2 Years Blogging & The 5 Things it Takes to Be a Blogger

2 years blogging
2 years blogging

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.

Sometimes Blogs have the 'Danger' of Fading Away
Sometimes Blogs have the ‘Danger’ of Fading Away

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:

A Dragon with 'Personality' - Taiwan
A Dragon with ‘Personality’ – Taiwan

[1] Personality

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.’

It takes a lot of 'Skill' to Navigate Your Way Out of Here - Suao, Taiwan
It takes a lot of ‘Skill’ to Navigate Your Way Out of Here – Suao, Taiwan

[2] Skill

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.

~~Technical Ability~~

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.

Lovely Blooms have a Certain 'Appeal' - Taiwan
Lovely Blooms have a Certain ‘Appeal’ – Taiwan
Gorgeous Sky and Mother Nature Showing Her 'Creative' Side - Taiwan
Gorgeous Sky and Mother Nature Showing Her ‘Creative’ Side – Taiwan

[3] 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.

Like Most Things, Rice Growing takes 'Time' - Taiwan
Like Most Things, Rice Growing takes ‘Time’ – Taiwan

[4] Time

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.

Standing in the Middle of Fireworks takes 'Commitment' - Lukang, Taiwan
Standing in the Middle of Firecrackers takes ‘Commitment’ – Lukang, Taiwan

[5] Commitment

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?

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48 thoughts on “2 Years Blogging & The 5 Things it Takes to Be a Blogger

  1. What a well thought out post about blogging, Constance. I couldn’t agree more with what you have said. Blogging encompasses so many different levels, from the writing to the technical to the engagement with readers part. Each of us bloggers have different goals with our blogs, be it just sharing our thoughts, connecting with like-minded people, or one or the other or both. Congratulations on two yeas of blogging. I’ve only started following your blog for a year, but I love your stories about Taiwan and your street photography. And I can’t wait for your book to come out 🙂

    For me, I feel that the technical aspect of the blog is hard – it took me almost six months to get my blog to look the way I want it to (for now…) using CSS code and the updgrade I bought on WordPress. Coming up with post ideas that readers will find relatable is often a challenge. I’ve found that adopting a conversational tone often helps to get ideas across.

    1. Mabel, I am so glad you can relate. I wanted to write an article to show just how much effort goes into blogging and I hope I succeeded.

      You brought up some excellent points, especially about the technical side of blogging. Creating a design that we are pleased with is an ongoing process with takes time and learning. Your recent changes, like including the painted image of yourself, is pretty amazing.

      When the first draft of my book is completed, I am going to enlist the help of my husband to design a better layout for my blog, starting with a new theme.

      1. It took so long to get my blog to look the way I want, lol. The design the blog is more than just about aesthetics in my opinion. A certain look says a lot about your blog and what you’re trying to achieve – it adds to blog personality. I’m sure when the time comes, you will have fun designing your blog and it will look amazing 🙂

  2. Two years! Congrats! I think you do an excellent job with both writing and photography. Sometimes you mix it up with great travelogues, and sometimes you add a little bit of intriguing personal history (fear of heights, for example). So we never know what we’re going to get, which keeps your blog very fresh. 🙂

    I have a hard time finding time to blog. I love telling stories, though, and so I keep making time. I hope I can stay as dedicated as you do.

    1. Autumn, my blog is probably reflective of my thought process – here, there, and everywhere. Sometimes I am not sure if it is good to blog about such a vast array of topics, but it keeps it interesting for me.

      I hope you keep finding time to blog. This is one girl who loves your blog and writing about the events leading up to your wedding is a big ‘trip down memory lane’ for me.

  3. Congratulations on your two-year anniversary, Constance. Two very successful years! Two things about your blog keep me coming back: your fantastic photography and your sincerity.

    I like your list of the five things it takes to be a blogger. It’s interesting that your first point was “personality” and that your first sentence was: “Sometimes I question if I have the right personality to be a blogger.” That’s a question many of us ask ourselves. If I’m not particularly funny or controversial or quirky … if I’m just an ordinary person, am I interesting enough to have a blog?

    My two-year anniversary is coming up in August. I still have a lot to learn.

    1. Thanks, Nicki! I am flattered to hear that you enjoy my blog and I am happy to hear that my sincerity rings through.

      I think you said it even better with the statement ‘if I’m just an ordinary person, am I interesting enough to have a blog?’ When writing posts, I want to be true to who I am and the values I hold, even it that means I come across as ordinary.

      I will be keeping an eye out for your 2 year blogging milestone!

  4. Congrats on 2 years!!! I completely agree with all of your points. 🙂

    Like you, my blog has evolved over the the last two years… taking time to get into the grove, find my blogging voice and also let it naturally evolve… personality leaking out in various ways.

    I still struggle with the technical side and whenever I see an old post cringe at missed typos or grammatical errors I missed in my original edit!

