Keep experimenting and learning

This is the last post of the page – Get started now.

Firstly, I have to confess that I am not a tech geek and it is not easy for me to write the contents of this page – Get started now. I had tried my best to put together all the required information necessary for you to build and have a private journaling journal from my own experience.

Through the process of researching and writing the contents of this page, I have discovered so many new things about blogging and even found solutions to what I was stuck with in the past.

In this age that we are living in now, there are so many resources that we can turn to on the internet for information on blogging besides the official WordPress.com Support pages. If you are new to blogging but want to switch to an online platform for journaling because of the ease and benefits, I would encourage you to do so.

Be adventurous. Nothing can go absolutely wrong when you are building a WordPress.com blog especially when you are setting it to private for your own use as a journal.

Many changes that you have made to your blog can be reversed or undone except site deletion which is permanent. Therefore do turn back if you have accidentally navigated your way there.

If you are interested to learn more about blogging, you can sign up for the online courses available at WordPress.com‘s Blogging university. The courses range from beginner to advanced levels and are broken down into daily assignments which will be sent to you through your email. New courses are also being added regularly.

Force yourself to search the WordPress.com forums for answers or just add a new topic at the latest discussion section and wait for help. Alternatively, you may just use Google to search the internet for answers. Instilling this self-learning attitude enables you to overcome any difficulty you may encounter later on.

The links to the resources that I have mentioned in this blog are placed at the blogroll of this blog for easy and quick access.

You do not need to know everything about blogging to start a private journaling blog. Focus on the journaling instead. Learn just the basics of blogging and keep writing and posting in your blog. You don’t need to mind many things such as adding a site icon, setting a featured image for your every page and post and citing all the sources for the information that you had put in your blog when you are maintaining a private journaling blog. Keep your momentum of writing and posting and I believe you will reach your goal and dateline in no time.

You can email me at secretplaceblogging@gmail.com to share your success with me when you have reached your dateline.

Enjoy this journey of online spiritual journaling.

The next page – Spiritual significance of this blog – is written mainly for Christians.

Thank you for sharing this journey.

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Writing, publishing and editing

Finally we can get down to writing down your spiritual reflections and experiences.

In one of the previous posts – Keeping your blog healthy and alive! – I have talked about the importance of the “About” page. This is the first and the most important page (which should be in your menu) that you must write and publish because you want to set the “DNA” (focus, direction and scope) of your blog right from the start.

I have kept the post format in my private blogs as default post format (standard). To learn more about other kinds of post format, you can visit this page of WordPress.com Support – Post Formats.

Before you edit and re-publish your “About ” page (a default page already created and put in your menu), let’s have a brief understanding of the difference between a post and a page from the contents of this page provided by WordPress.com Support – Post vs. Page.

Pages, unlike blog posts, will not be displayed at the main content column. Usually I create pages to contain important contents and place them at the menu. Accessing the post and page screens allow you to write, edit and publish your pages and posts.

*With effect from March 2017, the page and post settings and update button had been moved to the right side instead of the usual left.

As the “About” page has already been created by default when you activated your theme, you may just edit the contents of it.

After you have logged into your account and entered your site, Click on “Pages”. Do not click on “Add” as we already have an “About” page by default and just need to access it to change its contents.

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After clicking you will see all the pages that you have. Click on the vertical “…” symbol of the “About” page and then “Edit”.

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You will be directed to the page screen. You can now edit your “About” page and when you have finished, click on “Update” and you may view how your new “About” page looks like by clicking “View Page”.

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Your new “About” page will be saved and re-published. It is under the tab of “About” at your menu. If you want to make other changes, you can click on the edit below. Remember to click on “Update” to save after you have made your changes.

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To learn how to create a new page, you can follow the steps from the contents of this page provided by WordPress.com Support – Pages. Besides your “About” page, you can create other pages that you want for your blog and add them to your menu as items if you wish.

To add your newly created page as an item in your menu, click on the “Menus” in your homepage, then the “+” sign.

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Next, you can choose to add the your page as a menu item above or below another item, for illustration I click on “Add menu item below” the “About” page.

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Choose the new page you have created (The new page which I had created is “Themes”) and click on “Add item”.

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You will see that the new page now appears below the default “About” page. Click on “Save”.

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You will see that your page will now appear at your menu as one of the tabs like this. To access to more functions of editing your pages, you can learn how to do so through your wp admin dashboard from this page of WordPress.com Support – Edit pages screen.

