Michelle Terry and I know the misery of loving awful baseball teams.
Only, hers isn’t so awful lately. The Kansas City Royals are in the MLB playoffs. The only way my Colorado Rockies could make the playoffs? If the commish inverted divisions and declared the last shall be first.
Michelle blogs at Lipstick and Laundry. It’s where she celebrates imperfection, one load at a time. She’s one of those bloggers/readers you can’t figure out why reads your stuff, but you’re glad she does. Gifted as a writer and photographer, Michelle’s post are evocative and call to her readers to share, too.
She’s here today to present a handful of blogging obstacles many of us face. As the soccer coach who has never played soccer, I’ll stand in as a sort of expert on the subject of getting past blogging obstacles.
I do it, every day. With good results? Well … I get around the obstacles.
Please give Michelle a warm CD welcome, and be sure to check out Lipstick and Laundry for yourself.
I met Coach Daddy a year ago through a mutual bloggy friend. We connected after I read his submission to My Life in 6 Songs featured at my friend’s site. We bonded over our children, a mutual love of baseball, and the Rocky Mountains.
When he asked if I’d be interested in a guest post, I may have peed myself. Even though Eli is humble, helpful and ultra-accessible, he’s a legend in these parts – the mind monkeys took over and started throwing poo at the mirror.
What do I have to offer? What would I write? Should it be funny? Serious? He has so many great readers who are also great writers – how can I live up to that?
But, in only the way he can, Eli talked me down off the ledge and bribed me with sugar. Our e-mails back and forth sparked the idea for this post. I am so honored to share this space with a “new” friend who feels like he’s been a constant pal for a very long time.
Here we go! First, let me lock up the monkeys and distract them with some bananas.
[ˈɒbstəkə͡l], [ˈɒbstəkəl], [ˈɒ_b_s_t_ə_k_əl]
- That which stands in the way, or opposes; anything that hinders progress; a hindrance; an obstruction, physical or moral
- Something immaterial that stands in the way and must be circumvented or surmounted
Boulders, mountains, gates, fences, walls, and DMV receptionists. Examples of natural and man-made obstacles that impede the journey between Point A and Point B. When I see an obstruction, I imagine American Ninja Warriors catapulting toward whirling foam hammers, and sky-high revolving ladders. Starting at the podium with high hopes only to meet their demise in the murky water below. With shoulders slung low and a missing smile, they sigh into the microphone, “I couldn’t get over it. I’d never met that obstacle before – I didn’t know what to do.”
There’s not a person reading who hasn’t encountered some form of obstacle. Some days, the obstacles reveal themselves, and muscle memory maneuvers us through or around the hurdles. Other days, the cards are held tighter to the chest, and we don’t realize that most obstacles exist in our brains. To me, nothing is more evident in this space than blogging/writing.
When Eli asked me to share my blogging challenges and questions, my immediate thought was, “How much time and space do you have?” followed by, “May I sit on your couch? Is it white? Will there be snacks?
This year, America Ninja Warrior introduced six new competition obstacles. Like writers do, I applied poetic license and asked Eli to help us tackle how that applies in the blog-o-sphere.
1. Ninja: The Hour Glass Drop “the pinnacle of insanity.”
Blogger: I don’t have time to write!
Michelle: Some days, I’m lucky to get my face washed and kids out the door without landing myself in jail. How do you manage the time? How do you MAKE the time? How often do you write? How do you schedule your blog posts to maintain a semblance of consistency? Is consistency important? Am I asking you too many questions?
I sometimes won’t write because I haven’t had time to read my bloggy friends recent posts. It seems wrong for me to want others to read my stuff and I haven’t taken the time to read theirs!
Eli: I can take it! I manage time horribly – which is why I can post after midnight, within 11 minutes give or take, three times a week, but can’t remember to take my pills or shave.
