Category Archives: Writing

Is It a Good Idea to Take a Blogging Break?

No, this isn’t my way of saying that I’m taking a break from blogging. I’ve done it once or twice in the past for various reasons, but I have no current plans to ever do it again.

(If that ever changes, I’ll take my own advice and let you all know in advance that I’m going quiet for reason X and expect to be gone for Y amount of time!)

The real reason why I’m asking is because this question came to mind recently after a new post popped up on a blog I follow that hadn’t been updated in three or four years. Honestly, I’d forgotten it was even still on my RSS feed because of how long the gap between posts had been.

As soon as I realized the owner of that site had begun writing again, my face broke out into a grin. I’d missed his stories, and I was eager to see what he’d been up to while he was away. He’d disappeared so quickly that I hadn’t had any idea what had happened to him. This was something that had made me feel a little sad even though I respected his right to fall silent.

This Is a Guilt-Free Zone

I know I could very well have readers out there who have abandoned their old blogs or other sites. If this applies to you, know that this post is a guilt-free zone. There are many different reasons why someone might need to stop writing, and in no way am I trying to make anyone feel bad for making the choice to step away from their site whether it was a temporary or permanent decision.

Quality vs. Quantity Content

Raise your hand if you’d rather wait for an excellent post, vlog, or other update than settle for a mediocre one that arrives sooner!

One of the things I wish I could change about Internet culture is its focus on churning out new content on a regular basis regardless of how well-developed that video, post, or other form of communication actually is.

I’m all for blogging on a schedule if you have the time and energy to devote to posting a certain number of times a day, week, or month for the long term. However, I also believe it’s better to not post anything than it is to post a half-baked idea simply to stick to a predetermined schedule.

From what I’ve observed with friends who had to take breaks from their blogging or other activities online for various reasons, your core audience is still going to be there when you return. Speaking as someone who considers herself a part of the core audience of a few different folks, I will still be around in a month, a year, and even longer than that if or when a favourite writer ever decides to return to his or her blog, Youtube account, or other online hangout.

If You Can, Say Goodbye

I do have one request for friends who find themselves needing to pull back from their regular posting schedules. If possible, I’d love to see some sort of message from them saying that they’ll be gone for a while. You don’t have to say why you’re leaving if you’d prefer not to (although I’d love to know if it’s due to something that might change again in the future if you don’t mind giving out enough details for this question to be answered).

Once again, this is not intended to make anyone feel guilty. Sometimes life makes it really difficult to leave that final update on a site or channel when you’ve decided to stop updating it for now or forever. I’ve known people who stopped writing after they received serious diagnoses of diseases that required the vast majority of their energy. Others fell silent after getting a new job, or having a child, or going through any number of major life changes that drastically altered how much spare time they had to share with the world.

Still, it’s nice to know a little in advance when a site is shutting down and if there’s any hope of it ever being revived. I find myself growing emotionally attached to some of the people I meet online. While I’d never ask any of them to share details of their private lives that they want to keep hidden, it sure would be nice to know why folks occasionally disappear and if it’s okay to reach out to them every so often to see how they’re doing (assuming they’ve become a friend and not just a blogger I follow).

When people choose not to do this, I always wonder what happened in their lives that made them walk away from the audience they’d built up.

  • Did they develop a mental or physical health problem?
  • Were Internet trolls bothering them?
  • Was it a bad case of writer’s block?
  • Did they say everything they had to say on the topic(s) they chose to talk or write about?
  • Have they finally discovered Okunoshima, Japan, and are they planning to live with the bunnies there forever?
  • Do they want to be checked up on, or do they not even have enough energy for that much interaction from the folks who care about them?

The possibilities are endless. If only we could have even the slightest clue as to what is going on in the lives of these people and if it’s okay to send a friendly message asking how they’re doing.

Respond

Have you ever taken a blogging break? Has one of your favourite sites ever stopped getting updated? Do you think content creators should alert their audiences when they need to stop publishing posts or uploading videos?

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10 Pictures That Are Begging to Be Turned Into Stories, Part Five

It’s been a while since I wrote another instalment for this series. Either the world of stock photos is gradually growing less strange or I’m getting used to the wilder side of this world. Fewer things are surprising me these days, so it took longer than normal to compile this list.

If you’re looking for some inspiration today, keep reading.

As I’ve mentioned in the past, I decided to start doing something constructive with all of the beautiful, haunting, bizarre, creative, and otherwise unique photos I kept finding on the various stock image sites I had on my RSS feed back in 2017. Every few months since then I’ve posted a list of the most unusual photos I’d found to see if any of my readers were interested in using them for any purpose.

