I can’t believe it’s been a year since I’ve started my blog! On Friday I celebrated with some Coffee Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars, my favorite recipe over the past year, and as promised, today I’m sharing with you how it got started and what I’ve learned after one year.
I’d say some coffee is in order! My youngest sister and I always have the best conversations over our favorite kind of coffee, Cafe Frappe (AKA iced coffee). So grab your favorite beverage and join me for a bit. I warn you that this post is a bit lengthy but hopefully it’s informative for my fellow bloggers. Whether you are a blogger or not, I hope you enjoy the read.
Why did I start Tina’s Chic Corner? I tend to evaluate my life as each birthday approaches. I’m not sure why I do this. Perhaps it’s because I over analyze (an occupational hazard of being an attorney) or because I hate to see that number go up every year. My husband says I do this because I like to worry and it’s another form of it. 😛
Right before last year’s birthday, I was feeling… for the lack of a better word… bored. As a thirty-something year old woman getting closer to the age of 40, I don’t think that I should feel that way or more importantly I don’t like to feel that way. I’m happily married, recently bought the house of my dreams, have a successful career, and yet I wanted (or maybe needed) more.
How do I fix this? I like to solve problems immediately, like right now, so would a hobby be the answer? Or was it as simple as getting a drastic hair cut? If I picked a hobby, what the heck would I do? My husband lovingly pointed out that shopping is not a hobby. I’m still not sure about that one. 😉 But still, how much shopping can one do and feel a sense of satisfaction? Was that what I was looking for? Something to satisfy me or perhaps fill a void feeling?
Meanwhile, I had recently been introduced to pinterest.com (thanks sis) and now I’m addicted to it. I’ve noticed that there a bazillion blogs out there and some of them are by people who are just like me. Meaning that you don’t have to be a professional baker to blog about baking.
Could I start blog? What would I write about? How much would I share about my life? Quite frankly sharing sounds a bit scary because I tend to be a pretty private person about my personal life. In the back of my mind there were other nagging questions too… Would anyone read it? Would I care if anyone reads it? How long would I do it? Does it matter how long I’d keep doing it? Most importantly, would a blog be the answer to what I’m looking for?
I took a few days to think about the name of my blog. I think part of this delay was me trying to come up with a good name, but the other part was my doubts about doing this. I think I was starting to back out of this adventure before I’d even really begun. In fact, at the beginning I had my husband stick the blog on a domain name I already owned instead of buying a new one, all just because I wasn’t sure I even wanted to do it.
With some encouraging words (and an obscene amount of technical help) from my husband, I decided to just go for it. What could I lose? With the blog on a strange domain name and me not telling anyone about it, not even my close family and friends, I started blogging. I eventually told everyone after my it was up for a couple of weeks and had a couple posts. I know, I’m weird. Maybe I was afraid they would judge me too harshly.
I wasn’t even sure what I wanted my blog name to be yet. I wanted it to be generic so I wasn’t forced to always write about the same thing. Obviously a blog called something like TinaLovesCookies.com would not work (even if it is true of course). After all, I’ve never done this before. What if I liked writing about food more than decorating? (That actually happens to be the case.) What if I got tired of writing about a topic? Under the direction of my husband it was time to try to come up with a domain name that made sense. To quote him, the longer I waited the bigger a pain in the butt it would be to change it. As it turns out it was even quite a pain after only a couple weeks.
I love the word “chic” and we saw that the domain name TinasChic.com was available and it was like it was meant to be! This shiny new blog had a real home on the interwebs.
My husband endured the nearly constant stream of requests for changes to the blog. Where comments show up, how many posts show up at a time, getting fonts to work correctly, helping me figure out how to make a good background for the page, hiding bits built into the WordPress theme that I didn’t like, and on and on. Once the basics were in place it was on to things like getting ads set up, adding code to track how many visitors came to the site, adding software to handle spam comments, and adding mailing lists. Do you know what it’s like working with a perfectionist who changes her mind daily? (Thank you for your patience, my love!)
I had no expectations at all. None. Zilch. Maybe it was better that way because then I wouldn’t be disappointed if I failed or if it didn’t last. However (and this is important), I could never truly “fail” at this experience. I could only fail if I let myself feel like I had. There is nothing wrong with trying something and then realizing you don’t like it.
Here are some of the things that I’ve learned about blogging:
- My fellow bloggers are a great source of information and inspiration. Learn from them! I especially love Will Write For Food by Dianne Jacob and Tasty Food Photography EBook by Pinch of Yum.
- Social networking is important to help get your name out there.
- Visit and comment on blogs about things that are similar to yours. Some bloggers will comment back on your blog, other people that comment will notice you, and if nothing else, hopefully you’ve learned something by reading other blogs or have been inspired by what you read.
- Pin, pin, pin (on pinterest.com)!
