Blogger tips – 10 things I learned from doing Blogmas

So, Blogmas is over, and I haven’t yet decided whether I’m doing it again next year. December is a looong way off!

I actually found it easier this year – mainly because I didn’t have the week before Christmas off, and it was easier for me to get my act together and write when I was already sitting at my desk in work mode. The weekends were a different story and the only times I nearly didn’t make it were weekends.

Overall I had a lot of fun and asking questions also helped me to get to know my readers a bit more to, which was a bonus. There are lots of positive things to write about during December, and although it was quite a lot of work, I enjoyed the experience of doing it again!

I think these things that I’m going to talk about are definitely true for Blogmas, but they also apply to any kind of regular blogging challenge such as Blogtober.

Did you do Blogmas this year? Would you add anything to the list? Do you like it when blogs that you follow take part in regular posting challenges, or does it drive you crazy when you suddenly have more posts in your feed? Let me know in the comments!

So here’s what I learned!

1. Decide before December whether you really want to do it

I wasn’t going to this year, but then one of my readers changed my mind. Some people like to plan more than others, but it does help if you can do a bit of thinking and preparing before you start.

2. Plan out your ideas

Following on from point 1, I’d already decided that I didn’t want to repeat any of the posts, which that meant that I had to come up with around 24 new ideas. Could I do that? I needed to know before I committed to Blogmas.

I didn’t write any of my posts in advance. That’s not to judge anyone who did, but I wanted it to feel fresh as I was writing it. But I did have my spreadsheet with the ideas all mapped out, which meant that on the day I just had to get the text written and posted.

3. Reciprocate – it’s about the community!

It’s obvious that most bloggers are going to have less time around Christmas, but if you want people to take the time to read your posts and engage, it’s nice to do the same. Ok, you won’t always have something meaningful to say and I don’t like leaving comments that just say “great post” because they don’t really convey more than a like would.

Sometimes it just feels as though people get so caught up in the act of creating and promoting their own stuff that they forget to engage with other people in the blogging community. This can happen even more when time is at a premium and you’re working to turn around posts quickly and at the same time enjoy yourself before Christmas. So even if you’re doing Blogmas yourself, it’s nice if you can try and find a bit of time to read and comment on other people’s posts as well.

4. It’s hard when you’re not at your desk

I’ve already touched on this. The discipline needed to sit yourself down and write a blog post, when really all you want to do is curl up on the sofa with a good book and mug of hot chocolate is not to be underestimated. My strategy was to try and get it done earlier in the day so that I could relax afterwards, rather than leaving it till I was panicking at 11 o’clock at night! Obviously that doesn’t work if you have plans to be out all day, but you can look at what days each date will fall on, and if you know you’re going to have less time, plan something for that day that won’t take as long to write.

5. Eliminate the one thing that will do your head in!

This is going to be different for everyone, but have a think about it – what is the one thing that is likely to derail your attempt to complete the challenge? Is there one thing that you can say up front that you’re not going to do?

For me, as a blind blogger, it was the photos. I can’t take my own photos. I can’t see the quality of, or even what’s on stock photos. Stressing out about getting photos for daily blog posts would make me want to give up before I even started. So I didn’t.

I got help with photos of specific things like stroking the reindeer or the cheese advent calendar, but if I wanted to write a post about looking after your hair in winter and didn’t have an image for it, so be it. I’m not going to have my life ruled by the expectation that every post needs 20 photos before people will look twice at it.

This is my space on the internet. If people like what I do, they’ll come back.

For you it might be something else. Maybe you hate writing long posts and that’s stopping you from signing up to something like Blogmas. Ok, then write short ones and make this part of how you do Blogmas.

Do you hate writing gift guides? Don’t do any then! There are plenty of other things you can do.

IF 24 days will be too many, start with 12! Or do 24 days about something you enjoy, rather than something that everyone else is doing.

