Blogging 101: A Feel-Good Guide to the Basics of Blogging

Blogging 101: A Feel-Good Guide to the Basics of Blogging

I have a bit of a surprise today. I’m both excited and nervous to announce that I’ve created an ebook – Blogging 101: A Feel-Good Guide to the Basics of Blogging. Over 100 pages of guidance and good vibes!

I’m going to get the price out of the way right off the bat – it’s £2.99 (roughly $4). I don’t want to spend the whole post going on about it, for you to get to the end, see the price and think “no thanks.” So, there it is. Some people probably want it to be free, others may think that’s really cheap, but it’s the price I’m comfortable with. It’s a labour of love above anything else, but I do have bills to pay. 😉

This may come as a shock, but I’ve been sitting on this secret for about 4 months. I actually started working on it before Christmas. At that point, it was a course. However, making an ebook had cheaper creation costs which meant I could keep the final price low.

The original plan was to kickstart the New Year by launching it. Yet, when the New Year came around, I saw an increase in the number of bloggers complaining about newer bloggers creating courses and ebooks. Whether it was scrolling through Twitter or in the Facebook groups, there seemed to be a lot of it going around. Or, maybe, I had just become more sensitive to it now that I was working on my own. Regardless, it made me second guess everything.

Mental health wise, January was wobbly at best. Although I knew there was no way those comments were aimed at me (as I hadn’t discussed this with anyone except Neal), they got under my skin. Imposter syndrome kicked in and I abandoned it.

Then a wonderful blogger friend of mine, Bibi, gave me the nudge I needed. She had messaged me about something else and I opened up a little about how I felt. She was so incredibly sweet and supportive that she gave me my motivation back.

Though I don’t like to give myself too much credit, I have achieved a lot. I want to share how I did that with others. There are so many unnecessary mistakes bloggers make, simply because they don’t know any better. I don’t think I’m an expert and I’m not claiming to be. But I do have some knowledge which is useful and that counts for something.

Quick Background Story 

When I was brand new to blogging, I remember scrolling through Twitter and seeing someone say, “I wish there was just a simple guide to all the basic stuff for blogging.” At the time, I had only been blogging for a couple of months and there was no way it would be viable for me to create such a thing. I didn’t have the knowledge, skills or experience necessary.

But that stuck with me. The more I grew my blog, the more I felt compelled to create something like that. Or as close to it as I could manage.

I have learnt so much since I started. I get a lot of questions about how I’ve accomplished the things I have in such a short space of time. Happy as I am to answer these questions, I have been mulling over a way to share everything I’ve done, all in one go.

I’ve also thought a lot about the people who, for whatever reason, wouldn’t feel comfortable to reach out and ask. How could I help them, too, without any pressure?

The thing is, I wanted to do it my way. I didn’t want it to blend in with all of the other blogging guides that already exist. I just couldn’t figure out how I wanted to achieve that.

Then, a few months ago, I had an idea. A way to merge my knowledge with my optimism and passion for uplifting others. To achieve a balance between information and a feel-good factor. A blogging book… with affirmations worked in, too. A guide that doesn’t only boost your blog, but also your confidence.

What Can You Expect from Blogging 101?

There are no top secrets for success hidden amongst the pages. There is simply consolidated knowledge that I’ve learnt from my own experiences and spending hours and hours and hours browsing Google and Pinterest. Apologies if that’s a disappointment.

I know what it’s like to launch your blog and think “now what?” I went through the same emotions. You set up your site, write your first post and then you’re stumped. So, I started exploring and finding ways I could get my blog seen which means I’ve also had that moment of realising there was so much more to it than I thought. I can clearly remember questioning if I’d bitten off more than I could chew.

Everything in the book, you can learn for free – if you have the hours to put into it. So, if you’re wondering what you’re paying for, it’s essentially my time. The hours of research and pulling together my knowledge into a concise beginner’s guide to blogging. If you’d rather find it all out yourself, then be my guest.

The purpose of this book is to give you a solid foundation to build upon. It does not guarantee instant success, but I believe it will help you start in the right way. If I could describe it in three words, they would be: honest, informative and uplifting. Fingers crossed, you’ll agree.

Most blogging courses I have taken and books I’ve read have been PACKED full of information. I’m hoping you will find this one to be no different. Where I do want it to be different, however, is with a bit of focus on yourself, and your mental well-being. I will shout about the positives of having a blog from the rooftops, but I’m also aware of the negatives. The stress. The comparisons. The self-doubt. So, throughout Blogging 101, there are a number of affirmations, accompanied by a short essay to give you a bit of a boost.

If you’re a regular reader of my blog, then some of it may sound familiar. That’s because selected parts made their debut on my blog. For the most part, though, it will be fresh, hot off the press information.

Blogging 101 Covers:

(Don’t panic if some of the terms in this list are unfamiliar. They’ll be explained!)

Writing  – crafting your content, finding your style, tools to help with your grammar and spelling and how to overcome writer’s block.

Layout & Design – choosing a theme, what to have in your sidebar, creating an easy-to-navigate blog, readability and images.

SEO – keyword research, how to use your keywords, site speed, lowering your bounce rate and improving your domain authority.

Organisation – planning your time, making a schedule, how to stick to your schedule and setting goals.

Email Marketing – when to start building your list, different services available, growing your list, freebie ideas and what to include in your emails.

Blog Monetization – affiliate marketing, finding sponsored opportunities, pitching to brands and creating products.

WordPress Plugins – a few of my favourites.

You will notice that social media is not included in that list. You may be thinking, “how can you have an ebook about blogging and NOT include social media?!” That’s because I wanted this to focus solely on your blog. Social media is undeniably important in blogging, but you need to learn some basics of blogging itself before you attempt to tackle social media. There’s no point marketing something on social media platforms if you’re not maximising its potential to begin with.

