What Marcus Aurelius Can Teach Us About Blogging

Six months after I launched BookerTalk I was ready to throw in the towel.  To be honest with you, I’d made the classic errors of most blogging newbies: 

I didn’t have a clear purpose for the blog. Just a half-formed idea I would blog about my project to read all the Booker Prize winners. 

I didn’t have a plan for when and how often I’d post.

I didn’t understand the mechanics of blogging. Categories and tags were a mystery. The difference between a post and a page escaped me. And what the hell was a ‘slug”? 

The result? 

Frustration.  It took me hours just to post one piece of content. Hours I didn’t have to spare when I was also working full time, frequently away from home on business trips and also trying to maintain an exercise regime. 

I came close to deleting all my content and closing my WordPress account. 

What stopped me? 

First I started getting a few comments. Just one or two per post. Small fry I know but they were enough to make me feel that I wasn’t entirely whistling in the wind. Unfortunately they didn’t resolve my struggles with the technicalities of WordPress.

Marcus Aurelius Has The Answer

Marcus Aurelius came to my rescue. Not in person of course, but in the words of wisdom captured in his book Meditations.

Don’t be ashamed to need help. Like a soldier storming a wall, you have a mission to accomplish. And if you’ve been wounded and you need a comrade to pull you up? So what?

Those last two words nailed it for me. If I asked for help from some established bloggers, what was the worst thing that could happen? Even if they said no, I’d have lost nothing.

None of the bloggers I approached did say no. Not one of them sent me packing or made me feel my questions were naive. Each and every one of them was generous with their time and their expertise.

I came across that quote from Marcus Aurelius again last week and it got me thinking. What if I created a space on this blog for bloggers to ask for help? A space where we can use the Wisdom of crowds concept to help new and experienced bloggers solve problems, explore new ideas and become more productive.

I know you can find thousands of blogging tips already on line. You can just do a Google search or check out one of the experts I listed in an earlier post. You’ll certainly get answers to your questions about blogging in general. But you won’t find it as easy to get answers to specific questions about book blogging.

I loved doing the A2Zofbookblogging series earlier this year; especially the contributions made by so many bloggers who had particular knowledge and expertise to share.

Open Invite To Book Bloggers

I’m going to continue that series. But I’m also going a step further and throwing the door open to any book blogger who has a question or a challenge.

Maybe your question is about attracting more comments on your content. Perhaps you’re wondering if it’s OK to post content on books you didn’t enjoy. Or you’re looking for content ideas beyond reviews and book hauls.

Whatever your question, don’t be afraid to ask. I don’t claim to be an expert in the field of blogging. But I promise you I’ll do my best to help. And I’m sure that if I don’t know the answer, there will be plenty of other bloggers who do.

We may not be storming walls when we blog, but Marcus Aurelius can still teach us that it’s futile to struggle alone when all we have to do is ask for help.

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

How To Ask For Help

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Use the comments section on this post to share your question about blogging. Or explain a particular challenge you face. Make sure to include a link to your blog. If your challenge is with a particular feature on your blog, include a link to the relevant page.

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BookerTalk

What do you need to know about me? 1. I'm from Wales which is one of the countries in the UK and must never be confused with England. 2. My life has always revolved around the written and spoken word. I worked as a journalist for nine years then in international corporate communications 3. My tastes in books are eclectic. I love realism and hate science fiction and science fantasy. 4. I am trying to broaden my reading horizons geographically by reading more books in translation

47 thoughts on “What Marcus Aurelius Can Teach Us About Blogging

  • July 28, 2020 at 9:20 am
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    This is such a brilliant initiative Karen – thank you.

    Speaking from bitter experience, having accidentally deleted the whole of Shiny New Books a few months ago and I am still rebuilding, a post about backing up blogs, exporting blogs, and sharing awareness that moving from WP.com to WP.org and WP hosted to self-hosted will delete things would be great.

    Reply
    • July 29, 2020 at 5:39 pm
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      Those are brilliant topics Annabel, thank you for the ideas. I will likely come back to you and ask you to share your experience and include that in the posts as a way of reinforcing why this is important

      Reply
  • July 25, 2020 at 7:02 pm
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    At the end of May 2020 I changed from a WordPress.com hosted blog to being self-hosting. (I’ve been blogging since 2014.) Suddenly a world of plugins are open to me. There are lots of posts out there about which ones “every blogger should have” but it’s daunting.
    It’s been a steep learning curve and very much trial and error. Would be great to add some “Plugin” posts to your A to Z Blogging Tips series.

