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The Newbie Guide to Blogging

The Newbie Guide to Blogging
The Newbie’s Guide to Blogging

We live in a blogging world. Whether you’re a business startup, an established business, a freelancer, an intern, a musician, or anyone else, blogging can help you:

  • Make your name or brand visible
  • Connect with others in your business or interest
  • Reach out to the public about issues you’re passionate about
  • Express yourself
  • Update clients or an audience about projects you’re working on
  • Share your knowledge
  • Learn to write better
  • Share your life with people important to you
  • Connect with your fans or customers
  • Make money

When I started blogging in 2000, it was virtually unheard of, and there were almost no tools to make it easier. I literally hand-coded every page of my blog — including monthly archive pages, “older posts” pages, and so on. Needless to say, I wasn’t a very prolific blogger the first couple of years!

Today, just about anyone can get up and running in a few minutes using free services that make adding a post as easy as writing email. Knowing how to get your content out there is no longer a barrier — if you have something to say, saying it is easy.

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Getting Started

There are several services that offer free blogs to anyone who wants one. The most popular services are WordPress.com and Blogger, although a Google search for “free blog” turns up over 145 million sites — surely there’s one that meets whatever crazy needs or desires you have. I prefer WordPress.com, mainly because I’m familiar with the industry-standard WordPress software that’s used on most of the sites I write for. WordPress.com offers built-in spam protection, a selection of really nice themes, a word processor-like text entry system (no coding necessary), nice stats (to see how much attention your site’s getting), and a lot more. (Note: I don’t work for them or anything, I just like them).

To get started:

  1. Sign up for an account at WordPress.com. Your blog will be at username.wordpress.com
  2. Select a template. There are lots of great ones to choose from. Or you can go with the default.
  3. Start posting.

Have a look at the site I whipped up in just under 5 minutes: dwax.wordpress.com.

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On Being a Blogger

OK, now you have a blog. What are you going to do with it?

The stereotype of bloggers is that we post about our cats and what we had for lunch, but the reality is that there’s bloggers out there writing about every conceivable topic. The two sites I just linked to, for example, are incredibly popular sites about feminism (the one with the cats; they post about dogs, too!) and making money online (the one with the food).

Your blog is only limited by your passions — what do you have to say? Think about what purpose you want your blog to serve — do you want a record of your daily life, or maybe a way to keep your friends and family up-to-date while you’re traveling? Or maybe you want a place to promote your writing, music, or artwork and to keep in touch with your fans? Maybe you want a channel to communicate with your customers — and where they can communicate with you? Perhaps you want to share your insights on politics, freelancing, soccer coaching, high school teaching, or fishing with the world?

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There are a few things you should know about writing a blog, though. While there are examples of every conceivable style of writing on blogs across the Web, there are a few qualities which blog writing tends to share:

  • It’s short: Reading on the screen isn’t as enjoyable as reading on paper, so people tend to shy away from really long pieces. 2,000 words is long for a blog post; 1,000 words is a pretty good goal; short pieces of 300 words or so are perfectly acceptable.
  • Paragraphs are shorter: Because you have to scroll a lot when reading on a screen, paragraphs tend to be shorter so a whole thought can fit in a browser window.
  • Important points are highlighted: Online readers tend to skim through pieces, so web writers often put key points in bold type so their readers can easily pick out the crucial stuff.
  • Bulleted lists are common: Bulleted lists are another way that skimmers are accommodated, making all the main points easily available.
  • It contains links to other sites: Blogging tends to take advantage of the ability to link to toher work, either to offer up references (e.g. a link to a definition of a difficult word or concept on Wikipedia) or to continue conversations started elsewhere (e.g. a link to a post on another blog which you’re responding to).
  • It’s conversational in tone: Blog writing tends to be a little more personal than most writing. What readers tend to respond to is the writer’s unique voice, their personality as expressed through their writing. That means you can use “I” and “you”, you can use slang, you can even swear if it fits your site’s purpose.

All of these “rules” are, of course, broken repeatedly.

