A Ranty Pep-Talk on Combating “Blogger’s Block”

This has certainly been a thing since writers of all walks of life first created their own corners on the world wide web and began producing regular, bite-sized articles called “blog posts.” But, in the last couple months, *multiple* bloggers I follow have lamented their struggle to open a new, blank post and simply write. For some, this longterm struggle finally morphs into dread (that’s the term someone used in a recent post, for real!).

I’ve been blogging for 3.5 years as of posting this, and this doesn’t generally happen to me (unless I wait ’til the day before my post goes live to start it, as I don’t do well AT ALL under pressure, but that’s more of an anxiety issue…anyways…). So, I’d like to share Retrospective Lily’s two cents. Here we go–

A major reason people experience “Blogger’s Block” (writer’s block for bloggers, if that wasn’t obvious) is because we tend to pigeon-hole ourselves. Maybe it’s a psychological thing; we NEED rules and guidelines to help us navigate our world with relative safety and self-assurance, so we sometimes, even subconciously, give ourselves unnecessary boundaries. So, allow me to ground us with a few important reminders:

  • Most of our regular readers don’t care that much what we write about.
  • Most of us care much more about our blogs than our readers do.
  • Most of us don’t and will never generate (a large amount of) money from our blogs.

Well, that was certainly blunt and controversial. I’ll explain, then you can feel free to disagree on one or more points.

Most of us will gain followers based on how we market ourselves. For instance, a fashion blogger’s followers will likely be interested in fashion, or a Christian blogger’s followers will mostly be Christians. But, for your CORE readers–the small sliver who actually read/like/comment on most of your posts–the main appeal is YOU. The true ride-or-die supporters of your blog won’t stop reading because you deviate somewhat from your main focus.

Not everyone agrees with this; a blogging buddy of mine recently made another site to keep his personal life updates separate from his more scholarly main posts. Maybe it depends on how strict your focus is or how far you stray from that focus. But MOST bloggers will hang on to their core readers regardless of what they do because they’ve established relationships (even if they are weird, distanced ones in which we put forth whatever persona we want).

And to add to that–most of our readers care less about our blogs than we do. Shocking, I know! But we’re the ones slaving over our post ideas, editing, adding/creating images, obsessively reading it again and again. Others see our post, and most skip over it without a passing thought but a few skim it, maybe leave a like or comment, and swiftly move on with their own day and their own life. IMO, it’s silly and perhaps a bit vain to stress over what our readers want and how they’ll perceive us when we’re a tiny blip on the radar of their world.

Additionally, most of us will never make money from our blogs (aside from some chump change, if you host ads). Ignore me if you’re an author or a graphic designer or something. But most bloggers are really doing this as a hobby.

Here’s the point of my rantings: the (blogging) world is your oyster! Write what you feel. The fans you have will likely stick with you, and who knows? You might attract some more this way. Because writers flourish when they lean into passion and showcase their personality.

It’s helpful to keep a list of blog ideas that you add to on the go, and talking about yourself (life updates, something interesting that happened to you or that you observed, etc.) is a reliable back-up when your mind is blanker than a fresh, empty post. But, when I start a rough draft, I just go with the flow–which is how this ended up as a rant instead of the originally-intended, neatly-formatted list of tips.

Funny and semi-related anecdote: my fiancee has an IG account on which he posts daily with pictures of his movie room or film reviews that he writes and I edit (give @garth_riot a follow!). He recently got a comment on a post that irritated him, so he called me to complain (what are best friends for, after all?). After entertaining his rant for over half an hour, I firmly instructed him to channel his passion into a video script (he’s got a YT channel in the works). Within a couple hours, he texted me that it was three pages long and thanked me for giving him that advice.

Do you experience blogger’s block? How do you fend it off? Let me know in the comments, and thanks for reading!

The Basics of Gutenburg Editor (Screen Capture Included)

A couple years ago, WordPress introduced the Gutenburg editor, but since change is hard, many chose to stick with the Classic editor. A couple months ago, everyone was finally forced to make the switch (from what I’ve heard–I myself have been using Gutenburg since it came out in Dec. 2018). This post will briefly introduce the basics.

Gutenburg vs. Classic

The old editor is similar to Microsoft Word or Google Docs; all the options lay across a main menu at the top. With the new editor, small menus pop up throughout the post. Figuratively, the old editor treats a post like one large entity, while the new editor treats each post like a puzzle with paragraphs, images, etc. being pieces of it. This may seem confusing, but I hope you’ll see what I mean by the end. Let’s transition from figurative speech to practical instructions–

Basics of Gutenburg

When you open a post in the old editor, the good ol’ main menu greets you. When you open a new post in Gutenburg, the page looks blank, which can seem intimidating. But you should see a + icon to the right. If you click on that icon, you can change the “block” type to image, quote, heading, etc. If you’re typing normal text, don’t worry about the icon. Each time you hit “enter,” the + icon will appear. Again, pay it no mind until you need to use a different kind of block. “Paragraph,” or normal text, is the default block setting.

