blog as self-promotion?:

If you'll forgive this brief appeal to a select group of readers ...

... I don't think that self-promotion is something that British people are particularly comfortable with are they? 

Or, perhaps this isn't just a British thing - maybe it's a female thing ...

... and if it's a British-female thing then ... wowsers ... no wonder we're struggling here! 

click to visit my shop which is currently stocked with lots of pretty paper packs, plus embellishment and fabric kits
But really, you can't ignore the fact that blogs are a great platform for promotion and for sharing with your readers your latest products and offers.

I made a deliberate decision to try do this more often here with my own Etsy shop ...but even then I don't think I'm great at it yet!

I think part of me pauses ... not wanting to seem too pushy or 'sales'y. But, I am trying not to be too coy as I think I share enough free, informative, fun content 90% of the time ... that I hope I'm forgiven for sharing new ranges which [a] I'm happy with and [b] I think someone reading might like too!

I think it's about balance, [maybe you've got tips for me on this one] but if you're a small/micro-business owner ... you've got to reach your customers somehow ... and you can connect with a 'customer' in much the same way as you already do a 'reader'.

But you don't  just have to have a shop to promote yourself:
  • you may want to mention some charity work you're involved in;
  • you might have an issue you want to draw attention to;
  • you might want to use it as a place to display your work / photos etc and send links to any prospective employers / clients you're seeking. [I have a page up ^^^ there called  'Creative Profile' which is like my online CV/resume and I send the link when I'm pitching myself to editors etc]
Or you may simply want to use it as a space to:
  • present your work;
  • show off your skills as a rubber-stamper, doodler, Photoshop master, quilter etc etc;
  • proudly display your eye for detail; your ability to spot trends; your hints and tips acquired over the years ... whatever it is ... to a wider audience
For no other reason than a sense of achievement, to be your own curator, to see just how much you do do, to to be able to tell a 'real-world' friend or colleague 'Oh yes, I do XYZ ... and I have photos of it on my blog if you'd like to see'!

I don't think a little drop of pleasure and satisfaction at your own fabulousness is such a bad thing from time to time ...

Which leads me to my final point today ...

Have you thought about what blogging has already done for you?

Do you have a blog?

Have you ever stopped to think about the skills you've picked up in order to publish a post on even the most basic blog page?

Not to mention the little tweaks you might have given it ... and that's all before you've even added any content ... which, in itself, requires a particular skill set.

See how many of these you've heard of, developed skills in, improved upon etc since you started a blog:
  • adding a header or background image
  • making your own header or background image 
  • creating categories or pages
  • playing with new fonts, designs, colour combinations
  • dabbling in Photoshop or similar packages
  • learning to draft, schedule and publish a post
  • flirting with Twitter and Facebook so you can share your posts
  • adding blog buttons in your sidebar
  • making your own blog buttons
  • adding links to photos and text
  • recognising 'HTML' - even if you don't know what to do with it
  • learning a few easy ways to use HTML
  • knowing what 'code' is
  • using 'linky' type boxes
  • conquering the digital camera + downloading images from the camera on to a computer
  • re-sizing images + uploading them
  • learning to make photo-collages
  • learning about mobile blogging
  • improving your photography skills to improve the look of your blog ...
I could go on, but I think you get the point.

Admit it ... you take some or all of that for granted now don't you?

In fact ...  I'm willing to bet you're already scrutinising that list for the things you don't do or can't do [yet] aren't you?

Well, stop it. At once!

*Sweeping generalisation alert* Forgive me ... I don't usually go in for making generalisations based on age and gender ... but on this occasion I feel it's useful to point out that ...
  • many of us here are women
  • the majority of the blogs I follow - especially in the craft realm - belong to women
  • and - if I have the right impression of my readers - plenty of us are over 30
Now then ... I think that if you stopped a stranger in the street and asked them to describe the kind of person who would:
  • publish online content
  • develop coding skills
  • work with digital photography  
  • get tech-savvy and so on  .....
... I don't think their first thought would be well, frankly ... us!

As women - and I know this is a stereotype, and a ridiculous one at that - but as women we're not automatically expected to be even interested in technologies like this ... let alone read up on them, teach ourselves them, excel with them ... have fun with them!

