Overhaul plans for JapanCanMix – Who am I and why am I here?

When JapanCanMix.com debuted back in mid-June 2014, I wanted to get over the fear of hitting publish and sharing my innards with anyone who arrived on my e-doorstep. Improving my writing skills and sharing images was also there but not much else was confirmed. Well, becoming recognized for my skills and knowledge (a kind of famous) probably cavorted in some back corner of my brain.

doing a good deed

Helping out (Credit: Hitoshi)
Tokyo, Japan – 2007

Having little direction other than seeing what would happen was not a bad thing. Six plus months later, I’ve learned that change and not knowing are both okay. I also discovered that WordPress Blogging U courses are addictive and resistance is futile so this month’s behind-the-scenes focus will be Blogging 101.

stop hand at crosswalk

Wait just a little longer and then go go go!
a Canadian pedestrian signal – 2015

JapanCanMix needs an overhaul. I realized that while Japan is an ever-present part of my life, it is not the only thing that defines me. I also worried that focusing on Japan was too narrow for me.

Telling Hitoshi that I didn’t want to be defined by him and his culture in the blog was an interesting conversation. We talked about his influence in the blog and I also had to think about what I meant by my statement.

Japan has been a significant part of my life for over 8 years. It will continue to be there far into the future. Where do I want to go with the blog and what role will Japan play? I don’t have an answer yet.

Being Hitoshi’s other half is a position I am immensely proud of and I’m thrilled to love and be frustrated with aspects of Japan, but these are only part of an always evolving me. My curiosity for other cultures, love of travel, interest in photography and art, and appreciation for compelling stories goes back long before I joined forces with Japan.

seal in a pool

Hmmm… what should I do today?
Napier, New Zealand – 2005

This month, the Author Info and Blog Info pages will be completely redone. They will be more personal and reflective of all of me. Healthy risks, living beyond comfort, respect, justice, kindness, discovery, information, human rights, environmental protection, strong relationships, and being outdoors are topics that are major parts of my existence.

family dynamic

at the races!
East Thailand – 2005

While I want to encourage visiting Japan, I also want to share stories from Thailand, Australia, and Finland. Having been more interested in anywhere other than Canada for the majority of my life, good ol’ Canada has been neglected. I plan to inject more Canada into the blog but I’m not sure what that will look like.

winter landscape

winter landscape – close to -30C
Canadian prairie – 2015

As for goals and dreams for 2015, I want to figure out how to get 20-30 comments per post, 30+ likes per post, 100 unique viewers per day with at least three page views each, and 500 subscribers. My posting schedule will include three posts per week: one photography related, one story, and one podcast. Hitoshi and I will try for two English podcasts a month. Now I need to figure out a plan to get where I want to go.

interesting Japanese sign

Bag lady wisely – wonderful creativity
Kumamoto, Japan – 2012

Change is coming and I’m more than ready.

If you have a blog, how are things going? Do you have plans for change, big or small, in the coming months?

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44 thoughts on “Overhaul plans for JapanCanMix – Who am I and why am I here?

  1. Yes! I love goals. The worst thing that happens is I don’t reach them (and that’s not that terrible) and then I try again. I think it’s better to set high goals because I like the challenge of finding a solution. And often it’s easy to surprise myself with what can be accomplished.

    Absolutely! I still feel as if I’m finding my feet with the blog and it was freeing to discover that playing, shifting and adapting was no problem. I agree… blogging is a “process” as you said and that’s what makes it exciting for me. The possibilities seem limitless!

  2. At the beginning I was only talking about Iceland, but it has evolved too 🙂 I understand you change of direction. For comments on your post, there is not secret. Building relationships between bloggers, by visiting their blogs will increase their comments. It’s like friendship, and the virtual relations need some care as well 🙂 By talking about different subjetcs, I’m sure you will “attract” more people 🙂 Good luck !

    • Thanks for your comment! I really appreciate it. I’ve been impressed with the engagement on your blog and do want to read more of your posts! Do you think it’s a mix for you of commenting on other blogs plus the variety of content or a bit more of one of them that has helped? I was wondering if Japan was too niche or perhaps I haven’t yet found my group of people to connect with or I haven’t been doing enough to connect on other blogs or maybe a combo of all three. Thanks again!

