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How to Find the Treasure in Your Archives

How many posts have you published on your blog?

I’m at (gulp) 711 at the last count.

Now I’d be the first to admit that a lot of those posts are fleeting, of little lasting value. But I also know that there are lots of good bits of writing in amongst that 711: posts that are useful, helpful, insightful, that generate those ‘ahas’.

Posts that run the risk of getting lost in the depths of the archives if I don’t do something about it.

One of the things I did during my blogging break was have a good rummage around in the archives, followed by a fair bit of re-organising and tidying up. Here are some of the things I did and learned in the process.

1. Look for the Value to You

Reading your own writing can be full of surprises.  Words and phrases that make you go ‘wow, did I really write that?’ (in a good way ;-) ) or ‘yes, that’s it, that’s right’ or maybe, sometimes with a hint of regret ‘duh! I learned that two years ago! Why did I forget to remember?‘  Keep a note of those reactions - they’re telling you something.

Tune in for words and phrases that make you smile with pleasure, delight and satisfaction.  Some of your signature strengths perhaps, things that could only have been written by you.  Those times when you hear the sound of your own writing voice, and are happy that you do.

Watch out for new insights - things you didn’t (consciously) know at the time of writing.

One of the things I realised through looking back was that I neeed to stop feeling apologetic for writing too much about blogging.  Why?  Because it wasn’t an accident.  It wasn’t a sidetrack or a weird obsession (I don’t think)

Because what I had been learning and teaching through this blog, over and over again, was that blogging and other shared digital media give us the means to write with greater confidence.  To find your writing voice.

2. Start Mapping Out What You Find

As you read and learn, take notes and doodle around the themes and patterns that emerge.  Although it is possible your existing categories will match perfectly onto the writing you’ve been doing, chances are they won’t.  Why?  Because we learn as go, our writing evolves as we go.  We can’t know where we’re going to end up when we started with that set of categories (which is good in terms of learning, if annoying in terms of blog housekeeping.)

Working out some of those themes, patterns, categories, threads and connections will help you get a clearer idea of what your blog is ‘really’ about.  Or what it is revealing itself to be about.

3. Look for the Value to Your Reader

This is a different exercise with a different pair of glasses, but it follows on quite naturally from the first two.

With the posts fresh in your mind, with the value and meaning clearer to you than it’s ever been, with your greater knowledge of the stuff that’s really good in your archives, the stuff that really deserves to be a bit more visible… Well that’s the stuff you want to take note of, and then look for a way to show it off.

4. Point the Way to the Treasure

Some loyal readers will have been with you from the start and read all your best work, but most will have joined part way through.  Some people will just be finding you for the first time, looking to find what’s good, what’s brilliant, what’s glinting and shiny…  Digging through your archives is probably not the easiest way for them to find it.

The solution I came up with was to create new pages with ‘best of’ posts in a particular category or on a particular topic.  I can then link to and show off these pages (with graphics) in the sidebar, creating a slightly easier roadmap (or treasure map) for new readers, or people who want to explore some topics in greater depth.

I’m sure there’s still a lot more treasure in the archive that I haven’t yet mined, but it feels good to have gone in and had such a good look around, to take the time to learn from my own learning, and to try and find ways to make it easier for others to get their hands on the shiniest bits of the treasure.

What approaches have you used to find the treasure in your own archives, for your own benefit, of that of your readers?

Photo credit: Carte du Tresor by ToNToN CoPT on Flickr

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  1. Hilary says:

    Hi Joanna .. always useful to read others’ ideas .. so thanks for that categorisation .. good idea. Are you going to have one for Tips and Tricks or Ideas?

    Got to 236 .. so someway behind .. congratulations on 711!! Loads .. bet there’s lots of gems in there ..

    Thanks - I’ll be coming over more often and reading more .. all the best Hilary

  2. Paula
    Twitter: Chemieemma

    What I write about has changed a lot through time, so I’ve cleanded up my archives a few times. Some posts are appearing on a different blog now, updated with what I now know and my found blogging voice. Recently I downloaded and put into PDF all my old blogposts and will slowly go through them in the next months. My plan was to remind myself what I write well, how and how I felt then. I want to apply what I learned to all my current bloggingprojects and, maybe, a new one.
    .-= Paula´s last blog ..[WImW] What I’m Making Wednesday 17. 03. 10 =-.

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  4. Diana says:

    Great idea, creating maps that lead readers back to orphan posts (as I like to think of them). I think I’ll try it, thanks!

  5. isabella mori (@moritherapy) says:

    really nice article, joanna! i’ll be looking at the idea of creating summaries like you did. one thing i’ve done for quite a while now is a plugin that brings up a “post from the archive” every day. not only exposes it my readers to older material (nothing there is less than a year old) but it also reminds me of what i’ve written.
    .-= isabella mori (@moritherapy)´s last blog again, this time really wordless =-.

