Keeping a Lost Art Alive

Egypt beach sand

The Sandbox broke

Imagining yourself sitting with a sandbox in front of you, and you can’t play in it. You just know there is something wrong with it but you don’t know what. Something is missing because it doesn’t work as it should – is it that you haven’t looked at it for a while or something in the room it sits in?

You have absolutely no idea what’s wrong with your sandbox. It is a perfectly good sandbox, and it has clean sand in it. But it’s just off. It’s wrong.

So you decide to start emptying out the sandbox, one scoop of sand at a time. It takes quite a while and when that’s done you start filling the sandbox again, because you have made a mess all over the floor now. And you sure aren’t an expert on this kind of troubleshooting, are you? But it does not fix the problem, what ever the problem is. So you keep going. You are stubborn and you need your sandbox fixed. But nothing works. You’re stuck.

You do this for hours, then days. You call support, you ask google for advice on how to solve the sandbox problem, and you cry because you think this is the end of all your playtime moments. Of course you cry, you always cry when frustrated to relieve pressure. But you keep going because you just. can’t. stop. This is the compulsive and obstinate side of you. You can’t give up. You don’t know how to give up! This research and digging is making you so tired, but you keep at it until you decide to just rewind time and go backwards, and then it finally “works” like before. It’s just a normal sandbox now, but it does not look the same and it probably never will. Did you change or did it? At least you got out of the loop, right? Whoop whoop, am I right?

Let me know if this ever happens to you as well. Because this is all about me and how I get stuck in a loop of trying. I doubt I can fix my problem and it feels overwhelming and impossible, but in the end I usually persevere and succeed in one way or other, but never before I sob.

My WordPress blog is my Sandbox

The sandbox of course, is a metaphor for my WordPress Blog, my favorite playground. Or this tired little blog of mine that few read and I don’t write very often to… Studio iHanna’s Blog or simply iHanna’s Blog as we usually call it. Filled with sand again, now.

Beach sand photographed by Hanna Andersson, wordpress blog went awry

Warning: this blog post is not a fun read, and you don’t need to read it at all. You can move on with your day from here if you want to. I am writing this down for myself, and for memory’s sake. It’s about tech and I find it boring myself as I type this, haha. But anyway.

Blogging really has changed a lot since I started, and I haven’t kept up with it very well, I think. Mostly because if I wanted everything to be forward compatible I would need to go back into each blog post from the past 20 years (the blog turned 20 in April) and update the html-code (the “classic editor” as they now call it) as it these days is all about blocks. Blocks, which to me made the edit a lot less intuitive and fun in the beginning – but now I use it all the time. Maybe I was a bit too retrograde a few years ago when the new admin was introduced, but it was also not in my brain power back then to learn a new way of writing, and I did not evolve with my CMS of choice (Content Management System). Plus, like I already mentioned, I had to keep the old ways for all the older content so I thought I could stay in that line. But tech stops for no one!

I also really loved the theme (Evolve Plus) that I have been using for over 5 years, but it that makes it old. This theme have not had as many updates as WordPress itself, so I think that’s why my blog broke in April. Something with the theme made the entire admin close down, and I could not access the “add blog post”-page or edit older blog posts, nor could I edit pages or the theme itself. I did everything you’re supposed to do, like turn off all plug-ins and temporarily change theme (which changed the look of the site) to try to fix the problem, but nope. It was stuck. And as you might have already guessed by now, nothing worked.

After a few days of working behind the scene and with nothing to show for it, I was feeling devastated and rather sad. Would this be the abrupt end to a glorious and long blogging era? No, damn everything blogging – I did not want to let that happen! So I persevered. I can’t even say I understand the error messages I got still, and not even after my web host backed the site several weeks (sorry Arielle, a few comments got lost in the process and I did read yours but it’s now gone in the cyber space void/black hole) we got it to work. I have also emptied the browser cash, the database cash, the wordpress cash a million times myself, as well as downloaded and reinstalled the current WordPress version (6.1.4) and all my plugins and switched themes a million and one times! Imagining the sandbox again, and a stubborn kid who refuses to go home to sleep…

Bob Ross quote at iHanna: We dont make mistakes, just happy little accidents - PIN THIS

I then backed a WordPress version manually, from the current version to an earlier one and finally got my admin back after also switching theme and realizing that it must be the Evolve theme that caused all the problems (problems that did not get solved just by switching theme)! And here we are, I am now able to write this here and in a bit, when I press publish, you will be able to read it.