When you wave the mouse over the block you are typing in, a menu appears that shows the block type along with options to move it up or down, text alignment, bold, italics, “insert link,” more text controls, and more options. To have that menu pop up for another block, simply click your mouse in that block. Click on the block type to change it. The menu on the right side has two tabs–block and post. The block tab shows extra options for the block your mouse is clicked in/on, while the post tab pertains to the post as a whole.

The four minute screen capture below displays a sped-up version of myself performing the basic functions on Gutenburg. Please watch to have the directions above reiterated visually.

Thoughts on Gutenburg

Not having a main menu felt disconcerting to me initially, since that’s what we’re accustomed to with WordPress and most text document software. Once I got used to the change, I began to appreciate the ease of moving blocks around. For instance, let’s say I have paragraph one, paragraph two, and paragraph three. I decide to put an image between the first and second paragraphs. Afterwards, I think to myself, The image would actually look better between paragraphs two and three. With Gutenburg, I can simply click on the image, then use the down arrow. Let’s say I had a paragraph near the top and wanted to move it to the bottom; I can drag the block where I want it. That ability comes in handy!

Also, there seem to be more options for block types and special features in Gutenburg. Or maybe I never fully got the hang of the Classic editor–go figure.

A hack for die-hard Classic lovers

I forgot to show this in the screen capture, but there’s still a way to use the Classic editor. When you open a new post, go to the + icon and search “Classic.” Classic editor is a block type. If you select it, the familiar Classic menu appears. You can then proceed to make the entire post under that one block, and it’s just like using the Classic editor.

Thanks for reading! What do you think of Gutenburg vs. Classic? Did this post help? Let me know in the comments. Next up is a look at the more advanced features of Gutenburg, some of which I discovered while prepping for this post. For instance, you can create “reusable blocks” to quickly add to any post–helpful if you like to leave your social links, a certain image, etc. at the end of your posts.

My 3 Worst Blogging Habits

Hi! Since my last post on blogging featured some things I wish other bloggers did, I thought it’d be fun to share some of my bad blogging habits. Even those of us who’ve been doing this a while have our flaws. Maybe this exercise in introspection will convict me to implement some positive changes. πŸ˜‰ (See a note on the Gutenburg Editor at the end**)

Taking forever to reply to comments

This is my worst blogging habit for sure. Though I try to reply to all comments people leave on a post within 1-2 weeks of publishing it, that’s often the range of time it takes me to respond. For shame! I actually love and cherish people’s comments. It takes me a while to reply because I want to put ample time into reading, fully absorbing, and thoughtfully responding to each one. Knowing that replying to the comments could take over an hour (esp. on more intellectual and/or weighty posts like my recent one on American Christianity) pushes me to procrastinate…

Ugh! I’m usually not a procrastinator, but I am in this circumstance–not sure why. I think it’s part reflection, part laziness (in other words, part justifiable, part not). I’d rather mull over people’s words (again, esp. on the weighty posts) than reply immediately. Buuut, this leads to having several comments to answer, and I know it’ll take a while…so I just put it off, reading and commenting on others’ posts while I have unacknowledged comments waiting for attention. Oops. I really need to set up a routine where I reply to all my comments on a certain day at a certain time.

Not checking on/updating my website enough

I admire some of my blogging buddies like Steven who keep their site(s) spruced up. I lag a bit in this area, and I know a lot of bloggers can relate. Many of us tend to focus more on our individual posts (and whatever’s next on the agenda) than our overall online presence. I seem to go through phases; for a few weeks, I’ll check my site frequently and make little improvements…then I won’t change anything for half a year or more. There’s a lot to keep track of with a website: what widgets we have (and whether any are not functioning properly for some reason), whether all our hyperlinks and social media icons work, whether the menu options and categories are easy to use and reflective of our current content. Emphasis on that last phrase because, while we don’t need to overhaul our sites every other week, we writers and bloggers are always evolving in a certain direction.

Below are some examples that are arguably too drawn out but hopefully illustrative–

Maybe someone started as a “Christian blogger” with all “Uncategorized” posts, and their menu options were “Home” and “Blog.” One year later, they find themselves gravitating to experience-based devotionals and the occasional Bible story lesson; also, unexpectedly, they started to sprinkle in posts with cooking, cleaning, and organizing tips for a comfortable home. They should start using the categories “Christian Devos,” “Bible Study,” and “Homemaking Tips.” The menu might have “Home,” “About,” “Blog,” “Christian” (hover over that option to see “Christian Devos” and “Bible Study”), and “Homemaking Tips.”

Maybe someone started out as a “book blogger” and just used the category “Book Reviews,” and their menu options were “Home” and “Book Reviews.” Let’s imagine they expanded their horizons with time and started dipping into other forms of entertainment, creating a category and another menu option called “Miscellaneous.” Three years later, their blog has burgeoned into a site with book, TV, and movie reviews along with the occasional social commentary…but they’re still putting everything besides the book reviews under “Miscellaneous.” Nooo! They really need to update their categories and menu options for all those subjects! A good menu for them might have “Home,” “About,” “Blog,” “Reviews” (hover over that option to see “Book Reviews, “TV Show Reviews,” and “Movie Reviews”), and Social Commentary (perhaps hover over that option for “Politics,” “Social Media,” etc.)

