Sunday, November 17, 2013

"How to write a successful blog" or "Another open letter to my friend Colleen"

"For a great many of us, I suspect the urge to be read is inherent in the urge to write."
- Lawrence Block, Telling Lies for Fun and Profit

I was recently corresponding with my friend, Colleen, and we discussed her importance to me as a reader.   I receive a small amount of traffic to this blog (about thirty hits in one day, when I post a link to twitter), and Colleen is always a part of that.  At times, I'll have only one hit, and I know it was her.  I greatly appreciate this, but it does put a bit of pressure on her as a reader.  What if she woke up one day and decided she was tired of my bullshit, like a number of men I've known*.  Maybe it was time to take things a little more seriously.
Once I had started looking, I realized I'd been down this path before.  Most blogs have a goal or theme that brings in a particular set of readers.  Many articles on writing a good blog lists having a niche topic as one of the cornerstones to good blogging.  Too vague a topic, like "technology" and you wouldn't draw people in.  "Technology for black lesbians", on the other hand might be just the angle you need. "Technology for black lesbians between the ages of of 17 and 23" might be getting a little confusing and narrow, and quite frankly, I do not have my finger on the pulse of what they would want anyway**. 

There were times when I would wander around the internet trying to figure out what lovely specialty I could write about.  I have a tendency to binge on my interests for months at a time, and then I lose interest in them for the next 18 months before picking them up again.
My Mondo Film Blog would last about 5 minutes before I got disgusted with myself for having such an interest, no matter how thoughtful I am about it.
There are a lot of popular blogs out there surrounding clothing, cooking***, crafts, and reorganizing your home that I'm not going to wander into that territory.  My knowledge of those topics is so limited, I should probably give up my vagina permit****.  
An example of organizational skills.
Well, that settled it.  My blog will continue to be about my navel*****.  Having decided to ignore finding a niche market, I'll move past that and move forward with one of the next popular tip.
Tip number 2: keep writing great content.  Oh, is that all? All we need to do is keep writing great content?!  THAT'S SUPER FUCKING EASY!  Clearly, my goal here is to write crummy content.  Upon further reflection, I suppose the article is telling us to try and change things up a bit, and not make the same post several times over (eg. my bitching about how lazy I am here and here).

I like my blog, and I enjoy writing. I also keep a paper journal, which helps.  There's a strange restlessness I get when I haven't written in either.  I think I turn into a bit of an irritable asshole, as other people have commented on it (usually my parents).  Sometimes, it's just better to have written it than it is to actually write it******. 

A number of tips I stumbled across were mired in tips on how to handle blogging technology, with words like 'analytics' and 'search engine optimization (SEO)' thrown around.  I'm not prepared to really start venturing into that world just yet.
I get enough of that junk at work.
Almost every post offering tips mentions getting involved in the blogging community.  Honestly, I don't know where to start on this one, and I'm a little worry I'll infringe on some etiquette that I didn't even know existed.  If you've found this post, and have a blog of your own, please post a link in the comments below.

Thanks for reading.  (Hi, Colleen*******!)

*Actually, it's often been me who waves the white flag in areas of romance.
**I don't have my fingers anywhere near them, actually.
***One very popular cooking blog will post pictures of every single step in a recipe.  This seemed helpful until she went back to apologize and edit a post to include a photo of 6 eggs in a mixing bowl that she'd originally left out.  WE KNOW WHAT EGGS LOOK LIKE IN A BOWL, WOMAN.  I haven't rolled my eyes that hard since I was in high school.
****If you don't have one, get one.  You'll need it after the upcoming election.
*****Stargazing has never been a big hobby of mine. 
******Like expressing a dog's anal glands.  
*******Colleen's blog can be found here.

I should really learn how to do proper footnoting, this is getting out of hand.

(This is probably the post on blogging I enjoyed the most - - it's thoughtfully written, and it seems to cover all the angles.)

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

I should probably call the cops.

Starting around the 4am mark, someone in the next building has been playing their music nice and loud.  At 4 in the morning.  I can't be certain that it's what woke me up, but I can confirm that I'm not usually awake at that hour for no reason. 

