So You Want to Start a Blog? 10 Tips for Blogging

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This post is sponsored by Squarespace.

The other night after I finally curled up in bed, I turned on the TV to look for a movie and was delighted to see Julie & Julia playing. I hadn’t seen it in ages and as a forever chick flick fan and lover of any movies featuring charming apartments, it’s been one of my favorites (plus, Meryl Streep!). What was interesting though, after all these years, was noting how much the culture of blogging has changed since Julie Powell’s famous blogging-about-cooking experience became a movie and showcased what was once this weird thing people did (“So you blog–is that, like, when you write stuff about your life online? Weird.”) as something more. I’ll have blogged now for ten years this December, and what a fun experience it’s been watching this avenue of sharing become an outlet for so many. Blogging has not only provided creative challenges for people, it’s formed needed communities, opened up job opportunities, motivated thirsty artists, connected like-minded thinkers and doers, brought listening ears to voices that needed to be heard, spread stories, provided ideas for so many creative souls and made thousands of people feel less alone. Though the online culture continues to grow and shift, blogging is still a wonderful way to contribute your voice, your ideas, your art, your music and your perspective to the world; and the opportunities for what you do with your blog are limitless.

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Have you thought about starting a blog and don’t know where to begin? Do you have a blog that’s been neglected and need some inspiration to revive it? I’ve partnered with Squarespace to share 10 Tips for Blogging. If you haven’t heard of Squarespace, it’s an all-in-one platform that removes all of the headaches of installing software, applying security patches, and worrying about bandwidth or storage limitations. I wish I knew about them when I first started blogging because everything was complicated then, and creating and publishing content had far too many steps. Squarespace is a one-stop-shop. You simply upload your content, customize your design, and you’re ready to go. When my friend Claire and I needed to create a website for our writing retreat, we went straight to Squarespace and had a beautiful, user-friendly site within an hour.

So, let’s talk blogging. Is there something you’re passionate about that’s been knocking inside, begging for you to give it some attention? Your love of cooking, knitting, poetry, fashion? You’re the boss of your own blog, so you can make it whatever you like–a special needs parenting blog, a blog about healthy living, home design, saving money, baking; your journey through infertility, cancer, divorce, grief, love. Here’s a few things I’ve learned through blogging:

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1. Just Do It.
Perfection gets in the way of so many things we want to do; don’t let it get in the way of your blog. I know friends who have wanted to start a blog, but every time they go to do it, they can’t think of the perfect title, so they walk away. If you haven’t read The War of Art, I highly recommend it. It talks a lot about Resistance–all the reasons and things we tell ourselves to quiet our creative voices–and how so much unhappiness and restlessness in life comes from not putting the work and time into giving our creative self an avenue to shine. You can always change things later. Squarespace allows you to start as simply as you’d like and expand your site when you’re ready. But you have to start somewhere.

2. Be You.
If there’s one thing social media has done, it’s expanded our exposure to so many different voices and styles. It’s easy to get caught up in comparing and emulating or putting things out into the world that we think people will like and respond to. But the best thing you can do–what resonates the most with people, and what truly reaps the benefits of blogging for your own creative soul–is to be yourself. Write about what makes you come alive and what you love. My favorite posts to write and the ones that I will sometimes go back to are often not the ones that get applause or lots of clicks or comments. But I write them anyway–for me. I also find that when I’m reading other people’s writing or taking in their art, I tend to love it more if I sense that they loved writing it.

3. Beware of Stats/Be Aware of Stats.
I’d love to tell you to ignore stats all together, and really, for the most part, don’t follow them too closely. If you’re getting too wrapped up in how many hits you get or what people respond to, you can lose sight of why you blog, what makes you happy, and start chasing approval. If I followed the course of most hits and shares and likes, I’d be writing about Down syndrome every day. But I don’t want to write about it every day. I don’t look at my stats very often, but I do think they’re a great tool in providing general feedback about your community–everything from geographic location of your readers (Whats’s up, Texas?!) to gender and age range. Squarespace offers all of these stats in one place–eCommerce, SEO, social media integrations, analytics, domains, Google Apps, and a form builder to collect customer data if needed.

4. Go for Good Design.
Let’s face it–people like pretty things, and design and layout are important in the blog world. When my neighbor stops by my house, she’s more likely to stay if it’s clean, has a few candles flickering, smells good, and I’ve offered her coffee. Likewise, your blog is your online house. A reader is likely to stay and read or come back again if they click into your blog and the space delights them and inspires them. Think of Squarespace as a service of contractors, interior designers and house cleaners for your pretty little online home. Their ready-made designs are clean, user-friendly, eye-catching and on-trend. And they’re made with mobile use in mind for people who read blogs from their phones. Oh, and every house needs a good handyman–Squarespace has an award-winning customer care team that serves customers 24/7 via email and live chat.

