Six Basic Blogging Rules I Should Have Followed When I Started This Blog

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This personal blog has suffered an identity crisis for a couple of years.

It started as a place to share writing advice, but then I became so heavily focused on writing projects that I neglected it. (Which is fine. Novelists-in-the-rough with limited time should spend that time on their novels, not blog posts, or those novels will never be completed.)

I then refocused this blog as an online portfolio for my drawings, but then I became so heavily focused on drawing projects that I neglected it…

See the pattern?

Meanwhile, my passion project, The Invisible Scar, turned one-year-old recently. In that year, it has maintained its tone, focus, and passion. The amount of regular traffic it receives and its growing combox community let me know that The Invisible Scar is making a difference, filling a gap, and providing hope and information for adult survivors of emotional child abuse.

This personal blog, though? Not so much.

But how can The Invisible Scar do so well in engaging an audience yet this blog flounder in finding one?

I thought about the answer to that and came up with lessons I’ve learned so far from managing The Invisible Scar and what I need to start applying to my personal blog.

1. A blog needs a specific purpose for its existence

When the idea for The Invisible Scar was born, I didn’t act on it immediately. First, I wrote down the reason why I would start such a blog.

All I knew is that I wanted the blog to focus on emotional child abuse. I’ve been researching and studying this topic for several years now, and I wanted to share what I’ve learned and what I am learning. So, the topic was set.

However, emotional child abuse is a heavy subject, and I wanted to make sure that I had a defined path for the website. I wanted the site to be a place where adult survivors of emotional child abuse can gather information that equips them on their path from awakening to the truth of what has happened and healing from it.

I did not want the site to be an online journal, a dumping ground for complaints, or a depressing collection of personal stories.

The Invisible Scar’s driving force is awareness of the little-discussed topic of emotional child abuse and the giving of information, hope, and resources to face the abuse, stop it, and grow stronger and healthier.

2. A blog needs to fill a need

After I had a why statement written, I checked online to see how other sites were handling the topic. I studied myriad psychology websites that discuss emotional child abuse, tons of personal blogs written anonymously by adult survivors of emotional child abuse, and online forums.

Only a small group of websites exist that have the same focus. I felt like The Invisible Scar could contribute greatly to the conversation online and view those other sites as allies in the fight for awareness of emotional child abuse and its effects on adult survivors.

3. A blogger needs to have an editorial calendar

Before launching the site, I wrote down 12 blog posts ideas. Having 12 blog post ideas meant I’d at least have a blog post a month for it. That gave me a year to work hard at this passion project and see whether the topic resonated with an audience.

Since the site launched, I’ve added to the editorial calendar and also expanded some ideas. For example, “From the Editor’s Mailbox” addresses common concerns that pop up in the emails from readers. A series of posts under the theme “Types of Emotional Child Abuse” is also underway.

4. A blog needs a source of fuel to keep it running

Though The Invisible Scar is (at this point) run only by me, I am always scouring books, articles, films, etc. for ideas. I also bounce ideas off my husband and close friends. And because they know I focus on this topic, they come to me sometimes with ideas as well.

“I heard so-and-so mention on the radio that emotional child abuse isn’t real,” a friend recently told me. “They said it was just how parents are… Can you write about that on your blog?”

Also, I check book sites to see what authors have written books pertaining to emotional child abuse, then I contact them and ask if they are interested in interviews for The Invisible Scar. They usually are.

Being passionate about a topic helps, but that passion needs to be balanced with research and a course of action.

5. Bloggers need to adapt to small changes when necessary

The Invisible Scar was going to be all about emotional child abuse… which is a huge topic.

But after a couple of blog posts, I realized that readers were mostly adult survivors of emotional child abuse.

Moreover, my research showed that almost all emotionally abused children do not realize they are being abused. Having grown up in such an environment, they do not realize how devastating and how abnormal their childhood was until they are adults. Even then, the chances of an adult child of an emotional child abuser accepting the reality of their childhood is rare.

So, the people reading at The Invisible Scar aren’t emotionally abused children nor teachers wanting to help. Readers are adults who suspect or who have awakened to the reality of their childhood and need to understand the topic better and have hope that they can heal from such devastation.

