Brain Dump: My Unhealthy Work Mindset

It’s one of those weeks. My creative sparks are fizzling out. So, I’ll just write what I know, emptying my brain onto the page, giving it an extra shimmy and shake as we do when we dump the contents from a trashcan. ๐Ÿ˜‰

I’m feeling tired as I write this. It’s been mostly rainy and cloudy this week, but today, the atmosphere has remained a medium grey all day. Sitting next to a big, South-facing window usually provides the light I need to work, but a flourescent overhead light illuminates the room now. I much prefer the warm, orange-y rays of the sun to the kind of artificial lighting that hurts one’s eyes when staring directly at it. But at least it’s keeping me awake.

My phone just alerted me that we’re under a tornado watch. Whew, boy. No wonder today’s weather has been awful; it signaled impending doom…and possibly power outages…please, God, not another power outage.

All the writing I do each week is burning me out. Between video scripts, my job at a biweekly paper, a weekly blog post, bookstagram captions and a weekly devotional (in the place of Sunday school–until it’s warm enough to gather outside again), it feels like I’m being wrung dry of my creative juices. I fret that my blog posts haven’t been as good as they used to be, and I’m generally not writing out the devo until Saturday morning, though I at least meditate on it throughout the week.

I think the solution will be two-pronged: I need to improve my time management and I need to give myself grace. With the former, I’ve started creating a daily to-do list, and it’s helping me to spend less time between productive activities contemplating what to do next or goofing off on social media. Though I’m good at keeping myself busy, I really need to work smarter, not harder. I think I’d be able to churn out better writing in every area consistently if I mapped out when to do what in a way that gives my creative muscle ample downtime.

But I also have to get real. I need to prioritize working out three times a week with my trainer, even if the driving and exercising and showering and what not takes up a decent chunk of my waking hours, because my disabled body will deteriorate otherwise. I need to spend a few hours reading books and blog posts each week, though it’ll take away from the time I worked–for my mental health, for my vocabulary expansion, for my bookstagram posts, for inspiration. I need to be okay with going out with my mom or watching a couple movies with my fiance or hanging out with a friend without the persistent thought in the back of my mind that I could be accomplishing things if I were home and/or alone.

I realize when reading back the last paragraph that my mindset about work is pretty unhealthy. I’ve really got to start giving myself grace. I have to accept that I might skip weeks sometimes with blogging or get videos out late or not make a bookstagram post for weeks (okay, admittedly, I already do that last thing). I look forward to exchanging the written Sunday school lessons for less formal group discussions. C’mon spring!

It’s pouring cats and dogs outside now, but funny enough, the sun is shining brighter through the clouds. It’s coincidentally reflective of how I feel after getting things off my chest. I may just be able to cut off this dang vibe-killing overhead light.

What are your tips for time management and taking care of your creative muscle? Let me know in the comments, and thanks for reading!

P.S. Here is my latest video. Give it a watch if you have six minutes; I think it’s pretty funny, thanks in part to my fiance’s editing advice. Thanks a million to anyone who watches. โ™ฅโ™ฅ

P.P.S. I post videos on a weekly basis, but I don’t always share them here because some are political, and I don’t want longtime readers to feel alienated if they disagree with me. But if you’re curious, check out some of the other vids on my channel!

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!

2021 Goals, Resolutions & Blogging Plans (+ a Convicting Sentiment on Prayer)

As we settle into the groove of a new year, many of us contemplate what we’d like to accomplish. Sharing those goals and resolutions is socially acceptable but sorta-kinda borders on narcissistic because let’s face it–no one cares as much as me! ๐Ÿ˜‰ Still, for fun and accountability’s sake, and to perhaps provoke you to think over your own goals, I want to share some of mine.

“Typical” new year resolutions:

  • Drink more water.
  • Start a vitamin regimen.
  • Create a cleaning schedule.
  • Use daily to-do lists more often.
  • Get my living space totally organized.
  • Get rid of clothes and other items I don’t use (no matter how much it makes me feel guilty).

Lily-esque goals:

  • Read scripture and pray daily (more on that below).
  • Read 1-2 Shakespeare plays and more books on historical events.
  • Upload videos to my YouTube channel regularly.
  • Come up with a good name and intro for my channel.
  • Get a camera and a better set-up (depends on finances).

