blogging advice

Round Up: My Best Blogging Articles

Round Up: My Best Blogging Articles | Writing Between Pauses

If you haven’t heard the news, I’m re-launching my newsletter! It’s called the Pause, a no-nonsense newsletter all about blogging, from the perspective of a busy mom who doesn’t really have time to mess with jargon, paid plans that don’t pan out, and much more. If you’ve ever dreamed of starting a blog, or have a blog but feel lost in the massive landscape of blogging advice, this is the newsletter for you. You can sign up here.

Before that, however, I feel like I should put my money where my mouth is. For my day job, I often write about the data of marketing; I like to have evidence for the things I say and what I decide to do. That’s just how I am (aka I have to have a reason for saying something). Sometimes, this is pure data. And sometimes, this is based on experience.

I’ve been blogging since 2009. That’s right: 10 years this year. It feels like it’s been way longer than 10 years, but also not nearly as long as 10 years! 10 years ago, I was 20 years old, living in a dorm, and idolizing Gala Darling. I remember the days of personal blogs that absolutely exploded (Gala Darling being one), people who monetized their personal lives before "being an influencer” was even a thing. I remember the days of and those websites, fashion blogging using photos taking on a point-and-shoot in my dorm room (or propped on a retaining wall in my college’s quad, which is very embarrassing to think about now).

There are years I blogged a lot (2012-2013), and years I barely blogged (2014-2015). Years where I thought for sure it was time for me to quit blogging (2015-2016) and years where I couldn’t imagine not having a blog (pretty much the rest of the time). I love blogging. And I realized I loved writing about blogging too.

This isn’t a blog about blogging. I find those a little annoying, especially when run by people who haven’t managed popular niche blogs before. That’s why I wanted to restart my newsletter; I feel like that’s a much more personal, easy format to write about blogging without coming off like a jerk.

However, I have written a few posts about blogging—and I wanted to put these all in one place for anyone who is curious about my perspective about blogging. I’m definitely a hobbyist; I think longterm careers in blogging are difficult to come by. However, blogging can be a great resume builder and it can be something you are really passionate about, alongside your current career or life goals.

Without further ado, here’s everything I’ve ever written about blogging.

How to Plan Social Media for Your Blog

3 Ways to Achieve Your Blog Goals

How to Write Better Instagram Captions

3 Ways to Improve Your Flat Lay Photos

5 Tips for Starting a Newsletter

30 Ideas for Your Blog

4 Tips for New Bloggers

7 Tips for Starting a New Blog

5 Must-Have Blogging Resources

Should You Use An Editorial Calendar?

Improving Your Blog in 4 Steps

Here Are 5 Steps You Need to Know to Write Killer Blog Posts

4 Tips for Taking Better iPhone Photos

Even better, I have an entire board dedicated to blogging resources on Pinterest. You can check it out here.

If you haven’t signed up for the Pause, of course, you can do that here. The first issue comes out March 2 and it will be the first Saturday of every month after that (unless, of course, you ask for more!)

Feeling Stuck? Here Are 10 Blogtober Ideas

Feeling Stuck? Here Are 10 Blogtober Ideas | Writing Between Pauses

Are you a blogger? Are you taking on Blogtober this month?

Thinking up 31 topics for blog posts throughout the month can be a huge challenge. My advice is always to plan your content in advance, work ahead as much as you can, and take shortcuts whenever possible (like using stock photos when you schedule your posts, but add in your own photos later if you want to).

I wanted to share a few topic ideas for when you’re feeling really stuck for content this month--whether you’re doing Blogtober or not! Many people modify Blogtober: instead of posting every day, they post every other day, or just more regularly than usual. It’s up to you, and I hope you find these ideas helpful!

For Lifestyle Bloggers

1. Daily Diaries

These used to be such popular blog posts--back when people used blogs essentially as journals! It is so fun to do day-in-the-life posts occasionally and an autumn version would be really fun.

