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Have you been shopping lately, with a four year old in tow? It’s not a task anyone looks forward to.

First thing you will be dragged to, is the toys section of course. Among masses of things displayed on the shelves, your child will inevitably zero in on something of interest, with laser-sharp precision. He will pick it up, spend 3 seconds looking it over before deciding if it needs to be tossed back or if he wants it – right now!

While this is a highly frustrating experience for a busy parent, it leads to great insights in understanding human behaviour. How is it that a child who cannot understand the merits of a plaything yet, makes his decision under 4 seconds flat. Why is that even without opening it, he knows that he wants it. The answer is simple; the fact that it looks good to him, the fact that it has created an impression that he cannot live without it, this is enough.

First impression matters.

I must confess I am guilty too .Same thing happens to me when I go shopping in the world of blogs. My time is precious so while I look at many, I can’t read through most. What makes me stop in my blogathon is when a blog looks so professional on its first look. It just grabs my attention and refuses to let go. I just have to find out who the blogger is and what are they writing about. I decide to stay longer.

All this takes a few seconds, first few seconds for any blogger to create a really good first impression on potential readers. You can either wow someone by creating a good first impression or you risk losing them – fast.

All it needs is to send a message across, that your blog is professional.

Be Professional

You don’t need to hire a professional to make it look good. You don’t need to buy expensive themes. A blog looks professional when there is consistency across everything. Nothing looks out of place and there are no glaring errors to spot. When you look professional, you create confidence and trust in your brand. People start to develop a soft corner for you. They are already on your side.

Send the correct message

People have their own reasons for admiring a blog design; it’s a matter of personal taste really. But you need to make sure that you are sending the right message.

  • Does it look fun or serious or quirky or something else?
  • Is the focus of the blog on the content or on selling some product or service?
  • Is it a how-to blog?
  • Is it a photo blog?

Think carefully about these before choosing a theme and designing the look of your blog.

Don’t overwhelm with too much information

  • Is your blog clean or cluttered?

If there is too much information, it might overwhelm people even before they have actually started reading something. Too many visual design elements confuse people; they don’t know where to start. Their eye won’t know where to settle and can’t focus on the important stuff – your posts. Get rid of the clutter. It makes the experience very unpleasant to start off with.

Show where the most important information is

It’s safe to say that all of us want to read a blog where you are able to find all the relevant information quickly.

  • Who are you?
  • What is this blog about?
  • Where are your most popular posts?
  • Where can I subscribe?

Go back to your blog and see if you can locate all of this information quickly and easily. These should be visible on the first look.

Create an awesome about me page

This is the place where the readers most likely go first.

This is where you create trust, if you are likeable, interesting, honest and passionate about what you’re doing, there is no reason why people won’t like you. When they like you, they want to know more about what you have to say, and then they begin to follow you.

So yes, it is what you write that keep people coming back to your blog. But what if they never stick around long enough to find out if they love your writing?

Make sure that you are not one of the products sitting on the shelf lamenting your fate. You want people to reach for you, by creating a desire. The easiest way to do that is to give them a really good preview – of all the good things to come. Put your best foot forward and you can’t go wrong.

Want more posts that will help you build authority with your blog, charge more for your services and use your blog as the lead generation machine? Subscribe to my professional blog Writing Happiness and grab my free ebook ‘How to write blog content that works’.

This post originally appeared as a guest post on Virgin Blogger Notes.

When I started out, there was one thing that I desperately wanted. I was dying for it and yet nobody would give it to me.

An honest opinion. On my blog.

What do you think of it? I kept on asking but didn’t get anywhere.

I needed it sooo badly and yet I couldn’t get it from someone who knew what they were talking about. UNLESS I was prepared to pay hundreds of dollars for a critique.

Well, when you start  out, you don’t know what you are doing, you don’t know how long you will be doing it for, and you are NOT prepared to spend any amount upwards of $2.00 on it. YET

So allow me to help you guys out. If you want some feedback on your blog – FREE – and real feedback – practical tips that can improve how your blog looks, feels and behaves (get more comments and traffic), then go to my new blog Writing Happiness and leave a comment under the top post titled Need a mini critique for your blog? Here’s how you can get one – for FREE.

