Best blogging practices – 20 ways to improve your posts

I’ve been blogging since 2010, and now and then I like to review a bit, take stock, and see what I’ve learned along the way. This is my current roundup for bloggers…whether you’re just starting, trying to grow a following, or simply writing to express yourself…this isn’t about list building tools or social media magic. These are my favorite dos and don’ts for blogging as a writing form.

  1. Be yourself, be authentic…it’s tempting to try to sound like popular writers…as clever, as moving, as profound as others out there…and maybe you will be all those and more. But regardless of anything else your writing evokes, it should be real, sound like something you would really say. That will come across as natural and genuine, and be much better than trying to copy someone else, however successful. No one can speak in your voice and style but you.
  2. When you have an idea for a post, write it down. You may remember it later when you sit down to blog, but you may not. (I always think I’ll remember, and often I don’t. I finally learned to take my own advice here.) I’d say the same for a specific phrase or thought you want to use…easier to write something down in the moment than try to remember the perfect word flow two days later.
  3. Use photos, quotes, stories, and tell your story. Even if you write a food blog or a DIY blog, or write on a very narrow subject matter, you’re still sharing your point of view. Using tools to bring your personal style and voice to your writing is always a good thing. In general the more successful blogs are well-defined in subject and tone. Readers know what to expect, and that’s helpful for building a following.
  4. Before you publish a post, use the preview function and read your post as it will appear when you’re done. No one’s perfect, and I’ve caught many a typo in my work. No matter how much you try to prevent spelling errors or spacing issues, sooner or later something will slip by your eagle eye. Don’t let fear of making mistakes be a barrier to writing. And remember, even after you’ve published a post, you can edit and update it when you see your mistake.
  5. Similar to #4, read in preview mode for the flow of your content. Often I let a post sit in draft form for a few days and re-read it to be sure I like the flow, and that I’m not wandering off topic. Re-reading your work after it sits for a while will help you see it with fresh eyes, and as a whole piece. That said, as a blogger, you’re not attempting to write a novel or produce a white paper. Don’t over-critique or analyze your writing, or you’ll never hit the publish button.
  6. Some writers follow the same format for all their posts, and others use a variety of writing and formatting styles…list posts, holiday or birthday wishes, photo posts, poetry posts, vacation or travel posts, pet peeves or random items…anything can work, as long as you’re writing from the heart. If you’re concerned about falling into a rut, ask input from other bloggers you admire.
  7. Some bloggers follow a calendar for blogging with different types of posts on different days of the week. I haven’t done this myself, but I see the benefit. If you’re struggling to be consistent, or come up with material for your blog, consider developing an editorial calendar with a strategy of specific types of posts on specific days of the week.
  8. You can link to other sites that give a writing prompt, and that’s a great way to connect with writers who have similar interests. It’s also a way to grow your readership.
  9. If you use photos, edit them! You can probably crop, enhance, or somehow improve your photos to make them more appealing for your post. You can also find free photos on sites like
  10. One of the best tips I can offer is: be consistent! When I post consistently and regularly, I notice I have new people following my blog. When I neglect my writing, that usually results in losing readers, and slows growth. Having said that, I try to remember that I’m blogging / writing out of choice, and if life is crazy, I don’t let blogging make it crazier. I want the blog to work with my life, not the other way around. Priorities and balance are important values to hold in the blogging world. It’s easy to get lost in the challenge of posting, being relevant, creating new content.
  11. Use categories and tags for your posts, these will help readers find your work.
  12. Link your blog to at least a couple of social media sites…I link to Twitter and Facebook. From everything I read, it’s best to not be active on too many social platforms…just dilutes your efforts and will be too distracting to try to keep up for most people.
  13. Invite comments! And when readers comment on your blog, respond to them. Some successful bloggers don’t do this, and I’ll admit, I’m sometimes guilty of missing this opportunity as well. But I think it’s a good practice to follow, and helps build a community, helps you get to know people who are visiting your blog regularly.
  14. When someone follows your blog, check out theirs. I don’t always follow a blogger who follows me, but I try to visit in response to a follow notice. If nothing else, I can leave a comment, thank them for following me, and see what they’re writing about. I’ve found some wonderful writers doing this, and again, this helps to build a community.
  15. Once I connect with another blogger, I try to read their posts often. That doesn’t mean I read everything, but I try to visit their blogs regularly, as a way of maintaining my place in the community. When I read other blogs, I often comment. It lets writers know I’m engaged and part of the community.
  16. Be generous. I don’t always post to be informative…some of what I write is more in the genre of personal growth/development, working out my issues by writing them out. Perhaps even through those posts someone may learn something. (One of my life functions is being a cautionary tale.) But I also like to write posts that are intentionally educational or informative, whether a list post, like this, or sharing a recipe or new website I’ve found, a tool or app that works well, or even a link to another site or article I find valuable. I also love to feature quotes…those are simple posts to do, but they can have a big impact.
  17. It’s ok to share your ups and downs. As a blogger, writing directly to readers, you can say just what you want…what’s on your heart. While I don’t think blogging should be an exercise in self-absorption (not every post on my blog is about me or my life) this is your opportunity to use your stories and insights to offer a message…a message of caution, of hope, of perseverance, of triumph, of loss. Sometimes my posts are about something funny, and I like that too. Mixing up the serious subjects with something lighter is a good thing, I think. Whatever you choose, let the sincerity and real-ness of your stories shine through.
  18. If you’re writing about difficult personal issues, be careful and thoughtful about what you share. Whether you have a small following or a large one, once you launch a post into cyberspace, it’s out there. My personal opinion is that you can share a lot generically, but respect the privacy of others, especially anyone you may reference  directly in your writing. Some bloggers are very open about any and everything going on in their lives, relationships, health, etc. I prefer to keep my private life private, at least in the details. I’m ok to write in broad strokes about relationship challenges, struggles with personal issues, etc. I can do that and still maintain a certain level of privacy and dignity. If I write about a struggle, I’ll be honest with what I say, but I don’t have to disclose every detail to make a point.
  19. I don’t use profanity in my posts, though some very successful writers do. That’s not who I am, and I don’t need to write like it is. Some bloggers introduce controversy, others have a very empathetic/sympathetic tone to their writing. I think it’s ok to occasionally mix your emotional tones, but I wouldn’t do it often. Readers grow to expect a certain vibe from you, and it’s probably best to be consistent in general. Look at how your favorite writers do it…don’t copy their material, but you can learn from a successful blogging formula or strategy. Again, very important to speak / write with your authentic voice.
  20. Be friendly! Friendliness will come across in your writing tone. Even if your writing is very dark and emotional, readers will likely connect better with you if you sound approachable; if you sound relatable; if you sound like a real human being they could sit down and talk with.

