Things That Make Blogging Dreary: Yeah! I Said That.

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To Blog or To Wash

There are day’s that I equate blogging with the boring class of washing dishes or clothes. These two are not my favourite house chores and I am yet to meet anyone who’s ecstatic about them.

Why no good fellow has thought it wise to create an elegant and smart gadget that removes the clothes after a wash, irons, folds them and puts them away nicely is a question that I ask from time to time. Now that’s a good manufacturing idea for someone to tinker around with.

You might wonder why I put blogging in the same group with housework. Okay, it’s not every day that blogging falls into that status, there are days that I do find it exciting, especially when I feel my brain cells swell with knowledge, however, here are my reasons.

Blogging’s Dreary Parts

Blogging requires dedication.

Blogging requires plugging away at it week after week just like those house chores that always materialize from thin air. You simply can’t run away from doing it to keep it going consistently.

Blogging takes time and flattens your gluteus maximus.

I keep imagining that all the hours spent sitting on my glutes instead of primping and plumping them up must have its’ side effects. Some days I feel as though my bum is getting a square shape from all the hours of sitting.

Housework takes time and sets my teeth on edge.

Starting up a blog and keeping it going takes up time. You start writing a quick post and several hours later, you are still nowhere near the end of what you want to write.

The trick here is to having as many drafts as possible in your folder to help you on the days that you don’t have all the time to spare. You could also consider renting a freelance writer if it’s essential.

To succeed in blogging, you need a plan.

No, you can’t fly by the seat of your pants and expect to make it work. Not having a plan is a good recipe for not succeeding as you would like.

I find this rather annoying. Why can’t we just write and the World queues up to read the golden drops of brilliance from our revered stations as writers?

On the other hand, developing a work plan to grow your blog is not difficult, but the crucial aspect is to stick to it.

That’s the magic wand. Create a workable plan. Stick to the plan.

You need oodles and oodles for patience.  

You took all that precious time, wrote that fabulous post of yours with your life’s blood used as ink. You edited, polished and edited it again, then you hit the publish button. Hours, Days, Weeks, squeak…no one is reading it. You could have probably used that time to bake several loaves of bread, you mutter.

Why is no one reading it? You could have sworn that your article is a piece vying for a Pulitzer, but the truth is that starting out your blogging journey is lonely and readers take their time to latch on.

Your mother and possibly your sister who you coerced with pancakes from IHOP’s are the only ones’ reading it and there are days that they may forget to cheer for you.

Don’t Quit

Whatever the case is, don’t stop blogging. Don’t quit on your blog.

People have many reasons for not blogging. Some worry about exposing their vulnerability as one of their reasons.

For me, no matter how square my bum gets or as dreary as plugging away on the blog might become, I would choose to do it over and over. It’s a faithfully satisfying love affair.

So tell me, what’s your dreary reason?

ESSENTIAL WRITERS TIPS – Cut Adverbs

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Adverbs

To use or not to use adverbs is one big controversy in the writing world.  The rule is to use them sparingly if at all.

I loved using adverbs because they were convenient, but as I started understudy on how to write professionally it was challenging to learn how not to make the mistake of the constant use of adverbs.

I still get tempted to – by the force of habit – but with consistent practice, it gets better.

Why Cut Adverbs?

  • Adverbs are weak. Remember the show don’t tell rule.
  • They make writing sound lazy and amateurish.
  • Cutting adverbs makes you more imaginative as a writer. You expand your search for other descriptions for what you want to say.
  • Adverbs create redundant words.
  • They clutter your writing and makes it vague.
  • Adverbs interrupt the flow of action.

A good old plain ‘she said or he said’ is better than too many superfluous and dramatic adverbs.

For example,

‘Why the hell did you do say that!’ he said angrily

‘Get away from me right now!’ she yelled loudly

Would read better as:

‘Why the hell did you say that!’ he said.

‘Get way from me right now!’ she yelled.

Those adverbs are not necessary because their emotions are already expressed in their words. We already know that they are angry.

Sometimes less is more. Too many adverbs weaken a prose and subverting them creates more vivid writing.

There are instances where using adverb is necessary, such as writing suspense when the character’s action is paramount to the story.

