Thursday, May 28, 2009

#700 and advice on getting there

photo adapted from an idea by marathoner81 
thank you for the inspiration!
i love the suggestions you guys came up with and i will be using some of them (yes, including a helleristning stone giveaway, HRH TFM that was a good idea) in the coming days, but what i thought i'd do today actually isn't really in the comments (i said i was going to be dictatorial about this). but i do thank you all very much for giving me some great ideas and you will see them coming to a blog post near you very soon.

since BoN hit me a little over a month ago, i've had a number of quite a few people email me to ask for blogging advice. how i got started, what i do to stay motivated (P&P asked some of this in her suggestion below), how to go about it, how often to post--a whole range of questions. just this morning, gypsyfeet, a blogging newbie who is a canadian living in korea (cool!) emailed me and asked for some advice. then it hit me that THAT was what i should write about for my 700th post.

i know you regulars don't really need any advice and i'm not sure i really have anything worth saying on this topic, since i've really no clue what i'm doing, i just keep doing it. however, i won't let those doubts stand in my way, it's just that i wanted to give you the chance to skip to other posts or another blog at this time because this may not apply to you.

* * *

i created this blog in 2004. i had just been wrongfully fired from microsoft (as my lawyer ended up proving, but which i knew from the moment it happened) by my total crap hack insecure middle-level fargo-based manager. my original intent was to expose the middle layer of management fat around microsoft's middle (i'm sure it's still there and likely still needs exposing) and it made me feel good to create the blog.

at first, the blog was closed to the world--i wasn't naming MS by name b/c my case was pending and i didn't want to jeopardize it. what i ended up writing about was how i felt about being fired and my subsequent search for a new job. then i got a new job and i was really busy and i didn't post at all during 2005 and 2006. towards the end of 2007, i was feeling really tired and burned out and wrote a few posts again. it was also at that point that i opened up the blog, thinking no one would find it anyway, so what did that hurt. then it hit me that my job was actually killing me and my relationships and my family life and so i left it at the end of 2007. i decided then that blogging would be a way to heal and find my way back to myself.

i've always written journals and used journaling as a way of thinking things through and helping me sort out the world around me. my need to do that after leaving the stressful job was great and this little blogger compose space just spoke to me, so i started channeling those musings through the keyboard rather than writing them out in journals. i found it was an easier way of being sure that i wrote every day--which had also been a longtime goal that i had never really been able to fulfill. i type fast and so i could get the thoughts down faster anyway. whatever it was, the blog as a medium clicked for me.

so i wrote happily along, trying to find my way back to myself and especially to my creativity and my family and well, my life. i also started reading a lot of blogs. i lurked, because i didn't really know how the whole commenting thing worked and it seemed like all those people commenting knew each other and i just felt like an outsider. i also was in a process of working out what i liked and what spoke to me, so i favorited a lot of blogs in different categories and visited them regularly, but quietly. i doubt any of them knew i was there. some of them i still occasionally check in on, but for the most part, i'm not really actively reading the same blogs today that i was then (that's mostly because i've moved on from the scrapbooking thing).

in mid-march 2008, around my birthday, i got my first comment. i was astounded that someone had found me as i seriously never imagined anyone finding me or reading what i was writing. i was writing instead of going to therapy and just enjoying it for the act of it and for myself. so i was totally surprised how cool it was that someone left a comment. that someone was the elementary. she writes lovely, thoughtful posts and can turn absolutely any tiny detail into a totally delightful story with a life lesson attached. she's wonderful.

getting a comment on my blog gave me the courage to comment on some of those blogs i was reading. and it turned out that then those people came to visit me and suddenly a few more were commenting and it started to feel like a community with friends. to this day, i still don't feel worthy of commenting on a blog like hula seventy, so it can be that you'll feel that way too. but maybe it's just me. and it can cut you off from wonderful people--for example, for the longest time i felt unworthy to comment on paris parfait, but tara is one of the most generous, wonderful bloggers i know. all it took was that i finally had the courage to leave her a comment.