We often begin our blogs with a certain vision that adapts as we, our interests, our readership, and even our lives/circumstances change. We might even move in a certain direction for a couple years then gradually shift in another direction for no real reason. It’s all good! We should write what we want, regardless of our initial vision or what we were writing this time last year, two years ago, etc. I believe the best, most authentic and genuinely interesting writing comes from those who write where their heart leads them. I’ve more to say on this, but I’m going to stop so I can make a future post on this topic. Yay for accidental ideas!

Firstly, embrace your creative evolution, and secondly, update your site once in a while to reflect who you are NOW–not six months ago, not a year ago, not two years ago, but today. Make sure things work on a literal front but also have things make sense. I started as a “grammar tips blogger” and still had grammar-related categories on my site up to a few months ago, though I’ve clearly strayed from that. Yikes! Also, I need to break up my gazillion Christian posts into sub-categories. After writing the hypothetical scenarios above, I was urged to go update my main menu.

Not going out of the way to find new bloggers

Going along with the notion of evolving, I really should update the blogs I read. Since I’m more well-established, I can sit back and wait for new followers to stream in, then peruse their content and see if I want to follow back. There’s just a few problems with my current laissez-faire methods. Firstly, as I alluded to in my last blogging-related post, most new followers I get are spam accounts or people with no interest in interaction (go figure?!). I’ve made some good connections through my new followers recently, but it doesn’t happen all that often! Secondly, though I have some blogging connections I’ve maintained for years, bloggers are constantly losing interest in the community, getting burnt out, etc. If I just rely on the connections I’ve already made, my pool of blogging buddies will shrink with time. Thirdly, even if I’m well-established, it’d be silly and arrogant to think there aren’t some amazing blogs out there for me to discover, rather than them discovering me.

I did spend an hour recently looking up some topics of interest and finding a couple good blogs. I want to make a point to do that more often. Just as I’ve grown, it’s time my WordPress Reader grew, too.

Thanks for reading! What are your blogging habits, good and/or bad? Are you guilty of these? Let me know in the comments.

**Since WP users have officially been forced to transition to the Gutenburg Editor, my next blogging-related post will be a deep dive into using it. For now, you could check out this post I made about it at the start of 2019, but it’s time for an update/rehash. Let me know if you’d find that helpful!

3 Things I Wish Other Bloggers Did

As a WordPress blogger for about three years, I’ve been around the block with discovering blogs, making connections, and all that jazz. Over the years, I’ve noticed some things not all bloggers do–but I wish they did! Blogging advice posts tend to be popular because they’re informative and fun. I hope this post pushes you to assess your own site/habits/etc. and is also enjoyable to read. πŸ™‚

Use better titles

This one earns the #1 spot because it frustrates me the most. Why? It’s unnecessarily self-defeating. What does that mean? Using vague titles makes your post less enticing. I feel conflicted on sharing a great post with a not-so-great title because, no matter the quality of the content, most people won’t be intrigued to click on it.

When I write a rough draft, I put a nonspecific word/phrase as a placeholder for the title based on what I intend to write. Once I’ve finished the rough draft and returned later to edit, I have a better grasp on what specifically the post covers, so I can tweak the headline. With my more rambling posts especially, the end result is not always what I envisioned at the start; I just go with the flow and type what I want in the moment. Thus, I need to readjust the title once the post takes shape.

For instance, one of my recent rambling posts was titled, “Striking Balances Without Becoming Paralyzed (Coronavirus & Black Lives Matter).” I initially wrote “Striking Balances” as the title because, though I wasn’t sure where I would end up, I started writing with the general feeling of being caught between a lot of strong viewpoints and hostility. After writing and later editing the post, I supplemented the placeholder title with more info. I know too many bloggers who would’ve just left it as is! πŸ˜‰ But when comparing those titles, you see how one captures the overall point/vibe of the post more effectively than the other.

Clean up your site: literally & metaphorically


I prefer reading blog posts in the WordPress Reader where they all look the same. This is partially due to our brains’ general favoritism for familiarity…but another big reason is that many bloggers have eye-sores for websites. Dark text on a dark background, light text on a light background, microscopically-sized text, a cluttered mess of different fonts/colors/images…ugh. Just pull up your own site and really reflect–is this aesthetically pleasing and easy to read? Also, I’m not a huge fan of widgets (basically, little plug-ins you add to your site, usually featured on the left or right side of every page). Though the concept and selection of them is great theoretically, a lot of people feel compelled to use as many as they can. More than a handful is excessive, in my opinion, and can even make your site load slowly.