I think a common error is bloggers trying to do EVERYTHING at once. Create a killer blogger AND rock social media. It’s a recipe for a headache, closely followed by burnout. That’s why we’re purely looking at the main event: your blog.

Who Blogging 101 Suitable For?

This book has been created especially for new bloggers and perhaps those who are just feeling very overwhelmed and a little lost. For those who love the idea of blogging, but struggle with their confidence and self-belief. Textbook meets self-help book.

The only expectation I have is that your blog is up and running and you know how to navigate the platform. I also assume that you are self-hosted on the WordPress.org platform or are planning to be in the near future. If you’re unsure of the difference, or undecided about taking the next step, check out is going self-hosted right for you?

I use WordPress myself, it’s where my expertise lies so it’s what I trust myself to assist you with. There may be other nuggets of information in here to help those using other platforms but please be aware that this is who my target is.

What I Can Promise Is This:

Everything you read has been researched and tested by me. If it’s in the book, it brought me results. While your results may vary in comparison to mine, all I can do is share what I did to make that happen and let you give it a go.

In addition to that, it will make you smile at least once.

What I Won’t Promise Is:

Guaranteed milestones by certain deadlines. That seems to be the thing to do, doesn’t it? “Get a money-making blog in six months!” – you know the drill.

I have no doubt that approach sells. But here’s the thing: blogging varies according to so many factors, including the amount of time you have, your chosen topic and the market at the time. I’m not here to leave anyone feeling disappointed – I’m here to help.

I worked on my blog full time from the very beginning, after I had to leave my job due to poor mental health. The time in which I achieved the things I have is not going to match up with someone who is working full time, blogging part time and maybe even raising a family.

So, I’m not going to put a deadline on this thing. It puts unnecessary pressure on both of us. What if you don’t reach the milestone in the outlined time? Does it mean there’s something wrong with you? Or does it mean that I’m a liar? Well, probably neither.

Work through it at your own pace and come back to it whenever you need to. We’ll get there together.

Oh, Did I Mention There’s A Freebie, Too?

Yep… the blog includes a download link to the printable Rainbow Blogging Bundle. You get a blog post checklist, content creation ideas sheet, monthly planner and weekly planner. It’s not available anywhere else so it’s a nice exclusive gift for you!

If I’ve won you over, click here to purchase a PDF copy of Blogging 101: A Feel-Good Guide to the Basics of Blogging or you can get a Kindle copy on Amazon.

Blogging 101 is a blogging guide unlike any other. It’s been lovingly created to not only educate you, but also REALLY encourage you. I hope you enjoy it. Please let me know your thoughts!

Blogging 101: A Feel-Good Guide To The Basics Of Blogging

Beginner's Blogging Guide
Blogging 101 The Ebook Every New Blogger Needs To Read
Introducing Blogging 101

Social Media Usage And Why I Gave Up On Instagram

Social Media Usage And Why I Gave Up On Instagram

As bloggers, we use social media a lot. We kind of feel like we have to, right? Be it to drive traffic to our sites, secure opportunities or purely to make some friends along the way, blogging and social media seem to go hand in hand.

But how much effort should we be putting into something we can’t control?

On Tuesday night, I finally made the decision to scrap my Instagram account. Less than 24 hours later, Instagram (along with Facebook and Whatsapp) went down. I guess it just couldn’t cope without my presence.

I’m joking, of course.

But I do want to talk about Instagram – why I got rid of it and also the uncomfortable amount of panic which followed the outage.

Let’s start with how I ended up deactivating my account.

Back in October, I wrote a post about trying to solve the Instagram mystery. In it, I discussed various methods I had tried to grow on the platform. I tried a few others and saw little improvement.

So, when 2019 rolled around, I decided I’d just do Instagram for fun. I started posting less, rambled a little in my stories and did my best not to take it seriously. I wasn’t really concerning myself with follower numbers because they had become as unpredictable as the British weather.

Things were okay. Then, for the last few weeks, I’ve had this niggling feeling that I should give it up. While I was trying my best to have fun with it, I realised I wasn’t. It was sucking up my time, but bringing nothing to my life or my blog. It’s not a platform I enjoy, and it never really has been. I had seen lots of tweets complaining about the algorithm and the unfollowing games and I felt the same way. Yet, I wondered why we all cared so much and if it was even worth it.

Still, I was torn between getting rid of it and holding onto it because I know brands often appreciate an Instagram presence. I was apprehensive about the fact it could reflect negatively on me. Plus, I’m a little bit stubborn and didn’t want to admit defeat.

Every night (and I mean every night) I would have a debate with myself. It went a little something like this:

I really don’t like Instagram, I should delete it. 

But then, what about brands who value Instagram over other platforms?

My value goes beyond Instagram.

But you’re a blogger, you should be on Instagram.

It always came back to the same two points, though. I don’t enjoy it and I have value beyond that. It doesn’t make me a bad blogger to not be on there. In fact, it has no reflection on my ability as a blogger at all.

I didn’t want to make a rash decision but, the more time passed, the more I believed I should step away from the platform. I am sure that Instagram CAN be great, but pictures are not my strength. Words are. That was the attraction of blogging for me. Having a space to write – not the idea of having to maintain an Instagram feed and update my stories multiple times a day.

I realise you get out of it what you put in and, every minute I spent on Twitter, I would be stressing about the fact Instagram would suffer. Then, when I tried harder with Instagram, Twitter fell to the side. That just makes me human – there’s only so much I can do. And then I realised I could remove some of the pressure by taking one of them out of the equation. The one I enjoyed the least.

So, I said goodbye to my Instagram account. There was an instant sense of relief.