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  7. Jan Scott Nelson
    Twitter: JanScottNelson

    This is such a helpful post, Joanna. Though have nowhere near as many posts as you I’ve been struggling to keep on top of what I’ve written. This week I’ve printed out all my posts and was trying to come up with a way of highlighting those which would be of most value to my readers. You’ve just saved me a whole heap of reading time.
    It’s lovely to have you back - I hadn’t realised how much I’d missed your postings! :)
    And Isabella’s idea re the plugin sounds like a goodie too. Thank you for that, Isabella.
    .-= Jan Scott Nelson´s last blog ..Where is my muse? =-.

  8. Davina says:

    I’m two posts shy of 100 if you don’t count the 35 from my first blog. I love the statement you’ve made here about learning from the learning and how your blog eventually reveals what it is to be about. I set up categories when I started and some of them have hardly any entries. I guess as blogging goes, after almost two years, 135 posts isn’t all that much, but I’m proud of what I’ve produced so far.
    .-= Davina´s last blog ..On the First Day of Spring =-.

  9. Joanna
    Twitter: joannapaterson

    Hilary still figuring out the new categories, which is the problem with categories!!!

    Paula that sounds like a great plan, and I like the emphasis on looking for times when you write well. You’ll learn a lot froom that.

    Diana orphan posts - I hadn’t thought of them like that before, but that’s just it! Thanks. Nice to see you by the way.

  10. Joanna
    Twitter: joannapaterson

    Isabella that’s a nice idea - I like the notion of being reminded of our own words, randomly and serepditiously…

    Jan I think it’s an ongoing challenge / opportunity to be honest, and no perfect solutions - but always good to spend the time in your own words… I’m glad you’re glad I’m back, it feels good

    Davina I don’t think the numbers mean much - I could say to you I’m slightly embarassed about the amount of over-posting I’ve done and that there’s a lot of dross in amongst that 700 odd… but I won’t. I love my blog just as it is, and I’m glad you feel the same way about yours.

  11. Diana says:

    Joanna, I had evidently lost the RSS to your blog until I saw you on Emma’s blog! Glad to be back.

    I have only 111 posts (but in just one year). I guess that’s not too bad. Unfortunately, my blog doesn’t have a feature to randomly pull up posts each day. The only thing I could do was show “archives” and add a count next to each post category showing how many posts there are waiting there.
    .-= Diana´s last blog ..Shopping for padlocks =-.

  12. Robyn McMaster says:

    Hi Joanna, what a refreshing way to bring out your best! As I read your blog, I focused on the fact that I often write “to know.” Often it is because I want to grow in some areas so by exploring a topic further, I not only help readers, but myself as well.

    Here you focus on confident writing. I have gained so much by reading your blog. Thanks for the good work you do and the thoughtful posts on the many facets of writing confidently.
    .-= Robyn McMaster´s last blog ..Box up troubles to move on =-.

  13. janice | Sharing the Journey says:

    Hi, Joanna.
    Our last chat here inspired me to keep going with my blog spring clean, ready to get ‘tumblin’ someday. I spent days recategorising and grouping old posts, because it was intriguing me what possible connections my ‘Link Within’ widget was finding! This post today has maintained the pilot light under my inspiration, especially the bit about creating pages highlighting themes. So far, I’ve just been using a Favourite Posts plug in.

    Thank you!
    .-= janice | Sharing the Journey´s last blog ..A Patchwork Post: Quote-hunting, My Bloggling’s Birthday…and Cake! =-.

  14. Karen Swim
    Twitter: karenswim

    Joanna, this is brilliant advice and I love the composite pages. I recently did a quick rummage through my own archives and though I feared I’d come up cringing it was surprisingly uplifting. Yes, there were groans of “what was I thinking” but there were also treasures where my voice was strong and certain. It was the good that reminded me of my passion and most importantly buoyed my confidence to keep practicing my gift and allowing it to grow.
    .-= Karen Swim´s last blog ..Marriage is not a Public Sport =-.

  15. Debbie Yost says:

    I really like this idea. I’m not sure how I can incorporate a “Best of” page in my personal blog since I use blogger, but I’m going to look into it. I haven’t really checked out all the features lately and they are always adding something new. Our company blog is not very old so I’m not sure there’s much to put in it yet, but I will certainly keep it in mind.

    I’m a little behind in my reader, so I’m a little late in welcoming you back, but I’m glad to see you blogging again!
    .-= Debbie Yost´s last blog ..Using Personality Survey to Improve Business Relations =-.

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  18. Joanna
    Twitter: joannapaterson

    Diana I’m glad you found me again :-) It’s good to see you. I know some themes are easier than others to create these kind of summaries… but a lot of the benefit can come from our own reading of the archives anyway, can’t it?

    Robyn thank you for you kind words. I think I blog to explore thoughts and ideas too… it’s a great way to learn and expand (and stretch our brains!)

    Janice (Hunter) it sounds like you are having fun spring cleaning… I love the idea of a pilot light under our inspiration… nice

    Karen I think it’s inevitable we’ll get some of those cringes - this is a medium that encourages experimentation after all - but it’s partly that chance to play and try out new things that also gives us the space to stretch, grow and find our voice. I am glad you heard your own voice ringing loud, clear and strong in your blog… I know I do when I read you there

    Debbie I’m not sure about blogger - it’s not a platform I ever experimented with. You might enjoy rummaging anyway… Thanks for the welcome back, it feels good to be back blogging too

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