When I use the phrase “cleaning up your site,” I also refer to its mechanics, namely menu options and social media links. A lot of (usually novice) bloggers choose a theme (website template) that automatically adds social media links to their site. It’s annoying to visit a website, see the social media links, think to myself, hey, I’d like to see what they post on IG, click the link for their IG, and get deposited at instagram.com because the links are still on their default setting. Please, figure out if you have social media links on your site, and either fill out the links with your info or delete them. I have a blog post on this topic if you’ve no idea how to do that: Blogging Tips on Pages, Menus, & Social Media Links (with Screenshots & Step-By-Step Instructions).

Menus should be very straight-forward. My site has a primary menu (Home, About, Blog, My Disability Story, and coming soon, My Testimony) and a drop-down menu of categories (Christian, Classic Works, Blogging Tips & Tricks, etc.). I could go into all my Christian posts and further divide them into sub-categories, but I don’t have the time or willpower at the moment. Anyways, I don’t like websites with non-intuitive, not-user-friendly menus.

For instance, I might visit a Christian blogger’s website and see these options across the main menu–Bible Studies, Prayer, Scripture of the Month, Living the Faith. I have so many questions. Why isn’t there a “Home” link to get back to the homepage? Why isn’t there a “Blog” link so I can just scroll through their posts chronologically? Shouldn’t “Scripture of the Month” be filed under “Bible Studies,” or could they change the menu option to “Bible Related” then file both “Scripture of the Month” and “Bible Studies” under that?

First off, be sure that basic options like “Home” and “Blog” are available in the main menu. BTW, I think an “About” page is also essential so people know who/what they’re even reading. A “Contact” page could also be deemed essential, but I list my email address on the “About” page, so I don’t have one. Either way, put your contact info somewhere easy to find. Secondly, classify your content in ways that make logical sense.

Interact more

I have over 1,200 followers. Three years ago, I would’ve been jealous of me. But now that I’ve reached this pinnacle, it’s less gratifying than you might think. At least 75% of my followers have never and will never like or comment on one of my posts. Why?! Is WordPress really so overrun with bots and spam accounts? Who are all these people who click “follow” and never engage? I don’t get it. I just cling tightly to the blogging connections I’ve made over the years because I know how hard they are to establish and maintain. I throw in “and maintain” because I’ve watched many great bloggers fall to the wayside over time.

Bonus observation: here’s something that rubs me the wrong way–bloggers who say they don’t have time to read blogs yet post multiple times a week. If the priority is just “writing” rather than “being part of a reading and writing community,” you may as well privately journal instead of blog. Obviously, people can do whatever they want…that’s just my two cents. πŸ˜‰ Maybe some people have so many fans that they don’t have to reciprocate, but every popular blogger I know is active in the community.

So, there you have it–a few things I wish my fellow bloggers would do. At the root, it all goes back to making it easier for me to support, promote, or get to know you!

Thanks for reading! What do you wish other bloggers would do? Let me know in the comments.

Revisiting Old Blogging Articles: Great vs. Questionable Advice

Of my six most “liked” blog posts EVER (displayed on my website’s homepage), three fall in the “Blogging Tips & Tricks” series. A lot of people are seeking the secrets to blogging success! As I spent several tedious hours last week recategorizing some posts, I revisited my old blogging advice articles. Today, I’m sharing my thoughts on them. Most of my tips stand the tests of time and experience, but with some of them…well, hindsight is 20/20. πŸ˜‰ (Ironic given the calendar year)

[I won’t go through every tip from every post, but I will include my best and worst tips. As it turns out, I’ve shared the best tips more than once in slightly different ways, hence the “X/Y/Z” format of the headings under “Great Advice.”]

Great Advice

Provide worthwhile content/WWIR (What would I read?)

The blogs I’ve seen skyrocket are those that consistently provide touching devotionals, funny life stories, insightful/educational content, or anything that teaches me something, entertains me, warms my heart, makes me ponder, etc. Though I prefer a more intentional approach on my own blog (edited text, highlighted and italicized sentences, headings, etc.), professionalism is just icing on the cake. Many wonderful bloggers lean towards a casual approach. The question that matters above all else: do you have something interesting to say? [Sidenote: While perfect grammar is not a requirement for blogging success, exceptionally poor grammar can be a distraction.]

When looking for direction on what to blog about, it helps to reflect on the acronym “WWIR?” What would I think was helpful or fun or intriguing if someone else posted about it? …I should write about that myself!

Incorporate your personality/Don’t put yourself in a box

What motivates readers to come back again and again, perhaps even more than worthwhile content? Your lovely, unique self! It’s such a drag to read blog posts that are dry and impersonal. I want to feel a connection with you when I read your posts, whether you’re sweet as pie, humorously cynical, or anything in between. πŸ™‚

My advising you not to put yourself in a box flies right in the face of this common blogging tip: “Find a niche.” Rules were made to be broken, right? On Retrospective Lily, you will find everything from faith lessons to societal diatribes to life updates. As far as I see it, blogging in and of itself is a niche. So, if you want to stick with one subject, go right ahead–but don’t feel like you must do that in order to build a readership.

