Back-braking.

Back-braking.

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No, that isn’t a typo in today’s title. I have a point. It has to do with (1) my back and, (2) the art of “braking.” I suppose this type of blog post is what they call a “brain f**t” but I can’t bring myself to call it that. So let’s just call it another “study” in the art of making things blissful. OK? Ok.

I pulled my back the other week, see. It all began when I had a meeting at a cafe nearby, and had to bring Krista with me. I was alone, and waited for my husband to pick me up after my meeting was through. And so I carried Krista around in my sling, maybe for a good 40 minutes. I didn’t notice it of course until we got home and my shoulders ached. So I scheduled the home service masseuse to come and work on me that night, to relax me a bit.

Well, turns out I will never ever hire that masseuse again, because while she was massaging me she manipulated a nerve in my lower back, causing a small tearing of the muscles. I only felt it keenly, however, when I reached down the next day to pick up Krista from her high chair during Sunday brunch. Immediately, I felt this piercing pain course through me. It was awful, enough to keep me hunched over. I hated it!

For the next few days (well, whole of last week, actually!), I was mostly hunched over and wincing in pain. I couldn’t do anything around the house, and I felt so utterly useless. Thank God I had no important matters to attend to outside the house, but even doing the daily chores was torture. Here’s a glimpse into the mess in the kitchen, sigh!

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What’s worse is that I couldn’t take care of both kids a hundred percent of the time, with my usual faculties. I was instructed by my physical therapist to not lift anything, especially the baby (who now weighs a hefty 18.7 pounds at 6 months old). You can imagine how hard this was for me and her, being attached at the hip almost every day. (She is a high-need baby.) When it came to nursing, the only way to safely do so was to lie down on my side and nurse the baby that way, but everytime I’d go on my side, my back would twitch in pain. I seriously had no comfort, whether I sat down or lay down. It was awful!

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I received an email from my friend Maricel during the middle of the week, which gave me much comfort. She related the same kind of back problems that she used to have, and her empathy made me feel a lot better. Part of her email mentioned taking a rest, catching up on reading and just really slowing down and waiting for the healing to happen naturally, in time.

I back-read on some of the blogs I’d written in the past, like those about slow living and being less-hurried. Of course, the posts spoke keenly to be because it was like the injury pulled the brakes on my life, forcing me to just stop and be injured. What a weird thing to say, but it’s true: It’s like who I was in that moment was saying to just “be” in this state of helplessness and dependence on my loved ones and caregivers.

So that’s why I say it’s been a “back-braking” week.

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As of this paragraph, I’m much better. It’s been almost two weeks since the stupid strained muscle and nerve-pinching, and I am doing well. There is still a bit of back strain whenever I forget to stand up for a time, which explains the short spurts that I’ve been writing this blog post! I also have to go back to doing my back stretches to avoid sciatica, stretches that I’ve been lax about, hence, the injury. (OK, ok, so the masseuse isn’t to blame for my out-of-shape #mombod. I have no excuse for it!)

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Being injured and unable to do my usual tasks is always humbling. It was like a force beckoning me “halt!” and step on my brakes abruptly. It wasn’t just about schedules being screwed up and conveniently ordering take out. It was really a wake up call for several things, like slowing down (again, forever!) and getting back in shape (mea culpa!). I’ve actually been tapering down on work and on-location meetings in the city (too stressful to go through the traffic in Manila), but I realize that balance with the working at home also needs some “braking,” some thoughtful “stops” to our current methods. With every change that happens for the kids — Vito needing more attention in his homeschooling (despite how intentionally relaxed we are about it), Krista needing more attention now that she is on solids and starting to crawl —, changes also need to happen for Ton and me and the way we work and run the household.

Braking, when it’s in a moving vehicle, prevents, safeguards, protects. I’m seeing the parallel in our home and family and work life, too. My forced brake because of the back injury was protecting things like our family dynamics, the quality of rest that I needed. Now that I’m out of that hellish pain, I can look back at things with some kind of gratitude.

OK, now that I’m recovered, it’s time to get down to the real deal of strengthening my core again, working on my exercises again, and adjusting to the pace of life right now. I’ve had time to think and take stock. Now it’s time to live my next stage of normal.