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This WordPress.com Support page – Custom Menus – gives more details about how to add your pages and posts as items in your menu.

Next we will move on to creating posts.

Your blog posts will be displayed in the main content column and they can also be added as items in your menu. Usually you will have a default “Home” page which displays your posts with the latest at the top. I had deleted the “Home” page item in the menu of this blog, Secret place blogging, because it is redundant as my “About” page is set as my static home page and my posts are text links of my pages “Why online spiritual journaling?” and “Get started now”.

Let’s understand more about posts from the contents of this WordPress.com Support page – Posts.

You can classify your blog posts by categories and tags. What’s the difference? This WordPress.com Support page – Categories vs. Tags – explains it all. For all my private blog posts, I had only used categories to classify them.

When you enter your Blog posts menu in your home page by clicking on “Blog posts”, you will see a default blog post titled “First blog post” which had already been created.

You can edit this post by clicking on “Edit”.

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Next, you can make the necessary changes – Retype your blog post title, post contents and delete away the default picture. When you are done, click on “Update” to save the changes. You can always classify a post by attaching a category to it (With effect from March 2017, the page and post settings and update button had been moved to the right side instead of the usual left).

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Learn how to attach a category to your post at this WordPress.com Support page- Categories.

In my previous post – Menus and recommended widgets – I have recommended the Categories widget which will display your categories and give you quick access to the posts that you had classified under the categories.

After you have deleted the default picture at your default first blog post, you can also add a new image to your post. You can learn how to do this through the contents of this WordPress.com Support page – Adding images to posts or pages.

When you are writing your contents in your posts, you may need to create a link in the text (text links) such as the many links that I had created in my posts in blue to direct you to where to find the relevant information in this blog, Secret place blogging. This WordPress.com Support page – Links – clearly teaches you how to do it.

When you are done with your changes, remember to click on “Update” to save them.

Edit the default first blog post to be one of the introductory posts. Try writing and posting a few introductory posts under the category of “Introduction” in your blog before you post the official first post. For your official first post, you can even save it as a draft and schedule it to be posted on a certain date by following the steps being taught at this WordPress.com Support page – Schedule a post.

As the number of posts in your blog increases, you will see something like this in your Blog posts menu in your home page (An example from this blog, Secret place blogging). Besides the published posts, you will also see your unpublished drafts at the extreme right side in this Blog posts menu. To learn more about how to manage all your posts from this screen, visit this WordPress.com Support page – Edit posts screen.

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There are just too many things to learn about writing and editing. The vast amount of information about this topic can be reached through this WordPress.com Support page – Topic: Writing and editing.

If you need any help on writing, publishing and editing, you can type in the search bar to search from the topics at WordPress.com Support Home page; Search the forums or add a new topic and wait for answers at WordPress.com forums.

The next post – Keep experimenting and learning – is the last post of the page – Get started now.

I hope you are already getting some momentum to launch your blog soon.

Menus and recommended widgets

Now you have come to the last post of the series on customizing your blog – Menus and recommended widgets.

If you had missed the previous 2 posts on customizing your blog, you can read them at the links below –

  1. Choosing and activating your theme
  2. Editing and changing your header image

In blogging, how do you understand by what is a menu and a widget?

If you enter a restaurant, you are given a menu with the list of dishes that you can order. Likewise, you can customize a menu in your blog to let your visitors, in this case of a private blog – yourself, to see what your blog contains at one look and have access to these contents (either a page, link, category, tag and post) by clicking on them.

A widget is an application that you can add to your blog to help you perform a function or have access to a service. It’s like a call button to press to ask for the waiter to come and take your order.

Let us revise the anatomy of a blog again as this is related to where the menu and widgets are found  –

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If you remember, under “Theme options” of the Customizer, I have set my blog to make it a 2 columned one with 1 sidebar on the right.

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The menu is found above the header image whereas the widgets are found in the sidebar on the right. The default Menu consists of 3 default items – “Home”, “About” and “Contact”. For Secret place blogging, I had deleted the “Home” page item in the menu because it is redundant as my “About” page is my static home page. The 2 default widgets in the sidebar are “Text widget” and “Search”.

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To learn how to create a new custom menu and add new items to a menu, please visit this page and watch the video in this WordPress.com Support page – Custom Menus.

