Social Media: Blogging: Get Writing

Now that you have ideas and topics for blog posts it’s time to get started with the actual writing.  Where do you begin?

I like – make that love – to start with various stages of a technique that’s called Free Writing.  In fact, I’d say that I start most of my writing projects – even my blog posts – this way.  If you’ve read The Artists Way by Julia Cameron you’ll be somewhat familiar with this.  She refers to it as “The Morning Pages” – every morning you sit down and write three pages about whatever is on your mind.  Bare your soul and make room for creativity.  Free Writing is somewhat like that but a bit different.  It’s more creative and the outcome is often the beginning of something you will use.

Free Writing, by definition, is really quite simple, as you will see. It can be an amazing basis for inner discovery.  You can find new ideas for your art and yourself.  It can be a great place to gather your thoughts, or (as in the case of the “Morning Pages”) it can simply be a place to unload.  Free Writing is also known as Stream Of Consciousness writing. Here’s how to get started.

1. Get your favorite writing implement(s).  You can even use a crayon if you think it will open your creativity. I type rather fast so I like to use the computer.  Sometimes I start to get inspired in a cafe or on public transportation so I carry my iPhone and something to write on just in case.  You can use a sketch pad, an iPad, paper, whatever you like.  Just make sure it’s fun and comfortable.

2. Get into your most comfortable spot.  An armchair in your living room or den. I know some writers who can’t write at home so they go to cafes and coffee bars.  Some writers create a special place in their homes for writing – even if it’s just a desk in a quiet spot overlooking a beautiful landscape.  It can be a place dedicated to writing in your studio.  It has to be a place that you look forward to going to because you’ll want to do this again and again.

3. Set a time limit – 10, 20 or 30 minutes.

4. Start Writing.

There are two rules to follow. Don’t worry they’re not hard and fast.

• You are only allowed to pick up your writing implement to make space between words.  If you feel stuck say it.  “I don’t know what to write about? What should I write? I’m stuck.” Just keep going and I promise something will come out of it.

• Do not worry about grammar, punctuation or editing.  Don’t let that impulse to self censor get in the way.  Editing will come later.

• No one else has to ever look at it.

You don’t have to have a topic in mind to start writing but in the case of blogging you may want to.  For example: Pull out a painting or drawing and write about it for that set amount of time.  Whatever comes into your mind about it is okay.  Even if you don’t like it – maybe this will help you figure out why.  You’ll be amazed at what comes out.

After you finish and take a bit of a break, read it to yourself (preferably out loud).  This can be empowering because you will see that you can write and write well and that’s the key to great blog content and great blog content is the key to getting followers.

Social Media: Excellent Example Of A Blog Post

I want to share this excellent example of a blog post from Linea – the publication of the Art Students League Of New York.  It’s one of the Art Students League’s most popular instructors speaking about the three most important tools in her studio.  It’s fascinating. It’s compelling.  Read and be inspired!

Screen Shot 2015-06-25 at 6.06.18 PMhttp://www.asllinea.org/tools-of-the-trade-art-sharon-sprung/

Social Media: More Ideas For Blog Posts

The content of your posts should be compelling and engaging.  I cannot say it enough so I want to give you even more ideas and inspiration for your posts.

Answer Common Questions About Your Art
Do you hear the same questions again and again – when you’re at a gallery, on email, on Social Media – about your art. This could be your place to provide the answers. When someone asks the same question the next time, you can simply refer them to this post on your blog.

Make An Announcement
It could be an upcoming exhibit, an event, an achievement, even something that’s important to your career.  A milestone.  Put the announcement in the “Subject” and elaborate in the text area.

Host a Question and Answer Session
Interview a viewer of your art, interview a buyer or collector, interview a teacher or a mentor, interview an artist that inspires you, have someone interview you.  Then post the results to your blog.  A TIP: Use an app on your phone that will convert spoken word to text. Turn it on when you are interviewing someone.  It will save you work when transcribing the interview later.

Review An Art Tool Or Supply
Believe it or not, spelling out why you like a particular art supply will give tremendous insight into your working process. As I’ve said again and again, this is actually quite fascinating to someone who has no idea how it’s done.