I don’t want to say my life isn’t “Instagram worthy” because that’s ridiculous. However, most of my days look the same. I’m sat in front of a screen, working hard to try and get things off the ground. My time is put into writing content, working on other projects or cleaning my flat. There are only so many times I can post those things before it’s just… dull. Both for me and for anyone following me. When it comes to my blog, Instagram felt pointless. It wasn’t driving traffic, I wasn’t enjoying it and it was taking up one of my most precious resources: my time.

On the other hand, I’ve kept my hand lettering Instagram (shameless plug: I’m sunflowerscription on there). The big difference with this one is that I know what I’m doing with it. I have things I can post because I’m constantly creating different pieces. Using Instagram for that makes sense to me. Now, I still don’t love the platform in general but I can see the value of it for something like that.

I’ve tried a few things since I started blogging. I’ve naturally taken to some and failed miserably at others. That’s fine because I gave them a go and realised they simply weren’t where my strengths were. Blogging is a journey. Along the way, you will discover things that work for you and things that don’t. It’s perfectly acceptable to admit a platform isn’t suitable for you. You can then use your time to be the best at the ones you enjoy.

LH-Balloon-2

What Happens When Social Media Goes Down?

The following day, Instagram went down. And, my goodness, what a reaction.

Before I delve into how concerning and uncomfortable it was to witness, I want to clear up a few points.

Number one. I don’t actually spend a lot of time on social media anymore. I tend to pop on, update, close it and come back to it later. The amount of time I put into it has reduced drastically in the past few months. I don’t feel the same pull towards it as I have done previously. The very fact I’ve spent so much time deliberating about what to do with my Instagram account shows that it still has some sort of hold on me, though.

Number two. I realise it’s important for my blog. To be completely truthful, I probably wouldn’t be on any social media if I wasn’t blogging. I enjoy connecting and talking to other bloggers, but it’s not an essential for me. Yet, I do understand its importance for blogging and business. So, when people were feeling a little alarmed because of the potential damage to that, I kind of get it.

Those things out of the way, I find it alarming the way people react when social media goes down. The main reason for that is because, realistically, it will be back soon enough. It normally goes down for a little while, gets fixed and everyone carries on as normal.

So, people seriously can’t find something else to do for a few hours? For me, it’s an “oh well, it’s down, let’s do something else”. But the sheer amount of people who decided they’d rather take to Twitter to panic about it was almost comical. I realise some of those tweets were done to be ironic or funny but I’m confident many of them were serious, too.

Worst case scenario: it’s gone forever. What then?

Though I don’t think it’s likely to happen anytime soon, Instagram and Facebook are owned by the same people. They could quite easily vanish or fade out. You know, like good old MySpace did.

If you’ve put so much into it that that’s a massive issue, that’s equally worrying. Even from a business perspective, surely you should have other means of generating it (like your own site) rather than just social media?

I’ve got to be honest. I’ve felt uncomfortable about other people’s relationships with social media for a long time. That sounds a little arrogant, but that’s not my intention. I don’t think I’m better than anyone else because my relationship with social media is different. All I’m saying is that you should have other things you enjoy doing. A book, for example, won’t let you down. And I don’t like to see members of my generation – or any other – so reliant on something which can disappear in the blink of an eye. It’s not healthy.

In fairness, there are probably a handful of people who were justified in their panic, for whatever reason. When it comes to the majority, though, I fear there’s too much invested in the world of social media.

The biggest value of having your own blog and your own site is that it’s yours. Instagram going down confirmed for me that I was right to move away from it. Not because it’s unreliable, but putting my energy and effort into something which I don’t have control over has an element of risk. Focusing on my blog and freeing up more time to work on that (or interact with the audience I already have) is a good decision to make.

As bloggers, I’d urge you to think about how you use your time. Is it being absorbed by something you don’t control, or are you using enough of it on your own site? We all put a lot into social media and maybe sometimes we lose focus. I know I do. As I’ve said, social media is important for your blog and there’s no getting past that. But your blog and content creation should always be the priority. This latest hiccup is proof of that.

Social Media Usage And Why I Gave Up On Instagram

Bloggers And Social Media
Why I Finally Got Rid Of My Instagram Account
Instagram Went Down

How To Handle Not Meeting Your Blogging Goals

How To Handle Not Meeting Your Blogging Goals

Blogging goals – great when you meet them, a nightmare if you don’t. I am particularly hard on myself if I don’t achieve my goals. My thoughts seem to spiral and I end up feeling like a failure. I suppose you could say I’m writing this as much as a reminder for myself as anything else!

The end of the month seems to be a common time to reflect on blogging goals. All being well, you nailed it! If, on the other hand, you didn’t, then this post is for you.

Let’s take a look at three steps you can take to handle not meeting your blogging goals.

Step one: acceptance.

Know it’s okay to not meet your goals sometimes. Beating yourself up about it is counterproductive. If you put all of your energy into that, you’re not going to want to do anything else! You’re telling me you’d rather sit there and mope than get back up and make it happen? …Yeah, okay, me too sometimes. But, take a moment, admit it sucks and then move on.

You may not have achieved your goals in the timeframe you wanted, but it doesn’t mean you never will. It just means waiting a little longer to do that happy dance.

I can tell you one thing I know won’t help you achieve them and that’s a whole heap of negative self talk. In the moment, I realise it’s hard not to, especially if that’s a habit you’re accustomed to.

This is where step two comes in.

Step two: assessment.

Did you meet some of your goals and not the others? If so, then take a second to celebrate the ones you did! I have a tendency to fixate on where I’ve gone wrong rather than what I’ve done right. If that sounds familiar, please try and give yourself some credit. I even go as far as to say out loud: “right, I didn’t achieve x and y but I DID achieve z!”

If you haven’t achieved any of your goals, ask yourself WHY you didn’t. Be objective. Consider the following questions.

