Category Archives: LearnerBlogger

Me and my blog

So. Me and my blog. After a love affair lasting 15 months or so, I’m feeling a bit like I don’t know what to do next with it. Reading around, this seems to happen to a lot of bloggers a year or so in – some shut up shop completely, some change their blog name or focus, and some seem to come through the bumpy bit and carry on.

I started out because I’ve always loved writing. I was always going to wait until I was good enough at something (anything!) to justify writing about it, but eventually I was inspired by   Jennie Edspire’s journey to try and create a family memory box – you can read my very first post here.  Fifteen months along and I’m not sure, really, that the blog is either a memory box for the kids, nor has it evolved into anything else – except a random collection of rants and musings.

To be honest, I would like to write more about my kids and our experiences as a family – the reason I don’t is because I’m very aware that even in the most measured way, I am compromising their privacy in a way that they may not choose, both here and on social media. This was brought home to me in a big way a few weeks ago when I Facebooked a 15 second video of my six year old singing and dancing to Let It Go after she was supposed to be in bed. I posted it because I thought it was cute, and didn’t think anything else of it. But the next day she came home from school very cross because one of her friends had mentioned it to her – not in a negative or mean way, just that they’d seen it – and asked me the perfectly valid question ‘Why would you put a video on the internet without checking with me first’? To which I didn’t really have an answer.

In fact, a lot of blog fodder goes by the wayside because of privacy/respect issues. The ups and downs of our primary school journey; work conundrums; the ‘marathon-not-a-sprint’ that is marriage; the rather hilarious Neighbour Wars; wider family shenanigans – there is so much stuff bubbling in my head that I’d love to work through by writing. I am happy with my decision not to share the details of all of that, but it does leave me wondering what the hell there is to write about when all the interesting stuff is off limits!

I also started the blog because I wanted to get better at writing. Reading back, I do think in some ways my writing style has improved – I certainly cut a lot of wittering out now, and yes, I almost always delete my first paragraph thanks to this post from Her Melness Speaks. But equally my more recent posts don’t seem to fizz with the energy that my earlier efforts did. And I have never really crossed the boundary from short, ranty posts to writing in more depth, something I would very much like to do, but am terrified of even trying, though I have made a start on trying to raise my game by signing up to do some book reviews with Mumsnet. They’re not very good, but at least I am setting myself a challenge.

The other thing that’s getting me down is my blog stats. Yes, I know I shouldn’t be worrying about numbers, and shouldn’t be comparing myself to others, and nor should I be setting myself unrealistic goals, but that part of my personality is too deeply ingrained now to root out. And at the end of the day, I write to be read and I’m not going to pretend otherwise, to myself or anyone else. And though my stats are slowly, slowly inching upwards, I am nowhere near the realms of respectability in blogging terms. And I can’t help feeling that if I was writing anything worth reading, the climb upwards wouldn’t be so excruciatingly slow and gruelling.

This feeling has been coming for a while. The question is what to do about it! I don’t want to stop writing, and nor do I want to lose the tentative links I have made with the blogging community. Perhaps I should take a break for a while and use the time to figure out what to do next. I really don’t know.

To be continued, one way or another!

You want to start a blog? Stop reading, start writing!

I’ve had a run of real-life people over the last couple of weeks saying kindly things about my blog – for which thank you – but what’s struck me is that without fail, every one of those people has followed up with ‘I’d love to start a blog. But I don’t have the time/I can’t write/I am useless with IT/I’d be scared nobody would read it’.

None of these are reasons not to START a blog. They might be reasons to start one, decide it doesn’t do that much for you, or you’re not getting enough out of it for the time you put in, or simply that you don’t like writing after all – and then stop. But there’s no shame in that!  Unless you start, you’ll never know how it ends…

So. For you lovely people who want to know (you know who you are!) – and assuming we’re talking personal rather than professional blogs, here’s my top tips from the fifteen months that LearnerMother has been A Thing….

1 IGNORE all online blogging advice and how-tos – for now.

You only need to google ‘How to s’ on Google and the autocomplete comes up with ‘How to start a blog’ – followed by 2,640,000,000 search results – shortly to be 2,640,000,001 when I hit publish. My advice is not to bother with any of these – YET. (Except this one, which I am sure will be in the top 3 rankings in, uh, no time at all…) I know this seems counterintuitive but the more time you spend ploughing through blogspeak and social media advice and general clickbait, the more flummoxed you will get, and it’ll likely put you off  doing anything at all. Once you’ve been blogging for a bit then go back and delve through at your leisure, it’ll all make much more sense!

2 Don’t worry about what you’re going to write about.

This advice flies in the face of every blogging how-to I’ve ever read. But – again, assuming we’re talking a personal blog rather than a professional one – what matters is whether you want to write, not what you’re going to write about. If you have a niche that you know a lot about, that might be a good place to start – if not, just write about what comes. You’ll soon figure out what works for you.

3 Do choose a name – but don’t sweat over it!

The standard advice on this is to choose a catchy name and then check its availability as a domain name and with social media. For a work blog this is entirely sensible. For a personal blog, it’s not bad advice exactly, it’s just that it’s another item on the To Do list that will stop you actually getting on with things and writing stuff. You can start a blog under whatever name you like – and then if you want to (or have to) start again with a new whizzy name, you can import everything you’ve done so far anyway. And THAT’s when all the blogging how-tos will come in useful.

4 Anonymous or not?

The pros of being anonymous: you can be extremely frank; you are protecting your family’s privacy; you can blog about work and work issues without compromising your professional role.

