Welcome to the Cooper studio, Jefferson, Iowa. Oh, wait, make that Newton, Iowa. Where three grandchildren are relying on me to keep my sanity while their Mom and Daddy are away for a week. You know how sometimes in-the-know artists tell us all how we need to be more playful, have more fun when we paint? Ha! This week I get to play WITHOUT paint :)
So this morning, they taught me something that I want to share with you. I should probably mention the particulars of the teachers. Two of them are four year old girls, one of them is a one year old little brother. Things were getting wild and crazy at breakfast this morning, for me at least. I suspect it's pretty much their norm :)
Anyway, we were were about halfway through the Marshmallow Mateys and/or Fruit Loops, when four year old #1 broke into a rousing version of The Lorax song. Probably because it seemed appropriate to her, child #2 started sharing her version of MamaMia. (Did I mention her name is Mia?) And I suppose because contributing seemed important, child #3 let go of a chorus of dadadada's, with several repeats included.
Now here's the part that pertains to artists, especially those artists writing about their work and relevant life activities in a blog somewhere. Those three musicians were just sending it out to nobody in particular. They were filling the airwaves. Of course I was trying to hear each one of them, but they were singing to their cereal as much as they were to me.
I think there are quite a few artists in the world who do that very same thing, send it out in the world to nobody in particular. They have a blog, so they figure they need to write something, anything, because of course, they have a blog.
Now my four year olds and one year old can get away with it. Because of course, they are cute as all get out. The artist trying to promote their work cannot rely on cuteness. They need content, and it had better be interesting content. And good grief, think about the title a little bit before you slap it into the box at the top of the page. Do you really think that anyone is going to read your article, when right at the top, you tell them you just painted another bird??? Or that you just finished red rose painting #5?
I think the bottom line here is, you need to be thinking about the person you want to read your blog. They are your audience, after all. And unless you are as cute as can be, and your targeted reader is your grandma, I don't think filling up the space, just to say you did it, will cut it.
Last evening, I sat a non-artist person down in front of the FASO page called "FineArtViews Blogs - Insights Directly From Our Members". Yes, this one: http://faso.com/art-marketing-newsletter/blogs/ I was hoping for a critique on content, subject matter, illustrations, future direction for my own posts, etc.
Would you like to know what I got instead? And this matters for anyone writing to publish online, not just artists, so listen up.
Said impartial viewer's first comment was: "Don't they have spell check?"
And before you jump in with "probably a school teacher or a freaking perfectionist", no. Just a regular person. A normal internet reader.
So, to answer that original question, of course we have spell check. Everybody can have spell check. Maybe using it depends on how much you want, or DON'T want to annoy your readers?
If you are a FASO person writing your blog, at the bottom of the section where you type in your text, you will see two options:
1. full screen mode for entry text
2. old full screen composer for entry text
If you click on option #1, you are taken to a page with a new menu bar at the top, where, if you look to the right at button #13--you guessed it. Spell check. And if you click on that little check mark icon, magically all your bad spelling will be underlined in red. Click on that red underlined word and, whoa! It gives you all the possibilities of what you might be trying to spell, and failed so miserably at. You can choose the correct one with another simple click. Now, go back up to the top and click one of those save boxes. Correct spelling saved for publication, and eternity. Isn't life amazing?
If you go old school with option #2, look at the menu bar, and count 8 to the right. There it is. Perfect spelling so easy, even a fool could do it. Unless the fool is also lazy. Lazy? I'm not sure I can fix that with this blog post sermon.
And now before I do the little click that sends this spelling sermon zooming through the blog-o-sphere, I am going to go click that magic spell check button myself. And thanks for stopping by.
Welcome to the Cooper studio, Jefferson, Iowa. Let's talk about the calendar today.
After all, timing is everything. Don't you just hate that phrase? Timing is everything. Most people say it to you with sympathy on their faces, because you've made a timing erred mistake. Or when an opportunity is lost because the perfect time has already slipped by. There are those people who make it their living to forecast the perfect time to get something done. Sigh--even they are not 100% perfect.
A little while ago there was an article in the FAV newsletter about Ebay. Be it noted here I am not an Ebay fan, but allow that for some people, it works. That's not the point however, rather the comment included in the letter:
"When the art goes off is extremely important. You don’t want the auction to end Christmas Day or on any other big holidays. Use your brain."