2. Things I Love

Things I love (or TiLT) posts used to be very popular--I’m doing them myself this Blogtober, just like last year! They are fun, short posts that can highlight some of your favorite bloggers, tv shows, podcasts, and more!

3. Inspiration

Every Sunday during Blogtober, I do Inspiration Sunday--it’s a series I started back in 2010! Seriously! I share photos, stories, and more that have been inspiring me to write, to create, or just to think. If you’re like me and addicted to saving pretty pictures every month, inspiration posts are a great way to show them off.

For Beauty Bloggers

4. Favorite Autumn products

What products are you favoring this month? You could even divide this into pieces: lipsticks, blushes, powder, foundations. The change in season often means a change in makeup trends. What’s on the radar? Share what you’re loving! I’ve got a bunch of these posts coming up this month.

5. Skin products

Change in season, change in weather, change in skin! How do you handle the changing season? Depending on your climate, some people become drier in the fall and winter or more oily due to humidity! What products help you keep your skin looking snatched?

6. Nail polish roundup

Nail polish trends change rapidly. Remember when everyone was obsessed with mint candy apple from Essie? Same. What nail trends are we seeing this year? Or, what nail tutorials have you excited to paint your nails? Show off some fellow bloggers, post your own nails, and more. There are so many ways to take this!

For Mental Health Bloggers

7. SAD Awareness

For many, the change in season--slightly drearier weather, less sunlight hours, more time indoors--can be really difficult! For mental health bloggers, discussing SAD can help break the stigma. Even though I love Autumn, I struggle with SAD, especially once winter starts. Sharing tips for aleviating SAD can be really helpful!

For Everyone

8. Favorite post roundups

Seen some amazing posts from your favorite bloggers? Write a roundup (sometimes called a carousel). These are so fun to do because you can really highlight some voices that need boosted.

9. Autumn memories

What’s your favorite memory from Autumn? The first Halloween that you remember? What are your Autumn traditions? Share it all in a blog post!

10. Why I Love Autumn

Autumn fanatics, what’s your favorite thing about Autumn? Writing a blog post that highlights your favorite parts of Fall can be really fun to just get out--you can share tons of photos, link to past and present blog posts, and just spread that Autumn spirit!

4 Tips for Blogging Through the Holidays

4 Tips for Blogging Through the Holidays | Writing Between Pauses

Whether you blog professionally or for a hobby, I think we can all agree that sometimes keeping up posting, scheduling social media, and promoting our blogs can be really difficult. Especially during the holidays when things can get hectic and stressful fast. 

Every November and December, I inevitably experience a few moments of just not being able to get to my blog or stay on top of things. It seems easier to let my blog slide--which I inevitably regret when I'm doubly behind come January, having missed posts that I desperately wanted to have up before the new year. 

I've been scouring the internet and collecting the best advice to stay blogging through the holidays. Here's what I've found. 

1. Auto-Schedule In Advance

I think these days, auto-scheduling is the law of the land when it comes to blogging. Back in my Locked Out days, I would sit down, write a post, and post it then and there. That was it! These days, I usually have at least a week of blog posts scheduled out. When it comes to the holidays, or filling in gaps where you'll be on vacation, scheduling comes in handy. 

Alongside scheduling, that requires you to have your content worked out in advance. I have a running editorial calendar for each month so I always know what I need to write and when it will be posted. 

2. Take Part in Blogging Challenges

Honestly, getting my Blogmas content ready for December really helped me step it up this month! It's only the 13th of December, but I have content scheduled through Christmas and beyond. Taking part in Blogmas (or other blogging challenges) is a good way to write content in advance and always have something to motivate you to keep going. 

3. Write Shorter Posts

This is a big one. Not every single blog post needs to be super long, involved, and heavily researched. Short, quick blog posts that share a quite inspiration, a thought, a few tips, etc. can be just as meaningful. A prime example of this is the fact that my post from Blogtober about my 4 favorite teas is one of my most popular blog posts of all time. 