There is one commonality between all my blog posts: they were written by me! (I hope) pieces of my personality shine through all my posts, regardless of the topic. The same should apply for you and your blog, whatever your focus(es) is/are.

Reach Out/Engage with the community/Network with other bloggers

As you can see from the three different phrasings of this tip, I constantly include it in blogging advice articles! If you don’t reach out and follow other blogs + read and comment on other posts regularly, your blog will either never take off or slowly die (depending whether you just started or have been blogging for a while). Seriously, reciprocation is THAT important. Most blog readers have their own blogs. Therefore, you need to spread some love to get love back.

Three effective ways to find posts you like and connect with bloggers:

  1. Look up certain tags. For instance, if you love books, look at the hashtags “books, “fiction,” and “reading.”
  2. Use the WordPress search bar (similar to tags–just search a subject that interests you).
  3. Comment hop (my personal favorite and a tip from an old post). Look in the comment sections of blogs you like. Those users will likely have similar interests, and you know they’re active if they engage with other blogs.

Questionable Advice

KISS (Keep It Short, Stupid!)

Maybe this is actually good advice, but I’m not good at following it, haha. I do honestly try to be succinct, but it’s a rare occasion when a Retrospective Lily post falls under 500 words. While it’s important to stay focused and not ramble excessively (one reason I edit), I don’t think long blog posts are automatically a bad thing. My goal is always to stay under 1,000 words, but even that is sometimes difficult!

A point about blog comments under “Reach Out”

As I referenced above, “Reach Out” relates to engaging the community, which is right on track. However, I mention in the original post that it’s great to leave a blog comment, even if it’s just, “Great post!” Don’t listen to March 2018 Lily! Vague comments that don’t address the post’s content come off as spammy. In fact, I wonder if I’m dealing with a person or a bot when I receive vague comments. May 2020 Lily’s advice: if you’re going to leave a comment, say something that contributes to the topic and/or makes it clear you are an actual human being who read the post. For the record, going beyond just “liking” posts and leaving meaningful comments is something you should do as often as possible to build strong connections with people.

I was kinda hoping this would be juicier, but apparently, I know what I’m talking about! πŸ˜‰ I stand by almost every tip I’ve ever given. Now, I need to get my ducks in a row for more blogging posts. I have some ideas…

  • Features of the Gutenberg editor I hate
  • Features of the Gutenberg editor you may not know about
  • Trying to use the Classic editor with old posts after using the Gutenburg editor for over a year; why the Gutenburg editor is easier when you get used to it
  • Ways I’m a bad blogger
  • Update on how I keep up with fellow bloggers
  • Blogging advice
  • Basic steps when starting a WP site

Thanks for reading! Did you find something in this post helpful? What is your #1 blogging tip? Got a suggestion of a blogging article I should write (and do you like any of my suggestions)? Let me know in the comments.

How to Edit Images in a Professional, Aesthetically-Pleasing Way

Hi, friends. Today’s post centers on some tips and tricks for image editing. I see edited images primarily on websites and social media accounts belonging to businesses or individuals. I wish some of those people could read this post…yikes! πŸ˜‰

Without further ado, here are some tips for editing images in a way that looks professional and aesthetically-pleasing. [BTW, if you’re wondering, I majored in English in college, but I took courses and had a job related to graphic design, or as they liked to phrase it, “digital rhetoric.” I compose the quarterly newsletter for a volunteer organization currently.]


When editing an image, symmetry is foundational. Our brains detect asymmetry almost instantly. In this context, accomplishing symmetry will mean aligning the text in the center of the image, like the phrase “Blogging Tips & Tricks” in the featured image of this post.

The rules aren’t inflexible, though. If the focal point of the image is off-center, you could place the title beside that focal point, as long as the illusion of symmetry remains (see photo below).

I recently learned about “the rule of thirds,” which states that one should mentally divide a picture into three columns with three rows (nine squares) and line objects up in the intersections. Since learning about that, I try to bear it in mind.

Colors & Fonts

Don’t use dark-on-dark or light-on-light

This tip seems obvious to me, but people do it all the time! [My fiancee collects movies, and I noticed that they do this a lot on the back of DVD cases.] So, here I am to reiterate it–don’t use black text on dark blue…don’t use white on light pink…don’t edit your images in a way that forces people to squint their eyes.

Consider the significance of color combinations

Firstly, use the color wheel. Colors opposite of each other “pop” the best, but similar colors (like my pink and purple) can look nice, too. This “color wheel calculator” helps users create harmonious color schemes.

Secondly, avoid color combos that are associated with a popular brand or product. This can be global or depend on where you live. Since I live in the US, I instantly think “America” when I see red, white, and blue, but the same could apply in other countries with their flag colors. An example of a global color combo to avoid is bright red + bright yellow (McDonald’s).

Borrowed from kindlevision.com. Bear in mind that these are subjective at the end of the day. If you search “meaning of colors,” you end up with 100 different pictures which all say something a little different. There is definitely overlap, though.

