The Scary 9 Things about Starting a Blog

Everyone has a shitty blog to their name. Everyone who owns a computer with internet access has started a blog and after a post or two has left it to rot. Personally, I’ve lost count how many shitty half-baked blogs I have to my name. Every year or two I start a new one with new enthusiasm and gusto “This time, this blog is going to be the blog that works!” and so I go scouring the internet for advice: what platform should I use?; What advice to successful bloggers have for new bloggers starting out?  I find myself deep down a Pinterest rabbit hole full of words like “branding” and “social media optimization” and am subsequently filled with so much uncertainty and anxiety that my blog boner has wilted.

If it wasn’t for my morning pages repeatedly telling me that I want to start a blog and renewing my motivation to regularly post to it daily, this blog wouldn’t be here at all.

So here’s my advice from one just starting blogger to another:

#1″Pick your blog theme? How? I don’t even know what I want to write about?”

Whenever I read the advice to pick a theme and create a blog around it, I was like: “but, but, but I don’t know what I want to write about, and I know I certainly can’t limit it to only one thing?!” I decided to say “fuck that” and just write what I wanted to. My theme, then, if you must categorize it, would be “personality blog”, but that doesn’t even fit the mold. It’s an blog where I post artwork, share music and internet videos I like and then reflect or write long form about something on a Monday. That’s what I’m bringing to the table, and hopefully people will find it and like it enough to keep coming back every week.

#2 Quantity leads to Quality.

The blank page is a terrifying sight, I know, but you’ve got to overcome it and write. Just write about whatever. At the start it is all about getting over hang-ups and creating a habit of blogging.

#3 Social Media Optimizing?

This one is a good idea. If you don’t share your posts across multiple platforms then no one is going to ever find it. I have a twitter, and instagram and a facebook page which I share things to. It’s early days so I’m not sure how effective it has been, but my page views do grow with every day, so some progress must be being made. I highly recommend setting up a Hootsuite account because you can send out and schedule posts in advance all from one place, which is really helpful because, well, life happens!

#4 Make it personal!

I love reading blog posts for the human voice of the writing. If I didn’t want to get to know the author of an article I was reading, then I would read the news! Stay true to you. Don’t put on airs, because this blog is an extension of you. It’s your voice out there in the interwebs, so keep it respectful. A good rule of thumb I like to keep in mind is to ask yourself “Would I want to show this to my grandma? Would she be proud of me after reading this?” If the answer is no because she’d probably go and rinse my mouth out with soap, then maybe you shouldn’t post it. Another thing to keep in mind is the fact that the internet is a wonderful networking tool. You never know who could be reading your work. They could really like it and reach out to you for an opportunity, or it could be someone in HR researching your name after you submitted a resume. Moral of the story: put your best face forward.

#5 Find Blogger friends and Comment on their pages

Ugh. Barf.

This is something that I struggle with and rarely do myself. I think the fact that I read a lot of my blogs on my phone really influences if I leave a comment or not. Part of the key to having a successful blog (or so I’ve heard) is to comment on other people’s blogs. This is done with the hopes that they will come back and read and comment on one of your posts. I feel a little cheap doing this as it feels disingenuous, only posting a comment to get something back in return, so you need to ask yourself “why am I leaving this comment?” If it is because you genuinely enjoyed the content, then please leave that comment! If you only are doing it so that it leads to a page view for your adsense revenue, then maybe you need to rethink what blogging means to you.

#6 Always end blog posts with a “call to action”

Dance, readers, dance! Muahahaahaha!

I am so shitty at this. Part of me feels cheesy asking a question at the end because I’m like “everyone will know it’s just a cheep shot to get people to reply to me so that I am validated through comments” but no, it’s all part of creating a community through your blog. I started this blog with the hopes that I would find like minded people

#7 Schedule and write posts in advance

(c) Toothpaste for Dinner

As I said in point three, life happens. If you’re serious about your blog, you’re going to need to be posting regularly to keep people interested and coming back for more. If you have themed days, like how I have Tunesday where I share a song ever Tuesday, try to plan those posts well in advance, write them and schedule them to go. Hunker down one day and hammer them out, and then boom, you have just taken care of Tunesday for the next three months! I like to use Hootsuite to schedule advanced posts, and also have a good old fashioned paper calendar that lays out what I’m going to be posting when. Find the system that works best for you.