Has an injury or illness ever forced you to “brake,” too? What insights did you have? Let’s talk about it in the comments, maybe?

How Blogging Changed The Woman In Me

How Blogging Changed The Woman In Me

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 By Louise Fandino of Mommy Practicality

I have already been fond of writing my thoughts and feelings long before The Backstreet Boys became popular.  Maybe it stemmed from having no sister to tell me daily adventures as a child.  Maybe when I was starting to have a crush I cannot contain my shiver-to-my-spine and butterfly-in-my-stomach feelings that I had to pen it on my diary.  The love for telling stories came early to me, unknowingly it would now be put to a good purpose through blogging.

I became active in blogging in 2012 when Mommy Practicality was emancipated.  Like most of the bloggers I talked to, it started as an outlet for me.  I badly needed a sustainable release or stress which will bring me back to sanity in the middle of my hectic day at work.  But as I persevered and relearned to love the craft, blogging no longer was just an outlet.  Blogging became a big part of me and it was a big part of the process of my development as a person, as a woman.

I could not thank heavens enough for leading me to this path, because it has brought positive changes in me, unimaginably.  Let me share to you how.

It first made me calmer.

Like what I said, blogging started as an outlet from a fast-paced work environment.  Blogging became therapeutic to me.  I got excited whenever I would open my blog and realize there were people reading what I wrote.  The excitement made me write more.  When I wrote more, it made me happy.  By being happy, not a big pressure at work could rattle me anymore.  I noticed I was calmer at handling people and things in my life.  This was the very first positive effect blogging had on me.  Next,

It pushed me to do better everyday.

DeathtoStock_Wired7Seeing that my first few entries were read by people I may know, but most I don’t, made me push myself to self-study the ins and outs of blogging.  I realized that blogging was not just about writing.  It’s meant to be shared.  It’s meant to be read by people who may be going through what I went through at that moment, and needed boost of encouragement or inspiration.  It made me want to reach out to more people.  Reaching out to more means optimizing my articles and using other sharing tools and social sites.  These didn’t come easily on my lap.  I studied them, I read a lot, I followed many successful bloggers and studied what they do which I may apply to my blog too.  I didn’t think that I could still better my bests, but I did.  These successful bloggers inspired me a lot to do my best, rather than made me feel insecure about where my blog was that time.  I invested in blogging to improve in my craft so I may be able to reach out to more people who may learn a thing or two from my blog.  This route also landed me a spot in Make It Blissful’s Blissmakers.  By being better at what I do, it led me to the next point…

It opened opportunities for me.

By persevering and working hard to come up with quality articles, slowly my blog became valuable to brands and I was asked to work with a few to become their ambassador.  The first digital representation of a brand was overwhelming.  I was in disbelief.  Brands I trust, I believe in and actually use were fortunately the brands I have worked with.  But the question remains in my mind up to this day, why me?  There were a lot more tenured and better writers than I am, why me?  Honestly, I am still puzzled.  Wonderful opportunities were opened.  Some I accepted and some I had to decline because I want to be honest to my readers and only tell them what I actually use or potentially would like.  The important lesson to me at this point is, you really reap what you sow.

It made me live my life more intentionally and purposely.

Believe me, there will come a time when a rave of brands would approach you to write about them, and you do because it’s an opportunity you think might not knock again.  But time will also come when you’re pushed to the wall and stressed out meeting deadlines here and there.  I didn’t want that.  It’s not all about the money or exposure.  You should go back to your core, the WHYs of your blog, the main purpose.  That’s what I did when it reached a certain point when I was a bit burnt out because of deadlines.  I realized it wasn’t inspiring anymore.  It wasn’t working for me anymore.  So before turning my back, I refocused.  I simplified.  I became more intentional and more purposeful about blogging.  I went back to the WHY of my blog.  As what my mentor Martine said, I was first a wifey and a mother, before I became a blogger.  So I had to prioritize.  I have to make blog schedules work around mine.  Since then, I slowed down.  And there isn’t anything wrong about not being able to produce a blog post every day as long as I am writing my heart out in my own perfect time, consistently and passionately.  It relieved me of the blogger’s burnt out.

