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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. what an encouragement!!! Now I want to go out and make some subway art that say’s “I’m me and I’m awesome” – Miss Mustard Seed :o) We all need to remember that daily!!! And what a great parallel you drew to the whole ‘scanning the room for someone skinnier or with a better outfit’ thing. One thing is for sure… you were born to do this and you bless so many! I just watched your vimeo wax video today and I’m a little less scared of the world of wax because of you. I think I might be a little less scared of the whole wide world because of you <3

  2. What a lovely post. So true. We are so quick to judge ourselves and find fault rather than celebrate ourselves and our accomplishments. Thank you!

  3. I have to tell you, I felt a little sad after reading this…because I feel I have been “me” and perhaps it wasn’t good enough. Perhaps “me” wasn’t enough to be interesting. But then I realized what you were saying. Success, and getting the numbers shouldn’t be what blogging is about. Am I right? Until I can grasp the fact that whether I never get another follower, which would be hard to not feel a bit insecure about, I shouldn’t be doing it for that reason. I should be writing because it is what I love, and do so without looking over my shoulder. That success is working toward my goals, but not letting my goals tower over my work? That God has me where He wants me, and I need to rest in the fact…and just be who I am and let Him decide what to do with the content of my blog. If I work to do what I love, write what I am supposed to write, and make sure I’m giving Him the glory in it, whether or not I “succeed” as a blogger isn’t the point, so much as I have succeeded in blogging for what it is meant to be for me.
    I get it now. I think I do. And I needed it. Thank you. Thank you.

    • Miss Mustard Seed says:

      Yes, exactly. I think we a struggle with the thought that we’re being the very best “me” we can be and we’re still failing. I think we just have to make sure we’re measuring ourselves against the right yard stick.

  4. I remember being shocked when I got my first follower. For the first year the only people reading my blog were my daughters. Then I got brave enough to link up to some parties and suddenly I had total strangers following me! I wondered if I should edit what I say or what pictures I post. In the end I decided to keep my same somewhat offbeat style because it is “my” creative outlet. I work full-time and create when I can, so I will never have a huge following and for me that works. So, I agree wholeheartedly with you that WE are what make our blogs special and whether we have 5 followers or 5000 we are successful if we are proud of what we share with others on our blogs.

    Thank you for a very uplifting post. Best of luck in your newest ventures!

  5. Thx you so much for this post :))) Yes I dont speak english well but I do my best to write a good post…Usually Im so funny in my language but in english I sound so formal but I think with time I will get better since I understand english very well…sometimes my husband corrects my posts eventhu he has a PHD I dont accept it he makes my posts so formal and like he is teaching in a class…I hope my blog will grow bigger im having alots of visits but i dont know why so few followers :DDD I think all i need is time and i shouldnt give up…ouf i talk too much for someones doesnt write english well lol

  6. Like others this is something I’ve needed to hear/read. I know your right but still I struggle with where I want to take my business & blog. Your right, as women we compare constantly. I think that’s what’s getting in my way.

    Thanks for the post, you’re such an inspiration!

  7. Now that is some great advise…I plan now on kicking some butt…MINE!! LOL

  8. Thanks, that was really encouraging. I absolutely agree. It sounds selfish to say, but these days I blog for me. I blog because it gives me another tangible reason to be learning and growing. I LOVE the thought that other people might read what I publish and get some kind of encouragement out of it, but I’m doing it to win anyone’s respect… Love your style! grace

  9. It’s posts like this that show your awesomeness.

  10. This is so true. You have to be yourself on your blog. Personality comes through in writing. If I am excited about something I am writing about, you will know it! Remember the little saying, “Be yourself, everyone else is already taken.” Thanks for a good article!

  11. Hey Marian…another very thought-provoking post. When I first started blogging I was overwhelmed with everyone’s homes, projects and beautiful blog designs. I so wanted all of that for myself. I wanted to paint everything white, do a project at least twice a week and write like a 25 year-old would talk. Gradually, I came to understand that my blog needed to reflect who I was and where I was going. I’m so not 25 and my writing style is pretty good just as it is. My husband would have a FIT if I painted our heirloom furniture white…and projects? Well sometimes I can fit them in and sometimes I can’t. Through blogging I re-discovered my love of textiles and sewing. I got up my nerve and opened an Etsy shop. Believe me it took every last nerve I had. Blogging for me has been a gift. I have discovered things inside myself that I didn’t know were there. I have dreams now where once there was only an empty nest. Thank you for this post and for your support. You are an inspiration.