5. Keep a List of Blogging Goals and Post Ideas.
As you find a consistent rhythm of blogging, you’ll exercise creative muscles and find them stretching more. Keep a list of ideas of things to write about, create or experiment with–on your desk, in your purse, on your nightstand–as they come to you. Reading a stack of books to your kids and getting all inspired about how much you love children’s literature? Make a note–maybe a list of your favorite kids’ books and why you love them would make a great blog post. Delighted by the folding-a-fitted-sheet hack you just invented that must be shared? Add it to the list. Also, as far as blogging goals, “go viral” should never be one of them. If it happens, it happens. But don’t try to go viral.

6. You Don’t Have to Share Everything.
Just because something feels good to write doesn’t mean you have to share it. I have many posts saved that I’ve never published and, looking back, am glad I didn’t. Writing about something in the heat of the moment is always, always good for the soul. Sharing something in the heat of the moment is hardly, hardly a good idea. Remember that experiencing something, writing about something, sharing about something and blogging about something are four completely different things and each has its own set of rules for how to go about doing it. Blogging? Do it with thought and care.

7. Use Blogging Resources.
Look around the blogosphere and make note of blog posts that are interesting to you and the things you like to read. So many bloggers have shared great tips about blogging and have created lists of writing prompts, photography advice and creative exercises to help get inspired. Do a little research and make a list of things that excite you as well as things you’d like to incorporate in your blog while keeping true to yourself. And don’t be afraid to veer off and try something new. That’s what creativity is.

8. Want to Build a Community? Engage.
While the true heart of blogging isn’t dependent on readership, community is one of the great things that can come from blogging. It’s nice to have people read your stuff and take a look at your art and recipes and ideas. If you’re creating good content you believe in, how do you build a community once you put it out into the world? Engage. Read other people’s blogs. Leave compelling comments. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve clicked into the profile to read more from someone who left a meaningful comment that suggested they had a story I’d like to read or a funny way of writing I’d enjoy. There are many different ways to expand your readership, but the most important thing is to blog and write because it makes you happy. I blogged for a long time with a very small readership, and loved it every bit as much as I do today because my number one reason for blogging is to feed my own creative soul. Readership and feedback are bonuses–the candy & sweets tip of the creative food pyramid.

9. Remember the Online World and Real World are Two Different Things.
Should you be yourself online? Absolutely. Are blog friends your real friends? Heck yes–many of my closest friends are people I met through blogging. But your online world and what you blog about is a tiny piece of what’s most important–your offline world. Living your life is the most precious thing you can do for yourself. Blogging about a little of that life is a creative bonus.

10. Your Story is Important. Put it Out There.
I can’t tell you how many people have expressed a desire to blog about their story but hesitate with–“Who’d want to read it? It’s just another story.” No story is more important than another, and I’m so grateful for the people that do share their stories. There are blogs that have comforted me during challenging times, made me feel less alone, changed the way I view things that are happening in the world, given me ideas for my house and introduced me to the perfect baby shower gift/face cleanser/chili recipe. Your story is important, your ideas are important, and the world is better when there are more voices and colors in it.

Squarespace empowers millions of people–from hard-working moms and local artists to entrepreneurs shaping the world’s most iconic business–to share their stories with the world.

Ready to start your own blog? Try Squarespace today. The first 50 readers who use offer code KELLEHAMPTON will receive 10% off their first website or domains purchase.

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And if you have a blog, leave a link and tell me what you blog about!

Spring Bucket List

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We uprooted last week–temporarily, of course–hauling a large tote full of everything the kids and I would need for a week along with school bags and lunch boxes, and headed to my dad’s condo where we stayed while our tile was ripped out and replaced by new floors. As if removing every standing thing from your home and finding a place for it for a week isn’t slightly disruptive enough, moving in with someone during a school week and managing the daily chaos of running between homes several times a day definitely added a bit of an exciting twist.  What I didn’t expect though was how peaceful and restoring a week full of 22 trips to Lowe’s and living out of a tote bag could be. But when workers in your house keep you from that constant state of “what I should be doing to keep this home afloat” and you don’t have access to all the projects you have going, you have no choice but to go for bike rides every afternoon, hunt for gopher tortoises, read a chapter of that book on the lanai, take the glass of wine your dad passes to you, swim at sunset, journal from bed (loving this new lists journal).

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It also helps to have a dad who is the ultimate caretaker, and besides giving us a place to stay, he also did our laundry, made me coffee, put my kids to sleep with elaborate made-up stories every night, lit candles in my bathroom and gave me my own robe. I’m continually inspired in this place of parenting-children-while-being-parented to be a good nurturer to the people in my life.