I wish I could do all these things perfectly myself; sometimes I’m more successful than others. But these are the guidelines I try to follow. Let me know what you think, I’d love to hear from other writers!

~ Sheila

When life knocks you flat…

It’s been a week. Short weeks always work out to be long in the end. I don’t know why or how, I only know it’s true. And this one has been no exception.

I knew it was a long shot. Usually I’m built to be positive. But this house offer…just didn’t feel right from the beginning. On Wednesday the buyers decided to walk away. It was disappointing. And it was a relief, oddly enough. I didn’t feel good about the offer, and the whole thing felt too rushed. Well, I may have time to regret that one if I sit with a house on Water Street for a long time to come. But when it’s right, it will be right…no forcing it. That’s never a good feeling.

So, in the spirit of cheering myself up and putting myself back on track I thought about the steps forward. What do I need to do to right myself? That’s the image I always see in my mind…my body upside down, somehow needing to find the way back up, back to hope, back to future.

It would be a lot easier if I wasn’t sitting surrounded by empty shelves and dreading unpacking a house I just rushed to pack.

When has my efficiency ever backfired so spectacularly?!

But there are silver linings. I got a free inspection and a free appraisal out of the process, thanks to the would-be buyers. And though the appraisal cost me the sale in the end, at least it helps to price more in line with the current market value. I tell myself things work out in the end. Isn’t that what you tell yourself when you’re disappointed?

I am disappointed, but there’s nowhere to go with that. The best cure for disappointment is action. And since I love the word “grace,” for all it’s meanings to my life, I created a little acronym to help me get going:


Happy weekend! I’ll be unpacking a bit, staging the house for future showings, and finding grace. And if you’re feeling in need of that gift, I hope you’ll find it too.

~ Sheila

Traveling joys

So, Christmas, 7:00 pm, and we’re sitting in the Seattle airport waiting to fly south for part two of family holiday visits. We’re not alone…it’s actually busier than I thought it would be. Some shops and restaurants are closed, but there are several options open for those who (still!) need to shop or eat.