#8 Word limits, lists and click bait titles

There are so many limits put on bloggers before they’ve even started writing! “Don’t make your posts too long! People don’t like to read!” If people don’t like to read, why are they even looking at a blog? Word limits are something I really disagree with. I don’t want to edit myself to suit other people. Even if I post into cyberspace and only get silence in return, fine. Eventually I will attract the people who are willing to read slightly longer-form blog posts. Heck, I’m sure Dan Carlin got the same pressure to edit down his podcasts, but his 4 hour long, multiple chaptered Hardcore History podcasts have a huge following. There is an audience out there for everybody so keep doing what you’re doing.

That being said, as a student of Graphic Design and user design, people do love lists and bullet points. They love things that are easy to read and have lots of blank space that breaks up blocks of text. I wish there was a way to create columns in these posts to shorten the line lengths. Eyes get tired when they have to travel too far, lazy peepers.

To me, the urge to create a catchy title feels like selling out before you’ve even started. There is some truth to it though. But lets be real, hasn’t everyone caught on to those click-bait titles and can spot them and their horrifically ad-riddled posts a mile away? Dear humble readers, I assure you, if I ever use a click-bait-esque title, it will be done with the most heartfelt hipster irony and so I hope you enjoy it. A little wink from me to you.

#9 Have fun!

The truth of it all is the likelihood that your blog brings you fame and fortune is very slim, so if this is something you’re going to be putting your heart and soul into make sure you enjoy it! That joy will come through in your posts and your readers will be able to tell.

Let’s talk, dear readers!

Does reading a blog on a mobile device without a physical keyboard deter you from leaving a comment?

Are you thinking about starting a blog yourself? What is stopping you?

Is there anything you’d like to see done differently on this blog? If you’ve been checking in for a while, thank you! I’d really value your input!

Have a lovely week, guys!

Preach it, sister! The Gospel According to RuPaul

E. Alex Jung’s interview with RuPaul in Vulture came out March 23, 2016 and I’ve been thinking about it ever since. It dropped some bombs on me and shook the way I look at the world. If you haven’t read it, I highly, highly, highly recommend it (click here).

In writing this response I had to stop myself from just copying and pasting the whole article because I love it so much. Instead, here’s one of my favourite parts, one of the most poignant:

Jung: They often say that drag saved their lives. 

Ru: Right. And I’ll tell you why. Because you get to a point where if you’re smart and you’re sensitive, you see how this all works on this planet. It’s like when Dorothy looks behind the curtain. Like, “Wait a minute. You’re the wizard?” And you figure out the hoax. That this is all an illusion. There’s only a few areas you can go. First, you get angry that you’ve been hoaxed and you get bitter. But then, take more steps beyond the bitterness and you realize, “Oh, I get it. Let’s have fun with it. It’s all a joke. You mean I don’t have to stick with one look or one whatever? I can shape-shift? Great.” That’s when you can save lives because otherwise the mediocrity and the hypocrisy is so mundane, it’s better to just not do it. I’m not going to say “end it all.” But that’s why it saves lives. Because for people who are highly sensitive and super-intelligent, it tickles the brain. It gives them something to live for. It’s the irreverence. I was the same way when I was 15. I said, “Okay, I’m gonna do this life. But I’m gonna do it on my terms, and I’m never gonna join the Matrix.” That’s why it saves lives.

Jung: Would you say that drag saved your life?

Ru: It actually didn’t save my life, it gave me a life. I don’t think there is a life in the mundane 9-to-5 hypocrisy. That’s not living. That’s just part of the Matrix. And drag is punk rock, because it is not part of the Matrix. It is not following any rules of societal standards. Boy, girl, black, white, Catholic, Jew, Muslim. It’s none of that. We shape-shift. We can do whatever we want.