You should have learned that there are several different types of items that you can add to your menu – Page, link, category, tag and post. In this blog, Secret place blogging, I have used only page items and a link item. “About”, “Why online spiritual journaling?”, “Get started now”, “Spiritual significance of this blog”, “Disclaimer” and “Contact”are page items while “WordPress.com’s Terms of Service” is a link item.

The types of menu items can be differentiated by the symbol beside the item or by clicking on the edit symbol (pencil). For “Home”, it is a link by default to the main content page that displays your latest posts.

You can change the contents in the default “About” and “Contact” pages or even delete away the “Contact” page if you find it redundant for your private blog as you are the only one who views it.

The “About” page is important to set the focus, direction and scope of your private journaling blog so do take some time to ponder and write a good and thorough one. It has already been created as a page and set as an item in your menu by default. We will touch on more of this in the next post – Writing, publishing and editing.

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Besides this blog, Secret place blogging, which you are reading now, I will show you another example from my current private journaling blog – Loving faithfulness.

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For Loving faithfulness, it is a 3 columned blog (the main content will appear smaller). The menu is found on the left column, under the header image in the left sidebar while the widgets are found on the right column, in the right sidebar. All the items are pages except for “Led to learn” which is a direct link to my private blog for learning new things.

I will say that the default primary menu is sufficient for a private blog and it is not necessary to create a new menu. You can rename your primary menu if you want and we will learn how to add more items to it in the next post – Writing, publishing and editing – after you have learned and created more new pages and posts.

Now on the second part about widgets – I do not recommend you use too many widgets for your private blog as it will complicate your blog.

Firstly, let’s have an idea how to add and delete a widget from the contents of this page provided by WordPress.com Support – Widgets.

You can change the settings of the widgets from the Customizer. From the Customizer, go to “Widgets”, “Sidebar right” then “Add a widget”.

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You can experiment by putting different widgets at different areas of your blog – Footer 1, Footer 2, Footer 3 and sidebar right – save & publish to see how your blog looks like.

The 5 recommended widgets that I am using for my private journaling blogs are the Search Widget, Calendar Widget, Archives Widget, Categories Widget and Links Widget. Search Widget allows you to find something from the previous blog posts that you had published. Calendar Widget lets you see at one glance the days that you have blogged to monitor your consistency. Archives Widget and Categories Widget allow you to retrieve a post that you may want to re-read easily if you do remember around when you have blogged it and also the category the post is classified and filed under. I will talk more about the Links Widget later on.

After you have placed the widgets that you want, remember to click on “Save & Publish” on your top left.

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Now you have your widgets. Your blog will look something like this (I have removed the default text widget).

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The Links Widget will display as “Blogroll” the links that you have added to your blog. To learn how to add new, edit or delete links, please visit this page – Links Menu (Blogroll).

Go to your wp (wordpress) admin dashboard if you need to make changes to your links. To go to your wp admin dashboard, just type in your blog address with “/wp-admin” behind in your web browser and press enter. You can bookmark this in your browser as you may need to access it regularly to make changes to your links.

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The links that are added will be displayed by your Links Widget.

These two pages from WordPress.com Support will give you more information on how to manage your links –

  1. Managing links
  2. Link categories

You can start and continue to compile a list of websites that you will visit regularly as links you go along your journey of online spiritual journaling.

In conclusion, this page of WordPress.com Support supplies the information for the topics relating to widgets and sidebars which you can take a look to supplement any other knowledge that you may need.

If you need more help on widgets, you can type in the search bar to search from the topics at WordPress.com Support Home page; Search the forums or add a new topic and wait for answers at WordPress.com forums.

We have come to the last post of the series on customizing your blog.

Finally we can get down to writing your spiritual reflections and experiences in the next post – Writing, publishing and editing.

Alternatively, You may also choose to return to the page – Get started now.

Editing and changing your header image

This is the 2nd post in the series on customizing your blog.

If you had missed the first post of the series, you can read it here – Choosing and activating your theme.

Editing and changing your header image is crucial in personalizing and beautifying your private blog. Your custom header image also acts as a reminiscence for you – Why you start your blog in the first place – whenever you visit your blog .

To get started, after you have logged in to your account, click on “My Site(s)” to go to the menu in your homepage. You should see that the default header image for the theme that I have activated, Colinear, is the carrot image. Go to the Customizer by clicking on “Customize” under the “Themes” tab on your left.

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You will see on the Customizer that there is a “Header image” tab which means that your theme does support having a header image. Click on it.

