Un-creatively Creative

This may not make any sense, but I’ve never thought of myself as creative.

Sure, I write. And I knit. And lately I’ve been playing the piano. I acted in plays and musicals for years as a teen and young adult. I’ve even dabbled in drawing and painting.

Not Much Spark

I just don’t consider myself creative because I always follow some kind of pattern or model.

When knitting, I follow a pattern. I always drew best when I was looking at something, rather than from the imagination. Even in teaching, I would hash out ideas for lessons and activities with colleagues, or search online for inspiration.

But it’s the execution I’m pretty good at. And it’s the act of creating that I enjoy.

Creativity in Pandemic

Since the pandemic started, I’ve found it helpful to add creativity to my daily life.

I set myself this writing challenge, which, though sometimes a bit of a pain, has also been a fantastic exercise.

Since we got a piano, I’ve been sneaking in about an hour of practice each day. I’ve been slowly plugging away at my knitting (though the warm weather slows that down).

It’s turned out to be hugely important for keeping myself sane.

Creative Escape

For the short while that I’m writing, knitting or playing, I am taken away from the reality of confinement and the anxiety of this situation. When I’m writing, knitting or playing, those things don’t matter.

I’m an extremely social person, this is true. But this pandemic has helped me find resources within myself for coping with the isolation.

I’m tapping into a creative energy I didn’t know I had.

My Outlet

I’m far from being 100% okay in this situation. There are days when I’m practically climbing the walls.

But having a creative outlet has been wonderful. (It also helps that I’ve added exercise to my daily routine.)

So often we’re told to cut something out to feel better. Cut out sugar, alcohol, Facebook or TV. Sure, sometimes things do need to be cut out.

But what about the benefit of adding things in?

Tell Me About It

What do you want to add to your daily routine? What would make you feel better? What would make you feel more like yourself?

I’d love to hear from you in the comments!

Well that went quickly

And here I thought that being in lockdown would give me plenty of time to write!

Turns out, there’s lots to do when the entire family is at home.

Who’d have thought it, right??

The end is still far…

Our state continues to operate on lockdown, with no word about reopening before the originally projected date of June 10th. At this point, it almost seems like June 10th might be too soon.

We’re currently in week 8 of staying at home, and while some of the days drag by, on the whole the time has gone quickly. As I’m sure is true for everyone, some days are better than others.

Some days we have lots of fun. Other days we struggle to pull ourselves together. Some days we cook. Some days we warm up something frozen or order take-out. Some days leave the house. Some days we don’t.

I’ve written before about tedium and child-rearing. It’s a thing. With the added factor of having to stay at home, some days it has gotten to nearly unbearable levels.

The pressure to keep brain cells active

Aside from reading and activities with the kids, I haven’t done much in the way of keeping my brain cells active.

At one point, I had plans. I thought this would be the opportune time to practice and perfect something. Anything, really.

My Instagram feed has been full of ads for Master Class, spinning tutorials, different crafting hobbies (which conveniently would require me to buy equipment and online tutorials from these advertisers). I could learn Arabic in less than a month (!), or perfect my piano skills using an app!

It’s true that these companies have something right. It is important to keep the mind in shape, not just the body (not that I’ve been keeping the body in shape much, but let’s not go there).

But at the same time, it’s hardly productive for me to put yet another kind of pressure on myself.

And yet…

And yet, I do feel the need to do something. For my mental well-being and to remind myself that I am better at more than laundry, cleaning and cooking.

For those who have jobs that challenge them mentally, this might not feel as critical. But for those of us who stay at home anyway and were already suffering from lack of stimulation, I think it is especially important to activate the brain cells now.

Where to start?

A simple Google search should do it. I can easily get overwhelmed by all the information I find on Google, but a little time to focus and some perseverance should give me some ideas.

I’m thinking of creative writing classes. Has anyone done any? Got any recommendations?

An Uptick in Readership

I got an email from Google Analytics the other day. It told me that suddenly I’d had quite an uptick in readership of my blog. Hooray!

Progress?

This was exciting news!

Don’t get me wrong, my numbers are DISMAL. Absolutely abysmal. It could be because I’ve shamefully neglected this blog over the years. It could also be that I’ve never really written this blog with a mind to SEO or driving clicks.

But suddenly in February my numbers weren’t quite so dismal. (They were still bad, but not rock bottom bad, you know?)

What had happened??

I assumed that this was because I had returned to writing on a fairly regular basis.

I write an article and then automatically publish it to a number of social media platforms, including the (rather neglected) Facebook page I have for this blog.

But as anyone who works in the blogosphere knows, the more you write, the more people read.

So, hooray!

But that’s not all…

Granted, writing more frequently and publishing more on the blog is bound to attract a few more readers. However, what seems to be the catalyst in my readership increase is…

Drumroll please…

RAVELRY!!

Yup! That wonderful website, that glorious database of all things yarn is the reason for my (slight) increase in traffic on my blog.

Let me explain.