Feeling like I would lose all these years of work made me miss blogging again. It made me realize how much I still want to do this crazy thing called blogging…

I want to write more blog posts ASAP

Yes, my blog is finally working, and that feels great! I have so much to say and so many blog posts I want to share with you guys, right now, but I won’t make any promises. Nothing is written or done, and I don’t know when I’ll be able to do it all. And it could all implode / become impossible tech wise tomorrow, so we’ll just wait around to see what happens here next.

This is a win, tomorrow is a new day.

I wanted to get back to blogging in February when I wrote about how to Restart Creativity – and how to get back after a Break, but that did not work as incentive for me as a blogger unfortunately (nor creatively because winter was dark and long). I wanted to start the DIY Postcard Swap and I will start working on that after I share this post that moved first in queue in my brain. Does that happen to anyone else? I can’t do what I need to do on my to-do-list because I need to do this entirely other thing first. Brains, right?

A New to me WordPress Blog Theme

Coldbox theme Search Coldbox v1.9.5 as changed on iHannas blog 3 of May 2024

In any case, I have a semi-working blog with a new theme so click on over to have a look. This time I was forced to change the look of the blog with a new theme (it’s called Coldbox and it’s designed by Toshihiro Kanai) that I randomly found and kind of like. It is responsive and has the sticky header menu that I loved with the Evolve theme, but the only way to have a right sidebar on blog posts is to have it show on all pages (including the index/first page) and I hate that.

I want full with on some pages, and the sidebar to show up only on blog posts. With Evolve, my previous theme that I bought, I could even make a few different sidebars that showed up on different pages. Blog posts about mail art and the postcards I made hade a “swap” sidebar with links to the downloads, FAQ and so on. I love that idea, but it was a lot of work too.

The old Evolve Plus look at Studio iHannas Blog with responsive pages and a sticky menu at the top, from 2019
The old Evolve Plus look at Studio iHannas Blog with responsive pages and a sticky menu at the top, from 2019.

So for now I have ditched the sidebar entirely and it makes me feel a bit naked and strange, like wearing tights without a skirt perhaps. But I guess most everyone reads a blog via a feed reader or via email these days (although my service is also broken and I will need to look into that as well soon), so it’s kind of rare that anyone sees what I am working so hard to organize in sidebars these days I think. But how do you promote all that content and internal links without a sidebar? Show new things in the shop? I don’t even know, and maybe it doesn’t matter if almost nobody sees it?

If you have opinions about the existence of sidebars, or anything related to navigation of this blog, or blogging in general these days, let me know in the comments. I’ll answer there.

WordPress Blog Changes – for now

In any case, here are some screen grabs of the current outlook that I wanted to mention or talk about. They are my “changes” for now. First the overview pages will look like this:

My site category overview is now without images, because there are no "featured image" set for most of my older blog posts!

Blog Category overviews

This is the category overview over “art experiments” using my new theme Coldbox.

The overview pages are now without images because there are no “featured image” set for most of my older blog posts!

The Evolve theme grabbed the first image that showed up in each blog post, which is one of the biggest reasons I loved that theme so much, especially since I had linked in so very many photos from Flickr, that had no thumb nails in my wordpress at all. They still showed up as thumb nails via that theme! And I loved seeing those little visuals of each of my blog posts in different configurations (via tags, categories, published month and so on). So cool. By me but out of my hands.

On the first page of the blog (the homepage / index) you will see this still. There the “featured image” shows up because I have set that in all of these more “recent” posts:

Blog Homepage overview

I absolutely love looking at this, and views just like this one. As a visual person this is one thing that I love so very much about blogging: how I can see my posts/accomplishments so well visually arranged. My inclination is to go back and obsessively change all the back blog posts…

To tell you the truth, I have already started going back to older posts to set “Featured image” so that I will see some of those posts in overviews later on. But to do it with all of them would be crazy, so I will try not to get stuck in that loop right now. It’s okay to want to preserve what you have created, but not to the cost of your health and sanity. LOL.

