Tag Archives: Blogging

Blogging: An analysis

Yesterday, over at my author blog (mindfulmonica.wordpress.com), I wrote about creating and sticking to a blogging schedule. The last step of that process is “evaluation,” which I promised to write about here today.

I’ve been blogging regularly on one of my blogs or another (I have four, each with a different purpose) for more than ten years. Some of you have been following me here since the beginning (thank you, loyal readers!). At my peak, I posted 387 times on three different blogs in 2012 (also, not coincidentally, the year my first memoir came out). At my laziest, I posted 107 times in 2016 (that’s still an average of twice a week, so “lazy” is relative).

Blog Stats

Don’t look for a button on WordPress to generate this report. I created it on Excel.

If just sitting down to write something is the goal, then I smashed it. I’ve written more than 2,600 posts in the past ten years. Even if 90 percent of those posts are junk, I’ve written a lot of good stuff over the years (I would argue that only about 86% of those posts are junk because I think I hit it out of the park at least once a week, but I quibble).

However, if my goal was sales, well, I fell far short. I estimate I’ve collected about $3,500 in royalties over that 10 year period, and oof, that would make me, well, probably hungry and homeless.

This hopelessness all came to a head in June of last year. I’d made a New Year’s Resolution to write six blog posts a week, which I more or less stuck to through June. But I wasn’t feeling it. My creative well had run dry, and I felt like I was posting uninspired retreads. When I analyzed my stats, I couldn’t justify keeping up my resolution for the rest of the year, and I pretty much quit posting unless I had something to say, which wasn’t often (maybe you missed me, and if you did, thank you).

Because one of my primary goals by blogging was to keep up a writing schedule, I refocused my writing on my work-in-progress, Church Sweet Home, the memoir that comes out on Tuesday.

I resumed a regular blogging schedule six weeks ago, in part because my dear mother told me she missed it, in part because I had time on my hands during the stay-at-home pandemic orders, and in part because I was launching my new book. The break had given me a chance to refill my creative well again, and it’s been good to sit down to blog regularly.

The lesson here is, know why you’re blogging, and revisit your purpose every once in a while. If you’re blogging to make money, well, get another job. But if you’re blogging to practice the craft of writing and connect with like-minded people, then I wish you the best of luck in blogging to meet those goals.

 

 

A drop in the bucket: Top 10 posts at Minnesota Transplant

a drop in the bucket

This post marks the 1,999th time I’ve posted a story, a rant, a review, a picture or an inspirational quote here on Minnesota Transplant, a drop in the bucket if I may. That’s 10+ years of writing about what’s on my native Minnesota mind.

I posted nearly daily back in 2009-2012, which isn’t all that hard when you have something to say. As my post frequency dropped, so did the hits on my blog, but in total, Minnesota Transplant has had 151,604 views. A lot of them have been views by my mother and other people who are related to me, but since I’m writing a “day in the life” blog designed first and foremost to keep my mother who lives two states away apprised about what’s going on in my life and on my mind, I’m OK with that.

I wrote only four posts here on Minnesota Transplant last year, which is not that astonishing if you know I posted 341 times over at Church Sweet Home, the blog I created about renovating a 126-year-old Methodist church into our home.

If you’re a blogger working on a resolution to blog daily or at least blog more, these may be impressive numbers. I’m pretty proud of it, even though I know I hit it out of the park only about once a week. I think writers improve by writing, so there’s going to be a lot of trash created along the way.

As I reflect on a decade of blogging, here’s a look at my most popular posts by year.

In 2009, the first full year I blogged, I came up with something to say 301 times. The most popular piece was “A virus hangover,” in which I described how I felt after a computer virus took down my computer:

My computer has been scanned, anti-virused, malware-deleted, C cleaned, defragged, hard-disk fixed, In Box repaired and I don’t know what else. … Now, it seems everything is clean, empty, cleared and solid, i.e., working properly. But I’m still a little unsteady on my feet. What program, which file, what website, which download infected me? What should I have avoided, but didn’t? I’m pale and paranoid, looking at my computer screen like a deer in headlights.

