How a Theme Can Help Revive Your Blog

Two and a half-years after participating in our Blog Triage class, Carrie Cahill Mulligan gave her blog a new boost when she participated in 17 Days of Green – a meme started by Jenna Hatfield, aka FireMom, on Stop Drop and Blog.

Carrie Cahill Mulligan Felt Hats
For her 17 Days of Green blog series, Carrie Cahill Mulligan shows off the moss green felt hat she knitted.

Carrie said she was inspired by Anne Lamott's book about writing, Bird by Bird.

In Bird by Bird, Lamott tells a story about a writing student who just couldn't seem to start writing.  She advises him to narrow the topic down from his childhood, to his childhood home. Nothing. Eventually she instructs him to write in detail about a single brick in the front of his childhood home, and viola! The floodgates opened.
This 17 days of green theme is my own personal “brick”.

Carrie Cahill Mulligan
Carrie Cahill Mulligan began her 17 Days of Green Series with the green front door of her New Hampshire home.

Carrie said, “Creating 17 posts is just half as daunting as a writing a whole month’s-worth. And, the focus is narrow enough to provide structure, but broad enough to include all sorts of green stuff.”
Check out Carrie's green posts.

Pull a Theme Out of a Hat

If your blog needs a jolt, try working on a theme like Carrie.
Themes give you structure. You aren't always grasping for something to write because you know what your subject will be.
Dora Ficher, another Blog Triage alum, has an alphabet theme going on her blog. Pop in and vote for your favorite word for each letter. Guess what comes after “G”? You're right! Dora already knows what post comes after the G post.
Anything can be made into a theme! Here are a few for you to try:

  • Springtime
  • May flowers
  • Family
  • Clouds
  • Local artists
  • Artists I admire
  • Art words
  • Artwork I want to see before I die
  • Books that inspired me
  • My favorite art teachers
  • Art supplies that fit in your pocket
  • Music to make art to

Have fun with it! Blogging should be fun.

If your blog has become a grind, Cynthia Morris and I want to help you out – just like we helped Carrie and Dora – in our Blog Triage class. The fun (there's that word again) starts April 25 and we only accept 30 people in the class. Snag your seat now.

What's your theme?

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19 thoughts on “How a Theme Can Help Revive Your Blog”

  1. This is a great idea. I started taking pictures of pottery that I own but didn’t make and wrote a few blogs in a series I call “Other Peoples Pots.” I only published a few of them, and not all in a month but it was a good way to get the creative juices flowing.
    Bird by Bird is a fantastic book, I recommend it to anyone, even non-writers.

  2. Great idea! I’ll see what I can come up with for a theme.
    I agree with Lori, Bird by Bird is fantastic book. One of my very favorite. Anne Lamott is an awesome writer. I have never had an interest in writing but happened to pick this book up at a used book sale at a library where every book was .25 cents. It looked like a cute little book and I wanted to buy something to help the library out and this was the only one that appealed to me. I couldn’t put it down once I opened it up. I urge you to read it for yourself. A wonderful book …
    I need to start a theme for my blog. Great idea.

  3. Thanks so much, Alyson! I was really amazed at how much a simple theme could get me interested in writing again.
    I love some of your other theme ideas. I’ve been mentally composing posts for “local artists,” “art in my home,” and more “grow your own” gardening posts (with recipes) lately.
    Now that I’m thinking about it, though, I have to wonder if it really was “Bird by Bird” or maybe Natalie Goldberg’s “Writing Down the Bones”?? I read both books around the same time, and might have mixed them up. I’d recommend both, if you’re looking for inspiration for writing.
    And for anyone considering the Blog Triage class – go for it! It helped me tons.

    1. Alyson Stanfield

      Carrie: Ah, yes, Writing Down the Bones is another excellent read. It’s better (I think) for nonfiction and the actual ACT of writing.

  4. I like your invitation here, Alyson. I think a theme is like a magnet that your ideas can center around, making it easier to write and feel creatively inspired to blog.
    I’ve been blogging about how to write a book – from the inside out – with my Claim Your Authority series. I mapped most of it out, thinking of it like the table of contents of a book.
    I’ve messed around with the order and tweaked some of my original ideas, but this theme has helped me be able to focus on other big projects – launching my novel – and not on trying to generate new blog ideas. And I think it keeps readers coming back, knowing more articles in the series are coming!

    1. Alyson Stanfield

      So happy you’re teaching the BT class with me! You can share all of your writing secrets with our students.

  5. Pingback: Relax! This Blog Post Formula Does the Work for You [Infographic] — Art Biz Blog

  6. Pingback: Blog Content from Another Great Blog | Little Birds Little Songs

  7. I’ve got a year long theme going titled TURNING 40 where I’ve been interviewing my dearest, closest lady friends as each of their 40th birthdays approach…it’s been so much fun and took us on a self-analytical journey that otherwise wouldn’t have happened…oh, and it has been well received by my blogs readers!!

  8. I did a version of this last year when I participated in Tara Gentile’s 52 weeks of blogging. Every week I knew what one of my three posts was going to be. Now, I didn’t always do them in order, but it really did help to get it done. Plus there was a forum going at the time that held me accountable.

  9. The theme of my blog is rather general. It is a family friendly blog catering to the NYC metro area and I try to write posts that are like little gems information for parents, kids and artists. So far it has gone over well reposting to Facebook, but getting readers to directly to Blogger has been a challenge. I will try to narrow my theme a bit to entice more readers and comments! Thanks for this helpful article!!

    1. Alyson Stanfield

      Ashley: I kinda stopped posting my blog posts to Facebook. It’s a test, but with the new FB algorithms, I lost a bunch of interaction. I have decided to post original content there.

  10. Thanks for sharing your idea! I considered myself a writer and was very passionate about it for most of my life–but when I started cultivating my artwork again, writing has become very difficult and daunting. This idea seems approachable to me as a writer and also a pleasant and inviting interaction with readers. Safer than the gnashing of teeth angsty blogs I write and save eternally, never to be read.

    1. Alyson Stanfield

      Lindsey: You obviously have a talent that you should be using to help share your art.

  11. (I save all of my favorite newsletters and blogs to read “later.” That’s why I’m late in replying.)
    This is a great idea, and I may implement it for my business blog (the one I’ve linked via my name.) I’ve had a tough time in the last couple of years coming up with topics that were not just “studio updates and “look what I’m doing.” I’m trying to come up with a format that I’ll stick with. It would INCLUDE updates, but it wouldn’t be ALL updates. This post gives me some great food for thought!
    _Bird by Bird_ is on my “to read’ list, and so is _Writing Down the Bones_. I’ve also read Julia Cameron’s _The Artist’s Way_, but I have not “worked it.” I’m planning to go back through the book, chapter by chapter, and do some of the exercises. I’m at a place in my life where I’m feeling very stuck, and I think some of those exercises will prove very helpful. Perhaps I’ll share that journey, too!
    LOVE this blog! Thanks for the think-juice! 😉

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