Looking Back at Post A Week 2011

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It’s the end of the year, which means it’s time for reflecting on days gone by and for scheming about days yet to come. I imagine (hope) that there will be a few such posts here, but I thought I’d kick things off with some thoughts about my participation in Post A Week 2011.

Just to remind you, Post A Week 2011 and Post A Day 2011 were initiatives taken up by WordPress to encourage its blogging community. The Daily Postrecently posted a list of suggested questions to help bloggers determine their “blogging strategy” for the new year:

1. Why did you start the Post a Day/Week Challenge?

As might be expected, I signed up for the Post A Week challenge because I wanted to incentivize myself to blog more consistently. I’m a busy girl, and I have a tendency to drop off the map for weeks or even months at a time when I get too absorbed in my work or in travel. But when I look back at my diaries and blogs later on, I always wish that I had taken the time to record more of my thoughts and experiences during these hectic periods, as the memories tend to slip away over time. I saw the Post A Week challenge as a way of minimizing these gaps.

2. Describe the state of your blog at the time you started the challenge.

This blog was just about 6 months old when I started the challenge, though I’d taken the time to import older entries dating back to 2005 from some of my now-defunct former blogs. I’d had some early success when one of my posts was picked up on a Japanese language news site, and I logged 13,624 views for the whole of 2010. I think I had around 17 followers on WordPress and a handful of subscribers in Google Reader.

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3. How did your blog evolve over the course of the challenge?

Now, as we approach the end of 2011, I have logged over 46,198 views from January thru December—a marked increase. I currently have around 110 followers on WordPress and an additional 71 subscribers on Google Reader. Notably, two posts of mine (Goodbye Lennon: Remembering the John Lennon Museum and Places in Japan: One Fantastic Day in Historic Takayama) were featured on Freshly Pressed, which gave me a lot of exposure and started to establish A Modern Girl as a travel blog particularly focused on Japan (where I currently live and conduct research). I also participated in a number of blogging festivals and roundups, such as the Japan Blog Matsuri (which I hosted in September on the theme “Reasons to Visit Japan”), J-Festa, Wordless Wednesday, Travel Photo Thursday, and Show Me Japan. And I benefited every day from the listing of my blog on The Japan Blog List.

All of these things had the effect of solidifying my blog as a travel blog meant for general public consumption. I think I had originally intended it to be more personal and eclectic in nature, but given the heavy element of travel in my life at the moment and the obvious interest in this material, the shift seemed to make sense. I suspect that if I were to make it even more explicitly into a travel blog, it would have even more success, but I’m reluctant to do so as of yet.

4. Did you post as often as you had hoped? Why or why not?

Predictably, I did not post as much as I would have hoped. Including this post, I have written 71 entries this year. And while this averages out to more than one post per week, there were a number of gaps—I didn’t post for the entire month of October, for example. So, I would have liked to be able to post a bit more consistently. But you know, real life intervenes! Things are busy. Research and travel get hectic. And that’s just the way of things. I wouldn’t want to sacrifice too much of my real life activity for the sake of blogging, so I don’t know how much this can be helped. ;)

5. What type of blogging strategy works best for you?

Given the tumultuousness of my schedule, I find it works best for me to write a bunch of posts at once when I have the time and energy, and either to schedule them for delayed posting via WordPress or save them in draft form in my local editor. I’ve come to really like Windows Live Writer as a tool for composing and saving posts—I find it much easier to work with that the WordPress interface, and it’s very easy to integrate with WordPress (and it’s free!). So, whenever I find myself with some spare time and motivation, I sit down at my desk and bang out sketches of a few posts that I want to write sometime—even if it’s just a post title or a single sentence reminding me of an experience or a place—and then I save these as individual draft entries in Live Writer. This serves as a mind-jogger for those times when I want to write but can’t think of anything to write about—my own private list of blogging prompts, if you will. Depending on the time I have available, I can then choose a prompt (or multiple prompts), upload them to WordPress, and schedule them to be posted sometime in the future, often in conjunction with weekly blogging roundups like the ones listed above in #3 (which I also find to be helpful blogging motivators).

6. If you could go back to the beginning, what would you do differently?

I would try to be more strategic about scheduling most posts in a weekly fashion. Despite my good intentions, I still ended up with a couple of month-long gaps in blogging, accompanied by weeks where I would post almost every day. While this variation is ok, I would like to have been a bit more consistent—I think it makes for a better experience for my readers and for myself.

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7. What are you most proud of accomplishing this year?

I’m proud of being featured twice on Freshly Pressed for these two posts:

And of being featured on the Searchina news website in Japanese:

It’s very flattering to have had my posts featured in this way. I’m glad that others enjoy my writing and photography! Plus, I love that WordPress breaks down its featured posts into tags, to make it easier for people to find your material—for example, the screenshot above shows how my post about the John Lennon Museum was showcased under tags such as “art.”

8. Name some great blogs you discovered through the challenge.

I actually didn’t find myself following too many of my fellow Post A Week bloggers in the end—I started out doing so, but it quickly (regrettably) fell by the wayside. But here are a couple of blogs that I found through the challenge and still enjoy keeping up with:

Teacup and Cake
Out & About

9. What surprised you about the challenge?

How difficult it was! It sounds so simple to blog once a week, every week. Just 52 posts in a whole year—it should be a snap, right? But no, it took a lot of time and energy to come up with interesting content of which I could feel proud.

10. What advice would you give to others who want to blog regularly?

Enjoy it! Make it part of your life. Let it serve as a complement, not a detraction. At its best, blogging is not only a way for me to record my experiences, it also gives me an added incentive to do more with my life—go more places, take more pictures, learn more stuff. I think that the key to blogging regularly lies in maximizing the benefits that blogging can yield to your daily life.’

And less philosophically: Put pictures in your posts! Pictures make everything better. Even if you can’t manage to take a picture yourself, find one on the Internet and credit the photographer/source accordingly. Visuals really add to the reading experience.

11. What are your blogging goals for 2012?

I’m tempted to take up the Post A Week challenge again! Although I definitely increased the frequency of my blogging during 2011, the consistency wasn’t quite where I would have liked. Once a week seems like a good goal for me, so here’s hoping that I find success in the new year!

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