In 2010, a bit of cultural consciousness drew hundreds of readers to “In a land where the river runs free, in a land to a shining sea … and you and me are free to … wear polyester.” Maybe because Target was using it in its advertising, searches for the 1972 album “Free To Be You and Me” brought people to my memories of a fourth-grade lyceum program:

I was instantly transported to spring 1977. I was in fourth grade, wearing a pink polyester high-necked dress that my mother had shortened after I was appointed to wear the floor-length version while lighting candles at my uncle and aunt’s wedding. The pink material was broken up by white puffy blossoms. Cut just above the knee, that dress perfectly showed off my white knee-highs with the pink and pastel blue elastic tops.

In 2011 and 2012, it was the now-defunct WordPress blog promotion device Freshly Pressed which propelled a couple of entries to the top of the reading order. “Quiet time on the running trail” was tops in 2011:

Unless you’re Cruella DeVille, telling people you’ve hired and mentored that their contributions are no longer necessary to the company’s continued success is difficult. Unable to sleep, I got up at 5 a.m. and just ran. It helped me cope with the pit in my stomach.

And “My life … in all its banality” was tops in 2012 and perhaps my most commented upon of all time. It included a snippet from one of my junior high diaries, which led to a commenter remarking on its humor, to which I replied, “My diaries are alternately embarrassing and interesting. Usually funny when they’re embarrassing.”

In 2013, 2014 and 2016, posts I wrote related to Creative Memories, where I worked for a decade, achieved tops in readership. “I read the news today, oh boy” (2013) was simply an original editorial cartoon. “The best job I’ve ever had” (2014) described why I once loved working for the company that had gone bankrupt: “Though it was more of a mess than a messiah at the end, the company was great once. It did great things. Things you don’t normally associate with corporations nowadays. Memories were saved. Friends were made. People had meaningful work and meaningful pay. I am a better person because I worked for Creative Memories during that magical time.” And “The truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth” (2016) was about a court trial in which I was among four named plaintiffs who sued over the employee stock ownership plan: “There was blood (imagine the paper cuts inherent so many paper exhibits!), sweat and, yes, tears. Attorneys objected, condescended and sputtered. Indeed, American’s judicial system is adversarial, and I have a new appreciation for the system.” (Spoiler alert: we lost).

It was a review of Costco’s Non-slip Hangers that got the most views in 2015. I don’t think anyone cared all that much about the hangers, but they loved the before-and-after photos of my office. (People just LOVE before-and-after photos).

 

Before                                                 After

In 2017, I announced the creation of the blog about our church renovation, and that got the most interest. “A new project. And as far as projects go this one is a doozy” was mostly a tease but it worked to get readers over at Church Sweet Home:

“You’re wondering about the back story here. You’re trying to figure out how (and why) we decided to buy a church. Maybe you’re worried I’m about the pass a collection plate.”

And last year, when I posted only four times, the most popular post of the year was an obituary about the passing of my miniature schnauzer (“Bearded lady breathes her last”), which still gets me choked up:

“She packed a lot of spunk into her 8 pounds, and even as recently as last summer, strangers who saw us as we walked a neighborhood would ask me if she was a puppy.”

Oddly, the most popular post ever here on Minnesota Transplant is a book review of In Sheep’s Clothing: Understanding and Dealing with Manipulative People by George Simon Jr. Apparently, my post “To disarm a covertly aggressive manipulator, begin by reading this book” struck a chord with people who are have to deal with psychos in their lives. Just in case you’re interested, here’s how Simon differentiates passive-aggression from covert-aggression:

Passive-aggression is, as the term implies, aggressing through passivity. Examples of passive-aggression are playing the game of emotional “get-back” with someone by resisting cooperation with them, giving them the “silent treatment,” pouting or whining, not so accidentally “forgetting” something they want you to do because you’re angry and didn’t really feel like obliging them, etc. In contrast, covert aggression is very active, albeit veiled, aggression. When someone is being covertly aggressive, they’re using calculating, underhanded means to get what they want or manipulate the response of others while keeping their aggressive intentions under cover.

