Wednesday, November 28, 2018

The Joy of Maintaining a Blog

Somehow, I've ended up with three blogs.

The sentence above was the rough draft beginning of this post. I should have cut it because it was just a beginning, a means of initiating the flow of ideas and words, but then I realized it was a good hook, actually, the old strategy of beginning with an opposite point of view. The word somehow implies that I'm not sure how I've ended up with three (or perhaps four) blogs, but that implication is inaccurate. I like to write about what I'm doing; I like to write about my passions, or as Joe (Campbell) said, about my bliss. There is a very real joy in maintaining a blog.

Three blogs: writing, tiny trailer camping, and bicycling (the fourth a specialized bicycle journaling web community). This blog, Tom Kepler Writing, was my first blog. I started it when I began to independently publish my writing. Over nine years I've posted almost six hundred times.

Then I began this bicycle riding thing, and I decided to write about my experiences and to also see how well I could structure a blog, having had some experience with my writing blog. I've been writing about bicycles at Tom Kepler Bicycling for six years now. That blog was a joy to write and develop, but what I found was that another website, Crazy Guy on a Bike, is a community of thousands of touring bicyclists from all around the world. It's a pool of readers that I can tap into that isn't accessible with Tom Kepler Bicycling. I began posting to both sites, sometimes the same article. Right now, I still keep up TKB but feel that eventually more writing will be posting at CGOAB just because the site is so lively and interactive.

My most recent blog is Green Goddess Glamping, began with the acquisition of a tiny, "tall," teardrop trailer. Bicycle camping, I found, was an activity I pursued alone. I wanted to share the camping experience with my wife; however, with her business, bicycle touring as not an option. What was an option was a mobile office, our tiny trailer, that allowed us to camp and for my wife to still work. As a consultant, almost all her work is carried out by phone or computer. We focus on campgrounds with good phone signal strength so we can utilize the phone's hotspot for internet.

The interesting marketing connection for GGG is that I belong to three Facebook tiny trailer groups, so I have an instant distribution network for blog posts of around 15,000 members. Posting on this network is not passive, though, because by interacting with member FB posts, I increase my presence and also find subjects for stories that interest the groups' members. For instance, my most-read post on GGG is about tiny trailers and toilets! Of the top five posts in terms of readership, the first four are idea pieces; not until the fifth does one of my narratives of a camping trip make the list, the story about a camping trip to Lake Rathbun in SE Iowa, "A Camping Trip as Sweet as Honey."

I could create more blogs--one about gardening. I've been a dedicated organic gardener for almost forty years. I could have created a blog about education--I am a retired, career educator. I could specialize the subjects of this writing blog--separate the subjects of reading and reviews from writing. However, I feel pretty saturated right now. Enough is enough, and enough is a joy. I don't want that joy to become a burden!

The title of this blog, though, specifies maintaining a blog, not just writing blog posts. Writing about my passions is the main joy of these blogs, but there are other joys, such as selecting blog layout, adding gadgets, learning a little html, and polishing photography and photoshopping techniques. The blogs are platforms that allow active participation in these areas. The blogs are really the "labs" for applying self-taught skills. I was a career educator, but I am a lifelong learner.

Cropping, adding text, adjusting color and exposure, and sizing this photo demonstrates fun skills acquired
Here is a quick list of some of the joys of maintaining a blog:

  • Writing articles about my interests. I'm able to delve deeply into subjects, researching and then organizing my new-found knowledge around concepts that provide meaning for me (and, hopefully, my readers).
  • Actively marketing my writing. Over time, I've learned a few of the basic techniques of marketing, although I have to admit my engagement has been desultory. The bicycling and camping blogs, though, provide me with marketing opportunities and practice in marketing online, even though there is no monetary advantage for me. It's just expanding a circle of readers for the pure fun of it. Good practice, though. I'm learning a lot that I can use with my published writing.
  • Interacting with like-minded individuals regarding my favorite activities. These online interactions, especially with my bicycle and trailer camping pursuits, are really the best internet social interactions I've ever had, just good, innocent sharing and enjoyment of an interest.
  • Designing my blog. I enjoy adding new header photos to my trailer blog. I have a lot of photos, and it's fun to compose the photo with a header in mind (keeping a good space for the title). It's fun to add gadgets so that my top-read articles are displayed on a sidebar. I use a Chromebook app for some simple work with photos and find that a real motivator. The "Stats" diagnostic page for my blog provides me with interesting and useful information. These are just a few of the ways that I enjoy managing my blogs.
  • Finally, the relationship between my blogs and social media platforms is a continuing learning experience, a mystery, and an acquired art--something that I don't truly understand much of the time, but something that I'm learning and becoming better at. Again, especially my trailer camping blog has provided me with insights, both as to the potential and also to the limitations of social networks. So far, I'm just involved with Facebook tiny trailer camping groups and the bicycle touring site Crazy Guy on a Bike. I haven't jumped onto Instagram, for instance, and for Twitter I just have automatic posts for this blog. 
All said, I guess you can just call me an amateur, since the root of that word is love and I'm just doing all this writing for the love of it. I don't need the money (although I wouldn't mind more). I don't need the fame (although I want my writing to be appreciated). I'm not particularly interested in the whirlwind lifestyle that sometimes comes with fame. It would be interesting to hit a few late night talk shows, but that's quite a distance from a quiet campground in a tiny trailer, not to mention from humping down a country road on a touring bicycle!

Following my bliss, 1970
"Following my bliss," though, to reference Joseph Campbell again, is a means of continuing my fiction writing. I have three older short stories that it occurs to me I could publish as a free ebook as a lead for my other writing. I've been doing some short story writing. Maintaining my blogs and regularly writing is an oil on the hinges of a door I want to keep open. I like writing, and if you like reading what I've been writing, just follow the links for more!


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