Wow! Can you believe it? Two years! Yes, that's right, this week marks our two year anniversary of when we started Old Town Home. To be quite honest, it's a little bit shocking that it's gone by so quickly. I still remember the night Wendy and I were sitting out in our backyard and getting our first blog post live, nervous with anticipation for the millions of people that would surely descend upon our site the moment our blog post was officially online. I'm a little foggy on the details, but I think something like that happened...I think.
When we decided to start our blog back in 2011, we weren't really sure what to expect. We knew we had some decent projects we could cover, as well as a few tips and how tos we could share, but we didn't have much of a grasp on what blogging entailed beyond writing our first few posts. We didn't exactly realize the time commitment each post would require, how it would impact our home project schedule, or the work required outside of just writing blog posts. To put it mildly, the last two years of consistent blogging have been quite the learning and growing experience, and now we know just how difficult -- but also fulfilling -- the realm of blogging can be.
You may have heard us say this before, but when we decide to do something, we decide to go all out. It seems we don't have a half speed setting, or a way to moderate the effort we put into our projects, as is evident from many of our home endeavors. When it came to our blog, we approached it in very much the same manner. I mean, just look at our kitchen project as an example; a budget rug and a quick coat of paint somehow turned into new counters, appliances, and decor for two rooms of our house!
From day one Wendy and I committed ourselves to daily blog posts, Monday through Friday, no matter if we were slammed at work, on vacation, or in a project slump of sorts. Some weeks it has been easier to write posts because our projects or real life allowed or inspired them, sometimes it has been harder to come up with something interesting and worthwhile (though we hope we did), but through our first several hundred posts spanning two years, we learned quite a bit about our own blog authoring process and what we hope has made Old Town Home a worthwhile and enjoyable read, whether we're talking about a specific project, and event in Old Town, or some randomness that surrounds our DIY lives.
From the last two years of blogging (and 585 individual blog posts, including today's), there are a handful of very critical yet simple things we've learned along the way that work well for us and have enriched our overall experience and enjoyment of blogging. And while we don't want to be a blog that spends a lot of time talking about blogging, our entire blogging experience has been a bit of a DIY adventure of its own, so we feel like sharing a few of our blogging tips and tricks is appropriate for our official two year blogiversary (I hate that word, by the way). For the bloggers or aspiring bloggers out there, we hope you'll find the information useful. And for the non blog authors who are reading, we hope it gives you a little insight into our creative process that helps us to formulate the items we post each day.
1. Keep your fingernails trimmed and clean.
As DIYers we work a lot with our hands. This includes everything from working on the house to whipping up a quick recipe, and we take a lot of photos of the processes. The plethora of photos that include our hands holding molding, tools, placing photos, mixing ingredients, or just about any other up close shot tends to include...you guessed it...our fingernails.
There's nothing worse than un-trimmed nails with house dirt under them to distract from the beauty of a nicely executed DIY project. I think I realized this aspect of blogging very early on when I was taking a photo that included my hand, which had a big black speck under my nail. I thought to myself, "UGH, I'm a monster, nobody will want to read blog posts from dirtyfingernails.com. I must resolve this and never make this mistake again." I hope our blog posts have been better due to my nail bed hygiene. For your benefit I will keep my nails trimmed, cuticles pushed back, and perhaps I should start getting manis just to be sure I don't leave you feeling disgusted.
2. A good blogging process is an evolution, not a set recipe.
In recent weeks we've been able to dial back our overkill on the blog a little bit, and that comes as our personal lessons around creating blogs posts has really started to evolve. Initially we were under the self imposed impression we needed to "post every day, no matter what." Lately we've been able to establish a slightly more moderate approach of "post when we are able to, as long as we have a blog post that we feel is worth reading." I know some of you have noticed a weekday or two when we haven't posted on that given day, and this is a direct result of our revised approach to blogging.
If we look back on some of our older posts, we can see a subtle yet distinct difference in the way we approached stories or recaps. I also feel we've been able to establish a better way of truly conveying how and why we do things certain ways, rather than just a step by step process of completing something. It's our hope this level of detail is able to add some richness and value to what we write about, and hopefully some of it has taught you a tip or method that can help in your projects at some point.
3. Negativity is constructive criticism, no matter how nasty it may be.
This is hard. Actually, it's really hard to remember, and we've not even had a tremendous amount of negativity on our blog, but it has happened. The main thing to remember is that any level of negativity can be seen as some level of constructive criticism, and if you can look past the negative (and possibly nasty snark), you can possibly take some good information away from the poster's response.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that we are simply hanging on everyone's critiques of our work to look for validation of a project's end result, but we will take what everyone says as a way to look at our solution and its execution, perhaps modifying our plans to better incorporate other's ideas that we hadn't thought of. The last thing I want to be is one of those people that thinks my poop doesn't stink and walks around saying "haters gonna hate." Sure, there may be the occasional negativity that we should just ignore, but putting blinders on to all criticism only serves to make us narcissistic a-holes (and we don't want that). After all, If we're unable to accept and learn from some criticism we really shouldn't be blogging and putting everything out in the open for people to judge.
4. Don't ignore the difficulties.
There's nothing more frustrating than following an online guide that tries to show you how something is all sunshine and rainbows but it ignores the complexities, difficulties, or failures the author experienced along the way. Perhaps in some perfectionist society there exists superior types of people that simply do not error, but we surely do not walk among this elusive crowd.
If I'm unable to do something the first time around, or my results are less than stellar, I'm going to jump at the opportunity to poke some fun at myself about my inability to execute, but I'll also surely share some tips or tricks that helped me to finally succeed (assuming I actually reached success and whatever I was working on wasn't a complete and utter failure). The point I've realized is that no one is an expert at everything, and more than likely, most people are barely novice at most things. A foolish assumption or implication that everything is simple and anyone can do it on the first try just pisses me off, and I'd rather not inflict that type of story telling on you.
