It's my second birthday - and a giveaway

14 May 2009
The Brandywines are growing fast. That sentence was the first one I wrote in my blog and it was on 14 May, 2007. And now, after 901 posts, thousands of comments, 1,165, 753 visitors and almost 2 million page views, today is my blog's second birthday! I never expected Down to Earth to become as popular as it is, even though I'd been a writer for many years before I started blogging and was used to writing for an audience, I just didn't think the life we live here on our little patch of earth would interest so many people. But by mid-October 2007 over 50,000 people had visited and it's continued growing from there.

It's been a fine ride for me, I've enjoyed the writing and made many friends. My thanks to Sharon (in New Mexico) who has been helping behind the scenes almost from the start and who has been a tower of strength for me along the way. Thanks also to Rose and Lorraine for helping with the swaps. Without these sweet ladies, the swaps would have stopped long ago.

I didn't tell Hanno I was blogging at first. It was about two or three weeks before he knew about it and I guess another month or so before he read the blog for the first time. Now he reads every day. At first he was cautious and said to be careful but over the months, after reading your wonderful comments, he's relaxed about it now. Of course, as many of the other bloggers here know, there are nasty comments and emails too but since I started moderating the comments, these have been greatly reduced. I think the thrill for those people is to see their comment on the screen, when there is no hope of that happening, they're less likely to write. And whatever bad has come our way, it has been overwhelmingly smothered by the vast number of positive, sweet and intelligent comments and emails, and letters and gifts sent by post. For those I thank you all. Your comments keep me writing. Not only do they add a lot of information and a variety of ideas to this blog, but for me, it's like the other part of the conversation. Without comments there would be no point. Words written to travel out into the blog world with no sign of validation would have stopped me short long ago.

I've had a few comments and emails recently asking me about blogging so I thought now would be a good time to address those questions. Although I have to remind you that I'm not an expert blogger, I am just an ordinary woman with a message that life is improved by living simply. But along the way I've discovered a few things that may help others who want to start a blog, so let's start with that.

First of all, decide why you want to blog. Is it to create a record for your family, do you want to write for a wider audience or do you want to make money blogging? If you're a family blogger, there are no rules for you except those of safety and common sense. Do what you want to do, let your family know where to find your blog and just write.

If you want a wider audience or want to make money I'll bullet point all this because they're just a set of 'things' I've noticed, I don't have much to say about them, they are what they are.
  • You need to write well. Develop your own style and your own voice. Don't copy, don't plagiarise, be yourself and offer what is unique about you to your readers.
  • You need to write almost every day.
  • Don't expect your readers to be interested in non-stop stories and photos of your pets and family. Unless you're the calibre of Soulemama, pets and baby photos will only interest your own family in the long term.
  • When you start blogging, write short posts. When your audience builds and you know they are coming for what you write, write longer ones.
  • Keep the blog simple. Making your page pink and purple because you like those colours will alienate all those who don't. Flashing ads put people off and so do long lists of links at the end of posts.
  • Give. If you look at the popular bloggers, like Meredith at Like Merchant Ships or Benita at Chez Larsson, they are generous and give their readers new ideas, recipes or patterns, and encourage them towards self development.
  • I love the way Jenny at Little Jenny Wren combines her blog with selling her wonderful dolls. The gentle way Jenny does that is a good lesson for many of us.
  • Comment on other blogs so you leave a link to yours out there for readers to find you. Make sure your comments are well thought out and interesting so readers will want to click on your link.
  • I doubt you'll make any money for the first couple of years and even then it's a struggle unless you have a high visitor rate. Exceptions to that may be niche marketing if your blog falls into that category.
  • It's harder than it looks. Coming up with something new to write about is tough. There are some days you won't want to write anything but if you want to build your blog, you'll have to.
So that's my short version of how to write a blog. I hope it's helped those who asked the questions and those thinking about blogging in the future. If you have a specific question, or want to add to what I've written, please add your comment.

And last of all, I want to celebrate this milestone with a give away to thank you for your visits. I have two prizes: my homemade soap, two hand knitted dishcloths and two loofas in each pack for two people who comment on this post. If you comment as 'anonymous' please add your name. Good luck to everyone. I'll announce the two winners on Monday.