After I had a year of letting go in 2019, I decided that 2020 was the year of putting myself out there. I had written a children's book (more on that later) and was given some advise that I needed to join social media and be an active participant on it. I had been dragging my feet with joining the photography platform. I don't have any photos to post. I'm not that interesting, I mused on more than one occasion. But, I am so glad I succumbed to the peer pressure and joined the site. I have learned five major lessons in this year.
1. Failing Is Inevitable But Often Opens Doors To New Avenues
I set out on this journey to publish a children's book. I have not done that yet. Of the upward of 40 + publishers I have sent my edited and reedited and reedited one more time manuscript to, I have heard back from three and they were a no. I have not given up, and it looks as I will have to go the self-publishing route, but I am thankful for this failure.
Failing with the children's book has led me to discover that I really like blogging. After posting blogs on my own website, I tested the waters with guest blogging. Some big name sites like Scary Mommy, BluntMoms, The Mighty, Motherwell Magazine, and Her View From Home accepted my work. Soon some of my work was getting thousands of shares, and I even started getting paid on a regular basis for some of work.
But what you don't see for every success is about ten failures. Some of my published articles got rejected five, six, seven times before they made it onto a site. Some never do. An article I wrote in the spring finally just got accepted to be published after I sent it to an 11th different publisher. Failure isn't fun, but it is inevitable and very valuable. After every failure, I have learned lessons to help me improve. As Bobby Bones says, "Fail until you don't." And when you are doing something you love, it's very hard to fail.
2. I had no real idea how Instagram worked.
I am so glad I had no clue how Instagram worked or I would have never joined it. Here is what I was clueless about.
A. More Like Lauren Barrett Creeps
I need to come clean. I did, in fact, have Instagram before I had Instagram. After my husband, James, got tired of me borrowing his phone to stalk the members of the Bobby Bones Show, a radio/podcast show that I am obsessed with in a totally normal and healthy way, I made my own burner account if you will. I had no pictures, no information, and no posts. I only used it to creep on Bobby Bones, Radio Amy, Lunchbox, and Eddie. But, then, people I knew kept popping up under the Suggested for You list, so I hypothetically started to click on them and potentially viewed their stories on perhaps more than one occasion. I had no idea that people can see who views their stories! For the record, I don't look, but I was so embarrassed by my faceless lurking once I found out when I got Instagram.
B. No Links For You!
I also had no clue that you couldn't post links on Instagram. The date was October 24, and I finally decided it was time to make a post with a link to one of my blogs. The blog was about tips to de-stressing your life. I pressed post and waited. My mom, a technology novice and social media newbie, texted me that she couldn't open my link to my blog post. Exasperated that once again my mom couldn't comprehend simple technology, I went to have a look for myself. And much to my dismay, I couldn't click on the link nor could I copy and paste it. What!!
A quick Google search showed that you can't use links in an Instagram post. The phrase, "link in bio" suddenly made sense. What a fool I was! Such a posting plebeian. I felt like that emoji with her palm in her face. I have learned from my amateur ways and now use the popular line to direct people to my blogs. I have also learned that you can, though, post links in your Instagram Story if you have 10,000 followers. Only 9,500 to go!
C. Holy Filters!
I knew that Instagram was notorious for their filters and photo editing, but I was unprepared for the sheer amount of alteration you can do to one photo. Not only are there upwards of fifteen filters, all with their subtle differences, but there are ways in which you can change the saturation, tilt, contrast, brightness, structure, warmth, color, and fade, among other things that I have no clue what they are. Literally, you can spend hours doctoring one photo to get it just right, and then when you go back to look at the original one it's like you have two entirely different pictures. Talk about option overload and decision fatigue. If I do decide to go with a filter, I usually don't venture much farther past Juno before I throw in the towel and pick one. Overall, I do like the editing abilities like adjusting the brightness because I am not really good at taking clear photos.
D. Damn Scams!
Lastly, I am a sucker for those FaceBook ads. They get me. That's how I discovered Lulus and Shein. I thought Instagram would be no different. The beginning of fall was right when I joined Instagram, and you know what that means. Sweater Weather! As I was absentmindedly scrolling through my feed, the most adorable sweaters popped up. "Ohemgee," I shrieked, "I've literally got to have them." None of that was said, but for the effect of the story pretend that I did.
