“MAKE IT WORK” Mondays: What’s in a name?

Leslie Taylor’s Manic Neon Wasteland.

Where the hell did that mouthful come  from?

I had been reading a lot about branding, and had been interested in starting a blog for the longest time. The thing that always stopped me was the fact that you needed to define your audience. How would you describe yourself? I flip flopped. Was I trying to make a personal website, or create something for a character? Around this time I had read “Show Your Work” by Austin Kleon and he recommends just putting your work out there, because it will attract a support network of like-minded individuals who will give you constructive criticism and feedback. That sounded great. So I made this blog, bought the domain name and everything.

I wanted to find my tribe. My audience then became me. I wanted to attract people who were like me. I started writing posts that shared music I liked with the hopes that other people would like that song too.

“Okay, so, then, self,” I asked myself, “What do you like?”

“Um,” I said, “I like YouTube, and Vines, and memes, and weird things like Noel Fielding’s Luxury Comedy, and Drag Queens…. I like things brightly coloured and fast moving and funny.”

“Fast moving… almost manic, would you say?” I prodded.

“Yes.”

“What’s your current favourite colour?” I knew the answer to this question but I asked anyway. Colour is a huge component to branding after all.

“Chartuse, almost neon green… may it never go out of fashion!” I crossed my fingers and prayed to the gods and goddesses of fast fashion.

“Okay…” Where could I go with this? I wondered. “What do you like to do for fun?” If I wanted to attract people like me, I had to figure out what I liked doing on the internet in my free time.

“I like to spend my time on tumblr looking for manic comedic content, neon and bright coloured artwork and clothing… kinda like wading through an internet wasteland!”

“I have it! The perfect name! Manic Neon Wasteland!”

This of course was a fictionalization of what really happened, but somehow I was able to distill the stuff I like on the internet to those three words. I think they’re quite fitting.

WEEKLY UPDATE: June 25 – July 1st. Busy, Busy, Busy!

This week

Day 24: I drew this at 9:30 am today, not so patiently waiting for the finale to be posted on a streaming site, while simultaneously avoiding any social media site or other possible place where I might accidentally find out who had been crowned America’s next drag superstar. I drew this without a reference because I was terrified of googling @sashavelour and having the result spoiled. So, at 9:30 am, as I said, I drew this image out of pure hope and faith that Sasha would be the seasons winner. AND I WAS RIGHT!!! AND SHE KILLED THE LIPSYNCS! Amazing! So happy! Bravo Sasha! Well deserved title. You are the perfect combination of beauty and brains, creativity and oddity. I can’t wait to see what you do next! #teamsasha
Day 26: Three-headed boxer with the winning punch!
Day 27. Drama, highlighted.
Day 28: tired.
Day 29: sweet dreams are made of this. Looking forward to sleeping in and staying home on the weekend.
Day 30: finishing off this months challenge with yet another drawing of @sashavelour She has been a huge inspiration to me since I saw her on Drag Race, blown away by her combination of intellect, oddity, kindness and pure talent! If you haven’t seen her lipsync to “No More I Love Yous” look it up right now!!


Now that a month of 30 minute drawings has come to a close, I’ve challenged myself to participate in the #sketchbooksummer challenge, where you have to fill a sketchbook in a month. I did the math: That means 3.5 double wide spreads every day. Doesn’t seem too bad. I’m looking forward to getting back to traditional mediums. It will be nice to have a moment to unplug, especially after a busy day teaching, something to quiet the mind.

This has been a crazy busy week. Too busy!

ESL camp started. There are 50 Mexican fifth graders visiting this week. All are very sweet, and OBSESSED with “Despacito” by Luis Fonsi.  Not that I can blame them… it is catchy as hell!

It’s me!
These are the team names the students gave themselves. They came up with them all by themselves with no influence from me.
I pride myself in teaching only the most vital English phrases. (But for real, they loved this game)

 

Ontario’s provincial coat of arms


We took them on a tour of Queen’s Park, Ontario’s Parliament Building. Unrelated, but check out this cool old bike light that I saw on display there!

Cool antique bike light from my home town!
Look at how it attached to the handlebars!

A close friend of mine is an event planner and he gets invited to all kinds of cool open houses. On Monday I was lucky enough to get to go with him to a hella swanky event at the new Globe and Mail building. Lots of delicious food – AND VEGAN OPTIONS! Hooray!… on reusable plates no less! (As someone trying to reduce the amount of waste she produces, I try not to use disposable plates or straws).

Gorgeous views!

The venue had no walls, which means gorgeous 360 views of the Toronto skyline. The best part, hands down, was the cocktails. My god! Strawberry-Rhubarb syrup, rum, whiskey, orange twist, ginger beer, gin from Canada’s north…. I had a little bit (read: a lot) of everything. Mmmm!