My Top 10 + 1 is a pretty good indicator of the stuff you might find here at Minnesota Transplant. Like the Farmers’ Almanac, this blog contains “bits of logic, formulas for good cookery, weather prognostications, humor, poetry and odds and ends designed for your enjoyment and edification.”

Here’s to another year of interesting ephemera. Thanks for reading.

A new project. And as far as projects go, this one is a doozy

The day of reckoning has arrived, and I couldn’t be happier.

My Beloved and I signed the paperwork to buy a 119-year-old Methodist church this afternoon. It’s official. We’re crazy. Or crazy like foxes.

We thought this day might never come, to be honest with you. Our offer on the church was accepted nine weeks ago, but closing was delayed twice.

And yet, things work out together for good to those who love God. And a couple who buys a church surely must love God, I think.

You’re wondering about the back story here. You’re trying to figure out how (and why) we decided to buy a church. Maybe you’re worried I’m about the pass a collection plate.

If you want to know more, you’ll have to subscribe to my new blog at Church Sweet Home. I’d love it if you would (and don’t worry–no collections). My first post is already up; check it out right here.

If you’re perfectly happy hearing Minnesota Wonderer (or Minnesota Transplant, or whatever she’s calling herself) write about travel and the Twins and other assorted life happenings, not to worry. I’ll still post here occasionally about subjects of interest. But I’m devoting myself to writing every day over at Church Sweet Home. So if you can’t get enough of my Midwestern perspective and wry sense of humor, check it out.

A new day, a new name for ye olde blog

You might have thought I dropped off the face of the earth, but in fact, I’m simply crawling the face of the Earth now.

In an RV.

Not actually the one in the updated header for this blog. A different recreational vehicle. This picture features the tried-and-true 1983 Pace Arrow in which we traveled many happy miles.

[If you’re a subscriber who is enjoying this post in your email In Box, this is the header image I’m talking about.]

cropped-rv-004.jpg

We own a different camper now. A slightly newer model that we like to call “home.” Because, yes, we sold the house. The house otherwise known as the millstone around our necks that I spent five months emptying of its contents. Not a big fan of home ownership nowadays (oh, you can bet you’ll hear about it but probably in another post on another day). I’m sure I’ll own another house filled with Costco-sized quantities of quinoa and paper towels. Just not right now.

So yes, without roots, I can hardly be a transplant, now can I? So I’m calling this blog Minnesota Wonderer. [Subscribers, you’re going to have to visit the blog to see this. The name has changed, but the url hasn’t; you can still find me at minnesotatransplant.wordpress.com. And, to complete the transition, I updated my About page, too. In my new description, I got to use the word “vagabond,” which is pretty exciting to a logophile.]

Wonderer is a perfect homonym to describe what happens here. Because I do wonder. I wonder about a lot of things. But I also wander. So you’ll still get a lot of philosophical yarns but you’ll also be reading about tiny living and traveling, too, which I hope makes this blog more appealing to you, not less.

Stay tuned. Because you wonder what’s gonna happen next.

Key to blogging longevity: Fingers on keyboard

You know that saying “if you want to get something done, ask a busy person”? It applies to writing and blogging, too, at least for me.

Busy bloggers write more.

That’s what I’ve learned from two blogging experiences this year.

I’ve had a spotty year in terms of daily blogging. I did a decent job of showing up regularly in January, May and November, but in the other nine months of the past year, I posted only 20 times, which is less than once a week.

Previous to 2016, I was a blogging fiend, and in eight years here, I’ve posted 1,934 times (for an annual average of 242). Not bad for a casual blogger.