Keeping it going

There are millions of blogs on the Internet, but only a tiny fraction of them are active. There are a number of reasons why blogs “die” — people run out of things to say, they get busy, or worst of all, they feel like they’re talking to themselves. Here are a few tips to help you keep your blog up and read:

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  • Create a posting schedule: When you start your blog, commit to posting once a week, or once every two weeks, and block out some time in your schedule to do that. Start with a low posting rate — if you find you have enough time to post more, it will be a pleasant surprise for your readers (as opposed to the disappointment of readers used to seeing you post every day when you start posting every two weeks).
  • Brainstorm a hundred post ideas: Sit down with a notebook and write out a hundred (or 50, or 200, or whatever you can — but set the bar high) topics you could write about. Even better, create 100 titles of forthcoming posts. You can even go another step and write quick outlines of how the post might look, When you are stuck for something to write about, pull out your notebook and write one ff your list.
  • Write posts in advance: Build up a backlog of three or four (or more) posts. This gives you a cushion in case you find yourself stuck for a topic down the road, and you can also use the post scheduling feature sevveral blogs have (WordPress.com and Blogger both allow this) to set up posts for the future if you are going to go on vacation or something.
  • Tell people your address: Let people know you have a blog. Put the URL on your business cards, add it to your email signatures, put it in your profile on social networking sites, include it when you post to forums, and so on.
  • Comment on other people’s blogs: Be an active part of the blogging community. People will see your comments and clock the link to find out more about you. Plus, you’ll make friends in your area of interest.
  • Link to other blogs: When other bloggers see you’ve linked to them, they’ll check you out — and may link back to return the favor.
  • Write a guest post: Lots of high-profile blogs will publish guest posts from other bloggers to help them get some attention. Check your favorite blogs and see if they have information about contributing — if you can’t find anything, email the blogger and ask.
  • Write great content: I’ve saved the most important thing for last. Nobody will read your site if you write poorly, or if it’s boring. Nobody will publish your guest posts, and nobody will link to you. You won’t feel motivated to write, because you’ll feel like nobody is reading you, and because you feel unsatisfied with the quality of the work. You don’t have to be Hemingway, but you do have to develop an authentic, engaging voice.

Making small talk

Don’t feel like committing yourself to all that just to express your random thoughts? Try “micro-blogging”, blog-like systems specially designed for short posts on whatever’s on your mind at the moment. The two best known are tumblr and Twitter, both of which allow you to easily post little bits of content — for example, by text messaging a thought, or sending a photo from your mobile phone, or grabbing a video from YouTube.

These services aren’t just for sharing with friends, either. Lots of businesses are starting to recognize the value in having their own Twitter feeds or tumblr blogs, to quickly issue updates and “thoughts of the day” and other stuff intended to put a human face on their company.

Ready, set, blog!

In the time it’s taken you to read this post, you could have set up a blog and published three 300-word posts already. It’s easy, it’s fun, and if you play your cards right, it could make you some money. Not just because you can put ads up or sell products using a blog (though you can do both of those things), but because a blog gives potential employers, clients, and customers a way to find out more about you and to build a relationship with you or your company that’s more human (and humanizing) that the simple exchange of dollars for products. Whatever your line of business, you or your company will be looked up on the Web, and if they don’t find your site, they’ll find other people’s sites about you — or nothing at all. Much better, I think, to take control of your online self, and a blog is an easy and cheap way to get started.

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Last Updated on September 30, 2020

How to Live in the Moment and Stop Worrying About the Future

How to Live in the Moment and Stop Worrying About the Future

We often hear people talk about the importance of living in the present and the different ways it will benefit us. It all sounds wonderful, especially the lower levels of stress and anxiety, but how exactly can we live in the moment when our mind is constantly worrying about the past or plans for the future?

In this article, we’ll discuss some of the benefits of living in the moment you may not be aware of. Then, we’ll look at some of the obstacles and why we worry. Finally, and most importantly, I’ll show you how to live in the moment and stop worrying using some simple practices that you can easily incorporate into your busy schedule.

The result: a happier and more fulfilling life.

The Importance of Living in the Moment

“The secret of health for both mind and body is not to mourn for the past, worry about the future, or anticipate troubles, but to live in the present moment wisely and earnestly.” -Buddha

While it can be difficult to live in the moment, it has innumerable benefits.

Here are just a few that will enhance your life tremendously:

Better Health

By reducing stress and anxiety, you avoid many of the associated health consequences, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, and obesity. Studies have shown that being present can also improve psychological well-being[1].

Improve Your Relationships

Have you ever been with someone who is physically present, but mentally s/he’s a million miles away?

Being with unavailable people is a struggle, and building relationships with them extremely difficult.

How about being with someone who is fully present? We enjoy being with her/him because we can make a much deeper connection.

By living in the moment, you can be that person other people enjoy being with, and you make relationships much easier.

Greater Self-Control

You have greater control over your mind, body, and emotions. Imagine how much better your life would be if it weren’t at the mercy of a racing mind and unpredictable emotions. You would certainly be more at peace, and much happier[2].

Why Do We Worry?

Before we answer this question, it’s important to distinguish between worry and concern.

When we are concerned about something, we are more likely dealing with a real problem with realistic solutions. Then, once we do whatever we can to address the problem, we’re willing to live with the outcome.