Review An Exhibition
The artists point of view is quite different from the critic or art historian.  The inspiration or not, the technique and a unique understanding of what it’s like to put tool to medium, I find, is more down to earth and interesting. TIP: Speak in your voice about this – don’t worry about competing with ArtNews or using Art History terms. You are appealing to your audience who will look at a suddenly academic sounding post and probably say “What happened here?”  Be yourself!

A Case Study
Are you doing research for a particular piece or project?  Outline it here – you can break this up into progressive posts.  Keep your audience engaged – waiting for the next step.

Problem/Solution
This is wide ranging.  Do you have a possible problem in making your art that a new tool or technique would solve?  Write about it.  See who comments and you might get more ideas.  Find a problem outside the scope of your art that you think your readers will respond to and give a possible solution. TIP: Avoid politics or religion unless that is the main content of your blog or your art is political.

Frequently Asked Questions
This one can be broken up into several posts.  Similar to the Questions And Answer but more targeted and direct.  From you to the reader.

Should Ask Questions
Are there questions you think viewers should be asking about your art?  About your concept?  Is there a dialogue that you hear when you’re at an exhibition of your work, or online?  Is there something you are not hearing and wish you should?  This is the place to address it.

A Checklist
This is somewhat self explanatory, however you can make this about you or about something your reader should take into account.  Perhaps a checklist that you complete when your finishing a work of art.  Perhaps something someone should consider when they are displaying your art.

Define Your Art
Define your concept of your art overall and/or a particular piece.  What do you want to convey to your viewer.  Remember that a work of art is a dialogue between an artist and a viewer.  You can enhance that by writing about it here.

Profile
Profile a fellow artist, an arts professional, someone that inspires you or have someone write a profile about you – this falls under the guest blogging category.

Crowd Sourced Post
Bring together several people by sending out or asking a question and having them answer in 100 words or less.  Compile and edit it and post it.

Link Round-up
Curate and link to websites that inspire you or with information that you think would be of interest to your readers.  Give the title of the link and a one sentence description. Then link those words to the website.  For example: Miriam Schapiro – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia  TIP: Do this on Fridays to coincide with Twitter Recommendation Fridays and make sure you Tweet about it.

Quotes
Find quotes that you think will inspire your readers and/or inspires you and post it.
I.E This world is but a canvas to our imagination Henry David Thoreau  TIP: A good place to find quotes is: BrainyQuote: www.brainyquote.com/

Best Of The Web
Find websites that you think are outstanding and review them.  TIP: Don’t forget to link to them.

Pick Of The Week
Pick one of your own works, post a perfect image of it and describe your inspiration for it or the concept of it.  This also works for art that inspires you.

People To Follow
This is similar to a Link Round-Up but it’s especially important to link to other blogs and bloggers.  Fellow bloggers will get something called a “ping” when you link to them.  This is a notification and they will most likely link back to your blog.

Story Post
A story about you related, or unrelated to your art, a reminiscence of an art class that you took or what happened in your studio today.

Survey
Choose a trending topic – in the art world especially  or in your world.  Survey your following – your readers, your email list and on social media.  Compile the results and post it.

Prediction
Do you predict something will happen in the art world, your world or the world at large?  Write about it.

Collector/Buyer Showcase
Profile someone who has purchased your art and is ecstatic about it.  This will, perhaps, inspire a closer look at your art by other readers.

I hope that these inspirations will keep you blogging repeatedly.  When you get writer’s block come back here and look for inspiration.  Keep on blogging and tell us about your blog in the comments here so that we can follow it.

Blogging: Inspiration For Your Posts

The most important question when blogging is how to keep your readers engaged? How do you make an impression on them and keep them coming back for more? The answer is compelling content. Sharing information that your readers will not only want to read but need to read.

Mostly what I see is artists posting images of their work and if they do write it’s in a descriptive, narrative format. Narrative means a story or report in a sequence of written or spoken words. There is nothing wrong with writing that way. In fact, I encourage you to make it the main content of your blog.