Or don’t do a challenge like this at all – I’m not saying you have to. I’m just saying that the way everyone else does it doesn’t mean it’s the right and only way. It makes me sad to see people wanting to be a part of something, but then not doing it because they can’t do it in quite the same way as everyone else.

6. Answer your comments

It’s only polite. If someone has taken the time to leave you a comment, and by that I don’t mean the spammy “Love your post now come and look at mine” ones, it’s not good to ignore them. Carry on the conversation if you can, and if there’s nothing to say, at least acknowledge it with a like or a thank you.

I admit I was a few days late with mine, but I do always try to come back to them.

7. Make the content feel like yours, not just a list of generic prompts

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with using prompts if you’re stuck for ideas, but there are only so many posts that you can read on the same topic before it gets a bit boring. Unless, that is, someone did something a bit unusual to make their post stand out. Maybe they told a story. Maybe instead of a generic gift guide, they did one for someone with a specific hobby. Maybe some of the posts could be tied in to what the blog is about the rest of the year, but still have a wintry twist.

I don’t know. It’s different for everyone, but when people’s feeds are inundated with posts, you need to be a bit creative if you want to get people’s attention.

8. Send out some emails before December

You don’t have to do this, but if you can think of a couple of brands or charities that you’d like to work with, or another blogger who you’d like to ask about a guest post, why not see if the idea has a chance before December. Then, if they don’t get back to you, you know that you need to fill the space with something else. Or, one thing may lead to another. Originally I contacted Dogs Trust about interviewing a volunteer, but we were also invited to visit the rehoming centre, which meant that one idea generated enough content for two posts.

Many people are planning events way before December, so if you want to find out what’s on, it’s also good to plan in advance so you don’t miss anything that you’d like to have gone to.

9. Find other people who are doing it

It’s nice if you can read what other people are doing and encourage each other along the way!

10. Don’t forget to share

It’s like blogging the rest of the year. You’ll hopefully build up a following of loyal readers and sometimes they’ll share your posts. Sometimes people will magically find you via the blog reader. But most of the time, people won’t know your posts are out there unless someone tells them – so don’t forget to take the few minute to post or schedule on social media so that more people find out about your posts.

Let me know if there are any other tips that you would add!

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November favourites – bloggers, body lotion, and bunny ears!

It’s not all products this time, but I’m sharing the things that I’ve enjoyed this month!

Well it’s November now and actually I’m already beginning to feel a bit festive! Perhaps that has something to do with buying snowman earrings and planning Blogmas content, but I always enjoy this time of year.

So these are my November favourites. Feel free to share yours in the comments!

The first thing I wanted to do is to mention the Blogs in Bloom group on Facebook. There are loads of blogging groups out there, and this one isn’t for you if you’re looking for some superficial follow for follow game. However it could be for you if you’re looking for a friendly and helpful group of bloggers who get to know each other and provide support through a number of activities throughout the week. You choose the people with whom you interact, but if you get involved in something, you need to give as well as take. Check it out if you’re interested.

One of the reasons I was particularly happy about finding this group is making some new blogger friends with whom I did a blogger swap box. You can find out more about that soon as we’re going to be talking about it at the same time on both blogs, but it was a really lovely opportunity to build a box for other people and see what they picked out for me!

I haven’t opened them yet of course, but I find the whole process of choosing advent calendars is really fun. So many brands are doing them now and I enjoy looking through to see what’s available. I’m really lucky this year as I have two – I had one and then my Mum got me one as well. They will be featured in Blogmas, so keep reading if you’re interested in which ones they are!

Skincare

One of the things on offer in the Latest in Beauty box was the pomegranate lotion from Weleda. previously the only thing I had tried from this brand was the skin food cream, which was ok, but didn’t wow me as it has some other bloggers. So I was really happy with this cream, which is a lightweight body lotion, which smells great, and apparently prevents the premature aging of the skin. I’m not loyal to body lotions and I like variety, so enjoyed trying this one out.

