Blogging Lessons I Learned from My Mom

27 Oct 2010

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Two years ago, I kind of tricked my Mom into starting a blog. Here's how I did it: originally, it was just going to be a two-month blog about the Christmas season. (Having grown up with her, I knew that woman could blog the living heck out of the holidays.)

Well, once the holidays were over, Mom kept blogging. Her blog has developed a devoted audience, and she gets featured on craft websites regularly. Heck - a web producer from The Big M approached her for a link recently.

I meet bloggers all the time who want to accomplish what Mom's accomplished, and it occured to me that there are three big things she does right – and these three things have grown her readership and set her apart as a blogger.

(Sure, you can claim I'm saying this just because I'm her daughter, but bear with me, okay?)

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Big Thing #1: Seeing Blogging as a Service

Mom is the kind of friend who'll show up the day after your basement floods, bearing a bunch of homemade dinners to get you through the week. She sends mysterious Christmas cards from Santa to the children she knows. In other words, she's always thinking about what would make the people in her life happier.

This mindset carries into her approach to blogging. She's never once sat in front of her computer wondering "What should I blog about?" Instead, she thinks, "What are people doing this time of year, and how can i help them with it?"

That question generates an endless stream of useful blog posts, like this one on tips for easier baking, and this one on mastering the tricky Danish craft of woven paper heart baskets, and this one on planning your blog for a whole year. Read any of those posts, and you can see Mom striving to help you.

I see so many bloggers struggling to come up with blog content, and I think it's often because they're thinking "What am I thinking about today?" instead of "How can I help people do things better?".

And it doesn't matter if you have five readers or five million. If you offer five people a genuine gift of your knowledge (as Mom did in the beginning), they'll tell people, who'll tell people, who'll tell people.

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Big Thing #2: Being Genuinely (and Even Minutely) Interested

This one may seem like a no-brainer - after all, why would you keep a blog about something you aren't interested in?

But here's what Mom does really well: out of the whole universe of crafts and cooking, she's honed in on the tiny, specific spots that truly excite her soul.

I think that new bloggers get tripped up sometimes with a too-broad focus. It's easy to think, "Well, I like crafting, so I'll start up a general craft blog and write about all kind of different things." And yes, on the one hand, this approach theoretically gives you lots of options for blog posts. But on the other hand, it can overwhelm you with too many big, broad possibilites – and result in blog posts that blandly mention things instead of diving giddily into them.

For example, when you look at Mom's post about making a complicated, ancient European cookie recipe, you can see that the subject is rather obscure, but Mom has thought about these cookies for years. Her post is detailed and enthused, and her enthusiasm makes it interesting.

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Big Thing #3: Seeing Readers as Real People

Here's an area where Mom truly excels as a blogger – and frankly, kicks my butt. From the beginning, she's held every one of her readers as precious. I remember her saying to me early on, "Can you believe she took the time to leave that nice comment?"

The number one question people ask me about blogging is, "How can I get more readers?" And this question often worries me, because it seems to imply that "readers" are some kind of large, faceless forum who'll hang on every word we write. We may get two comments on a blog post, and instead of celebrating them, we're sad that they aren't more numerous.

And yet, from the moment she was getting two comments on a blog post, Mom responded to every one. And when I say "responded," I mean this:

  • She clicked the link over to the commenter's blog and read some posts.
  • She identifieds a couple things she really liked about the commenter's blog.
  • Then, she wrote an email that thanked the commenter and complimented, in detail, his or her blog.

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I mean, I've always counseled bloggers to respond when people comment. But Mom goes one better – she starts conversations, which have cemented her core readership and led her to many online friendships.

(It may be tempting here to assume that Mom has loads of available time for emailing, so I'll tell you that she also co-owns a photography business with her husband and is as time-crunched as anyone. She simply made communicating with her readers a priority. And that, in turn, brought more readers.)

These days, Mom's readership has grown to a point where she can't send everyone these emails, but even so, she still manages to respond to people in comment form. And she keeps up with her core group of readers – learning the names of partners and children, remembering important dates, and most importantly, asking questions.

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I've really loved watching Mom's blogging journey, and she constantly inspires me to do better. She has decisively taken the pebble from my hand. I'd read her blog even if she weren't my mother!

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Comments

All very good points - and one's I've done myself when I was starting out. I feel an immense sense of guilt when I can't respond to all the comments on my posts - but I do try and address questions and specific comments and get to know my readers. I really have made great friends this way. If it seems like a new reader, I make the time to click over to their blog and see what they do and what their up to and find a way to strike up a conversation with them. I am kind of a broad topic craft blog, but the blog just started out as a way to share what I do with my friends and grew to much more than that...but it's funny how people always come back to my quilting (even though I don't feel like I post about it that much - I guess I do more than I think).


Love this advice! It really does go right to core of what my instincts say. I just have to follow through and now I can use your mom as an example.