Tell stories about your art, how you made it, what inspired you, what compels you to make art. What message are you trying to get across in a particular piece or in the overall content of your work. Write about both.

Is there something else that you connect with your art or that you are passionate about in general? Visit Altoon Sultan’s blog for a wonderful example. Something that you love and are excited about. That you want to share with the world with your point of view. Remember that if you don’t love what you’re writing about, you won’t be able to sustain it on a consistent basis.

Help your viewer get to know you from your perspective. Always write in first person, from the “I” or “Me”. You will draw them in, fascinate them, keep them coming back for more and they will spread the word. Word of mouth is the most powerful marketing tool there is, after all.

Remember, that there are a lot of poorly written blogs out there and if you write well, post compelling content, it will be easy to get ahead.

Here are blogging formats that are popular for you to consider.

• Photos Of Your Art
By all means post photos of your work. Visuals make all the difference and it’s why people come to your blog after all. They want to see your work and learn about it as well.

• Why You Make Your Art
Tell them what compels you to make your art. Believe it or not there are people out there who don’t know what the driving force that inspires an artist is. What is your driving force?

• A Day In Your Studio
Describe a day in your studio, from the moment you arrive to the moment you leave. This may sound mundane to you but to someone who is a fan of your art it is utterly fascinating. 

• Reviews Of Exhibitions You Attend
Reviews are one of the top posting formats in general. Have you been to an exhibition? What did you like and what didn’t you like. Please don’t try to be like an art critic in the New York Times. Remember that the artists point of view is quite compelling. Tell it from your point of view, in your own words.

• How-To
This is another top posting format. Readers love tips and it’s a perfect format for an artist who wants to teach. You can show them, virtually, how to do a certain technique. You can even do this as a list format. (See below)

• Step-By-Step Art Workshops
Imagine doing a virtual art workshop. Wouldn’t that be amazing? You can write this or you can do it via video. Video is actually becoming more and more popular as a way to blog. A blog done exclusively via video is known as a vlog or vlogging. 

• Interviews
Interview an art world professional who likes your art – a gallery owner, juror, critic, curator, etc. You can also interview a buyer/collector and ask them why they love your art. Make it brief. No more than five questions. You don’t want to tax their time and blog posts should be relatively concise.

• Lists
Probably THE most popular type of blogging format. They’re easy to read and don’t take up much time. Use numbers or bullet points. “Top Ten” is a popular format. 

• Answering Reader Questions
Ask your readers to send you questions and then you can answer them one by one. It will keep the content and inspiration flowing. You’ll also find out what your audience wants. Think of it as customer service.

• News
This can be about you or your world. Is there something in your part of the art world that is interesting or is news? Share it. A good example is NYC’s 110-Year-Old Art Store in Danger of Closing on the New York Observer website.

• Guest Blog Posts
Ask someone to write about your art or a review of an exhibition – and their point of view is something that you agree with. This is not only good PR but it boosts readership because they’ll be sure to want to tell their friends about it. If you are asked to guest blog and it is relevant to you and your art do not turn it down. It’s also great PR, it builds credibility and the blog that you are writing for will post links to your blog and to your website.

The thing to remember is consistency. Consistency in your voice, your content and in posting. If you can keep a regular blogging schedule it will definitely help. Consistency and persistence are the keys to success!

The Art World Interviews: Altoon Sultan on Blogging

Since I am discussing blogging here I thought it would be good to hear from an artist who is also a marvelous blogger.  I am so glad she agreed to do it and it was an honor to have Altoon Sultan answer my questions.

About Altoon Sultan
Altoon Sultan is a New Yorker, Brooklyn born and bred, who now lives on an old hill farm in Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom, where she makes art––paintings, textiles, prints, photographs––gardens, and blogs. She exhibited her paintings for 30 years in the prestigious Marlborough and Tibor de Nagy galleries, and in shows nationally and internationally. She has a solo show coming up in October of 2014 at McKenzie Fine Art in NYC. Her work is in many public and private collections, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Tate Gallery, London, and the Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. Her awards include two National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship Grants and an Academy Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. She is also the author of an instructional book on egg tempera titled The Luminous Brush: Painting with Egg Tempera.