Fortunately, my goals and resolutions for the year can happen despite the status of the pandemic. Like everyone, I’m eager for a return to normalcy, even if our new version of that requires a little more caution and cleanliness. IDK about you, but I’m fine with people washing their hands more, businesses wiping down their bathrooms frequently, etc.

My blogging habits may shift a bit this year. Since I’m directing a lot of creativity and energy towards my YouTube channel, and there’s only 24 hours in a day, I may devote less time to composing lengthy blog posts. I’m not going anywhere; writing is still my #1 passion. But since I’m also writing video scripts, my posts might be less in-depth at times. I will probably have weeks when I want to break down a topic and go deeper, but other weeks, I’ll turn out a shorter post like this one (well, I thought it would be…ha). Some weeks, I might take a “two-birds-one-stone” approach and blog on a subject about which I’m also making a video–not always, but sometimes.

I’ll leave you with a convicting sentiment I came across the other day. I read a post about “not making time an idol” with regard to prayer (though I’m applying it to scripture reading, also). It essentially read that we’re all busy, so incorporate your relationship with God into your life constantly, as He’s never out of reach. There was also a quote from someone who said, “I never pray for a long sitting, but I never go 30 minutes without praying.”

While there’s an argument to be had about making time for God and/or prioritizing devotionals, it is hard to the point of impossibility for most people to carve out a lengthy prayer-and-scripture-reading time in their schedules. And even those who could do so for some days likely can’t do it every day. Though the phrasing of time being an idol struck me as odd, it did make me contemplate whether I’ve become a bit legalistic about my relationship with God–reserving it for an “official” devo time, almost treating it as ceremonial when it should instead be interwoven in the fabric of my being. So, this year, I’m going to try to let that go and pray and read scripture every day, whenever and however I can, for five minutes, 20 minutes, an hour, or whatever length of time is available. [Sidenote: “Can we become legalistic about our relationship with God?” definitely needs to be a future vid!]

Now you know my goals and resolutions for the year; what are yours? Let me know in the comments, and thanks for reading!

Please watch, like, and subscribe if you want. It’d mean the world to me. โ™ฅ My channel will generally feature Christian topics, but I have some ideas related to disability and books, and I’m wondering if I should make two channels or have one channel that’s a mash-up (like this blog). Let me know if you have input on that!

This post is part of Twinklโ€™s New Year Campaign, and is featured in 20+ New Year’s Resolutions For Families

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.

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. ๐Ÿ˜‰ (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. ๐Ÿ™‚

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! ๐Ÿ˜‰ 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 the Internet Is Really Helpful Yet Super Confusing (& Sometimes Dangerous)

Ah, technology, the good ol’ double-edged sword. On one hand, we can read our favorite singer’s Tuesday morning thoughts (thanks, Twitter); on the other, trolls no longer live under bridges (thanks, Twitter). ๐Ÿ˜‰ But, on a serious note, I’d like to discuss how the excess of information online can be educational…but it can also be intimidating and/or misleading.

An over-abundance of search results

Anyone and everyone can use and post things to the big, wide web. And, for that reason, the internet is saturated with information. Some of that is based on facts, science, and statistics, but much of it is based on opinions, subjective experiences, and straight-up BS. [Unfortunately, those in the BS category aren’t required to wear a sign that reads, “Hey, don’t take me seriously; I’m full of it!”]

Shameless plug: While most people use Google for searches, you should try Ecosia because they use their profits to plant trees. โ™ฅ

I become defeated quickly when searching things. For instance, I’d like to make homemade potpourri with some aromatic mint leaves. I temporarily gave up because everybody (along with their mamas, their daddies, their brothers and sisters, their cousins…you get the point) recommends a different method. As I type this rough draft Sunday, I’m feeling frustrated that I just spent an hour looking up solutions to hair issues (oily and flat hair, itchy scalp). Again, there are so many search results–all suggesting their own methods for fixing the issues, all recommending different products.