4. Step Away from Social Media

I think the most important thing to do is that once you get content scheduled, a few promotional tweets scheduled, and everything ready for the week of the holidays... step away. Don't worry about it. Do everything else that you need to do, but don't worry about your blog! Step in and check in the evenings, make sure all your social media is going fine, but it's ok to take a break and enjoy the holidays too. 

4 Tips for Taking Better iPhone Photos

4 Tips for Taking Better iPhone Photos | Writing Between Pauses

While I do own a DLSR camera, I find myself often too busy to actually use it. Lugging a large camera downstairs to take photos, all while trying to get everything done quickly, isn't super practical with a toddler. For that reason, I often use my iPhone to take photos and then I edit with A Color Story. I wanted to share my process and tips for taking my photos using my iPhone. For beginner bloggers (or really anyone!), it's totally possible to take all your photos with an iPhone--no expensive camera needed! 

1. Light Matters

Taking Better iPhone Photos

My usually process for taking photos is to get as close to a window as possible, but to avoid any direct sunlight. That means, my bedroom window in the morning or kitchen patio window in the afternoon: I get a good amount of light in these two spots, but because of the direction of the sun, it's not a super harsh direct light. Why should you avoid direct, bright sunlight? It will cast a harsh shadow over your photos that your iPhone camera can't correct and will ultimately make your photos look washed out. 

2. Pick a Consistent Background

Taking Better iPhone Photos for Blog

You may notice that I typically use a plaid background for my photos. Why? Mainly, I just like the look of it. While the typical white marble or white fence backgrounds are popular among bloggers, I didn't want to have to go buy a specific prop just for photos. I use my favorite blanket scarf! A lot of why I do this is to have a specific "style" of photo of my own--and also, I know how photos on my favorite background will look and I have worked out a way to do the best editing with this background. To me, this just makes it easier to take photos because I know how to edit them right off the bat. 

Some people like all white or solid color backgrounds for this reason, but for me, the plaid helps me angle things in a way that I like. 

3. Use an Editing App

Taking better photos with iPhone

As I mentioned, I use A Color Story to edit my photos. I find this the easiest app to use, mainly because I love the look of A Beautiful Mess's photos and their filter packs are affordable and really good for a variety of photos. Below, there is a step-by-step of how I edited the above photo. I took this photo in indirect sunlight outside. 

Step 1
Step 2

Step 1: I use the Disco Ball filter from the Good Vibes pack at less than 50%. Disco Ball increases the brightness, but doesn't increase shadows; it also makes everything a little "whiter". I like this filter to start out because it evens out the color really well. 

Step 2: I use the Palm Springs filter at less than 50% next. It's also from the Good Vibes pack. Just like Disco Ball, it brightens and whitens--but Palm Springs also gives a nice airy, light look to the photo while keeping it very clear. Contrast increases slightly. At this point, I'm just looking to make sure the white in my background is looking white instead of gray or cream. 

Step 3
Step 4

Step 3: I switch to the Seasons pack. Seasons is a pack you have to pay for, but at only $2.99, it's super affordable and I love these filters! FIrst, I use the December filter at around 50%. December increases contrast and shifts the color to be more blue or neutral (depending on how yellow everything is looking). I love how it punches up greens and blues in photos! This helps my photos look nice and vibrant. 

Step 4: I then apply October at less than 50% (I prefer closer to 30%). October is an extra step that I don't always use. It increases red and warm tones (notice how the red looks a little more vibrant and the orange in the leaf is more intense); for this photo, I just felt like it needed the warmth punched up a little more about I applied December. 

That's my exact photo process! It's easy to use and play with to get the look you want for your photos. 