Related posts you also might like

I personally also love the related post feature of blogs a lot. It’s where if you are reading something about a subject that you are interested in, you will be shown 3-5 other blog posts at the end of that post, that the author has written on the same subject or that are just stored in the same category!

Howdy, iHanna

In this way, you can keep reading a blog for ever and it can be a great time suck, haha, or just an awesome way to be surprised and keep on clicking and seeing “new stuff” posted 4 or 10 or 14 years ago. With Evolve I had to use a plugin called Eli’s Related Posts, and it was very customizable and fun to use but not very visual. Here, as you can see on my screen grab above, you will get five different posts but presented with an image as well as the category used and the blog title, so it will be interesting to see how it works for me. But again, uses “featured image” so all of these will mostly be empty unfortunately. So maybe I should use a plug-in instead, to just get text links?

Lastly, I like this Coldbox theme navigation to previous and next blog post using big arrowed images

Coldbox theme navigation to previous and next blog post using big arrowed images

Navigation to next or previous blog post

Coldbox theme has a built in navigation to previous and next blog post using images at the end of each blog post (wish they were above comments but hey, you can’t get everything) that I personally use all the time when I read back old blog posts.

Of course the gray box with right and left arrows should be the “featured image”, haha, but I guess that was to be expected by now. I have stopped paying for Flickr (many years ago) because it was getting expensive and I did not use it as much, but I still have so many images over there. When they disappear this blog will be broken as well, so let’s hope they don’t delete them just yet. My photos are the backbone of my blog, I think. I love the visuals of it, like I already mentioned. But of course the content/text is also important and together, hand in hand, they work beautifully to become a whole experience.

I have loved blogging for 20 years and right now, actually, I feel there is no end in sight. But, we’ll see. We will see.

Keeping a Lost Art Alive is a blog post title inspired by Samantha Dion Bakers Substack blog, in which she writes about hand-writing: “I have a natural desire to write not only to keep track of time and memories, but also because stringing letterforms together is like a meditation.” I feel the same about blogging. Let’s keep it alive!

Cheers my friends from your cyberfriend albeit a non-techie, welcome back to the sandbox of art, craft and creativity any time soon and we will keep talking about the more important stuff then.

May the force be with you.

8 Responses

  1. Great to see you back! I got a funny blog title from your blog on my feed reader recently but couldn’t click through and was worried your blog had been disappeared.
    My website and blog is much younger than yours but I have already run into the problem of a no-longer supported theme and the replacement I chose just isn’t right so I guess I have to mess around in my sandbox again too.
    Congratulations on 20 years!

    • Thank you Ruth! Haha, I wrote the blog title “Why is everything so hard” and accidentally published it when trying out stuff. It was empty though, so I deleted it quickly, so that’s the explanation to that error! I really wish I had an interest in learning how to write my own theme, because I know exactly what I want and how everything should work, but programming is just not for me even though I have worked as a programmer once in my younger days.

      I didn’t know you had a blog, I will add it to my Feedly now for sure. Cheers!

  2. Oh gosh, reading your post took me straight back to this time last year, when I too managed to break my blog epically and I wondered if it was the end and disappearance of fifteen years of blogging. I had been contemplating stopping the blog; like you, I feel like there’s not a lot of folks out there actually reading beyond the few who pop over for a tutorial from Pinterest.

    I love your new theme, and always enjoy seeing your posts pop up in Feedly.

    • Thanks Rachel, I’m glad we are a few who are sticking out our necks and keeping on keeping on. I do think I’d miss it if I stopped, but never planned on blogging for ever either, so we’ll see what happens, right? :-)

  3. Hi, iHanna! Thank you for sharing this; it feels like you have been so frustrated by all of the changes. I’m sorry this has been so hard and discouraging for you. I’m still out here, still painting and stitching and doing my various other things, and I still read and enjoy your blog! I would read you if you had to write on paper plates (the style and format don’t matter that much to me). Have you been making anything lately? Any new books you have been enjoying? I am working on a fairly large stitchery piece featuring an octopus and friends. Sending hugs your way. Cheers from Lynn in Hallsville, Missouri USA

    • Thank you Lynn, for reading it all. :-) My own creativity has been at a stand-still for a while, but little things here and there are always happening. Today I’m working on videos of me making DIY Postcards for the swap, so that’s something coming soon.

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