In May of this year, after three months of poor work, I pledged to myself to post a blog entry every day.

And I did! Yay, me! But I realized I hadn’t written one word on the manuscript I was working on. So I promised myself I wouldn’t write a blog post unless I did at least a little work on my book (I guess I do a lot of self talk,  huh?).

Epic fail. I only wrote five entries from June to October.

So I made a new promise in November, which is when writers everywhere celebrate NaNoWriMo, aka National Novel Writing Month. The stated goal is to get 50,000 words down on paper. Writers everywhere are racing to the finish Right. Now.

I figured if some people could write 50,000 words (or 1,666 a day), I could shoot to write something. Every. Day. No matter what.

As we say farewell to November, I accomplished my goal, writing 15,525 words this month (averaging more than 500 a day). Between this blog, my author blog and my photo organizing blog, I’ve posted every day. And I finished my work-in-progress manuscript and sent it off to my editor!

My success only proves Newton’s Law that bodies in motion tend to stay in motion and bodies at rest tend to stay at rest. My slothfulness this summer just cultivated more of the same, but my creative spark tended to stay lit when I fed the fire.

Admittedly, some days’ writing is better than others. But you know what they say: Eighty percent of success if showing up.

Here’s to showing up.

 

2015 blogging by the numbers

I just got my annual report from WordPress.com and the verdict’s in: Readership is down.

Of course, it hasn’t helped that I haven’t posted since early November. I’ve got a great excuse, which I can’t get into now, but seriously, what I’ve been doing since early November is worthy of a book, never mind a blog.

In any case, Minnesota Transplant had 12,059 clicks in 2015, down from 15,495 in 2014. It’s a trend. The high point for me in blog readership was 2012 (26,720 views). The truth is, I write for me (and Mom, let’s be honest), not so much for greater blogging public. Having a blog forces me to think about my life in a different way and Write. It. Down. Which is great practice for someone who thinks herself a writer.

Here’s an excerpt from the annual report:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 12,000 times in 2015. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 4 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

The busiest day of the year was June 20th with 122 views. The most popular post that day was Hung up on hangers.

Really? Those before-and-after photos are golden.

Where did readers come from? That’s 87 countries in all! Most visitors came from The United States. Canada & United Kingdom were not far behind.

Whatever the numbers say, I say “Thank you.” Thank you for reading. Thank you for being interested. Thank you for hanging in there through the dry times. And here’s to a rich, thought-provoking 2016!

Seven things I’ve learned in seven years of blogging

Congratulations to me! Today is the seventh anniversary of writing a blog. I posted my first entry exactly seven years ago today when I wrote rather plainly about a visit from Mom and Dad and the end of autumn.

blogging lessons

On this auspicious occasion, I’m sharing seven things I’ve learned from this exercise:

1. Think hard about your brand before you begin.

I spent a lot of time in the month before beginning my blog settling on a name. I finally went with the blog title you’ve come to love because I thought it vague enough to permit me to write about a lot of topics, yet specific enough to describe my world view. And thus was born Minnesota Transplant.

2. Know why you’re writing.

I haven’t gotten rich in seven years, at least not in terms of financial windfall. But like a true writer, I can’t not write. I am compelled to create. And this is the forum in which I can be creative.

The purpose of my blog, first and foremost, is to record my daily doings for the people I love who now live two states away, primarily my parents and sister. Writing a post is a little like writing a letter, and I know my long-distance family gauges my well-being by what I post. Fortunately for me and my ego, a lot of other friends and acquaintances have found a place in my audience, too (see those stats over there in my sidebar? 1,813 followers and 127,318 hits and counting to be precise).

3. Playing small ball pays off. Eventually.

In seven years, I’ve written 1,845 posts here. Plus, I wrote 116 posts on Monica Lee, my author and writing blog, and another 116 entries on Clickago Storywerks, the blog about my photo organizing business (not subscribing to those? get thee over there to remedy that situation). On average, that’s 299 posts a year, or nearly six posts a week.