I take notes on things my parents do that I love so that I remember to do the same for my kids someday. One of them that my dad is so good at doing is not asking what he can do to help but just doing it. Whenever he comes over, within seconds of walking in the door, he’s grabbing a watering can and tending to my plants, washing dishes, asking for some wood glue so he can fix the broken drawer he noticed last time he was here, luring the kids outside for a walk so I can get some things done.

We happened to be at Poppa’s house on the first day of spring, so we made flower crowns…

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…and found a friendly butterfly.

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This one turns double digits next month.

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And without intending to, I’ve started a collection of photos where Dash is peeing in the background. I’d like to say this is the only photo in the collection, but no.

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As for the floors, I’ve been talking for years about how much I wanted new floors–even wrote something in the book about Nella’s birth shaking “the wants” out of me and making me realize how unimportant things like wood floors are and that happiness doesn’t come from them. Turns out I was wrong. Happiness comes from wood floors. I kid, I kid. But seriously, our house feels transformed and they do make me happy.

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As we’ve slowly put things back into place, we’ve been more purposeful in what we hang on to and making sure our home reflects the peace and simple joys we aspire to maintain.

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Speaking of simple joys…spring flowers:

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A new bunch of delphinium, iris and liatris for the window and dreams to expand this little space into a sort of indoor garden–like crazy plant lady Grey Gardens kind. Is it considered clutter if it’s plants and flowers? Because I’m in for that kind of clutter.

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Starting April this weekend with a Spring Bucket List:

1. Expand botanical clutter in Grey Gardens window
2. Make our own Play Doh in rainbow pastels.
3. Start a nature journal.
4. Take my kids to a yoga class.
5. Make an Easter cake.
6. Have a lemonade stand.
7. Find the perfect summer straw hat.
8. Wear head-to-toe floral.
9. Have a picnic dinner at a park.
10. Make my own lavender linen spray.

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Friday Night Lights…at the Fair

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Long ago–before the Raptor, Millenium Force and the Magnum–the most thrilling ride at Cedar Point Adventure where our family periodically took a summer trip, was the Gemini. Conquering the Gemini was a rite of passage for me and my siblings, each at different points in our life and met with different reactions, but for my brother–the first born and bravest–the conquering came early, before he even qualified according to the “You Must Be This Tall to Ride” sign. He wanted to ride it, and my dad believed in his bravery and saw no danger in the fact that he wasn’t tall enough, so he executed some brilliant ingenuity that would go down in the history of family stories as a move of fatherhood valor–of crossing hurdles that get in the way of your dreams. He took a large stack of napkins from a hot dog kiosk and crammed them in the inside heel of my brother’s tennis shoes, enough to lift him an inch or so to Gemini status. The rest, as they say, is history–my brother surmounts the roller coaster and crosses the threshold into greatness, under the height limit and ahead of schedule.

I couldn’t help but recall this story this past Friday night as I watched my dad again take the hand of a brave little boy who didn’t quite make the height limit but wanted to attempt the ride, and stealthily slipped him past the entrance and on to the glider where he could prove that he could indeed fly.

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And he did. Under the height limit and ahead of schedule.

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Once again, our annual fair tradition delivered the usual–dirty shoes, grimy hair, and a small chunk out of our wallets–but beyond that, another year of family memories, measured against past years in this same place. For the first time, we weaseled through stands without a stroller. And no one peed their pants or lost a tooth or collapsed to the ground in a fit of tears.

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(but seriously, can we talk about those hair clips? In love with everything Giddy up and Grow makes.)

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The “Can I have some?” hand…and her “Nope” face:

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We left the fair far past bedtimes, as we always do, and as we made our way through exhaustion and attitudes the following morning and I recalled our fair experience to my friend, she laughed and noted that a night at the fair was surely her idea of hell. Brett and I agreed, admitting we both got sick in the night after fair food and couldn’t believe how fast we blew through a handful of cash. We were dirty, and our kids were spent.

…but it was never about the fair. It’s about us, and how our return to this place marks how far we’ve been growing as a family. We commit to the important things in life like sugar and rainbow colors and breaking rules to test our bravery.

Watching Dash this year was so much fun. He wanted to conquer every ride, every slide, every height. And even though it sometimes meant holding hands or burying his head, he was all in.

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…especially when it involved sugar.

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…and Nella, from the moment she saw the ferris wheel from the parking lot said, “My tummy is so excited.”

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More colorful moments from the fair:

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Nothing like a game of Flip the Bottle from the main fair aisle, at 11 p.m.

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And yes–this bubble maker broke 2 hours after we bought it. But we knew that going in.  photo the fair 41_zpsr6xwuc4z.jpg photo the fair 19_zpspg8ohjr6.jpg

Another year of memories tucked in our fair belt. Happy Monday!

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