I have been a big fan of RuPaul’s Drag Race for many years and have shown it to my friends, resulting in many multi-episode marathons as we all gag on the makeup, fashion and shade of it all. This article was the first time I really heard his voice, and it beamed right into my core.

Some people say that this interview doesn’t sound like Ru, but listen to even a few minutes of his podcast What’s the Tee with Michelle Visage and you’ll have no denial that it is Ru’s voice coming through loud and clear in this interview.

Ru is so smart, so self-aware, so aware of society. He knows exactly what’s going on and why it’s happening. Seeing this intelligent and punk rock side of drag, I want in…but as a woman I am unsure how to go about doing it. I’m not a gay man so I can’t enter it in the “truest” sense, nor am I a lesbian to become a Drag King. It doesn’t seem right to be to encroach on something that is so tied to their sexuality if I was a straight Drag King. Yes, there are straight males who perform as women, the most famous example being Dame Edna, but I don’t want to perform as a man. I want access to that femininity that I am not allowed to have as a straight woman. If you dress or act too sexy, you’re a slut; If you have an elaborate hair or over the top make up, you’re a vain bitch. If you dress one way, you’re frumpy, if you dress another you’re prude, and so on and so on. In drag everything is worn on purpose. If you’re dressed frumpy, it’s for a reason, and you are aware you look frumpy so you call it out, laugh at it and own it. It doesn’t seem fair that this freedom is available to gay men. They’ve manage to take all that being a woman is yet is societally not allowed to be and triumph with it. I can’t help but be jealous, you know?

I am also intrigued by Ru’s use of the word ‘Drag”. I’ve been listening to his podcast and both he and Michelle Visage use the them to refer to Michelle being in Drag, meaning big hair and lots of make up. They do say a lot of celebrity women are in drag, but seem to limit that to the altering of their physical appearance (to meet western standards of female beauty) not so much the punk rock, social comment, fuck the matrix part.

I haven’t quite figured out what my version of drag is, but I do know that this blog is part of it.

I’m sure if Ru read this post he’d give me crap for searching for a definition of Drag and say “quit stalling and just do it! There is no definition, kittyguuuur!” The definition fully lies in being what mainstream is not, right?

In the meantime, while I continue down the Ru-rabbit hole, I’ve been inspired to wear whatever I want. I’ve been doing this for years, as someone who has never really felt she belonged, or that anyone has ever ‘got’ her. I’ve always felt like someone on the outside, watching what was going on and not wanting a part with most of it. My version of drag was being identified as Gifted in school, and finding solace in that title and the “enhanced otherness” that is implied. It kinda gave me an explanation for how I felt, especially since the term indicates a different mental make up, not just being really good at math for example: “Of course I don’t fit in, and don’t want to, I’m gifted.” I am still unpacking the term ‘gifted’ and all that it means. Gifted kids have the highest school drop out rate, which seems to fit well with the “fuck the matrix” attitude of drag and with Ru’s Dorthony metaphor which really attracts me.

The lesson I have learned by going crazy with my make-up (which on busy days becomes my only artistic act of self-expression, and so I cherish and enjoy painting my face every morning) is: no one cares. Wear what you want. If people like it, they will let you know and you’ll get a nice confidence boost. If they hate it, they won’t say a word and you will never know. This law might not work online with the freedom of anonymity, but in person this law holds true for me.

I saw this video of female drag queens. I don’t quite know what I think about it. I love that it’s happening and hope it brings great things, especially for females like me who want to give it a try. What do you think?

Jung: How do you feel drag’s function has changed?

Ru: The function hasn’t changed. It’s been the same since the beginning of time when shamans, witch doctors, or court jesters were the drags. Which is to remind culture to not take itself seriously. To remind you that you are not your shirt or your religious affiliation. You are an extension of the power that created the whole universe. You are God in drag. You are dressed up in this outfit of a body, which is temporary. You are eternal. You are forever. You are unchanged. And this is a dream you’re having. So don’t get to attached to it. Make love. Love people. Be sweet. Have corn dogs. Dance. Live. Love. Fuck shit up. But it’s all good. You can’t fuck it up because you’re eternal.

