Foreign Sanctuary: The Journey to the Beginning
On this exact same date two years ago, with the wind howling and the rain slapping on my living room windows, I took the plunge and started a blog. The post I published that day wasn’t much of a post, but it announced the commencement of Foreign Sanctuary, the beginning of my very own space on the world wide web.
[As a side note, my blog was started on a typhoon day and I guess it was kind of ironic that no less than three typhoons had their eye on Taiwan and threatened to hit the island last week.]
See, I always wanted to start a blog. In my mind, it would be the perfect way to document my thoughts and share with the world my life through photos. Also, it would be a way to brush up on my English as I felt some of my grammar skills were seriously lacking and sometimes, I found myself searching for the perfect word that I hadn’t heard or used in ages [and even after two years, this is an ongoing process.]
However, the hardest part was choosing a name for my blog that would stick. I came up with a lot of names in the past, but nothing really spoke to me – so they all fell to the wayside, names that ended up being eventually forgotten.
That was, before the two words, Foreign Sanctuary, came to mind. Then, I was eager to get this party started.
One Year Later
Like with most new hobbies, I approached blogging with so much joy, energy, and enthusiasm. I was eager to get my thoughts out there, to share my photos with the rest of the world.
However, by the end of the first year, I had thrown in the towel. Blogging drained my energy. It was no longer fun and exciting, but rather demanding. I had imposed so many deadlines and guidelines on myself that I didn’t even want to continue.
So, this time last year, when I should have been applauding myself and patting myself on the back for blogging for a year, my blog lay silent. I hadn’t updated my blog in over a month and I had lost my blogging spark. I didn’t celebrate the one year blogging milestone because I thought it was pointless to celebrate something I had given up on. I thought I would be a hypocrite to sing praises for a hobby that didn’t enjoy anymore.
My Reflections on My Second Blogversary
However, I decided to turn it around. After a three-month blogging break, I returned with renewed energy and focus in September and have never looked back since. Because, in all honesty, I missed writing and blogging. I missed reading other blogs and sharing my thoughts with other bloggers.
And I really believe that if I hadn’t rediscovered my passion for blogging again, I would not have had the courage nor the confidence to do another thing I have always wanted to do – that is, write a book. However, it is much more than a book, it is a memoir about my first year in Taiwan. And if all goes well, it will turn into a trilogy over the coming years!! But, that is a long way down the road and is wishful thinking for now.
Thus, I am very happy that I didn’t quit last year. I am proud of myself for getting back on the bandwagon and finding my way again. And this makes the second blog anniversary all the more special.
The 5 Things it Takes to be a Blogger
[So, if you are still reading, here is the nuts and bolts of what I wanted to talk about in this blog. ]
One thing I have learned from two years of blogging is that blogging is hard. In all honesty, blogging is a tough hobby. It requires a lot of skill and commitment. Two years ago, I thought I would have it all figured out by now. But, I don’t. However, I do know is the skills it takes to be a good blogger. Here they are:
Sometimes I question if I have the right personality to be a blogger. Some successful bloggers share every single detail of their daily lives, something that I feel uncomfortable doing [that’s the small town girl in me.] Some joke at the expense of people close to them, but that is not my personality. Others criticize and cause conflict just for the sake of doing it, and that is not me either. Some have a ‘look at what I have done’ vibe which is totally not me at all.
I consider myself a pretty happy, go lucky person, something that I hope rings through in my blog. I also consider myself a humble person and I hope you can tell that about me from my words. I am actually very confident in real life, something that may not ring through that much because I refused to share any pictures of myself until recently and doubt sometime creeps in because I am still trying to navigate through the uncertainty of the ‘blogging world.’
Yes, blogging requires a certain type of skill-set, because personality can only get you so far.
~~The Ability to Write~~
You need to be able to string together the right words and phrases to make the perfect paragraphs to create a great post. Being able to express yourself in writing is key. You want to draw people in, to keep them reading. What you have to say must appeal to them. If it doesn’t, then they will be clicking the mouse and moving on before they ever reach the end.
I find my blogging voice has changed over the course of the two years. I think my skills in this area have improved over the course of the two years, but like anything, there is still room to be better. Writing a book has definitely made me a faster writer.
A blog is a very visual thing and having a great layout will help you leaps and bounds. Having great pictures will also help.
My skills here are serious lacking and I am my own worse enemy for not even trying. I need to find a new theme that is more visually appealing and uses the entire screen. Like most things, this is a work-in-progress for me. However, luckily for me, a camera is my friend. Plus, since I started blogging, I have expanded my horizons in terms of photo editing. A few readers have even said that they come back just to see my pictures.
 Appeal & Creativity
You can have the right skills and the right personality, but if you don’t have something interesting to say, then you may not appeal to your target audience. There has to be that ‘human connection,’ that creativity that draws people in. People want to read posts to learn about something, to find out others’ opinions about certain things, and just to connect with like-minded people.
I always keep this in mind when writing a post now. I can tell when a post has been slapped together just for the sake of getting something published – something that I have also been guilty of. I am still working on my appeal and creativity skills, but I applaud myself of the fact that I am still in the game and willing to learn.
Ask any blogger and they will tell you that blogging is a very time-consuming hobby. From writing the post to editing pictures, to everything else in between, every single post eats up a lot of free time. And let’s not forget about social media which seems to be the key to promotion these days.
Right now, I am in a ‘quality over quantity’ mindset. I want to write posts that create conversation between me and my readers. I want to put more thought into my posts, to share a little more of me. That is why I have cut back to one post per week.
If you want to be a successful blogger, then you need to be in it for the long haul. Rome wasn’t built in a day and a blog won’t become successful automatically either. It takes regular commitment and dedication. It takes drive and determination. Your readers need to know that you are still at it.
I, unfortunately, learn this the hard way. Once I stopped blogging, I lost a lot of my regular readers. Some have return, but I am sure some did not. That was the price I had to pay for stopping cold turkey. But, I have also learned that commitment doesn’t mean that you have to go on continuously. Sometimes a week or two break is necessary and forgivable if you return with great content and ideas.
For all the other bloggers out there, what other skills do you think is needed to be a blogger? If you are not a blogger, have you ever thought about starting one?