What the hell is wrong with people?  When I first moved in, that building was full of young people with young children.  Sure, they weren't my cup of tea, but they were reasonable enough.  Once or twice on a weekend, I would hear loud music, but I kind of enjoyed it.  I live in the city, and I like hearing other people enjoy music.  The boys below me play music a bit loudly some days while I'm reading upstairs, and it actually makes me smile more than anything.  I hope that doesn't make the creepy old lady in the building.

Returning to the matter at hand, about 6 months ago, the building next door changed hands, and it seems to have fallen apart.  The yard is full of crap, including a giant garbage can that never seems to be emptied.  People drive their cars right up to the door, and one of the dwellers is the sort of douchebag who will lean out the window to yell obscenities at his friend who just pulled up*.  The window-leaner is often seen sporting a baseball cap that is far too clean, and a wife-beater that is far too dirty.  Unfortunately, this may be the most reasonable inhabitant of the building; leaning out is his only source of escaping the dwelling, if only for a moment.

The police have been by the building several times, once blocking my road enough that I went around the block and came in the back way.  One of the apartments has a couple in it comprising of two people who can't bear to be single, but also beat the hell out of each other whenever their hectic schedules allow.

I like my building, and I'm not planning on moving.  My landlord's reasonable, and so are the other people in my building, even if I have facepalm moments with them**.  If I were in the other building, though, I would have serious issues.  Just an entire building of assholes.

*I have reason to believe the previous owner of the building took all the screens with her.
**Thanks for not holding the door for me when I had two arms full of groceries, bitch.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

"If you don't mind, babe, I'm going to put my phone away awhile."

I once ran into some bullshit on Pinterest. It goes like this "People cry not because they are weak.  They cry because they've been strong for too long."  And then there's a picture of something completely irrelevant, like a lake or a pair of shoes.  I've never cried enough for a lake, even when I was a teenager and crying was cool*.

I have decided tonight is a night for a good cry.  I've been feeling a lot of pressure lately in my life, most of it internal.   12 days ago, a Thursday, I was bombarded with compliments and comments about my writing ("She should write a blog" etc.**).  When I say 'bombarded,' I mean, 5 in one day.  Writing it down now, it doesn't seem like much, but this occurred on a workday when I generally kept my head down and work.  I would call it a sign, if I believed in that sort of thing. 

By the morning of the following Sunday, I decided I was going to believe in that sort of thing.  I called my friend, Liz, and invited her over for coffee.  I hadn't really said anything in particular about why I wanted to see her, something along the lines of "I have a proposition for you***." 

My friend Liz is a visual artist.  She's recently gotten back into her work, finding time here and there for sketching and painting.  It occurred to me a couple of weeks ago that her and I were on the same page, that we were starting our...fuck, I hate the word journey, so if I come up with something better, I'll come back and edit this post.  When she showed up, I was going to ask her if we could bolster each other in our artistic goals.  Eventually, I was going to ask her if she would explore a twelve week self-guided art course.  I was going to ask her to do The Artist's Way alongside me.

Pictured: going sane?

About 15 minutes before she arrived, I got incredibly nervous.  What if she thought I was crazy?  Worse, what if she thought I was being flaky****?  She arrived and we looked at the work she'd brought.  I thought it would be nice to see what she was working on.  On some level, I also thought that, if I saw her work, I could confirm for myself that we were at the same point of development of our art (if I could call my writing art).   I served her a coffee, and we looked at the art, and then I told her my plan.  I say plan here, because that's what you call something that worked out okay.  She liked the idea, agreed we should do this together, and ordered a copy of the book herself.  Success.

After this, work exploded for me. Sadly, I don't mean writing work, I mean actual work, the work that pays my bills. 

Who needs electricity?

The difficult thing here is, if I choose to believe in the signs that I should write and work towards this goal, then the signs of the next week was telling me to give it up and quit.  I'm really feeling like I'm being tested lately.  I think my best bet is to trust the process and continue, but for tonight?  A good cry, I think.