I checked out a local Stitch n’ Bitch group back in the fall, and as they haven’t kicked me out (and even seem glad to see me!), I’ve started to attend regularly.

The lovely ladies of this group have generously added me to their Facebook page, and also to their list of Ravelry friends. And since I have links to my blog sprinkled around my Facebook page and my Ravelry profile, BAM! Some of these curious souls clicked! And voilà!

I would never have known the reason for my blog’s sudden surge (HA!) in popularity (GUFFAW!) had one of my fellow stitchers (n’ bitchers) not mentioned to me last night that she had been reading my blog.

So to all you wonderful ladies of the Stitch n’ Bitch…

THANK YOU FOR READING!

It really does mean a lot to me.

And here’s where you can find my Facebook page, and my Ravelry profile.

7 First-Time Blogger Tips

7 First-Time Blogger Tips

7 First-Time Blogger Tips

Several people have contacted me with requests for tips on starting their own blog.

First of all, this is *HUGELY* flattering!  Thanks guys!  Starting this blog has been a real learning process, and I’m happy to share some tips that I’ve learned along the way.

So, without further ado, here are 7 tips I’ve learned for first-time bloggers:

1. Own Your URL

I wanted a specific URL, so I bought my domain name from GoDaddy and used WordPress to build my blog.

If you want to use your blog to build a portfolio, see if you can own your name as your domain (I couldn’t, as apparently there are 5,000 realtors named Jane Kennedy).

2. Get a Site Hosting Service

You can easily create a blog on any number of platforms like Tumblr, Blogger, WordPress or Blogspot.  Originally, I went with GoDaddy for my hosting services.  I was disappointed with how slow it was, though.  Upon a colleague’s recommendation, I switched to SiteGround, which is more expensive but much faster.

If you’re a first-time blogger, though, and you have no idea about designing a website or web hosting (and you don’t have an awesome pair of brothers who know all about this stuff like I do–thanks bros…), I highly recommend WordPress.com.  It’s a great platform and you can choose some great templates for your design.

For examples of blogs that use WordPress.com for hosting, check out my friend Anna’s, and my friend Caroline’s blogs.  My friend Laure uses Blogspot for hers.

3. Design Your Blog

Once you’ve got your URL and your hosting service, it’s time to design your first blog.

There’s an important rule here: Keep it simple.

You want to make it easy for people to read your articles.  You also want to strike a balance of space for your text and room for some interactive content in the right-hand column (or however you set up your blog).

The rule for the right-hand column content is simple: Make it relevant, interesting, and useful.  Make it easy for people to browse through your blog history, and to find your articles by title, topic and date, and connect with you on social media.  Always provide a search bar.

4. Start Writing!

Here’s the first rule: Write about what interests you.

Don’t waste everyone’s time by trying to write about stuff that you think people *want* to read.  If you write well about what you love, people will enjoy it and come back for more.  For a great example of a blog that focuses on a specific interest, see my friend Ysa Belh‘s blog.

Second rule?  Write a lot.

Be prolific!  Establish a ground base of good content and write, write, write!  It’s good practice, and you’ll find your voice.  When you get started with WordPress, they provide lots of great advice about getting started.  One tip I particularly retained was to practice by doing.

5. Some Search Engine Optimization Basics

SEO is the internet buzz word and it’s how you get your blog noticed.

Basically, it means filling your articles with frequently searched-for terms and keywords.  It also means installing plugins that help make your blog easy to find for people who are searching for stuff you’re writing about.

You can use tools like Google Adwords Keywords Tool (apparently this will only be available to non-paying users for a little while longer, so hop on it while you can).  This tool allows you to put in your article topic and see what similar search terms people are googling.  That’ll give you ideas for other keywords to seamlessly integrate into your content.  You can also find terms by starting a regular Google search and seeing what phrases Google suggests for autocomplete.

Basically, the rule about writing about what interests you applies here.  There’ll be other people on the internet interested in the same things, that’s for sure.  Hey, it takes all kinds, right?

6. Share What You’ve Written

Once you publish an article, don’t just sit back and expect people to stumble upon it and find it.

Share in social media, and shamelessly plug your new endeavor to your nearest and dearest (I love you, Mom and Dad!).  Don’t be obnoxious about it, but share your articles in context (this is especially easy if you’re writing about current, trending events).

7. Get on Google+

If you want Google to help people find your blog, create a Google+ profile and link it to your blog.  You can download a Google+ Author Link plugin which allows you to connect your blog to your Google+ profile.

Add your blog to your profile, and whenever you write something, publish a link to the article on Google+.

But don’t leave it at that.  Actually use Google+!  I say this for two reasons: Google likes it (yes, we are all slaves to the Google), and it’s also growing into a great, dynamic, informative and fun platform.

***

I could go on, but this article is long enough.  Later I’ll write about my favorite WordPress plugins.  Some are visible on my homepage and some are behind-the-scenes whizzes that make thebraininjane.com the magical place it is.  Hee!

My brothers were instrumental in making this website happen.  Visit my brother Austin’s website over at PaperScenery.net.