Thirdly, consider how colors provoke different ideas and emotions; blue is soothing, green relates to nature, yellow feels warm and happy, red seems urgent and/or passionate, etc. Avoid bright colors that may be off-putting, like barbie pink or neon green (unless flamboyancy is part of your vibe/aesthetic.).

Prioritize readability & choose a font that reflects the mood

how to choose the right font

As you choose fonts, think of the vibe/aesthetic you want to evoke and try to find one that mirrors that. Fonts that look relatively basic and are easy to read work best for most situations (though I like ones with a hint of flair). Cursive fonts can be nice occasionally, but I tend to steer clear because readability is the most important factor. With calligraphy, remember that some fonts seem more neutral, while many of them feel distinctly feminine.

Tint the image to complement the fonts/branding

This tip, in my opinion, gets to the crux of why so many edited images look “wrong” without being able to put a finger on the reason. If the tint of an image doesn’t synthesize with the color of the fonts/logos/etc. edited on top of it, the image looks “off.” I will demonstrate by posting a featured image to an old post followed by the same image without the colors tinted–

Thanks for reading! I hope you found this post helpful. Let me know what you think of these tips or if you’d add any others in the comments.

My Blogging Process: a Peak Behind the Curtain at Retrospective Lily

Hi, friends. In today’s post, I’ll give you a glimpse behind the scenes and share my blogging process with y’all.

If you haven’t noticed, I post once a week on Friday afternoons. At any given time, I have 10-20 rough drafts hanging out, waiting for their turn on the metaphorical conveyor belt that moves from “rough draft” to “published post.” Speaking of which, I need to accept that I will never publish some of my old drafts and just delete them already. I’m hoarding certain ones with the unrealistic thought, “Maybe someday…”

ANYWAY, I write about one draft a week, but I squeeze in more if time permits it throughout the week. Do I really need to write that many? Nope. But I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: the creativity muscle needs to be flexed regularly to maintain its strength. Also, having an array of drafts “sitting on go” allows me to publish posts during super busy weeks.

I keep a list of ideas that I reference when I sit down to write, and I add ideas to this list all the time as they randomly hit me. Fun fact: I have to drop what I’m doing to jot down ideas immediately or I forget them. [I once got inspired while driving and forgot the idea by the time I reached my destination.]

Sometime between Sunday and Tuesday, I’ve decided which of my rough drafts to place on the conveyor belt for that week. My first objective is to edit the initial rough draft. Some drafts come out almost flawlessly from the start, while others require more thought refinement before I can edit for grammar/structure/sentence flow. [The latter happens worse with old rough drafts because my thoughts on things evolve with time.]

I spend the first half of the week editing the rough draft. The process loosely follows this pattern–thought refinement, grammar refinement, highlighting and italicizing sentences. The grammar refinement takes a few go-rounds, and thought refinement often happens incidentally as I edit grammar. However, this is the general overview of my editing process.

By Wednesday or Thursday, I’m ready to focus on aesthetics. I find free images (Pixabay, Unsplash) to sprinkle throughout the post that relate to things I’m saying, and I start making my featured image on Canva. Fun fact: the font I use in a featured image is a deliberate, careful decision. If you look at my blog page via my website, or if you open my profile in the WordPress Reader, you will notice that font is an intentional choice; a beachy photo is paired with a summer-y font, a post about writing a letter has a legible but elegant cursive font that evokes the thought of writing by hand, etc. I also tint the photos and add little stickers–both to contribute to my brand aesthetic. [The next Blogging Tips & Tricks will focus on photo editing tips. πŸ™‚ ] I just updated the featured image for these posts to better match my aesthetic, which has refined over time.

On Friday, the post is ready to go, so I obsessively read it over a couple times, combing it for previously-overlooked errors. When the post goes live, I check it AGAIN and, about half the time, I somehow find a mistake. So I go fix it immediately and wash my hands of it. Then, I wait for y’all to encourage me with your love and support. πŸ™‚

So, there you have it–a glimpse of my blogging process. Thanks for reading! How often do you post, and what does your process look like? Let me know in the comments.

Two Major Tips for Writing Blog Posts (Or Anything Else) Faster & More Easily

Hi, friends. In today’s post, I briefly share two major tips that help me power through rough drafts and free my mind when writing. Implement this advice if you often find yourself staring blankly at a blinking cursor!

Keep a Running List of Ideas

When I open a fresh, blank post and settle in to start a rough draft, I consult the list of writing ideas I keep in a Google Doc, choosing the one that appeals to me most in that moment. I add ideas to the list at random points throughout the day; my ideas are inspired by observations, conversations, thoughts I have when reading other things, and basically anything under the sun.

If I didn’t keep a list and had to think of ideas on the spot when I decide to write, I’d spend more time racking my brain than typing.

[I used “decide to” rather than “want to” because here is a tip within a tip: though writing is a passion for most of us, we must discipline ourselves to flex the muscle regularly to keep it strong.]