    As for appeal & creativity, I believe we all are multi-faceted. A blog can be an outlet to reflect some of these facets but not everyone will be interested in all your facets. It is why one of my interests – whisky – led to a spin off blog as I realised what I wanted to say in my ‘main’ blog ‘Everyday Asia’ isn’t the same as what I wanted to share in ‘Whisky Lady’. I used to write mid-sized posts however find now that I’m both OK with writing short posts and also longer ones though wonder if they should come with a ‘warning’. 😉

    Time & commitment – oh yeah. I find I go in ‘spurts’ where I have a day or two where I’m bursting with posting ideas and inclination to write. Then other days are a complete dry spell… I’ve also had periods where I barely posted both for work reasons and technical issues. When this happened and I finally got back into posting regularly, I went ‘back’ to my original goal of 4 posts a month – anything more is because I happen to feel like doing more! 😉

    Promotion / social media I think is a 6th area and one I frankly don’t focus on… I have no commercial intent behind blogging so the view stats and comments as an indication of what seems to strike a chord rather than be a stress point in not achieving building an audience as a platform for monetary purposes.

    As for the book… that’s been on my mind more and more lately. If I don’t have a great big juicy paid project soon, I might just have the time and mental space to begin. Ya never know. 😉

    Wow! That was a long response… clearly this is a ‘spurt’ phase for comments at least! All credit to your great post!!!

    Bravo again!!

    1. Thanks for taking the time to read my post and to share you thoughts and viewpoints.

      I think keeping true to the main purpose of your blog is important, but I am not too strict with myself. I have considered starting another site solely dedicated to photography, but I may just make another section on Foreign Sanctuary as it is all relevant to each other.

      I know what you mean when you say that writing ideas comes in spurts. Some days I have so many ideas that I can’t type fast enough, other days I battle with writer’s block or struggle with wording to express my ideas.

      As for writing a book, I bet you have a lot of stories and knowledge to share.

      1. Absolutely! The joy of blogging should be it is for YOU and reflects what you are interested to share not some external publication deadline for commercial purposes. Or that’s my humble opinion. 😉

  5. Congratulations on your blogversary!

    The 5 Things I takes to be a Blogger are well thought out and hit right home. There are so many things that I still have to work on. At the moment I try to get into a consistent time schedule for my blogging as (probably) the most important step, but I also feel that I am still trying to find “my voice”.

    I do think your writing is very compelling and I can’t wait for your book to come out, I’m pretty curious about your adventures 😉

    1. Thanks so much! This time last year I would have never thought I would have reached this milestone.

      Plus, I think you are off to a great start – identifying what needs improvement and what you want to work on is always the first step.

      BTW, I am really loving your recent articles about your visit to Taiwan. It is so nice to read about what others think about the place, to experience it again with fresh eyes. And your latest article has reminded me that I need to return to Juifen soon – it has been way too long since my last visit.

  6. I totally get your need to “brush up on English;” sometimes I find myself slipping on my vocabulary or grammar usage. And I do LOVE the name of your blog (I appreciated the post you once wrote explaining how you came up with it).

    I know it’s good to blog with readers in mind, but I do, in many ways, blog for myself. It’s just a way for me to process and also remember some of the stuff I’m experiencing. Hopefully some of it is helpful or interesting to others. I think it’s important to get some enjoyment out of it and not let it become a chore.

    1. I feel like my English has improved since starting this blog, but it is still not up to scratch. I have had a few embarrassing moments when my husband corrected my English. Ouch!

      Yes, blogging can also be a place to gather and record memories. Your latest post is a prime example – it was very entertaining and had me laughing out loud – but the title had me thinking the worst! 😉

  7. Congratulations! I also have soon my 2 years of blogging approaching 🙂
    Blogging takes a lot of commitment, nothing is worse for a reader than suddenly not seeing any updates or info what is going on. So far I also decided to have quality rather than quantity, through this I am able to concentrate better on the stories and make less mistakes (I always do something wrong, no matter how long a post is prepared!)

    1. Thank you!! 🙂

      That is awesome! It seems like many blogs that I follow and read regularly are also approaching the two year milestone!

      And I know what you mean! I have re-read posts that received lots of views only to find a huge grammar mistake or a wrong word. Oh well, I guess I can play the ‘no one’s perfect’ card. 😉

  8. Congratulations on your two year blogging anniversary, Constance.

    Thank you so much for the list you’ve drawn up. It’s very helpful.

    You blog is endearing as it is enchanting. The photos are worth a thousand words.

    1. Thank so much for words – you are way too kind!

      Blogging may be a tough hobby, but it is just as rewarding because you get to interact with lots of great and amazing people. And you are right – a picture speaks so much more than words ever could.