And I will respond – that’s a promise. And I will be friendly, n positive yet give you some advice that will help.

If nothing else, you will get some perspective from a reader – who reads many, many blogs – me! :)

See you there folks!

My apologies to if you have already subscribed to Writing Happiness. This is the first and the last duplicate post from my side guys.

Hi guys,

If you had a look at my blog recently, you must be thinking, has this woman gone crazy?

From maryawrites to blogtherapy, to writinghappiness to maryawrites? AGAIN? (Sorry if you just subscribed in the past few days, this line shows the recent changes in my blog name- as you were.)

Allow me to explain …

I started my blogging journey writing as Marya Writes, here of course. I had no idea what I wanted to do and like most people I was drifting aimlessly. I knew only two things, I love to write and I love to learn.

I have been a corporate writer for a number of years, I have also taught Business Communication. While I (almost) knew I can write , I wasn’t sure if I was going to make it as a blogger. I still am not, but it doesn’t matter now. I WILL NOT GIVE UP. I will keep going no matter. This is just the start of my online writing career – something that I have been passionate about for a long long time but wasn’t able to pursue because of some deeply personal family issues.

But now I can, and I am.

So I have moved to my own site known as Writing Happiness – Writing for Web.

What better way to build an online writing resource than to go through the whole process yourself? And write about it when you still can – remember that is.

I want to thank all of you for your amazing support and kindness that you have provided. But wait, this is not the end. I am just moving to another site heheheh

Please go to www.writinghappiness.com and subscribe there. I mean it, I don’t want to hear any excuses. Please! *puppy eyes”

Actually let me make it easier for you, to show you how important you – my dear reader – are to me. I will spend my weekend manually entering hundreds of email addresses on my new site. All you have to do it confirm when you get the message in your email. Just letting you know so you don’t freak out. It’s not spam – its Marya. :)

Or, you could save me some of the effort and subscribe there. In return, WHEN I become a hotshot, I’ll still remember you …hahahahah … corny? Well the biggest problem with that sentence, IF rather than When.

Anyway ….

That’s all I wanted to say today. Sorry I confused you with all the blog name changes. I have slightly modified my blog focus so I needed something to reflect that.

One more thing, I have just started my writinghappiness facebook page. Could you ‘like’ it? I promise not to stuff it with information. I am not big on social networking but there are some less than pleasant tasks that every writer must do right? Social marketing is one of them.

As this is an email – from a friend to another – I have not edited it all at. It has turned out longer than I thought, as I do tend to ramble in my emails. All errors are mine. (Actually I couldn’t resist doing the spell check). All the useless sentiment is mine too.

This is my last post here. See you at Writing Happiness. :)

Cheers!

Somewhere in 2008, I decided to give twitter a try. Like most people I was curious – what is so special about this thing anyway? So I signed up, which wasn’t hard at all. Then I sat there twiddling my thumbs and wondering – hmm. 

And I did nothing further. 

And I logged out. 

Number of tweets – Zero. 140 characters be damned. 

My dilemma, like many people, I do not have any friends on twitter. What can I say, we are weird this way, a bunch of overexcited workaholics who hardly ever get on to facebook. We are not the really out-there social types. 

My a-ha moment came sometime last month. Give twitter another try, only this time, do it for social networking with likeminded souls, not necessarily friends. YAY. I don’t need a life to go on twitter. I can follow random people. 

Twitter is an (amazing) tool for information and marketing. Listen and engage. 

#1 Twitter is not like facebook – you don’t need friends on twitter

If you are hesitant to give twitter a try, then consider this, on facebook you only have people who you know – known as your friends. On twitter, you can follow anyone who catches your interest. You don’t have to know them and vice versa. Say you are interested in collecting old books, you will find people on twitter who do the same. You are big on watercolour painting, well there are tons of artists on twitter you can network with. Bet you wanna try searching for interests now. Search #keyword. ( # helps people categorize messages.)