There’s going to be a whole post on serums in January. It all started when I was sent a sample of a really expensive one, which got me thinking about the fact that I don’t have any serums in my skincare regime. This then got me doing some research about why they are used and how they can help. I bought a couple of different ones to test for a blog post, and one that I’m really enjoying is the Nip+Fab Dragon’s blood fix serum which is said to hydrate the skin and reduce the appearance of fine lines. I really don’t know where they get the names but this is my second product from Nip+Fab and I’m really impressed. There will be a more detailed review in the serums post, but if you’re looking for a serum for underneath your moisturiser, this is a good one to start with and it doesn’t break the bank!

After my grumble and moan a couple of months ago, I was really impressed with Lovelula this month. In fact, I’m keeping all the products for myself, which doesn’t usually happen. I was particularly happy to see another Madara product in there. This month we got the Madara eye cream. It’s a deeply hydrating eye cream that is worth more than we paid for the entire November box. I really rate this brand, and although I’m trying to use up a couple of other eye creams first, I couldn’t resist giving this one a try and was suitably impressed!

Perfume

When I was doing my 18 products for mango lovers post, I dug out some of my mango products and rediscovered my Victoria’s Secret mango body mist. I love this stuff – I spritz it in the morning and love the sweet mango scent that really does stay around for hours!

Wolves and owls

This is a present – given to me in time for when we put up the tree in December! It’s an Owl bauble made of glass, and it’s really tactile for anyone who can’t see the owl. His little ears stick up and you can feel his head, pointy nose, eyes, and feathers. I know he came from M&S. As a blind shopper, I hate their site with a passion, which is why there’s no link, but I’m sure you’ll still be able to find him online or in store.

I recently discovered that the wolf sanctuary near Reading has a store, and I got these lovely sitting Wolf earrings. They are well-made and what I enjoy is that the shape of the wolf is clear to feel. I don’t like earrings that just have a picture painted on with no tactile elements. With these, you can feel his head, howling snout, body, legs, and tail, and as well as some of the money going to the wolf sanctuary, I love jewellery where I can really appreciate the design too.

Haircare

I didn’t know where to put this one really, but I decided it could go here because this headband with bunny ears will protect my hair when I’m doing a face mask or having some home spa time. I think there are different ones in the range – I think there’s a mouse and a piggy one, but at the time of writing, the rabbit is sold out on the site. Still, hopefully there will be some left in store if you want to get one.

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Scents and the memories that they bring back

13 bloggers and I talk about special scents, and the memories that they bring back to us.

When we were out walking the other day, I smelled the unmistakable smell of horses! I love that smell! It took me straight back to my horse-mad years (the end of Primary school and beginning of high school) when all I wanted to talk about was horses, what I’d learned in my lesson, what I’d read about them, and my latest jumping or dressage lesson. My Granddad used to take me to the stables on a Saturday morning, and I spent the day there with a group of girls, grooming the horses, mucking out, and teaching the golden retriever tricks before my afternoon lesson!

I still have the riding hat that my grandparents bought me for my 11th birthday, and surprisingly it still fits!

Thinking about how easily a scent can bring back memories, I realised this is true of products as well. I first discovered the Seychelles handcream from the White Company the weekend we went for our wolf adventure, and now the coconutty goodness always reminds me of that special weekend.

There are scents, such as Organza and A Mirage, that I wore when I first moved to London around 15 years ago, but I don’t wear them now. They remind me of that time in my life, discovering the big city, getting my first job, and finding new friends. I’ve moved on, and so my taste in fragrances has moved on too. However if I smell one of them when I’m out shopping, it reminds me of that time.

There are also scents that remind me of my Nan, who is no longer with us. It’s not just fragrances – although Chanel no. 5 will always remind me of her. The smell of pine trees brings back memories of her too, because we always had a real Christmas tree and decorated it together.

When we went to her house after she had passed away, the first thing I smelled as I stepped inside her room was her face cream, and I expected her to walk in at any moment. I’d smelled that cream a hundred times as she got ready in the morning, and now when I smell it, it makes me think of her (which is why I bought some the other day!)

