Where I am going with this blog?

Where am I going with this blog? Well firstly let me give you a history lesson in my blogging journey so far and then I will pick up the question that has just been posed.

I am entering my sixth year blogging yet I have nothing to show for my efforts. During the last five years, I have set up numerous personal blogs firstly on Blogger then the rest on WordPress. In-between those sites came a number of my niche sites writing about football. Add several social media accounts to go with those sites as well as email addresses not to mention a couple of different self hosting sites and you get a very mixed up picture. Why nothing to show for it, I hear you ask?

Well the problem with me appears to be the first sign of coming up against a brick wall and I chuck in the towel. If any of you have blogged for longer than five minutes you will have encountered the same issues as I.

Lack of views and follows on the blog. Whilst you really should not get hung up on the statistics (unless you want to earn money on a blog), WordPress`s dashboard kindly opens on the stats page so you cannot get away from seeing how few people have clicked on your site. You cannot help but feel that within a short space of time, those views should start increasing. Despite me telling myself that it is a marathon and not a sprint, I cannot help but get dismayed after six months my views have stagnated in the tens and not hit the hundreds per post. Yet I know that blogging is not an instant success and can take years and lots of hard work to get anywhere but that nagging doubt still surfaces soon enough.

Lack of interaction on social media. I have set up Facebook pages previously which have mainly been followed by my friends and family, which is nice of them however, my expectation was for those people to read every post I wrote, liked and commented on how good my posts were! When speaking to my friends in person, they would always comment on how much they liked my posts, yet that was never really reflected in notifications on social media. In the world of algorithms, you need people to click on the links and share because especially where Facebook is concerned, the post is usually only shown to around 25% of your followers. This is not good for small bloggers who need as much exposure as possible, but sadly these social media giants want you to pay for that privilege and reducing your exposure for not stumping up the cash is one way to get you to stump up cash.

One thing I enjoy is linking in with fellow bloggers and following their blogs. Sitting down with a coffee and reading other blogs in a morning is enjoyable, however finding blogs that I can relate to can be difficult. I have made the error of following niche’s that I have no interest in whatsoever like women writing about lifestyle, make up and young babies. It is difficult to find men like me who write about bits and pieces of their lives and not about getting the perfect body, beard care or daddy day care. Whilst many of those bloggers were very helpful, sharing and promoting my work, sadly we never had anything in common and my WordPress reader or social media newsfeeds were full of information I had no interest in. Thus making me want to walk away rather than tweak things.

I know the only person to blame is myself. I know all the pitfalls, errors I’ve made which makes you think I would be better at all of this by now, but sadly not.

I have great ideas yet I lack the time or motivation sometimes to execute those ideas. Realistically, if you wish to write good quality posts at regular intervals and have a strong social media presence, it takes patience and a hell of a lot of time, which I do not have. Many times I have thought if I was retired for instance, then my days would be spent on my blog and growing it. Yet when juggling full time work, a family, other hobbies and chores sadly the blog gets bumped down the pecking order and bang go any ideas of progress.

So back to the original question Where am I going with this blog?

Well, I would like it to go far with lots of quality posts, engagement and a good social media presence too. By that I mean that regular viewers, engaging on the site and on social media therefore creating a nice little online environment for me to enjoy with others. I am not after retiring and earning a living from the blog but some degree of regular interaction would be nice.

You only get out what you put in! This is where I accept I need to shrug off any defeatist attitude and knuckle down for the next year or two and stick things out. Not to rip things up only to start again a fresh six months later and losing all those original followers. I am often envious of those people who have the same site from years ago and are still writing away. Just think, after five years how much content I would have had on my site and what great relationships I may have grown?

So this time I have set up a blog twitter account and I am considering paying for a professional domain name and go self hosted. I am searching for like minded blogs to follow and thinking of good content to write. Rather than getting ahead of myself, the plan should be to do little and often and grow slowly. After all, Rome wasn’t built in a day. Wish me luck.

If you think I would like your blog, send me a link to your site and I will take a look. You never know, it could be the start of a wonderful (online) relationship!

Lazy Saturday Morning

After three 05.30am early morning alarm calls this week, it was a relief not to have to set my alarm and look forward to some sort of lie in this morning.

I was awoken by the sound of a howling wind rattling past our bedroom window which made me pull the duvet up and over my head as I snuggled deeper into the warm bed. Every now and then there were sounds of rain hitting the window and as I pealed open one eye to throw a stare towards my clock it was telling me it was still not time to get up.