Pretty impressive. At least to me.

In order to write that kind of volume, I subscribe to the motto “Showing up is 90% of success.” I know that not every post is stellar literary fodder. But once a week or so, I write something really great, and I do that by trying to write something really great every day.

 4. Don’t conform.

This is a personal blog, not a business blog, so this lesson definitely doesn’t apply to you money-makers out there. But one rule I break every day is staying on point. I write about literally everything from books to fitness and recipes to aging. Even when I participate in WordPress’s weekly photo challenges, I write a lot of words to go along with my photography. Because I can. I’m in charge, and I enjoy thinking outside the box. And that freedom is what keeps me coming back to the keyboard.

5. There’s no accounting for taste.

I’ve written some amazing bits in seven years — stuff I love for the writing and the meaning. But my popular posts have been a book review of In Sheep’s Clothing: Understanding and Dealing with Manipulative People, a recipe for Who Hash and an analysis of what teachers are paid at my stepson’s high school.

Apparently, those posts have answered big questions for people living with covertly aggressive people, cooks who are also fans of Dr. Seuss and taxpayers (or possibly student teachers).

6. Be nice.

I know some angry bloggers might get a lot of attention, but I don’t need any more meanies in my life. Early on, I posted something depressing and pissy. My father encouraged me to rethink that attitude. The world is filled with enough pissiness without me adding to it. So when I’m angry, at least I try to be clever. But most of the time I try to count my blessings, and an attitude of graditude makes my blog — and my life — richer.

7. Blogging preserves time.

If there’s one life change I’d like to experience from writing my blog, it’s a book deal (I mean, who wouldn’t?), but I’ve already gotten a gift. The very act of thinking about a topic cements it into my memory banks. I rarely feel like time is slipping through my fingers.

Like a diary or journal, I can look back on blog posts and remember small events in my life. And that’s what life is made up of: Small things.

So, there you go … seven years of blogging, seven lessons. And today marks the beginning of another seven years. Yay, me.

Another chapter in the microwave story

The first microwave I ever used was an enormous box of a thing that required its own rolling stand. Because back then, in the ’80s, microwaves were trendy new additions to one’s kitchen and there was nowhere else to house them.

I was fortunate back then as the daughter to a television store owner. We got all the trendy electronics — like console TVs and room-size microwaves — ahead of the curve so that Dad could speak intelligently about their features to potential buyers.

Those trendy new microwaves made obsolete the joys of inflatable Jiffy Pop popcorn on the stove top. Microwave popcorn popped into the collective consciousness for good.

Just stand back so you don’t get zapped by the microwave rays.

Kidding! Microwaves are perfectly safe, dontcha know? Seriously, though, don’t try to hard boil an egg in one.

Unlike Betamax VCRs, microwaves had staying power. Nowadays, I use the microwave (housed neatly above my stove) for all kinds of things.

Like heating my lukewarm coffee.

OK, there’s more than that, but that task is essential.

Except when the microwave is broken.

Strangely, this house has entertained more than it’s fair share of broken microwaves. I mean, we’ve lived here eight years so one microwave on the fritz is probably likely. But three times?

Yes.

Apparently, I am hard on microwave ovens. All that microwave popcorn, I guess.

On the bright side, my inoperable microwaves have provided a lot of blog fodder:

  • Oct. 22, 2009: In “Microwave Meltdown” I lament my inoperable Advantium oven. (Alas, she was a good one. I miss her still.)
  • Feb, 2, 2010: I lamented the short-lived latch repair of my old Advantium in “Boughtworst” (I just love clever titles that mean nothing to anyone but me — take that, SEO!). Time for a new microwave.
  • March 5, 2010: And for good measure, ye olde Advantium was harder to get rid of than we hoped in “Just when we though we were through with this microwave.”