Worrying, on the other hand, involves unrealistic thinking. We may worry about a problem that doesn’t really exist, or dwell on all the bad things that can happen as a result. Then, we feel unable to deal with the outcome. Either way, we have difficulty dealing with uncertainty, which is a normal part of life.

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Certainly, some of our problems may not have desirable outcomes, such as a serious health issue. Some problems may be beyond our control, such as civil unrest or economic downturn. In such cases, it can be hard to avoid worrying, but not impossible.

3 Steps to Start to Live in the Moment

Step 1: Overcome Worrying

In order to overcome worrying, we need to do two things:

Calm Your Mind

When you calm your mind, you are able to see more clearly.

The reason some problems seem so daunting is that our mind is racing so fast that we cannot see things as they truly are. Then, we make up a bunch of possible scenarios in our mind, most of which are unlikely to come true.

In addition to seeing more clearly, a calm mind will help us think more realistically. Unrealistic thinking is fueled by confusion and uncontrolled emotions. Calming your mind will reduce confusion and calm your emotions, allowing you to live in the present.

Focus on Solutions Instead of Problems

Some people tend to be more solution-oriented, and others more problem-oriented. Some of the factors that may determine this are gender, upbringing, and education.

People with more education tend to be problem-solvers. That is what their years of education train them to do. In addition, their jobs probably reinforce this way of thinking.

If you’re not problem-solving oriented, don’t worry. You can train yourself to worry less. We’ll discuss that soon.

Step 2: Identify Obstacles to Living in the Moment

In today’s busy world, it can be a challenge to live in the moment. The reasons revolve around how our mind works, as well as outside influences.

Racing Mind

Many busy people have a racing mind that never seems to slow down. Their mind gets so agitated from too much sensory stimulation.

You see, anything that stimulates any of our five senses will trigger a thought, and that thought leads to another, and then another, and so on.

If you have a busy life, all your activities will overstimulate your mind and make it seemingly impossible to slow it down.

Unpleasant Situations and a Troublesome Past

None of us want to be in unpleasant situations, or remember those of the past. They can bring up painful emotions, which we don’t want to feel.

So how do most people cope with painful emotions?

By doing whatever we can to avoid them, we can take our mind to another place and time where things are more pleasant.

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In other words, we avoid living in the present moment.

Some people resort to things that stimulate sensory pleasure, such as food, alcohol, or sex. Others will consume substances that dull their mind and keep them from thinking about unpleasant or stressful situations.

A Wandering Mind

From the moment we are born (likely sooner) until the time we die, our body and mind are active performing some function. Therefore, it’s natural for our mind to have some level of activity, whether conscious or unconscious.

Generally, a wandering mind is unproductive. One thought starts an endless chain of thoughts, and this process can go on until we need our mind to perform a specific function or get distracted with something else.

Now, there are times when a wandering mind can be productive, such as when creating works of art, or trying to find creative solutions to problems. In such cases, we need our mind to explore different possibilities[3].

Outside Influences

Most of us are not fully aware of how our environment and social norms influence our thinking and behavior. People and institutions are constantly competing for our attention. The media draws our attention to the past, and advertising usually to the future[4].

Many people around us who dwell on the past or future try to draw us to their way of thinking. Even the whole concept of the American dream is geared toward the future. It tells us that if we acquire things like a good career, family, and house, then we’ll be happy.

Step 3: Practice Mindfulness

So how can we live in the moment in a world that is constantly trying to draw our attention to the past and future?

Before we get into concrete actions you can take, it’s important to understand what mindfulness is. You’ve probably heard the term before, but may not fully understand what it means.

Understand Mindfulness

The concept of mindfulness is actually quite simple. To be mindful is to live in the moment.

When you are mindful, your attention is focused on what is happening in the present moment, and you are fully in touch with reality[5].

You are aware of what is happening in your body, mind, emotions, and the world around you. This is different than thinking about these things. To develop greater understanding, you don’t have to think about them so much, but rather just observe them.

This may be counterintuitive to many people, especially intellectuals, because they’re so used to using logic to develop greater understanding. With mindfulness, we calm our mind and emotions so we can see clearer. Then, much of our understanding will come from simple observation. When we develop mindfulness, we literally expand our awareness.

To develop mindfulness, we need to train ourselves to observe things more objectively, that is, without our emotions or preconceived ideas influencing our views.

If you’re ready to live a better life, read on for some simple mindfulness practices that you can incorporate into your daily routine to help you live in the moment.

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You don’t have to do all of them, but rather choose the ones that appeal to you and suit your lifestyle.

Mindfulness Meditation

Mindfulness meditation is the mainstay of developing mindfulness and living in the moment. To practice mindfulness meditation, all you really have to do is sit quietly and follow your breathing. When your mind wanders off, just bring it back to your breath.