I sunk deeper into the mattress and my thoughts turned to those years where I would be up early to take my boys to play football on Saturday mornings. All those trips to various towns, stood on a cold, wet, windy, sunny (delete as applicable) pitch cheering the boys on. Although I enjoyed my time watching them, after around twelve years I think I have earned the right to enjoy lie ins now.

Slowly but surely my brain starting to wake up even if I couldn’t open my eyes and I was aware of what was going on around me. My wife was snoring due to being full of a cold and needed nudging every now and then. Our dog, Lola was walking all over our heads telling us she was awake. Now where Lola is concerned, she is an 18 month old Chorkie (Yorkshire Terrier and Chihuahua cross) meaning she is tiny and does not shed any fur. This comes in handy when she sleeps on the bed with us. Our other dog, Trudy is much bigger and heavier being a whippet cross and she does still shed fur so she sleeps in the kitchen in her bed.

Before I knew it, my wife had woken and was getting dressed before jumping on the exercise bike which sits in our room. Thankfully she had made me a cup of tea and I dragged myself up, sipping on the brew which was just what I needed to bring myself round.

Once the caffeine kicked in and the morning sluggish feeling was shrugged off, it was time to get dressed and head off to the supermarket to collect the shopping we ordered online last night. You cannot beat a lazy Saturday morning.

Decisions, decisions

We make thousands of decisions per day and I suspect the majority of those turn out fine with no major hiccups. On a daily basis especially at work, I make many decisions, some minor some major ones usually in the blink of an eye and it comes very natural to me. However, my one hang up about myself is that I am horrendous when having plenty of time to make a decision. Let me expand.

A simple example would be when blogging. For the last 5 or so years I have written on blogs and for the most of that time I have enjoyed it. I wouldn’t still be here would I if I didn’t still enjoy tapping on my laptop? When it comes to a direction for my blog, how to grow it, use of social media, I struggle to make a solid decision.

I have previously had issues over privacy. Do I name myself, show my face on a profile, name my children,etc or do I hide under a pseudonym and remain anonymous? Instead of making a solid decision and sticking to it, I start off for instance being open then a few weeks or months down the line, I want to become anonymous. Thus confusing not only myself but my followers.

Another classic example being whether I have a dedicated social media account for my blog or use my personal ones to promote articles? Again this is a straightforward decision yet I make a dogs dinner of that and change my mind like the wind. All because I have the time to over think the idea and probably because I am a Gemini, I debate the pros and cons until the cows come home and my head hurts. Only to change my decision sometime afterwards. Argh!!

This behaviour has been one reason why you find me starting another new blog. My previous blogs have bitten the dust because the whole thing including decision making has drove me to delete the sites and leave all together. Only to return some time later and start again with a fresh mind. Then the same old decisions crop up again.

I dare say I am not alone in this predicament however, instead of making a solid decision and sticking with it, I seem to cock everything up. So please hear me out! I have started this blog mainly because I enjoying writing for myself and reading others work. My intention is to take it gently and not to set any target, just to enjoy blogging as a hobby not taking it too seriously. I have also created a twitter account for the blog, therefore keeping my private one away from my blog. This account can be found here https://twitter.com/ianhopeblog 

Rather than dive head first into social media and blogging, the plan is to “slowly slowly catchy monkey”. Rome wasn’t built in a day, so rather than race off at a million miles an hour, I plan to gently dip my toe back into the blogging world and enjoy why I do this, to write. Far too often I have gone crazy following so many other bloggers on Twitter and regretted it straight away because I have no connection with these people. Sorry but as a 44 year old male, I will be honest enough to say I have no interest in female lifestyle, make up, clothing and baby blogs. Motherhood, fatherhood, or any review blogs are just not my bag.

Maybe when my children were young babies things would have been very different but they are no longer in nappies and I cannot get excited at the thought of reading about little baby and their toilet habits. Please do not take this the wrong way but I would prefer to be honest with people.

On the other side, I accept that my blog is far from earth shattering. I have purposely decided not to post pictures whether rightly or wrongly in a visual world of Instagram and Pinterest, but I prefer you to like my posts because of the words and not just skin deep pictures.

Over the years I have read so many articles on how to develop and grow a successful blog or social media account but I choose not to join that rat race again. At the moment, I am perfectly happy to scribble down what is floating around in my head and dump it all on my blog. I am on the look out for “good reads” and blogs that interest me. So I plan to follow some as I find it as enjoyable reading others posts as much as writing my own.

