New to Blogging? The Pitfalls and the Pleasures

Blogging is not what I thought it would be.

I thought it would be a one-way process.  I write, readers read.

I soon learnt that it is far more interactive.  If you want others to read your blog, you have to be a bit more extrovert, and put yourself out there.  You have to engage with social media.  And you have to read other blogs.

I say ‘have to’.  Actually you want to.  There are blogs on every topic imaginable.  It is a cornucopia of reading material, and photography, and arts and crafts.

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Zinnia ‘Queen Red Lime’. Inspired.

Potential Pitfall 1: Managing your time!

It is really hard to balance writing blog posts with reading blog posts.  You can lose hours reading blog posts.  So set aside some time, and try not to go over this time, or meals will not be made and dishes will not be washed!  I am no longer allowed my phone in the living room, because I cannot multi-task.  No one can. And I do need to garden.  And go to work.  You need to settle into your own routine, and find a blogging routine that works for you.

Potential Pitfall 2: Memes and Linky Parties

A meme is a theme that another blogger invites you to write about.  There are some brilliant memes, and these are a great way to get to know other bloggers who write on a related topic.  Being a fairly conscientious sort of person, if I am participating, I feel the urge to read every single post in the meme, and so I refer you back to Pitfall 1!  I manage memes and Linky Parties by taking part when the urge takes me.  But if I have other posts spontaneously bursting out of me, I write these instead. I don’t want to feel constrained by memes, and so I dip in and out.

Potential Pitfall 3: Images

Re-size your images.  I use Tiny PNG. Now.  After several months of not resizing images.  My ‘media’ became so slow to load that I couldn’t write a post any more.  The lovely team at Word Press had a quiet word with me, and now all is well.  Learn from my mistakes, and get into the habit from the start.  No breakdowns needed.

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Poppies and Penstemons. Resized!

Potential Pitfall 4: Quality not Quantity

In everything, actually.  Don’t become obsessed by your stats.  Don’t compare the number of followers you have with others.  Don’t join those retweet chains on Twitter. I’ve learnt from experience. You will find your twitter feed clogged with beauty blogs. What are you blogging for?  Do you want hits or do you want people to enjoy your posts?  Of course I can completely understand just trying to get your blog out there, and a scatter-gun approach may attract a few genuinely interested readers.  But don’t become so focussed on numbers that you forget why you blog.  Blog because you want to.  Blog when inspiration strikes.  Don’t worry if it doesn’t: save it for another day.  Write about what you want to read about, and if you don’t think a post is ready, then come back to it later.  Which leads me to…

Potential Pitfall 5: It doesn’t have to be perfect, just good enough!

I do like to read posts that have been proof-read.  For gardening blogs it is important to check the names of plants.  Punctuation is nice too.  If you feel you could brush up on your apostrophes, then do a quick google search, or visit this website.  I suppose it depends on the readership you want to attract, and the purpose of your blog.  You will find your style.  I think the first few posts are always going to be a bit klunky.  You will go off on tangents sometimes.  Whilst my blog is a gardening blog, I do occasionally talk about food, dogs, walks, life, feminism, racism… I can’t help it, because these are topics that are important to me.  You can delete a post if it embarrasses you to read it back.  And handily, on Word Press, it goes into ‘trash’ and you can also resurrect it if you have second thoughts!

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Dahlia bud. Thinking of emerging.

And now for the pleasures…

Pleasure 1. Writing

Which is surely why you are writing a blog!  This is my absolute favourite part of blogging.  I have written for most of my life, but rarely let anyone read it.  Blogging makes me braver.  It makes such a difference to get feedback from readers.  Now stuff just pours out of me.  I might be making up for lost time.  Maybe I will calm down, and get into a slightly slower rhythm of one or two posts a week, but for now I have endless ideas for posts.  This does often means getting up at 5am.  I have discovered that this is my time for writing.  I love being in the kitchen with just the dogs, a cup of tea in front of me, tapping away manically.

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Hemerocallis fulva ‘Flore Plena’, like totally on fire.

Pleasure 2. Photography

You can write a blog without any pictures, and you can use the stock images on Word Press or other host.  But often I want a very specific image, and only I can make it.  Or it’s the other way round.  I will take a series of photos, and the blog post unfolds as I am looking back at them.  Blogging has re-ignited my interest in photography.  Also reading fab posts from actual photographers has inspired me.  I have bought a new camera because of blogging (did I miss out a pitfall? Blogging can be expensive.)  I love the multi-media aspect of blogging.  Blogging opens new doors to…

Pleasure 3. Creativity

Blogging fuels creativity.  I love the diversity in the blogs I read.  I love the cross-fertilisation of ideas.  Reading blogs makes me reflect, makes me want to discuss issues and expand my thinking.  Playfulness is a recurring theme of my blog, and so I think much more about playfulness, and indulge in playfulness more often, so that I can write about it.  My tag-line for The Mindful Gardener is ‘The sensory pleasures and earthy delights of gardening’.  Every time I view my site I see this, and this subconsciously reminds me to focus on these aspects of gardening.  And so I do.  And it gets me thinking, which gets me creating, and this makes me feel vital and vibrant and full of vim!

