The Writing Maladies of a Sensitive Blogger

For the most of this past summer I was MIA on WordPress. Believe it or not, the sentence “this is me showing up at the page” was all I could come up with. I would sit in front of this blank screen with the blinking cursor silently mocking my failure at stringing along a few decent paragraphs.

Eventually, I couldn’t bear to see it flashing before me, closed the tab and avoided WordPress altogether for the better part of the summer.

Why am I telling you this? Maybe I’m just looking for sympathy. Or maybe I just want to know that someone else out there can relate.

I started this blog in 2009. Three years ago, I was a very different person. Well actually, I was the same person but I saw things very differently. I started my blog for the same reason many of us start blogs. The feeling of an escape from life, or perhaps the need to have something new that is utterly and completely in your control. In my case, it was both.

The blank page was my best friend. I could fill it up with whatever I wanted. Life was a mess, but the page was clean.

I didn’t really care who read the blog. I loved to write. Writing made me happy, and my happiness had nothing to do with how many views my posts received. I learnt that I was my biggest critic. If I liked my post, then it didn’t matter who else did. If I hated it, all the positive feedback in the world wouldn’t be able to convince me I did a good job. 

And then something happened. Call it time or call it Freshly Pressed. Let’s call it Freshly Pressed. 

Freshly Pressed was probably the best and the worst thing that ever happened to this blog and its writer. Freshly Pressed gives you about 48 hours of fame and instant gratification, a window in which the world loves you. Followers and likes and comments rain down like confetti on the celebration of your blog’s success.

If you are a blogger who was Freshly Pressed, you may be able to attest that things change after that. For me, it stopped being about the love of writing and expression. It was now all about the audience. This is not to say Freshly Pressed was a bad thing. I ran into so many of you because of it, and for that I am grateful. 

But the pressure that I put on myself was definitely on. I placed my creative self-esteem in the hands of audience feedback. And solely positive feedback. 

If I didn’t think someone would like what I was going to write about, the post either landed in my saved documents or in the trash. As a result, hundreds of posts were aborted out of fear of disinterest, fear of negative feedback or maybe the worst- fear of complete indifference.

I seemed to have forgotten why I started this blog. The main reason this blog even exists is so that I don’t take myself too seriously. Ironically, I’ve never taken myself more seriously. For example, take this very post. It took me two weeks to write it and an hour and a half to come up with a title.

Creative process of normal people:

…whatever your definition of normal is

My version of the creative process:

I make this look more complicated than it really is

Of course, I cannot blame my blogging blocks entirely on Freshly Pressed. A lot of it was also personal issues that added to the mix. 

While I may have been absent from blogging, I wasn’t completely absent from reading some of the blogs I`m subscribed to. Mainly, you guys. This is where I talk about why Freshly Pressed was the best thing that ever happened to me. Take this any way you want to (actually, please take this in a good way) but I envied you all.

You all are fearless writers. (Yes, you!)  Whether it’s a post about finding roses in the garbage disposal, or a post about getting mad when people call you by stupid nicknames, or a post about the joy of getting voting stickers, you guys taught me that I shouldn’t care too much about other people’s opinions. Even if I do, it shouldn’t stop me from writing. You all have the metaphorical pair of blogger balls that I really need to start growing.

In many ways, they both feel the same.

Eventually of course, my summer pity party ended and I started writing again. Even if it was a post about talking to my blender, it had to be written if only to break the cycle of fear of not being liked. This post has no fancy play on words, no clever puns (except the blogger balls one, which is really a metaphor and not that funny). It`s the first time in a long time that I’m not trying desperately hard to impress everyone.

If you have gotten to the end of this post- Thank You. I may have spent a whole post talking about how you are indirectly the cause of my writing anxiety, but you are also directly the cause of infinite encouragement and inspiration. I could write another 3000 words about how awesome you guys are but I won`t because I’d like to stop being such a sap and get back to my usual no-nonsense sarcastic self. 

To all of you awesome WordPress bloggers, seeing you guys regularly on my reader has inspired me by kicking my ass into gear. Now I’d like to know your secrets: Why did you start blogging? How do you get past social acceptance fears? Does blogging ever feel like a job?

Look what you have done, WordPress!

No, this is not another shameless bid to get WordPress’ attention to get myself Freshly Pressed. Although, who am I to protest and complain if they do after reading this?

By now, if you are a WordPress blogger you would have realised that there truly isn’t a better platform from which to springboard your innermost thoughts and fantasies to a whole bevy of strangers around the world. And even then, everyday I discovered new nifty little tricks and features that WordPress keeps adding to enhance my TMI sharing experiences with even more strangers I ever imagined possible.

But I’m not going to waste an entire blog post praising the WordPress features that you already have come to know and love. Today, I’m going to show you how WordPress is awesome in a totally different way: Connecting People in real life.