Everything I share for this series is in the public domain. You don’t have to do anything special in order to use them.

In the past, I’ve written descriptions of how I’d use the pictures I share with my audience in this series. As much fun as it is to come up with theories about what could be happening in them, I think I’m going to leave it up to my readers to brainstorm everything this time around. My imagination is so strong that I don’t want to overwhelm your own theories about how these images can be used.

All I’m going to add to them is a brief description of what is happening in each photo for anyone who can’t see the photos I’m sharing for any reason. I look forward to seeing how you’d all react to this list and what you do with any of the images in it. Let me know if you use any of them!

A man wearing a wreath of flowers on his head and a pair of glasses that has a dandelion stuck to the middle of each frame.

A hand and forearm sticking straight up out the middle of a wheat field. It is still attached to the body of someone who is hopefully alive and well. 

 

A person wearing contact lenses that makes their eyes glow and makeup that gives their skin a blue, purple, and red hue. 

A person wearing a red hoodie, white gloves, and a mask that glows in the dark. 

A stylized and possibly long-exposure photograph of a city landscape and sky. Everything is arranged in a circle with the landscape being the centre of the shot and the sky being wrapped around it. 

A long, thin cactus poking out of a banana peel. 

A cattle skull sitting next to a decorated box filled with old-fashioned medicine. 

A long-exposure shot of a dancer. She has a pale, ghostly appearance due to how much she was moving during the shot. 

A bluejay sitting on a polished, wooden table and sticking its head into a metal saucer filled with milk.

 

A naughty grasshopper smoking a cigarette while sitting on a rock and staring out at a field of grass. 

Previous posts in this series:

10 Pictures That Are Begging to be Turned Into Stories

10 Pictures That Are Begging to be Turned Into Stories, Part Two

10 Pictures That Are Begging to be Turned Into Stories, Part Three.

10 Pictures That Are Begging to be Turned Into Stories, Part Four.

Why Negative Reviews Can be a Positive Thing

Does anyone else find that their taste in movies is constantly evolving? Even when it comes to films I know I’m going to want to watch eventually, I still need to be in the right mood for certain genres. Sometimes I might be more interested in a documentary or comedy. On other days, something dark and serious is right my alley.

Last week I was sorting through my never-ending to-watch list and trying to figure out which film from it to check out next. (That list is even bigger if you include all of the non-scifi entries on it! One of these days I may have to blog about the whole thing).

I’m the sort of person who will add something to my to-watch list in a heartbeat but wait until the last possible minute to decide whether or not I really want to sit down and pay attention to it for two hours.

Before I pay for anything, though, I always check the online reviews of it for a few different reasons that I’ll dig into during the course of this post. Positive reviews are no guarantee that I’ll end up watching something even if every single reviewer loved every single scene of that film. A string of negative reviews won’t necessarily dissuade me from watching something, either.

My reasons for deciding to watch something are more complex than that.

Does One Person Mention Problem X, or Does Everyone?

Once a film, book, or any other piece of pop culture has attracted enough attention, it’s bound to be picked up by at least a few people who don’t connect with it at all for a wide variety of reasons.

Maybe they’re simply not a big fan of that particular genre. (See also: me and 98% of the romance novels out there). They might have been in an awful mood and would have hated anything they watched that day no matter what it was. There could have been a part of the setting, plot, or character development that stirred up difficult memories for them for any number of reasons that almost certainly wouldn’t apply to most other people who read or watched the same thing.

If one reviewer mentions hating something about a film, I’ll tuck that information in the back of my mind. It probably won’t keep me from renting it unless the reviewer mentions something that I strongly prefer to avoid in the media I consume.

If multiple reviewers mention the same issues over and over again, I sit up and take notice even if their complaints all seem to be mild ones when looked at individually. There’s a difference between one person being annoyed by a particular part of the plot and lots of folks noticing it enough to mention it in their review.

Even then, a string of negative reviews aren’t going to necessarily stop me from enjoying a film. So much depends on what their specific complaints were and whether they were things I can look past when deciding what to watch.*

*Not counting godawful storytelling, sexist, racist, or homophobic content, or other major issues of course.

Honesty Is More Important Than Always Being Positive

When I write reviews for my own site, I focus on as many positive aspects of the films and books I talk about as I can think of. I believe in pointing out everything the creator did right, especially if it’s stuff that doesn’t seem to be mentioned too often by many other reviewers. Anything worth reviewing – much less watching in the first place – will have strong points.