So we’ve made it five-and-half-years on the Advantium replacement, some no-name cheapie microwave that fulfilled its one-year warranty and then some. About a month ago, it quit. The little imp. It pretended to work, but the coffee came out as lukewarm as ever. So we drove to Home Depot (because we couldn’t wait a week for Amazon to deliver — talk about impatient!) to check out the selection. Black? White? Stainless? Endless options and features? We were tempted by the convection option but not her price. So we settled on another no-name cheapie option.

Why? Because we like replacing microwaves, I guess. I mean theoretically, microwaves are supposed to last nine years (so saith Google) and so theoretically, our next microwave should last 12 years (isn’t the law of averages a law for a reason?) and surely we’ll be able to foist our cheapie microwave on the unsuspecting new owners of this house by then, right?

God, I hope so.

But if not, at least I’ll have something to blog about.

All’s quiet on the western front

Someone asked me the other day what’s new, and I was dumbfounded.

Actually, two someone’s asked me the same question while I was making my way through the chiropractor’s office, and I was just as flummoxed the second time as I was the first.

If I was a normal suburban mom with kids going back to school, I might have said, “Oh, my oldest is a senior this year! Look out, senioritis here we come!”

But I only live in the suburbs, I don’t procreate here.

If I had a real job, I might have said, “Half-day summer Fridays are almost over! Back to a real schedule!”

But the only work I do most days is not paid work, so bitching about the end of half-days rings kind of hollow, and no one cares that I finally defrosted the freezer compartment but only because the error message on the front panel wouldn’t go away no matter how many times I plugged and unplugged the fridge.

If I was a gardener, I might have said, “Garden is growing like crazy! Need any cucumbers or zucchini?”

But to say I garden when all I really do is harvest would be insincere, and if I bother to pick any bounty, you can bet I’m going to use it myself or let it sit in my overstuffed fridge until I forget about it and it becomes fuzz-covered mush.

I mean, the truth is, nothing’s new. Absolutely, positively nothing.

Well, nothing worth talking about. Or blogging about.

The broccoli-apple soup I made the other day was sort of disappointing (do not, I repeat, do not believe the internet recipes that suggest fresh lemon juice in your broccoli-apple soup is a good idea; my Beloved would tell you the very concept of broccoli-APPLE soup is not a good idea). I’m addicted to caramelized onions lately, but I don’t really have anything new to add to the conversation (use butter and sauté over low heat, just like everyone tells you).

The dog, as cute as she is, hasn’t done anything out-of-the-ordinary adorable lately, and the shenanigans of my Adored stepson are probably not my business to share.

I cleaned out the cabinet above the toilet the other day, but that didn’t even merit a good before-and-after picture.

Nope, haven’t seen any good TV shows or movies. One of the books I’m reading, Autobiography of a Fat Bride by Laurie Notaro is wearing thin and not as funny as I had hoped. The weather’s been, well, kind of hot, punctuated by rainstorms. Pretty much standard issue for August in northern Illinois.

If I was just a little bit older and a little bit weirder, making me eschew social customs, I could have come up with some really depressing answers for “What’s new?” People I care about are feeling poorly, a business deal in which I was involved went south and to be honest with you, my sinuses are draining like mad and I’ve gone my whole life without being one of those whiny allergy sufferers, and here I am, allergic to something in the air when I’m about to turn 49. Frankly, this getting older stuff is bullshit, I’ll tell ya.

But I’m not in my late 60s and I’m way too Minnesota Nice to answer any “How are you?” question with anything but “Fine.”

Still, it’s stupid to say, “I’m fine” when someone asks you “What’s new?”

So, I sputtered and stuttered and finally said, “Nothing. Nothin’ new with me. How about you?”

An argument for summer reading

I’m way behind on my reading goal for the year (63 books, remember?!) so instead of writing a proper post, I’m going to go read and leave you with this quote:

“It is what you read when you don’t have to that determines what you will be when you can’t help it.”

~ Oscar Wilde