For example: 

He lightly tiptoed to the door. What if the use of ‘light tiptoe’ is used to anticipate fear or the expectation of an action? This adverb is there to create apprehension in the reader – it serves a purpose being there and not a redundant word.

Cutting adverbs will help you find the balance between overwriting and a good show and tell writing.

Do you use adverbs? Please share in the comments. For Essential Writers’ Tips check this link.

Keep your writing in check use Grammarly


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Shooting Tricky City scenes – Photo Theme

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Adding people to your street shot

Taking street photos is a bit tricky because busy streets are hardly devoid of people going about their business. You need to shoot your images without getting into people’s personal space or being too intrusive.

Then again, people make photos more interesting so applying a little trick would allow you to add people in your images.

When we take photos of non-human subjects, the tendency is to look at our LCD screen to see the immediate result of our shots, however, when taking photos of people in the streets looking at your screen immediately after your shot is not what you should do.

Take the shots you need but don’t move the camera immediately away from your eye. Keep your camera focused on the background around them so that even when they glance in your direction,  it appears as though your focus is more engrossed in the background than on them.

Remember that people are leery of photographers. That’s why you need to be discreet and not in their face except where you have express consent to photograph them – you could always ask when you need a specific shot.

Another way to add people to your composition is to start by aiming your camera above, below or to their sides. Take a shot or two of an image next to them and at the last moment, you move the camera so that they added to the scene.

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Clouds

I couldn’t resist sneaking in two different images for the letter ‘C’ part of the photography theme challenge.

Taking photo shots of clouds is always a pleasure. Though clouds may seem pretty mundane because they are commonplace – up there in the sky where all you have to do is to look up and see them, their value is not diminished.

They have a lot of character. They are constantly changing in form and place and always fascinating to watch.

To join the photography theme challenge for practice, check this link and you can find other photo tips here.

 


BLOG BYTES – Your First Audience is You.

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Blog Tip – Write For Yourself

When we first start blogging we get caught in the wedge of whom to write for what to write about and many other salient issues that bother every beginner blogger.

Don’t forget that the most important aspect why you took up blogging or writing is because it’s something that you are passionate about and want to continue to do. Therefore, first, your writing must be for yourself.

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Let Your Inner Voice Speak

Your writing is your inner voice speaking to you, through the outpouring of your words. Write as if no one else will read what you are writing, that way, your thoughts remain focused.

Your words/writing would flow far easier when you focus on how to put your own thoughts, your own opinions, and ideas into words without distractions over who would read it.

Audience

Think of your writing as a conversation that you are having (yes we bloggers/writers speak to ourselves often, it’s all those muses you’ve got running around in your head) with yourself. You hardly run out of words when having a conversation with your favourite person – you.

When you write from the center of you, you will surely find your audience. Your words would resonate with them.

Even those tips, solutions or recommendations that you want to share have to inspire you first. You are only sharing it with others because you find them valuable.

Naturally, there are those who will surely not agree with all your thoughts, opinions and anything else that you may have to offer, but that’s to be expected. From such quarters, accept their feedback but don’t let it deter you.

Check these links for more blogging and writers tips.

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How To Audit Your Blog – To Determine Your Direction

Audit blog, social media promotion, strategy, Google Analytics, WordPress JetPack, Subscription buttons, content audit, Plugins, Blog design, Setting Targets




Why You Need To Audit Your Blog

So, you are wondering what the next goals for your blog are and where to start from? You ran the blogging race through last year and would love to see some distinctive growth this year. Well, let’s take it from the top, you need to audit your blog.

Like every business, to run a successful blog requires auditing and doctoring your blog periodically.

Based on your desired goals, the process of auditing your blog effectively could be simple or intensive.

Looking at what you achieved over the past year no matter how big or small helps you to make a concise plan on the way forward for your blog.

If you don’t know where you’ve been, how are you going to know precisely where you are heading to?

Having a blanket wish of wanting your website to grow popular or hoping that you would have a better blogging year without taking into account previous fails, successes and the reasons for those results is like searching for the proverbial needle in a haystack.

You are bound to repeat the same mistakes. Find the faults and fix them.

A good old-fashioned notepad and pen, word editor or Google spreadsheet would do.

If however, you are more into the nitty-gritty details of things Google analytics plugin and JetPack are free tools that you could use. They offer comprehensive insight into your site’s performance over a specific period.