It connected me to like-minded, inspiring, and positive women

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It helped a lot to be connected to a caring and empowering community.  Not one that only cares about what they got from brands A,B, and C.  Not one that competes with one another.  I was thankful I had an early discernment to choose the community I would want to take part in.  I am thankful I was led to the women who would inspire me to do better, be better and be myself.  Being a Blissmaker and meeting these other wonderful women made me discover a lot more potential in myself that I never thought I still have.  We all need this kind of women in our lives.  Inspiring, helpful, intentional, positive and who would be sincerely happy for your achievements.

I prayed and gave more.

I am grateful for every opportunity that blogging had given me.  Be it monetary or products, I see them as blessings and not just a privilege.  The more I received, the more I had a sense of responsibility to find a way to be able to give back, in any simple way I can.  It could anywhere between helping other bloggers who needed some tips or donating to the community or helping friends in needed.  I felt I am here for a purpose, to use my position to be able to help to others and give back to our Creator.  With this, I became more reflective, more socially responsible, giving, and unstoppably thankful to HIM.

As I continue to blog, I still discover and experience so many wonderful changes in me.  I know that I am still being molded to be able to do more for others.  I became surer of myself which made me love myself more sans the imperfections.  There is a certain acceptance that no matter how flawed I am as a wife, a mom, a blogger, a partner or a woman, I am still loved and appreciated by the people that matter in my life.  Through blogging, I learned how to simplify, to stop and smell the flowers, to be more intentional, to be more helpful, to be more appreciative of what I have, and to give back by being of service to others.

These are some of the changes that blogging has brought to me as a woman.  If you also blog, do share by commenting how blogging has changed you.

How to Find your Unique Blog Voice

How to Find your Unique Blog Voice

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By Ginger Arboleda of Mommy Ginger

I remember back in 2005, there were just a few people who were into blogging. I noticed that in 2008, that’s when people started picking up the trend and they started creating their own blogs. Nowadays, blogging has become prolific. It seems like each individual that I have come across either has a blog or wants to have one, which I think is great.

Why? Personally, I think blogging is a great way of achieving an objective (whatever that objective may be).

I have come across bloggers who blog because they just want to journal their own experiences. Others write about their experiences with a loved one. Others use their blog to document travels or the unique places that they’ve been to. Some write about gastronomical experiences while other use their blogs to promote their businesses.

Whatever your objective may be, you need to find your own unique blog voice — a voice that will be heard above all the ‘noise’ around. Some people have a difficult time fathoming the idea of having a unique voice, but it really isn’t that complicated. Each of us were created uniquely with our own set of strengths, skills, gifts, weaknesses and flaws. No man or woman is exactly like the other (yes, even twins!). So with this, it is impossible that your blog will exactly be like another person’s blog (unless you really intentionally copied someone else’s blog).

Now that you know your objective for building your blog, you need to find that unique voice. In finding your unique blog voice, I always go back to these three things:

1. Get to know yourself better.

Try to record yourself and listen to the way you talk, especially when talking about something related to your objective. Oftentimes, your writing style is related to the way you convey messages. I remember, I have always been reprimanded at work for speaking too much, and I’ve noticed that I also write long articles. What I do, since I know this fact about me, is that I go through my articles again and try to edit and simplify them. Also, ask people to read some of your articles and comment on your tone and style of writing. Feedback helps a lot in looking for your unique blog voice.

2.  Find your niche.

Think of the people that you want to speak to using your blog. Who will benefit from reading your blog? You should really try to think and analyze what type of people will take the time to read your blog on a daily basis and who are these people who will subscribe to your mailing list to receive updates. Then, once you have a clear idea of who these people are, think of them when you start writing.

3. Don’t overthink your blogging.

The beauty about writing for blogs is that you can be who you really are. You don’t have to put up a show and appear like a writing expert. Successful blogs for me are those that can poke emotions out of its readers. If you can make me cry, or laugh or even feel annoyed with you, then you have moved me and touched me.

I’ve been a blogger for 9 years (personally writing for 3 blogs) and the best thing about it for me is that I can always turn to my blogs to write and express how I feel. I have been enjoying the ride and I don’t think I will ever stop blogging. I’ve made mistakes in the past, and have learned from them. I’ve noticed that if you are clear with what your objective is, if you are clear on what your personal brand is and if you deliver messages in your own unique voice, you will be a blissful blogger who stands-out!