    Thanks in advance,
    Flora x

    https://florasmusings.com

    Reply
  • July 23, 2020 at 6:29 am
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    Good on you, Karen! Reading this post and the comments has given me a big fat smile. Nothing to ask of you (yet! though I’m sure the day will come…), just wanted to give you a back-slap and a high-five for being so awesome. 😁❤️

    Reply
  • July 21, 2020 at 8:23 pm
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    Thanks for becoming such a useful source for blogging help. But what I really want to say is this: Remember that when you refuse to ask for help, you deny someone the opportunity to be helpful.

    Reply
  • July 17, 2020 at 11:39 am
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    I was lucky when I started blogging that two or three bloggers I had been following and commenting on jumped straight over and gave me lots of support. But yes I struggled with ‘categories’ & ‘tags’ for months. I would like to delete all my categories now and start again.

    Reply
    • July 17, 2020 at 10:09 pm
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      You can easily change each categories and apply the change to all posts that use the category. Do you know how to do that?

      Reply
      • July 18, 2020 at 2:10 am
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        Thanks Karen. No. But if I know it’s possible I’ll work it out.

        Reply
  • July 16, 2020 at 11:05 am
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    Love this idea, and it is very generous of you! But I do have to ask…what the hell is a slug? I’ve been blogging for years but I don’t think I have heard that term before!

    Reply
    • July 16, 2020 at 4:49 pm
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      Hi Marg, I know how you feel about the terminology we come across in blogging. There’s something new every day it seems. Anyway a slug is the part of a URL which identifies a particular page on a website in an easy to read form. In other words, it’s the part of the URL that explains the page’s content. For example, the URL of my latest post is https://bookertalk.com/agatha-raisin/ The slug is agatha-raisin. Does that help?.

      Reply
  • July 16, 2020 at 5:00 am
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    This is a great idea and very kind of you. I am particularly just a beginner in this and it feels amazing knowing there’s a group of people willing to help me through this journey. I’ll sure reach out for help if need be. Thank you!

    Reply
    • July 16, 2020 at 4:52 pm
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      We were all beginners once so don’t hesitate to ask for help when you get stuck

      Reply
  • July 14, 2020 at 8:16 pm
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    Lovely idea, thanks.
    I haven’t taken the time to check out the new WP Editor and frankly, I’m a bit worried about it.

    Reply
    • July 16, 2020 at 4:53 pm
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      Hi Emma, it’s honestly not something to worry about. First few times you use it will feel strange inevitably but you soon get the idea.

      Reply
  • July 14, 2020 at 5:28 pm
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    A wonderful offer. If WordPress forces blockeditor upon us, you may well find me bleating piteously in your mailbox. I tried the new block system before and didn’t like it, so went back to the original system.

    Reply
    • July 15, 2020 at 10:48 am
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      In Settings the WordPress app you can — at the moment — specify whether you want the classic editor or the new (starting a new blog defaults to the block editor). I’m not a technodinosaur but it seems to me if something ain’t broke why fix it except for the sake of novelty?

      Reply
      • July 16, 2020 at 4:56 pm
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        I don’t think it was fixing anything that was broken. The reason for the change is that the new editing mode gives a lot more flexibility without having to learn coading – that’s what a lot of bloggers wanted

        Reply
        • July 16, 2020 at 5:05 pm
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          That’s fair enough, Karen, so long as those who find the classic editor fit enough for their purposes aren’t denied the choice of continuing with it (though that’s me being both lazy and a curmudgeon!).

          I’m generally happy to swap from from the visual editor to text editing to do some fine tuning but that might be others’ choice; and, to be clear, I’m all in favour of innovative ways of approaching an existing set-up!

        • July 17, 2020 at 10:17 pm
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          The choice is still there for now – whether it will go away in the distant future is another matter of course,

    • July 16, 2020 at 4:55 pm
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      It won’t be forced on you in the near future – WordPress is still giving you the ability to use the classic editing mode – it’s just that there isn’t technical support for it. What didn’t you like about the block editor Alison?

