Happy SMART Day Everyone!
Now that I have been blogging for just over six months and it is the end of 2011, I thought it might be a good idea to pause and reflect on some of the things I’ve learned along the way. While these lessons explain what I feel I’ve learned by blogging, just like with life 365, most of items (if not all) can apply to anyone, anywhere who is attempting to live a meaningful and rewarding life.
#1 Only blog about what’s important to you. This tip is not original. In fact, you can read it on just about every blogging site you find. That’s because the dedication it takes to blog on a regular basis requires that you write and post about things you really care about—otherwise you’ll find every reason in the book not to do it. Unfortunately, many people end up writing a blog, creating a website or doing ANYTHING creative around an idea they don’t care about because they think it will be a good “money-maker.” Then, not only do they seldom make money, (because if you’re heart isn’t in it you probably won’t) they also give it up when the going gets tough. Pick something you LOVE and you’ll stay with it just because you LOVE it.
#2 Don’t expect others to “get” what you’re doing. My parents opened the first Western store in the Coachella Valley where I live back in the 70’s. One big lesson they told me they learned was that you should not rely on family or friends to support them or their business. Some people just won’t get it. I really wish that weren’t true, but it is. No matter what your “dream”—be it becoming an artist, a writer, a world traveler, an activist, a whatever, don’t expect others to understand—or be overly supportive. I’ve been a writer for a long time now and some of my friends and family still don’t have a clue what I “do.” That’s why it’s so important for you to do it for you—not for anyone else. If others “get” it—wonderful—you have something precious to share! If they don’t—no worries, you didn’t expect that anyway.
#3 Don’t wait until you feel like it to write. I’ve been writing professionally for over 20 years and blogging is no different—you just have to “do it.” While you might not enjoy the process as much as when you are in the mood—chances are you can still put out valuable and meaningful information as long as you make the effort. Writing, and just about any endeavor, requires the discipline of doing.
#4 Don’t worry about whether other people leave comments. While I don’t have a huge readership just yet, I have to admit I was surprised more people don’t comment. That was until Thom pointed out that even the most active blogs only get a handful of comments—and then some of them aren’t very nice at all! Again, don’t blog for the feedback—stay on track with your vision or the website and that will be your reward.
#5 Use only your own photos! About a year ago found a photo online and used it to illustrate an article I had written for another website I created. I had mistakenly believed the photo was public domain and therefore, free and available to use. Apparently not! As soon as I received notice about the photo, I removed it from the article. Unfortunately, that does not seem to be enough so I have taken the website down completely to resolve the issue. What I’ve learned is to only use my own photos or very carefully make sure that you document where and how you found any photos you use and give authorship credit if provided whenever possible. Probably more important, do not assume everyone shares just because you do!
#6 Use your blog as a spiritual practice. When I first started writing many years ago I read a book by Julie Cameron called “The Artist’s Way.” That book said if you want to write, start writing NOW. She also recommended that you write every single day–three pages of long hand. I have been doing that ever since. When I get stuck or don’t necessarily want to write, I remember that writing in and of itself can be a form of mediation. Just like with #4 above, if you mediate regularly, it’s best to do it whether you feel like it or not. And just like any form of prayer or service, the activity of your blog can be a huge part of your spiritual practice.
#7 If something isn’t working—change it. A few months ago, I decided that I was going to start recommending other websites once a week for all my readers. I figured it would be easy and there would be hundreds of other sites I could point out that my readers would enjoy hearing about. It worked really well for a couple of months, but then I noticed that most of the spam I was getting came from those types of posts. Plus, most of the true comments from my “readers” avoided those articles. So, while I might do it now and then, I’m not going to continue with that idea. Time to try something new—or as the saying goes, “If you’re riding a dead horse, dismount!”
#8 Still, don’t give up your dream. One thing I’ve read repeatedly on other blogs is the recommendation that you have to keep on going even when the going gets tough. Make changes, sure, but don’t give up. This is obviously valuable no matter what dream, goal or intention you are striving to express. Not only can we never know when we are moments away from achieving our goals—but the very act of striving might turn out to be the most rewarding part of all. In other words, it’s a journey not a destination.
These lessons aren’t rocket science but they have certainly been part of my experience during the last six months. A huge part of SMART Living 365 is staying conscious to what works and what doesn’t—and going on from there. I’m not certain what I’ll learn in the days ahead but I’m looking forward to the journey.
“Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you’ve imagined.”–Henry David Thoreau
“This may sound too simple, but is great in consequence. Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves too. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents, meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamt would have come his way.”—W. H. Murray in The Scottish Himalaya Expedition, 1951