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Nigella damascena ‘Albion Green Pod’ and a bee.  Playing.

Pleasure 4. Connectivity

I have made connections with strangers through blogging.  Which is ironic because for the last five years I have told my children to never make friends with someone online you haven’t met in real life.  But, you know, I’m an adult, I can break my own rules.  I also go over the one hour screen-time I allow them.  I can justify this (I am good at justification) because I have met some lovely, inspiring people through blogging.  If you have a particular passion or hobby or obsession in life, it can be difficult to find others in your immediate vicinity who share that.  It is wonderful (and a little bit scary) when you meet someone else with your obsession for roses.  It is also wonderful if you meet someone with slightly different expertise or experience, or completely different expertise or experience, but who, for some reason, you just connect with.  We could all do with being a little more open-minded…

Pleasure 5. Setting your own rules

You can feel free to completely ignore all this advice.  It is your blog.  You can do what in the world you like with it.  You answer to no one.  You don’t need to pitch.  You don’t need to keep to a brief.  Your blog can evolve.  So long as you are not being abusive or disrespectful to anyone, then go ahead, indulge yourself.  No one could write a blog like you.

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Dahlia ‘American Dawn’, enlightened.

My aim on this site is to share the sense of wonder I get from gardening and being outdoors.

If you would like to join the joy, click on the ‘Follow’ button at the end of this post. You will receive an email each time I post a little pop of wonder.

72 Comments Add yours

  1. Thank you! Such a beautifully written and illustrated post – loved it 🙂

    1. Ali says:

      Thank you. I am really pleased you enjoyed it.

      1. Hi Ali! I’m going to do a Zinnias post with photos from a few bloggers. Would you permit me to use the photo with the ladybird on the zinnia that heads this post? With your permission I’d crop off the top bit with the red petals and just have the zinnia and ladybird. I’d credit you and link to your post and home page. I’d include the name of the zinnia if you know it. Cheers and best wishes, Liz

      2. Ali says:

        Yes, that’s fine Liz! It was ‘Cupid Mixture’.

      3. Thanks so much Ali! 🙂

  2. Rupali says:

    A wonderful write up Alison but for me watching images from your garden is happiness.

  3. janesmudgeegarden says:

    Thank you Ali. Lots of things to keep in mind there.

  4. Jane Lurie says:

    Great tips and gorgeous images, Ali.

  5. Pam/Digging says:

    Great advice for new bloggers, Ali! I’ve been at it for a long time but still find I slip into the pitfalls now and then. But the pleasures are plenty sufficient to keep me going.

    1. Ali says:

      That’s good to know, Pam, thank you! I hesitated before publishing this (in fact it spent time in my ‘Trash’!) because I haven’t been blogging long, and thought it might annoy seasoned bloggers, but then thought that this is probably timely, as I might forget the early pitfalls. It is interesting to know that some points remain relevant – I am guessing time management!

  6. crabandfish says:

    Very well compiled and I totally agree – happy blogging and happy gardening.

  7. Tish Farrell says:

    Am with you on all these points, Ali. Your lovely zinnia pic reminded me that I’d recently read that zinnias like it hot (which explained to me why my last year’s efforts were very weedy). They certainly have their wishes this year. Mine aren’t flowering yet, but bursting out of their pots, which is good to see when so much else in the garden is wilting. Lovely photos.

    1. Ali says:

      Mine are the stars of the garden, right now! I am avoiding looking at the roses, as they pant at me.

  8. Sue Garrett says:

    I can relate to all your points

  9. Love this, and agree with so many of your points. I think your new camera was a great investment. 😉

    1. Ali says:

      Thank you – I am getting a lot of enjoyment from it.

  10. Emma Cownie says:

    Thanks for this Ali – I think that maybe I am not resizing my images and slowing down my blog. I’ll have to investigate.

    1. Ali says:

      I frankly couldn’t be bothered with an extra process, and didn’t want anything to slow down my writing of a post, but it has just become part of the process, and isn’t that onerous.

  11. Penny Post says:

    Great post and so much of it is so true. Love that you break all the computer rules you give the children.

    1. Ali says:

      Yes. And they do notice.