This process might take a bit of your time but you’ll be glad you did it.

Questions To Consider

Blog Design

  • Is the overall feel of your theme functional for you?
  • Is it appealing to the eye and user-friendly?
  • Are the colours properly blended or do they clash?
  • If you’ve got a brand – logo, is it in sync with your site’s colours?
  • Is the site too crowded and needs reorganizing? If there are widgets that are no longer serving any purpose, consider removing them. Snip, Cut and Tie. Examining your site with the critical eye of a visitor is the key here. Like a messy home that no one likes visiting, no one wants to hang out in a site that would probably end up giving them a headache.
  • What of your essential pages like your contact form for getting in touch, about page and other relevant pages? Have they been set up? Do all the links on your homepage work?
  • Is your Gravatar properly linked to your URL?
  • Is a short bio of the author of the blog added to your Gravatar image? This gives a reader a general overview of the writer/author of the blog.

Subscription buttons

  • Are your subscription buttons strategically placed where your visitors can easily see them? Time constraint doesn’t favour hidden buttons and to increase your subscription base. Place your buttons at various points where they easily draw the eyes’ such as the top part of your sidebar, the end of your post, just before your comment box.
  • Are there any social proofs that could be used to show your visitors that other people read your blog? You could install your Facebook fan page, Twitter feed, Your subscription numbers et cetera. Other alternatives are your top post and top commentator box. For WordPress managed platforms, there are ready to use widgets that display such information while on a self-hosted blog plugins such as JetPack provides this service.
  • A common practice used on self-hosted blogs is to attach some form of reward like e-books, images, printable, coupons et cetera for subscribers. Are you using any of the above?

Content Audit

Your site is only as strong as the contents found in it and as is commonly said by bloggers, ‘content is king.’

This part of auditing involves taking a good look at your statistics, either through your Jet Pack or the Google Analytics.

Before delving into the numbers and the how and why of things, check through your posts for issues enumerated below:

  • Are your blog posts/contents concise, easy to read and to understand? Keep it simple. Avoid using ambiguous, oversized vocabulary that simply makes reading your articles tedious.
  • Do you use pleasant images and graphics to emphasize your posts? Adding some visual candy and easy to digest information which creates an overall satisfying experience for your readers. In respect of your images, what image source do you use? Do you create your images, source for free images online or use attributable images? It’s important to sort out this aspect of image sourcing out to avoid any legal challenges. As a rule of thumb, images that have watermark by the creator are not free to use.
  • Do you have related posts footnotes on your pages that links to your older posts? You can increase your page views when readers can find other articles a click away.
  • How enticing are your headings? I always liken blogging to fishing. Your headlines are baits that you cast into the ginormous sea of blogging with the hope of catching a fish if not several.  When the title is flat, chances are it would fail to attract wanted attention.
  • Is your content properly formatted or all over the place? Choose a formatting style and keep up with it.
  • Compare your blog posts performance by their lengths.
  • What are the types of your post that attracted more views and resonated more with your readers? Were they helpful, niche related, personal post? Can you publish more posts like them?
  • Which posts gained a lot of comments? Which posts got shared most? What do you think caused it to arouse so much response?
  •  For the posts that fell flat, do they share a common trait? Is it something you can avoid repeating?
  • Did you publish contents equally across your chosen topics or did you concentrate on a particular topic?
  • What day of the week that got the most traffic? What can you make of the information deduced from these?

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Social Media and Promotion Strategy

  • Do you have branded social media presence?
  • Do all your platforms link to your blog?
  • Which social media and promotion strategies platforms worked best for you?
  • Where was your dominant growth and engagement?
  • Which of the platforms did you enjoy working with most? Will you keep using them?
  • Have you submitted your blog to major search engines?
  • Did you do guest posts or collaboration on other blogs?
  • Have you been interacting with other bloggers by leaving insightful comments that engage conversation on their blogs?
  • What new strategies would you like to try this year to grow your presence?

Audit blog, social media promotion, strategy, Google Analytics, WordPress JetPack, Subscription buttons, content audit, Plugins, Blog design, Setting Targets

Auditing Backend

  • What’s your SEO plan? Do you use rich keyword texts in the right places? For those who use SEO plugins, how effective was it? Would you consider trying something new?
  • Are your images properly filled out with the alt-text focus keywords before inserting them into the post? It’s the alt-text that search engines, Pinterest et cetera focuses on to make it user-friendly.
  • Are you plugin’s and widgets working properly? Do they need updating?