Normally there is only wine and beer at the events I go to. This line up is much, MUCH more to my liking!
Maybe I was enjoying the free cocktails a little too much? Naaw!
For entertainment they had an electric violin player, harpist and flutist playing covers of pop hits. Was pretty cool! This guy really got into it!

 

Tuesday, we took the kids bowling. I am very rusty and my wrist was not very happy about having to hurl heavy balls again and again. Am I getting old?

July 1st is the 150th anniversary of the signing of the Canadian confederacy, so there was a lot of big celebrations going on. Friday I went to see a Canadian music staple, The Barenaked Ladies. They were a huge part of my childhood soundtrack. I remember listening to the Maroon album on repeat on my CD walkman in the backseat, as I third-wheeled a date night with my mom. It was mainly to drown out Rod Stewarts “Great American Songbook” playing in the card. That was the hottest record among 50 year olds at the time. Also, funny story: One Christmas, my Oma asked my mom what I wanted for a present, and my mom said “The newest Barenaked Ladies CD.” My Oma, mortified and embarrassed, had to go into the record store and ask where she could find the Barenaked Ladies. Sorry Oma, but thanks for the CD! 

 

 

The Barenaked Ladies were fantastic! So playful and engaging, with such control of the audience; I couldn’t help but think “wow, these guys are Professional musicians.” I would definitely pay a lot of money to see them perform again! First Nation folk singer and Canadian Icon Buffy St. Marie played that night too. I’m glad I got to see her perform. The fireworks were pretty great too!

Thing I learned this week: The power of facepaint. I painted rainbows on my friend’s faces because they were going to be part of the Pride parade, and they apparently got a lot of attention, which was awesome! On Thursday, the campers went to see a Blue Jays game, and I spent the afternoon painting the Jay’s logo onto 50 children’s faces. If anyone wants a Blue Jay on their cheek, come see me. I’m an expert at this point! Finally, for Canada Day, I painted a Canadian flags on the faces of my friends, and even made new friends with a super-sweet couple by offering to paint them! Facepaint: bringing people together!

How was your week? What did you get up to? While I enjoyed my busy week, I learned that it was too much. I need more downtime! That is my goal for next week!

What am I watching? (In five words or less)

  1. Preacher, season 2
    “Best comic book TV Adaptation
  2. Fireworks!
    CN tower and City Hall”      
  3. Sasha Velour LipSyncs
    Expressive reveals YAS QUEEN!”

What am I reading? (in five words of less)

  1. Make your own luck by Kate Morross
    “Relaxed attitude to graphic design”

WHAT SHOULD I DO WITH MY LIFE? How to live a more creative and fulfilling life

Do you want to live your life more creatively? Do you have an artistic hobby but feel that you are just mediocre at it, and therefore have denied the possibility of it ever becoming a career? Are you unhappy with your job, your field of study, or your life in general? Are you not even sure you know what you like to do?

If the answer to any of those questions is “Yes,” my heart goes out to you. This is a tough place to be, and “hopeless, wasted potential” is a horrible feeling to sit with.

I have good news! You have the power to change your life! But how, might you ask? Well, I’m no expert, but I’m trying to answer those questions for myself at the moment and I thought I would share what I’ve learned and tell you what I’ve tried. I’m only at the beginning of my journey, but have already seen improvements to my happiness and sense of fulfilment. Hopefully this post will help you take the first step to realizing the same in your life.

SUGGESTION NUMBER ONE: READ!

I love self help books. I think they’re great. At the start of my journey I spent an hour or two in a bookstore browsing their self-help section and writing down the titles I found interesting. I went home and put them on hold at my local library, because I am broke university student and can’t afford to buy every book that catches my eye. The library is a great place to check out books, risk free! Since placing all of those holds, a new book seems to come in for me to pick up at the library every week! It’s like a free subscription service for books! Amazing!

Blogs are also a great free source of inspiration. I love blogs because they contain stories and advice that come from real people. They often come with updates, so you can see how that person progressed over time. Don’t worry, Google won’t judge you about the questions you ask it. And there is no harm in asking. Just keep a critical eye out in case you come across a website or two making promises that sound too good to be true, or cost money, or suggest radical life changes. Stay safe.

Books I recommend

1. “The Artists Way” by Julia Cameron

This is an extensive 12 week course contained in a book. This book will help you discover what it is that really matters to you, and what you want to spend your time doing. I am only half way through, and it has been very helpful. The Artists Way is critically acclaimed, with good reason. While I am not a huge fan of the religious overtones of this book, it is easy to set those elements aside and still receive the help that is contained in these pages.

2. “The Four Agreements” by Don Migeul Ruiz

I read this book in the park on a beautiful pre-summer day. It was poetry to my soul. In just 80 some odd pages, Don Miguel Ruiz teaches you how to take your life back into your own hands by trying to do four things: Be impeccable with your word; don’t take things personally; don’t make assumptions, and always do your best. I am just starting to apply the Four Agreements to my life, and know that they take a lot of work to live by, but I believe that they will bring positive change and growth. This book has been a best seller for ages. Supposedly it was the book that gave Ellen Degeneres the courage to come out and live her life truthfully! Oprah loves it too.

