Reflections On Two Years Of Blogging: Lessons Learned

My first post on The Creative Penn was Dec 3, 2008 so I have just hit my 2 year anniversary. Hoorah! Here are some of the things I have learned along the way, and my commitment to you moving forward.

  • Passion drives blogging so choose your niche carefully. My very first post on publishing 2.0 is still the driving force behind the blog. I am crazy passionate about writing, publishing and book marketing in a digital age where anything is possible. This passion means I never run out of ideas to blog about and learning is a pleasure. There is little reward in the first 6+ months of blogging so if you aren’t passionate about your niche, you won’t sustain the effort needed to make a success of it. If you blog on what you love, the reward is intrinsic. You enjoy the topic and the process, so you persist and become successful over time. This is my third blog. The other two fell by the wayside within months because I had no passion for them, but we all have to start somewhere!
  • Understand your brand and what you want to build for the long term. Personal branding fascinates me especially as many authors want to write across multiple genres. If you can create a community around you and your interests, then your audience will follow over time into the different directions you may follow. If you create a brand around one book, you will find that harder to sustain as your interests change. Branding may take a while to bed down but it’s best to choose what you want to focus on, then be authentic in sharing around that brand. Remember to stick to your niche. Consistency is important. For example, I love scuba diving but I don’t share stories of dive sites because that doesn’t relate to my writing brand. I can mention it now and then but if I talk about it too much, you won’t come back!
  • Become an expert along the way. People often say to me that they can’t start a blog because they aren’t an expert yet. But you can blog your lessons learned along the way. People connect with people and they love to learn along with you. I learned this from Yaro Starak at Entrepreneur’s Journey. The Creative Penn is a writer’s journey through the tangled web of writing, publishing and promotion. I have blogged my first novel openly this year and ‘Pentecost’ will be out in February 2010. I have also learned so much about online marketing for authors and now get paid to speak on it. When I started, I knew very little so I have learned along the way. You can too. Invest in building your skills. Start learning and start blogging!
  • Bloggers are brilliant and I am proud to call myself one. Bloggers are a fabulous community of intelligent, generous and talented people. I have made some incredible friends in the last two years and many whose blogs have grown at the same time as mine. Connecting with people who are at the same level as you is great because you can network and rise together. Bloggers are now some of the closest friends I have, even though I haven’t physically met most of them. I now define myself as a blogger and if I won the lottery I would still blog. I love to be useful and help people, I love the community, I love the expression. So as you blog, also connect. Podcasting interviews has been a great way of doing this for me. For more tips from professional bloggers, check out my lessons learned from the Problogger event earlier this year.
  • Use your own domain name and hosting. By all means start on a free blog site like but move onto a hosted site that you own as soon as you decide to take blogging seriously. The top ranked blogs are on their own domains and it also means you have the control to do whatever you like with your site. There is no risk of being shut down or your site disappearing. Invest your time building quality for the future. Here’s a post on how to set up your own blog as well as why it’s a good idea for authors.
  • Be useful and focus on what others want. This is the key to driving traffic and achieving better rankings. Posts that receive the most inbound links contain useful, actionable information and examples that help people e.g. how to write a back blurb for your book. One of the biggest problems with many blogs is that they are too focused on the individual.  Think about turning a personal post into something others can action and still insert some of your own personality.
  • Focus and commitment will speed up the journey. I often get asked how I find time to blog, tweet, facebook, speak and network as well as do a day job, find time to write – oh yes, and have a life! I have blogged on finding time but my keys are working four days a week, having no TV and very little social life. I am driven by a passion to change my own life from IT consultant to professional writer, blogger and speaker. Career change takes a lot of effort and this is not a hobby for me. I am serious about what I am doing. I spent my 20s and early 30s without a real goal. Now I have one, I am pursuing it with all my focus and commitment so I give up the other things happily!

My Commitment To You

I saw a post on commitment at Mitch Joel’s Twist Image blog and it really made me think.

I started blogging as a marketing exercise for my first book but it has become much more than that to me. I define myself as an author, blogger and speaker and so this site becomes an integral part of my personal brand and my life. I share some of my biggest challenges here and regular readers/listeners would know my mind more intimately than many of my ‘physical’ friends, certainly on the topic of writing at least!

I also love to help people and by the emails, tweets and comments I receive, it seems that the blog enables me to do this effectively.

