My name is Jonna, I’m a 21 year old girl and I’ve recently returned from a 2-week trip to volunteer in Chiang Rai, Thailand. I went on this trip because I was sort of facing a cross-road in my life: I’m about to graduate in August, I am getting a degree in Human Resource Management (gag), and I literally have no idea what I want to do when I am actually out on my own. So, I decided to go to get my feet wet in solo traveling and set the pace for my post-undergrad life. It was a WONDERFUL experience. I loved absolutely every minute of it (even when it sort of sucked). But when I got back, I didn’t really know what to do with my experience…
I was “stumbling” through travel blogs about a month before I left and I decided to follow yours because your posts were incredibly inspiring (and your pictures & stories about Cole are so darn cute!) Long story short, I also stumbled upon (literally this time) a movie called Forks Over Knives and this, in addition to my boss’ advice and other books & research, motivated me to start eating better & making an entire lifestyle change. Your blog, along with the fact that I already frequently enjoy crafting, cooking & writing & I LOVE traveling, has motivated me to start writing my own blog about what I call my “quarter-life crisis”. It will feature tons of posts about my cooking & other hobbies for people to read about, but I’m really hoping that it will keep me focused on what I love and help me decide what I really want to do with my life.
So here is the kicker: if you wouldn’t mind, could I run my blog idea by you and possibly have you tell me what you think? It’s really not a big deal if you don’t have time or you don’t feel comfortable doing it! Any advice would be nice though! I don’t want to get started on making too many posts until I decide on the format, but I’ve finished the “About Me” section that pretty much sums up what I would like to do. Feel free to take as long as you’d like. In fact, the longer you wait to read my blog, the more content there will be up for you to see.
Here is the link to what I have so far: http://allfoodthings.wordpress.com/about-me/
Regardless of your response, I just wanted to let you know again that your blog is a huge inspiration to me. Thank you for writing it!
Thank you for reading! I’ve decided to start occasionally responding to reader emails on the blog and you’re the first one, so thank you again for letting me share your story and also, congratulations! You’ve already done so much at 21, graduating college, traveled to Chiang Rai, Thailand (which I’m delighted to hear, I love that town) and you’re figuring out next steps. All good things.
You asked me about your blog, and I’ll get to that, but first, I want to address why you want to do this, and how I think you can get the most out of it long-term.
That feeling you have right now, like you’ve figured something out, like you have this really great idea that you want to share: nurture that. The ideas that move you, make you want to jump up and start a blog, reach out to another blogger for advice, the ones that make you change your life and disregard the easy and obvious answers like “get a job in HR” or “intern at a big company” — that is a feeling you will chase for the rest of your life.
I can’t predict what will happen, although I hope it’s “wildly popular blog turns into book deal which is optioned for a film starring quirky, up-and-coming actress who looks super-cute in glasses”. Big ideas, strong starts, a little advice from another writer, this can feed your creativity for a long time. It’s actually the best part of creating something. It’s how we step into the flow, how we sit down and write for hours and it just pours out, how we connect with our audience and build careers for ourselves. In short, the writing, the blogging, the work itself doesn’t matter nearly as much as that feeling you have right now and learning how to keep finding new ways and ideas that give you the same charge within the framework of whatever you’re doing.
It’s really hard. You have to be honest, authentic and confront your own feelings of doubt and fear. You don’t do it once, you do it over and over again, and eventually, I think, I hope, you get so familiar with your process that you become really efficient at knowing what intuitions to follow and which to ignore.
That’s a long way of saying, “Welcome to the roller coaster.” Enjoy the ride.
Now onto the blogging advice, which I suspect was your main question. I know that for many bloggers there’s a lot of technical questions on how to begin, so here’s some blogger-to-blogger advice on that front (I’ll keep them short, these aren’t commands, but suggestions, I hope my brevity doesn’t sound terse):
- Buy a domain, get a hosting account and move away from WordPress.com.
- Format your posts well. Since you have reoccurring recipe posts, you might consider a standard format, perhaps little icons for the Ingredients section or <H2> formating for subsections or other stylistic options that will make it easier to read.
- Learn how to take fantastic food photos — blogging, especially food blogging, is at least 50% about the photography.
- Use good lighting to shoot, even if that means using a desk lamp or some other set up to light your food well.
- Stage your shots, these are still-life portraits not action shots, so take your time.
- Take a ton of photos and use Lightroom to edit them. Don’t go crazy with effects like vignette or filters in the beginning, subtle is better.
- Hold yourself to a very high standard.
- Learn what aperture priority setting is on your camera and practice getting that “blurry” background (bokeh).
- Don’t forget about your story. Find ways to keep your readers involved in your unfolding narrative within the structure, even with more informational or recipe-based posts.
- In the beginning Pinterest.com will probably be your bread and butter as far as finding new readers, but don’t be afraid to guest post on larger food sites (and check the results).
- Don’t dwell on things you do wrong (there will be plenty) but try to focus on how to write a better post next time.
- Seek out and connect with people whose work you truly admire.
- Constantly try to do better.
Again, the last part is what new bloggers tend to focus on, but it’s the first part, how excited you are, that makes the biggest difference.
Keep going and trust yourself!
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