Distinguish Writing from Editing

An artistic representation of a brainstorm

Writing a rough draft equates to brainstorming for me; I (try to) write everything down without filtering myself. When I re-open a rough draft to start editing, I delete, move around, and polish my words. The mental processes of writing and editing differ for me. Writing is creating; editing is perfecting.

When I write the first draft, I know perfectly well as I type most things that they don’t sound right and will have to be altered. The key to powering through a rough draft, for me, is to resist my type-A urge to edit as I write. Instead of focusing on the way things sound, I try to tap into all my thoughts about what I’m writing and just let them pour out.

I hinder my imagination and halt the flow of my thoughts when I stop every few seconds, hold down Backspace, and just sit there, pondering exactly how I should phrase a sentence. It is so much easier to perfect something than to create perfection out of nothing.

Also, our brains chew on the things we read, watch, write, etc. A person who writes a speech a week before giving it will (usually) be better prepared than one who procrastinates on writing it until the night before because the first person has extra time for contemplation. I recently gave the message at another church and chose to reuse a sermon I gave at my own church back in March. I wound up reworking the whole message because my thoughts on the scripture had further developed since that time. I feel that the reworked version was more insightful, penetrating, and convicting than the first version.

Giving my mind the time and space to mull over words I write in the rough draft actually heightens my proficiency in polishing my thoughts.

In summary, keeping a running list of ideas and distinguishing writing from editing are two blogging methods that enable me to bang out rough drafts without restricting my creativity.

Thanks for reading! What does your writing/editing process look like? Do you keep a list of ideas? Let me know in the comments. πŸ™‚

Cleaning Out Defunct Blogs & Tips to Blog Successfully/Keep Going

Hi, friends. I’ve been cleaning out blogs from my followed sites, which got me contemplating why people quit blogging. In this post, I’ll muse a bit on those reasons and follow up with tips to help you succeed/keep going with blogging.

I generally keep up with bloggers by lapping my list of followed sites alphabetized A-Z, knocking out 1-2 letters each day. Every couple weeks, I check out bloggers who have followed me lately to see if I want to follow back. I don’t know if I will ever have a cut-off point where I won’t follow any more blogs because I could miss out on some real gems.

I knew I needed to commence with some spring cleaning when I had followed over 500 blogs. So I scrolled through the list and started unfollowing people.

Why Do People Stop Blogging?

I was amazed to see how many people hadn’t posted in four months, eight months, a year. I asked myself why this was the case and came up with a list of potential reasons–

  1. They no longer have time.
  2. They can’t think of things to write about anymore.
  3. They are discouraged by a poor engagement level.
  4. The work required isn’t worth it/It isn’t fun anymore.

#1-3 are fixable. #4 is broader, and it may or may not be fixable.

Tips to Keep Going/Succeed

Below I am providing some tips that can help with the issues I listed. I wrote “keep going/succeed” in the header because everyone’s definition of success differs; for some, having a few loyal readers equates to success, while others will feel their blog isn’t successful unless their readership continuously grows; some don’t care about their readership as much as enjoying the writing aspect; some measure their blog’s success financially (book sales, affiliate link purchases). So, whatever your metric of success is, I hope these tips (which are numbered according to the above list) help you keep going.

[Obinna at Shards of Bards wrote a similar post called An Open Letter to Bloggers Who Feel Like Giving Up that partially inspired this one. Follow him for quality posts + insightful comments on your posts.]

Prioritize What Matters to You (#1)

Whether the subject is completing some chores or reading the Bible or anything else that requires self-discipline, I’m wary of the “I don’t have time” excuse. Yes, some people genuinely have almost no spare time between work, school, their families, and/or volunteering/extracurriculars. But I happen to follow several SuperMoms who find time to blog once or twice a month…

More often than not, “I don’t have time” translates to “It’s not a priority to me.” It’s fine if that’s how you feel about blogging, but either way, you should take responsibility for your time management and prioritize what matters to you. And if something simply isn’t a priority to you, just own it!

Don’t Put Yourself in a Box (#2)

Life constantly teems with inspiration, and writing ideas should flow abundantly…so why don’t they? I have found that this struggle often arises from bloggers putting arbitrary limitations on themselves (I have to write about these certain subjects, I have to write in this certain way, etc.). Stop doing that and think outside the box! You can do whatever you want in YOUR corner of the interwebs.

Here are a few tips for coming up with content when your brain feels empty

  • Come up with a series; you can fall back on a series post when you have no other ideas. (Some of mine include Classics, Blogging Tips & Tricks, My Disability Experience, Disability Chat, Dueling Poems, Story Behind, etc.)
  • Tell us about yourself; Favorite show, movie, book, band, etc.? Ten random facts about you? Pets? Places you’ve visited? An issue you deal with or experience you went through? What you’ve been up to lately (this kind is always popular when I do it)? When in doubt, remember the saying “Write what you know.
  • Read books, articles, etc. or watch documentaries, videos, etc. about the topics that interest you so you will have more to say about those topics.

