The Afrobloggers spotlight series helps you to discover and connect with African digital storytellers from all around the globe. In this feature, we spotlight Namibian Valery Shaninga.
Tell us about Valery Shaninga
Goodness, where do I start? I always struggle to answer this question. But what I can tell you is this: I’m a woman in my (now) late twenties. I’m a writer at heart, and that’s what led me to blog. I’m someone’s daughter, sister, and friend, a lawyer to some, and a student (academically and in life… Life is schooling me).
Why did you start blogging
I have always wanted to be a writer. When I was young, that is literally all I thought about. I was very shy and hardly spoke, but my mind was always running wild with words. As the years went by, I started collecting little notebooks and wrote in all of them. Poetry, stories, thoughts… everything. I never shared my notes with anyone but deep down I really wanted to express my thoughts, and what better place than the internet, right? So when I was in highschool, I found out that one could share their thoughts with other people on the internet through blogs. And that’s how I started. I’ve had so many blogs that I’ve revamped and deleted… only because I was never sure what I wanted to blog about. But, I’m here now. And I’m enjoying every minute of it.
I really started blogging just so I could feel like my words were being seen, but my reasons for staying in the blogsphere have definitely varied.
What has been your biggest challenge
Finding my niche. My first blog was a mixture of everything. Too much of everything, and that confused even me. After that, I had a few more blogs, some centred around fashion, another on beauty, and another for my poetry… and I had a blog on all of these topics. I enjoyed writing on all the topics I blogged about, but I quickly realized that I really need to niche down so as to not confuse my readers. And it was so hard because I didn’t want to abandon any of the things I enjoy writing about, but I knew there was one area I know I can really flourish in.
And that’s how I ended up as a predominantly Lifestyle blogger. It was hard, but I think I’ve figured out how to incorporate fashion, beauty and travel into my lifestyle content. And for my actual writing? I started a separate blog.
What have you gained from blogging
So many things, actually. But the main thing is confidence in my ability to put words together and have people react to my words. Blogging has confirmed what I’d always known about myself: That I am a writer at heart. It’s my favourite thing to do, regardless of what I’m writing about.
Blogging has also opened my eyes on different topics. I follow so many different types of bloggers, and they all have something different to offer, so it is really inspiring to see such creativity from all over the world.
I have also met so many amazing people and connected with creators of all kinds through my blog and the worldwide blogsphere as a whole. So that’s been amazing! Blogging has definitely shown me more of the world than I thought it would.
Explain your creative process, from ideation to publishing an article
It’s never the same process for me. Sometimes, I write on a whim. I’ll wake up, have an idea and simply start writing the blog post and attach pictures that I think go well with the post. I actually have about 15 drafted blog posts right now that were written on a whim… I just have to edit them properly and figure out a posting schedule.
Other times, I’ll first take a few pictures, with no specific theme or topic in mind and then figure out how to incorporate them into a blog post later.
Another process is actually making notes. I write down topics I want to write on, jot down some things that are inspiring me and then plan out the content. I have a content journal in which I write all these ideas down. I’ll then choose a topic and write on it. Sometimes, I might read similar posts on similar topics, just to see the different ways in which I can approach my writing. And then I’ll see whether I need to attach pictures to the post (which I almost 100% do) and that’s it. Press publish!
What influenced your decision to start a new blog and move from the old one
Like I mentioned above, it was the realization that I needed to niche down. Fitting into the creative and blogging space and finding your “space” is not that easy, especially when people aren’t really sure what you bring to the table. So niching down has definitely helped me find my footing. And that’s why I decided to completely scrap my old blog, and although it has an active and loyal following, my new, niched down blog is a lot more authentic to who I really am as a blogger.
How do you measure the success of your blogs
When I first started, I thought the numbers are what mattered most. By numbers, I mean blog followers, subscribers, and so forth. And to some extent, yes, those numbers matter. But now, I understand that subscribers and followers that don’t engage with my content or share it don’t really do much for me.