I recently learned not to trust everything these random websites suggest. Because I read Year of No Sugar by Eve Schaub last month, I have a heightened, disconcerting awareness of my sugar consumption levels. After noticing there are over fifty grams of sugar + several preservatives in my International Delight coffee creamer, I decided to try making my own. Several websites provided a simple recipe for homemade creamer: combine sweetened-condensed milk with regular milk. I thought, Well, this will contain sugar, but with less sugar than the other creamer and no preservatives, maybe this is a step in the right direction. As it turns out, the taste of sweetened-condensed milk repulses me. Yuck! Talk about trial and ERROR.

What’s even worse than inconvenience–misinformation

Above, I referred to the inconvenience of wading through a flood of search results (like trying to find a cute dress at a ratchet Goodwill). But what’s worse than being inconvenienced is being misinformed. I’ve seen this text image floating around social media, which implies that ignorant people are ignorant by choice, since they could easily look up any question/topic, thanks to the internet.

I acknowledge the point of the post, but I don’t think it accounts for the whole “double-edged sword” concept behind the internet. In other words, this sentiment assumes undeniably blatant truths and answers exist. I’m not so sure. Even where objective truth exists, people will disagree about it, anyways.

Some truths and answers seem clear to many people, but at the end of the day, what/who we perceive as a reliable source affects what we believe. For instance, most people accept that vaccines are good and necessary as “clear truth.” Anti-vaxxers, however, don’t trust the sources that support vaccines. I assume they trust other sources that “clearly” demonstrate why vaccines are harmful. (Not trying to poke a bear, just using a random example)

I hope you see the connections I’m drawing…more info sources on the internet means more choices on who/what to trust…

Misinformation in the pandemic

I can’t be the only one who’s tasted every flavor of Coronavirus opinion or theory. I’m talking everything from “They did this to tank Trump’s economy in his re-election year” to “Far more people actually have the disease than what has been reported” to “Hospitals are claiming more people died of COVID-19 to get extra funding” to “Lifting the stay-at-home orders now will trigger a much-worse second wave.”

I live in NC (in the US), and the question of how to re-open in stages looms over us. We only have a few hundred deaths in the whole state. Part of me thinks Yes, we should re-open; the risk in our state is low. But then, the other half of me wonders, Do we only have a few hundred deaths because of social distancing, and if so, would ending it be detrimental? Many have vilified the stupidity/short-sightedness of those protesting at our capital to re-open the state. I understand the critics’ concerns for public safety; God forbid if someone I know caught this and died! I also saw a meme this week that read, “I lost my home and my business, but at least I didn’t get a virus with a less than 1% mortality rate!” I understand the concerns of those pushing to re-open; will we wind up damaging people’s lives with these rules more than the virus would in its natural course? The fact that so many loud and self-assured voices are screaming their viewpoints on the internet doesn’t help with discerning reality and rationality from panic and outright lies.


Wrapping up my ramblings, I love and hate the internet. It gives every voice a platform, which can be great and also terrible. That’s the price of freedom, baby! Take EVERYTHING with a grain of salt. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Thanks for reading! What’s your two cents on wading through search results, internet misinformation, “clear truth,” or Coronavirus theories? Let me know in the comments.

Random updates on my searches (in other words, advice welcome):

1. I have purchased a few volumizing products that give body to my flat-as-a-pancake hair. Sweet!

2. If you also have an itchy scalp, TRY ARGAN OIL! Started rubbing it on my head after I get out of the shower (if I wash my hair). It’s definitely helping. I was wary of trying it since my hair gets greasy quickly, but it didn’t make my hair greasy somehow??

3. The best homemade creamer my mom and me have concocted so far is almond milk + a few spoonfuls of sugar. Though I’m probably consuming less sugar than I was with the store-bought creamer, I wish I could use little to no sugar in my coffee. But, apparently, things don’t taste as good without sugar…lol!

4. For the potpourri, I plan to mix up the plant leaves, some essential oils, and orris root powder then let it sit for a few weeks. Wish me luck. I hope this is less of a disaster than the sweetened-condensed milk creamer.

How I’ve Been Spending my Time During Quarantine

It’s crazy that my “Coronavirus Came in Like a Wrecking Ball” post was published one month ago. Gah! Today, I want to take it easy and share how I’ve tried to put the extra time to good use.