  12. After reading your post today I felt like you knew what was on my mind. I always look to you for inspiration. I am moving at my own pace (very slow) with my blog. It’s the technical stuff that gives me the most frustration. I just keep telling myself to keep pressing on and it will come together. I love reading everyone’s blogs for who they are each different and each very special. Right now I don’t even have any followers and I’m not worried about it. Thanks for all your inspiration.

  13. Thanks for edifying and encouraging all of us out here in blogland. I really, really needed that.
    God bless you.

  14. Thank you for the edifying and encouraging words. I really ,really needed that.
    God bless!

  15. Like my husband says, when you start anything new, just know you are going to be bad, you will stink etc. because you have never done it before. We tell the kids this too…practice makes perfect right? ;-))

  16. This was encouraging, thanks!

  17. Well said. I like to blog what I live and not live to blog.

  18. Marian, your words were just what I needed today! My husband and I write a blog together, and I think we’re at the point that we can put some advertising on it but I’ve been dragging my feet. Don’t know why, but I think I just needed a little inspiration. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

  19. Great post. It’s so easy to get caught up in the “keeping up with the Jones'” or that funny blogger you so admire. It can make you feel “less than” and discourage the best of us. But you said it well, be you, the only YOU there is and kick butt doing it! About time to go kick some!

  20. Gerri says:

    My comments seem to be really redundant. But I’m moved to repeat myself. Thank you for sharing so much with your followers. You are a true blessing to so many, including me. Thank you.

  21. Thank you for the words of advice. I take them seriously.

  22. As much as I would like to believe that the secret to a great blog is ME, I can’t help but disagree, slightly. “You” being the key ingredient is vague, I think. I am not new to blogging, but have done so personally for years, and only just recently decided I wanted to get more serious about blogging, to attempt to gain followers, etc. The blog series you guys featured was great. The things that really make a blog work is definitely creativity, which is the “me” part, but pretty pictures and a well-designed, professional blog are up there, along with a whole host of other things that you guys have (the successful bloggers) that we (the not-quite-there bloggers) don’t have yet. We are all lovers of all-things-DIY and blogging, and we’re all passionate about what we do, but what sets the achievers apart from the wanna-be’s are a lot of well-defined things that only time will allow us to gain.

    Anyhow, keep striving, everyone, and here’s to DIY’ing! :)

  23. Debbie Gilbert says:


    You are the “first” blog I ever really read and I really do think the reason I kept coming back is because I felt like you were talking to “me”….it was like sitting down with a dear friend who had a wonderful gift and was sharing…you really are “one of a kind”..This was a wonderful post and I too am waiting patiently for the book!

  24. Amen and Amen, Marian! You hit the nail right on the head! :)

    xoxo laurie

  25. What a beautiful and encouraging post….that I so needed to hear! Thank you for reminding me that it’s OK to be me! :)
    Blessings on your day!

  26. Absolutely beautifully written and so appreciated. As a new blogger, I’ve been struggling with finding my voice, wondering what sets me apart. I shall try to relax and just be me… trusting that me is enough.

    Thanks so much. I know Rome wasn’t built in a day and I think it will take some time to find my own voice, but I shall really try! You’re a beautiful mentor!

    Lesli :)

  27. LOVE LOVE LOVE THIS BLOG POST!!!! Thanks for sharing, you have no idea how much we need to hear that every once in a while!

  28. The Food Gospel According To Ruth said it all. I LOVE LOVE LOVE THIS BLOG POST, TOO!!!!!
    So well written, and we certainly appreciate the encouragement and advice you always so eloquently provide!

  29. Thanks for the words of encouragement. I just started a blog and almost immediately started second guessing myself. I started to care too much if anyone likes it. Kind of like being back in junior high school which I didn’t particularly enjoy. I’ve been telling myself lately that my blog is a record of who I am and my life. If others are interested – that will be fun. If not, it doesn’t change how much fun I’m having blogging.

  30. Thanks for the encouraging words. I just asked a friend of mine the other day, “What do you see I could do different on my website and my blogging?” She gave me many great pointers, but she said just remain ‘vulnerable and transparent’. Your post today brought confirmation. As I’m writing for an editor as well, I stress about how I write. You reminded me today I don’t need to do that on my blog, just be me.