      I hope your weekend is off to an amazing start! 🙂

      1. As I mentioned in Marta lives in China, both of you set the bar high.

        I’ve yet to set up my own blog but my snopping about has been helpful. It’s difficult to observe but observe, you do.

        I’ve to get my zloty for Poland. I’m flying tomorrow, working there next week. Next port of call…….I received an encouraging email from Burma this morning, you never know.

        1. Have a great weekend. I forgot my manners.

          I note you’ve many followers from different corners of the world. Well done!

  9. I know exactly how you feel. It’s been 2 years since I started my blog and I still feel I struggle to find content, to find direction, a time schedule. Some posts work, some don’t. What I find ironic is posts I like, do less well than those I didn’t put much thought into. Not sure what that says! Some days I think I should just plaster photos and be done. Most comment on photos not content. Anyways, always love reading about your adventure and travels in Taiwan!

    1. First, congrats on reaching the two year milestone.

      I love photography, so your photos always draw my attention. I love how you capture beach images and you can learn a lot from looking at other’s photos – like angles and different ways to frame a picture.

      You bring up a great point regarding what attracts readers to our blogs. One of my most successful posts [in terms of views] is one that was written when I first started my blog, probably not one of my most interesting posts – it gets a number of hit every day because of google search.

      1. Thank you! It’s interesting what people are drawn to! One of my more ‘successful’ posts is about flavoured water, but that’s down to how I tagged it. It’s not my greatest piece, so it doesn’t draw them in further!

        I always like travelling Taiwan with you. What’s everyday for you, is a far away dream place to us!

  10. Congratulations on two years! It is really inspiring to see that even at the one year point you felt like giving up but had the strength to get back in and make it this far. My blog is still quite new and I am no where near even the first year. But I really want to be able to grow my blog and I too want to brush on my English, especially coming from the land of everyone speaking broken English/half-Spanish.
    I am so happy you posted this list and hope to use it to further and better my blog!
    Here’s to many more years of your wonderful blog! 😀

    1. Thanks so much!

      I am happy that I started blogging again. However, if I didn’t take that three month break, I probably wouldn’t have realized what I was doing wrong.

      I wish you every success with growing your blog. It may be hard at times and slow-going at first, but if you stick with it, you will start seeing results.

      I look forward to checking out your blog!

  11. I definitely agree with your five things. The reasons I blog now are COMPLETELY different than the reasons that pushed me to start a blog in the first place – but I feel like the motivation I have now is much more “solid” and will keep me going for a lot longer.

    Also, congrats on your 2 year blogging anniversary!!! 😀

  12. Congratulations, Constance! We both were celebrating yesterday, haha.
    I couldn’t agree more with your blogger traits! It does take time, it does take commitment and it uses up all of your creativity, haha.

  13. Congrats on your second blogging anniversary! I really enjoyed reading this post and I agree about the list of things it takes to be a blogger. A lot of people underestimates how much time, energy and effort go into a good blog.

  14. I guess I am guilty of the “slapping something together just for the sake of getting something published” more often than I’d like. But I suppose that is the downside to trying to commit to 1 post per day, some days I might be busier than other days, and that’s when sloppiness is called for. At least I will be upfront and declare it 😀 !

    Congratulations on your two years of blogging. Somehow I believe you will be doing better and better in the days to come. 😉

  15. Really good overview of what it takes to be a committed blogger (I say committed but not necessarily a pro-blogger who just does listicles etc just to up their readership). I’ve taken blogging breaks too and found I’ve come back better. A hobby isn’t supposed to drain you no matter how addictive!

  16. Well done on the 2 years blog anniversary Constance!
    It’s such a challenging thing and, I think, so much more work than most people imagine and your list of the 5 things it takes to be a blogger shows it well.

    I always struggle with the personality part, I’m scared of getting personal while I know that’s probably what readers do want but it’s just so hard to show myself, it took me a year and a half to put a photo of us up there!

    I wish you all the best and many more years to come for your blog! And good luck for your book! That’s a great thing coming up for you!

  17. I enjoyed this post! It’s got ideas for me to reflect on. I passed my one-year mark in mid-June and was ready to quit. I also didn’t celebrate. I’ve decided to keep going for another year but I need to change my mindset. I thought blogging would be so easy. I thought what I had to say was interesting and that readers would flock to the blog and I’d somehow convert that to a home business or fortune or at least a “successful” blog. Ha ha! How clueless I was. Blogging is shockingly time-consuming and, like other endeavors in life, the more I do it, the less I know. I haven’t yet come up with my goals or focus for the next year but I think having some are important to blogging.

  18. Thank you for this post. I’m a very new travel blogger (as in, I am celebrating one week of being live online) and this post really inspired me and urge me a bit further towards the right direction. I know it’s not going to be easy, but I hope I will have the same dedication and commitment as you did in seeing this project through. 🙂 Thank you so much!

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