Blogging 101, Day Sixteen: Making a Prompt Personal


Prompts can be a blogger’s best friend. When you’ve found yourself with a monster case of writer’s block and it seems as though there is simply nothing worth saying, doing a quick search for some prompts can save your blog’s posting schedule. But it doesn’t have to just be about answering a question that another blogger has asked, or finishing a scene that someone else started; you can make a prompt personal.

Today’s assignment is to publish a post based on your own, personalized take on today’s Daily Prompt.

The Daily Post has prompts every day to keep us writing (thanks guys!), and while many of them could easily be answered with a simple sentence, or else a completely fictional response, most of them can also be used as a way to get personal and share something about yourself that your readers may not have known.

Now, as you know, I tend to schedule posts in advance, and as such “Today’s Daily Prompt” on The Daily Post was actually the prompt from a couple of weeks ago. But bear with me as I show the concept of personalizing a prompt with an old one.

The prompt: Today is Summer Solstice, the longer day of the year (in the Northern hemisphere). How are you taking advantage of the extra hours of sunlight this time of year? Do you like it, or do you already miss earlier sunsets?

The response: I kinda hate this time of year. Don’t get me wrong, I love the summer, the warm weather, and the sunshine, but longer days are a curse for me. Why? Well for one thing I spent all winter convincing my daughter that she had to go to bed because the sun was asleep, so now she suddenly has an argument for staying awake several hours later. For another thing, summer in the Albertan oil sands is maddening because the sun practically never sets. When I get up at 3 am it is as bright out as midday, and when I’m trying to sleep at night it’s just as bright. At the worst, the sun is actually only completely down for about an hour (around midnight). It might sound lovely to someone who loves the sun, but when you’re dead tired from a 12-hour shift and you can’t get to sleep because even the slightest crack in your curtains is like a spotlight in your room, you learn to hate the sun pretty quickly.

The conclusion: See what I did there? I could have responded to that prompt with cold hard facts, stating that I don’t have any plans and am not a fan of long days, but instead I used the opportunity to reveal a couple of little tidbits about my life. Keep this in mind when writing a post based on a prompt; a few personal details can really make the post pop!

Blogging 101, Day Seven: Start Personalizing

A previous Blogging 101 post focused on choosing a theme for your blog, making sure to try out a bunch of different ones in order to find something that really suits you and your purpose. Day seven’s assignment is to go a little further: create and upload a simple header, background, or both. And if you’ve already done that, try a custom widget.

Personally, I like a blog to look fresh and clean and organized, which is why I’m not a big fan of backgrounds. It’s all about your personal preference, of course, but I find that background images on a page that is then going to be covered in walls of text almost always winds up looking very messy and difficult to look at. The most important thing on your blog is the words, so you don’t want anything distracting away from them.

Headers, on the other hand, can be a very simple and excellent way of distinguishing your blog. The proper image can give a clear, instant impression of what your blog is all about. When I first started this blog I found a stock photo of a blank piece of lined paper with a pen and a pencil laying on top of it. I used Photoshop to overlay the name of the blog and my name, and that was my first header. I liked it because my intent was that anyone who came across my blog would immediately recognize me as a writer, and I thought that the pen and pencil on paper achieved that nicely. A little while ago I came to think that it was actually a bit silly to have a blank piece of paper as the token image for a blog called “No Page Left Blank”, so after a bit of thought I decided on something significantly more personal. I grabbed a few of my notebooks – the ones that I scribble just about everything in when a computer is not available – turned them each to a random page, piled them on top of each other, and snapped a photo. BAM. Instant impression, and one that matches the title of the blog a lot better.

As for the second part of today’s assignment, if you look to the right side of my page you’ll see that I’ve already played with my fair share of custom widgets. WordPress has quite a variety of options that you can play with to customize your blog, and I’ve chosen the ones that I think are the most helpful to my purpose. The first one is simply a photo widget so that everyone can get a glimpse of who I am…remember, people care about you more if they feel like they know you. The second widget down is a link to my Facebook Author Page, something that is becoming quite popular and important to an author platform. The third is an embedded Twitter widget that allows you to follow or tweet directly to me, and also shows a couple of my most recent tweets. Finally, there are a few organizational widgets that allow you to search my blog via archive (by month), category, or search field, and an option to follow my blog via email. All important stuff, in my opinion, but also neat and easy on the eyes. It’s easy to get carried away with widgets and wind up with a messy-looking site, so keep that in mind when choosing which of the many options you want to use.

All in all, the big thing is to make your blog something that you love, while also keeping it useful and uncomplicated. You want people to come across your blog and stay because it looks interesting; you don’t want to scare them off because it took them ten minutes to locate the “leave a comment” link. 😉