* * *
the medium

i love the blog as a medium. i think it affords the opportunity to be all over the place and explore different genres. one of the early comments after BoN hit me was, "i love your blog, but i don't know what it's about." i felt like, "yes, success!" you see, that's precisely what's cool about the genre of blog (if it indeed is a genre, i'm on the fence about that--i think it's becoming one)--it's anything and everything you want it to be. but, from my point of view, it's above all personal. so my advice (and it is advice, not rules, i don't think there are really rules to blogging) will reflect this--i'm not advising you how to sell your etsy stuff (as if i know anything about that) or find customers for your interior design business or photography studio or create a blog where you post tutorials of crafty stuff. all of my advice is about blogging as a personal expressive tool--gypsyfeet called it my "thinking out loud" style this morning and i think that's an apt description. so this is my advice for thinking out loud. :-)

* * *
the advice
  1. be real, if you're bummed out, say so. if you're elated, share it. people will see through it in a minute if you're not real. that annoying blog that made me hate the word "rad" is so thoroughly and completely fake sappy sweet that it makes me want to throw up. and i'm certain it's all an act because that shines clearly through in all of the vapid self-portraits that are used in every post. and i refuse to link to it here so that you are spared and to avoid sending any visitors her way.  instead, i'll give you a link to a new blog i found recently of someone who i think is blogging in a very real way and i love that! go read marinik's blog, her husband has cancer and is dying and she's writing about it so beautifully and so authentically, i'm amazed.
  2. go out and read a lot of blogs, when you find one that speaks to you, click on their blog favorites because chances are it will lead you to more blogs that you'll like.
  3. don't be afraid of leaving a comment--but leave an honest comment--if they moved you or made you laugh or even pissed you off--say so (politely, articulately), but don't just say, "nice blog." and leave a link to yours. i never ever click those links, but if someone leaves me a sincere comment, i always click on their profile and have a look at their blog. it's really about being real again, just like in #1.
  4. by being real, i don't mean that you have to expose real names of your family members and such--i refer to husband as husband because that's what we all call him, but i know some people say spouse or hubby or kid #1 (please don't say kidlet, that's just wrong, but of course, it's a choice and you're welcome to make it) or whatever because they want to protect their privacy. that's totally cool and doesn't mean you're not being real.
  5. it's up to you to decide how often you want to post. i post every day because that's part of what i want with blogging--i want to write on a daily basis. but one of the very best blogs i've ever read and which i read religiously is truth cycles and hele posts only once in awhile, as the spirit moves her. i'm sure i'm not the only one who wishes she would post every day, but that's not her way of blogging and every one of her posts is worth the wait, so whenever a new one pops into my reader, i rush to read her first. what's interesting is that i don't always comment the first time, her posts merit careful thought and i often go back to post a comment later.
  6. use great photos. i have come to the point where i would almost call myself a photographer (don't worry bill, i won't actually do it ;-)) and i can tell you that if you look back at my early posts, that was not the case. i bought my nikon D60 in early may last year and my photos have steadily improved since then.
  7. carry a little notebook with you to scribble blog ideas in. whenever i'm out, i see half a dozen things i want to blog about later. for this reason, i don't go anywhere without my camera or my little blog notebook. and i mean nowhere. they come to the grocery store with me, just in case.
  8. if you see a blog post you love on someone else's blog--be it a list or writing in reaction to a particular question or quote--write your own version and link back to the person who inspired you. inspiration is viral in the blogosphere, but do give credit where credit is due. it's not nice to steal people's words and ideas.
  9. try out other voices. write in the 3rd person once in awhile. write a fairy tale. i never do poetry, but lots of people do to good effect. the medium allows you the freedom to try out all kinds of things.
  10. listen to what people say in the comments. i've been amazed, especially of late, at how reactions to various posts were very different than what i had imagined they would be. i thought i was being really funny with my snow white post and people found it to be a sad little tale. i hadn't seen it that way at all, but could totally see what they meant after i got that reaction. listening to the feedback you get in the comments can totally help you grow as a writer.
  11. i love to change my blog header regularly. it makes me happy.
  12. don't go too nuts with the gadgets in the sidebar. (i know, i don't follow this well enough myself. but i do try to avoid things that are flashing or have too much distracting motion.) the star of your blog is your blog posts. there are tons of awesome free blogger templates out there to help you be creative and display the things you want to display.
  13. this is a personal preference, but i really don't like those music players that trigger music automatically when i visit a blog. you don't really know where people are when they're reading your blog. maybe it's late at night and their baby has just gotten to sleep and they click to your page and music blares out and wakes the baby. or they're at work and don't want to broadcast to the world that they're reading blogs. put the player on, fine, but don't have it trigger the music automatically. or share your playlist in another way--i've seen blogs with changing "listening to now" lists. that's cool and i've discovered a lot of great music that way, so i love people sharing their favorite music, i just want to be able to play it on my own terms.
  14. answer your comments. i don't always have time these days, but i try to, especially on the "important" posts or on a post where i wanted a dialogue about the topic. if there's an email address on the comment, i often answer directly to the person. sometimes i indulge in these (perhaps annoying if one has subscribed to comments or if one feels left out) IM conversations, which are an occasional bit of fun. i love that whenever i comment on magpie's blog, she always answers directly to me. it makes me feel recognized and worthy and like a friend. mary and meri both do that too. and i think that's way cool.
  15. if you don't feel like posting, don't post. everyone goes through periods where you just feel a lack of motivation. there's nothing that says you MUST post something--it's really totally and completely up to you. that's the beauty of blogging, it's totally subject to your whims.
* * *
the conclusion