#2 Twitter is not like instant messenger – you are not bound

If you are like most people, you don’t have time to go on online and have chats with people you hardly know. Well, that’s the beauty of twitter, you don’t have to. 

Twitter is about ‘ambient intimacy’. You maintain a meaningful connection with people without having to respond to anything. It’s still good to, but you don’t have to.

Imagine going outside for a walk. You see people walking past talking to each other. It’s a bit like eavesdropping on them AS YOU PASS THEM. You might say something to people ahead of you (if they are listening to you – as in following you), and you could hear things people are saying if you are following them. 

It can be loads of fun – if these people mean something to you. Say you find out your favourite blogger is getting married and you decide to pop over and say congrats. You hear somebody has launched an ebook you might be tempted to check it out. Oooh, you coud overhear people saying nice things about you. That would probably make your day.

I have started to follow all bloggers I have subscribed to, writers, minimalists, social media people, booklovers etc etc. At one time I might get on and find Darren Rowse of Problogger posting something – which he does a lot by the way – he is a prolific tweeter. I might tweet mentioning somebody’s name (Add @nameofperson ) and they will see it, and so will others. So it’s a very public way of showing affection or ill feelings for that matter. 

Going back to our twitter walk, you go there when it suits you and respond or post if you want to. Tweets are not connected to each other and you are not required to keep track of all the tweets, no one can. People following thousand’s of people will have a continuos flow of tweets appearing in their timeline (the main window, where new tweets appear in real time). 

You can also tell others what you heard – as in retweet the original message (RT message) 

#3 Twitter keeps you in the know

You get to hear all sorts of news that now sometimes break on twitter first. You get to hear news from your favourite bloggers, writers, celebrities and the like. Twitter can be your instant service for the latest news, happening before your eyes.

#4 Twitter is good for your blog

Twitter is good for business, or for broadening your circle of hobby –ers. If you want to bounce off ideas for your new business you want to set up, you will find likeminded people to talk to. It also helps to spread word about your blog – and that’s NEVER a bad thing.

Are you on twitter? Do you like it? Hate it? Want to give it a go? Here is what you can do 

  • Go on to twitter and make yourself a username. Fill your profile as it will help people decide if you want to follow you back.
  • Have you got friends or colleagues on twitter? That’s good, start following them.
  • Do you follow blogs? Start following them. Start following me @WritingH. I usually tweet about all things OTHER than blogging. :)
  • Do you like any particular celebrities, sports people, tv and media personalities, journalists, etc etc. Find them and follow them. 
  • Spend 5 minutes at a time following what people are saying. Soon, you will start to get an idea of what to respond to, what to retweet and so on. You can start tweeting from the beginning. The more you tweet, the more people will follow you. 

So, what is your twitter id? Let me know and I would be happy to follow you!

Does your blog make you feel good? 

If your answer is yes, chances are it is extending that wonderful feeling to your readers as well. Feeling good is a bit like yawning, you can’t do it without affecting others. Its contagious. So is being miserable in your writing. Writing a constructive rant is one thing but nobody wants to read stuff that brings everyone down, all the time. 

What kind of blogger would you rather be? Positive and inspiring others, or a whiny one. Nobody likes whingers, at least that’s what I notice around me. And that’s what I teach my kids too.

I am a huge fan of those bloggers who can put a positive spin on just about anything.  It is my utmost pleasure to read what they have to say. You read these people and you feel like you can do anything. They give you that extra something you need from your reading – something to tell you it’s all going to work out in the end. 

You can write like that too. 

You don’t have to be the world’s most optimistic person. You just have to be human. 

Be HAPPY

Have a cheerful disposition in real life? When people see you, does it put a smile on their faces or do they think ..uh oh. 

Being a joyful person that you are, let your blog posts reflect that. I am not suggesting that we all need to only write about the good things, after all what’s the purpose of having a blog where you can’t let loose and do an occasional rant. But really, there is a lot of misery in real life, much gloom and doom. Talk about that if you must, but it pays if people leave your blog feeling much better. 

Be HELPFUL

Your blog has to do either one of two things, either it entertains or it helps. 