4. Practice Makes Perfect

photo (20).jpg

There are still times when I don't get photos right. For example, in the photo above, I love the light and contrast--but the white of the scarf still looks gray and dingy; as well, the color of the flowers could be brighter in comparison to the red-black-and-pink tones of everything else in the photo. However, by practicing consistently and working to take better photos, I feel like I am always improving and getting better at my technique. 

How to Plan Social Media for Your Blog (Without Going Crazy)

plan social media for blog

Writing and planning social media is, actually, kind of what I do for a living, as a content marketing coordinator. Social media is something I love and am very passionate about. But when it comes to my actual social media channels, I feel a bit like a cat in a sack. I just struggle. Give me a brand or business and I can plan, write, create assets, and schedule like a beast. 

Ask me to schedule a few tweets for my own blog (brand? business? What is this thing I'm doing?) and it's like pulling teeth. 

For a few months, I was very intense about scheduling social media: I posted several scheduled tweets a day, made graphics, wrote posts for Facebook. I got burnt out very fast. I'm not willing to pay for a scheduling software and I hate Hootsuite. Buffer is my favorite social media scheduling site, but if you want to schedule over 10 posts, you need to upgrade to a paid account. 10 posts lasts about 2-3 days on Twitter; for Facebook, that covers an entire week. So for Twitter, I was having to write and schedule every 2 or 3 days. 

Let me just say it: ugh. 

It's a lot of work and I found myself going a bit crazy. Here's what I decided to do instead of drive myself insane. 

1. Focus on just a few social media networks. 

I think Twitter works best as a casual network for me. I get more traffic if I just act like myself, instead of posting scheduled tweets to posts. Also, it's just more fun. The social media networks I put the most energy and planning into are Pinterest and Instagram. That cuts out the stress of posting on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram everyday. I do try to post on Facebook once a week, but rarely do I meet that goal. I get almost no traffic there! 

2. Do what works for you. 

When it comes to Instagram, it can feel a bit like a game. However, I find that I get the best followers & engagement when I'm authentic. To me, that includes: 

  • posting cute, candid stuff in my stories
  • writing longer captions 
  • creating graphics
  • not sticking to any one theme 

I do not like themed Instagrams, as a rule, but I am experimenting with using stock photos recently. Mostly because by the time I remember to take photos, it's 8pm at night and there is no light. That's just what works for me; others don't love it! That's ok. 

3. Don't feel like you have to do what others do. 

This is important: you'll see some things that seem to be working for others, like scheduling the same tweet over... and over... and over day after day. 

That doesn't work for me. Because I get tired and bored and don't have that level of patience, I'll admit it. What works for me are the most passive forms of social media marketing: using images and graphics that are optimized for Pinterest, Instagram, and chatting on Twitter. That's what works for me. Minimal effort, maximum output! 

For Pinterest, I highly recommend group boards; I have three group boards that I pin 5 posts to every day. Alongside my usual daily Pinning, that's all I do. (Oh and make sure to pin your new posts to Pinterest! I always forget. Hashtag-expert, right?)

4. Keep a list of ideas. 

Throughout my day, I'll often have moments of, "this would be a great post!" Or I'll see something that I think would be a pretty photo. I keep a note on my phone where I write those ideas (it's very messy). Some of them I never actually go through with, but some I do. "Planning" for me is more about having a treasure trove of ideas that I can dip into when I know I need to post something of substance. 

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The Basics of Giving Credit

can i use photo from pinterest

A few weeks ago, I was scrolling through Instagram when I noticed something, well, weird. 

One of my favorite bookstagrams had posted a photo of a bath tub. I knew for a fact it wasn't a photo they took. Why? I'd spotted it earlier while scrolling through Tumblr. I went back to Tumblr and found the photo; I remembered it because I'd liked it, to save it to reblog later. I followed the source and ended up at the Instagram of an interior decorator. 

I was torn. What do you do when you find a photo someone has reposted without credit? I went back to the bookstagram and saw that she had put a photo credit for "Pinterest" on the photo. 

