a peek inside the fishbowl

13 May, 2014

15 things I’ve learned about blogging over 15 years of blogging

Posted by andrea tomkins in: Publishing/writing/career stuff|The business of blogging

I can hardly believe it, but this past weekend marked the 15th anniversary of this blog. I don’t want to make a big deal out of it, but it’s still occupying space in my brain, so I thought I’d jot down 15 things that I’ve learned over these past years as a citizen of the blogosphere.

  1. 1) If you have nothing to say, don’t blog just for the sake of filling up space or meeting a self-imposed quota, your readers might find it a turnoff. There is no such thing as writer’s block, but there may be days when you’re looking for a good topic to write about. This is why it’s a good idea to jot your ideas down and keep them for a rainy day. Old skool jotting in a notebook is fine, but apps like Evernote are perfect for this. You’ll never lose a Post-It/napkin/scribbled note ever again! This post may be useful to you if you’ve lost your blogging mojo.
  2. 2) Write about the things that you’re most passionate about. Your passion will shine through your words and you’ll find it much easier to keep going.
  3. 3) Don’t let yourself be paralyzed by the idea of perfection. Just write. Hit publish and see what happens. Don’t let the trolls get you down. Some people are just jerks and they’ll never change. In fact, maybe you should feel sorry for the jerks because they have bigger issues… regardless, it’s not your problem.
  4. 4) Editorial calendars don’t work for everyone. You can write once a week, or three times, or five. There is no rule, but if you want to keep readers coming back you should to make a committment and stick to it.
  5. 5) Photos speak volumes, and can add a lot to a blog post, but don’t toss in a photo just for the sake of doing so. If it’s a crappy/blurry photo, it’s best to leave it off or replace it with something else because it will take away from your blog post.
  6. 6) Your blog posts can be as long or as short as you’d like them to be, but keep in mind that many readers (a) have short attention spans and (b) don’t have a ton of time to spend. Consider splitting longer items into multiple posts.
  7. 7) Find someone you trust to critique your blog and ask them for their honest feedback. It’s hard to be objective about your own work.
  8. 8) Learning basic HTML is very useful and may save you some frustration, BUT, farming certain things out that cause you undue stress will improve your mental health. Do you need a major website update? Design services? It will be money well spent if it means you can sleep at night.
  9. 9) It’s ok to spend money on your blog, even if it’s just a “hobby.” Obtaining a domain name or paying someone to take a fabulous photo of you are good things to spend your money on. (If you need names of good photographers who can snap a great pic, let me know. I can help!)
  10. 10) Don’t let anyone tell you that blogging is a waste of time. If they are dismissive, it’s likely they don’t really understand what it means to you. Writing may be considered a selfish act, but it’s a beneficial one for many reasons. I like Tanya’s post on this topic: Crisis of Conscience: Why Do I Blog?
  11. 11) If you’re a blogger who’s received ad money or free stuff from any brand big or small it needs to be claimed as this is considered to be income. Yes, really.
  12. 12) A successful blog does not have to earn money. Define what success means to you, write it on a sticky note, and post it somewhere you can see it. Perhaps “success” means finding the time to write about your children growing up once a week? Perhaps it’s about honing your skills in a particular area? Perhaps it’s seeing a photo of yours published in a newspaper? Consider your definition of success as you blog.
  13. 13) Never copy, or exaggerate, or fib, because it will come back to bite you, and possibly haunt you forever. Things you write and share in any digital space (even if it’s a text message or private Facebook page) can be copied and shared.
  14. 14) Envy and jealousy are poisonous to your happiness and sense of well-being. If you’re jealous of someone’s success (whether it’s a bloggy book deal, all-expense paid globetrotting, or heaps o’swag), accept that you are different people, and different people do different things and will have different opportunities. There is only one you, so get off your butt and do something great, for YOU. Channel your feelings into action and you will see results.
  15. 15) The Golden Rule trumps all, and all of your kindness, patience, and generosity will be returned to you, possibly in ways you may never have imagined. Share links when you can because it’s good to shine the spotlight on others, and always give credit where credit is due. Most importantly… be kind, have courage, and just write.

Any questions? What do you think? If you’re a blogger, what would you add to the list?

Somewhat related: if you’re a blogger who’d like to take their writing to the next level and get published in a newspaper or a magazine, you might want to consider taking this workshop I’m giving at the Westboro Brainery. :)

2 Responses to "15 things I’ve learned about blogging over 15 years of blogging"

1 | Lynn

May 14th, 2014 at 8:21 am


A great list, Andrea, I agree with all. #14 is the hardest one of all…but so important! I also really love #12 – such a great idea.

2 | andrea tomkins

May 14th, 2014 at 10:56 am


Thank you Lynn,
#14 is a toughie, but I think it comes with age, practice, acceptance and most importably, recognizing that not everyone can get everyTHING. There are limited opportunities for those all-expense paid holidays etc… only so much that can go around. If Blogger A got it, and you didn’t (not YOU Lynn, I’m speaking generally of course) it’d be good to ask yourself why, and maybe get that objective critique I mentioned in #7.

Related to this, I think that too many bloggers spend too much time being down on other bloggers: Old skool bloggers v. the giveaway bloggers etc. It’s judgy, and not very productive in the end.

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My name is Andrea and I live in the Westboro area of Ottawa with my husband Mark and our dog Piper who is kind of a big deal on Instagram. We also have two human daughters: Emma (20) and Sarah (18). During the day I work as a writer at The Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre. I am a longtime Ottawa blogger and I've occupied this little corner of the WWW since 1999. The Fishbowl is my whiteboard, water cooler, and journal, all rolled into one. I'm passionate about healthy living, arts and culture, family travel, great gear, good food, and sharing the best of Ottawa for families. I also love vegetables, photography, gadgets, and great design.

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