This post is by Kiesha of WeBlogBetter.
Have you solved the blogging puzzle? Or are you just puzzled?
As a kid, when winter break rolled around, I found myself with too much time on my hands. So I would occupy myself with 1000-piece puzzles. They kept me entertained for days.
But after several hours working on the puzzle, I always came to a point where I wanted to quit—a point where I became so frustrated that I just wanted to throw the whole box of madness up against the wall. I can remember feeling as if the makers of the puzzle were deliberately trying to trick me, like they’d left out some very important pieces to keep me from finishing the puzzle. I felt like there were some insider tips that I was not privileged to know.
I was so puzzled, I had no choice but to step away from the table for a while—to actually eat, use the restroom, and do other stuff I somehow forgot while in my frenzied quest.
While on my break, I would continue to think about the stupid puzzle. I’d think about where I’d gone wrong. Perhaps there were pieces that I thought should fit in one spot that actually belonged somewhere else entirely. The puzzle even occupied my mind while I was eating.
When I got back to the puzzle with fresh eyes, I’d start seeing many pieces that I’d overlooked before. I’d find the exact spot where those pieces I’d been trying to force into all the wrong places really belonged. I’d get my second wind and before I knew it, every piece would be firmly placed and the beautiful, big picture would emerge.
Fast forward a few decades. I still love puzzles, but I no longer have time for such frivolous time-wasting (okay, I admit it: I still partake occasionally). However, I’ve learned that there’s a lot to be learned about blogging from puzzles.
Build the frame first
This seems like the most common-sense thing to do, but it’s also very tempting to just dive in and start throwing things together. Yet, without the frame, it’s easy to lose sight of how all the other pieces fit together—the puzzle becomes a vague, nebulous thing that makes no sense. The frame sets the physical boundaries that enable an understanding of the puzzle’s dimensions and help you see the significance of each individual piece.
It’s the same with blogging. A blog requires the solid foundation of a good design that visually shows your readers how all of the pieces of your blog fit together, and makes it easy to navigate. In addition to visual design, your categories provide the framework that’s needed to understand the boundaries of your blog. By looking at those categories, a reader should instantly get an idea of what they might or might not find on your blog.
Look at the big picture
Honestly, I see blogging as my latest puzzle adventure. As I continue to dive deeper into the world of blogging, I discover new pieces of knowledge that I had missed before. As I digest each new piece of information that comes in the form of books and others’ blog posts, the big picture begins to develop.
Sometimes, I realize there are misplaced pieces. The good news is that I don’t have to know everything. With a little research, I can do just about anything. Sometimes, I just have to go back and keep digging through the same pieces I thought were useless before until I realize those are the very pieces I need. There were pieces of the blogging puzzle I rejected at first. I couldn’t see the point of SEO, for example. I had to go back and add that valuable piece to my knowledge bank later, once I saw its relevance to my blog.
It takes work and time
Blogging requires work and a commitment of time. Like a 1000-piece puzzle, it’s never finished in one day. You have to keep at it, piece by piece, until it finally starts looking more and more like the picture on the box—like the blog you sought out to create before the frustration hit.
I don’t care how bad a blog starts out. I believe that, if you continue to work at improving it, time becomes the best medicine—especially in the blogosphere, where new blogs come and old ones go every day. If your blog can stand the test of time, some level of success won’t be far off.
It requires focus
I learned the hard way that jumping all over the place from one area to the next really only sped up the frustration factor. Instead of focusing on one area until I had developed something I recognized, I would become fascinated by a new set of pieces and start working on a totally unrelated section of the puzzle.
When I first started blogging, I was so fascinated by affiliate marketing and making money online that I didn’t have time to develop the most important piece of all: content.
It’s no wonder so many people step away from the blogging table—there are so many different elements demanding our attention. These factors can leave you feeling frazzled, and pull you all over the place, robbing you of focus. Once I realized the importance of focusing on one area at a time (when in doubt, focus on content), I was able to accomplish so much more.
What I learned about puzzles so many years ago now informs my blogging. That’s the beauty of personal experience: there’s an important lesson to learn in everything we do—even something as seemingly useless as putting together a puzzle.
So what about you? Are you still trying to solve your blogging puzzle? Or are you so puzzled that you’re ready to give in? What tips can you add?
Kiesha blogs at WeBlogBetter, a blog devoted to offering blogging tips. Sheís a technical writer, writing instructor, and blog consultant for small business owners. Connect with her on Twitter @weblogbetter.