Pinterest. Good ol' Pinterest. 

Pinterest, in so many ways, has changed both the blogging world and the Internet as a whole. It changed the way we talk, the way we run and market blogs and businesses. And most importantly, it has muddied the waters of crediting photos. 

It feels so easy for photos to get lost now. To get pulled from Instagram onto Pinterest, to lose the original source, to get added to WeHeartIt, and Tumblr, and then loop back again. Posting and reposting, the source gets lost. When you reverse search the image on Google, it can take a lot of effort to find the original post--and the original credit. 

I always inwardly cringe when I see a photo credited to "Pinterest." Pinterest is where you find a cool photo, or something you want to share. But you need to share the original source--unless you do extensive searching and simply can't. You have to do the work though: you have to try and find that original source. That's on you, as a blogger, an influencer, whatever. You have to do that work. 

Here's the thing: I can think of a lot of times in the past where I've credited photos to "Pinterest." And I hate myself a little bit for it. But I grew up, I learned, I changed. It's pure laziness, that's all it is, as well as ignorance. Maybe people just don't realize they need to source the original photo. Maybe they think saying they got it from "Pinterest" is enough. 

In general, if you find a photo on Pinterest, it has a source. Follow the link. If it doesn't lead anywhere (I have definitely clicked links before and been taking to just the image URL, not a blog post or anything), try reverse searching on Google. You may also be able to find the original Pin on Pinterest by searching for it's exact title and description. (If you notice a pin that doesn't lead to a source, do your part and make sure to report it to Pinterest as well!) 

And here's the kicker: if you cannot find the source, do not use the photo. Being unable to credit it is not an excuse. Don't use it. 

You might wonder about stock photos. Depending on the permissions of stock photos, you do not always need to share the source. Although, if you repost stock photos on Instagram, I think it is most honest to mention the source in your caption. But that's just me. 

So, what happened with that bookstagram? I decided to send the interior decorator the photo had originally come from a private message, where I told her the name of the bookstagram and that she used her photo. In the end, they worked it out privately and, good on the bookstagrammer, she updated the caption. 

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3 Ways to Achieve Your Blog Goals

As I sat writing this blog post this morning, I felt a bit like a fraud. I feel like I've written this sentence multiple times already, but: March was a bit of a rough month for me. The very first Friday of the month, I got the flu and was sick for a solid 3.5 weeks. Just as I started to feel 100% better, I woke up this morning with a sore throat again. How's that for getting better? As a result of being sick, a lot of things have fallen to the wayside, the main one being this blog. 

So, yeah, I feel a bit like a fraud writing this post knowing I won't have hit my goals for March in terms of page views and growth. But, that's life, isn't it? Some months you do everything right and have a great month (January); some months you achieve your goals even when you aren't sure why (February); and some months, you really want to try, but you just can't (March). 

Anyway, what I'm saying is: blogging should, at the end of the day, be about passion. If it's taking it away from you, you need to adjust what you're doing. I know a lot of people start blogs in the hopes of doing it full time, but I highly discourage this behavior. We've seen multiple "blog bubble bursts" in the last few years--the first round of very famous Mommy Bloggers are currently in the process of downsizing their homes, selling off all the trendy furniture they bought, and locking down real jobs. I'm not kidding. All I'm saying is: don't put all your eggs in one blogging basket. Be realistic: blogging is, at most, a supplemental side gig. Use it to supplement a full time position. 

Ok, that's my only little PSA/soapbox. Let's get onto some tips for actually hitting those blog goals. 

1. Actually Set (Realistic) Goals

I mean, duh-est of duhs, but you should actually set blog goals. Every month, on my editorial calendar, I write a few little goals: usually a page view increase of 3-5% (nothing crazy), and a certain number of Twitter or Instagram followers. The most important thing is to set realistic goals. You might see some people claiming to gain 2,000 Instagram followers in a month, and not to doubt those people, but buying followers doesn't count. Using hashtags and an increased Instagram strategy, I've gotten about 150 followers in 4 months or so. Yeah, that's realistic. My goal every month is 10 engaged followers on Instagram. 

