23 February 2017

10 years of emuse: The story of emuse

It’s hard to believe that this week I’m celebrating 10 years since I first set up my blog, emuse, and wrote my first posts here! I didn’t know then that it would still be going all these years later, and that it would have grown and become one of the achievements I’m most proud of in my whole life!

The story starts before that, though. Some years before I even thought about starting this blog (or even knew what a blog was), my internet service provider had offered free web hosting and I decided to set up a website, also called emuse, with various sections on crafts, family history, books, tv, etc. I’d learned a lot about html and website design through my MSc course in Human Computer Interaction, and I really enjoyed setting up and running my site. But sometimes it did feel a bit of a hassle to update it, and I didn’t really feel part of a community.

I can’t remember much about other people’s reactions to me starting my website, other than my boss, who, when I told him the name of it, said, “Are you really sure you want to call it that?!” But, in fact, the name emuse is something that I still love and I’m glad I called the website and blog by that name!

I got to my mid-thirties, and suddenly realised that more than ten years of my life had gone by since I had started working, and I couldn’t remember much of note that had happened in those years – I felt they had gone by with nothing to show for them. I knew I’d done things, but had no real record of them other than some photos.

Then the whole idea of blogging came along, at just the right time. At first I wasn’t that sure about blogs – they just seemed to be online diaries, and I wasn’t sure who would want to read about my boring life! But then I realised that I could use a blog just for myself, as a way of remembering and celebrating all the little things that happened in my life – craft projects, days out, etc, and I also realised that a lot of the sites I read and enjoyed were blogs. It was February when I started emuse, a month that I tend to find myself feeling really fed up, so I think I was in need of cheering up and a creative project! And I liked the idea that once I had the blog I would be able to look back and see the things I'd done, to boost my mood if I was feeling down.

For the blog header I used a collage of some little characters I'd been creating at that time, made from a stamped circle for the head, and cut paper for the body.

The idea of the most recent post being first on a blog was a bit strange to me, as I was used to having a hierarchical structure on my website. It took a while for me to realise that I could use things like tags to group posts on similar subjects together, and that it was more of a magazine format that kept readers coming back for fresh content.

I joined Flickr a few years later, and this was where I really found the sense of community that had been lacking when I had my old website. I began to follow a lot of craft and illustration bloggers, many of whom I still follow now. But these days I more rely on Instagram for that sense of community.

I still kept the website running in the background. It was a useful record of some of the craft projects I’d done before starting my blog, and it was also a way of distant relatives finding my family history research! It only finally came to an end in the past year or two, when Virgin did away with their personal web page hosting.

A major turning point for emuse came three years ago when I decided to redesign the blog. I was actually a bit fed up with blogging at that time. I was really just going through the motions, especially when it got to the point when all I wrote in a blog post was "did these drawings yesterday". It was starting to feel like a bit of a chore, and I was seriously considering giving it up altogether. But, instead, I somehow got a new spurt of creative energy and started to redesign the blog and try to attract new readers.
I changed the colour scheme and added a new hand-cut collage header, which included various elements that I felt were important to the blog – various crafts, books, Japan, dolls, etc. I also kept the little bird motif from the original banner, to keep a sense of continuity. I liked the idea of keeping a handmade feel by using the cut paper illustration. I added buttons to make navigating the blog easier, and over the next few months I added other features like having the most popular posts in the sidebar, and having related posts at the end of each post (although this last one is something that’s been playing up a bit lately, so I really have to fix that!).

The following month A Beautiful Mess began a Blog Life course, and it came along at just the right time for me. It got me thinking about the purpose of my blog, and my talents, interests and personality. This led to me creating themed weeks and months on the blog, which meant I could take advantage of the way I get obsessed with one topic for a while!

The blog redesign and the Blog Life course gave me the creative boost I needed, helped me to brainstorm lots of ideas for the blog, and made me get more organised. I started having a monthly calendar with all the blog posts marked on it, and roundup posts at the end of the month.

This all led to a massive increase in posting on emuse. Over February and March of 2014 I only posted once, but in May, June, July and August of the same year I posted 31 times each month! After this initial flurry of activity, I settled down a bit and went for a more achievable goal of posting roughly 3 times a week, although this can vary. After the redesign and improved posting regime there was an increase in readership too, with the monthly hits being more than double what they used to be.

Something else I learned from Blog Life was to bring my personality more into my blog, and to let the readers get to know me a bit. I’d also been reading the A Beautiful Mess photo idea book at that time, and was getting into taking self-portraits, so these became a regular part of the blog.

I also started taking more of an effort with my blog photos in general, making sure to get good light and to use simple backgrounds. Now when I look back at the earlier photos I cringe, and I can tell which photos are from before and after the redesign!

Over the past 10 years emuse has grown to become not just a way of recording the little achievements in life, but a big achievement in itself, and, in fact, my biggest and most important creative project ever! I’ve written almost 1300 blog posts, on lots of different topics, and the blog has helped me to record and remember lots of amazing experiences, shown me what an important part of my life creativity is, and also helped me to be part of a wonderful blogging community that stretches all around the world.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Congratulations on the major success of Emuse! I recently started a blog and really enjoy writing but am having difficulty getting my writing out to the public. How did you engage readers? I think my content is interesting, but I just don't know how to get people to look at it. What would you credit for getting your blog attention?

Lucius Cambell @ Skild

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