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. ๐Ÿ˜‰ (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. ๐Ÿ™‚

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! ๐Ÿ˜‰ 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

Literally

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.

Metaphorically

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. ๐Ÿ˜‰ 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.

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. โ™ฅ

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.

The New WordPress Editor: Introduction & Basic Functions (with Screenshots & Step-By-Step Instructions)

Hi, friends. Happy New Year! ๐Ÿ™‚ Speaking of things that are new…

A new editor has come to WordPress, and while using it isn’t mandatory for now, we’ll all (presumably) be forced to switch at some point. [It’s actually a few months old but new to me.]

Anticipating that, I have been using the new editor for a couple weeks. At first, I hated it, because who likes change? Now that I’m used to it, I like it more than the old one (mostly).

Without further ado, let’s dive in.

The Foundational Difference Between the Old & New Editor

The old editor works like the average text document, such as Microsoft Word or Google Docs. A blog post is essentially one text document filled with various components. All the options for formatting are arranged across the top. If you want to write a list, insert a blockquote, make a hyperlink, add an image, etc., you find the option in that menu at the top.

The new editor divides a post in blocks. Each paragraph of text, lists, section headings, blockquotes, images, videos, etc.–every different piece of a post is its own block. Rather than the post being one text document filled with various components, the post is a combination of blocks with each block being one of those components.

With the new editor, a whole post is like a finished puzzle, and each part of the post is a piece of it.

Why Move to a Block Format?

Once you get used to it, adding components to the post is actually faster and easier with the block format. The real reason for this change, though, is search engine optimization. As we all hopefully know, search engines are bots, not sentient beings. When a post is organized into separate pieces, algorithms can more easily decipher all the different parts of a post, thus making it easier for bots to assess our posts when matching up searches with relevant articles.

What Are the Basic Differences When Creating a Post?

With the old editor, every option for adding or changing things appeared in the top menu. (Screenshot #1)

old wordpress editor
Screenshot #1

With the new editor, the old menu at the top is gone. Every time you hit “Enter” when creating a post, a plus sign pops up on the left side. If you are simply typing sentences, just type as if you’re using the old editor–every block is set to normal text by default. If you want a section heading, a list, an image, or anything besides normal text, you click the plus sign and pick whichever option you want. (Screenshots #2 & #3)

new wordpress editor
Screenshot #2–The plus sign pops up on the left. Suggestions pop up on the right.
new wordpress editor
Screenshot #3–This menu appears when I click the plus sign.

When you want to highlight, italicize, underline, etc. in a block of text, click the mouse somewhere in the text and a menu appears. (Screenshot #4)

new wordpress editor
Screenshot #4

The menu on the right side now has two tabs. If you click “Document,” you see a menu that’s extremely similar to the old one (scheduling, categories, tags, etc.). The tab “Block” applies to whatever block the mouse is clicked in. (Screenshots #5 & #6)

There is a small menu at the top that includes a plus sign icon, undo, re-do, a “Content Structure” icon with word count and other info, and a “Block Navigation” icon with a list of the different kinds of blocks in the post. (Screenshot #7)

Screenshot #7

I have more to say, but I’ll get around to it; these are just some tips to help you transition. Though switching is not mandatory yet, I recommend that everyone try to get ahead of the curve. Also, don’t we all want more search engine hits?

Thanks for reading! Let me know your thoughts or questions in the comments below.