My first month writing for this new blog has been wonderful. You’ve got to love it when you learn something from what works, what doesn’t, and can still walk away feeling good about it. Here are some of my observations as I take a closer look at the first month of creating The Life Mosaic. Consider this a “journal” entry (or as Lisa Simpson would write, “Dear Log…”).
1. I’ve loved dusting off my writing chops.
Really, I don’t do all that much writing these days that isn’t for work or academic purposes. To write with passion on a project that’s all my own, something I want to share with other people without expectations on them or me, that’s been something absent for too long. Now that I gave it space for a month, it’s a lovely feeling having it back. It’s an old friend who’s familiar and fresh at the same time. I’m trying not to be too hard on myself or cringe about what I put out there. When I succeed, the writing goes better. The writing is fun.
2. Embracing the mosaic means openness and boundaries.
Many blogs are laser-focused and really, that’s the way to go. For my purposes, though, I’ve simply got too many ideas in too many areas of life buzzing around my head. I’d have to set up nearly a dozen blogs if I wanted to give them all their own laser-focus and some wouldn’t be written in for weeks or months. Better to embrace the mosaic. There is openness in choosing what I write about. Likewise, there is boundary in choosing category, tag, and other parameters. I was surprised how many posts felt like more than one category to me. Yet is that not what a mosaic is? Several posts are marked, therefore, with more than one category and that works for me.
3. I have no idea who is reading. Sometimes that’s good, sometimes it’s not.
It’s been interesting getting the word out there in an intentional way. I didn’t send an email to every person I know or post about it on Facebook every day. I took a different approach, for better or worse. Once a week for four weeks, I sent an email to twelve friends who I thought would get a kick out of at least some of what I’m writing. I made a post about community breathes in, breathes out and another post about being a mosaic which I thought were appropriate to share on someone’s Facebook wall. I followed a blog or two, liked a post or three, and commented on a post or five. And I sent a “thank you” note to anyone who let me know they subscribe via rss or email (WordPress won’t tell me). That’s all the advertising I did. The results are:
Ratio: 10.1 views per post
Best Views Ever: 49 (Jan. 23, the day I sent another email to 12 friends)
Next Best Ever: today at 47
Post Likes: Several, haven’t tracked.
Followers: 10 (WordPress; again, in the dark on email and rss)
Clearly, I like tags. Also, days with multiple posts (today) or publicity pushes (Jan. 23) see more traffic. Likes are great, didn’t know that was available. Would love more comments and I’m trying to want them because I want dialogue about the topics, not because I crave validation! [UPDATE: Ironically, with this post, today became the Best Views Ever, according to the above graph!]
I’m pretty happy with these results. How happy? Let’s compare these results with where I was with my most recent blog, which was active October, 2006 – October, 2010:
Ratio: 19.3 views per post
Best Views Ever: 65
Next Best Ever: I don’t know.
Post Likes: I don’t think it was a WordPress feature, yet.
Followers: around 30 at its peak.
I think those ratios are quite telling. 19.3 is great but that’s over four years. 10.1 over one month? That feels pretty cool.
Still, I don’t know who’s all reading. If you are, drop me a line; I’d love to hear from you.
4. WordPress is by-and-large quite good…
This is my fourth blog using WordPress and in that time I’ve really come to like the control panel and features. Still, when beginning a new venture I certainly had my options and I’m glad I’ve stayed with WordPress so far. They’ve expanded in ways that are unobtrusive (think about the last website you used that had an update that made things useless or annoying) and quite helpful (the social networking aspect immediately springs to mind) and everything is both easy to manage and mostly easy to track.
4.5 …and WordPress is sometimes not-quite-as-good.
I still can’t figure out how many – or few – email and RSS subscribers I have. I’m hosting The Life Mosaic through WordPress, however, which means I can’t use a myriad of plug-ins or other fancy things like Amazon widgets. Sometimes that’s frustrating but I’ve learned to get by okay. And even though footnotes are much easier with a plug-in, I found out about a little string of code that will make them happen even if it take a little longer to handle it. The theme, Oxygen, does this weird thing, too, where I have to upload a new photo for each post if I want the preview banner to show up in the home page magazine layout. That means every time I write “First Thing Monday,” I have to upload that photo instead of use a copy already in the gallery. I wish I could figure this one out, too.
5. I’m learning how to make this sustainable.
There’s at least one post nearly every day in this first month. This may seem odd but there were days I decided to make a retro-post, meaning I wrote it after the day I scheduled it to be published. It’s possible those didn’t or won’t get the attention I think they deserve. I believe I’ll do this less in the future. Pre-writing and scheduling posts, however, is a must. I found this extremely helpful all month long. When I was on a hot streak, I would write up two or three and space them out so I would have something new to offer readers throughout the week – especially on the days when I knew I’d be more busy with family and school and work to do much writing here. This practice went well and I’ll continue.
I’ve let some ideas incubate a little and others go out right away, first draft. Both feel right in their context. And I haven’t been shy about editing or removing a post for tinkering and bringing it back later (I did this once with my post, Dr. James Dobson’s Theology is Heartbreaking). This is one of those openness / boundaries deals. I’m open to create while bounded to a desire for quality, if I can help it. It’s good to have new ideas and it’s even better to craft them the best I can.
Not only that, I’ve been recording new ideas everywhere. I have a little document on my laptop. I have one on my desktop. I have a physical notebook in my backpack. I have a new waterproof pad of paper in the shower (definitely worth A Closer Look in the future!), and I use the voice text app on my phone to record and transcribe ideas in the car.
Well, it’s been fun. Guess I’ll keep going.
A Closer Look #4 Looking Back on the First Month of The Life Mosaic.