The Invisible Scar’s focus shifted towards the adult survivors of emotional child abuse.

6. A blogger needs to be professional in his or her approach to blogging

As managing editor of The Invisible Scar, I take the website’s subject matter and content very seriously. The site isn’t something I threw together haphazardly. It’s not a mishmash of an experiment. The readers have taken time to visit the site, so the content needs to be useful and well-written, and honor readers’ time.

I approach the site with the same dedication, purpose, and passion that I approach the editorial section that I manage in my full-time job. In fact, what I’ve learned as an editor for the Opinions section at work is what helped me focus, launch, and create content for The Invisible Scar.

* * *

Now, I’m taking time to revisit this personal blog and find a clear mission for its existence. I’ve a new idea (which explains the new blog header), but I need to think a little more.

All those lessons above need to be applied to this blog as well…

Up Close With Flowers [From My Sketchbook]

Have you taken time to draw the flowers in your yard? In your container garden?

Doing so is a lovely excuse to be outside and to dig into your colored pencils and Sharpies. And if you use lined paper in a cheap notebook, the stress of drawing a flower EXACTLY LIKE IT IS alleviates, and you find yourself falling in love with the proud, fuzzy lines of a lavender stem and the rounded edges of marigold petals.

You never pay so much attention to a flower as when you are drawing one…

Story-Driven Presentations, Nerdiness, and the Desire to Always Be Learning

One of my childhood dreams* was to become a children’s book illustrator. Now an adult, I’ve channeled my love of colorful drawings, bold lines, good stories, and the whimsical into the illustrated presentations that I put together for MarketingProfs.

So, when I saw Kapost‘s senior content director Jesse Noyes describe my illustrated presentations as having a “child-like interest in even the most nerdy topics,” I felt like my presentations really are conveying what I’ve been hoping they would: a hunger for learning, child-like (not childish) enthusiasm, and a love of nerdy topics (because Goonies never say die).

If you want to hear more about creating story-driven presentations and balancing text and visuals, check out the interview at Kapost.

* My other childhood dreams included becoming a novelist and time-traveling to marry Ludwig van Beethoven. I’m working on the first dream and ended up marrying a Graham, not Ludwig.

Happy Tolkien Reading Day

If ever you needed a reason to read (or re-read) The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogy by author J.R.R. Tolkien, today’s the day.  In 2003, The Tolkien Society (a group dedicated to the works of Tolkien) launched its own celebration: Tolkien Reading Day and the celebration now occurs every year.

Find out a little more about the author and his works in this very short excerpt from an archival BBC film. It’s an interesting peek at the man behind the astoundingly rich novels…

A longer documentary about Tolkien, narrated by Judi Dench:

What Makes Your Heart Beat? [Video]

Darling Magazine put together the following almost-two-minute film for Valentine’s Day, but the video can be appreciated all year through. If you need a gentle reminder to focus on what really matters, what gives Life its richness—far more than a bank account stat, the number on your scale, your Klout score—the following video is a delightful nudge…

What I like so much about this film—besides its visual beauty and narration—is the quiet sweetness and simplicity of the piece. I use “simplicity” not to mean “simple-minded” but as in focused and clear.

That spirit of beauty, simplicity, and intelligence is one reason that Darling Magazine has become a favorite read for me (and why I contributed an article). If you’ve some time, pour yourself a cup of something nourishing and sweet then enjoy some time reading through the site.

Five Must-Read Romantic Classics for Valentine’s Day

mermaid-readingRomantic love is far too complex to be covered in a two-hour movie, so on this Valentine’s Day, instead of hunkering down in front of the big screen (or the little one), we recommend curling up in your favorite chair and immersing yourself in a classic novel highlighting the joy, complexities and heartbreak of a romantic relationship.

Read the rest of my article at Darling Magazine..

Valentines for Bookworms [Downloadable Literary Valentines]

Imagine receiving a little note or valentine from Edgar Allan Poe, Flannery O’Connor, Jane Austen, or Daphne DuMaurier. What would it say?