I love your Mom's blog! She gives such detailed instructions for her pretty crafts and has such enthusiasm.


I am also one of those people your Mom corresponds regularly with any I can tell you she is awesome!! I can always count on her to leave a great comment on my blog or to discuss crafting with.
I think she is terrific!!
Gail aka that artist woman


:-) Thank you, Joanie! And Happy Happy Birthday to Gracie!


Hi Diane!
This post is wonderful, thank you! It's very insightful. I know you've mentioned your Mum's blog before, and frankly I didn't think it fit in with what my interests are. Recently though, I've really gotten into baking and cultural celebrations, so it's right up my alley now and I've added it to my reader. Thanks again and take care.
xx Katie.


Pam's one of the most generous and genuine people I "know." I hope my daughter and I will always be able to craft and bond like glue the way you two do. And my little Gracie's birthday is today Diane, just like yours!!! And I know that of course because you have a great mom who shares.
So HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO YOU!!!
J x


So beautifully said, Diane. I loved reading this and have loved following your mom for two (WOW!? Really!? Already!? :) years. I think she's had a great mentor (*cough*you*cough*) It's a true pleasure watching the two of you bringing so much awesome to the world. Mad, crazy love for you both!

And I was *just* talking about this very subject to a friend today and referenced you multiple times. Now I can send this nice, concise post to her. :)


My sweet daughter! I am overwhelmed and nearly in tears. What lovely, sweet things to say.

We just arrived home after dropping you off - a day together baking gingerbread, decorating cookies and preparing a special secret for everyone! I popped onto your blog to find this!

One thing for sure is true - I have absolutely loved every single minute of my blogging adventure and treasure every friend I have made along the way. I get very frustrated when I can't manage to write and read at the same time - I need to figure out how to do that!:-)

Oh! I want to be SURE everyone reading knows that that beautiful apron with the embroidered marshmallow men was designed and made just for me by Rachel. I have never put it away since the day she gave it to me. It is a permanent fixture in my kitchen.

When I first started writing my blog, I always pretended I was writing to Rachel - it just seemed she was a person with whom I could completely be myself. Writing to her made all the difference.

Just remember my sweet Diane, without you patiently teaching me every thing i know - beginning with how to turn on a computer, without you being there every single time i ran into a problem, without your belief in me and your constant encouragement and love, without your introductions to some of the most wonderful women I have ever met - this blog would never exist. I don't forget that for even a minute.

You have given me a precious gift and I thank you and I love you.


Ok, now *I'm* the one in tears, Pam.

Love you and Diane so.very.much. :)


Ack. It didn't log in as me ... but it is me. Promise. ;)


You two are the cutest and it's like the ideal mother-daughter crafting team :) It's wonderful to learn from both of you :)


You two are the cutest and it's like the ideal mother-daughter crafting team :) It's wonderful to learn from both of you :)


Yes - your mom rocks the house! I am happy to be on that list of people that she corresponds with often :)

P.S. Totally unrelated - I gave G+N a little makeover. If you have a moment, (HAHAHAHAHA, right?), I would love it if you have any user feedback. *Big Hugs*


What a great post, Diane. I've listened to your mother on your podcasts and she seems like a very clever, organised, friendly lady. You're very lucky to be her daughter! :)


Your mom totally rocks! Alas, my mother has nothing to do with the virtual world... even after I gifted her a computer. She claims she'd get addicted to yarn sites & spend all her time online.

I see where you get your inspiration & creativity!

Thank you for sharing!


I love it! My mom is also a crafty mama and I grew up hearing "I could make that" every time we went somewhere. ;) She's also very generous and a couple of my friends call her the "Queen of Christmas"

Your mom sounds awesome! Will have to check out her blog soon. :)


HAHAHA! There is nothing I can do to stop her, either. :-)


HAHAHA! There is nothing I can do to stop her, either. :-)


I am one of your Mom's devoted followers! Her niche topics are loves of mine (scandinavian crafts, Christmas, photography, hiking/camping) so I have to keep coming back. Even her posts that are not on those topics have actually inspired me to make what she made (like her beautiful tin butterflies). I also have learned to be crafty from my Mother, so I have to say part of why I love both of you guys, is the bond you guys have reminds me of my Mom and I! You are so right about how sweet she is to get to really know people. I am lucky enough to have been the recipient of much of her love, good wishes, and sweet comments and emails! Love you both!
Rebecca@RootsAndWingsCo


Diane, I love this post about your mom! My daughter and I have a great relationship also. She is very supportive of me--always has been--and the feeling is mutual. Your warm, light-hearted posts are making this online blog class really fun. And I'll be checking out you mom's blog too!


Aw, thanks, Marcia! It's been so fun watching Mom become a blogger. You'll get to "meet" her in class, too! She'll be joining us for a refresher.


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