It came to be realised that there were quite a few of us 20-something Torontonian bloggers, most of whom were somehow connected and subscribed to each other. From this fact was born our very ambitious mini-blogger convention. Sadly our first convention only consisted of three people (hence mini). You may or may not recognise these amazing bloggers:

Breezyk from The Camel Life

Janice (Cafe23) from Your Daily Dose

and of course, yours truly, Karen from The Chronicles of a Skinny Jeans-wearing Toronto girl

It all began like any potentially good online dating story (or the stuff  good reality TV is made of). I started reading Breezyk’s The Camel Life sometime last year when I came across her post about going to some Wine and Food convention. I was effectively hooked after reading her ‘About Me’ section. I have no idea what she saw in me at the time but we decided to meet up for a glass of Pinot. I was never one to turn down a fellow wino.

Three glasses of classy juice later, we knew we would be BFFs. Well I was thinking we would be. She was probably thinking about how she was going to be hungover at work the next day. Regardless, we knew that the only thing that would make this even better the next time was if we actually had more awesome bloggers in the mix.

Janice from ‘Your Daily Dose’ was another blogger who I started following fairly recently. I think the first post I read of hers was about the Kingston Penitentiary. This was really strange because after reading her ‘About Me’ section, the first thought that came to mind was “what the heck is a sweet girl like her doing in King Pen?!” Then I found out she was a Criminology major after which I promptly hit the Follow button. Anyone who is drop dead beautiful, likes week-long hikes and camping in the wilderness, has the voice of an angel and writes posts about King Pen definitely is a blogger to be reckoned with.

You mix all of us together and you get an evening of wine, Italian food goodtimes! Here’s some photographic evidence that this actually happened.

Left to Right: Breezy, Karen and Janice. There were no Cut, Paste or gun point threats involved in the making of this photo

It’s always wonderful when we as bloggers follow each other and support each other’s blogs with follows, comments and likes. But there’s really nothing like actually getting to meet these wonderful people in person and laughing and sharing stories. Breezyk and Janice, you guys rock! Here’s to many more blogging years and mini conventions in the future!

And more importantly, if any of you bloggers are Toronto-based or close to the GTA, drop us a line! This could only get better from here.

 Have you ever met a fellow blogger who is a complete stranger in real life? How did it turn out?

Ten things I`ve learnt from being a WordPress blogger

I’ve been blogging for a little over two years now. You would think I would have been a best-selling author and have publishing houses begging for my signature on book deals by now. But alas… it’s been a slow journey. I have no complaints though. While my personal life has seen better days in the past few years, blogging has been like the first sip of morning coffee. Warm and comforting.

Of course, I’d be lying if I said there were no low points of being completely uninspired and unmotivated. But even at those times, I always knew that I had a little niche that was all my own. I had a small following of people who gave me the satisfaction of having clicked on my blog link even if they could have cared less for its content. Every single view that shows up in my blog stats gets a celebratory smile of gratefulness and satisfaction even till today.

And so, for all the ups and downs of this blog, here are some lessons I managed to take from it:

1. WordPress is the best platform for bloggers. And I’m not just saying that because I’m dying to get Freshly Pressed. (HINT, WordPress. Hint)

2. I’m a much better writer than a speaker. Which means if you are a regular reader of my blog, you’re getting a much better deal out of me as a writer than my real life friends get out of me as a verbal-diarrhea-inclined noise box.

3. The best blog posts I’ve ever written were borne out of social tragedies such as imbeciles on public transit, embarrassing myself in front of attractive men and dating disasters, rather than Google search results for ‘best blog post ideas’.

4. To write well, you have to write what you know. If all you know is how to unsuccessfully run a small business of selling stolen articles, then starting a blog filled with posts on why this a bad idea from your jail cell may be the best idea you could have ever had. Knowing your niche is key.

5. You may be a good writer when you start writing. But you will be a better one if you keep at it… and then maybe even a great one someday without even realising it. But one thing’s for sure, regardless of whether continued blogging makes you a good writer or a great writer, it sure will make you an expert typer.

6. For some bloggers, writer’s block is just another word for fear or stress. But for me, more often than not, it’s another word for laziness.

7. I have the best blog readers in the world.

8. If you can capture your reader’s attention in the first paragraph, then it can be said with a significant amount of certainty that you’ve got them hooked for the rest of it. If however, your way of capturing attention is by posting a nude photo of yourself as the first paragraph then maybe blogging is not for you.

9. Sometimes, the difference between a great blog post with 40 views and an average blog post with 250 views is a catchy blog title. Actually, that’s ALWAYS the difference.

10. Rome wasn’t built in one day. And your blog will not be a smash hit in 3 months. Unless you get Freshly Pressed 15 times in a row. In which case, you’re probably awesome and I’d want to be featured on your blog and ride that wave with you.

There are other lessons that I have learnt but that would throw off the perfect number 10. If you are a blogger, I`d like to know what you`ve learnt from this whole experience? And if you are a 15 time Freshly Pressed blogger, make yourself known.

UPDATE: Dear Everyone,

On March 13th, 2012, over a month after I published this post, WordPress actually Freshly Pressed it! I was only (half)joking about getting Freshly Pressed. And now I am overwhelmed with all the sweet and encouraging  responses this is getting. I cannot thank you all (and WordPress of course) enough for this. Please know that every single one of your ‘likes’, views, follows and wonderful comments got a VERY happy “celebratory smile of gratefulness and satisfaction”. (I haven’t stopped smiling). I will try my very best to respond to all of your comments. Thank you all so much once again.