And if you think of the people you know at work, amongst your peer-group, in church, in the supermarket ... do you think the majority of them would even know what a blog actually is ... nevermind being able to maintain one?

Blogging may well be what a lot of people in my hobby [crafting] have turned to in recent years ... but it's not what everybody in the world does! And, because there are so many of us doing it in our crafty community I think we've lost sight of its uniqueness ... and we're underestimating our own abilities, and so ...

Just take a moment to think about all the steps you've taken to launch a blog, no matter how 'ordinary' you think it is ... and for goodness sake begin to recognise your achievment! Stop thinking about all the things you haven't done with it ... and enjoy a moment of well-deserved self-congratulation!!

Or let me thrust this one upon you: bravo you! Bravo you brave, daring, muddling-through-'til-you-get-there, living-and-learning blogger you!

You're awesome. Admit it.

If you'd like to chat more about today's topic, or anything else the series has stirred in you please do leave a comment below or use my Facebook page. And if you're motivated to blog this weekend let me know!

Or if  you use Twitter how about sharing your favourite tips from #PushUpBraBlogging over there?

Push-Up Bra Blogging continues next Wednesday [March 27th] with the first of my special guest posts.

The full 6 week course schedule is now available ... and I'll leave you now to get comfortable with your Awesome Blogger status.

**IF YOU'VE FOUND ANYTHING IN THIS POST USEFUL [including that last speech which really ought to have been accompanied by a rousing soundtrack] OR IF YOU SCRIBBLED DOWN SOMETHING TO REFER TO LATER, THEN PLEASE CONSIDER SHOWING YOUR APPRECIATION BY MAKING A SMALL DONATION TO THE 'SAVE THE CHILDREN' CHARITY. You can do this here via my Just Giving page where I'm hoping to turn this blog series into £500 worth of aid for children worldwide.

Thursday 21 March 2013

Push-Up Bra blogging [1]: the McFly Approach [Part 1]

Hi hi, and welcome to the first instalment of Push-Up Bra Blogging or...  how to make the most of what you've already got.

If you missed the introduction to the series you can hop back and catch it here but basically the series will be a series of articles aimed at anyone wanting to give a quick, easier-than-you-might-think boost to what they put on show to the online world!

Warning: if you want to change how you feel about blogging, and finally incorporate it into your everyday life, then this series will keep you busy for the next couple of weeks:
  • There are [up to now at least] 6 individual approaches to try on for size ...
  • Plus several special guest posts [so it's not just me helping you find a perfect fit... there's a team of us assisting with the hooks and straps!]  
  • Each 'approach' is completely packed with tips, thought-provoking questions, ideas, real-life examples, explanations and inspiration all to show that this blogging lark really can become part of your regular routine ... as well as being beneficial to you!
  • I will be storing them all in a list here on the blog and on the Push-Up Bra Blogging Pinterest board for ease of access. [You DO NOT need a Pinterest account to view them there. You just need to click on and/or save this link].
  • If you really want to make the most of the vast amount of content ... you may need to buy a new notebook and pen and take copious notes. [I know, it's going to be hard. You're going to have to force yourself into selecting which fabulously-covered book to buy now that you have a really good excuse, but I'm sure you'll manage ... somehow.]
  • You may also need to set time aside to read and digest the articles in complete solitude, with your feet up, with a drink of choice to hand. But again ... I'm sure you'll muddle through. 
OK then, if you're ready to move on, then I'm ready to introduce you to the one person who will have the biggest impact on the style, feel, and frequency of your blogging...

...because today ... it's all about you!

[Before we begin ... I know very little about McFly beyond that song ... but if you don't even know that then here it is. It's very sweet and may burrow its way into your ears for the day, but I can't be held responsible for that!]

It's unavoidable for me, writing a series about how to boost your blogging performance, without first addressing the person behind the performance: Hello you.

Like it or not, your blog starts and ends with you. Personally I think it's lucky to have you, but ...

I'm going to guess that, if you're not blogging as often as you would like, then it's partly because you're stuck thinking about it as 'blogging for the sake of the blog' ... and that you haven't [yet] felt the benefits that blogging can bring to you, the blogger.

So what exactly can blogging do for you?

Well ...

Blogging, like journal writing or meditation can help you get to know yourself better.