- Talk about your blog on twitter.com, facebook.com, and other social networking websites. I have to admit that I only started my twitter account in September 2013 and have yet to start a facebook account. (Tsk, tsk)
- Photography matters. People like looking at pretty things. I started with a less than ideal camera and it honestly prevented me from getting on to food recipe websites. (With my previous camera, I was getting my stuff onto foodgawker.com about 1 in 40 attempts, now I get rejected about 1 in 40 times.)
- If you are a food blogger, then submit your posts to recipe websites, like tastespotting.com, foodgawker.com, and tasteology.com.
- Go to garage sales for props. I found these glasses for $0.10 each!
Here are some of the things that I’ve learned about myself:
- I love meeting people and making new friends. Okay, I actually already knew that about myself, but I never imagined how many people I’d meet just by starting a blog. I certainly never expected to gain friendships out of the deal. It’s crazy amazing how you can bond with someone when you’re thousands of miles away and may never meet in person, whether it be that you have a common love of Pottery Barn or powdered sugar.
- I have to admit that I was getting a little down about my rejections from foodgawker.com. I’m surprised that I cared so much about what they think, but I suppose any form of rejection is not fun. My husband regularly told me not to let it bother me. Reminding me that the internet is a mean and scary place.
- I usually take a long time to decide whether I want to splurge on a purchase and I had no idea that it would took me about 20 minutes to decide that I must have a new camera in my life. In October 2013, I invested in the Canon EOS 70D. Not only am I happier with my photos, but they rarely get rejected by foodgawker.com now. If you are curious about what was behind this sudden purchase, the whole story is over here.
- I think my writing has improved. Of course I still have the occasional off day, but everyone has those no matter their profession. It’s okay to have “off” days. Don’t be hard on yourself, T!
- It’s good to take a day off from blogging. My husband even convinced me to adopt the Monday, Wednesday, Friday post schedule. At first I wasn’t convinced I was going to like it, but having the weekends to produce content and a nice and simple schedule for when to post it has really helped simplify things.
- I love taking photos more than ever. I tend to get lost when I turn into photographer. I ignore everything around me except for what’s going on in my photo shoot. (Sorry babe.) It’s actually great therapy for me. Books help, but I think that I’ve learned more through trial and error. Photography tips? Well that would definitely require a post of its own to give it the time it deserves. Hopefully I’ll do that at some point in the future. You know what they say… experience, experience, experience. Take this cafe frappe for example. It’s not a new recipe, it’s just some new pictures of a recipe I posted last year and made again today. I’m still proud of all of my photos because it was the best I could do at the time!
- You can teach an old dog new tricks. My technological capabilities were limited to turning on my computer (I might be exaggerating a bit, but that’s not far off). I’ve learned things like how to operate WordPress (which is quite a long list of things to learn actually), and how to back up my computer so I don’t lose my photos.
- I love food and I’m usually thinking about dinner when I’m eating lunch, but now I’m also constantly thinking about recipes to invent. Who knew that I had that in me?
- I used to create lists about what recipes to make for the blog but those got long and I started to feel overwhelmed. Since this blog is not meant to be stressful I’ve now moved to post-it notes and I’m no longer overwhelmed. (It’s sort of the same thing I realize, but for some reason with them not being in one big list it’s not as daunting. Whatever works!)
- Sometimes I’m not inspired to cook, decorate, or blog and that’s okay. I don’t have to stick to my post routine if I don’t want to (sometimes my husband has to remind me of this). It’s my blog and I can do whatever I want.
My blog is not (and has never been) about making money (although that would be nice) and it’s not about changing careers. It’s my hobby and in a way it’s my kid. I’ve seen it go from a small glimmer of an idea to something that I never imagined. I’m proud of it and… I’m proud of me. That last part is hard for me to admit because I’m a very modest person (no, I swear, ask my husband! As he’s editing this, he’s probably thinking “Thank goodness she finally realized that.”)
So was creating a blog my answer? By the tone of this post, I’m sure you’ve guessed that the answer is “yes.” I have fun with it. Fun = happiness. That’s really what it’s all about. I want to be the happiest that I can be and this blog works for me.
Will I still feel the same way next year or even three months from now? I don’t know and honestly it doesn’t matter. Life is funny like that because you don’t always know what’s around the corner. For now, my blog makes me happy and that’s what is important. I’m excited to see what is yet to come and I hope that you’ll stay with me and enjoy the ride! 🙂
Because my husband is a nerd he wanted me to add some amusing statistics at the end of this post. It’s been a whole year now. I’ve written 183 posts (168 are already published as I write this). My blog has 1,322 photos on it and I’ve taken, modified, resized, or watermarked an amazing 18,500 or so. Since I got fed up with spam comments and installed a plugin to handle them for me it’s blocked over 59,000 of them. The initial blog site had only a single page (those things at the top, above the banner image) and the current one has nine detailing everything from lists of posts to baking tips. My twitter account has gone from non-existent to over 130 followers. My pinterest boards went from about a dozen followers (mostly my family) to over 275 followers. Perhaps we’ll see what these numbers have become in another year.