My Advice, At Alt

This post is sponsored by Squarespace – a web platform that makes it easy to create beautiful blogs, portfolios and websites without touching a line of code.

As promised here, I buckled down this morning to answer a few of the more commonly-asked questions I received while manning the Blogging Mentor booth at Alt Summit. Scroll down to read more about pressing through writing slumps, dealing with negativity and a bit about one of my favorite blogging templates…

Q: What is your advice for pressing through a blogging slump when you’re feeling uninspired?

A: When I have a blogging slump, I try not to press through. I take a break, and a walk, and I play with my toddler uninterrupted. I’ll stare out the window, or into her stone gray eyes, or at the book we’re reading and then down at my hands to see my mother. I’ll pour a cup of coffee. Inspiration will arrive when it does, when it’s ready. I try my best to meet it. I bring the crowbar.

Q: How do you deal with negativity or criticism online? Have you had to develop a truly thick skin?

A: I deal with negativity online the same way I do offline: grounding myself elsewhere. It has taken years of practice (and I still fail at this), but reminding myself daily that who I am is not dependent on what others think of me makes it much easier to keep negative opinions, comments or articles from seeping into my soul.

Regarding criticism, I like to approach it with an open mind: Is there something I can learn here? Is this even about me? Is receiving and applying this criticism in my best interest, considering my beliefs and personal intentions? Criticism is not always meant to be negative, so I do my best to welcome perspectives that differ from my own.

And finally, no, I haven’t developed a thick skin. I don’t know that I want to, actually. I’m sure I could lose the sensitivity and thicken my skin, but I fear I might lose my empathy, and that’s something I treasure deeply. If that means that certain words or comments or reactions cut a bit deeper for me, I’m trying to learn how to embrace it.

Q: How do you choose which opportunities to accept and which to decline?

A: This answer ebbs and flows depending on the season I’m in, but lately I’ve been fiercely protective of my time and am in a steady decline mode. “No” is growing into a default these days, so for me to say “Yes!” right now, in this very string of moments, the opportunity needs to fill me, rather than deplete me. This can mean a number of things, on a number of levels, but I’ve grown accustomed to asking myself – prior to making a decision – will this opportunity (writing this post, accepting this interview, speaking at this event) allow me enough energy left over to be the mother/wife I want to be? If the answer is “No,” well, there’s my answer.

Q: What has been the best way to grow your audience?

A: I’ve experienced intermittent growth over the years, and have found that the most steady and increased growth has taken place when I’ve stayed true to myself. When I’ve put on my blinders and written from the heart, breaking the rules, processing my own thoughts if for no other reason than to untangle them to learn something deeper about myself, about this world.

Q: How do you recover from failure?

A: I cry, and then I walk into the kitchen and declare I will not be cooking dinner tonight and I dial for pizza. I talk to Ken over a glass of wine while Bee plays and/or sporadically interrupts, and then I tuck myself in early. I offer myself grace, and I pray for clarity, and I read a book, and I set my alarm to start anew the next morning. (It sometimes works.)

Q: What well-designed template or platform do you recommend for new bloggers?

A: My answer to this one depends on budget, site needs and skill levels, but I found myself recommending Squarespace again and again. Budget-wise, it’s just $8/month and you get a free domain if you purchase for the year. Plus, the platform offers virtually everything a blogger would need: content management, hosting, social integration, e-commerce and 24-hour customer support (this one’s a biggie for me!).

I’m a big fan of a clean, well-designed blog that’s simple to navigate, and each of Squarespace‘s award-winning templates (there are dozens!) are both elegant and powerful. The drag-and-drop functionality makes customization and site updates simple, plus the designs are responsive so they’ll look great on any device.

Also! If you’re a new blogger without a logo or are looking for a re-brand, Squarespace offers a free professional Logo Maker, which is endlessly helpful when brainstorming you or your brand’s presence. And for those interested in selling a product, every site comes with a free online store.

Long story short, I found myself sending bloggers left and right to start their 14-day free trial and play around a bit. (Feel free to do the same here and get 10% off with offer code MANKIND15!)

Tell me, do you have questions I haven’t answered? Happy to help!

p.s. Photos by Alt Summit; Portrait by Justin Hackworth.

  • Hello Erin ;)
    I found your blog about 2 months ago. And I love it. It was an immediate and strong reaction. Usually it takes me a while to really engage (or not) with a blog and decide if I want to add it to my regular round up, but yours just jumped out and bit me. I am a roaring fan already :). I have a quick question about Square space. I am with Typepad, and I really like it, but it seems square space offers a lot more customization, (plus the idea of the online store integrated with my blog is sooo appealing). I was wondering if you know anything about the process of transfering a blog from one platform to another, or if it is even possible. Thanks Erin!

    • Hi Mickie:

      Thank you for your super kind words – I’m so grateful for your sweet encouragement!
      I’m not much of a programming whiz, but I did a bit of research and it does seem like an easy enough transfer!!! Here’s a tutorial I found!:
      http://ericdfields.com/post/migrating-from-typepad-to-squarespace

      Also, I’ve had a great experience with the staff at Squarespace, so if you run into any hiccups, I’m sure tech support will kindly walk you through next steps. :) Can’t wait to see what you create!

  • Erin,
    I find myself wanting to remember a quote or two from every single one of your posts… even in a post like this that really doesn’t seem to apply to me (I am not at all looking for blogging advice), gems like this “will this opportunity (writing this post, accepting this interview, speaking at this event) allow me enough energy left over to be the mother/wife I want to be?” stick with me.

    Thank you for sharing your story… I find it so inspiring. My first child is due any day now, and I hope to approach motherhood as intentionally as you seem to, giving myself grace when my expectations aren’t met and staying true to myself as I juggle all of these new roles.

    • Oh thank you so much for that kind comment! And congratulations on your first pregnancy! Wishing you many moments of peace during delivery and after! :)

  • Hi Erin. Whenever I need a breath of fresh air, I jump onto your blog. Your lovely, down-to-earth approach to life is so inspiring.
    On Squarespace: I have to highly recommend! I am a magazine designer who had very little web design experience when I started my own business last year. I created my own website within weeks, from scratch, using Squarespace. The first few hours, I found difficult. I had to remind myself I was just beginning and could not expect to be an expert straight away! (Why do we put so much pressure on ourselves to be perfect?!) But as I worked away at it, I built my website! Squarespace is very user-friendly and the choice of templates is great.
    Thanks again for your wonderful blog.

    • Thank you sweet Andrea! And I totally hear you re: the learning curve and putting so much pressure on ourselves!!!! We can be such crazies, but in a beautifully maddening way. ;) Hugs to you!

  • I’m also a Squarespace user and just love it – their customer service team is maybe the best customer service team on the planet, which is great if you have an issue or question.

    On another note – I have to comment on your gorgeous writing. “I’ll stare…down at my hands to see my mother.” Beautiful words, beautiful sentiment.

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