My blog schedule is as water-tight as the rest of my life is leaky:
- Monday: Me. (Although I’ve given two weeks a month to #GirlsRock and #Q4KIDZ. I’ll move #Q4KIDZ to Friday and combine it with Go Ask Daddy to give me more time to write on my own blog. Yes, it’s come to that. I have 80+ Monday blog ideas waiting – many inspired by your blogs.
- Wednesday: Guest posts. I have these scheduled out three months, usually. I love to share my space midweek.
- Friday: Go Ask Daddy. Once, I scheduled a guest post on a Friday, and got friendly reprimands from blog friends. Never again, amigas. I hope you’ll like the melding of #Q4KIDZ and Go Ask Daddy. It’ll be like the jar of peanut butter with jelly swirled in. I hope.
Be consistent, for yourself. Stick to your voice, even in sponsored posts. I believe your readers ought to be able to tease you about at least three things, just because they know you so well through your writing voice.
And I get the writer guilt. If there’s a ratio to words written/words read, ignore it – unless it becomes 1100-0. You’ll know, though – because you’ll have no readers to worry about. And plenty of time to go read.
2. Ninja: The Walking Bar “the distance between spaces always changes.”
Blogger: I don’t know what to write
Michelle: My area of expertise is in nutrition, but I don’t want to write about that. It’s b-o-r-i-n-g. What if I want to write about things like parenting and relationships? Or clowns and architecture? I have no degree or authority in any of those spaces. Is it still okay to write about those topics? Do I need to stay ‘on task’ and keep similar themes, or is it okay to shake it up a bit?
Eli: Federal law doesn’t prohibit you from writing about it all. I know “lifestyle blog” is overused, but we should strive for that. Parents have relationships. People in relationships can hate clowns.
Clowns can show interest in architecture and not give a hell about relationships. It’s all connected.
Authority? We’re swimming in the blog pool, not academia. What good is knowledge when you have a take on something? I’ll take the take. I’ll go to the encyclopedia or C-SPAN for the knowledge.
Know where great ideas come from? Your comments. Your comment is nothing more than your twist on what the writer has said. Turn it more. Copy and paste it into a Word doc and see how you can expand on the idea.
I left this comment on Les’ post for Tuesday Coffee Chat on Ink Interrupted:
I love that Deflategate has tarnished the Patriots’ title and made the Seahawks look silly for losing to the tarnish. Maybe good will reign against evil for the next Super Bowl. You don’t think the Hamilton Tiger Cats do such things?
I can then spin on this, to write a post about good vs. evil. 11 examples of good and evil in the world today – who’s winning? I’d write it about sport and non-sport. I’ll include a link to Les’ post and a shout-out at the end.
I could also go on a rant on the 11 teams I can’t stand.
3. Ninja: The Flying Shelf Grab “they’re just mean like that.”
Blogger: What if nobody reads what I have to say?
Michelle: Maybe I should keep my mouth shut. What do I have to offer? Leave the blogging to the experienced professional. Nobody will hear my voice in a sea of individuals who sing so much better than I do.
Eli: When a baseball slugger swings the bat, he doesn’t care where the ball lands. He just hits it as hard as he can. That’s how your writing should be.
If you believe you have nothing to offer – it’ll show in your post. Who among us is professionals? We’re the ultimate anarchy of amateurs, bloggers. We even pay to do it!
If not for a domain or kickass design from someone like Janine, then in sleep, relationships, time outdoors, general well-being … this is getting swampy.
Put your voice out there. In your case, it’s already admired. For those just starting or with the limited audience, you have to let it bake a bit. The post read most by far on Coach Daddy was born early in the process.
It was an angry rant against man. It gets tons of hits still. Trolls have even passed through. You never know who will find you on what day.
There’s beauty in checking your stats, noticing that you have a ton of hits on several pages, and realize they’re from one reader. Someone’s found you, and went back to binge.
Now imagine if you’d tossed out those leftovers, or never made them in the first place?
4. Ninja: Bungee Road “you get a false sense of security.”
Blogger: What if somebody DOES read what I have to say?