2. Strategize Social Media, but Don't Go Overboard

Here's the thing about social media: it's easy to let it drive you crazy. When you're trying to schedule posts for Facebook, for Instagram, for Twitter, for Pinterest, and more, it gets really overwhelming, especially if you're also a full time student, or parent, or worker. The truth is, you probably just don't have time to do all that managing. I decided to stop scheduling Twitter posts recently (unless something really tickles my fancy). Instead, I focus on scheduling posts for Facebook and that's it. I get a higher return from Facebook, so that's where my energy should go. My goal for Instagram is two posts a day (one around 10am-1pm, and then one after 6pm). 

Ok, but what about Pinterest? Every day, I spend about 20 minutes pinning 5 of my blog posts to two group boards. That's it. And I get a ton of traffic from Pinterest by repinning, by creating dedicated boards to specific topics that are popular on Pinterest, and by creating graphics that look good on Pinterest. You don't need to pay a whole heap of money for a fancy Pinterest scheduler, I swear. I do most of my Pinterest work from my phone while my son sleeps. 

3. Join Facebook groups. 

I really groaned about including this one tip. Because it feels a bit like cheating, doesn't it? Facebook groups dedicated to blogging are great places to promote your blog posts, join threads where people share your most recent post (and you share theirs), and learn how to optimize and improve your blog. It can be really time consuming to try to do everything though. I am only a member of three groups and I participate in maybe one thread a week. That's my goal for the moment! For some good Facebook groups to join, I really like this blog post. 

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No More Instagram Themes

Does anyone else feel like something crazy is going on over on Instagram? I love nothing more than a careful Instagram: pretty photos, clever captions, glimpses of life behind the blog. But more and more, I've noticed the emphasis becoming about themes. A simple Google search reveals guides to theming your Instagram, tons of Pinterest results, and even more guides to keep your Instagram "on-trend."

Sorry, I had to take a break from yawning. 

Is it just me or are Instagram themes... boring? 

To be clear, I think some people do them right: they edit their photos the same way every time for a cohesive look. There's nothing wrong with that. But overwhelmingly, Instagram themes that focus on creating a specific look in the grid, or that plan out larger images, or only use certain colors, gosh, it's gets a little monotonous. 

Mostly, I think it removes the spontaneity and fun from Instagram. I don't really want to see the same, white-background photos over and over again. Already, the marble background flat lay has becoming devastatingly common and every time I see it, I can't help but want something, anything, else to come into style. 

So this is my plea to other bloggers: posting nice, curated photos in one thing. But no more Instagram themes. 

I would argue (and I mean, I am) that Instagram themes are boring. And not only are they boring, I think they remove the fun of Instagram. As a blog reader (as well as a blog writer), I don't want to follow people with perfect houses who only post perfect photos. Sometimes, life is messy: the dinner burns, the coffee doesn't taste good, your son has a blow out right before the newborn photo shoot. Excuse the language, but shit happens. That's life. 

And Instagram is meant to show a little bit more of your life, right? So why portray that life through an all-perfect theme? 

I carefully pick photos I post on Instagram now. But sometimes, I post a picture of my messy living room and linty leggings because, that's my life. And then, sometimes, I post a nice little flat lay, because that's my life too. 

All I'm saying is: you don't have to dedicate your Instagram to grainy, badly lit photos. But I beg you, let a little bit of your real life in. Not the curated side table that you keep clean for blog photos. Not the corner you keep meticulously clean. Not that piece of poster board you have covered in fake marble vinyl. Your readers deserve to know that sometimes life isn't perfect. Sometimes, it's not about a perfect Instagram feed. Sometimes, it's just about being authentic. 

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