    Also, I want to thank you for allowing me to partner with you as a sponsor. I’ve received such sweet testimony how the site is ministering to others. (Dancing Upon Barren Land).

    Thanks Marian, from one of your VERY PROUD sponsor’s :) The Lord bless you.

  31. Thankyou!! Thats what i needed to hear today!!

  32. Bingo! You are so right. It’s so much more than seeing a cute this or that. It’s the story being told in a way that only YOU can tell it. Blessings on you girlie!

  33. First of all, Kung Fu Panda……awesome movie! One of my favorites.
    Thank you so much for the encouraging words.
    I am me and that is what makes me special.
    God created me just as he saw fit, how could I ask for more?

  34. Latriece says:

    You continually inspire me. THANKS You have a God-given talent & you use it well.

  35. I can only imagine what a tremendous blessing your book is going to be!

  36. [email protected] says:

    I’ve heard this so many times…that authenticity is key to blogging. It’s kind of freeing, to let yourself just be you! I also think that the link parties are a huge boost for bloggers. I see some posts, where the blogger is sharing a post at a dozen link parties! Where do you get that kind of time? I’m sure that I’d become speedier, ifi did it more often. We’ll see!

    Me, myself and I

  37. Thank for the words of encouragement! I don’t blog to move the world or be the next best thing, I just like to share little things I do and some thoughts about life. So, it’s good to know that that’s okay! I do enjoy your blog and have gotten several good ideas from it. Keep on sowing those seeds!!


  38. I think you are spot on. One can have excellent photos, great projects, and even great writing, but if they are not being themselves, it shows. Their blog will just not have that spark that sets it apart.

  39. I love this post- so sweet. I love your blog and I think you are right that being who you are is what I look for in a good blog. Now to keep at it! :)

  40. Marian, that was beautifully written. I think the “I”m me, and I’m awesome” affirmation club is a fantastic idea, and I”m waiting for you to start it! Your blog is so genuine and real, it’s easy to see how you have arrived where you are. Congratulations on all your success! You have worked hard for it, and I admire you for it.

  41. Thank you for that post. I have been a follower of yours for awhile. The reason why you are one of my favorite bloggers is because of YOUR honesty and authenticity. I have found that it is a key component when I am choosing to follow a blog or not. Interesting, huh? Thank you for your encouragement today!

  42. As with all good things, it’s really no secret, it’s hard work and patience. You’ve earned it and it’s been nice as well as encouraging watching you along the way.

  43. [email protected] Charm says:

    WOW…you said it all…THANK YOU! I know I needed to hear this and I am sure others did too. Sometimes I wonder why people read my blog and my hubs always tells me, it’s because I’m just being myself…maybe he is right on this one.


  44. jeannie says:

    Well said!

  45. This post was SO well timed for me. I’m new to blogging, my own little corner of the internet is very young and I was feeling really nervous about writing with my own ‘voice’, so to speak. Your words have reassured me that it is ok to be myself….I love your blog and you really inspire me. Thanks so much for your encouragement, it means a lot.

  46. MARY EGUIA says:

    Once again you hit the nail on the head.Uhm you should also be a motivational speaker!!!!!!! I know thats all you need,another hat to wear right? Oh well ,have a wonderful day!!!!! God bless you

  47. we do a movie night every friday… we call it “couchy party night.” we pop popcorn and snuggle on the couch and watch a fun movie.

    you’re advice is wonderful!

  48. I’m so glad you said “…you don’t have to fit in a box.” I’ve been told that my blog is hard to “grow” because it doesn’t have one specific theme. I’ve been told to go either family blog or decor blog and stick to one. I am not one dimensional and they are both my passions so it’s hard to pick one specific theme. Therefore “growing” the blog became a low priority. Instead, blogging about what was on my mind took precedence.

  49. Well put Marian. It’s not a competition. We are all awesome in our own unique way. Really believing and grabbing hold of that frees us to be who we are, and our blog will flow naturally from that. It also frees us to let go of jealousy or of comparing ourselves to each other. Instead we can applaud and lift each other up. So let’s all go kick some kung foo butt!

  50. The boys and I love that movie!
    Thank you for this post. When I started blogging two years ago I almost hit delete at one point. I let one person get me down. Imagine if I listened, I wouldn’t have met so many wonderful ladies, I wouldn’t have the joy I have right now to write posts.
    So thank you for assuring us and inspiring us everyday!

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