      • Hmm it’s a difficult question. I’ve noticed that I got more comments when I talk about personal experiences or bad things that happened to me during holidays, rather than generic description (for example the history of a place). If I talk about the history of Reykjavik, I will have less people commenting, because they can’t relate to it. It’s informative yes, they will say “oh thank you, it’s informative”, but difficult to talk a lot about it and get personal in the discussion. But if I talk about me having blisters on my bum when I do horse riding, … some people can relate and that’s how we start to communicate. They will tell me their stories and stuff like that. Since I share something personal, they will get to know me, and I think that’s how you get hook to a blog. You have the feeling that you start to know the person a bit, it feels more intimate and you want to know more about them, thus, returning to their blog. That kind of blogging requires time, and something, I post more generic stuff because I know I will be busy and I won’t have a lot of time to dedicate to my readers and their comments. The same happens if you post only one picture, with no description. Difficult to generate a discussion right ? A part from “wow, beautiful !, thanks for sharing”. I think it’s something to consider. I don’t think you have this problem, your post are personal, and we get to know a bit more of your life ! 🙂

        Another important point : if you never visit other blogs, people may get tired of you, it’s like a one-way online friendship.. it never last long. Once, I was an active fan of a blogger who was writing very interesting quirky and humorous stories. I really loved them. I was always commenting, trying to add some personal experience etc. Each answer was “thanks”, even if my comment was 15 lines long. In return, he would like randomly one of my post (I’m not even sure he read them). At the end, I got tired of it. I was putting a bit of myself in the comment, and got nothing in return. I thought that my time would be better served somewhere else ! You know what I mean ? It’s never very pleasant when it’s one-way. But I don’t think you have this problem either, your answer are always very personal 🙂

        It’s impossible to get along with everyone, for sure ! Even if people comment on your blog, maybe it will never work because… well…. it’s just won’t work, like in real life. You will build your wordpress circle slowly, and it will change over the months, but I think it’s kind of natural. Thus, it’s important to “attract” new readers, and you can do that by using tags efficiently. For example, using specific tag like “spontaneous activity” is a bit useless to me. Why ? Because in the search of the wordpress reader, there is little chance someone will type that 🙂 When I want to discover new blogs, I chose a tag, for example “japan” or “travel”, and I will look at all the blogs that appear in my reader (that’s how I found you, by typing japan I think !) I will never think about writing “random act of cuteness” or other very very specific tags 🙂 Maybe you can improve that ? Just a suggestion.

        To finish this lengthy comment, I would just say that you will realize that you prefer some people to others, and it’s not related to the quality of the blog or the writing, but the shared experiences or stuff like that or even totally random facts.. don’t overthink too much 🙂

        • Wow! Thanks so much for your thoughts! They make a lot of sense and demystify the process of gaining followers. It’s interesting for me that the more I read of the advice floating around, the more contradictions I see and the more I think that there isn’t so much one way but was that work for some people.

          That’s an excellent point about more generic posts versus ones that people can relate to and join in the conversation. I was thinking about the hints and tips posts on the blog that I was originally interested in doing but they really only apply to certain people who are going somewhere, have recently come back and want to add what they found or those that consider themselves experts and want to contradict you. 😀 Finding something that almost anyone can relate to – more human experiences – seem to be better at creating connections. I read somewhere that if you can connect with a basic human emotion, it doesn’t matter what you write about. People will come back for that connection that they feel with you, similar to what you’ve said.

          I know what you mean! There are several blogs that I’ve enjoyed reading, commented many times but never see them on a return visit to my blog (which is another debate, I’ve heard) or like you say, don’t respond to comments or respond with a “Thanks!” It does deflate my enthusiasm to keep it up.

          Oh yes, tags. Thank you very much for mentioning that. I really struggle with them. I’ve read all the WP help articles more than once and eyeballed tags on other sites and still don’t get it. I think your suggestion of starting general is a good one. I looked at some of my tags after your comment and had to laugh. It’s time for some tag cleanup! I also was doing tags more for Google, etc. or myself and forgot about the reader. I know the Google spiders crawl all the content but the WP reader needs those tags. I’m going to take a look at your posts that I’ve read and see if I have a better idea from your tags.

          Thank you so very much. Your comments have been really helpful!

          • Yes, I totally agree, there is no unique way of blogging, everyone is different. I shared my experiences, and I’m glad you could find some of them interesting especially about the tags 🙂

            I love the “hints and tips” posts when I’m planning a trip. I’m reading so many blogs and it’s very useful. I’m glad they exist. But I’m not sure I will visit their blogs after it, on a “regular” basis. So, it depends what kind of audience you want to reach. The best is to mix a bit, so everyone is happy 😀

            Btw, I forgot to tell you that I love the way you end your articles, by asking a question. It’s great 🙂

            • That’s a really good point about not visiting blogs after you’re done with the hints and tips posts. I had never thought of it that way but I’m the same in some senses. That’s a good point to keep in mind! With my tips, I love telling the story behind them so I hope that appeals but perhaps only for me. 🙂 Thanks too for mentioning my questions! I had seen that on other blogs and really liked how it was a way for me to connect with what was written.