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As you can see, under the heading “Current header” is your default header image of the carrot and under the heading “Suggested” there are other default stored images to choose from. Now let’s change your current image header to another suggested image – the cherry image. Click on the cherry image under the “Suggested” images right beneath the carrot image.

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You will see that your header image has now changed to the cherry image. To confirm and save this change permanently for your blog, click on “Save & publish”.

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You can also add an image from your computer to be used as your header image.

To learn how to do this, please click on this link of WordPress.com support – Custom header image – to read the contents in this page and also watch the video.

Now you would already know how to crop a picture that you had saved in your computer to use it as your header image.

Next I will share from experience how to do some basic editing on a picture with your site title and site tagline in it to be used as your custom header image like these two custom header images that I had used for my private blogs – Place it in his hands and Faithfulness to the next step.

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First, choose a picture you had taken and save it in a sure location in your computer. Alternatively, you can download pictures from the list of websites provided in this post to your computer – 20 sites with free images for your blog or social media posts. I highly recommend Pixabay. Many of the pictures are free for download with no attribution required.

I am using this picture from Pixabay.

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I will use a free photo editor that can be found online – PicMonkey (Close any advertisement pop-ups).

Click on the tab “Edit” and open up your saved picture from the location that you had saved.

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Under customizing header image (refer to above if you have forgotten), obtain the recommended header image size. For this theme, Colinear, it is 1188 by 240 pixels.

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When you open up your picture in PicMonkey, click on “Crop”and set the crop size to be the same as the recommended header image size. Click “Apply”. You can also click on the “Auto adjust” if you want a quick fix to your photo (colors, sharpness etc.). If you have made an unwanted change and want to go back to the previous, click on the back arrow that can be found below.

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Now click on the symbol tab “Tt”on your extreme left. Then “Add text”. You can type your blog title and tagline in the text box and also change the fonts and size of your text. The text box can be expanded by holding your mouse and pulling the edges to stretch it. It can also be moved to a desired position on your header image. Finally click on “Save” after you are satisfied with your changes.

There are other free features in PicMonkey which you may want to experiment to make your picture more attractive. If you want more features (premium Royale features) you can also pay to sign up the Royale membership.

You may be prompted to sign up an account (providing your email and a password) with PicMonkey to save your completed works. Yes do so as the basic membership is free.

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Type in a filename and click on “Save to my computer”to save to a sure location.

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After this, you can perform the step of “Add new image” to put this image as your new header image. If you have forgotten how to do this, you can go to this link of WordPress.com support – Custom header image – to watch and learn from the video again.

You can skip cropping the image size as it is already set to the recommended. Remember to click on “Save & publish”.

Now if you have done everything correctly, you will see your site title and tagline being repeated in your image. You can remove the display of the site title and tagline on top if you want.

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Under the Customizer, go to “Site identity”.

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Just unclick the tick in the small box beside “Display site title and tagline”. You will see the site tile and tagline above your new image header will disappear. Now click on “Save & publish”.

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Now your blog should look something like this when you exit the Customizer after saving the changes.

If you are stuck or have any question, you can type in the search bar to search from the topics at WordPress.com Support Home page; Search the forums or add a new topic and wait for answers at WordPress.com forums.

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Well done. Now you can move on to the last post in the series on customizing your blog – Menus and recommended widgets.

Alternatively, You may also choose to return to the page – Get started now.

Choosing and activating your theme

Next we will move on to customization – How to make your private journaling blog personal and appealing to you so that you will want to visit it regularly to write in it? There will be 3 posts in the series on customizing your blog.

More than 10 years ago, when I started my first blog, I gave up soon enough because I was not well versed at using a computer and was discouraged because I couldn’t get past this stage. I would say that I can easily customize any new WordPress.com blog to my liking through experimentation now.

These are the 3 posts in the series on customizing your blog –

  1. Choosing and activating your theme (This post!)
  2. Editing and changing your header image
  3. Menus and recommended widgets

I had created another private blog, Now your second blog, using the same account to use as illustration purposes in this blog.

Before you start to explore and choose a theme for your blog, it’s good to have some knowledge about the anatomy of a blog.

From this image provided by buildinternet.com below, you can see that a blog consists of the parts – header, main content, sidebar (or sidebars) and a footer. If the blog has one sidebar like this one in the image, you can call it a 2 columned blog (including the main content column). With 2 sidebars, it is a 3 columned blog.