5. Try to make sure your photos don't always suck.
Ah, blog photography, mixing true amateur photographers with the expectation of magazine quality imagery. The end result of the attempts typically end up somewhere in the vicinity of "hey, I got this amazing new camera and lens but I'm not 100% sure what all of these buttons do..."
"...but look at this amazing bokeh! Yeah, I did that."
We've put a fair amount of time and effort into improving our blog photography, but not every shot can be a great one, and sometimes you need terrible ones to tell the whole story. The main thing to remember is to make every attempt possible to improve your photography where you can, knowing full well there is a ton to learn, good photography can sometimes mean expensive equipment, and sometimes the photographs are actually the hardest part of any given project. I think more fighting occurs in our relationship due to Wendy's shot obscuring arm placement when she's making a recipe and I'm trying to take photos than just about any other realm.
The best part about trying to get better at photography is that you can take tons of cute pet photos in an attempt to hone your skills. Like this one.
6. Write about what interests you.
If there's one thing we've learned as bloggers above all else, it's this one simple lesson. Appeal to and engage your readers based on your own personal interests. In other words, don't try to write a blog post just because you think your readers will like it, or it will get you a lot of traffic or comments, or lots of Pins, retweets, and likes, or that it will "really resonate with your readers."
Do write blog posts that you value and would like to share! These include tips, tricks, guides, reveals, before & afters, and anything else that floats your blogging boat.
We feel this single piece of advice is often lost as blogs try to appeal too generically to their audience as if each and evey post must apply to their readership as a whole. Or blogs that avoid topics fearing the posts might alienate people by being too complex, too expensive to implement, or too out there.
We realize that we can't appeal to everyone all of the time, but it's also important to understand that we don't have a homogenous audience of readers, so it's good to have some things that appeal to some people, and others to other people, as long as what we're writing about is originally something that interests us.
Your writing is clearly an extension of yourself and your feelings, and attempting to force something specifically because it "makes good blog content" will ultimately be transparent to your readers and will cause your blog to suffer.
7. Your daily readers are a reflection on you, so try to be genuine.
This took us the longest to realize over all other items, but it's very much the reality of writing in a personal tone and manner. The more you write, the more you will attract people who are simply engaged by your writing because it resonates with them. When you pour your personality into your blog posts, the people that will gravitate toward and return to your blog are the people who you'd probably get along with in "real life." The best part about this aspect of blogging is that we feel like we're having a nice conversation among friends, rather than just yelling into the wide open Internet for anyone that might listen.
8. It doesn't hurt to realize you're lame.
Hey, I'm the first to admit that I can be a bit of a nerd, and I want to make sure you know that I'm 100% and fully aware of that. Actually, I want you to know that I embrace it! This is not a blog about extreme sports, wing suit skydiving, and pushing the limits on everything you do. This is a blog that includes tips on how to properly antique screws, how to restore a 125 year old rim lock, where to go to sip wine in California, or how I have a problem with letting the basement get way too messy.
As cool as it to read about the amazing people in the world that will do things that I couldn't even imagine myself doing, that's not us. I mean, I dressed as a Stormtooper for Halloween one year, that's about as crazy as I get!
We are who we are, and we are often lame and a little bit (or a lot) nerdy. Since that's who we are in real life, that's who we try to be on the blog. No smoke and mirrors, no bait and switch, and we hope you like us more for it.
9. You can actually meet people who aren't creepy on the Internet!
Wendy and I started dating in 1995 when we were juniors in high school, the World Wide Web was only a few years old, and only a few geeks (myself included) were actively using this newfangled method of communication and sharing. That being said, Wendy and I never really experienced that whole "online dating" thing all the kids are doing these days. As a result, we never really met people online. Weird, I know. But this all changed two years ago when we started blogging.
Through our blogging experience and interactions we've had the opportunity to meet many different people, some of whom are now our very good friends. This includes people we know in the flesh, as well as people who may live hundreds or thousands of miles away and we only know in a more "virtual" capacity. If we had never started blogging we wouldn't have met these people and we would be worse off for it. It's strange to think that many of our interactions with various people over the past two years, and the friendships that have formed from them, simply wouldn't exist if we hadn't felt the need and desire to begin sharing our renovation and lives for all the world to see (and when I say world, I mean the random people who've stumbled upon our blog).
10. Not everyone has read every single blog post you've ever written.
Wait, what? Did I just type that? Haven't all of you all read every single sentence we've put to screen? No? Of course you haven't! As a blogger, it's your responsibility to assume that the people reading today's post are actually reading their very first post on your blog. As a result, you need to do a few things to ensure people don't simply feel lost while reading a rambling and barely coherent description of, say, historic masonry repointing.
Instead, frequently refer back to previous and supporting posts with links, give clues to past projects that have involved similar items, make references that give context to the work you're doing, and don't include tons of random inside jokes that only a handful of people will actually care about and get. Blogging is an open invitation that offers a glimpse into your life, and nobody wants to take a glimpse only to see a high school like clique of people giggling about some random item.
There you have it, 10 blogging "tips" that we've learned along the way on our two year blogging journey. We still have a ton to learn, but thus far we've had quite a bit of fun on the items we've picked up along the way. Whether this is the first blog post you've read on our site (see item #10 above), or you've been around almost since day one, we hope you've enjoyed our journey and descriptions and will continue to join us as our journey continues.
Are you a blogger? Do any of these tips sound good to you? And do you have any that you'd like to share here as well? You know we'd love to hear.
If you're not a blogger, what do you think? How are we doing? And is there something you'd really like us to improve upon?
Regardless of which reader group you fall into, we're happy you're here and we're glad to have shared the last two years with you.