i write for a living in addition to all this blogging, as well as coming from a long line of journalists, so writing is in my blood. i might feel a lack of motivation some days, but i can't imagine having nothing to write about. i think about blogging all the time--everything i do, everyone i meet, everything i observe, every picture i take is all potential fodder for a blog posting. i scribble them down in my little notebook and if i'm having a blah day, i turn to that and find ten ideas that get my mojo back. in my view, the more you write, the more you will have to write about.

everyone always asks me how i have the time. it's because i prioritize it. it's important to me--more important than watching t.v. and getting enough sleep. i'm a night owl, so very often my posts are composed late at night and set to post at a particular time the next morning.

blogging has made me more present in my everyday world, despite the fact that i send it all out into cyberspace. i'm more grounded and more observant than i was. and it's what has brought me here, to my 700th post. and i think that's a good thing.


Char said...

I've got to be better at answering the comments. I suck at that really.

culliond is the captiva for me - maybe that's a person that doesn't respond to comments.

Optimistic Pessimist said...

I've been following since the day you became a BoN, but didn't know your back story. Thanks for bringing us newbies up to speed.

I never got blogging until i tried it. It has exposed me to an entirely different world...and many different opinions.

sas said...

Congratulations - 700 is nothing to sneeze at!

Sas x

Sarah said...

Well said, J! I am so glad to have found you and Ext and Molly. I really feel that I have made friends with you guys and that makes me way more happy than you can imagine.

I am with you on the whole blogging as priority thing. I love to post and do so almost every day. And actually feel guilty on the rare days I don't. And I also am always scribbling down ideas (on my blackberry). I just suck at the pictures...

Heather said...

Truly excellent advice... I'm always so bad about commenting on the blogs that I really like - but I'm going to from now on because so often I am inspired and moved.

Congrats on 700 posts! Wow!

Sarah Anne said...

That's good advice. I'm near post 300, and sometimes I find myself running out of interesting things to say. A notebook is now ready to join my camera. :)

Extranjera said...

Congrats on the 700.
That really is a whole bunch of anti-dross you got there.

d smith kaich jones said...

Even for those of us who've been reading you for quite a while, it's very cool to read the back story. 700! :) Love it.


Anonymous said...

all good advice. you were one of my first commenters!

Mari Mansourian said...

First of all congrats on the 700!
Secondly, thank you so much for linking me(I'm so touched and yes I did cry) but then again I seem to be doing allot of that lately.
Great advice for us newbies, I started blogging just to stay sane through this crazy chapter in my life, and now I find, I'm addicted, always thinking about it, and can't wait to log on and ream my comments.
You are inspiration to all of us.
Thank you!

McGillicutty said...

Thanks once again for a wonderful post... I feel better because I thought I was overblogging!!! I too think about it all the time and you have become kind of a mentor to me now I guess. I like the variety of your blog and of course you're a very talented writer!! You Rock... get it Rock.. hahaha... (sorry). Ali.