As an author, I also know how scary it can feel to release your work into the world. I’m always mindful of the fact that the creators might someday read my review, and I’d want them to feel good about all of the hard work they put into their story regardless of any criticisms I might have had to share about certain parts of it.

With that being said, I also believe in being perfectly honest about the themes, scenes, or sections that didn’t work for me. If I disliked something about a book or movie, I’m going to find a tactful way to talk about what it was and why it rubbed me the wrong way.

I won’t just tell you that the characterization fell flat or the dialogue didn’t sound natural to me. I’ll do my best to give specific examples of when these things happened and why they were such an issue for me. If my complaints were more subjective than that, I’ll talk about why a specific issue is a sensitive one for me and how I wish it would have been broached instead.

Other people might completely disagree with my reactions to those scenes or themes. That’s okay, because…

Not Everyone Has the Same Dealbreakers

There are a small number of things that I really don’t want to be exposed to when I’m watching a film. If I know they’re going to show up in advance, I’ll watch something else instead.

Some of the stuff I refuse to watch is too private to share on a platform as public as this one, but I will give you one example. My extended family includes multiple relatives who were adopted at various ages.

Occasionally, films are released that deeply stigmatize people who were adopted. It makes me angry to see adoption being portrayed so negatively because I’ve had multiple conversations with acquaintances who assume that everyone who wasn’t adopted as a newborn is going to fit their harmful stereotypes of other types of adoption.

For example, I’ve met some people who made very negative assumptions about what it would be like to adopt an older child or what sort of person that child would grow up to be. When they said unflattering things about such a large group of people, I winced. Not only were their assumptions untrue, they were unkind.

The last thing I want to do is encourage anyone to perpetuate such damaging myths about adoption and people who were adopted. I’m open to watching a lot of different types of stories, but I draw the line at ones that make it look like my relatives are inherently bad people because they happened to have been adopted.

The nice thing about reviews – including negative ones – is that stuff like this can be discussed in detail. Rather than being blindsided by something that rubs me the wrong way, I can go into the story prepared for what I’m about to see and decide not to watch it if hits something on my dealbreaker list.

It Still Gets the Word Out

Just because I might not personally be interested in a film that spends a great deal of time on a certain theme or topic doesn’t mean that everyone I know feels the same way.

This same rule applies to everyone. There have been multiple times when I’ve read negative reviews of a film or book only to realize that the things that irritated that particular reviewer are either neutral or positive to me.

For example, I’m not usually bothered by movies where the dog dies in the end. It’s something I expect to happen in a lot of different types of stories, so someone who complained about it in their review wouldn’t be discouraging me from watching it at all.

A negative review might turn some people away, but it can also be used to attract even more folks who are actually the right audience for it.

How much attention do you pay to negative reviews? Has a negative review ever convinced you to read or watch something you might not have otherwise tried?

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Avoid These Common Rookie Blogging Mistakes

 

Common Mistakes Writers Make While Blogging

Companies increasingly realize the value in blogging. It’s a simple way to create engaging content on your website, improve your SEO, and drive more traffic to your digital door. On the other hand, quality blogging is both an art form and a science. Your content must not only be entertaining and simple to read, it must also strike the appropriate tone and reach the right audience. In order to achieve this, avoid these rookie blogging mistakes:

Mistake 1: Neglecting Your Research

When setting up a blog, think about your target audience. If you neglect to include demographic research into your blogs, your content may fall flat – or worse, turn people off from your site.

Failing to know your target demographic can also lead to your posts becoming too generic. Instead of creating tailored content to your readers, you run the risk of simply taking up space on a page. Rather than trying to “appeal to the masses,” conduct some thorough content research before creating a blog. Writing to a target persona will automatically make your content more personal, engaging, and conversational.

Mistake 2: Creating An Inappropriate Tone

As you conduct your market research and decide on your target personas, think about the tone in which you want to communicate ideas to these people. Appropriateness is a key issue that can make your blogs fall flat. The classic example is wearing a suit to the beach, or beach shorts to a job interview. If your company deals in serious subject matter (such as medical services or financial planning), trying to incorporate humor or lightness is a lot like wearing beach shorts to a job interview. Make sure the tone of your writing matches up with your target audience.

Consider creating a blogging guide with blog writing tips for all your copywriters that dictate tone and appropriate style. This will ensure consistency throughout your posts.