Were your goals too big/vague?

I’m all for being ambitious, but sometimes, they need to be broken down into manageable chunks. If it’s a regular occurrence that you’re not meeting your goals, this is highly likely to be the reason why.

I have monthly and weekly goals which are then broken into my daily to do lists. It may seem excessive, but it really works for me. If you’re making monthly blogging goals, I’d definitely encourage you to at least split them up into weekly objectives, too. This makes it seem much less overwhelming.

Were you having a rough time?

Mental health wobbles are one of the top causes of a hiccup in my productivity. My brain seems to shut down. I can’t think straight. Consequently, I can’t get much done.

Unfortunately, this does send me down a nasty route of being unnecessarily hard on myself. Occasionally, this sometimes reaches the point of me wanting to give up my blog altogether, which is irrational and unreasonable. You have to quickly stop any of those thoughts in their tracks.

If you’ve been struggling, it stands to reason that you may not have accomplished as much as you wanted to. That’s okay! Don’t allow it to escalate further by then punishing yourself about it, too.

Invest some time in self care. Rest, recharge and regroup.

Did something else come up?

You’ve got your goals all planned out, then life throws a curveball in your path. Sometimes, things come up. You can’t plan for them. They just happen. Often, this means our blogging goals have to be put on the back burner while other things take priority.

Frustrating as these situations are, it’s just the way it goes sometimes. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with it. If you’ve had to prioritise another area of your life, that’s no reason to feel like a failure.

Even in the context of blogging, you may have focused more on one area than another – even without realising it. The truth in all areas of blogging is that you get out what you put in. Naturally, no one can be present on all platforms at once. So, if you’ve been spending more time on Instagram, your Twitter growth may have struggled because of it.

Was it actually in your control?

Scrolling through social media, I see a lot of people feeling down in the dumps because they didn’t get a certain amount of views, or they’re just shy of a set follower count. I have no issue with anyone making goals on this basis, but remember that there’s only so much you can do.

Blogging views can vary a lot from one month to the next. Sometimes, the more I try to gain followers on Twitter or Instagram, the less I get. I actually gain more in some months when I barely tweet at all!

By all means, give yourself a guideline, but don’t stress too much if you fall short.

Were you procrastinating?

If all the other possibilities are out, then it is time to take a look at yourself. No, not because you’re useless, but perhaps you weren’t as proactive as you should have been. With that comes more questions.

If you’re aware you were procrastinating, it’s important to identify the reasons. This could come back to your goals being too large, or the fact you were having a rough time. Perhaps you’re struggling with blogger’s block and feeling fed up. There can be all sorts of reasons and not a single one is because you’re a lost cause – I promise!

Have a think about why you maybe haven’t been as enthusiastic as usual and act accordingly.

Step three: action.

The most important thing is that you don’t allow a setback to keep you down. You need to revise your plans and get ready to smash your goals next time around.

If you don’t already, you could try writing out your goals and plan of attack in a notebook. This way, you can come back to it if you begin to lose focus.

Maybe you need to try a different approach altogether, as your current goal setting method isn’t working for you. My blogging buddy, Rebekah, has a fantastic post about creating smart goals you’ll stick to.

If you’ve got a lot on your plate, consider if taking a break could be beneficial. Even if it’s just a few days or a week while you regain some balance.

 

To conclude, I think blogging goals are important to keep a sense of direction. Nevertheless, if they continually make you feel down, it could be good to take a break from making them. Just blog for the fun of it instead!

Otherwise, stick with it. It’s easy to forget that, at some point or another, everyone misses the mark when it comes to their blogging goals. I love seeing people celebrating their milestones on social media but it can be difficult when you haven’t. Don’t let it cloud your judgment. It’ll be your turn soon enough!

How To Handle Not Meeting Your Blogging Goals

What To Do When You Don't Achieve Your Blogging Goals
3 Steps To Take When You Don't Achieve Your Goals
If You Didn't Achieve Your Blogging Goals...

The Highs And Lows Of Blogging About Mental Health

The Highs And Lows Of Blogging About Mental Health

Blogging about mental health can be very rewarding, but it’s not without its challenges.

The Cons of Blogging About Mental Health

Let’s get the not-so-great stuff out of the way first, shall we?

1. Some people expect you to have all the answers.

I’ve had people become angry at me in the past because I didn’t know how to “fix” their issues. I’d love to have all the answers, but mental health is a very personal thing. What works for me doesn’t always work for others.

I also have no training in treating mental illness. I talk openly and honestly about my experiences, but that’s as far as my knowledge goes. Having people message me while in crisis can be tricky and I don’t always know what to say. Though I remain grateful they’ve reached out, I do think it’s important to keep in mind that we may not be able to offer much assistance.

2. You feel a sense of responsibility.

Following on from that last point, you WANT to help as many people as you can. I’ve stayed up until all hours talking to people in the past because I wanted to make sure they were okay. That’s not healthy. It puts a huge strain on my own wellbeing, but I don’t want to shun away someone who is reaching out.

It’s really difficult not to feel pressure to be there for everyone. As we know how hard it can be to ask for help, we don’t want to do anything that could prevent someone from doing it again.

3. It’s draining.

There are times when doing a deep dive into your emotions just sucks the life out of you. We do it in the name of raising awareness, and helping others know they’re not alone. But there have certainly been posts I’ve written in the past where I’ve felt exhausted afterwards.

4. Some people think they know you. 

I share a lot with others, through both my blog and my social media. This openness can cause some people to think they know me inside and out. Their approach to me can be overly friendly. Sometimes, it’s pleasant enough, but other times can be uncomfortable.

The truth is that I am a very guarded person. I only share as much as I am comfortable with. There’s so much the internet doesn’t get to see. To know me properly takes A LOT of time.