In the spirit of Christmas travel, I’m sharing this little gift from YouTube. Saw this a couple of weeks ago and thought it was a completely charming idea. Even if it’s just a publicity ploy, WestJet did a great job of sharing some Christmas joy and pulled off an amazing surprise. I don’t think I’ll have this to look forward to when I pick up my luggage…but maybe if was flying WestJet?!


Words I like

Your body keeps an accurate record of your diet regardless of what you write down.

“Too many of us are not living our dreams because we are living our fears.” ~ Les Brown

“We were together. I forget the rest.”  ~ Walt Whitman

“As we got older, the monsters crept from under our beds to inside our heads”

The pain you feel today is the strength you feel tomorrow.

Wrinkled was not one of the things I wanted to be when I grew up.

“They slipped briskly into an intimacy from which they never recovered.”  ~ F. Scott Fitzgerald 

“Gratitude turns what we have into enough.”

“I loved her, not for the way she danced with my angels but for the way the sound of her name could silence my demons.” ~ Christopher Poindexter

Grace of giving

The giving season is here. Once again, condensed into a few short weeks of voluntary (!) opportunity, giving takes center stage.

I’m not one of those smart people who spreads the task of gift collecting around the calendar. I like to be in the season, in the mood, and inspired by the sights and sounds of holiday. I do a lot of my shopping on line for the convenience factor. And living in Alaska means that most of my gifts will be shipped, so it’s easier to shop and ship sitting warm and cozy in my living room. And the store’s always open!

But for all the convenience and variety, online buying is a lonely experience.

Every year, I like to get out to the stores and do a little of my shopping the old fashioned way. Face to face with the shimmer of lights and color, it’s easy to get in the mood to give. I love the icons of the holidays. Thanksgiving and Christmas, at their best, bring out the best in people. And if some treat gift-giving as a competitive sport, there are plenty of others who offer selfless sharing where it’s needed most.

While I’m out looking for the perfect items to go under the tree, I see potential that needs no tree, no names, and small effort. But these acts of kindness warm me down to my toes, put a smile on my face, take me out of myself and my small world.

At the grocery store I see a table set up outside the door, manned by volunteers collecting items for a children’s food pantry. They hand out cards that list the items they’re collecting. Pick up a few things for them while I shop, drop off on my way to my car, and snap! the good deed’s done. And all I had to do was throw a few things in my cart and hand them off. Yes I paid for them. But these small donations don’t make a big dent in a food budget, yet it all adds up to meals for hungry kids.

Another way to give at the grocery…my Safeway invites customers to add a dollar or three or five to their total bill. The extra is donated to the cause of the month, often to organizations that are fighting specific diseases. I like to say yes, even if I only add a dollar or two.

Angel trees, Toys for Tots and programs like these, provide gifts where they’re needed most. I’ll be honest to say, though I’ve never felt wealthy, my kids never wondered if there would be gifts for them on Christmas morning. One of the saddest things to see the day or two before Christmas is an angel tree with names still attached. I always wonder about those names.

There’s always giving through my church, in the community and outside it, sending dollars to be foot soldiers and ambassadors of goodwill. Often churches give to local families that have special needs, and that’s a wonderful way to connect.

There are endless ways to take part, join in, reach out. This season, I’d like to challenge anyone reading to make a difference. Be deliberate and intentional about giving. If you can, remain anonymous. That’s actually part of the fun.

  • You can give your money…that’s easiest for some, hardest for others.
  • You can give your time…that’s easiest for some, hardest for others.
  • You can give your cheerfulness and smiles. I love to smile at a customer service worker when the line is backed up or when they’ve had a grumpy customer in front of me. I like to let them know I’m in their corner. Anyone who’s ever worked in a customer service position will understand this. The relief of meeting patience, kindness, niceness, after a difficult customer…well, that can turn a miserable moment into sunshine. I know, because I’ve been there.
  • Buy something…anything…from kids selling door to door. I went on many a band trip financed from candy and calendar sales, and my kids did their share of fundraising too. Be a “yes” house! Don’t disappear when you see them coming down your street.
  • Take food in to work, to friends, to any place you volunteer. Food is always welcome!
  • Here’s an idea I saw tonight…put together gallon ziplock bags of things that homeless people could use…travel sized toiletries, granola bars, chap stick, gum, tissue packs, etc. Keep them in your car to give when you see a need.
  • Give to a veteran’s organization. Enough said.
  • Pay a toll or some other fee for the person in line behind you.
  • Adopt a family that needs assistance and give to them anonymously. Leave a box with the makings of a holiday dinner and wrapped gifts at their door. Neither you nor the recipients will ever forget that box.
  • Give airline miles if you have them and know of someone who needs them.
  • Many companies allow employees to donate leave time to co-workers who have a medical or family need. You could consider donating time to a fellow employee who’s missing a paycheck because they’re out of paid leave but can’t return to work yet.
  • Find a cause or group that speaks to you and give to it on a regular basis.
  • Give spontaneously to something you’ve not supported before.
  • Give generously. At the risk of making assumptions, I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that anyone reading this has first world problems. And if that’s true, generosity, on some level, is within your power.
  • At the other end of the spectrum, I sometimes think that giving on a regular basis is more important than the actual dollar value of a donation. I waffle on this…is it better to give a large amount to one or two good causes, or to spread the giving around? But however it’s done, good will be done, I’m convinced of that.