There are certainly smells that I don’t like, but I can’t think of any that have such distinct memories for me in the way that the positive ones do to remind me of childhood fun, a holiday, certain times in my life, or a special person. I think scents are powerful – the same one can mean many different things to different people, but the connection between the scent and the memory is often so strong, that you almost feel you’re back in a different place and time when you smell it.

Scents are perhaps more important to me as someone who is blind. I don’t subscribe to the idea that I have a superpower sense of smell, but using this sense comes in useful, because it can help me to work out exactly where I am (the scent of a particular bush on my way home, or the smells coming from particular shops), so I guess I take more notice of them. They can be practical as well as enjoyable. Still, I was certain it couldn’t be just me, so I asked in a couple of blogging groups for other people to share their scent and memory stories. Here’s what 12 bloggers told me:

Jazmin

The scent of the Passion Fruit lip balm from Lush really takes me back to when I first moved to Liverpool for University as it’s one of the first products I bought whilst living there. My home town doesn’t have a Lush so I was super excited to buy a bunch of stuff from their.
The passion fruit lip balm is still safely in a trinket box on my dresser and every time I use it I’m definitely transported back into my first University halls.
Visit Jazmin’s blog Jazminheavenblog.

Janelle

Being a classically trained violinist, White Musk by the Body Shop used to be my go-to perfume for concerts and events. I am strangely superstitious when it comes to these things, and something about spritzing this on always gave me that delicious rush of adrenaline that I loved and thrived on. I actually found a bottle lying around the house recently, and it brought a lot of lovely memories rushing back. There’s just something so unmistakably invigorating about this scent and I can’t quite place it – that’s exactly what I love about it. All I know is that I’ll be reaching for this a lot more when I have special occasions now!
Visit Janelle’s blog Beauty Expert Amateur.

Daisy

Yvette

I always treat myself to a new perfume at duty free when I go away, on my way back from Vegas I bought La Nuit Tresor by Lancome. I then took it on holiday to Tenerife with my best friend. Every time I wore it, my friend would rave about how nice it smelled. Ever since our holiday, whenever I see her, if I’m wearing the perfume, she’ll comment on how much she loves it and how it reminds her of our holiday. If I wear a different perfume, she tells me off! The frustrating thing was it was another year before it was available in the UK!
Her fiancée has just messaged me asking what perfume it is as she talks about it so much he’s surprising her with it for her birthday!
Visit Yvette’s blog Getalife101.

Jessi

My parents have a house in Portugal and I spent half my childhood years there. Being a redhead, it meant I was constantly having inch thick sun cream slapped on me on the hour, every hour. Back then sun protection only came in the white, thick cream version that took 15 minutes to rub in, and whenever I smell that kind it transports me straight back to running around by the pool as a child. I’m so glad we now have spray on, more transparent type protection, and that’s what I take to festivals, but I sometimes buy the old stuff as I miss that hit of nostalgia.
Visit Jessi’s blog Where’s My Tent.

Rachel

Chanel N°5 reminds me of the days when I worked as an air cabin crew member. The fragrance takes me back to those carefree days without responsibilities, with lots of travel, spending time with friends and having fun. It also makes me pause to think how I can inject more travel and fun into my life now I have a family.

Tamara

Whenever I smell Anais Anais perfume it always takes me back to our holiday at Disneyland Paris when I was about 5? My mother always had set perfume for all occasions and this one was a small one that she took away – I love the memories that come back each time I smell it!

Hannah

Aromatics Elixir Perfume. “Every year I would go on holiday to Lanzarote with my mum, sister and Godmother, and every year my mum would wear the Aromatics perfume each night we went out to dinner. I’ve since moved away from home, but the smell of this perfume always reminds me of my mum, and takes me back to the waves hitting the rocky walls as we laughed and joked on our way to dinner. Whether I walk past someone wearing the perfume as I’m out shopping, going for lunch, or even just heading to the cinema, it always comforts me and relaxes me, especially when I’m feeling stressed or anxious.”
Visit Hanna’s blog HD Personal Fitness.