5. Some people forget to ask how you are.

Again, I think being open causes some people to assume they know where you are at mentally. I mean, if I was going through a tough time, I would have said, right? It’s not necessarily true. Occasionally, I do the complete opposite and just avoid interaction as much as I can. People pop up in my direct messages and just get straight to whatever the reason is, without the courtesy of asking how I am. It’s not that I would divulge the inner workings of my mind to a total stranger (see the last half of point four) but it’s polite to ask in any case.

6. Comparison.

This is a universal struggle for all bloggers, but let’s take a look at it in the context of mental health blogging.

Some mental health bloggers choose to share every part of their journey – the highs, lows and all that’s in between. This isn’t what I do. I often don’t talk about the harder times until I’m through them. The reason for this isn’t that I don’t want people to know, but because I prefer to wait until my head is clearer to talk about it.

Every now and then, I start to question if this makes me bad at what I do. It makes me wonder if I’m feeding into the idea that there has to be a positive spin on mental illness. There doesn’t. Often, there isn’t. I worry that people will think I’m fake because I’m not saying every detail along the way.

Of course I’m not happy all the time, but I don’t choose to share that side of things with the internet as it’s happening. I talk about it with Neal, or I wait for it to pass. Once I’m through it, I am much more comfortable saying “it’s been a rough few days but I’m okay now!”

7. Some people expect you to only talk about mental health.

This applies to both your blog and general conversations. I’ve seen bloggers get a hard time because they wrote about something other than mental health. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. To link back to point three, it’s so tiring to ALWAYS be talking about mental health. Happy as we are to do it, it’s not all there is to us. We need the space to express ourselves about a whole number of other things, too.

My blog was born out of my struggles. Mental health will always have a place in it. I’ll always try to spread awareness and encourage others to talk about it. Be that as it may, I want the freedom to write about all sorts of things, which is why I seldom refer to myself as a “mental health blogger”. Those who do, though, shouldn’t be chastised if they decide to branch out a little!

8. Imposter syndrome.

For those who aren’t aware, imposter syndrome is a psychological pattern which creates fear of being exposed as a “fraud”.

I don’t think this is necessarily exclusive to mental health bloggers, but writing about my mental health seems to be where this creeps in the most. It’s a bizarre thing when your mind starts saying things like “you’re not sick enough to talk about this.” And though I would never claim to have all of the answers, sometimes even offering advice from my own experiences make me think “what gives me the right to write any of this?”

9. It’s hard to monetise.

Now, this isn’t such an issue for me as my blog is much more general, but I wanted to include it as it’s something other mental health bloggers have brought to my attention.

I can’t stress enough that I don’t believe for a second that mental health bloggers get into it for this reason. Yet, I do think it’s unfortunate that there can be less options.

Having discussed this with a couple of people in the past, part of it is guilt or the prospect of shame from making a profit from other people’s struggles. I fully understand this, but I think it’s important to think of it as a mutually beneficial situation, rather than one-sided. If a blogger I like is offering something to help with my mental health and I have the opportunity to support them at the same time? That’s a good thing.

Sadly, I think there will always be people out there who want to twist it into something malicious and put you down for it. Be that from envy or misjudging you, it’s likely to happen. So, I’m going to paraphrase Matt Haig here, who I believe has been subjected to a bit of criticism about his books, and tweeted something along the lines of “there’s no shame in turning what is an awful situation into something that benefits you.”

If you want to monetise and you can find a way to do it, then I think you should. Loyal readers will appreciate it’s well-intentioned.

Roses, coffee and white sheet

The Pros of Blogging About Mental Health

The stuff that makes it all worthwhile.

1. Encouraging others to get help.

The first time someone messaged me to say they had arranged to see a counsellor because of me, I cried. It was such solid evidence that what I did mattered. I was so touched that they had taken the time to let me know, and became overwhelmed with emotions.

I’ve been fortunate to have a few more interactions like this since, and each one makes me feel so incredibly happy. Not only because it reminds me that I’m helping people, but because I know the other person is trying to get themselves out of a dark place.

When I shared these stories with my counsellor, she was quick to say “these are only the people you know about – your impact probably goes far beyond them”. It’s wonderful to think people could be reaching out as a consequence of what you do, whether they tell you about it or not.

2. You are a voice for others.

A lot of people don’t feel comfortable in sharing how they feel, or don’t know how to put it into words. Those of us who enjoy writing have an opportunity to put it out there in a way people understand. It can be helpful to make sense of their own feelings, or identify the best way to express it to their loved ones.

One of my most popular posts, What Does It Feel Like To Have Anxiety?, struck a chord with so many people. It was shared by people who wanted others to know exactly how it felt. I had individuals contact me to say that so much of what I’d said had resonated with them that they realised they needed to speak to a doctor. Using my voice meant others could find theirs.

3. Educating others.

Discussing your experiences gives others an insight into what life is like with a mental illness. This is so important to break down the stigma and create more compassion.

For example, changing the idea that being depressed means you’re sad all the time. In actual fact, people can struggle with high functioning depression. There are still symptoms to look out for, both in others and ourselves. Raising awareness of this encourages everyone to look a little deeper, rather than taking someone at face value and assuming everything is good in their life.

It gives people a platform to talk about lesser known mental illnesses, too. Though I had an awareness of other disorders, I’ve been given a much deeper insight into them from other bloggers. I only really knew the term “borderline personality disorder” but I’ve learnt so much about it since I started connecting with this community.

4. Connecting with people who understand.

I have read countless blog posts about depression and anxiety since I started and the comfort they have brought me is immeasurable. There were lots of symptoms of these illnesses which made me feel alien. Things I couldn’t do that everyone else made look so easy. Situations I felt like I should be able to handle.