Mistake 3: Lack Of Emotion In Your Writing

On the other hand, it’s important to communicate some level of emotion in your writing, no matter your audience. Even formal, authoritative pieces of content can communicate personality. Health-related services, for example, can remain authoritative while communicating compassion and empathy. When you write from an emotional or personal perspective, your writing automatically becomes more conversational and easier to read.

Mistake 4: Broken Links In Your Content

Link-building is an essential process for driving your SEO. One of the simplest blogging tips – yet one that rookie bloggers are most likely to ignore – is making sure your linked content goes back to a reliable source. Broken links tarnish your authority and create a sense of annoyance in your reader, while neglecting your link-building altogether creates a missed opportunity for improving your search engine ranking.

Mistake 5: You Don’t Have A Responsive Website

Your readers are more likely to engage with your content on a mobile device than they are on a desktop. If you lack mobile optimization or a responsive web design, you’re damaging your blog’s reputation before you post your first article. Having a responsive website means your readers can engage with your content no matter how they view it – on a desktop, on a tablet, or even on their mobile device. The easier the content is to read, the more likely people will enjoy engaging with it.

Mistake 6: You Don’t Use Calls-To-Action

A call-to-action, or CTA, is a simple way to encourage more engagement with your website. A CTA can be hard: “contact us to take advantage of this amazing offer!” or soft: “if you’re interested in learning more about our services, reach out to us at any time.” No matter what kind of CTA you use, they provide extra opportunities for your audience to connect with your content.

Mistake 7: You Don’t Promote Your Content On Social Media

You put a lot of time and energy into creating engaging blog posts. Why not promote them on all your marketing channels? It’s simple to do and drives more traffic to your website, organically improving your SEO while teaching your readers more about your company. Link your articles to all your social media channels by using an enticing description.

Mistake 8: You Don’t Engage With The Rest Of The Blogging Community

Here’s a piece of sage blogging advice: don’t forget about other blogs in your niche. Most bloggers don’t realize that you can build more traffic to your own site by commenting on other blogs and networking with others in your field.

These simple blogging tips will help you organically build a readership base and ensure that you’re creating engaging content each week. Apply them when starting or revamping your blog – your readers will take care of the rest.

Author Bio:

Nicola Yap lives in Phoenix, Arizona with her two cats Marcie and Lambert. When she isn’t writing blog posts, she’s probably playing video games or doing something as equally unproductive. She works as an organic marketing strategist for Eminent SEO, a full-service digital marketing agency that creates custom websites and innovative marketing solutions for small to medium-sized businesses that are looking for impactful results.

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15 Things I’ve Learned From 15 Years of Blogging

I’ve been blogging at lydiaschoch.com for almost eighteen months now. Since I imported all of my old posts over from my previous site, the archives here begin in July of 2010 instead of November of 2016. I’ve been blogging much longer than that, though!

Over the past fifteen years, I’ve had several different blogs.  With the exception of PK Stories, none of them still exist to the best of my knowledge, but I’ve still carried the lessons I learned from them forward to my current online home.

Today I thought it would be fun to list fifteen of the things I’ve learned about blogging over the last decade and a half.

1. Never post anything you’d be embarrassed to see plastered on a billboard in front of your home.

This really should go without saying, but I think some people forget just how long a blog post can be passed around online. I’ve shared and I’ve also seen others share thought-provoking posts that are several years old because the information in them is timeless. In a few cases, I’ve seen posts much older than that continue to circulate.

You never know when something might go viral, so I try to always be careful about what I say and how I say it.

2. Ignore the trolls.

Arguing with them never helps in any way from what I’ve observed. The best way I’ve found to encourage them to permanently lose interest in you is to refuse to engage with them at all.

They generally seem to feel bored by the lack of conflict after a while and will wander away on their own accord once they realize that they won’t be getting a response.

Luckily, the vast majority of the people I meet online are friendly and don’t behave this way at all.

3. Don’t use pop-ups.

Pop-up ads or messages are intrusive, annoying, and counter-productive. I automatically leave sites who obstruct my view with pop-ups, and I don’t return to them in the future.

4. Share other people’s work liberally.

Every time I discover a new blog that I plan to start following, I set aside some time to read through their archives after I’ve added that site to my RSS feed. If I love their current posts, chances are excellent that I’ll adore their old stuff, too.

As I browse through their older material, I take note of the entries that were most appealing to me. Those posts are then either added to my Suggestion Saturday lists or tweeted by me at some point in the future. Most of the latter end up being included in the #MondayBlogs hashtag on Twitter due to how popular it is.