Melissa Wolf: What made you decide to start a blog?

Altoon Sultan: When my gallery and I parted ways five years ago, I wanted to have a web presence. At the time I didn’t know of the do-it-yourself, inexpensive website hosts, but I did know about Blogger, so I began a blog. Right from the beginning I realized that I wanted to integrate my life––gardening, nature, cooking––into the blog, along with art.

Melissa Wolf: Do you have a specific schedule for your posts?

Altoon Sultan: No. When I began the blog I used to post more often, five or six times a week, but the posts were shorter: fewer photos, fewer words. Now I’ll post two or three or four times a week; I want a clearer theme with each post.

Melissa Wolf: Do you do anything to to increase your following/visibility?

Altoon Sultan: No. When I started I let my friends know in an email, but that was it. The only thing I did, which certainly increased the blog’s visibility, was to join Facebook and link to each new post there. The blog has a great deal more traffic because of Facebook. Sometimes other bloggers will link to my posts, which also brings new readers, but I don’t seek that out.

Melissa Wolf: How do you decide on what to write?

Altoon Sultan: I write about my own work and I write about whatever interests me, whether it is film, books, recipes, art exhibitions, the flora and fauna around me. I feel compelled to write about things that I love. Sometimes something I read or something I see makes me think about an interesting topic; I keep a notebook next to the computer to note ideas down. This thought process helps to keep my mind open and fluid, which often gives rise to yet other ideas.

Melissa Wolf: Do you have any advice for a beginning blogger?

Altoon Sultan: Blog about what interests you; put your heart into it.

• Visit Altoon Sultan’s Blog Studio and Garden: www.http://altoonsultan.blogspot.com/

Altoon Sultan’s Website: http://www.altoonsultan.com/

Social Media: Anatomy of a Blog

Before I give you tips about writing for your blog I thought it would be good for you to be familiar with the terminology. Here is a glossary of commonly used terms….

About/Profile Page
A page on your blog that is your biography and why you are writing a blog. You can use your bio or artist statement combined with a statement about what you are writing about. WordPress links to something called Gravatar.

Archives
A listing of your posts in reverse order by date.

Atom Feed
A means by which readers can subscribe to your content and view it via a feed reader. (See also feed reader and RSS Feed).

Backlink or Trackback
A reference link used to notify another blog when you have linked to them on your blog. They usually appear in the comments section of a blog post.

Blogging Application
A program or website that allows you to create, manage and post on your blog. Examples are: Blogger, WordPress, Typepad, Moveable Type, Tumblr and LiveJournal.

Blogger
A person who writes content for a blog.

Blogging
The act of writing and publishing blog posts.

Blog Host
A company that provides the space to host your blog. (See Blogging Application).

Blog Roll or Links
A list of links of blogs that you like or recommend. They are usually linked to a blog topic or other sites that a blogger enjoys. There is a widget that will show them in the sidebar.

Blogosphere
The online blogging community made up of bloggers from around the world.

Category or Label
A way of separating blog posts that will make it easy to find your posts. You can add a widget to the sidebar that has a linked list of your categories.

Comment
An opinion or thought in response to a specific post. Comments are what make blogs social.

Comment Moderation
Something I highly recommend that you turn on behind the scenes in your dashboard in your blog. This allows you to approve comments before they are made public. You can avoid negative comments and trolls.

Dashboard
The primary page where you will manage your blog. You will post, see your statistics, moderate comments, change your settings, design the theme or template for your blog and more.

Feed Reader
A tool used to read RSS and Atom Feeds.

Footer
The area of the blog on the bottom of your blog where you will put a copyright link, contact information, comment policy, etc.

Gravatar or Avatar
Gravatar allows you to create an image and a profile that follows you wherever you are on the web. So if you comment on another blog your Gravatar will show up as an icon next to it. I recommend putting an image of yourself, similar to a head shot.

Header
The place at the top of your blog where your blog title/logo, subtitle, graphics and possibly the navigation bar will appear.

Home Page
The first page that the visitor to your blog will see. This is not necessary and not common but it is possible to create a page on your blog that makes an impact.