Every time I read a post and think “wow, I could have written this!”, I am reminded that I’m not alone. That’s hugely important.

5. The community is inspiring.

Writing about mental health has brought some truly exceptional people into my life. Reading their stories is so moving. Their resilience, their determination and their courage is incredible.

These are people who are fighting every day. They keep pushing forward. They’re driven to bettering the lives of others and reducing the stigma around mental health. It’s a pleasure to witness and wonderful to be a part of it.

The majority of people are also very supportive, not only with your mental health journey, but your blogging one, too. It’s nice to know you have people rooting for you.

6. It’s a good outlet.

Having somewhere you can go and write about things is a great way to get it off your mind. I’m not always comfortable speaking about what’s going on in my head, but I’m happy enough to write about it. I don’t always publish what I write, but blogging has helped to create this habit of expression.

Rather than keeping your emotions bottled up, you have somewhere you can go and just let it all out.

7. You can explore your own feelings.

Writing about certain things has brought up new thoughts and approaches for me, on more than one occasion. The process of putting it all out there and working through it allows you to identify things that maybe weren’t so clear previously.

I’ve had similar lightbulb moments while blogging as I did while attending counselling, which is great. Gaining that clarity is invaluable.

 

Now, you may be thinking, “hold on, there’s more cons than pros? Why do you do it?”. For me, it comes down the fact that the pros hold more weight. They are much more valuable reasons. What blogging about my mental health has given me is wonderful. Though it has its flaws, they’re not enough to stop me because the good things motivate me much more.

Blogging about mental health can be daunting. You are opening up and being vulnerable. It’s nerve-wracking, especially the first few times. Though it does get easier, I still find myself hovering over the “publish” button. I do believe, however, that the pros outweigh the cons. They are what keep me going. So, blogging about mental health is not easy… but it is worth it.

The Highs And Lows Of Blogging About Mental Health

The Pros And Cons Of Blogging About Mental Health
Why Blogging About Mental Health Is A Gift And A Curse
Why Blogging About Mental Health Is A Gift And A Curse

6 WordPress Plugins Your Blog Needs

6 WordPress Plugins Your Blog Needs

One of my favourite things about being self-hosted is the WordPress plugins I can use. Plugins allow you more control over your site – both how it looks, and how it runs. They can save a lot of time, effort and stress.

Below you will find 6 WordPress plugins I couldn’t blog without!

1. Yoast SEO

Starting off strong because no list of WordPress plugins would be complete without this one.

Using a traffic light system, it marks you on your readability and your SEO. Readability covers sentence length, paragraph length, use of headings and more. SEO assesses various things you need to do to keep Google happy. This includes key word usage throughout your post, meta description and use of both internal and external links.

I often see people asking how much readability matters. In my opinion, it’s worth aiming for green for this as much as you do for SEO. The only things I don’t necessarily stress over are the use of the passive voice and, occasionally, sentence length. Otherwise, I work until all points are complete. It’s likely to make the post much more enjoyable for your audience, which is what matters.

In terms of SEO, always push for green. I would also advise learning about SEO in general, and not just relying on this plugin. It will help you A LOT, but it doesn’t cater to things like choosing a keyword in the first place. It relies on you having prior knowledge on that. So, having an understanding of keyword research and to implement it so you know what you’re doing is just as crucial.

Free or premium?

Another question I’ve seen a lot is “is it worth paying for the premium version?”. In my opinion, the answer is no. I’ve always found the free version to be more than adequate for my needs, so I’ve never upgraded. From discussions I’ve seen with others who have tried it, they feel the same way. At £79, it’s not an expense I would consider justified.

2. Social Warfare

If you want your posts to get shared, you need to make it as easy as possible. This is exactly the role that Social Warfare takes.

Set up is very easy, too. You can select the social networks you want, as well as where you’d like the buttons to appear. My favourite feature in Social Warfare is “floating buttons”. This means the share buttons are present throughout the post – not just at the end. I just like knowing a reader has the choice to share it whenever they want to!

Free or premium?

Again, Social Warfare has a premium version, which costs $29 a year for a single site. Once again, there are no features in this which push me to want to purchase it. All basic needs are covered in the free version! I don’t know of anyone who has tried premium so, if you have and you think it’s worth it, please let me know.

3. Smush

I know I’ve mentioned this before, but if you have a lot of images on your blog, this is a must! There are other similar plugins which do the same thing, but this is my personal favourite.

It reduces the sizes of your image files without harming their quality. This means your site will load faster, but your pictures will still look fabulous! Win win, right? In fact, I have mine set to automatically smush when I upload them, so I don’t even have to think about it.

Free or premium?

I don’t really understand why there’s a premium version of this, so I guess that answers that one…

In all seriousness, I imagine some of the pro features could come in handy if you have a photoblog, perhaps? For most bloggers, however, the free version is definitely sufficient.

Keyboard roses candle and notebook

4. GDPR Framework

When there was all the fret and fuss about GDPR, this saved my frazzled brain. Though it doesn’t guarantee complete compliance, it will take you several steps closer. Key features include:

  • An installation wizard to help you get started.
  • Configure the plugin to delete or anonymize personal data automatically or send a notification and allow admins to do it manually.
  • Track, manage and withdraw consent.
  • Generate a GDPR-compatible Privacy Policy template for your site.

I have a separate post about GDPR compliance to help you get on the right track if it’s something you haven’t thought about!

Free or premium?

As far as I can see, there’s only a free version so yay!

5. UpdraftPlus

One of the many perks of being in a relationship with an IT nerd is that he thinks of things I’d never consider. That’s why I have UpdraftPlus.

The purpose of this plugin is to backup your site. Having backups means that, if the worst was to happen, you’d be able to restore it. If it wasn’t for Neal’s guidance, I probably would have realised I needed this after it was too late.

