Thursday, August 25, 2016

Ten Things I've Learned in Ten Years of Blogging

I can hardly believe it, but it was 10 years ago on August 28th that I began Nordic Blue.  My efforts for an unseen audience began tentatively, nervously--prompted by the stellar example and success of a respected writing seminar classmate (have you ever heard of FootnoteMaven?)

From the blog's first baby steps, I had hopes of growing it into a burgeoning collection of family history material, gleaned from wherever on earth I could dig up data and stories, and maybe swiping a bit from the stratosphere, as well.  This blog, in part, represents the ebb and flow of my life over the past decade.  There have been discoveries along the way, and if you have tried blogging, I'm sure you have experienced much of the same revelations as those I list here, and perhaps more.

Chery in a contemplative mood, some years ago.

1.  If You Write It, They Will Come (Eventually)

...Distant cousins and interested parties, that is.  More than a few times I have been pleasantly surprised when a relation finds pertinent information on Nordic Blue. If I am contacted with questions or a request for further sharing, and/or offered appreciation for the information I have made available, it makes blogging worth the time and effort.

2.  It's Okay to "Dabble"

Lisa Louise Cooke of Genealogy Gems was a keynote speaker at the Northwest Genealogy Conference earlier this month in Washington State.  One of her memorable pieces of advice was that it is perfectly okay to "dabble" in genealogy.  We do not always have to be full steam ahead in research to enjoy both the hobby and the challenge.  Sometimes dabbling, or just keeping our feet a little wet in the sea of family history, is satisfying enough for the time being.  Each person should feel free to go at his or her own pace.  Family history should not be not a contest, but a pleasure!

3.  Sometimes, the Laundry Has to Wait

There are moments when a story starts spinning inside my brain, and the reel of thoughts unwinds so quickly that I fear it will get away from me.  I know then that I must sit down and write out the main points before all is lost.  Better yet, I need to get to a computer to type out a blog post draft before the dots connecting before my eyes begin to fade and float out of reach.  "Use it or lose it" is the motto under such circumstances.  Those moments of high creativity are never equal to any forced attempts at a later date.

In addition to important obligations like employment, commuting, and taking care of hearth and family, I can find dozens of reasons why I should not sit down to work on a blog post at any given moment.  And summertime?  Oh, don't get me started!  Summer in the Pacific Northwest is a colorful palate of possibilities:  long walks, berry picking, farmers' markets, canning and preserving, craft fairs, craft projects, antiquing excursions, country drives, picnics, outdoor concerts, gardening, staying in touch with family and friends, and just settling in the yard with a cold gluten-free beer to watch the trees grow.

Breathe...  it's okay.  It's called "life."

4.  Sometimes, the Laundry Can't Wait

Although I occasionally engage in the guilty pleasure of turning my back on the laundry, cleaning, shopping, etc., to do more enjoyable things like family history, everyday life is a distraction that will not be ignored for very long (thank goodness!).  My genes are full of farming blood, and my ancestors would all turn in their graves if I were to ignore my responsibilities on a regular basis. So, when I come home after a 12 or 13 hour day of working and commuting, my first thoughts usually do not settle on blogging.  Dinner needs to be pulled out of thin air, family members need to update me on their latest needs and thoughts, and yes, sometimes there really is laundry, too, or plants to water, dishes to clean, and on and on.  Plus, if the dog pulls one of those "poor me-you've been gone all day-look at my sad brown eyes" routines (bless his little pea-pickin' heart), then he and all of these other obligations must certainly come before any of my hobbies.  Last time I checked, I did not have a clone that I could implore to write blog entries, while the other me focuses on the world spinning 'round.  

5.  Get Refreshed

Just like getting some new clothes for the body once in awhile, the creative mind needs to be refreshed--even the mind of a family history blogger.  When was the last time you attended a genealogy conference, signed up for a writing class, listened to a podcast, joined or started a group, gave a presentation, bought a new book or CD about things genealogical, or even set a new research goal?  There is no time like the present.

6.  Upgrade Your Tools

The right tool for the job, so they say.  Are yours a little dusty or chipped around the edges?  Perhaps you could use some new ones.  I still have so much to learn, and the genealogy conference I just attended convinced me that Evernote and Google Earth Pro are tools I might not be able to live without in future.  Digital storytelling looks like a whole lot of fun, too.  Now I just have to make the time to learn to use them well.

7.  Strive for Improved Organization

Guilty, guilty!  I am a family historian who laments the lack of proper identification on vintage family photographs, but who is sloppy about doing the same for my own, more contemporary ones.  It hurts to admit that, but it is true.  Though once in awhile I make an effort to corral files on my laptop, do backups, and even look for duplicate photos stored online, there are certain things I procrastinate over.  None of us is perfect, but we can always make an effort to do better, especially when it comes to organization.

8.  Flex Your Family History Muscles

You can build your knowledge base and increase the resources available to you in many different ways.  Some ideas are:  join a genealogical society, and actually attend meetings; go to a library or archives--be bold and ask the reference staff some questions; plan out a research trip to somewhere you have never been before; volunteer time on a genealogy project, like photographing grave markers, transcribing data, or doing good deed lookups for others.  And yes, you can even start another blog. 

9.   Stay Open to Inspiration

Inspiration is all around us.  Yes, it's in that DNA test you just had done, but also in that little idea a friend just shared.  It's on display in a store window, tagging alongside on a field trip, and waiting inside your morning shower.  You can find it if you look hard enough.  Sometimes, a cup of good strong coffee helps you to see more clearly.

10.  Blogging Should Not Be a Chore

Blogging would not be so popular if it were not rewarding.  By all means, have a good time.  Try something different:  tell a new kind of story, make a few jokes, use your senses and imagination, but most of all, be you.

I'm looking forward to at least another ten years of blogging about family history.  I hope you will share in the Nordic Blue adventure, and allow me to share in your adventure, too!

1 comment:

Luci J. Baker Johnson said...

Excellent post! You nailed it.
Thank you for sharing, with all of us, the work that goes into blogging. I can relate so well to each of the 10 points.