Since I enjoyed those posts, folks who follow me might really like them as well.

5. Don’t worry about reciprocation. 

When I promote other people’s work, I do it with zero expectations of them returning the favour. There’s no imaginary scorecard in my head or anything like that. While I deeply appreciate everyone who shares links to my posts, I think of those responses as a happy bonus to something I already find rewarding.

I believe in sharing the things that bring me joy with the hope that others will find them just as entertaining.

6. Blogging isn’t a competition.

There’s plenty of room for everyone to shine. In fact, I’ve only seen better opportunities emerge for networking and promotion as more and more bloggers are connecting and collaborating with each other. Think of it as a group of people using cooperation to reach their goals instead of as a competition.

7. It’s smarter to focus on a handful of topics than to write about everything. 

In a couple of my previous sites, I blogged about whatever was on my mind on any particular day. I’ve found that it’s much easier for me to think of new things to write about and attract readers if I focused on a handful of topics and explored them deeply instead.

8. Be genuine. 

No matter who you are or what you’re into, there are people out there who will connect with your interests, passions, and hobbies. I believe in regularly talking about whatever it is that makes your heart skip a beat without worrying about how popular or SEO-friendly it is.

9. Protect your privacy and the privacy of your loved ones.

There are certain things that just shouldn’t be shared openly online. For example, I shudder when I see buddies publicly sharing details of their itinerary for an upcoming vacation.

I don’t discuss stuff like future plans for safety reasons. If I’m going on a trip, I’ll save any amusing photos and stories about it for after I return home. Talking about it before or as it happens only gives potential burglars or other people who may have nefarious intentions advanced warning that my home will be empty for that period of time or that I’ll be in a specific place at X time.

10. Write down ideas for future posts. 

As soon as I get a new idea for a future blog post, I jot it down in a file I created specifically for this purpose. This is something I do even if the idea is partially developed or I’m not sure if I want to use it at all. If only all of you knew how many times I forgot ideas before I started making myself write down all of them!

Some of these ideas have been sitting there for months, and a few of them are years old. Eventually, I do hope to write about all of them when the time is right. For now they remain safely tucked away in my list until I need some inspiration for an upcoming post. 

11. Use recommendations from your readers as writing fodder.

Every once in a while, one of my favourite bloggers decides to write a follow-up post to a question or comment I or someone else had about something they wrote. There have also been a few times when I’ve gotten blog ideas from people’s comments on my own site.

It’s thrilling every time that happens. I only wish it happened more!

12. Allow comments, but do moderate them.

I filter out all of the spam comments on my site. In the distant past when I had a troll or two lurking around, I immediately deleted their messages as well.

Other than that, I tend to allow just about any sort of comment slip through. I respond to them, too.

13. Leave thoughtful comments on other sites.

Speaking of comments, I’m so glad I got into the habit of responding to other people’s posts. Sometimes the comment section is honestly just as interesting as the original article because of the high quality comments that are left by fans and the site owner. April Munday’s blog is one of the many examples of how beautifully this system can work.

14. Build relationships.

I’ve made several good friends through my years of blogging who are still part of my life to this day, and I’ve gotten to know many other people through this activity as well. If you’re open to it, this is a fantastic way to build a supportive community of likeminded friends who live all over the world.

15. Have fun!

Blogging is a deeply rewarding experience that has improved my life in more ways than I can count. I hope that every blogger finds the same happiness from crafting their posts and sharing them with the world.

What have you learned from blogging?

Should You Allow Comments on Your Blog?

You may have noticed that I turned comments back on for this site a few months ago. When I originally began blogging at lydiaschoch.com a year and a half ago, I didn’t plan to host comments here for the following reasons: Most of the comments I received were spam. I’d seen how quickly the comment… Read More

How to Survive a Paranormal Storyline

  Congratulations on your new home, job, vacation spot, construction project, antique gift, or other plot device that has invited a restless spirit into your formerly-peaceftul storyline! While most of the characters who take the time to look up what to expect in a haunting are the protagonists, I’d like to give a special shout-out… Read More

5 Reasons Why You Should Become a Reviewer for Long and Short Reviews

Today’s post is a little off the beaten path when compared to the topics I normally blog about here, but it’s something that I’ve been thinking about discussing with my followers for a while now. First of all, you might be asking yourself what this site is and why I’m telling you about it. Well, Long… Read More