After discovering the super cute sweaters, I hemmed and hawed for a bit, even going as far as to ask the girls on the Cross Country team what they thought. "Soo cute," they squealed (They didn't but you get the idea). My decision was made. I bought them. I anticipated their arrival. So many basic places I could wear them. To the pumpkin patch. To our Fall Mountain Getaway. A football tailgate. Frolicking in the leaves. But after a month they still hadn't arrived, and every time I tried to track the package I was directed to a Chinese site. I had been scammed!
Eventually, they did arrive, but they looked nothing like the advertisement and the material was so shoddy that they didn't even bother to affix a tag to the inside. So I had been scammed and a lesson learned. Don't trust everything on Instagram.
P.S. The website is Flookmiki for any of you who might be duped like me.
3. Social media and blogging can be tiring
As much as I love blogging and social media, it can be very tiring and mentally draining. I've learned that I have to take breaks. There is so much more to blogging that's behind the scenes. I've had to learn about SEOs, keywords, tags, affiliate links, analytics, subscriber links, opt-ins, call-to-actions, guest posts, and other very boring but important words to making a blog and website grow.
I have had to set myself up with my guidelines and rules. I only get on social media three times a week. I abstain from it all other days. I shut off my laptop and phone an hour before bed, and I don't get on my phone at dinner. These breaks are a necessary time to regroup and clear my mind from all the noise on social media that can sometimes be overwhelming.
4. I had to stop caring what people think
When you decide to put yourself out there as is the case with blogging, you have to stop caring what people think about every little thing. I've had to stop caring about all the unwritten rules of Instagram like how often you should post, what kind of filters to use, how many hashtags to throw out there, how many followers and likes one should have, and if my son or I are wearing the same outfit twice. If I started to care about all those trivial details, I would start to get into my head and second guess what I write and post.
Sure, doubt creeps into my mind every now and then right before I hit the post button. Sometimes, I almost convince myself to play it safe and be comfortable and just skip a week. But, I set a goal to post every week, and I was going to honor that goal. I couldn't let hypotheticals of what people might think stand in my way of what I love.
5. Women are very talented
If Instagram has taught me anything, it's that I am amazed at the talented, positive women (and men) out there. It's full of women showcasing their talents. I see women starting business. I see women writing and blogging and sewing and designing and traveling. I witness women being great moms and wives and friends and daughters and aunts. I've looked at posts in admiration of women taking beautiful photos of their children and planning cute, carefully crafted themed birthday parties for their children. I've viewed stories of women decorating and making over their homes. I've liked posts of women selling products, modeling clothes, demonstrating a workout routine, and making food. I've been in awe at the women standing up for what they believe in and pouring their heart and soul into their causes. Instagram is so uplifting!
Sure, social media is often a "best of" or highlight reel and if you dive deep enough, you probably will find a dark abyss of a lot of negativity and fakeness. But the Bible says, "You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven."
Women shouldn't let anyone stop them from sharing their talents with the world. I'll never be the type of mom who can take those cute photos of their child with all the props and signs nor will I ever throw a Pinterest party. I'll never have the skills to design a room or refurbish a piece of furniture nor will I ever make a gourmet style meal, but I can appreciate those women who can. When you stop comparing yourself to everyone and instead root for all those women out there, Instagram is a inspiring, beautiful place full of people just doing what they love. Isn't that what we all want?
Thanks for following me on my year-long journey of posting a blog a week. I will still continue to do so for the time-being, but in the year to come I would like to expand a bit by posting more videos and building an email list for a monthly newsletter and then just maybe I will take a break.
How to Publish a Blog
Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission at no extra cost to you. All opinions remain my own.
Step 1: Research a website you like and find out the kind of blogs they publish. Read. Read. Read.
Step 2: Read their editorial guidelines and submission rules carefully.
Step 3: Write something you are passionate about.
Step 4: Aim for 500-800 words. That is the sweet spot.
Step 5: Proofread and edit. Take out any unnecessary words.
Step 6: Add pictures and graphics where necessary.
Step 7: Submit!