I will recommend a 3 columned blog to accommodate more widgets at the eye level. However, a 2 columned blog will do just fine.

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Now to get started on exploring and choosing a theme for your blog , when you log in to your account through the login page, click “My Site(s)” on your top left corner to go to the menu in your homepage –

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After this, scroll down and click on “Themes”. Do not click on “Customize”.

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You’ll come to this page with all the themes. Click on the small arrow then click on “Free” for all the themes that are available for free. Now you can explore all the free themes to see which one you like for your blog.

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As not all the themes come with the same features, you may want to take some time to explore which theme you like best.

To narrow down the themes, you can search for key words in the search box. When I typed in “2 columns”, I am left with 8 themes which reappear.

If you like the theme, Colinear (I have activated Colinear as the theme for this blog – Secret place blogging), you can click on it and more information about it will appear.

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Information about the theme is provided under “Overview”. You can scroll down and read some of them.

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If you want to see how your blog contents will appear like in the theme, click on “Open live demo”.

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To experiment and see how your contents will look like on the theme with its features, click on “Try & customize” to go to the customizer page (Customizer).

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Try clicking on the tabs “Colors & backgrounds” and “Fonts”.

Under “Colors & backgrounds”, you can experiment how your blog contents will appear under a different palette color.

Likewise under “Fonts”, you can also experiment how your blog contents will appear under a different font for your headings and base contents.

You may do this again and again in the future after you have put in more contents in your blog by going back to the Customizer. Now just click on “Save & activate” to activate your desired theme for your blog.

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Now you can see that you have activated “Colinear” as your theme. To go back to the Customizer, click on “Customize”.

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Now if you make any change under any of the tab in the Customizer, for example in this case the fonts, remember to click on “Save & publish” at the top left hand corner. We will come to this Customizer very often as we touch on other topics about customizing your blog in the future.

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Remember the image of the anatomy of a blog shown above at the start of this post? Now click on the tab “Theme options”.

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You will see that under “Theme options”, you can alter the anatomy of the blog to make it a 2 columned one with 1 sidebar or a three columned one with 2 sidebars. Remember to click on “Save & publish” on the top left hand corner if you have decided to make any change to the anatomy of your blog. For now, stick to the default – 1 sidebar right. I will refer to it when I talk about the recommended widgets for journaling in my later post.

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Do not worry if you haven’t get the desired look that you want for your blog as you can always customize it in the future when you have more contents. Just explore and activate any theme you like for now.

If you are stuck or have any question, you can type in the search bar to search from the topics at WordPress.com Support Home page; Search the forums or add a new topic and wait for answers at WordPress.com forums.

You can go on to the next post  in the series on customizing your blog – Editing and changing your header image – or return to the page – Get started now.

General settings

Congratulations on setting up your WordPress.com account for your private journaling blog.

After you have logged in to your account through the login page, you can see that WordPress.com is really user-friendly. Pop-ups will appear to welcome and guide you on your new adventure of blogging such as these 2 in the photos attached below.

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Over the years, WordPress.com has amassed a vast amount of resources on various topics about blogging which can be found (type your query in the search bar) at WordPress.com Support Home page and her Blogging university which offer courses that range from beginner to advanced levels and is adding new courses regularly. You may want to take a look at these resources during your free time to learn more about blogging.

Now to get started, you may want to know about making a few important changes to your general settings. Click on the “My Site(s)” tab on the top left corner. Scroll down and click on “Settings” and you will arrive at the “General” section.

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Click on the links of the Support page of WordPress (opens up in a new tab individually) below and follow through the steps –

  1. General settings page 1
  2. General settings page 2

One thing to note – Under the section of privacy of general settings page 1, instead of public, set your private journaling blog to private. This allows only you and users you approve to view your blog.

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Under blog picture of general settings page 2, You may want to make your blog more aesthetically pleasing by uploading a blog picture or blavatar but this is optional as your blog will be set to private.

Always remember to click on “Save settings” after you have made any change to your settings.

Besides getting all the other settings done, I believe by now you have written a “Site title” and your “Tagline” for your blog which briefly define it. We will touch on the site title and tagline again later on.

If you are stuck or have any question, you can type in the search bar to search from the topics at WordPress.com Support Home page; Search the forums or add a new topic and wait for answers at WordPress.com forums.

You can read the next post about customizing your private blog – Choosing and activating your theme – or go back to the page – Get started now.