      Reply
  • July 14, 2020 at 12:26 pm
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    What a lovely offer, Karen. It took me around six months for comments to appear, too. A useful thing for new bloggers to know when it looks as if everyone else has acquired a loyal following apart from you. I’m glad you stuck with it.

    Reply
    • July 14, 2020 at 5:26 pm
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      I don’t know if you’ve seen the film Jules and Julia where one of the main characters starts a blog and goes bananas when she gets her first real comment. I remember that feeling 🙂

      Reply
  • July 14, 2020 at 9:17 am
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    Read this with interest as I blog, but about wild flowers. The problems are similar! Keep going!

    Reply
    • July 14, 2020 at 5:27 pm
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      At least flowers can’t complain about what you’ve written 🙂

      Reply
  • July 14, 2020 at 8:38 am
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    A nice and very generous thing to do! I may come to you when I finally have to make the change to block editor!!

    Reply
    • July 14, 2020 at 5:28 pm
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      I really hope you do Karen, my first attempt at block editing was a disaster. But second time around I found it much easier and I love it now

      Reply
    • July 14, 2020 at 5:28 pm
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      Thanks Rosie. Not that I’m expecting you to ask any questions – you could teach me a thing or two (or five or ten) I know

      Reply
  • July 14, 2020 at 1:28 am
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    I have always found many bloggers to be lovely and helpful. That is probably why I follow certain ones especially. I only use my blog as my personal journal so don’t care if I have regular followers though I do enjoy the ones who do follow and see them as friends receiving letters, like a penpal. I publish frequently at times or not at all so I never feel harassed but I know more serious bloggers have different expectations. Your blog is lovely and I’m sure many enjoy it. It surprises me how many people follow blogs but never interact. It just makes me curious but then there are a couple I follow yet never comment on mainly due to time restraints to establish another “relationship”.

    Reply
    • July 14, 2020 at 5:31 pm
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      I love that idea of seeing other bloggers and commenters as penpals. It’s great that we can strike up friendships with people we’ve never met (probably never will do). When they don’t blog for a while you get to worry that something has happened…

      Reply
  • July 14, 2020 at 12:08 am
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    Great idea and a very generous offer Karen! I have sooo appreciated two bloggers who reached out to me when I didn’t even know I was down! 😂 One noticed that my twitter share option wasn’t working and another noticed my Gravatar wasn’t linked to my website when I left comments. They each stuck with me and helped troubleshoot until I resolved the issues. I love the blogging community and I’ll help wherever I can! I’ll need help when I finally am forced to use block editor! Right now I’m doing a work around and copying an old post as a template! 😂😂😂

    Reply
    • July 14, 2020 at 5:33 pm
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      Those two bloggers are treasures indeed. Don’t be afraid of block editor – its really not as difficult as you think it will be and it has some fantastic tools and functions.

      Reply
      • July 14, 2020 at 8:24 pm
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        I keep thinking “this is the week for block editor” and then I procrastinate another week!

        Reply
        • July 16, 2020 at 4:57 pm
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          Go on, I dare you to set a deadline and give it a go. I’ll be around if there are any tears that need to be shed on shoulders 🙂

        • July 16, 2020 at 5:24 pm
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          Thanks for the encouragement and support! 🙌🙌🙌

  • July 13, 2020 at 11:50 pm
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    As you feature a quote from a philosopher I wonder if you can answer this philosophical question, unless it turns out to be merely rhetorical: Why is it that posts I lavish the most care over frequently get the fewest comments? And the jokey ones I polish off in almost as little time as it takes to read it overwhelm me with an avalanche of responses?

    But I think I may have answered my own question…

    Reply
    • July 14, 2020 at 5:41 pm
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      Great question! but no easy answers! It will be good to feature this Chris because I’m pretty sure many bloggers have the same question.
      .

      Reply
    • July 28, 2020 at 9:17 am
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      I have wondered similarly. I think it’s because it is so much easier to join in the conversation on a non-specific book review. When you’re discussing a particular book, the main conversation will come from those who’ve read it already which may be limited. Otherwise, saying you’d like to read it/don’t fancy it can feel too trite for many to comment. Whereas a book list post – everyone has an opinion on those!

      Reply

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