So, my commitment to you going forward is:

  • To provide useful, actionable information every 2-3 days on writing, publishing options and book marketing through blog posts, audio interviews and increasingly, on video.
  • To answer your email questions, tweets or Facebook questions as best I can in a timely manner
  • To be honest and authentic with my own struggle and writing journey so you can save time, money and heartache through my lessons learned

Thank you for visiting the blog over the last two years and I hope you stay with me as The Creative Penn moves into it’s third year!
You can subscribe to the blog here or join me on Facebook/TheCreativePenn

What have you learned in the last two years that has made a dramatic difference to your writing life?

Images – from the top: Flickr CC Mexican Wave, Andrea Joseph’s illustrations, Jillalyn, Alles-Schlumpf

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  1. Graham Storrs says

    Congratulations on two years of steady growth and achievement, Joanna. I’ll certainly be sticking with you through the third year and beyond! All the best.

  2. Ian Bontems says

    Thanks so much for this, Joanna. I’ve just started blogging and I find your posts very helpful in keeping me on the right track.

  3. says

    Congratulations on blogging for two years.

    I’ve been a reader of yours for some time, and you’ve clearly come a long way.

    It’s also brave to make an on-going commitment.

    Good luck in year three.

  4. says

    Congrats on two years and I wish you many more. You’re passion is contagios and your clarity of voice is refreshing. Thank you for your helpful and encouraging posts!

  5. says

    You provide a true service for lovers of the written word, and I am indebted to you for it. Happy blogging birthday to you and cheers to many more.

  6. says

    Thanks to you all for the congrats. I certainly feel my blogging community gives me far more than I can give back! It has been a life-changing adventure with signs that the third year will only be better. The top bloggers have been around 5+ years and I will definitely be staying the course! Thanks.

  7. Chronicles says

    It has been such a pleasure to read and learn from your writing experiences. I have learned so much in this book writing process and some of that direcion has come from your words, blogging and interviews. Thanks a million for all your give. So five years is the mark for expert bloggers…well we are well on our way then!

  8. Robin Bezzerides says

    Congratulations on your successes… and thank you for sharing your experience and wisdom. One thing I have learned is to let go of my writing and painting. I have held on too long waiting for the unattainable perfection. I finally realized that what I have written or painted represents where I was at the time.

    • says

      That’s so right Robin. I feel that about my novel as well. It will be finished very soon and represents me now. I will have changed by the end of the next novel and my writing will have improved. But hey, with ebooks, I can always come back and re-edit the first one!

  9. says

    Happy blogging birthday! There were some great tips within your post. One for the keeper. Will share it through my networks. The blogging and personal branding journey is an amazing one. Not many people get the power of marketing your own brand and passions.

  10. says

    Congratulations on this accomplishment, Joanna. I appreciate your passion and drive to offer useful content to your readers. I found you through Twitter, another place you are doing a stellar job. One of my aha moments over the last two years was realizing the power of community to my writing – virtual and in-oerson. Being around other writers thinking about and working on their craft has had a profound affect on my own writing.

  11. says

    Thank you so much, Joanne. I appreciate every post you make, and as a newbie of only a few months, negotiating my way through the social marketing quagmire, your posts have been particularly valuable. Like you, I have that burning passion and love for books, writing and publishing and have had for many years now. (I’ve actually had web sites online since 1997!! But social network marketing is a brand new field I resisted for a long time, because I simply didn’t understand the power of it.) Nevertheless, I have included you in the category of “mentor” for me, even though you probably didn’t know I existed! But here in Australia, we have been traditionally six to twelve months behind the US in internet marketing, at least, so having a US mentor in the same field, with the same passions is invaluable!

    • says

      Thanks Suzanne. I have a lot of online mentors as well, so I deeply appreciate you saying that about me! I’m actually in Australia – I live in Brisbane but I do spend most of my time online socializing with Americans who, as you say, are way ahead!

  12. says

    Good advice to people to own their website/blog. My wife blogs on Tumblr and has lost access to her blog while that host site has been offline for nearly 24 hours.
    My NF book GLIMMER came out in late 2009 and I blogged solidly on for the past year but lately seem to have run out of gas as my time is now dedicated to researching and writing my proposal for my next book. My hat’s off to you for your commitment to post every 2-3 days. Thanks for the info and good luck with your books.

  13. says

    I just stumbled across this post, and I’m so glad that I did. I look forward to keeping in touch, and I love watching your blog grow! My virtual pom-poms are ready for your book launch! :)


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