LissaMarie said...

this was such an inspirational post to me. It really helped to concrete the reasons why I blog and made me want to carry around a notebook for blog ideas wherever I go, because that is such a good idea! Thanks for the guidelines of blogging too, I wish I had read something like that when I first started my blog! Congrats of the 700, your posts are almost always very very inspirational and thoughtful to me, and I am going to comment a lot more :)

Anonymous said...

Thanks for all the wonderful advice. I think you're a beautiful writer, and it makes me feel good to know that even you were a bit self-concious in the beginning (because I obviosly am not a writer...just trying to think out loud too as gypsyfeet puts it).

Cyndy said...

Wonderful post, as always. When you asked about suggestions for #700, I had thought about asking you to tell us all "how" to do it, but in my mind that translated to step-by-step instructions. Naturally, you came up with a fresh approach that reads just as if you were sitting on the couch, sharing a latté and talking to ME (I bet all 800+ followers feel the same). It is a gift. Your gift for writing and our gift for reading. Thank you.

Still would love to see the Sabin interview and hope it will show up in one of your posts. First car? First date? First day of college? First house? The list is endless, and I am sure we will see so much of you in Sabin's answers...

Really looking forward to post 1000 which puts us to about a year from when I first started following your blog. No coincidence, BTW, of when I opened up my blog. You are inspiration...

wv: rocker! no lie. how appropriate! to the lady who holds a rock in one hand while typing with the other, you do, indeed, rock!

Indiri Wood said...

I follow blogs for two reasons. I either love their photos or their writing made me laugh or think (or both). Your blog I follow for both reasons.

And I definately agree about clicking on the favorites of the blogs you enjoy. I've found so many great bloggers that I might not have otherwise looked at by looking through the lists, and then their lists, and then theirs and, well, you know.

Unknown said...

i just discovered your blog a love it!

Liz Fulcher, The Fragrant Muse said...

I haven't read it all, but am going to print it out and read it in bed tonight con calma.

In the meantime I want to say two things:
1) 700 posts is fokken awesome and remarkable and inspiring and you should be very very proud;

2) Now you can say you're in the 700 Club!

Elizabeth said...

This all started with one decision, one need felt. Just one word at a time,one post, one step into the journey of writing, one step creating your place and being you.

There is just one Julie who shares her flashes of perfect clarity so eloquently.

Leaves me to say: THANK YOU!!!

Fidgeting Gidget said...

Wow, great post!! :) I love this blog and I've found a lot of great blogs from this site, so thanks for being such a great connector blog, on top of everything else!

rxBambi said...

Trying to think of something worthwhile that hasn't already been said. I'll get back to that. The funniest thing I found in this blog? You talked about not having stuff flashing on the sides (#12) which happens to be RIGHT NEXT to the flashing pictures of I Adore My Nikons. :D Sorry, but it made me giggle. And I'm still smiling all big from VEGs post.

Bee said...

It was really interesting hearing about your "process" . . . how you came to blog, and how it has changed for you. I know that I will never be a daily blogger, but I really value the journal aspect of it. Even when people experiment, I always think that most bloggers do eventually evolve into a recognizable, signature style. I love that we each have our own distinct imprint!

I hope that my photography evolves as yours has done! For the first time in my life, I'm starting to "see" good pictures . . . and when I neglect to bring my camera out with me I end up feeling really bummed! I may take your advice about the notebook as well.

julochka said...

i'm going against my own advice, b/c i don't have the time at the moment to address each comment individually...but thank you all for your sweet comments...even the "haha" on me for the little moving flickr thingie being right beside my advice that you shouldn't have a bunch of distracting flashing stuff. ha! i think flickr doesn't count. :-)

it's really fun to read all your comments and although i haven't responded, i have been clicking into blogs--even some i've not visited before, so thank you for your comments so i could "meet" you!


~C said...

I'll join the chorus of "great post!" and "thanks for inspiring so many of us in different ways!" and also want to add that you were the first to comment on my little blog as well and it was such a great feeling! One bloggy connection at a time...