There you go. If you have managed to make it down this far on the post, thank you. Hopefully, I will still be here in six months time writing on this blog. Let`s certainly hope so.

Going back to my youth

Isn’t it funny how you can find so many similarities between your children and when you were their age despite the decades that have passed? What brought this post on was my son, who is 12 years old wanted a dart board for his bedroom. Now I guess that I was that age when I wanted a dart board too off my dad. It evoked memories of me playing darts for hours on end in my room either on my own or quite regularly against my dad.

We played 501, 301 and round the board together. My room was directly above the living room and my parents could hear me walking back and forth to the board as I played all evening. A smile comes across my face when I think of all the small holes in the wall around the board where I missed with my darts. When you took the board off the wall, there was a perfect circle of dots left where you could tell the board had been. So all these memories came back when my boy wanted a board for his room.

Yesterday the board was delivered and I wasted no time in putting it up, finding the best place for it so we had enough room to play. Then before we knew it we had played for a couple of hours solid and I couldn’t believe his bed time had come around so quickly.

Today whilst cleaning his room, I couldn’t resist the chance to throw a few arrows. Only a few arrows became another twenty minutes gone and I had to stop myself before I spent all afternoon playing darts.

In an age where children play on electronic games and the digital world, you do not see older children with “toys”. I remember back in the late 1980s my first computer game was an old Atari. I didn’t get that until I was around 13 or 14 years old but I ended up playing donkey kong, pacman, pitfall,etc for hours and hours. I still had other games as well and spent a lot of time playing out with friends getting fresh air, yet today children often do everything with their friends online and not in person. So it was nice to see him embrace a real game and something we can do together, like when we ride our bikes or play football in the park.

Here`s hoping that we play a few more games tonight, I am sure I will not be disappointed.

Wonders never cease

Today was very different. Firstly, I had to be in Manchester city centre for work which meant taking the train instead of the car. Secondly it meant that I was not doing my usual job, this time it involved a lot of waiting around before proceedings could take place, which they never did but that is another story.

It is always nice to ditch the car and travel by train. There is something about train travel that I have always enjoyed, maybe because I am always fighting my way through traffic jams, train travel can feel quite liberating? The idea of being on my quaint local station waiting for the rattler to roll onto the station and head off into the city whilst listening to the train rattle along appeals to me. However, that illusion can often be shattered due to the lack of carriages, poor timetable, train staff striking and being jammed into a carriage like sardines. So this morning I set off in the car for the short drive to the station with a little trepidation.

Firstly, the small station car park is inadequate for the demand meaning you can often drive around looking for the smallest piece of land to park on. Then there is always the worrying glance at the station sign informing you how many minutes your train is delayed by. Thankfully all went well and I found myself having a choice of seats in which to rest my backside and I settled down for the twenty five minute journey into the city.

The one thing that amazes me about us human beings is the communities we live in and how very different they are despite being next door to each other. As the train drew out of the station, we pass through some lovely middle class housing. Some with huge gardens, several cars on the driveways, large bi-folding rear doors so you can see into the stunning kitchens of these properties. Most people are either getting ready to go to work or already on their way yet within half a mile you descend into a world completely opposite.

A large sprawling council estate with semi detached houses that have not been looked after by their inhabitants. The gardens look more like the council tip with rubbish and all sorts of broken items strewn around and left to gather mould. You cannot help but notice how you come from a clean and well kept neighbourhood to one where no one appears to care and people seem to happily live like pigs in muck. From people sat eating breakfast together in a clean, well lit kitchen to a lone woman crouched on the kitchen doorstep smoking her head off whilst she looks at her garden that you cannot see grass for all the rubbish piled up.

I cannot help but think that we have gone through an area of good employment, health,school attendance to one of poor employment, poor health, crime and deprivation, all in the blink of an eye. From aspiration to deprivation. Having worked in both of these type of communities, I have seen how people can be so motivated around work, school and attaining great things to people who cannot look after themselves properly. You see how children follow their parents lead, so if the parent has no aspiration to work and is happy to have enough money for beer and cigarettes every day and that is their lot in life, the children morph into their parents. How you ever break that cycle is beyond me because people have got to want to change and often they lack the drive to change.

I have realised that this post has developed into something much more than detailing my very average day but it was so striking this morning and stuck with me throughout the day.

And so once I had got through the chaos of the day, I made my way back to the train station via a coffee shop and once again managed to get a seat on the return train home. Twice in one day, who would have thought it? Wonders never cease.