Notice how your lungs expand with each in-breath and contract with each out-breath. Let your breathing become relaxed and natural.

You don’t have to do it perfectly. The idea is to start spending time away from the constant sensory stimulation of all your activities, and just allow it to settle down naturally. Start with about 5 to 10 minutes per day and work your way up to about 20 minutes or longer.

This practice is highly effective, and can have both short-term and long-term benefits.

If you want to learn more about mindfulness meditation, take a look at this article: What Is Mindfulness Meditation? 7 Ways to Start Meditating

Mindful Breathing

While this may sound the same as mindfulness meditation, all you’re really doing is taking short breaks occasionally (10 to 15 seconds) to observe your breathing. Stop whatever you’re doing, and take a few mindful breaths, then resume your activity. That’s it.

You can do mindful breathing at any time of the day during your busy schedule. What it does is interrupt the acceleration of your mind. It is like taking your foot off the accelerator while driving. It’s a nice refreshing break you can take without anyone noticing.

Here’re some breathing exercises you can try to learn: 5 Breathing Exercises for Anxiety (Simple and Calm Anxiety Quickly)

Mindful Walking

Walking is an activity that you perform several times throughout the day. We often think we’re being productive by texting or calling someone while walking. But are we really?

Instead of getting on your cell phone or letting your mind wander off, why not use your walking to train yourself to live in the moment and focus on the task at hand?

Mindful walking is similar to mindful breathing, but instead of focusing on your breath, focus on your walking. Pay attention to each footstep. Also, notice the different motions of your arms, legs, and torso. When your mind wanders off, just bring your attention back to your walking.

You can even make a meditation out of walking. That is, go walking for a few minutes outside. Start by slowing down your pace. If you slow down your body, your mind will follow.

In addition to paying attention to your walking, notice the trees, sunshine, and critters. A mindful walk is enjoyable and can really help your mind settle down.

You can discover more benefits of walking in nature here.

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Mindful Eating

Eating is an activity that most of us perform mindlessly. The reason is that it doesn’t require your attention to perform. Therefore, many of us try to multitask while we eat. We may talk on the phone, text, watch TV, or even hold a meeting.

The problem with not eating mindfully is that we don’t eat what our body and mind need to perform at an optimal level[6]. We may eat unhealthy foods, or too much. This can lead to various health problems, especially as we get older.

Live in the present with mindful eating.

    Mindful eating has many health benefits, such as reduced food cravings, better digestion, and even weight loss[7].

    So how do you eat mindfully? Start by slowing down, and avoid the temptation to distract yourself with another activity. Here are 3 different aspects of eating where you can practice mindfulness:

    • Eating itself: Focus your attention on choosing a portion of food to insert into your mouth. Notice the smell, flavor, and texture as you chew it; then finally swallow it. As with following your breath during meditation, pay close attention to every aspect of eating.
    • Choice of foods: Although you’ve already chosen your food before you have begun eating, you can still take the opportunity to contemplate your choices. Think about the nutrients your body needs to sustain itself.
    • Contemplating the sources: Most of us don’t think about all the work it takes to provide us with the food we eat. While you’re eating, consider all the work by the farmer, shipping company, and the grocery store. These are real people who worked hard to provide you with the food necessary for your survival.

    You can find more tips about mindful eating here: 7 Simple Steps to Mindful Eating

    Mindful Activities

    Choose an activity that you perform regularly, such as washing dishes. Focus all your attention on this activity, and resist the temptation to let your mind wander,. When it does, just bring your attention back to washing dishes.

    Notice some of the specific movements or sensations of washing dishes, such as how the soapy water feels on your hands, the circular motion of scrubbing the dish, or the rinsing. You’d be surprised at how such a mundane activity can truly expand your awareness.

    You can choose any activity you like, such as ironing, folding clothes, mowing the lawn, or showering. Over time, you will begin doing all these activities with greater mindfulness.

    Final Thoughts

    Practicing mindfulness is like regularly putting small amounts of change in a jar. They will all add up over time, and this will add up to greater peace and happiness, as well as get you closer to achieving your goals.

    Remember, you don’t have to do the mindfulness practices perfectly to get the benefits. All you have to do is keep bringing your mind back to the present moment when it wanders off.

    Practicing mindfulness may be a bit challenging in the beginning, but I can assure you it will get easier.

    The benefits of living in the moment are well within your reach, no matter how much your mind is racing. If you stick with these mindfulness practices, you too will learn how to live in the moment and stop worrying. When you do, a whole new world will open up for you. This is what Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh calls the ultimate reality.

    More About Living in the Present

    Featured photo credit: Smile Su via unsplash.com

    Reference

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