I’m going a little stir crazy since I can’t attend all the church-related outings that come throughout the week and/or month. Fortunately for me, I was already used to the staying-productive-while-being-home-most-days routine, but NOT having those outings sprinkled in my days (along with going out to eat sometimes, nail salon appointments with my grandma, other little activities) makes the time seem monotonous. [In case you’re wondering, I’m a contributing writer for a small, local newspaper.]

Before I go further, I want to say–I pray for you to have strength, peace, and “daily bread” (whatever you need today physically, mentally, or spiritually) if you are still working in public, attending full-time college online, taking care of children 24/7, the owner of a small business, laid off from your job and trying to make ends meet, etc. I’m very much aware how blessed I am to have extra time and comparatively few worries right now.

Clutter is the worst!

Time management has been better some days and worse on others because monotony is demotivating. Overall, I have been blogging, spending more time on devotionals (praying/reading Bible/perusing commentaries), reading books, and tidying up dusty shelves, baskets of unused items, junk drawers, unneeded clothes and books, stacks of papers on my desk, and all those little nooks and crannies that are easier to ignore when the hustle and bustle of life is in full swing. [Check out the Netflix series Tidying Up with Marie Kondo, or one of the countless YouTube videos about decluttering, for inspiration.]

Current reads: The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck (awesome!โ™ฅ) and America’s Original Sin by Jim Wallis (informative but debatably longer than needed–glad I am reading it but eager to knock out these last couple chapters).

Sidenote: I’ve been utilizing the cleaning time to listen to new (to me) music. Lecrae has so many good albums. GAWVI’s new album HEATHEN dropped last week, and it’s got several bangers. Fun fact: “Fight For Me” by GAWVI feat. Lecrae is the first Christian rap song I downloaded about two years ago. And the rest (my love for Christian rap) is history. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Anways, it’s ironic because I discussed my aversion to cleaning and organizing in my recent post on procrastination. But, alas, dynamics in the world and in my brain have shifted. Now that I’m cooped up in the house almost 24/7, tidying up helps time pass quickly and leaves me feeling accomplished, which makes my life seem purposeful despite being on “pause.” In the same vein, jumping into tidying up enables me to banish feelings of sluggishness. [Who knew dealing with the inch-thick layer of dust on literally everything would be so gross and annoying?! Remind me to get off my butt and do this more often…]

Another thing that helps with sluggishness is exercise, so I am keeping a consistent schedule (1x/week at home, 2x/week with trainer). I’m blessed that I can still exercise with my trainer in his apartment, so that is all I leave the house to do. Funny enough, I think these quarantine workouts are harder; we have no machines, so we just do all the tough body-weight stuff that gets my heart pumping like squats and push-ups. He also lives on the second floor, and part of my “warm-up” is walking up the stairs. Oy vey!

Yesterday, I discussed how privileged Americans are with my fiancee, who works at a grocery store. He only visits a couple times a week right now because my heart condition makes me vulnerable. We notice so many people on social media complain about how bored they are and how much they want this to end. This is certainly not ideal, but we can still leave the house for essential items, we have all this technology to entertain us, etc. We agreed that it’s tragically ironic how we Americans have SO MUCH, yet all we focus on is WHAT WE DON’T HAVE. [Not gonna lie–I low-key teared up because I was impressed by this humble wisdom coming from someone who serves on “the front lines” right now.] LORD, FORGIVE OUR UNGRATEFUL HEARTS! [Please, give yourself permission to feel frustrated/lonely/disappointed/sad about the circumstances, but don’t dwell in that mindset.]

Thanks for reading! What have you been up to during this time? Let me know in the comments.

As much as I want this all to end, I am trying to learn any lessons I can in this time, whether it’s just how blessed we are to have our usual conveniences, how to be hopeful and trust God in an uncertain season, how much we NEED community, how should technology intersect with mission and ministry now and in the future, etc. Between Good Friday and Easter, I read an analogy between this unsure time and the uncertainty the disciples must’ve felt on that day between Jesus’s death and resurrection…poignant!

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! ๐Ÿ˜‰

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.]

Symmetry

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.