January 12, 2014

Blogger’s Quest(ionnaire): Jessica Miller of Hey, Brewtiful

With the growing craft-beer phenomenon, Jessica Miller gives “a woman’s view of brewing and beer” at her blog Hey, Brewtiful (awesome name). She runs a series of interviews putting the spotlight on “ladies who love beer” among her posts about craft-beer breweries, events, and topics of interest. Here, Miller shares her thoughts about web-based publishing that may help you approach blogging, or further inform your current engagement of it. She can be found on Twitter: @heybrewtiful.

Why did you create a Website of regular entries?
To alleviate boredom, express an interest, and create a sort of online résumé of the sort of work I’d be paid to do in a best-case scenario. I was also looking for other people to talk to about beer and wanted a place to catalogue my experiments, ongoing education, and opinions. I’m also sort of a serial blogger. I’ve had probably ten different blogs over the last thirty years. I think I started with Livejournal all those years ago, because I needed the therapy, the outlet, the distance from my thoughts, and experiences to make sense of them.

What Web-based solution did you select and why?
I use Blogger, Tumblr, and to a lesser extent, WordPress for different reasons. They each have their own limitations and benefits, and attract different types of users. I ended up trying Blogger after being a loyal WordPress user for years, primarily because they offer domain hosting and are integrated with all the Google products and platforms (like AdSense, Analytics, Gmail, Google search). Their meta data does a great job of bringing up my content in a Google search, so long as I’m entering key words correctly. Tumblr seems more like Twitter, though I’ve recently discovered how easily you can customize the front-end to perform more like a traditional website, and they have excellent, beautifully designed, functional themes. I like that both Tumblr and Blogger also let me go in and edit CSS and HTML directly.

What is your definition of a good blog
and what are three good blogs that you frequently visit?
A good blog presents image-driven, quality content, that contributes something useful to others. Maybe it’s humor, or entertainment, or compelling questions—which serve to enrich our lives. I frequently visit Under the Sycamore because it speaks from the heart, has beautiful photography, and offers a perspective on family and life that I find enriching. I also like The Bitter Southerner, which has stellar photography and a perspective that resonates with my own. Lastly, Anne Almasy has a great blog and not only shares stellar images of her clients, but also really great writing about what makes her tick. I think it was her “philosophy” piece that she’s got posted on her site right now that originally drew me to her work.

How do you create content for your blog?
Sometimes I start with my experiences and draft a rough post in Blogger or in a Google document and add, tinker, play around with words until I’m ready to give it up to an audience. Sometimes it’s the images that come first and they inspire the writing or design. Rarely, I sketch in a paper notebook when I’m not ready to move to something digital.

How do you stay organized and motivated
to contribute to your blog?
I try to make a goal of posting twice a month, so anything on top of that pretty much exceeds (the admittedly low) expectations I’ve set for myself. I’m achievement-oriented, so it motivates me to feel that I’ve achieved a goal, even if it is a small one. If I can get up one feature on women and beer per month, I’m pretty stoked. It helps to inspire me to schedule/create other content if I know I’ve got that one post in the bag and ready to go months in advance. I’m motivated by social interaction, first and foremost. If no one positively responds or reacts, I find it hard to stay motivated. Using social media, and interacting with my readers/viewers has made me feel more invested in creating ongoing content.

For those aspiring to make a Website composed
of regular thoughts and/or images, what is your advice?
To please your inner voice and listen to it above all others. To practice your craft and accept that a year, six months, a week from now, you’ll look back and realize you can and have done better than when you started, and that you have always have more room to grow.

What is your quest in blogging?
To seriously earn a living wage playing hard at the work I’m doing now. All along, I had the intention that if I just started doing the kind of work I envisioned choosing in a best-case scenario, that someone would notice and I’d be hired doing something I loved. Fortunately, with some strategic self-promotion, the power of social media, and my continued investment in my own skills and education, that’s panning out.

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Photograph courtesy of Jessica Miller.

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Typeface of quote is Helvetica Compressed designed by Matthew Carter.

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Read more of the Design Feast series Blogger’s Quest(ionnaire).

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