*my soul is black. 
**I told them about the blog, and I had thirty hits that day, so that's good.
***which is always awkward to hear from your bi friend.
****I think my worst nightmare is being called flaky. Okay, maybe third, after cancer and being left alone the rest of my life.  Sorry, this asterisk got dark.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013


Having been in a few relationships now, I realize I have a difficult relationship with the word "cutie."  The boy - it's almost always a boy - I've been seeing will start peppering his sentences with "cutie,"  and I'll completely fall for it, thinking he means "I think you're cute."

The word is actually a haunting prediction.  The boy is never at fault for this, it is simply a message from the universe.  Many of my relationships* will blossom and flower into a beautiful thing, leading to the act of making love**.  Shortly thereafter, I learn the true meaning of cutie.

Chronic Urinary Tract Infection

Yes, I am up early to google 24 grocery stores, where I will run in and make a purchase.  Two of your finest bottles of cranberry flavoured shame, please!  For I am clearly still up from partying, and not in any discomfort at all!

Certain purchases are obvious signs that one is having sex, has had sex, or is planning on having sex***.   Cranberry juice may or may not be a sign.  Putting it in your cart during your weekly shop just means you might like cranberry juice.  Running out at 5:30 in the morning does not convey that message.  The small triumph of "yes, I have had sex recently," is far outweighed by the discomfort of "wipe that knowing smile off your face, Cash-Register-Betty."

*Not a slut.  But if I were, slut-shaming is bad.  Stay in school, kids.
**We can still call it making love if it happens in the back of a car, right?
***The boy who buys condoms we may roll our eyes at, but the man who buys condoms and lube is intriguing.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

As is often the case: Brain Dump

1)  I think Rob Ford is amazing.  To clarify, I think the storyline playing out in the headlines is amazing.  I hate the expression "you can't write this shit," because I just picture some smart-ass egotistical writer leaning back and saying "no, sweetie, you can't write this shit. I could write this shit with my eyes closed."  And then he would get hit by a car, because this is my fantasy, dammit.

That said, I totally feel like that expression applies here! 

Some guy from a website says there's a video of the mayor smoking crack!  But he doesn't have the video!  
Oh, that's funny.  That could be a fun side plot "smear campaign against the beloved mayor."

Mayor denies it and refuses to step down.
Of course he does. Who wouldn't? There's no video.

Mayor's brother stands up for him.
As a good brother should.

Mayor keeps shooting his mouth off about everything but the accusation.
Wait, this guy's kind of an asshole.
Video surfaces.
Ooh!  They're gonna git 'im!
Mayor cannot be charged criminally, and he cannot be impeached.  Oh, and he refuses to step down.  So, this is just how your mayor is now.
*chucks book across the room* Bullshit, in the real world he would totally be charged and kicked out of office, we have those kind of systems in place...what? ...we don't?

2)  Gratitude journals are fantastic, providing you don't lose them 1 week into starting them.

I will find you, fucker. And then I'll be grateful as hell for having found you, mostly because I'll have no idea what to write next.

3)   I should consider double-bagging my garbage.  Yesterday was garbage day, and now a bunch of mine is strewn across the front yard.  Some of it is bathroom garbage, too.  I haven't looked closely, so I hope it doesn't have anything too embarrassing in it.  I keep meaning to go pick it up, but I want to wait until it's really dark.  I'll set my alarm for the middle of the night.

4)  Work is going well, but I had a mini-fantasy of quitting today.  It was more of a reminder that I could do it, in theory.  Truthfully, I should have done it when I was working in fast food, and didn't have to worry about bills.  Maybe in a next life.

Monday, November 4, 2013

I unsubscribed from this morning

And I had the chance to give them a reason for leaving.

Good morning,

I'm happy to see while unsubscribing that I have a chance to give a proper reason for leaving. I apologize for saying this, but both the Hello Giggles site and the emails lack meat and real discussion.  The site does 'touch' on some interesting topics, but then flutters off to deal with something inconsequential.  At the moment, there's an article about chipping away at your debt, and reads "try setting a milestone to free up $100 in credit," but gives absolutely no advice on how someone is to determine what can and can't be cut from their budget to do so.  There's another article about women's rights, but it's focusing on a recent ad campaign from a large agency. 