Ally

Brut after shave reminds me of my dad. I remember he used to put it on once he had his RAF uniform on and some days when I stood beside him, he’d then pretend to wipe it on my face. Whenever I smell it now, I can picture our bathroom, our house and my walk to school with him by my side

Vanessa

My favourite smells are chlorine and neoprene! This is only since I became a parent and it transpired that my first child (girl now age 11) was/is a total water baby. We started taking her baby swimming at 8 weeks old – and she loved the classes, becoming the ‘demo model’ for the teacher! She just never cried whatever the class did (these are the sort of classes where you just push them under water and let their natural instincts kick in). From there she – and her younger sister – have gone on right to the end of typical swim lessons to swim for a local town club – training a couple of times a week. Our summer holidays soon began to revolve around the beach and body boarding – so we now all have wetsuits too. My husband now also swims in open water. Accordingly my ‘babies’ often smell of chlorine and the laundry room is full of costumes and towels smelling of it too. And when it’s time for our summer trips to the coast, out pop the wetsuits – and neoprene is in the air once more!
Visit Vanessa’s blog A Happy Healthy Mummy.

Sarah

When I was a child, I’d always sit on my Grandma’s bed while she was doing her hair (she loved doing her hair). I always remember that she did it ‘properly’ every morning and filled the whole room with a hairspray mist. Now every time I spray hairspray, no particular brand, it reminds me of her. Strange how those sorts of memories stick with us!
Visit Sarah’s blog Dream of Home

Becky

The scent that brings back strong memories is Cacharel In A Flash. I don’t wear perfume all the time because I forget to put it on, but I tend to when on holiday because it’s in my wash bag with everything else. So this perfume reminds me a lot of being in New York City, because I was there for 6 weeks and used it every day. But that was almost 3 years ago now! The memory that comes along with the scent is fading, so I’m finding I’m more reluctant to use the perfume, despite really liking it, because I want to make the memory last…
Visit Becky’s blog Becky Becky Blogs. .

Bethan

I’m an enormous fan of scent (and have the perfume collection to prove it!) and love to buy a new fragrance as a way of remembering special occasions. For example I bought Jo Malone’s Pear and Freesia to wear when I was a bridesmaid for a good friend. Not only did the scent reflect her English country garden wedding, but every time I smell it I’m taken back to that day. Likewise I bought Clarins Eau des Jardins after I was a witness in a court case to remind myself how I could be brave and get through difficult times, and Miu Miu reminds me of a lovely trip to Barcelona last year. I could go on and on (Dolce and Gabbana Light Blue evokes massive memories of high school!), but it’s fair to say I reckon fragrances are a great way to make memories!
Visit Bethan’s blog A Pretty Place to Play.

Rachel

My smell would be lavender. Not necessarily a certain product, although Yardley’s lavender soap would be it. The smell reminds me of my gran and baking round her house. She used to always have the soap for washing our hands with before baking and she had dried lavender in her wardrobe so all the clothes smelt of it too. It’s such a comforting and happy smell for me now. It also makes me want to bake!
Visit Rachel’s blog Rachel Emily

How about you>

Thanks to everyone who took part in this – I really enjoyed reading your stories. How about you? Do you associate any scents with particular memories or people? Let us know in the comments!

Don’t forget the giveaway is still open

My September giveaway is still open, so if you’d like to be in with a chance to win some skincare goodies from brands such as the Body Shop and Sanctuary Spa, this is where you can enter.

More from Unseen Beauty

If you’d like to get my catch-up emails, usually twice a week, you can sign up using this form.

The emails contain news of my new posts, other things that I’ve enjoyed (podcasts, posts from other bloggers, interesting articles etc), and any UK shopping information that I think my readers might like.

This post contains some affiliate links, but I only promote things that I’ve tried and tested.