Make your writing useful. Provide some value to your readers. When you provide genuine help to your readers, they see it’s not all about you. Yes, it’s all about your writing but for what? Feel better about yourself or some other higher purpose. 

I write to help myself and .. others. 

Educate yourself by helping others. In helping others lies your sense of achievement and pride. Do your part. 

Be HUMOROUS

There is nothing sadder than not being able to laugh at oneself or to not see the lighter side of things. It’s truly amazing what laughter can do to brighten up a room, how it lifts everybody’s spirits. 

Laughter is generosity. It means you are interacting in a way that is neither judgemental, nor serious. People love it when there is unexpected humour amongst all the serious stuff. It’s like the icing on the cake for me. 

When you write lightly, it means you encourage others to look at things in a new perspective. All of a sudden, things seem better and it keeps everything in perspective. 

Be HOPEFUL

It keeps everyone going. 

I am sure everyone has those days when everything seems to take a turn for the worst. Nothing goes according to plan and after few such days, it’s quite easy to start questioning the purpose of it all. It’s a state of depression and it strikes us all. I too suffer from it and in those days you don’t even know what hope looks like. On that day I long to find something that offers hope, something that reminds me why I am doing it all. Could your blog do this for your readers?

Share your successes with your readers. People love a happy ending. 

Share your hard lessons you learnt. People love you when you refuse to stay down and show them how to come out smiling. 

Do you have any stories to tell? You will find many listeners. Be positive. Be that blogger. 

Be HUMAN

Show your human side. Make people relate to you. They like hearing a human voice, something that is real, honest and well… just human. 

Be human, be yourself and all will be well. 

   On a day when I am following my H religion, nobody is more successful on the planet than me. There is nothing that I cannot achieve. On a day like this, I want to write a post like this and share it with everybody

  Not everyday is like that, and sometimes I don’t get to meet all things H for many days. One those days it’s impossible to write a cheerful post. On those days, I look forward to reading all other bloggers who are humorous and help out others by reminding us that there is always hope. They remind us that this is all part of being human. And we are happy.

Join my circle of happiness, and become a part of my ‘happy’ blog. Subscribe now. :)

Somebody asked me the other day, how long have you been blogging for? 

I am thinking they were trying to suss me out, to see if I have got enough experience to be dishing any kind of advice – much less blogging advice. 

My answer? A couple of months of actual writing – and 3 decades of building up to it

This is my story. 

Totally unimpressive highlights of my life, that have been totally significant to me – in terms of work, life and successes. 

My father was once in charge of a local library, he was actually a Naval officer at that time, and he had the coolest job on the earth. His job description meant that he would visit local stores and select books to be purchased for the library. He would also take his eldest daughter along, to pick all the books she liked for the children’s section. She was about 5 at that time. She also happened to be me! 

This gave rise to a major obsession with books, reading and life long learning. I remember sitting with books piled high and reading well into the night.  

As I got a little older, I started doing what every little girl did. Writing stories, pages and pages of them, which eventually turned into boxes. Not everybody does that? See, I didn’t know that. I wrote, and I wrote … and I never thought of making a big deal out of it. 

I ‘published’ children’s magazines from home and got everybody to read them and give cool testimonials on the back. I still have them. 

I started a library (of everything I owned) from home and kids from places far away – well not that far – came and borrowed books. A budding entrepreneur I was even then. Too bad, once when we were away, my library got broken into and more than half of my precious babies were taken away. I don’t know how long I cried for – then I closed my library. I was barely 13 then, I think.

And I wrote for every school and college magazine who would print my work. 

Two things were very, very important to me.

To learn about things, and to share them with other people, be it through creating own magazines, opening up a library, or writing for the local magazines. 

And then the magical world of web 2.0 was born – and I was hooked – for life

Nobody could drag me away from the online communities, forums and any place with the word ‘interactive’ in it. I was a participator in it all. 

I was lapping it up like my life depended on it. 

I was studying, writing, teaching – both online and in my real world. I did post-graduate studies in Law, Marketing, and Education. All the jobs I held had a teaching and a writing component. I couldn’t do it any other way. 

And all this while I did not think that I had to say something important to people like you and me.