For more of the gospel according to RuPaul definitely check out his podcast. I couldn’t recommend it more!

Tunesday – Culcha Candela – “Party Bus”

If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you may have caught on to the fact that I love pop songs with shitty lyrics. If a song is bad, I will listen to it on repeat. If a song features a rapper who can’t rhyme or doesn’t sound “cool and hardcore”, it becomes my favourite part. Maybe it’s because I grew up listening to Weird Al parodies and cover albums by The Muppets or The Chipmunks, but give me a terrible pop song and I will love you forever.

I think I discovered Culcha Candela from a “Best of Eurovision” playlist years ago, and on that day I knew I had discovered audio gold. Culcha Candela are a german hip hop/reggae/pop band that sing in English, German, Spanish and sometimes French. Most of the time I have no idea what they’re saying, but if their English lyrics are anything to go by, it’s definitely not poetry… (my favourite lyric in this song is when the one guy goes: “Enjoy, joy, joy, joy, joy. joy, it is time to enjoy!” but holy moley are their songs catchy! And really, what more do you want from a pop song than something with a good beat that makes you want to dance?

I have this idea in my head that Culcha Candela is the guilty pleasure of all Germans. No one would admit to liking them, but secretly they know all of the words and love it when one of their songs comes on shuffle.

When I was in Berlin I did hear their music on the radio, so I know they’re not just a wonderful pop hallucination of mine.

7 observations about food in Ireland

I just got back from a fortnight in Ireland and ate a tonne of delicious food while I was there. Here are some thoughts about the things I put in my stomach.

Saint Bridget: The perfect representation of the killer dairy game and the stronghold of the Catholic church in the country

  1. The soup of the day is ALWAYS vegetable. It’s a tasty, creamy orange puree of some unknown mix of vegetables. It’s delicious, but it is the only soup, (aside from clam/seafood chowder) that exists on the island.
  2. The butter is out of this goddamn world! A dear friend told me how good the butter was when she found out I was going to Ireland, and I dismissed it as an odd comment… I mean, how good can butter honestly be? It’s just butter? Boy was I wrong. I couldn’t get enough of the stuff! I was slathering two or three pats on each slice of bread I ate. And before you ask, no, there was no margarine or other butter abominations insight. With such national dairy pride, I wouldn’t be surprised if margarine was illegal in Ireland.
  3. Ireland’s dairy game is so strong it only make sense that their whipped cream/clotted cream would be to die for also. Like their butter, Ireland’s clotted cream should be put on everything – especially some homemade scones. Yum!
  4. If you are a person who regularly puts cream in their coffee, you’re going to have a hard time in Ireland. They put milk on every table, but wait staff seem very confused when you ask for cream. Nine times out of ten the confused international hotel staff will bring you clotted cream. To save you from this mild annoyance, I highly recommend you change to drinking tea during your time in the country — and the tea is fantastic! Rich and thick flavour without getting bitter. I drank copious amounts of the stuff while I was there. They also will let you buy a pot of tea at a lot of coffee shops and restaurants, which I think is very cute and quite civilized.
  5. Supermac, the Irish version of McDonalds is not worth trying. Their food is pretty shitty, excluding their ice cream, since, well this is Ireland after all, and anything their cows produce is pure gold. The soft serve ice cream at Supermac’s is so light! It tastes like their whipped cream and comes with a chocolate stick. The guy at Supermac even put sprinkles on mine for me. I appreciate the lack of agism, and wish Canadian ice cream scoopers would get on the equality bandwagon. You don’t just “grow out” of sprinkles!

  6. Every pub menu is the same the whole country wide. Every pub looks the same. Every pub sign has the same lettering (actually a large percentage of shop signs in the country look like pub signs. They really love Victorian lettering, which is pretty cool. It gives the whole country a sense of design unity, which, as a Canadian without a defined culture, is always interesting to see). Your Canadian/American neighbourhood “traditional Irish Pub” looks like a traditional Irish Pub.

  7. Despite being spelled with a “thw”, the beer Smithwicks is pronounced “Smiddicks” and despite it’s dark colour, it is a very light and tasty beer.