Did not that author just say, "timing is everything"? I was reminded of this paragraph when I opened the stats page of my website today. All of you who have FASO artist websites know that little bar graph that pops up there, right? It shows how many people have visited your website today, or yesterday, or whenever.
Aaaach! Flat lined! My personal bar graph is apparently glued to the bottom. What does that tell us? NO BODY and NO ONE (except for me) is sitting in front of their computer this holiday weekend. Okay, actually, there were a whopping seven there yesterday, and eight today, but trust me when I tell you that doesn't give your bar graph any perceptible motion.
Now then, what's the lesson to take away and retain? That brilliantly written blog post article, or that beautifully crafted newsletter? DON'T send them at holiday time. There's no accounting for all of your reader's travel plans and vacation times, but by looking at the calendar and using your brain, it's pretty simple to forecast that your bar graph will be flat lined for a day or two. In essence, your very important information will fall on deaf ears. Unopened ears, errr, emails, I mean. And those same people probably won't have time for you the first day back from holiday either. Really, everyone is playing catch up and it's way too easy to file things away for reading later. A later that often never happens.
So if you are one of those crazy seven or eight, sitting in front of the machine, designing that newsletter, when everyone else is out on holiday, look at your calendar. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Schedule that article/newsletter to go when there's actually someone there to receive it.
Note: I'm writing this today, but you won't get a chance to read it for a day or so. And were the fireworks in your town spectacular?!
Today is Monday, which means in most corners of the world, we just had Sunday. Hopefully several of us heard a good sermon yesterday, and I'm sorry for those of you who heard a bad one...
But what makes the difference between a good sermon and a bad one? And how on earth can that be relevant to a blog post on the subject of art? And to make matters worse, I think we are also going to throw the entertainment industry into this discussion. And then I want to use as an example an article about a labyrinth---wow. We'd better get started. That's a lot of dots to connect. Sermons and blog posts.
People love to tell us how to write a blog post, right? There are articles about how to space paragraphs so our eyes don't get tired or lose focus on long blocks of text. Articles that tell us about the dangers of abusing the Caps Lock button, about too many exclamation points. We can read about what color to use for the background of our blog page, to keep our readers from eye fatigue. About finding the spell check button, and using it.
But what about content? What do you do when you get to an article that you are pretty sure has information you could use, but you find yourself yawning. You are thinking, "dang, this author is so textbook". Wishing you could be elsewhere? Doing the quick scroll ahead to see how much more you have to read, to get to the end?
You know what a parable is, right? (in case I assume too much, that is a live link to wikipedia on the subject of parable) The greatest Teacher ever, used parables to illustrate his sermons. Add the contrast of a bad sermon, where all we hear is rules, with no aid to understanding. Which do we remember at the end of the day?
And I promised we'd throw in the entertainment industry--are you going to tell me you really think people don't like a good story? Dollars spent in that venue tell us otherwise.
I think that brings us to blog posts. Sermons and blog posts. Isn't the purpose of a blog post to dispense information? We could even consider it to be an online teacher, couldn't we? And if we are teachers, maybe we should be considering how our readers like to receive their information. Possibly we should be concerned with avoiding a blog article that is too text book dry. We can think about how people love a good story. How they understand better, when it's illustrated with a good story. How a good story helps them remember.
I promised you an example that included a labyrinth. Keith Bond's article Walk The Labyrinth is a pretty fine example of what I've been carrying on about here. We get information, and then right down there in the middle of the article, he gives us the story, the entertainment that makes the whole sermon-giving acceptable to the reader. In this case, he tells us how his family inadvertently acted out the concept. And guess what? I remembered it.
I remembered it NOT because I had to force myself to get through it, mentally hammer the information into my brain, and mandate myself to retain it. Rather, I remembered it because it came with a good story. I was entertained as I was informed.
Yesterday, we got a sermon about Father's Day, of course. Everyone did, right? :) Our pastor illustrated the whole thing with a revved up "husband-wife conversation" from the Song of Solomon. Fun, and it drove the point home. I remember.
Hey, how did that song go? Something about a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down? Whew! It's definitely time to go paint. Have a lovely day.
Did you read that title? Then you already know what this article is all about.