Also, if you type a phrase like “blogging ideas” in the WordPress search bar, you will be bombarded with posts that give suggestions.

Provide Worthwhile Content (#3)

Worthwhile content does not have to be intellectual; the “ten random facts about you” post can be worthwhile. But your blog post needs to do something for the reader–make them smile/laugh, teach them something new, help them get to know you, inspire them, etc.

If you haphazardly throw some things together and publish it with little thought, you will probably struggle to build a following because, whether this is true or not, you are sending out the vibe that you don’t take seriously your readers or your own blog. [Sidenote: some people really don’t take their blog or their readership too seriously and just want to have fun, and that’s perfectly fine.]

Engage With the Community (#3)

I sound like a broken record because I bring this up in almost every “Blogging Tips & Tricks” post…so I will keep this one brief. Bottom line: you get what you give.

Reflect on Why You Want to Quit (#4)

In the list I made earlier, #4 was the broadest category. If you feel like blogging isn’t “worth it” anymore, reflect on the specific reasons you feel that way. For many, the root of the issue is one of the first three reasons–poor time management, lack of post ideas, poor engagement level–all of which can be fixed.

However, some things aren’t fixable.

The issue of just not wanting to blog anymore may not have a concrete solution. It might be time to throw in the towel if you–

  • don’t enjoy creating posts and don’t enjoy engaging with the community either
  • still feel “meh” about blogging even if you hypothetically had a large following and lots of post ideas
  • are unhappy with your site yet aren’t willing to exert effort to improve your site (take time to produce better posts, engage more with bloggers and/or promote on social media)

Thanks for reading! What are some reasons you would quit or that you think motivates others to quit? What advice do you have to grow a readership, make blogging fun, or encourage those on the verge of quitting? Let me know in the comments.

P.S. Logo Update

My intelligent, kind, and supportive blogging buddy, Steven at Perfect Chaos, pointed out that logos should err on the side of simplicity so you can shrink them down or enlarge them if need be. Hence, despite its overwhelming popularity, I didn’t pick the flower wreath logo. [I instead chose the purple background mandala.] When I made the flower wreath smaller, it became a blurry mess! Since everyone including me loved the flower wreath, I made a photo with it for my homepage so it could revel in full-sized glory. β™₯

Tips on (Color) Branding: Why You Should & How to Do It

Hi, friends. For several months now, I have customized most of the featured images on my blog posts. I hope you have started recognizing my colors of light pink and medium purple when you see them. Today, I want to talk about (color) branding–why you should do it and how to do it!

Why to (Color) Brand

Anyone involved with marketing will agree that branding is important. I keep putting “color” in parentheses because a quick Google search reveals that the term “branding” refers to the whole ethos of a company, whereas I am just speaking about logos and color choices.

Logos and color combinations become embedded in a person’s subconscious when they see them often, and people start making lightning-fast mental associations when they see those logos or color combinations.

Our minds instantly begin racing with thoughts when we see these famous logos, but colors are essential to our recognition of the logos.

What if the background of the McDonald’s picture was orange instead of red? What if we switched the blues in the Twitter and Facebook logos, making the Facebook logo baby blue and making the Twitter logo medium blue? They would look wrong because our brains have memorized the exact colors of the logos.

We can and should brand our blogs (or Instagram accounts or YouTube channels or any promotional platforms) so they come to form a recognizable identity. Ideally, people will see your featured image in the WordPress reader, Facebook timeline, etc. and think of you before even glimpsing the title. If they’ve had positive interactions with you and/or enjoyed your blog posts, they may feel urged to click as soon as their brain recognizes your branding–both on a conscious level and a subconscious level.

(Color) Branding Tips

Choosing Colors

Different colors elicit different feelings, and you may want to look into the vibe of different colors to decide which ones fit your brand. I’ll be blatantly honest and admit that I picked my colors simply because I liked them. I think they fit me anyways, though. According to this article on the meanings of colors, pink evokes “love, femininity, and tranquility” while purple evokes “spirituality, reflection, and self-awareness.” Seems fitting for my blog!

Here are some tips about colors–

  • pick 2-3 colors for your brand (if you pick 4 colors or more, your color branding may become muddled)
  • use at least one light color and one dark color so you have some flexibility with color combinations on promotional materials (see example photos below)
  • write down the color codes so you always use the EXACT same colors (this is key! I have mine memorized like a weirdo)
  • avoid copying the color branding of others (there are countless shades of colors available, so be original!)
  • use caution with strong colors (I love pink, but I know that some people hate it, so I use a light pink rather than a loud Barbie pink)

Creating Images

After choosing the colors of your brand, the next step is to start creating promotional materials. Here are some resources for doing so–

Perhaps I will read more into branding as a larger concept and write more about that, and I will probably make posts in the future with tips and tricks about Canva and about customizing your blog theme to use your color branding. For now, here are some quick tips to get started in giving your brand an identity through colors.

Thanks for reading! Do you use color branding? If so, why did you choose your colors, and if not, why not? Let me know in the comments.