I also have a question - you mentioned ages ago (months? not sure) about how you created your fabulous headers, and now I just don't remember. Was it a template on a site somewhere? Could you remind us, pretty please and thank you?

julochka said...

i make my headers in Pages (apple's answer to word). it's easy to drag & drop photos in from iPhoto and resize (unlike word). then i use Grab (apple's screenshot program) and take a screenshot of it. i do then have to open Preview and save it as a jpeg b/c blogger won't take a tif in the header.

it sounds more cumbersome than it actually is in practice. now that it's set up, i just change the pix when i feel like it and have a new header inside 5 min. (if i know what pix i want to use--i can spend lots of time on that). :-)

Lynnae said...

I loved reading your post and advice. I'm relatively new and still feeling around what I want to post about and how personal to be. You've given me a lot to think about.

The ramblings of a lady in purple said...

I love reading your blog and I too am attempting to use blogging as a sort of therapy. I'm hoping it will work for me.

Thanks for the advice x

Extranjera said...

What pages what?!?! I have Microsoft Word?!?!
I swear I have a Macbook Pro. Why is it that I can't seem to be able to use this piece of... aluminum.


At least my VW is pecra which sounds like someone swearing in Lithuanian, and that seems to lighten my mood some.

julochka said...

pages is part of iWork. if you're going to get a mac, you have to go wholly over to mac programs or it defeats the purpose (tho i have the office crap on my macbook pro--but not on the iMac). you can install iWork '09 from my CD when you're here for blog camp.

Geneva Flooring said...

YOu have no idea how long I have been looking for this. I think I started looking into blogging in Feb. looking for a way to connect with people who had something thoughtful to say, but I had NO idea how to start. And I looked and looked for honest advise on how to start. And you were my FIRST comment, first "follower", I love that you are reaching out to the newbies. I think you are a clever, kind girl Ms Julockla. Thanks for everything.

Unknown said...

Julie, I wanted to write a really articulate comment here about how much I enjoy your blog, and how every single post of yours inspire me in lots of different ways, and how much I love that you read my blog too, because you are the one who showed me the community side of blogging. But it's late, am tired, and I haven't finished the book for tomorrow! So I'll just say THANKS! And congratulations on your 700th!
B, xx

Laelah said...

It's interesting to get a neat-o little list of blog pros and cons though I don't think I need it. :) I'm blogging because it's a good medium and when I write in journals my writing is damn near unintelligible oh, and there's the terrible hand cramps! Not to mention the saving of paper. The pluses are the comments and they're always nice to get and it really feels like you do have friends in the unknown world. Also, there are awesome people out there to discover.

Congratz on the 700! Get 77 more posts out there for all the luck in the world (like you need it).

beth said...

this was GREAT to read....and thanks for addressing the music thing...I don't really care for it either :)

also...dang if I don't want to answer the comments left for me, but most of them are in the "noreply" format and I hate that as I often have something to say back....usually a thank you...arrghh !

Anonymous said...

I loved this; I don't always have time to comment, and sometimes I skim when the week is busy, but when someone comments on my blog, i try very hard to respond personally because they spent time to read.

I also love hele's posts at Truth Cycles. They're like beautiful bits of poetry, philosophy, spirituality, religion and zen, all wrapped in a wolf's soft fur and easy on the eyes. She's magic.

Magpie said...

I'm glad you're here.


Janet said...

Bravo!! Great post Julie. THANK YOU!

it's funny that you mention the music thing - i've been thinking about turning mine off because it's gotten to the point that it bugs ME!! and i absolutely carry a notebook with me. (had to spend the first 7 or so minutes at my desk this morning jotting things down that i'd been thinking in the car.)

I think you were my first follower and quite likely the first to comment. I am coming up on my one month anniversary of blogging, and I can say that I only aspire to making it to 700 some day.

thanks again.

Gypsyfeet said...

Hey! well you did it: 700!
pretty impressive. and I want to thank you SOOOOO much for the advice you gave me in your email. I've been journaling for years, but being being able to put it up with pictures, and make it all purdy like,(hehe) has helped to be inspired to get stuff off my chest more when i need to. and thanks for the Kudos to my email as your inspiration in your post- I was really moved that you took time to answer questions to a newbie- I dont feel ao inadequate as a blogger now haha! Cant wait to hear what's next Julie xoxo - thanks again :)

An Open Heart said...