Michelle: Will people think I’m self-centered and egotistical? Do I sound like a know-it-all? Will I lose friends? What if my mom reads this and I used a 4-letter word? Is it okay to use 4-letter words?
What if I make somebody mad?
Er, um. Can you pass me a towel? I just smeared some chocolate all over your white couch. Sorry.
Eli: They might.That’s up to them.
Ego comes into play if we ask for shares, or comments, or to vote in this or that poll that will recognize us as the best mother/father/sister/donkey blogger in northeast central western Illinois.
Ego comes into play when you let comments pile up – and neglect to engage.
Ego comes into play when you don’t ever visit other blogs. If you lose friends over an opinion in a post, I’ll side with your mom and grandma on this one – they weren’t friends worth having.
(If it’s because you posted a blog titled 10 ways my mom is dumber than a sack of beans, well, that’s another argument.)
I find that the blue language thing follows your guidelines in life. I can’t bring myself to drop an F bomb on Coach Daddy.
Grace recently said “shit” because it was in song lyrics. I immediately Dad of the Year’ed her for it. “But you say it, daddy,” she challenged.
“Yes, but I’m a grown-ass man, with a lot of problems!”
(Some answers solve nothing, if you’ve yet to notice. It made her laugh, though.) I’d venture to guess your mom knows you know the bad words, even the ones they use only on cable TV and rap songs.
If you make someone mad? Then you’re relevant. We read to associate, we read to feel. We write to associate, we write to feel. We do both to share. I’ll take anger over complacency any day.
5. Ninja: Tilting Slider “this took out a lot of people.”
Blogger: UGH! I have writer’s block!
Michelle: You’re finally comfortable with your space; you have an adoring and supportive audience and then. WRITER’S BLOCK! Is it contagious? Is it safe to hang out with other writers who have the curse? How long does it last?
Is there a cure? Do I need a doctor’s note?
Eli: Unless your fingers have been chopped at the first knuckle, there’s no such thing as writer’s block – I professed to suffer from it recently, then proceeded to writer’s block my way to 600+ words. It’s horseshit.
Can’t get that first sentence? Think of if you were an old lady at the nursing home and just read a kickass article in Readers Digest. You have to lean over and tell your buddy what it’s about, before canasta starts.
What words do you use? How will you tell the story if you have to tell it clear and quick?
There’s your lead. It’s not often the polished product, but you can’t polish nothing. Put the words on the page.
No doctor’s note necessary. Writing is conversation.
Open your mouth and get your fingers moving.
6. Bonus: Swinging Spikes
Eli: Give us your best one or two pieces of advice for new bloggers?
ESTABLISH YOUR IDENTITY | Who are you? What do others call you? This is how Coach Daddy came to be. you need that central character, and it needs to be you. Not the you who can’t parallel park – although, that’s endearing too. Pick the you that has the most to say.
FIRST READ, THEN WRITE | Visit other blogs. Read them. Look at them. Don’t like so many ads? Love the look of a big-ass banner? Embarrassed to post your mug in your sidebar? Love a widget you see? Make these things your own, or banish them for life.
And read the words. Read how people express themselves. See how it looks on the page. Know that you’re writing for the web, and white space and short blocks of text are like that mis-cut extra-big slice of pizza you find before someone else does.
Write as if you want to preserve your readers’ eyes and keep them on your words.
JOIN LINKUPS | Join linkups. Read and comment. Include your URL in the comment name, not in the comment. Never ask for visits. Open the doors and know they’ll come, eventually. Even the Blogess had a first reader. Now look at her.
JUST WRITE | Just put your head down and write. Write YOU. Dig deep some days, other days, skim the surface. Don’t get caught up in the scoreboard. Those are just numbers. Value the connections. Those are the heart and soul of what we do.
Michelle: And, there you have it, folks. The insider tips from Ninja Eli, who has conquered the toughest of the tough. Whether it’s a Flying Shelf Grab off of the writing desk, or a tension-filled journey through Bungee Road, Eli knows the ropes.
And I will always pick him first for my team.