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the secret ingredient to a great blog


I’m often asked how I grew my blog to where it is today and, while I can throw out some tips and ideas and things I *think* contributed to the growth, I haven’t been able to come up with one concise answer.  Well, I was inspired last night and now I have that answer.

We have a weekly movie night with our boys.  My husband and I pick a movie they haven’t seen and we snuggle on the couch, eating popcorn.  The movie last night was Kung Fu Panda.  The premise of the movie is that an overweight, clumsy panda named Po is selected as the chosen one to fight and be victorious over the antagonist.  He must reach the highest level of kung fu in order to be worthy to receive the dragon scroll that holds the secret to victory. (Spoiler alert!)  Everyone’s guessing it will give the recipient magical powers or make him invincible.  When Po earns the scroll, he opens it up to see only a reflective piece of paper.  Disappointed, he goes back to his father to work in a noodle restaurant again.  He’s going to leave the fighting to the “real” kung fu experts.  His father is pleased he returned and finally reveals the secret ingredient to the family’s noodle recipe.  It’s nothing.  There isn’t a secret ingredient.  The noodles are special because of the person who makes them.  That revelation leads Po to understand the dragon scroll.  The dragon scroll doesn’t give any secret weapon.  It reveals that the secret weapon is you.  The recipient.  Then he goes and kicks butt and saves the entire town.

OK, are you still with me?  What’s the secret ingredient to a great blog?  Yes, things like SEO and link exchanges and all of that stuff can help with your numbers, but ultimately the success or failure of your blog depends on YOU.  You’re the secret ingredient.  Can you image The Lettered Cottage without Layla & Kevin, Centsational Girl without Kate or Thrifty Decor Chic without Sarah?  Absolutely not. They are the driving force behind each of those amazing blogs.  They are the secret ingredient.

So, what does that mean practically?

YOU are the only YOU –

Take advantage of your uniqueness.  Being different will set you apart and people will visit often for your ideas, writing, humor, projects, etc. that aren’t like every other blog out there.

Your readers are your friends –

I get so many sweet e-mails from ladies who say they feel like they’re my friend.  Well, I feel that way too.  When I sit down to write, it’s like having a little chat with a girlfriend, which I really need most days.  It doesn’t mean you have to be super personal.  Just be honest and real and let them into your world.

You are special –

If you come to your blog with the mindset that you’re a loser and you’ll never be able to stand out from the crowd of other DIY bloggers, that’s going to show in your writing.  I don’t even have to know you to know you’re special and have a lot to offer.  You don’t have to be a grammarian, spelling champ or term paper whiz to write a blog post.  Just write the way you speak and let go of the insecurities about it.  My mom proofs my blog posts and she almost always finds something that needs to be corrected.  I’m over it.  You don’t have to be the best at what you do, just be you.  That’s enough.  Know that YOU ARE THE SECRET INGREDIENT and own it.

You can grow –

A wonderful thing about being human is that we can learn and grow.  If your photography is terrible, work on improving it.  If you struggle with using social media, (ugh, amen) then work on it little by little until you’re proficient. We all have room to grow, so don’t be discouraged if you feel like it’s a slow process.  Just work at your own pace.

You don’t have to be anyone else –

We’ve established that you’re you and that’s enough.  So, you don’t have to compete with anyone else.  You don’t have to top anyone else.  You don’t have to measure yourself against the success of others.  I think women do that especially.  We walk in a room and see who’s skinnier than we are or who has a better outfit.  We judge ourselves harshly and take it personally.  Maybe we need a little “I’m me and I’m awesome” affirmation club or something.   I know it’s easier said than done, but it’s true.  Let go of the notion that life is a big competition and you’re losing.

Your blog can be what YOU want it to be –

It’s so much easier when I’m writing for my blog and not for one of my editors.  It can be whatever I want it to be.  The format doesn’t matter, the subject is what’s on my mind or heart and I don’t have to go back and redo anything, because I’m the only one deciding if it’s suitable for publication.  Your blog can be whatever you want it to be and look like whatever you want it to and the content can be what you want.  It can be a hobby, a diary, a way to connect, a business or an outlet.  It’s all yours and you don’t have to fit in a box.

Don’t you feel good knowing all of those things?  Isn’t it freeing?

 Now that you know the secret, go out there and kick some butt.

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  1. Amanda says:

    This was just what I needed to read. I mean really, it was. While in the middle of pricing things for my booth space my sweet baby woke {for the 6th time!} wanting to nurse. This is the time I do most of my thinking, planning and just generally have a moment of quiet. During one of those nursing sessions I was pondering the fate of a recent blog…..some of those very questions came to mind. Those same doubts and fears creeped in. Thanks for the inspiration. For me it’s bridging the gap between those “great ideas” or “profound thoughts” that occur while washing the dishes to my computer and onto my blog. Again, thank you!

  2. Your post couldn’t be any more timely. Both myself and co-blogger just had this discussion. We value your insight since you have been in this process much longer than us. Thank you for your wisdom and clarity! Timing is everything!

  3. Thoughtful post. Thanks so much. You are correct and I’m so glad you reminded me of this, since it is sometimes very easy to get caught up in all of the other things involved with blogging that you forget to make it reflect you!

  4. YES!! This is so awesome!
    Woo Hoo!!

  5. Marian,

    I’ve actually been reading your blog for a while now…since July 2011 I think, and I’ve never commented. I just wanted to say that this post means a lot to me. I decided to go on a different path and start a business with the support of my husband. It was you who inspired me to do this! :) I read all of your posts on how to start a business, and you were such a helping guide to me to even know where to begin. I actually was going to do a furniture refinishing business, and that has completely shifted to a business of art and prints. It’s comforting to know that this happened to you too with shift from murals to furniture. I get so anxious about my blog, even though it’s only been up for a little over a week. You’re helping me calm down and not freak out! :) Cannot wait for your book!


