Exactly 2.5 years ago I joined Twitter and found myself clicking links that led to interesting blogs. Reading blogs was a fun distraction, but I insisted that I would never, never, ever become a blogger. Nope, it wasn’t for me. I was going to write novels. Serious novels. Novels that would make you cry.

Which meant that I was totally going to start a blog. Classic case of “the lady doth protest too much, methinks.”

On November 18th, 2010, my site was up and running. I had no idea what I was doing, but readers seemed to find me anyway. (It’s hardly Bloggess territory around here, but I’m happy with what I’ve got.)

I’ve learned quite a bit along the way, like I make a better blogger than an aspiring novelist. Which leads me to . . .

MY SIX FAVORITE THINGS ABOUT HAVING A BLOG

(Oprah-style giveaway at the end, you guys! Though the only “Oprah style” element of this giveaway is the fact that I’m giving stuff away. Don’t expect a car, or a trip to Australia.)

1. You get to make up the rules as you go.

You’re supposed to be a mom blogger. A book blogger. A spiritual blogger. A “writing” blogger. You’re supposed to choose one niche. That never felt right to me. I’m a mother, a reader, an active Jew, a writer, and plenty of other things. I write about all of it. I know that my friends and family ignore the posts about Twitter and my “writing friends” probably skip the stuff on baby names. Seems to work for me. It’s a bonanza of topics here. Something for everyone.

2. You might discover what drives your writing.

Through blogging I’ve developed a consistent tone and theme without having a tight niche in terms of content. It seems that no matter the topic, I hover around the same core questions. I try to stay honest about the decisions I make as a parent, wife, friend, and as a member of society, and seriously consider if the way I do things, or “we” do things, deserves another think and some tweaking. I like to think it keeps me from blindly following the pack in ways that matter. (Yes, you know I like my Lululemon, which I would not put in the category of “ways that matter.”)

3. You will enjoy a boost of moxie and confidence.

Something funny happens when you call yourself a baby name master, or a Twitter etiquette guru. You either look like a total jerk and fall below expectations, or you learn to write posts worthy of those self-accolades. I think I’ve done the latter.

4. You become a repository for your friends’ thoughts on life and their frustrations. 

Because of the tone of my parenting posts and other posts (see #2) I field calls and emails from friends and even more casual acquaintances about things that annoy them or delight them. The conversation usually starts with someone saying, “I have an idea for you.” I end up in excellent conversations that have nothing to do with how we wish the preschool carpool line moved faster, or what we bought at the Nordstrom sale. We talk about our society, our hopes for our lives and our children’s lives, our fears, etc. We scratch far below the surface, and I love it.

5. If you blog about books, your world turns into one giant book club. 

I’ve alway been a big reader. Now because of my Book-a-Week Challenge in 2011 and my 50 Books in 2012 Challenge, it’s like the All Books All the Time channel in my life. Friends near and far let me know when they’ve finished a good book. People seem to want to know what I’m reading, too. It’s basically a dream come true for someone like me who might be the biggest book nerd ever other than my mother. (Hi Mom!)

Because of my blog, I also became a co-leader in a group site called Great New Books. We discuss one book a month. Check it out if you haven’t already.

6. You will meet incredible people online who become part of your life.

Tons of bloggers discuss the real strength and solid friendship in the blogging community. They say it because it’s true. I’ve met people I would otherwise never encounter in my very routine and programmed life up here in suburban Minnesota.

Enough about me! Let’s celebrate YOU!

This blog wouldn’t exist without my loyal readers. (Well, it would, but it would be more like a journal, and there are absolutely no bragging rights for a journal with an audience of one. You know–if a tree falls in the forest and what not.)

To thank you for visiting me here (whether it’s once a week, once a month, or once a quarter) I’m giving away some of “my favorite things.” Get it? I did my favorite things about blogging and now the prizes are “my favorite things?” Okay yeah, you got it.

WHAT YOU CAN WIN

Pick from the following list made up of BOOKS, BARRE, and BLOGGING! 

-A $20 gift card to the independent bookstore of your choice. I will call the store myself and arrange it. 

-A brand new copy of any book from my 2012 Reading Challenge.

-A Pure Barre gift card good for one class ($22 value). Check here to see if there’s a studio in your area.(You can read about my love for Pure Barre here. It got me to exercise again. It’s muscle work that changed my body for the better after having four kids. And it’s not dance. Trust me, if it was a dance thing I’d never step foot in the place. It’s like a yoga/Pilates fusion that kicks your butt.)

-A blogging consultation from me about your blog in general, your Twitter know-how, or help with a specific post that you are perhaps trying to pitch to a bigger site.

SAY WHAT? HOW WILL THIS WORK?

There will be six winners. (This post was apparently sponsored by the number six and the letter B.) Each winner can choose his/her prize. If everyone picks the same prize that’s fine. It makes no difference to me.

OFFICIAL ENTRY RULES (Deadline is Tuesday, 11/20 at midnight)

This is my party so in order to get into the random name generator, I’m asking something simple of you. NO, you don’t have to “like” my blog’s Facebook page, follow me on Twitter, or stand outside my door with a boombox playing Peter Gabriel’s “In Your Eyes.”

All I want is a simple comment below answering the following two questions:

What would you like to see more of in the blog? And, which prize would you like to win?

Please note that this is my passive aggressive way of saying that you shouldn’t consider yourself eligible for a prize if this is the first time you’ve visited the blog. You can be a first-time commenter, but not a first-time reader. I know that the majority of people who comment on blogs are other bloggers. But if you’re a non-blogging reader, please consider answering the question, too. Six winners! Your odds are decent here.

READY SET GO! You have until Tuesday, 11/20 at midnight.

(And as if this isn’t already my longest post ever, I want to tell you that I’m on Writer Unboxed this week telling the good people of the internet “How to Tweet so People Will Listen.”)

Photo credit: Leo Reynolds via Flickr

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Nina Badzin is a freelance writer, an advice columnist at The HerStories Project, and a co-founder of The Twin Cities Writing Studio. She lives in Minneapolis with her husband and four children.