BRAVO! What a GREAT post! I'm even going to print this and hang it on the fridge. You've been very kind and visited my blog and everytime you've shared kind thoughts, and given me encouragement. I've appreciated that you have taken the time. This, the 700th post is inspiring and encouraging. You know that energy you have, that ZONE you shared with us, THAT is in this post. Thank you for your wisdom, OSS Sensei!

julochka said...

doing final edits on my work stuff, so i won't respond to everything except to say thank you for your kind comments. i'm glad you found something helpful in my ramblings. :-)

as for the no-reply blogger comments--i think that if you have chosen to have a visible email on your profile (i have done that, but don't actually have it visible on my blog itself), then the comments come thru with your "real" email address, rather than "no-reply blogger." the no-reply blogger is when you've chosen to hide your email address from the world. there can, of course, be very good reasons for doing that, but it means that i (and others) can't reply directly to your comment.

and now back to work...

Chiara Ulivi said...

So funny and useful your list of advices!!! I like your way of writing even if is a little hard for me... sometimes I lose some word, but the real meanings are generally clear for me... and I'm going better everyday!!
So keep on posting and I'll keep on studying :))

Poli said...

I was feeling a little daunted at the impossibility of coming close to your energy, frequency and natural ease of writing. So I'm strangely encouraged by your slow start and I was encouraged by your generous and inclusive comment on my very first post.

Pattern and Perspective said...

Excellent advice. It is pretty much stuff I think, but then I tend to question myself over and over. Why don't I want to post? What's wrong with me? Do I want to be "real" but not mention names, but what if my boss finds my blog (which I highly doubt b/c she's not that bright) and cans me b/c I'm bitching. Oh, then again, I wasn't let go by MS (Fargo based, really? Did you work for them when it was Great Plains?). Anyway, I'm struggling b/c I know I'm better than what I am doing, I'm particularly difficult on myself, but I feel stuck. I don't like feeling stuck. It's the military brat in me - all my life I've moved, I'm not used to staying around very long, I'm getting a 7ish year itch I think. I'm just unhappy. I love my bf, I love my pets, I have no kids, I am not married (I really don't care that much), but I would like a decent life and I don't see that happening here in TRF. (As Jules said, it's a boring ass town).

I'm happy that you met a guy and followed him home, eventually living in Denmark. What a wondrous life. If I could live in Rothenburg Germany or somewhere like that -- I think I'd be happy. I remember it like yesterday and that makes me sad.

Nonetheless, your advice will be taken to heart.

julochka said...

re: the fargo-based manager--i was working for a danish company that was similar to Great Plains and MS bought us a year after they bought GP, so the GP folks (with all of their fuck, i live in fargo insecurities) felt they had gotten their first and so were extremely threatened by the new company (former competitor) which had been taken into the fold. it was horrific. and long story short, my team ended up being managed from fargo. and that didn't work.

kristina said...

what a great post! I really liked reading about how you started blogging, and your thoughts about it :-)

Pattern and Perspective said...

I see. I have to come believe most corporate entities and institutions suck. Many times, it is the leaders (most times?) of such companies. Look at all the disgusting auto makers that are being bailed out & being protected by Ch. 11, etc. I find that a bit sickening - I think they dug the hole, so let them lie in it. How many cars can people really buy? Having 100 on a lot and having 10 lots in a town seems a bit ludicrous to me. Anyway, not the same as your situation, but I personally am tired of the bullshit.

Laura Doyle said...

I hate to sound like a student, but really, that was very helpful. Of course I'm a sucker for stories, and I didn't know how you got started. Gave insight. But the being real thing is probably one of the most obvious guidelines (hey, it was #1) but for some reason I don't think I always am. New goal for me, it'll be good. Thank you julochka!

ps - (unrelated) the familiar & affectionate "ochka" following a name is Russian, isn't it? How did you come by that name?

Kim: said...

This was incredibly insightful, encouraging and helpful to new bloggers like me. From the opposite side of the globe (and isn't that fantastic?) thank you!

Elizabeth said...

This was only in may. Now you have written already your 1000 post. Congratulations!!!!