My backups are set up to occur once a day, and go directly into my Google Drive. I did, in fact, have to perform a restoration in the summer because I’d fiddled with some settings. There was no major damage done, but I wanted my blog exactly how it had been previously. Thankfully, restoring was quick and easy!

Free or premium?

Looking at the information, the premium version seems very “next level.” By that, I mean it’s beyond my understanding so getting it would be a waste of my time. I feel like premium is aimed at developers who are setting it up for clients. With that in mind, the free version does plenty in regards to my needs.

6. WordFence Security

It may not be the most interesting of WordPress plugins, but it is an essential. It keeps everything nice and secure to protect your site from malicious attacks.

What I particularly like about this plugin is that it sends me emails when various events occur. For example, when someone logs into the admin panel of my site. So far, it’s thankfully only ever been myself, but I like having the knowledge I’d be notified in any case. It also tells me when updates need to be performed, which helps me keep the behind-the-scenes stuff running smoothly.

Free or premium?

I have the free version and it’s served me well so far! The premium version would be suitable for business users, but it isn’t a necessary expense for most of us!

6 WordPress Plugins Your Blog Needs

6 Must Have Plugins
Essential WordPress Plugins

6 WordPress Plugins I Couldn't Blog Without

What are some of your favourite WordPress plugins? Let me know in the comments!

A Letter For The Struggling Blogger

A Letter For The Struggling Blogger

Dear struggling blogger,

I imagine you’re reading this because you’re feeling overwhelmed, or fed up, or any number of negative emotions. Perhaps things aren’t going the way you thought they would, or as quickly as you wanted. Maybe you just feel burnt out.

Just pause for a second. Take a deep breath. Then, breathe out all of that frustration.

At some point along the way, we are all a struggling blogger. It’s rare that anyone dives into this and flies. It takes hard work, time and commitment. Some of which you can see on the surface, and much of which goes on behind the scenes.

But, it also requires balance. If you sit and stare at the computer screen when you’ve got no inspiration, or frantically fresh your stats, you are bound to feel defeated.

Here’s my advice to you.

Keep things in context.

The lines between what we want and what we think we need to do get blurry quickly. Many of us start with simple intentions and end up stumbling into the numbers game. We end up thinking we need x amount of Instagram followers, and however many views. I’ve said before that it’s okay to care about stats, but it shouldn’t be the biggest factor.

When you see people celebrating their wins on social media, don’t let it get you down. Focus on your own goals. Is blogging a creative outlet? Did you start to help people? Whatever your reasoning was, I’m sure it’s more than likely something more substantial than figures.

What does blogging bring to your life that can’t be measured? Think of that. Keep looking at the bigger picture.

I also recommend reading What Does Being A Successful Blogger Mean? by Megan Elizabeth.

Life gets in the way sometimes.

Have you ever followed a blogger and caught yourself wondering how on Earth they manage to juggle it all? Has that ever descended into you questioning why you can’t do the same thing and feeling upset about it?

Everyone is different. We are all on different journeys, and at different places in them. What we can cope with is dependent on us. It doesn’t make anyone better or worse – just different.

You may have a lot on your plate which requires your attention. Your mental health may be having a wobble. You might be trying to squeeze in extra time with your family. There may be other hobbies you want to explore. You could be embracing the great outdoors and spending more time in nature. Whatever the reason is, don’t put extra pressure on yourself. Know it’s okay to live your life and let blogging wait.

Try something new.

Switch up your layout. Research alternative Pinterest strategies. Follow new people on Instagram. Experiment with a new writing style. You get the idea.

If you’ve been blogging for a while, maybe it all just feels a bit stale. You feel like you’ve explored every option, and exhausted all other possibilities. I highly doubt that’s true.

Do some research. You’re more than likely to discover a technique you haven’t thought of. Breathe a bit of new life into your blog or social media by trying different techniques and strategies. You’ll probably feel more engaged because it’s refreshing, and your audience may appreciate it, too!

Ask for help.

The blogging community is a basket of good eggs. It’s unfair to expect anyone to do the work for you or provide a miracle solution to achieve success, but don’t be afraid to ask someone for their opinion.

Keep in mind they may be busy themselves and not necessarily able to help, but I imagine most would try.

If you’re very serious about pursuing blogging and have a little extra cash at your disposal, there are also blogging coaches out there who will help you for a fee.

Remember: blogging should be (mostly) fun.

There are parts of blogging I do not enjoy – like keyword research and scheduling social media content. Overall, though, it encompasses a lot of things I love. If you feel the same way, then try not to let other factors cloud your judgement.

I’m a firm believer in doing things in life you enjoy. Even if you are doing this as a career (or working towards it), it should be because you’re passionate about it and want to make a living from something which makes you happy.

If blogging is no longer hitting the mark and you find yourself feeling tired of it all, there are two things to consider:

It’s okay to take a break. 

You wouldn’t think it, the way we all squeeze blogging in to every spare second. However, the only person who’s permission you need to take a breather is your own. If blogging isn’t fun anymore, then it’s time to reevaluate.

There’s this fear which grows inside us and tricks us into thinking that, if we take some time off, we’re going to return to a ghost town. That is a risk. The internet is a fickle place, after all, but it’s not as much as likely as we think. If you’ve been engaging in the community and have a loyal audience, they will still be here when you get back. They don’t want to see you run yourself into the ground.

It’s okay to walk away.

The nice bit of advice would be to not give up, yet I don’t think feeding into that mentality would be completely healthy.

You know, blogging isn’t for everyone. The only way to know is to try. If you’ve given it a go and it’s simply become another source of stress in your life, is it really worth continuing? It’s not a personal failure, it’s just not “your thing.”