For Monetized Blogs

  • What monetization strategies are you using? Has it been worthwhile? Have you made sales with them? If they are not working so well, would you consider changing them?
  • Are you considering other monetization methods to generate income? Such as:
    • Making and selling of eBooks, tutorials, videos, website themes, graphics, photos etc.
    • Offering your services like writing, copy-writing, editing, coaching, building sites etc.
    • Affiliate marketing and selling private ad spaces
    • Exclusive membership programs

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Setting New Targets

There you have it. You stuck to the end. Well done! When you know better, you certainly do better.

Armed with information learned from your audit, you can check your previous goals and use your performance as a yardstick to set new targets.

  1. Don’t set too many concrete goals that would become overwhelming and only lead to failure to meet them.
  2. Keep your goals S.M.A.R.T. Specific, measurable, actionable, realistic and time-bound.

Always remember that the journey of a successful blog is not a day’s walk. The more you know the better it becomes.

I hope that you find this useful and would love to know your thoughts and recommendations. Do feel free to ask any questions in the comments below.

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Essential Writers Tips – Increase Your Word Count On The Go

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Create Space

Finding uninterrupted time to sit down and write to meet your writing goals is a challenge faced by many writers’ most especially when you have a full-time job coupled with managing your family and other demands in-between.

Lack of time is one of the reasons why some wait till November’s’ NaNoWriMo to tackle that novel that they have in mind and possibly take some time off work to do so.

You need not wait till a certain time of the year to start working on those writing projects of yours. You could try the simple step-by-step way to write a novel now.

Increase Word Count

You can work on your book all year round and increase your word count through simple methods such as using your phone. Set a target to clock in an average of 500 – 1,000 words counts daily and increase them when you have ample time.

Today’s phones come equipped with an audio voice recorder that can serve you while on the go. Brainstorm, dictate your book on your phone – with your Bluetooth (because you are unable to stop to write lengthy sentences).

During those little pockets of time that you have every given day; while on transit, traipsing down the shopping aisle, try to capture those random fictional thoughts, dialogues, descriptions et cetera that pop into your mind before your muse chooses to run off and hibernate.

You would be delighted to realise how much you were able to meet when you transcribe and edit your sessions later. Besides, to transcribe our spoken word is far easier than to find the time to sit and craft a whole plot.

For more useful writers tips, check this link and please share this. We appreciate that.

Keep your writing error-free, use Grammarly today.

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Photography Theme Challenge: Bare Feet Monochrome




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MAY YOUR FEET TAKE YOU PLACES

Bare Feet

For the B part of the photography theme challenge, I chose to shoot bare feet.

As mundane as feet may be and possibly overlooked since we see them every second and minute of the day, they make beautiful subject to photograph because no two feet are the same and a mundane object can be made interesting with specific camera settings.

Every pair of feet tells a story about its’ owner. An excerpt of a previous post of mine below:

Feet! Normal human features that we see every day.

Yet, the feet are the beautiful piece of artwork from the Master craftsman Himself.

They take us on our lifetimes journey’s literally and physically

As we leave our imprints all over the sands of time in pursuance of our dreams.

© Jacqueline Oby-Ikocha

Camera Settings

The image is in a monochrome setting under the SCN mode. Monochrome setting converts the image directly to black and white.

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The SCN mode stands for the scene or special mode. To get to your monochrome setting, on the dial button of your digital camera, turn the button to SCN. When you choose this mode, you can change the settings by highlighting an option with the multi-controller and pressing set.

Photography Theme Challenge, Digital Camera, Camera Settings, Monochrome, Bare Feet, SCN Mode

Mode Dial

The first setting you see in the scene mood would say Standard setting that Canon calls the ambience setting. The second setting which you can change in some of the modes says Default setting. It gives you a list of natural colors under specific types of lighting to choose from.

If you are a new/amateur photographer, the SCN modes help you to grow familiar with the settings and the feel of your camera.  With practice you gain more control, become more adventurous with your creativity and explore other modes and settings in the Creative Zone.

Keep shooting.

For more posts on photography, check this link.

Join the A – Z photography theme challenge for practice.