  12. Mark Willis says:

    Yes, some good advice here! One thing I have found as a garden blogger is that unless you’re careful you can often find yourself writing the same thing that you wrote this time last year. I find that statistics are often misleading or just plain wrong. I use Blogger and there have been periods when the stats it has reported have been just crazy!

    1. Ali says:

      Oh, that’s interesting. All the more reason to ignore them, or at least take them with a pinch of salt.

  13. Good points Ali and I do most. The most pleasurable is the connection with our like-minded bloggers and the creativity that comes with blogging. It is an excellent creative outlet for us that are regularly on the move. As far as the connection with “strangers” go, I use my gut instinct, and it hasn’t let me down. I need to use this skill when applying for housesits on a regular basis.

    1. Ali says:

      Ah, that is a very useful skill!

  14. So well said Ali. A good reminder for all of us why we do and should blog. I fell into a few more pitfalls you didn’t mention with my old blog on blogspot, and learned a great deal from them and taking a break for several years. I love meeting people from all over the country and world, and the best part about my new blog so far, is meeting you!

    1. Ali says:

      Aw, thank you Cindy, I am honoured. x

  15. Valonia says:

    Thanks for writing this and putting blogging in a better perspective for me. I suffer social anxiety so find it really difficult to reach out and communicate with others – and I also worry about what I post too (anxiety, eh?)! So thank you for reminding me that blogging should be fun, and that we’re all in the same boat, reaching out, and communicating with others.

    1. Ali says:

      It is a very brave thing to do, to put yourself out there. I salute you, fellow brave blogger.

      1. Valonia says:

        Thank you. I guess it gets easier over time, especially as you make blogging friends. 🙂

  16. pommepal says:

    You have certainly hit the nail on the head of blogging Ali. All very relevant points. I think one I would add would be how addictive it is. I look at the world around me with bloggers eyes now and the idea in my mind “ would that be a good post!” After nearly 9 years I still love the lovely camaraderie of the blogging community

    1. Ali says:

      Yes. Does it add something to the normal everyday experiences? We think about them a bit more, notice more, analyse more? Do all creative pursuits enhance everyday life, like this? Interesting…

      1. pommepal says:

        Definitely makes me more mindful…

  17. sgeoil says:

    Sound advice. I’ve only been blogging for a short time and didn’t really know what to expect, and quite frankly was a little nervous. But I have met people from around the world with such diversity and interests. For me, it is about the creativity and enjoyment. I have learned not to follow just because someone follows me, but rather when I feel a connection to their writing style or theme.

    1. Ali says:

      Very good advice. Me too.

  18. bcparkison says:

    New friends! This was totally unexpected. I started a blog because of my crafting. You just can’t be part of a challenge without a blog, so I entered into the unknown world. I love visiting not only your garden but several others and not only gardens but places I will never visit in person. Friends…yes goodness. There are now new friends who mean the world to me and a world without them would be sad.

    1. Ali says:

      That is lovely. I realised recently that I miss the international friends I used to have when I lived in London. Blogging opens up my world, so that I am not just in rural Kent!

  19. Heyjude says:

    My blogs (yes I have more than one) began for several reasons:
    1. To do something with all those photos I take
    2. To have a record of all my holidays and garden visits and road-trips so that when I am in my dotage I can read about where I have been.
    3. As a diary. Good to look back and see what was happening at the same time a year or five ago.

    The interaction with other bloggers has been such a welcome part of blogging and I feel as though I have many friends, in contrast to the real world, where I don’t. It can be addictive and time consuming. One trick is not to follow too many blogs if you truly want to engage. And yes, sometimes I feel that my blog is boring and repetitive so a rethink may be required. But that’s the beauty of blogging. You can reinvent it whenever you like 🙂

    1. Ali says:

      I love both your blogs, Jude. I am in awe of you that you manage two. But that can inspire me in future years when I am retired! Fabulous reasons to blog. I especially love the record for your dotage, and to see what was happening 5 years ago. We think we will remember, but I can’t remember what was happening in the garden a month ago without photos.
      I also really like your tip about not following too many blogs. Quality over quantity again! A bit like with face-to-face friends, that you can only meaningfully engage with so many people.

      1. Heyjude says:

        I actually have three blogs Ali – you can find them on the menu. Flowers, Cornwall and my Travel Words. Full time job almost!! 🙂

      2. Ali says:

        Ah! I had not discovered ‘My Travel Words’ but will be exploring that now!

  20. Anne Wheaton says:

    Wise words! At one time it seemed as though the community side of blogging was disappearing but I think it’s returning thank goodness. There are pitfalls, but the pleasures far outweigh them. I’m without a garden at the moment so taking my pleasure from beautiful blogs like yours instead.