Admitting this is hard, especially if you’ve put a lot of time and effort into it. But it’s important to question if you’re just wasting your time and energy? You could be using them towards something else which DOES work for you.

The key here is to be honest with your audience. Though you don’t owe anyone an explanation for living your life, it’s nice to let them know you’re okay, but your priorities have changed.

Consider another perspective.

Ask yourself this: if one of your favourite bloggers decided to take time off, how would you feel?

I’m going to assume the answer is something along the lines of understanding. Therefore, people will probably feel that way towards you, and you should grant yourself the same compassion.

Plenty of bloggers I know have decided they needed to have a break, and there has never been any ill feeling towards them. Anyone who runs a blog knows how difficult it can be. They’ll understand.

 

What I want you to remember, dear blogger, is that you’re not alone. At some point or another, almost every one, if not all, of us will end up where you are now. Some people bounce back, some call it quits, and that’s your call. Put yourself first. Do what’s right for you.

Just know, one way or another, things will work out as they’re supposed to.

Love,

Ruth.

A Letter For The Struggling Blogger

A Heartfelt Letter For Struggling Bloggers Everywhere
Struggling Blogger - This Is For You
If You're A Struggling Blogger, You NEED To Read This!

How To Overcome Writer’s Block As A Blogger

How To Overcome Writer’s Block As A Blogger

1. Write something no one else will see.

My paralysis when it comes to writing usually stems from the fact I know others will be reading it. These days, everything we do – especially as bloggers – is crafted for an audience. Blog posts, tweets, Instagram captions… and it doesn’t matter if there are 5 people or 500 people reading it, the fact it’s someone other than you can be intimidating. And, sometimes, that gets the better of us.

So write something, safe in the knowledge you’re the only person who is going to see it. Destroy it afterwards if you want to. Write about anything. Your childhood. Your day. One of your favourite songs. It doesn’t really matter.

A couple of times I’ve done this and they’ve actually turned into blog posts. Some of my most popular ones, at that. Though that somewhat defeats the point of the activity, I was so proud of what I’d been able to create without fear holding me back, I was keen to share it.

Other times, it has made absolutely no sense and I’m glad it will never be seen again.

2. Try a less intense activity. 

Blogging requires hard work and focus. Between writing, SEO and creating/selecting graphics, it’s not always the most relaxing thing to do. I sometimes think the amount of work which goes into it is what causes us to procrastinate.

Instead of sitting and staring at the page in front of you, do something that requires little thought. Have a bath. Go for a walk. Watch Netflix. Basically, stop trying to force it and take a breather. Just be wary this break doesn’t descend into a semi-permanent hiatus…

Stationery and art supplies including paints, pencils and notebooks

3. Do another creative task.

I recently discovered that doing something else creative can bring inspiration for blogging. For example, while I’m busy colouring in, my mind will wander and all of a sudden, there’s a blog post forming in my head. Though it’s a different type of creativity, it puts me in that mindset and can work wonders!

If it’s not going to look completely out of place in your blog, you could even write a post about whatever activity you choose.

4. Read…

A) Books.

I’ve found that reading something tends to spark a bit of creativity. Sometimes, it reignites my love of words; of expression. Other times, reading someone else’s thoughts and experiences stirs emotions in me which are good to channel into my own work.

It’s all well and good saying that, but what do you read? I, personally, turn to books I know and love. Others dive into something new. Try both and see what happens!

The only word of caution I would give with this one is that, although it’s perfectly fine to be inspired by others, be conscious of not losing your own voice. If you write something in the aftermath of reading, be sure to compare it with previous posts to make sure it sounds like you – not the author you’ve just read!

B) Other blogs.

Have you ever read a blog post, and wanted to leave a mini essay as a comment because you had so much to say on the topic? Other blogs can encourage us to open up about our own experiences – use that energy and put it into a blog post.

Or, it could be the opposite situation – you disagree with what was said. To use this post as an example, if you get to the end of it and think “none of these ways have ever worked for me” but have your own ways to overcome writer’s block, make a post on the subject. You may have the answers someone else is looking for.

Laptop and sketchbook

5. Get off social media.

I notice a BIG difference in creativity levels depending on how much time I spend on social media.

When I spend a lot of time on social media, my head gets full with what I’ve been seeing. Despite my best attempts not to, I take a lot of it on board. Consequently, any ideas are pushed to the back. Social media stifles my creativity a lot, it seems.

When I take a few days away, or when I reduce the amount of time on there, a lot of the clutter falls away. Then I find my ideas can wriggle their way to the front of my mind.

6. Take a blogging break.

It’s better to take some time out to recharge your batteries than to churn out content you’re not happy with. If you’ve already generated a lot of content, it’s natural to hit a block. Let your readers know you’re taking some time out, and set a date for your return. You can always use social media scheduling to keep older content circulating in the mean time.

Take a few days and implement some of the previous suggestions. Write down any ideas that may pop up, but don’t necessarily dive into working on them straight away. Allow yourself the breathing space!

7. Stop putting pressure on yourself.

As the saying goes “done is better than perfect.” I nitpick my posts beyond belief – it’s a miracle any of them are published on time. As I know I’m going to do this, it takes some of the fun out of the process. That said, blogging should be fun! So, try to put the perfectionist on pause, and enjoy yourself.

8. Explore Pinterest for inspiration.

If you search “blog post ideas” in Pinterest, you’ll be met with numerous suggestions. There are hundreds! Some are niche specific, and others can be tweaked to fit in with any blog. Browse through, make a note of any which could work for you, and go from there.

If you haven’t delved into the world of Pinterest yet, that’s not a problem. Do the same thing with Google instead.

How To Overcome Blogger's Block
8 Ways To Overcome Writer's Block
Battling With Blogger's Block?

What’s your top tip to overcome writer’s block?