Alumni Feature- Denedriane Dean (’92) | HOW A MATH AND SCIENCE GIRL AT JMU BECAME A SUCCESSFUL BLOGGER

As I sip my iced tea and finish up another post for RefreshingTalk.com, the blog that I created in 2010, I can’t help but think about the steps that got me here.

I arrived on the campus of James Madison University as a freshman in the fall of 1987. I didn’t really know what I wanted to major in, so I came in undeclared. I did very much carry a love of math and a fascination with space in my heart, so it was no surprise that I declared a major in mathematics.

While many of my peers had their sights set on establishing careers in their respective fields of study, my heart leaned more towards home and family. Indeed, I was willing to work hard and enjoy the job that would be the right fit for me. However, I knew that my career move would be to use my skills and talents to pour into our progeny. Little did I know how my education and my passion would intersect in quite a beautiful way.

A year and a half after I graduated, my college sweetheart and I married and stayed in Harrisonburg. Within three years, we had the first of three children. Five years after that, we embarked on a homeschooling journey that would serve to educate our one son and two daughters for the next 18 years. That math degree and love of science helped to lay a solid foundation for our future Dukes!

Now, I need to back up just a little to share what would bring me to the intersection of my education and the blogging world. In 2010, I wanted to help my children to express themselves more through writing. I felt a nudge in my heart to start a blog for myself and start blogs for each of them as well. They could write about whatever they wanted to, just as long as they wrote regularly. Well, they enjoyed it for a few moments, while I discovered that I enjoyed it a lot. Therein began my foray into blogging in my spare time.

So how does this blogging thing work? It seems as though everyone has a blog these days: moms, entrepreneurs, business people, even corporations include a blog as part of their online presence.  I have found that blogging can be a highly individualized journey. No two bloggers have the exact same experience or reason for doing it.  Therefore, allow me to share with you what MY experience has been.

First, the word “blog” is short for “weblog,” a log of events in one’s life, one’s thoughts and other such related info, shared ON the web. In my vernacular, a blog is an online space to express your personality and your creativity! Many (like myself) express that creativity through words. There are also other types of blogs, such as photography blogs, that showcase more visual creativeness.  For instance, our eldest daughter created her own photo blog, called Life On the Lens (JMU student Dominique Dean, class of 2020 J)

Nowadays, creating a blog is not hard to do at all. Sites such as Blogger or WordPress (which is what I use) make it easy for you to get started in just an hour or less. They provide free or reasonably priced templates that can be used to set up your corner of the interwebs.  Invest a little time, and you are on your way to blogging and expressing your interest and passions with your readers!

With that being said, having a side hustle or a full-time job as a blogger is a whole ‘nother level. As with most things worth doing, it takes TIME. I consider myself to be someone who blogs “in the margins.” My full-time pursuits include homeschooling and co-pastoring a church with my husband. I need to be very present for both, and so my blogging strides have to be made in the time that I have left after the main foci of my life. Nevertheless, it can be done. You can grow a readership and even make a little money (or a lot, depending on the effort and attention you give to your craft). You can make connections locally and around the world, and you can grow as a person. Here are some tips that I can offer those who may be interested in making your blogging more that just an occasional post:

Start. You will never get anywhere trying to figure it all out in your head. Carve out a few moments to research a little about blogging. Look at a few blogs (you can check out mine here at Refreshing Talk).  Start simple and create your online space. It doesn’t have to be big or fancy. I am not a visually creative person, so the first iteration of my blog was very PLAIN. (My kids’ blogs looked better than mine, trust me!) Nevertheless, I started, and changed it up along the way, which brings me to my next point:

Like you, your blog is a work in progress. Allow yourself time to learn and grow. The look of your blog will evolve, and so will your writing, photography, and so forth. Most successful bloggers GROW their blog and connection with people over time….give yourself the same grace. 

Invest. Everything is not for free. You will have to invest time and money at some point. Your time will have to be in furthering your education about blogging. I had to learn not only about writing, but the how-to’s of running my blog. I have spent time learning how to properly format a post and the accompanying photos. In fact, I have spent time with my daughter, learning how to take better photos! Furthermore, I have invested time in learning about running a site, plugins, etc.  – the technical side of things. It is not hard, but it does take T-I-M-E.

In addition, there have been seasons in my 6+ years of being a blogger when I’ve had to throw some money at my blog. Yes, like with any good business, I have had to spend a little coin to be in position to make some! I invested my money in courses and site upgrades in order to be ready for the next level of what I wanted to do.

Connect. No one is successful as a lone ranger, and it’s not just about you writing posts. It is about connection: connecting with your readers, and connecting with others in your field. In order to succeed at whatever level you decide to blog, it is so helpful to be in a company of like-minded folks. I recommend joining a Facebook group or two. These groups can help expose you to opportunities that are out there that you may not be aware of just on your own. There are companies that want to work with bloggers and being in a group can give you a boost in being in position to be seen by them. I belong to a couple (two) where the members help to answer questions and push me to the next level. You need that no matter what you do in life!

I consider myself to be a successful blogger. It is NOT because I have a large readership or because my posts go viral. It IS because I can see measurable growth in my blog and myself since I started in 2010. I know how to write more effectively, I’ve gained some business savvy, I can connect with people better professionally, and I have been blessed with some pretty cool opportunities along the way.

My blogging has gone from writing my first post about a cool pen that I had discovered, to encouraging my readers through inspirational posts, reviews and sponsored (paid) posts. I have been afforded the opportunity (on more than one occasion) to attend a conference that has helped me to level up in my blogging and in my life. In addition, having an online space of my own put me in place to be hired as an online virtual assistant for a small fitness company and to also write for an online travel network.  Wow!  I have to say that is a pretty amazing journey for a math and science girl who came to JMU in 1987 with dreams and big curiosity. I’m blessed …and this iced tea tastes pretty sweet!

***

rtstandingshotDenedriane Dean (’92) is an experienced lifestyle blogger of 6+ years and avid online influencer.  She enjoys sharing product reviews, fitness revelations, her Disney travels and solid words of encouragement with her readers. When she isn’t engaging folks online, you can most likely find her watching Marvel action movies with her husband Art of 23 years, and their three young adult kiddos. Or you may catch her reading a book about space and physics. You can visit her at www.RefreshingTalk.com and on:

Twitter: https://twitter.com/HappytoBeDee

FB: www.facebook.com/denedrianedean

IG: www.Instagram.com/HappyToBDee

Email: dee@refreshingtalk.com

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