For more tips on how to find your voice, do check out the FREE 4-part blogging course here on Make it Blissful, on “creating a meaningful blog,” where Martine gives some great step-by-step tips. 

Blogging Blissfully, On Purpose

Blogging Blissfully, On Purpose

By Louise Fandino of Mommy Practicality

This is dedicated to all the bloggers, both new and tenured who want to find inspiration, focus and purpose on your online craft.

Do you remember the first few posts on your blog when you happily hit the post button after finishing the article?  It felt so fulfilling and you even wore a proud grin of accomplishment that you indeed finished one!  You even wondered, will anyone read this?  And you didn’t mind if it was read by a few as long as there was at least one reader (who usually is your mom or your husband or your best friend.)

Recalling how I was starting out as a blogger, I would write about anything that concerns being a mom.  Back then, my only objective was to keep on creating content for the blog.  I didn’t even check regularly the count of hits per post.  Admittedly, my posts were like haywire, going in all directions and in no order.  It didn’t have focus.

The only thing that was clear that time was my PURPOSE.   My purpose for blogging, for creating those content, and for staying up late sometimes just to share my experiences on motherhood, relationships, and practical life choices.

I have three: To Inform, To Inspire and To Empower.

Now, as I matured through my blogging journey, I am happy to say that I practice regular curating of my blog posts.  All leading towards my blogging purposes.   I am still a work in progress because learning should be continuous and never stop.   I also admit to being lazy and unmotivated on occasions, but I shake up and remind myself that I am accountable now to the readers who regularly check my blog and wait for post updates.   I’ve been asked by many this question: “How, in your busy life, do you still manage to blog and actually come up with inspirational, blissful posts?”  Let me answer that question with this short blogging list.

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How To Keep Blogging Blissfully On Purpose, Even When You’re Busy

1.  Know your purpose.

Take time to find the WHY of your blog.  This way, all your posts will lead you back to that mission of your blog.  This will be the heart and soul of your online home which then becomes your unique identity.

2.  Know who you want to talk to.

Do you write just because you want to share about your child’s development or pregnancy journey?  Do you write about your fondness of children’s parties or love for DIYs and crafts?  When you write about topics close to your heart, then more or less you already have an idea who you are targeting to talk to.  These are people who like you, are interested in what you are interested in.  When you know your target, talk to that reader in mind like how you converse with a friend over coffee.   When you actually “talk” to your readers there will be a certain connection that links you to them.

3.  Be Real.

Showing who you really are in your posts does not equate to revealing everything about you and your family’s life to the public.  It’s your blog and it’s your decision to write as much or as little as you want about your personal life.  Being real is also not trying hard to sound like somebody else.  It is not trying to write like somebody else’s tone.  Being real is writing using your own voice.  Your voice is how you should communicate your message to your readers which is uniquely you.  Ask yourself when reading your draft, “Is this how I talk?”  If yes, then you’re doing it correctly.

4.  Be Intentional.  

After knowing the WHY of your blog, your target readers, and your voice, you should also know the WHY of your blog post.  What is your intention for writing that new post?  Is it to preach?  Is it to teach?  Is it to promote something you believe in?  Know it, use your unique voice when you write it, then post it.

5.  Find the silver lining at all times.  

No bloggers’ life is perfect, that is a fact.   But as stated in #3, it’s your prerogative to write about your life challenges or not.   It’s your blog, you own this online home.  But should you decide to write about some challenges you overcame, make sure you find the silver lining in your life’s downs and share the learning of that moment.  Write with the intention of inspiring and giving hope.  Don’t end your post that will leave your readers feeling down, sad or worse, depressed.  Find a way to still blog blissfully amidst life’s uncertainties.

6.  Find Time.  

Busy?  Who isn’t?  As a working mom, I’m in the office more than eight hours a day for five days a week.  I get up early everyday to prepare my son for school.  When I get home from work, I spend time to check assignments and lessons, prepare dinner, play with the little one and bond with the hubby.  I only get two whole days off from work to still spend quality time with the family and a little time for myself.  So how in my busy life do I manage to make time to blog?  I find time.  Like how I find time for the office, I make blogging a part of my life and find time to do it.  If you are passionate about something and really LOVE what you are doing, you’ll find time.  You’ll make an extra effort to set aside time to pour your heart into what you are blogging about.  Just like this post.  All heart into the content.