 

Essential Writers Tip 9 – How to keep the story flowing to the end.

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Essential Writers Tips – Halt mid-sentence

When writing a story knowing when to halt mid-sentence is an excellent writing trick that helps you to pick up easily from where you stopped.

Resist the temptation to write the entire plot as it flows ceaselessly because there are days that your flow will probably come in trickles if they come at all.

Story Planner - plan a better story

Naturally, our minds don’t like unfinished riddles and guessing games and this trick of interrupting your flow has the added advantage of keeping your mind at work on the plot even when you are at rest.

It gives you something to look forward to continuing the following day.

Over time, I’ve found that once I start writing a passage and leave it hanging without a closure, by the following day my thought patterns to that part has increased and I’ve possibly worked out the entire scenarios that should follow.

For more writing tips, check this link. You can also check out my book here.

Keep your writing error-free with Grammarly.

 

Photography Theme Challenge – Abstract




For the first part of the challenge, I chose to create an abstract image out of an object, in this case, lamps hanging inside a shop. I took two separate photos through the shops’ glass.

Abstract Take

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Basic histogram of the first image.

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Second Take 

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Basic histogram of the second image

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Comparing the two histograms, you’ll find similarities and the little adjustments made to make both shots. I took both photos in Aperture priority, popularly shortened as A or AV mode. The AV mode is a setting that allows the photographer to set a specific value (f-number) while the camera selects the speed to match it based on the light conditions measured by the camera’s light meter.

Today’s world of Digital Photography has made it possible for us to check our images immediately through the back of our camera’s or the viewfinder.

Evaluation of images that we take should not only be based on the last image produced because most modern cameras have adjustable brightness and many factors such as light, shade and darkness affect how we view an image at any time.

The Camera‘s histogram is a tool used to check the exposure of a digital image more accurately and it assists you in fine-tuning your exposure to meet the sharpness, motion, blurring, freezing, depth of field and focus that you want.

For quick details of the histogram of a photo, press the info button on top of your camera’s LCD (Canon EOS 70D).

Given that the manufacturer’s of digital cameras’ vary widely, their menus, settings, and display equally differ, so you should consult your manual to gain a better understanding of your camera’s histogram display.

Histogram display on Canon EOS 70D

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With such information at your disposal, this makes it easier to understand and recreate images for desired results.

For more posts on photography, check this link.

Join the photography theme challenge for practice.

A-Z Photography Theme Challenge

Photography, Digital Photography, Photography Themes, Challenge, Creativity, Organize Photos, Images

Photography Themes

Using photography themes is a great and fun way to develop your skills and organize your photos.

Why should you take part in a challenge? Sometimes we tend to run out of ideas. Secondly, after living in a place for a while, we develop a mental block and a taken for granted attitude that overlooks possible objects of creativity around us.

We need not look far to turn ordinariness into great images because there are ALWAYS something worth capturing. This A-Z photo challenge will get your creative juices flowing.

There are no hard and fast rules to take part. You can take photos with whatever gadget you have. Simply show your interest in the comments and add the pingback to your shoots so that others can check it out as well.

I will collate all the participants URL and share at the end of the challenge.

Looking forward to seeing your great images. Have fun.

Quick D.I.Y on Adding a Pingback

Simply right-click on the URL you want to copy and share

Click on ‘copy link address’

On your editor, click on the link icon circled in red below

Insert the copied link into the box for URL and the proper text that you want the link to read.

Be sure to click on ‘open link in a new tab’ so that the reader can reach the page without exiting your site.

A-Z List

A. Abstracts, Apple

B. Bare feet, Bicycle

C. Clouds, city scenes,

D. Decorations, Dogs

E. Eggs, Environment

F. Feline, Flowers

G. Gardens, Gold

H. Hands, History

I. Ice, Isolated objects

J. Jewelry, Junk

K. Keys, Kids

L. Light, Learning

M. Macro, monument

N. Night, Nonsense

O. Odd things, orange

P. Pattern, Peppers

Q. Queer, Quick

R. Red, Reflections

S. Signs, Silhouettes

T. Tattoos, Transport

U. Umbrella, Utensils

V. Vacation, Vignette

W. Waterfall, Window

X. Find images with an X in them

Y. Yellow, Yacht

Z. Zipper, Zoo

 




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