  3. Hilary, I know how you feel!! My blog has evolved as well – it went from a ‘Taiwan travel sort of’ blog to a blog where I share everything that is near and dear to me. I love mixing things up. It makes things interesting.

    And I can also relate to holding back. You had problems hitting the publish button whereas I find comfort in publishing without sharing a picture of me. I love the fact that I wear kind of a mask when blogging – there is something safe about blogging anonymously. However, that is all going to change this month. I am going to step out my comfort zone and you will finally see the face behind Foreign Sanctuary. 😉 🙂

    Look forward to reading about the new topics you will write about.

    • Thank you! I also love how you feel free to write when and what you want. That confidence comes through and it’s fun to wonder what you’re going to write about next. Speaking of your writing… I’ve got some reading to do! 🙂

      Really?! How exciting! I have an idea of what you look like from the drawing one of your students made. Aren’t kids’ drawings the best?? 😀 Can’t wait for your second debut!

  4. I love the mix of photos you’ve used to illustrate the diversity of your blog. I too am looking forward to change – let 2015 be a year of magical metamorphosis for you!

        • So true. That’s what I’ve discovered. It’s so much easier to stay flexible and go with what I’m interested in rather than forcing a topic. That said, some topics have been really tough to write and then it’s a great feeling of accomplishment when it comes together.

    • Thanks! It was sooo cold but the air was perfect and clear. The first set I took on Auto by accident and then the last ones, including this one were on manual. I’ve realized I need more snow practice. The first few looked fine in the viewer but were all washed out at home. *gritting teeth and resetting* Practice, Practice, Practice!

  5. Wow, what a list of goals! That’s fantastic and I can’t wait to see you work through them.
    I want to write more, not just descriptions of my photos or reviews, but perhaps short stories to accompany my photos. Photography will definitely be the heart of my blog.
    I also want to include some science, without frightening my readers away 😜
    Well done for putting this list together. And good luck!! X

  6. Hmm those are ambitious goals, but go for it! I did both the Blogging 101 and Blogging 201 courses and found them really useful. You may be a bit advanced already for the 101 course, but it is never a bad thing to be forced to revisit areas of our blogs on a regular basis to reassess. I found that many of my followers write pure gardening blogs and so I was concerned about adding too much non-gardening stuff to my blog. For that reason I started another blog for travel, photography etc, but apart form the photo 101 course I have barely used it. I am now wondering whether I would be better to combine everything into one blog. I guess I should just ask my followers as some point. Of course I need to find the time somehow to write all those travel blogs that are still waiting off stage.. . .

    • Thanks, Annette! Ambitious goals are the best ones for me and if I fail, I try again. I think Blogging 101 would have been great about a year ago to get the blog going but then again, now is ideal because I have a better idea of what I want to do. Well, I have a *feeling* of what I want to do.

      As for diversifying your blog, one possibility is to lump the non-gardening topics under a page. I would love to read your stories. From your comments so far, I feel like you are bursting with narratives to share. The other exciting advantage to sharing more than gardening is seeing another side of you. That makes the blog experience that much richer. It reminds me of a blogger who shares her bento lunches (dosirakbento.wordpress.com). She wrote a post about her blog’s direction and I was falling all over myself with glee reading it. And so were her other followers. Or a photographer who wrote a post about a restaurant review. In both cases, we got a window into who they were and it was like being let in on a secret!

      • Thanks, that is really helpful. I should maybe publish some non gardening stuff and see what response I get from my regular followers. The main trouble is finding time to do it. I love travelling and I love taking photos, but I can’t get as excited writing about it as I do about my garden. Maybe once I get started though? I agree with you that it is always interesting finding out more personal stuff about people who blog. You feel you are getting to know them better.

        • Sure! Publishing and seeing what happens is a great way to go. If it doesn’t work, you can always try again later and even delete the post if you don’t want it lying around. However, I have a feeling it won’t fail. You might get some new followers, too!

          I hear you about time. I’ve got about ten post ideas on the go in my mind right now and have to be content with slowly squeezing them out one at a time. If you’re not so keen about writing about the travel, what about posting photo essays with only a few sentences??

          • Yes I have thought about just using the photos – it is a good idea. I will see how it goes. I am writing a guest post for someone just now on Scotland. I am finding it quite difficult, mostly I think because I haven’t got the right photos taken. Think I will have to do some touring to get some more.

            • How is your guest post going? I would love to read it! I know what you mean about photos not matching with the content. But sometimes it’s fun to put in a photo that isn’t an obvious connection. It connects in some way but it’s not a mirror of the text. I find that style more interesting to read, too.

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