Are you now ready to start on a new blog post?  Remember to write purposely with all your heart.  Nothing’s going to keep you from writing that inspiring and powerful content for your readers.  When you blog with passion, believe me, you have found your writing bliss.   This is what blogging blissfully is all about. Happy blogging loves!

Don’t forget to check out Martine’s very useful and FREE Blog Series: How to Create a Meaningful Blog, right here on MakeitBlissful.com!

4 Causes of Bloggers’ Burnout and their Solutions

4 Causes of Bloggers’ Burnout and their Solutions

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Perhaps — like me — you’ve encountered “bloggers’ block” or blogging burnout. You know, when you sit at your computer, open your blog’s dashboard, and stare at an empty screen wondering why you began the blog in the first place and what the hell  you should write about next? You know: Those days.

(I wrote about this some time ago, so it happens from time to time: How to Let Go of Blogging Burnout)

What causes “bloggers’ burnout”?

1. Running out of topics and inspiration. As a writer, I know what it’s like to run out of ideas. It’s a frustrating place to be in! After five years of blogging, I can understand this. Sometimes you feel like ideas escape you, or you have too many in mind that you can’t escape stressing over them. As a result you don’t get anything done!

Solution: Talk to someone about possible blogging topics you haven’t thought about. There’s power in brainstorming, and also in accountability. This is why some people hire me, for instance, for blog coaching: I’m like their blogging “cheerleader,” encouraging them to blog their new ideas, or ideas we’ve worked on together.

2. Beginning and never finishing. Some bloggers use this strategy: They fill up their “drafts” folder with a load of topic ideas, hoping to one day return to those drafts and make something of them. The result? An almost impossible batch of unfinished posts, and a frustrated blogger.

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Some helpful advice on always having something to write.

It’s happened to me. It still does, sometimes! I’d get excited about ideas, jot them down, start writing about them, save them for later. Then, new ideas pop in, I start writing about those before I’ve even finished a previous draft from a previous topic or idea. This cycle of getting distracted by new topics and not finishing previously-begin blogs can be a problem.

Solution: Stick on just one or two topics a week, and be willing to throw away some ideas if you can’t get started writing about them. Be willing to work with a few ideas that you can really chew on, think about and process. Try taking photos to go with the blog post, or creating some art to go along with the post. Changing the pace and flavor of your blog post can help jumpstart you to finish it and publish it with pride.

3. No dedicated time for blogging. This is perhaps the most challenging block of all. See, a lot of bloggers blog “on the side,” and therefore see blogging duties as an afterthought, something to be done “when I have the time.” Trust me when I say that you will never find the time to blog — not unless you make time for it on purpose. I used to blog on the fly, but when I decided I needed to seriously build my blog up, I knew I had to treat it as seriously as I did the other parts of my life.

Maybe you need a change of scenery? Eat out and blog, perhaps?

Maybe you need a change of scenery? Eat out and blog, perhaps?

Solution: If you’re serious about blogging, you’ll create time to complete your blog posts. A lot of bloggers’ block comes from not being intentional about your writing and posting times. We have to set specific times per week to blog, to proofread our drafts, to edit them, add a photo maybe, and finally hit “publish.” For me, this means three weekday evenings, usually. For you, it might mean weekend mornings at the coffeeshop, or some other setup that works for you. Whatever works, do it. Creating a time for blogging has to be part of your system and schedule. Otherwise, blogging will just fall by the wayside.

4. Boredom. Yes, you can simply be bored over your blog and not have the motivation to put any effort into it. Trust me on this as well: It happens more often than you think! And, the solution to boredom is always the same: Make things exciting!

Solution: There are many causes for blogger boredom, so you must tackle the causes with a specific solution.

    • If you’re bored because looking at your blog feels like looking at the same outfit for the past year, then maybe it’s time for a blog revamp, even a small one. Improving the look of your blog could get you back into an inspired groove to blog again. (I know it works for me, since I change the design of my blog every year!)
    • If you’re bored by your blogging routine, then think about switching up your blog’s content and topics. Maybe you want to explore a new topic area, or launch a fresh new blog series and feature. Changing topics or adding fresh ones can often give you a boost of inspiration for new blog post ideas. Give it a try!