And finally, a few truths:

Some gifts will be wasted, unappreciated, lost. That’s sad. But even when this happens, it doesn’t diminish the choice to give, and the good that choice does for the giver.

If at all possible, make giving a family activity. Involve your kids or grandkids, not to impress them with your generous spirit, but to teach them to develop their own.

Speaking honestly, my giving to others is like a boomerang…it comes right back, in an emotional reward if no other way. Giving doesn’t make me a saint…I give because it feeds and nurtures me to give as much as it helps the ones who receive.

I give because it’s the right thing to do, and the heart knows that instinctively.

I believe the impulse to share is one of the best traits of humanity, and it’s built in. We just have to nurture that trait.

I give because others have given to me, and I’m grateful to be on the giving end of the equation.

It’s a little too early to be sending out holiday greetings, but maybe this is a way to launch the season. Be mindful of opportunities and look for the joy.

“The only people with whom you should try to get even are those who have helped you.” 
― John E. Southard

Random good stuff on a Monday

Now and then, I like to share some new favorites. You can never have too much wisdom. And isn’t it nice that so much of it is captured in pithy quotes?

We’ve all had a piece of heaven, but how many of us knew when we had it in our hands? ~ Anonymous

“Love is a meeting of two souls, fully accepting the dark and the light within each other bound by the courage to grow thru struggle into bliss.”  ~

Someone I loved once gave me a box full of darkness. It took me years to understand that this, too, was a gift.  ~ Mary Oliver

“It’s not our job to toughen our children up to face a cruel and heartless world. It’s our job to raise children who will make the world a little less cruel and heartless.” ~ L.R. Knost

A girl once told me to be careful when trying to fix a broken person for you may cut yourself on their shattered pieces ~

Shortest horror story: Monday

I saw this little bit of joy recently, quite possibly the best advertisement I’ve seen in a long time. Could not resist sharing! I just try to imagine the story behind this:

“I’m quite sure that most of you have seen the rather large green dragon that has been flying…for the better part of a week. I am looking for someone to: lure said dragon away…to a more rural area. Force said dragon to land in rural area. Slay said dragon in whatever way you see fit.

No pay, dragon slaying is its own reward.

Please note that I am not talking about the red dragon that frequents the area from time to time. He and I have an agreement.”   ~

Here’s to slaying your dragon this week…and make sure you target the right one.

My new favorite food

As I’ve mentioned recently, we’re having a real summer here in SE Alaska! This was from last week, but today’s weather looked just like this. (On my phone, anyway…it was a little less sunny in reality. But no rain!)  If you know the Pacific Northwest, and SE Alaska, Summertime!you know how rare it is to have a week of sunshine in the forecast. Even more rare to have multiple weeks like that. And while we’ve had a few rainy days here and there, this is a summer to celebrate!

With summer comes grilling, and we’ve done a lot of that this month. I’ve been trying new recipes and decided to experiment with pizza on the grill. I’ve read about it, thought about it, and now, I’ve tried it. Let me tell you, it’s my new favorite thing. Worth doing, and so easy I wonder why I haven’t tried it before.

So here’s the way to do it:

There are lots of recipes to choose from. Here’s one I like:


2 teaspoons instant yeast
2 teaspoons sugar
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
3 cups (11 ounces) all-purpose flour*
3/4 cup (6 ounces) lukewarm water
2 tablespoons (7/8 ounce) olive oil

*Substitute Whole Wheat flour for half of the all-purpose flour, if desired.


Mix all of the ingredients to make a soft, supple dough. Knead for 5 minutes, divide the dough in half, cover with lightly greased plastic wrap, and let rest and relax for 15 minutes (or for up to an hour or so; work it into your schedule as you see fit).