  6. Hi Marian…

    I wanted to thank you very much for this post. It made me assess my blog posts better – where i was being myself (which people responded highly to) and when I wasn’t being myself – when I got 0 comments! It takes awhile to find you “blog” voice but when you realize only “you” can create your blog voice, you start to relax a bit more.

    As always, you bring a story into your post and how it relates to the bigger picture. Thanks for being a philosopher as well!!


  7. I love your blog (website). I come here almost every day to see your great creations and read your stories. I do feel like we are friends. Thanks for sharing your world with me.

  8. Liberating, just perfect and exactly what I needed to hear ! Thank you so much Marian for continuing to encourage and inspire me. Many blessings to you. Love, Shirley

  9. I needed this. I have thought about giving up blogging ever since I started just because it’s intimidating and I tend to compare myself to others. Oh, and the stats drive me a little crazy–I don’t want to measure my success by what others think, you know? Anyway, what keeps me in it are the nice people I have met through it and the fact that I can add comments and encouragement to others in their own blogging activities. Thanks, Marion. Another great post!

  10. Thank you.
    I needed to hear what you said.

  11. Absolutely. Brilliant. What a lovely encouragement, especially for this newbie on the bloggy block, just 4-1/2 weeks in! thank you. :-)

  12. You are so right! Sometimes I forget why I blog and feel like I have to be a certain way – that’s when my blog suffers. It’s so much easier when it’s just you, isn’t it?

  13. The timing of this post was perfect for me! I link over from Serenity Now. I have been following blogs for quite a while and has become inspired! My blog starts on Monday, 2/27 – my 45th birthday! I sure appreciate your post on just being me … I follow some pretty incredible ladies and have been feeling very nervous. I know I have alot to learn and tons of growing to do. Take a quick look on Monday – would love your feedback.

    Thanks so much! Missi

  14. Just re-read my comment … wow! I should have proofed. Sorry! I “linked” over from Serenity Now. and “have” become inspired! I guess being me means typing too fast! yikes!

  15. Every time I see this pop up on pinterest I read it again and again – It just makes me all warm and fuzzy inside =) and it’s a welcome reminder! I always get bogged down trying to be a better person/blogger/photographer/writer/crafter/cook blah blah blah — but sometimes its nice to sit back and enjoy being me. and then back to self-improvement i go. haha =) thanks so much for this <3

  16. This is beautiful. Thank you for writing this. It comes at a time that I needed it more than ever.

  17. Judging by the NUMBER of comments, you really hit on something here. Thank you for the encouragement. I have been blooging about 2 years but don’t have very many followers or frequent commenters. I visit ALOT of blogs and comment on them hoping to get them to retuurn the favor but it doen’t always happen. But, it is what it is. I do love blogging so will just keep plugging along and hoping for the best. Thanks again. Pinky

  18. I LOVE all your encouraging posts and this one is really good! I’m going to post a link to it on my blog! AND I’m going to read it often for my own personal encouragement. Bless you.

  19. This is amazingly helpful. WE are just 4 months into blogging and loving it, but we don’t want to be repetitive, offend anyone , etc. etc.
    Your answers are spot on, and so helpful. Thank you so much and I love your blog.
    Congratulations on your book, I can’ t wait til it’s released!

  20. Vickie Harris says:

    I visited Empty Nest because I will be a empty nester this fall. Three kids in college at the same time! So, I could use some more ASCP! I have old white now and I like that color! Please enter me, I have a lot of painting to do!

  21. I really could relate to everything this says. I find myself not confident and comparing our blog to others. This is a very encouraging post! Thank you!

  22. Hi Marian,
    I have embarked on my own home decor blog. I appreciate your tips and will take them to heart. What I am hoping for, is that you could take a quick peek at my new blog and let me know what you think, I know you probably get hundreds of requests for that, but if you can, I would appreciate it more than you know. I’m really determined to make a go of this and be successful.\
    Thanks so much,
    Cozy,Clean, and Simple

  23. Thank you for sharing this! Being very new to the Blog world, I have felt pretty overwhelmed with it at times. It has been a vertical learning curve for me….its like I have so many ideas, but they feel like they are all over the place. All of them relate to creating a warm home environment for family and friends. Being in the ministry also, and needing some extra income, I have also started an Etsy shop…no bites yet, so continuing to follow my “leads” . You are such an encouragement…thank you!

  24. Thank you! This encourages me to keep climbing this vertical mountain…LOL!

  25. Mrs. Brown says:

    Hi! Could you recommend an easy to use blog service for a first timer? I want to start a blog but not sure what to use: word press, tumblr, etc. Thanks :-)

    • LIDIA says:


  26. Thanks ! I just got a great reminder of why I started my blog..To just be me. It has been an incredible journey so far with many many miles to go. You inspired my first step and some how seem to keep nudging me to keep going. Thank you . Sheryl

  27. Thank you – you don’t know how much I needed that today!

  28. Anne Boykin says:

    Dear MMS, While I don’t have a blog, I think you hit the mark about the secret ingredient. I read a lot of blogs and the ones that I remember and enjoy the most are each very unique. Hugs, Anne Boykin

  29. My spouse and I absolutely love your blog and find the majority of your post’s
    to be exactly I’m looking for. can you offer guest writers
    to write content for you? I wouldn’t mind publishing
    a post or elaborating on a few of the subjects you write regarding here.
    Again, awesome blog!

  30. Thank you so much for this post! I am a new blogger and I feel like you were inside my head! Its as if you knew exactly what I was thinking and feeling! LOLL I feel better after reading this and I actually just took a big deep breath and exhaled even harder! You have a great blog and I hope to get there one day! JUST AWESOME!

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