So, these are just a few of the ways you can “cure” that blogger’s block or burnout. I’m sure there are more, and if there are any you’ve tried, please do share them in the comments. Meanwhile, I’d like to invite you to attend my next workshop, “How to Get Rid of Blogging Burnout,” this coming September 13 (Saturday) and 25 30 (Tuesday). We’ll actually be dealing with the causes and solutions to writers/bloggers’ block, and we’ll be learning effective strategies from the online publishing world on how to keep going on our personal blogs and websites. (Interested? Hop on over to www.makeitblissful.com/workshops and sign up now)

Blissful Blogging 101 and Quotes to Inspire You to Keep Blogging

Blissful Blogging 101 and Quotes to Inspire You to Keep Blogging

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Our threads in the Make it Blissful Bloggers Mastermind are getting more and more interesting, thanks to the influx of fresh members who are excited to take their blogging journey seriously. I always say during my workshops that blogging is not for everyone. If you’re not willing to give the time and effort it takes to create great content and nurture your community of readers and followers, then you will likely be in danger of faltering, or failing to blog altogether.

I should know. I had like five or so blogs before I created one that really meant something for me. Even with the small successes of my first “real” blog, Dainty Mom, I felt like I had only scratched the surface.

Blogging has always been a study for me, not just something fleeting on the side. If it was something silly or trivial, I would not have invested in so many courses and mentorships over the last two years, haha! Thankfully, those have all experienced an ROI beyond anything monetary (although I’ve made a good income, by and by.)

Last June 14th, fifteen ladies got to experience a crash course in building a blog. We talked about the many different kinds of blogs that they could create, the different methods and designs they could try, but I stressed one thing: This blogging this takes real work.

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In the spirit of encouragement (especially after reading some of the concerns in the Mastermind group), I wanted to give my fellow blog belles (what we call each other in the workshop) a bit of motivation for their blogging efforts. It’s easy to start a blog, even for free, but it’s not easy to maintain a consistent blog, not without passion, purpose and a plan. If we’re going to succeed in blogging — or in any venture at all, for that matter — we have to plan our steps, work according to our purpose, and stay passionate. And so, I’ve compiled a few tips for bloggers in a rut or new bloggers, all inspired by some quotes by some pretty awesome trailblazers themselves.

“You could have a million ideas; they are worthless if you don’t get them done”. — Lauren Amarante

What does this mean? This means just start writing those blog posts. A list of topics and ideas is useless without you putting them to work. Sometimes the best blog posts come when we write in the moment. For those who aren’t “programmed” to write, this might be challenge. But writing like any other skill is best honed when done, when practiced. Sometimes you won’t have a perfect blog post: That’s OK! Just start something, as my friend Yeng always says.

“Blogging is to writing what extreme sports are to athletics: more free-form, more accident-prone, less formal, more alive. It is, in many ways, writing out loud.” — Andrew Sullivan

Taking off from the point above: Blogging isn’t rocket science. It is meant to be experimental, to be “alive”, in the moment. There’s no magic formula to blogging success except to keep at it. And when you keep at it, you seek growth, improvement, you are impassioned to keep doing better.

“Don’t focus on having a great blog. Focus on a blog that’s great for your readers.” — Brian Clark
“A blog is only interesting as the interest shown in others.” — Lee Odden

Blogging flows from within you, but never forget that if you want to build up that blog, you have an audience to consider. When you love your readers, when you are real with them and they know you to be genuine and authentic, that’s when your blog becomes “great for your readers.” Just ask some of the most successful bloggers out there. It’s not the number of endorsements, brand partnerships or traffic that “makes” them as a blogger. You are only as good a blogger as your readers make you. Be grateful for them. Give back to them. Make sure that when they leave your blog, they have a great experience.

These blogging quotes were from a wonderful article at Income Diary. Check out the full article for inspiration! And, if you want to join my next Blissful Blogging 101 Workshop, there are still a handful of slots left for July 5th! Sign up here: www.makeitblissful.com/workshops