The cons – firstly, it can be much harder to get your blog out there and read without being able to share it on your social networks; secondly (and this is the big one for me) you could end up outed – and potentially causing more harm and upset to the people whose privacy you were trying to protect in the first place. Oh, and getting fired. Hmmm.

This is a tricky issue and only you can decide in the longer term what you want to do. But I’d also say that it doesn’t really matter which you choose to start with. Just start writing. If you’re ‘out’, and want to become anonymous, you can always close down and start again; if you’re anonymous you can always out yourself later.

5 Common sense

If you carry on blogging, especially if you choose to work with brands, there is stuff you’ll need to find out about what you can and can’t do on your blog. But to START blogging, you don’t really need to know it. You just need to use your common sense. So – if you’re given something to review for free, say so. Don’t publish photos unless you took them (or you have permission). Be respectful with photos of other people and even more so if children are in them. Don’t slag off your boss. Do a spellcheck before you hit publish. None of it’s rocket science – it’s just common sense. And that’s all you really need to get started.

6 There’s always people who will help

Whatever problem you come up against, you can find the answer online; or if you do Twitter, you’ll be able to find someone to help. So getting stuck on something, or flummoxed by some ridiculously in-depth ‘basic’ blogging tutorial isn’t a reason to give up. There is ALWAYS someone who can explain it in words of two syllables.

7 Start a Blog!

You can set up a wordpress or a blogger page in, literally, minutes. Click the link, follow the instructions, write something, share it. It really is as simple as that.  In the time it’s taken you to read this post, you could have set up a blog and started writing.

What are you waiting for?

When Twitter gets real

I’ve noticed that something weird is happening recently. It’s the people in my phone. Turns out that I quite like some of them. And it turns out (MUPPET ALERT) that I don’t really like liking them.

I’ve always found a sort of freedom on Twitter, a confidence that I don’t have at the school gates or at social events. I’ve asked questions, engaged in debate, joined in with jokey chit chat about this and that. I don’t feel the pressure to be amusing that I feel when I’m feeling slightly out of my depth (as I feel slightly out of my depth about 99% of the time, and I am not remotely funny even when I try really REALLY hard, I suspect this is a trial for all around me). I’ve felt very free to come and go as I please with no strings attached – sometimes I drop in on Twitter for a chat a couple times a day, sometimes I don’t pick it up for a week or so – just depends how busy I am. But the great thing is when I do pick it up again, it’s all pretty much the same, and there’s no subtext or guilt for not having been around.

I’ve always regarded the people in my phone as being just that – people in my phone. People who I would never encounter in real life. And that makes them very easy to enjoy, because the whole anxiety thing about whether I’m funny enough, smart enough, a good enough parent, part of the gang or not – that whole ticker tape of stress that never, ever turns off in my day to day social interactions, is remarkable by its absence in my twitter life.

But over the last, I don’t know, the last few months, something has changed a bit. I have noticed now that if I don’t see someone in my feed for a while, especially if I know they are having a stressful time, I check in on their timeline to see if they’re around and ok. More often than not they are fine, and we’ve just been online at different times. But it’s nice to know that they’re ok. Sometimes they’re not – and in that case I’ll usually drop an @message or DM to let them know I am thinking of them. And to my utter amazement, this also happens the other way around too.

But that’s kind of nice, right? A bit of mutual looking out for each other is a GOOD THING, surely? Well, yes, of course it is…as long as it stops there. But it’s a slippery slope – one minute you’re checking on a twitter buddy and next thing you know they are becoming REAL PEOPLE with all the guff that entails…mostly, it must be said, my guff rather than theirs.

For example. Recently I read this post. It’s a very funny rant about shit writers (and there’s a lot more swearing where that came from, so Mother – don’t click that link. No really, DON’T). After I had spat my tea out laughing my way through it, I read it again, because it was funny, and true, and – then, a slowly rising tide of panic – OhmygodIknowshereadsmyblogwhatifsheisbloggingaboutMYSHITWRITING?  In the old days, I’d be all ‘oh well some random on Twitter thinks I’m a shit writer – meh’. Now, NOW, every time I sit down to write, the words SHIT WRITER flash up in front of my eyes like some sort of warning. Great.

Next thing,  a twitter buddy visited Cardiff with her kids for the day. She’s an anonymous blogger, so I don’t even know what she looks like, and I found myself thinking that we might have passed each other in the street and I’d never know. Then I found myself thinking oh god, what if we did, and she recognised me from my avi, and then I’d have had to be all funny and clever and stuff, or she’d have realised I’m an absolute bloody muppet. Or worse, what if we DID pass each other and she recognised me and RAN A MILE THE OTHER WAY so she didn’t have to meet me because she has already figured out the awful truth about my muppetry? Cue panic attack about someone who I have never met, and probably never will meet, who may or may not think I am a muppet.

See what happens when the people in my phone start being real? I start stressing about what they think. I start worrying that when they are talking about shit writers, they are talking about me. I start panicking that even though they are perfectly nice to me, they’re actually, inside, dying to get away. Clearly, as I said earlier, this is my guff rather than theirs. But still, I don’t need this! I LIKED it when the people in my phone were not real! I LIKED not being nervous and self conscious and having to pretend that my life is all under control and all that stuff that is so exhausting face to face. And now all that shit is coming to get me on twitter too…FFS. Is there NO escape?

Oops. I meant to write a funny post about twitter. It turns out I’ve written a horribly revealing post about social anxiety instead. And I STILL don’t know what to do about the people in my phone that I like that I don’t like liking. Except perhaps set up a new, amazingly funny and witty and totally non-anxious persona on twitter and find a whole load of new people to follow that I don’t like, yet.