Sounds weird. I know. Especially when so many people talk about blogging as a means to get to know others.

But it really can be a useful tool to help you discover what's important to you, in your life, here and now.

Because you are what you blog.

And if you're not ... if you're blog doesn't really represent you ... then maybe that's why you're just not feeling the whole blogging thing in the first place!

Ideally, from all the endless possibilities out there, nothing makes it on to your blog without your say so.

It's you who's selected the content.  You who's presented it in those specific words or photographs and so ...after a while ... your blog will begin to reflect back to you just where your priorities are at the moment. 

This can be useful [and even surprising] to look back on and to even help you address any issues you might have with what you see in that reflection.
  • Maybe you'll notice how you keep saying the same things over and over in your posts - be they positive ... or not so ...
  • Maybe you've unexpectedly blogged three posts in a row on a similar topic ... without fully realising beforehand it was becoming an important subject to you.
  • Maybe you find yourself sharing something about yourself that you didn't think you'd want to talk about .... whatever it is ...
Each individual blog post may not make any great statement about who you are today ... but over time ... by increments ...
  • the more you blog ...
  • the more decisions you make about what to share [your art, your life, your opinions, hobbies, experiences etc]
  • or how to share it [photos, finished projects, lists, music, poetry etc etc]
it will add up to a fairly accurate picture of who you are right now! [And, personally, I find that fascinating!]

I know we can all put on a front / a show / a pretence to a certain extent ... but in the long run ... the real person generally bubbles to the surface. And, if you're a blogger ... that surface is your blog posts.

I'll write more on this in the next section but, over the 4 years I've been blogging I've certainly learned that using humour and encouraging other people has increasingly become a central part of why I blog what I blog.

Yes, there's plenty of creative eye-candy on display here too ... but it's not all there is. And I love how that reflects my offline life and also dovetails with my life philosophies too ... and all without initially being part of my blogging agenda.

Now, whether this is all about sharing your art, recipes or photos of your dog [it doesn't have to be overly profound ... just what reflects a genuine interest or focus] it really shouldn't come as a surprise that your blog can reveal your inner self and your inner priorities because that's the very reason people have been writing in personal diaries since paper was invented.

Just because this is online it doesn't really mean it's any less personal in origins.

Any time we choose to speak something out loud, write something down [blog], express ourselves in some public or shared way:
  •  we can't help but reveal something that began silently, in our heads, just between us and our brains!
  • And what we decide to allow out ... reveals something about us.
  • And sometimes it's ourselves we surprise most!
Now then ... now that we've begun to acknowledge that in blogging fairly frequently we can begin to learn more about who we we are and what we want to share we're well on our way to pinning down what's meant by one of those flighty phrases you see in so many blogging tutorials: the 'blogging voice'.

Finding your own unique blogging ‘voice’:

It turns out that 'the voice' isn't just a TV talent show featuring Tom Jones and big swivelly chairs ... it's actually the reason you will gain and, more importantly, retain blog readers.
The numbers of blog readers you have shouldn't matter as much as the engagement you have with them. [Which doesn't mean I'm above feeling the odd pang of jealousy when I've seen someone with more followers than me! But it's definitely becoming far, far less of a concern for me today.]
And, the engagement you have with those readers is partly based on:
  • whether or not they feel they know you 
  • whether or not you're consistently you
  • whether or not you feel genuine or maybe a little like you're blogging by numbers
But don't confuse your readers getting to know you with 'having to reveal all about your private life' - it's NOT the same thing. At all.
They don't need to know your bank details or the subject of the last fight you had with your partner [OK, it was that pile of model aeroplane parts on the dining table if you must know!].
They just need to feel that when they've enjoyed a post you've blogged ... there's a good chance there'll be something vaguely similar there, presented by someone recognisably a real, interesting person, the next time they swing by.
**Edited [several times!] to add**
Your 'voice' is just another way of saying your 'recognisable style' your 'you-ness'.
It's how your signature style / your character / individuality / originality come across the more times you hit 'publish'.
[I'm really not saying your blog space needs to be about you spilling all about your personal life].
  • It may come across in the images you choose or the type of creative project you share, rather than your words ... it's just the same thing.
  • Personality and style come across in your choice of content too ... and it all helps to tell whatever it is you're wanting to tell to your audience.  [This may be as simple as displaying to them that you make beautiful paintings, or knit fabulous hats ... whatever ...]
  • Seriously, you need not be revealing much about yourself -  it can be as simple as wanting to share how you really, really like the colour yellow right now [yes, I did have an entire series about just that last year!]
Anyway ...