I am a blog reader. And it gets tougher. I am demanding. (of course I mean that in an ever so politically correct way)
I am a blog reader, but, let's set this straight: I don't read just any old blog. And while a lot of the blogs I read hang out under the FASO FineArtViews Blogs - Insights Directly from our members!heading, by no means do I read all of them that reside there. "Why?" you ask. Because I am demanding. And because I can't afford to give away very much of my 24 hour day to the blog reading arena, so I focus on the good ones. But for those of you who want to up your readership, here's a list of my demands. (and of course, I say that with a friendly smile on my face)
1. I want you to entertain me.
2. I want you to make it easy.
3. I want you to keep it clean and neat.
4. Oh, and throw in some good information while you are at it.
Already I hear the blog writing experts gearing up their keyboards to comment on Demand #1. "Any good art blog should be written for information, not entertainment", is surely what several people are getting ready to tell me. "Grow up and get serious for once" is likely what someone else is thinking. Now while I may be the slacker that fell asleep in art history class on more than one occasion (seriously, he had a very dry British accent that lulled everybody to sleep), here's the bottom line: I am your blog reader. Possibly I am out in left field all by myself with this entertainment demand, but I doubt it. If you had two blog articles that dispensed the same information, one with a "dry British accent" and the other with an enjoyable lilt, honestly, which would you read? My inner muse just warned me that ONE of you will insist on the dry British accent. Ah, well. You get my point.
Moving on. Easy--I want it easy. One click should do, right? And you know that little icon on the menu bar that looks like a link of chain? You should use it. People that worry about sending their blog traffic to other people's articles with that little icon--no room for that kind of worry in this game. Think of the benefits you can give your reader by showing them other's information on the same subject! And we really don't need to be concerned about whether or not the reader will follow the link back to us--we have excellent blog articles, and of course they will return.
#3 Keep it clean and neat. I always thought this was a no-brainer. But I have a blog author on my no-click list because of rampant use of four letter words. Wouldn't it be great if we only had a dry British accent versus the enjoyable lilt to discuss? But sadly, no, we have seedy matters to talk about as well. And while we're seedy, may I say "please don't insult me with your lazy omission of the use of the capital key"? Didn't we all learn in first or second grade that the first word of every sentence is capitalized? And then, are we all using "full screen mode for entry text"? If yes, look at the menu bar, and count over to the 13th icon. I like when people use that one too.
Finally we get to #4. Undeniably, the most important part of any blog, is the information. Whether it be about the painting you just finished, the award you've won, or an article on prejudice against conservative art--any of those are legitimate reasons for the existence of your blog. Someone, somewhere, wants that information. They want to know.
Try to picture that person that wants to know. What if (ouch) they look like me? My husband tells me I'm kind of unique, but really, I'm a fairly normal person. What if the rest of your potential readers are just like me? What if they are demanding? Odds are good that they are, you know. I am a blog reader, and I do have my list of demands...
Welcome to the Cooper studio, Jefferson, Iowa. The word organization just came to the forefront a few minutes ago. I had just read a reply from FASO tech-Lisa. But maybe I should begin at the beginning. Here we go:
A few years ago a group of three artists met to plan a workshop we would be teaching at the local art center. One artist looked at the other two of us and said "you guys are so organized!" She was wrong, of course, at least on my side of the equation. The other person, yup, she was totally organized. After all, she was the one who came to the meeting with an outline, printed in triplicate, so we could each have a copy to work from. Me, well, I am just an organize-wanna-be.
I can vaguely remember the year when my husband told me I really had to get serious about this and get some sort of a website set up. I would love to say I thoroughly researched my options and then chose FASO, but probably it was divine intervention :) I have always been more than just a little pleased with the results. The bad news about being pleased with something, is that sometimes you want it to stay pleasing. Not change. And I say that, even though I am one of those people who enjoys the change-up.
We would deduce then, that when change messes with my limited organization, which someone had to help me get to anyway----well, surely you can see my point. And now, I ask, have any other FASO artists noticed that we currently have two options for writing a blog post?
>full screen mode for entry text, and
>old full screen composer for entry text
The second option, being old, will phase out soon. Determining that I best get familiar with the new option, I did. May I share that there is a cool little button on the "old" version that made me feel organized to the max? It's called "insert group box". All it does is put a text box around my blog post. But guess what, I couldn't find that icon on the "new" mode. Aaargh.
So why is a silly little text box worth anything, anyway? I thought about this. Lines are apparently kind of important to me. Especially when those lines enclose a shape. Even when the shape is just filled up with text. I would say that just as lines can organize the shapes in a painting, they can also give organization to my thoughts and blog posting on my website. Yup, it's confirmed. I like lines.
So, I used the "new" mode to write this. And did everybody notice I got my line back? Thanks Lisa. You FASO techies are great.