I created six note-card size illustrations of some of my favorite authors with a twist of Valentine fun based on their famous works. (For example, Edgar Allan Poe’s valentine says, “Be still my tell-tale heart!”) I call them valentines for bookworms.

printable literary valentines for your favorite bookworm

printable literary valentines for your favorite bookworm

The literary mini note cards are now available in my Etsy shop for just $3. (For a little more than a latte, you get an original, whimsical piece of art. Sounds good!) Here’s a peek at what the mini note cards look like. Note: The watermark doesn’t appear on the PDF I send you.

The set features:

  • Edgar Allan Poe (“The Tell-Tale Heart”)
  • Flannery O’Connor (“A Good Man Is Hard to Find”)
  • E.B. White (“Charlotte’s Web”)
  • Jane Austen (“Pride and Prejudice”)
  • George Orwell (“1984″)
  • Charlotte Bronte (“Jane Eyre”)
  • Ernest Hemingway (“A Farewell to Arms”)
  • Daphne DuMaurier (“Rebecca”)

For just $3, you get this PDF to make as many personal copies as you wish. Print them out on card stock to use them for Valentine’s Day, note cards, gift tags, etc.

Valentines for Marketers [Slideshow]

Late one night, I remembered how I had been unable to send out Christmas cards, so I had promised my marketing friend Courtney Bosch that I’d make her a Valentine’s Day card instead. Then I thought, “If only stores had valentines for marketers!”

Aha!

By the morning, I had a sketchpad with wording and concepts for the look of the following marketing valentines. After a couple of meetings with my colleague Corey O’Loughlin and a graphic designer, we had downloadable Valentines for Marketers from MarketingProfs.

Feel free to download the slides and hand them out to your co-workers and marketing friends. If you’re on Facebook, you may prefer sharing the images via our Valentines for Marketers album. (Note: This presentation made the Featured Presentations page for SlideShare!)

How to Make a Presentation That People Actually Want to See [Slideshow]

Presentation slides once evoked the images of disconnected overdone slides that either made your eyes bleed from too much going-ons or made them close from sheer boredom. But one look at the presentation slides on SlideShare, the world’s largest community for sharing presentations, shows you that presentation slides can be an engaging, fun, and gorgeous communication tool.

Proving that point, Kapost recently published this fantastic slide show of tips from SlideShare enthusiasts—such as Jonathon Colman of Facebook, and Doug Kessler of Velocity Partners, and Michael Brenner of SAP—who make creative and entertaining slideshows.

(Disclosure: I’m in the presentation… and blown away to be among such amazing people.)

What strikes me as the most important aspect of the slideshow is its emphasis on the readers. The advice was not about how to best pitch your company or how to show off your assets… but the advice focused on what readers want in a slideshow (such as readability, quick info, crisp images), how to best honor the readers’ time (such as in giving them a reason to look at your presentation), and how to make information beautiful for them via captivating images and ideas.

Your presentation should honor the time that a reader has given you. Even if you only receive a glance, make sure the glance makes the time worthwhile to the viewer. Think I’m exaggerating? Remember when you were in high school and had a huge crush on someone. Can you recall how much work you put into your clothes, your hair, your fragrance, everything when you knew you’d have a .0000001% chance of seeing your crush that day?

You made the most of the time given to you—even if just a split-second look. And you packed that moment with all you had to transform that cursory glance into a conversation and  eventually a relationship.

The same is true with your time on SlideShare. No one owes your presentation a look. Unfortunately, myriad slideshows forget that very fact. The slapped-together-eye-killing-text-overkill slides tell the reader, “I’m complicated. I’m self-absorbed. And I don’t care a fig about you.”

Avoid making presentations that lack heart. Instead, find out how to capture longer, interested looks by checking out Jesse Noye’s post at Kapost and the SlideShare Masters presentation.

How to Inspire Customers to Love Your Company [Visual Sketchnotes]

What inspires great love for a company? According to Loveworks author Brian Sheehan, the following eight traits have the power to draw your customers into a deeper relationship with your company.

While I listened to the podcast, I took notes of the eight traits he mentioned and drew illustrations for each one.

Here’s the slideshow based on his Marketing Smarts podcast interview with host Kerry Gorgone.

Updated on Jan. 25, 2014: This illustrated slideshow hit the Today’s Top SlideShares spot. Hooray!

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