Page
Some applications allow you to create pages on your blog. This allows you to categorize your posts and your content. It can make your blog look like a website. In fact, it is possible to create a website on WordPress. This is something I do not recommend. It will function like a blog – in that your content will be added chronologically and it will be Search Engine Optimized for a blog. You won’t be able to meta-tag it the same way.

Ping
A signal sent from one website to another to notify that the content has been updated. They are usually used when one website links to another and receives content from it. I’m sure you’ve seen feeds from Twitter on websites on the side. You can also do this with your blog.

Plug-in
Third party tools – created by web developers – that enhance the functionality of your blog. Some charge a fee (which can be one time or function like a subscription).

Post
Content that you will create and put on your blog, appearing in reverse chronological order.

RSS Feed
Which means Real Simple Syndication. A means by which readers can subscribe to your content and view it via a feed reader. (See also Atom Feed and Feed Reader).

Sidebar
A column that appears on the left or the right of the main column that allows you to put widgets or content that enhances your posts.

Tag
Keywords that categorize your posts and are read by blog search engines, making your posts searchable.

Template or Themes
A pre-designed format that allows you to create content without any knowledge of website design. You can adjust colors, typefaces, sidebars and more.

Troll
Someone who makes negative comments or posts on the internet for the express purpose of insighting an angry response. (The best way to handle them is to ignore them and delete these comments from your blog or social media).

Widget
A tool that allows you to add functionality to your blog in the sidebar, particularly in WordPress. Examples include: Categories, Blogroll, RSS Feed, Atom Feed, Links and Social Media Buttons.

 

 

 

 

Social Media: Blogging: An Introduction

In 2011, Technorati.com (a powerful blog search engine) was tracking 120 million active blogs. That number has been growing at a rapid pace daily. There is an active audience for blogs and people will want to hear from you. They will be interested in what you have to say and want to hear more.

The word Blog is a combination of the words Web and Log. The blogging format was originally created for a single author to create a daily log of their activities. Almost like a diary. Today major companies and news outlets have what are called multi-author blogs. The New York Times has a Blog called ArtsBeat among many others. Even the Metropolitan Museum of Art has “Met Blogs”.

There are smaller blogs that referred to as Niche Blogs. Blogs that focus on one thing and do it well. Such as a neighborhood, a celebrity, a featured item or an artist. A good example of a neighborhood blog is We Heart Astoria: Delivering the Inside Scoop In and Out of Astoria. They combine this with active Social Media accounts and have 5,842 followers on Facebook as of this post.

The reason that there are so many blogs is that it is easy to start one. The only thing you need is a computer and access to the internet. You don’t need to know fancy internet code such as .html, .CSS or JavaScript. It’s as easy to use as a word processing software such as Microsoft Word. You can use code if you know how but you don’t need to. You can choose a design simply by choosing a theme and customizing it. You can create posts in text, audio, video or post images. There are blogs that are nothing but video and those are called Vlogs. There are also blogs that are nothing but audio and those are called Podcasts.

The difference between a blog and a website is that a blog is interactive and a website is static. People can and will comment and leave feedback on your blog. You will answer and suddenly a whole entire conversation has started. If you use good etiquette your commenters, followers and readers will tell their friends about you, link to your blog and tell other bloggers about you.

Those bloggers will link to your blog and you will link back. This will increase traffic to your blog exponentially. If you link your blog to your website – and you definitely should – it will increase traffic to your website as well. The most important thing a blog will do for you is to increase your exposure and your readers will come back for more because they can see who you are in a wonderful way.

A blog is a unique creative outlet. Remember always that you are an artist because you have something to say visually. Here is your place to put that into words. To let the world know, and those critics that matter, just what that message is again and again. Tell them what you like and don’t like, what inspires you, what you’re working on. You can simply tell your readers what you’re working on today, or what happened in your studio. You can review exhibitions you’ve gone to, giving your readers an artists perspective.  Believe me, that will fascinate them.

There are some things you can do to make your blog really visible and really good looking. In the coming posts I will go into that so please stay tuned.