    1. Ali says:

      Thank you, Anne. That is interesting that you felt the community aspect was disappearing. Maybe others felt that and put in efforts to resurrect/protect it? I find blogging a very supportive environment. Just today, I had what I thought was a fairly rude comment on a Facebook group – nothing really, just someone saying that my question (about whether others water their roses) was silly. It made me reflect that I haven’t had any comments like that on my blog. I just replied with ‘?’ Hope I made a point, without being rude back!

  21. thequeenofseaford says:

    I love that you had rules for your kids that fell out when you found friends online. My first Garden Blogger Fling, I roomed with one such “stranger/friend”. My kids were quite appalled. Internet friends and flesh and blood friends..all through blogging.

    1. Ali says:

      That is lovely. Blogging helps us to meet kindred spirits.

  22. da-AL says:

    absolutely perfect post! I’d like to add 3 more suggestions:

    1. I too took a while to figure out that I needed to resize pix — including the ones loaded into my ‘media’ when I reblog — turns out one can resize – under edit in media!

    2. grammarly — even the free version — is fab for proofreading

    3. wordpress.com/help is invaluable — if they’re available, they’ll chat, otherwise one can email them & they’ll get back within a day or so

    1. Ali says:

      Oh, thank you, I will take a look at the option to resize! Yes, I found the wordpress peeps very lovely!

      1. da-AL says:

        oh – & another — google translate widget — free & easy for all wp users — am on a mission to get everyone using it 🙂

  23. Jenny says:

    I enjoyed reading your post and agree with many of those pitfalls. It does become difficult to garden, photograph, think, write, and manage all the other commitments of daily life as well as read and comment on others’ posts. And that is coming from someone who finds it difficult to get her ideas down on paper. It would be nice to know how many read one’s blog other than the Russians and the Chinese. I think that Instagram and facebook have taken some of the pressure off. But then there are the pleasures and blogging has brought many into my life and I hope that I have brought some inspiration into the gardening life of other gardeners.

    1. Ali says:

      I’m sure you have, Jenny!

  24. M.B. Henry says:

    I’m also somewhat new to blogging and found this a very good read. Excellent points all around 🙂 Also I really love your pictures.

    1. Ali says:

      Thank you. 🙂

  25. Clare Pooley says:

    Yes! Yes! Wonderfully put, Ali!

    1. Ali says:

      Thank you, Clare!

  26. This is a really useful read even for a non-newbie (though I still feel like one most of the time!)

  27. Good point. Having a strategy helps folks from being inundated and burning out. It’s good to have a routine so you can stay at it for the long haul. I look back at the number of blog posts I was able to muster, connections made, and am proud of that. I can’t say the same for lowest common denominator things like Facebook updates!

    1. Ali says:

      The blogging community is less impulsive and a bit more considered than FB!

  28. Ali…I think you nailed it on the head! When I started my blog 15 mos. ago, I was a complete newbie to all social media. It’s been interesting. I feel that I’ve come to the same conclusions as you have (great minds and all!). I enjoy your blog very much…it’s quite beautiful!

    1. Ali says:

      Thank you, Michelle, I am delighted to hear that.

  29. thechattygardener says:

    My children also tease me about meeting up with bloggers I’ve ‘met’ on social media. Do as I say . . .!

  30. Well this really is a blog to keep and to read little and often to keep me enthusiastic and balanced. I will investigate the photo re-sizing. I identify with you having dozens of blogs to read, especially on a Saturday! It can feel like homework but actually I spending a hot hot day indoors reading all the lovely blogs in my Inbox.

    1. Ali says:

      I think I need to give myself permission to not always read every post. Otherwise it may feel like homework. Thank you for your lovely comment.

  31. Hayley says:

    As someone who’s just getting into blogging, I found this very useful and reassuring. Thank you 🙂

    1. Ali says:

      Thank you Hayley, I’m glad it was useful.

  32. Excellent advice for bloggers both new to the scene as well as those more established Ali. Apologies for my silence of late when it comes to comments . I’ve been spending too much time recently attached to a watering can. I am saving up some of your posts especially the rosy ones to have a really good read of later in the year 🙂

    1. Ali says:

      No need to apologise! It is good to know that my posts have a longer shelf-life than a few days! That’s a good idea – I remember being desperate for gardening reading material in the winter.

  33. Great advise and fantastic photos! 😊

  34. Sofia Martin says:

    I started to blog about gardening – then did less gardening! LOL go figure. What is the best way to balance pleasure with business?

    1. Ali says:

      Very very hard to get the balance, isn’t it?

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