If I may make a small suggestion, perhaps you should welcome or encourage writers to expand on their ideas more.  The women's rights article clocks in at a mile 420ish words, the end of which seems to be the point at where a writer can really start presenting an idea and making an impression on their reader.

I realize that - at 31 years old - I may be outside your target market, but the core creators of the site are in their thirties as well.  Hello Giggles has a large following now (kudos), and a chance to be more than just another girly site.

This is simply my opinion, of course.  Thank you for reading and letting me share it with you.

-Amy XXXXX (I put my full name - nothing to hide)

Clicking submit, I realize I'm probably yelling into a black hole...

Sunday, November 3, 2013

The post none of you asked for!

Today is the third day of Nanowrimo (  Every year, there is an online challenge to write 50,000 words in the month of November, presumably using the time you'd spend shaving.  I get the itch to write around this time of year, and the fact that it's Nanowrimo time is a bit of motivation for me.  Despite my laziness, I do feel a need to write.  When I arrive to work early, I take the time to send one of my friends a 'just because' email that's filled with wit and humour (they agree with me that it's wit and humour, at any rate. It's more likely to be caffeine filled drivel, similar to the blog.)

I logged in recently, and my profile indicates that I've been a member for six years.  This is an impressive badge to carry, particularly given that I've written exactly zero books, and submitted 0 words to my word count for all years combined.

The webpage is pretty.  It's got the two shades of blue, with the dark brown writing, very stylish.  It has a crest that's cartoonish, but nice and crisp.  That incredibly trendy, kinda hipsterish* look that actually makes me want to gouge my eyes out.  As I said, it's a nice website, and it runs smoothly, which is actually the most important feature.

The top of the page reads "the world needs your novel."  I actually have two issues with this sentence:

1.  Don't blow smoke up my ass.
2.  The world needs a lot of things.  It needs me to pay attention when I'm at work.  It needs me to pay my taxes, and be a good citizen.  What it genuinely doesn't need is another novel.**

The site then boasts 259,261 novelists.  Provided that I'm one of those, I can only assume their definition of 'novelist' is looser than a Florida retirees sexual mores.

It is usually at this point during an angry rant I remind myself that "it takes all kinds."*** If everyone in the world were like me, nothing would get done.****

Herein lies the real truth.  The amount of willpower I have is embarrassingly small. 

Pictured: My willpower.  Enlarged to show texture.
If our attitude towards willpower were the same as our attitudes towards penises, I would have the coolest convertible in my city.  As a small example, I didn't sit down to write this post until after I convinced myself I needed a tomato sandwich, which meant I had to go buy bread and I didn't even stop at the first store, but kept driving because I really liked the song that was on the radio.  I think Nanowrimo interests me, because it feels like maybe there will be an outside force pushing me to write, but where's the pressure?  A bunch of people I don't really know are going to judge me (not even me, because I've used a different screenname.)  Without the consequences, there's just no pressure.

Truth be told, a large part me - including when I'm in a fantastic mood - feels that Nanowrimo is for people who do not have full time jobs and responsibilities outside of those jobs..  If we genuinely think about it, it boils down to about 6-7 pages per day (50,000 words divided by 30 days = 1,666.6666and-so-on, divided by, say 250 words per page = 6.66666and-so-on pages per day).  Actually, it seems reasonable, but when you consider that includes weekends, and someone like me is in front a computer all day at work.  Then we can play with it again, and say "what if you just did it on weekends?" which totals 23.333333and-so-on pages per day on the weekend.

What if I were to cut the goal in half, just to get things off the ground (so, only write 25,000 words)? Well, yes, but then we're back to our previous concerns of consequences.  And I don't make the kind of money this guy does, to pay someone to keep me on point.

I need someone to slap me.

*Every time I use the word Hipster, I have a creeping sense that the damn definition has changed again. "You can't define us, man."  Fuck you.
**Someone should tell Iceland.  In actuality, I love that news story, no matter how crabby I am. 
***This is a whole other phrase I can rant about for hours.  You complain to your friend about the way someone does something, and they shrug and say "it takes all kinds," effectively dismissing your complaint without any analysis of potential issues.  It's a polite "shut up, asshole."
****Also, there would be more car accidents; I'm not the best driver.