And I’m so happy with my new blog because although it has fewer followers, it has the most engagement of any of my previous blogs. And I don’t just mean on my blog. I have readers that connect with me through my email and social media accounts, with questions, suggestions, collaboration requests, and just letting me know they see my content. This is so amazing to me because it shows that even when I’m not posting, they’re waiting for new posts. Loyal readers are the best kind for me. Moving back to the numbers, my blog visits have skyrocketed compared to my last blog, and even when I don’t post new content, my stats keep booming. Once again, showing me that I have some loyal readers that are just waiting for something from me… And that’s how I know I’m on the right track.
What factors did you consider when designing your site?
I wanted a very user-friendly site. I didn’t want my blog to look complicated because that just puts off people. My goal was to look at myself as a blog reader, and what kind of blog design I would enjoy.
I think my site is easy to navigate and very aesthetically pleasing. I’ve actually received a few thumbs up from my readers so I’m happy with its current look and feel.
How does Valery Shaninga promote her content
This is actually the part where I’m lacking a little. Since I started my new blog, I actually have not promoted it. But I will start soon. I wanted to have a bit more content up, so when I promote it and people visit, there are a little more than one or two posts.
But I’ll probably use the same social media methods of blog promotion that I’ve done in the past. I’ll use Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest. I will definitely use Instagram more than ever before because I actually have a lot more of a blogger-content creator type following on there.
Share 3 bloggers you keep visiting, for inspiration.
Only 3? Wow, that’s hard because I have so many. But I guess I can share 3 that I go to more often than not:
Kenza from Kenzas.se (http://kenzas.se/ ): She is a Swedish blogger and one of the first bloggers I ever followed. She got me hooked to her blog because she was so consistent. She was blogging daily for years! And I know consistency is something I struggle with on my blog, but every time I visit her blog, I’m reminded why it’s so important to keep your blog alive… even if it’s not daily. I have been a loyal reader of hers for about 5 years, and that just shows how she is able to keep readers coming back for more. She is also one of the few bloggers that have not completely veered away from blogging into other spaces, simply because she feels blogging is more personal.
Sharon from This is Essential (https://www.thisisess.com/ ): Sharon’s blog was one of the first Africa blogs I ever followed, and I still regularly visit her blog after many years. She’s a Kenyan blogger, who has turned her blog into an amazing lifestyle platform (which is what I’m hoping for). Her content has grown so much, and her site is so full. I love it. She writes on so many different topics, but they all somehow link back to lifestyle. One can also see the growth she’s gone through reflecting through her site, but the little bits and pieces that got me hooked in the first place are still there. Although the blog has gone through a complete transformation, it is still very personable.
Vanessa from vchilimanzi.com (https://vchilimanzi.com/blog/ ): Vanessa’s blog is probably one of the first blogs I subscribed to since I took blogging “seriously”. I love how clean her site is, it’s easy to navigate, and her content is very relatable. It really speaks to me, because I think I fall into her target audience, considering she writes for millennials who want to dress well but stick to a budget. So I tend to visit her blog very often. And I have actually connected with her on social media, so it’s good to know she’s a lovely person too.
I also feel like I should mention other blogs that I visit regularly and that also inspire me just as much:
- https://fashionbreed.co.za/ by Aqeelah Harron Ally
- https://valerieegbuniwe.com/ by Valerie Egbuniwe
- http://brettrobson.com/ by Brett Robson
- http://www.cynthiagwebu.com/ by Cynthia Gwebu
- https://www.natalyaamour.com/ by NatalyaAmour
Any 3 books you can recommend
I am a serial reader, but there are some books that I have read over and over again… so these are are my top 3:
- Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (the best writer out there, come fight me)
- A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini (you should read all his books)
- The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. (If you haven’t already read this book, you better get on it!)
P.S Also check out my book blog to discover some new reads you might want to try: https://countingwordswithvalerycom.wordpress.com/ .
How would you like to be remembered
As someone who really tried, at everything! And by that I mean I want to be remembered as someone who pursued their passion, regardless of all that said no.