It’s a new year and I like reflecting on where I’ve been and how far I’ve come over the last few years. I’ve been thinking recently about how my blog has impacted my life, and I can safely say that it has only improved it. Today, I’m going to tell you five things I’m better at thanks to blogging. Who knows? If any of you are considering starting a blog, maybe this will convince you to take the plunge!
Explaining Scientific Concepts
I’m sure I don’t always do this perfectly, but knowing that ANYONE can read what I post on my blog makes me think twice about how I explain things. I try to remember a phone conversation I had about a year into blogging with an 8-year-old who wanted to interview me for a school project. That kid was reading my blog – and understood it. That was a proud moment, and one that has stuck with me as a reminder that I have a very broad audience and shouldn’t talk (well, write) like a scientist. The best part: this has bled over into other parts of my life, which makes me a better teacher, a better speaker, and a better communicator overall.
When you start a blog, you are REALLY excited when you get your first view that isn’t your significant other, a friend, or family. Eventually, and ever so slowly, your blog takes on a life of its own. At some point, I suspect most bloggers think, “Wow, I’m getting 100 views a day and that’s awesome! I wonder how I can get more…” That’s when you start exploring what’s out there and you start to try new things. Maybe you start a Facebook page. Twitter, of course! Google+, why not? You update the look of your blog, start looking for ways to self-host so you can fully customize your site. You reach out to people everywhere, learning what grabs attention in a variety of online audiences. You start learning how to link everything together. You develop a brand and a voice for yourself. Eventually you look around and realize that, in addition to writing a blog, you manage a little social media empire and you’ve learned some mad marketing skills! And I don’t know about the rest of you, but I actually have to use the marketing and social media skills I’ve acquired through my blog in my job almost every day, so I’m very happy to have them.
This one should be a no-brainer! The more you write, the better your writing becomes. It gets easier too! Now, I’ll admit that I wrote a LOT before I started my blog. I love writing. That love for writing is a big part of why I was interested in starting a blog in the first place! But, writing has become easier and even more enjoyable since I started my blog and it’s because I’m practicing all the time.
Identifying Insects Outside of my Focal Groups
I draw a lot of inspiration for my blog from the chance insect encounters I have, strange things I’ve observed insects doing, or photos of cool insects I’ve taken. Most of my observations and photos aren’t that useful as blog posts if I don’t know what I’m looking at! I’ve said it before and will say it again: I am not a taxonomist and while I’m certainly better than most non-entomologists at identifying random terrestrial insects, I would bet that most entomologists are better at identification than I am. However, thanks to my blog and my desire to research the insects I want to write about, I have discovered many excellent online resources and books that have been a huge help. I am still pretty slow at identifying unfamiliar things, but I am getting better because I practice a lot. I wouldn’t do that if it weren’t for my blog.
This is the first photo I posted on my blog:
At the time, I was terribly proud of it. I had, only shortly before, gotten my first DSLR camera and I was convinced I was going to take amazing photos with it right out of the box. I had used a completely manual antique SLR film camera for years and had been taking a ton of macro insect photos with my first digital camera, so my Nikon D80 was going to revolutionize my photography! Yeah, not so much… at least at first. It took me ages to figure out how to make that stupid thing do what I wanted it to. I posted photos on my blog that I increasingly understood were mediocre, but they were the best I could do. I kept at it, but I eventually reached the limits of what I could teach myself and still wasn’t getting the shots I wanted. So I sought help by attending the first BugShot insect photography workshop in 2011. That one workshop did wonders! Then I attended two more and got a little better each time. I got to the point that I had to buy a better camera and lenses because the camera wasn’t good enough. The first photo of a dragonfly nymph I posted on my blog in 2009 looked like this:
Now it might look like this:
I’ve seen a HUGE jump in my photography skills, and it’s largely because I was posting photos on my blog that just weren’t making me happy. My blog pushed me out of my photography comfort zone early on and I am SO happy it did!
So those are 5 skills I’ve boosted significantly thanks to my blog. I’m curious: for the other bloggers out there who read this, what things have you gotten better at because of your blog? I’d love to hear some stories, so leave them in the comments below!