Grease two 12″ squares of parchment paper. Use your greased fingers to press each piece of dough on the parchment into an 11″ to 12″ circle about 1/8″ thick. Brush or spray the crusts with olive oil, and let them rest for about 30 minutes, while you pre-heat your grill.

To make grilled pizza: Be prepared to grill your pizza within 15 minutes of shaping it; you don’t want it to rise too much. So, make sure your barbecue grill is heated (or cooled) to medium-hot by the time the dough is ready to grill.

Set the rack 3″ to 4″ above the fire. Take one circle of dough, on its parchment, and swiftly but carefully turn it (dough down, parchment on top) onto the grill. Peel off the parchment.

After 1 minute, turn it over; it should be stiff enough to turn quite easily (if not, your grill isn’t hot enough). Layer with toppings. This is not the time to pile on the meat, cheese, veggies, etc. Since the pizza will be cooking very briefly, it’s better to top with just a minimal amount of stuff: thinly sliced veggies, a thin layer of cheese, etc.

Bake an additional 5 minutes or so, with the cover on (if your grill has a cover), or until the filling is hot and the cheese is melting. Adjust the temperature of the grill if the bottom is browning too quickly. And, move the pizza around on the grill if one side or the other starts to get too brown on the bottom. Repeat the grilling process with the other pizza.

We like veggie pizza. Marinated artichoke hearts, fresh sliced tomatoes, basil, mushrooms, peppers, red onion, salt and pepper over all, and top with a blend of shredded mozzarella and shaved parmesan…perfection! The pizza dough “bakes” up so light and airy on the grill it’s like eating something from a gourmet wood-fired pizzeria. The veggies get just slightly cooked so they taste incredibly fresh and keep a little of their crunchiness. The whole thing is warm and satisfying to eat, and so fast. I’m seriously thinking of making this again for the third time this week. Haven’t had my fill yet!

The luxury of time

I could spend some time here!

I could spend some time here!


There is more to life than simply increasing its speed.    ~ Mahatma Gandhi

What is the luxury of time? My own definition…no rushing, no scurrying about. Time to linger over coffee, or a decadent dessert, or a long conversation, sitting in my rocking chair, looking out over the water. Time to be. The luxury of time is not a treat of the every day. I sometimes encounter it on a Saturday morning, or evenings, after dinner is done and my day is settling about me.

Luxury is usually associated with possessions and money. A study I read suggested that beyond a basic level of comfort, more money, more stuff, doesn’t really create more happiness.

But time. Now there’s a luxury that money can’t buy. Or sometimes it can, but often it doesn’t. Often, more money means less time.


Time is the coin of your life. It is the only coin you have, and only you can determine how it will be spent. Be careful lest you let other people spend it for you. ~ Carl Sandburg


I come from a long line of doers. I am hard-wired to make lists, to find pleasure in things done. Stillness has been an acquired taste. Because the value of stillness isn’t to be found in items neatly checked off, I was once suspicious of it. Was I wasting time if I produced nothing visible? But I learned. I learned that I can rush getting errands done, or chores finished. But I can’t rush being.

Dreaming and planning and creativity require time. Time to think, and time to produce. But more than that, bountiful time is a state of mind. I find when I match my pace to the rhythm of intention, I’m more at ease. I find my stride with the day’s demands. The best way to have more time is to be thoughtful about  the spending of it. Like any resource, time can be depleted, wasted, frittered away. Carving out opportunity to replenish myself requires careful planning. I plan and organize time so I can be frivolous with it elsewhere in my week.

The reward of the hustle-bustle is the slow and easy.

I’ll admit…a little luxury goes a long way, and I can enjoy that pleasure in almost any form: luxury of place, or of food, or beautiful views. But luxury of time…now that’s the real thing.

“There’s never enough time to do all the nothing you want.” ~ Bill Watterson 

The Land of Nod

Baby-land…who can resist the magic of these little beings? Motherhood makes childhood sacred, forevermore. First with my own, and then with the children of siblings and now with these little grands…all these babies attached to my heart…or maybe I’m attached to theirs?…pure joy!

Baby Jack, and Big Sis Riley…

Jack, the Christmas card

Jack, the Christmas card

Big and little

Big and little

Sis and the little Buddy

Sis and the little Buddy

Snuggle buddies

Snuggle buddies

The moment a child is born, the mother is also born. She never existed before. The woman existed, but the mother, never. A mother is something absolutely new. ~ Rajneesh

Making the decision to have a child – it’s momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body. ~ Elizabeth Stone