As I set out above - blogging more frequently [how ever often that feels right for you] can help YOU identify YOUR blogging priorites.
  • Now ... be warned ... this can take time ...
  • but it definitely speeds up if you blog more often ...
  • it's like a trial and error process ... you work through all the ideas and keep going until something falls into place! 
And it's then that you start getting happy in your own blog space. On your own terms!
  • once you've hit your stride ...
  • once you've found what you truly enjoy blogging about ...
  • once you drop all the things you think you should blog about ...
  • once you start pleasing yourself and uncovering where the fun in sharing what makes you happy with others ... then ... guess what ... that's your blogging voice!
That's the person who  other readers will identify with ... that's the blog they'll know what to expect from ... the blog they'll subscribe to and follow ... because it feels comfortable. Reliable. Good company for their next tea break.
Once you find what makes your unique blogging voice ... you can start doing it on purpose!... a line I think I've borrowed from Dolly Parton  And this makes future blogging SO MUCH EASIER!!!!
In the last 4 years I've read a lot of tutorials, articles and stories on how to achieve blogging success.
A lot.
And I can honestly say that not one of them, in all that time, not a single one mentioned that blogging about the conversations you overhear is the way to blogging satisfaction. Not one. Fancy that.
And yet ...

... blogging snippets from the conversations I overhear is one of my all time favourite things to do here ... and, I'm willing to bet it's also one of the things that regular/long time readers here would mention if they had to describe my blog to a friend.

Do you see how by simply following what made me happy ... I landed on a blogging topic which others seem to like too? My blogging 'voice' .... gets heard.

There's no reason this can't work for you too.

Here's a confession:
  • I initially thought about starting a blog purely so Design Teams would look more favourably on my applications. So I'd have somewhere to promote their products.
  • Yet ... I've also read enough Karl Marx to feel uncomfortable simply doing something for 'the man' ... ;-) so I started thinking that if I was going to do it for them ... I was sooooooooo going to find a way of making it work for me at the same time! 
  • I decided from the start I would make a blog that was about more than paper crafting.
  • Not that there's anything wrong with following a single topic that if that's where your heart and 'voice' wants to go. Some of my favourite blogs do just that!!
  • But personally I wanted a more 'magazine' style blog. With bits of all sorts. Combining the things I love. In my own 'voice'.
Now, this was, and remains, a trial and error process. I've tried many different styles of post and worked hard to keep a recognisable 'Julie-ness' across the various disparate things I blog ... but once I landed on some things that seemed to work ... I began to do them on purpose.

Once something works / feels right / feels fun to do / gets a good response from readers / makes you proud / makes you smile ...

... start factoring them into your regular blogging repertoire!

I'll be writing much more about this area in an upcoming post but for now here's a few examples  ...
  • Overheards - which began as snippets scrawled down in my notebooks at work - became part of my blogging voice and remain a useful, short, feature I fall back on when I can't be bothered to blog something longer!
  • My Month in Numbers - which began as a one-off post about some noteworthy events in January 2010 - became part of my blogging voice once a month ever since.
Do you see where I'm going with this? That the motivation to blog more frequently comes easier when you're creating posts that you really like!!

 ... but I think perhaps we've both had enough for one day and so ...

That's 'The McFly Approach: Pt 1' and now ...
  • I'm going to leave you to digest the various ways in which blogging is indeed all about YOU ...
  • but that that shouldn't scare you off ... because in fact ...
  • in being yourself and blogging your own passions and preferences you will be making things easier for yourself in the long run! And your blog will develop as a result.
But, if today's talk of 'voice' and self-knowledge was all a bit too psychological for you ... then do not despair!!
Drop back here next time for 'The McFly Approach: Pt2' where I'll cover some slightly more practical aspects but which still remain ... all about you!

You're singing that now aren't you? ... 'it's all abooooouuuuuuut yooooooou'

See you tomorrow.



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