And now I do. 

I have found a place. I love it when kindred spirits come my way and decide to stay.

I am building a community of people who are passionate about life, have a desire and will to succeed at whatever has caught their eye. They are full of integrity, and best of all they want to blog about it all. 

Welcome to my tribe

Here you would not find money hungry people, but people who want to work hard, and ethically to earn their living – and get rich. Whatever being rich means to them.

You would not see people who are all about the gimmicks, and about following the ‘in crowd’ hoping to cash on their successes.

Here are people who want to have a life with a purpose, and live mind fully. 

We all need such a place to hang out. Learn, share, blog

Welcome to WRITING happiness!

I am writing for your success.

What is your biggest excuse to not post regularly? Bet I know what you’re going to say. 

What keeps you from actually writing something down? As soon you plonk yourself before your computer, what happens? 

Is it lack of time? 

Really? 

Well, funny I have the same complaint as well. And so do the hundreds of bloggers. Few lucky ones don’t. How do they do it? Well, the reason is very simple. They don’t get distracted. Heard this before? Don’t know why it doesn’t REALLY click in. It did for me yesterday. 

At my house, I had a fuse blown for more about two hours or so. I couldn’t turn the TV on, receive any calls and access the internet (which was probably the hardest). I went offline – and I went invisible.

So I sat down and wrote- and wrote- and wrote. 

We can see what had happened. There is a reason why I was able to do exactly what I wanted to do and even a bit more.

I was NOT distracted. 

I did not start my day by checking my email first. Believe me when I say this, nothing happened when I didn’t check my email in the morning. The world didn’t stop. The sun did come out a usual.

I did not spend hours looking at other blogs, and commenting on different posts. Thats all good but if I do that, then I am not working on my own blog. 

I did not have a quick look at my facebook. Now, I have only few close friends and family on my personal account, even that takes me away from work. A quick message here and there, maybe I’ll write a long overdue email to someone who just posted a quick update to their status. Hang on, might as well watch that youtube video while I am here. You get the idea.

I did not log on to twitter. I did not see who started following me, therefore, I was not enticed to click on their profiles, which could lead to looking at their blogs. I might have decided to follow them back and send them quick messages. It takes away time that I could use to finish my work. 

I did not turn the TV on and drift away by catching mindless piece of information.

I did not receive a long call from a close friend and end up chatting for 45 minutes. Nor was I tempted to make one.

I did not sit around feeling intimidated by the task ahead of me. Didn’t have to think, oh I can’t do this, it’s beyond me. Was that really the case or have I made it this way.

I had something to do and I did it. 

When you are working at and office, are you constantly doing things that take you away from work? I am guessing no – for the most part. Then why do we do it at home? 

Distractions are funny, they are small and seem insignificant. They come unexpectedly and when you start attending to them, all your planning flies out the window. And you are left wondering where all your time went.

You can beat them in 3 easy steps.

Get Organized

That’s the first step to having a shot at acheiving what you want in life. Make a list of tasks for the day and follow through. It’s that simple.

Yes, you will have to be very self-disciplined.  But that’s the whole point of it.

Prioritize Your Time

Make blocks of all the demands on your time that take you away from your task at hand –ie writing a new post. If it’s being on the internet, turn it off.

Set a time aside for checking your blog subscriptions.  Say 20 minutes. Even if you can’t read everything, you’ll probably find out that you did the thing that is more important at the moment. Writing a post. 

Do not go around commenting everywhere. Only comment if you genuinely have something to say, or praise the exceptionally well-written post. 

Check your emails together instead of checking throughout the day. Same goes for the phone calls, return them in bunches if you get many while you are working. 

And finally,

Stick To It

Would you be able to access social networking sites or tv at work? Do the same while you are working from home, its no different really. If you allow too many distractions, you will lose valuable time and end up accomplishing nothing.

I did it for one day. The goal is now to do it for every day of the week. No more lame excuses for why I did not publish three times a week. I have taken the first step.

What keeps you distracted from writing post regularly? Share your tips on how to beat these nasty buggers with all of us.

Subscribe to keep up with all blogging fun… :)

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