3. “Steal like an Artist” and 4. Show Your Work”  by Austin Kleon

I loved both of these books because they were quick reads that gave tangible, real life examples of things you can do to bring creativity into your life and turn your passions into a career. This blog was totally inspired by “Show Your Work” because Austin taught me that you need to put yourself out there, share what you’re making, because you never know what opportunities may come from it.

5. “Spark Joy: An Illustrated Master Class on the Art of Organizing and Tidying Up” by Marie Kondo

This book started it all for me. I’m one of those people who needs to clean her room before she can start studying for a test, so environment is a big influence on me. Marie Kondo will help you declutter your life and create your own castle. Your house should be your favourite place on earth! Your room should be a paradise! You probably know already that you own more things than you need. Giving things away is scary, I understand. But I dare you to try it!

SUGGESTION NUMBER TWO: DO!

Now that you’ve read some things to get inspired and you’re motivated to actually get to work, that’s exactly what you need to do… GET TO WORK.

The number one thing I recommend is to set aside10-30 minutes every day to DO SOMETHING YOU LOVE. I believe that the thing that helped me the most was challenging myself to do a drawing every day. I only started this practice back in October 2016, and already I have seen my art skills get exponentially better. Austin Kleon agrees with me: There is power in doing something every day. 

To recap: The way to a creative and more fulfilling life has two steps: READ and DO. 

 

I hope this post inspires you! If you do happen to read any of these books, or have read them in the past, let me know what you thought about them! Have a favourite book about creativity that I missed? Leave it in a comment down below! I’m always looking for book recommendations. And, of course, if this post inspires you to create something, please share it with me. I’d love to see what you made!

Good luck!

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Note: This post contains affiliate links. I only recommend products that I have used myself, enjoyed and benefited from. If you make a purchase through these sites, you’ll be supporting my dream of being an artist and living my life to the fullest, so thank you!

“MAKE IT WORK!” MONDAYS: Introducing a look behind the scenes


Every Monday I want to share with you an element of my artistic process. This weekly segment, “Make it work!” Mondays,  is one half a personal endeavour, a journal of what I’ve been doing and how I’ve been progressing (or a document of regression), and one half an exploration into the artists process. I love learning behind the scenes information about things! I love learning how things were made, how ideas came about, what problems came up and how those problems were overcome. I know I’m not alone with this fascination, so I’d like to share my behind the scenes with you!

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I have been developing a character, Leslie Taylor, since January. It’s been a slow, slow, frustratingly slow process. I’ve been stuck seeing visions of the end goal and how great it would be if my ideas came to life without knowing how to get started. 

Eventually, like pulling teeth, bits and pieces of my vision has come to life. The fog has cleared a  bit and now I have a better sense of what I need to do.

Thanks to playing around with pastels, I have a better sense of what she is going to look like. I love hallowe’en and make up and masks and drag so I wanted to create a character that would combine all of those elements. I have always been drawn to Max Headroom, the witty, electronically distorted AI music interviewer and wanted to play around with an idea like that… but for the internet age. I wanted a strange character. Something otherworldly and bizarre, yet still friendly. She would be the drag version of myself: excited, passionate, nerdy, goody-goody, and probably not as funny as she thinks she is. 

Voila, my pink, red, and blue monster!

Daily Drawing Weekly Review & Weekly Update: June 2nd to June 9th

This week I challenged myself to complete my daily drawings in 30 minutes. Within that 30 minutes I had to come up with the idea, sketch it and colour it. Once the time ran out, down went my tablet pen and my mouse clicked “publish.” As a result, the images aren’t as polished as others may be, and there was little time to refer to reference pictures, but I’m okay with that. This is an exercise in creativity, pure and simple! An exercise that I think is pretty cool. I highly recommend it – you’ll be surprised what your brain can come up with.

If you’d like to follow my drawings and get updates daily, in real time, please follow me on instagram: @leslietaylordesign.

June 2nd: Treasured chalice. Inspired by my love of water and small fear of a dystopian, waterless future..?
June 3rd: If you want to know how I spent the day, this is exactly how, down to the resulting sunburn and everything. It was a lovely day!
June 4th: Yesterdays sunburn’s got me feeling like a scaley lizard, so here’s a scaley lizard.
June 5th: Sleepy clouds. A nice busy day, but was looking forward to a quiet evening.
June 6th: Misery loves company, but I don’t like being in misery’s company. This little phrase came to mind this morning. Doubtful I am the first to coin it, but it would be nice if I was. Hello royalties?
June 7th: Acrylic paint, it has been too long!
June 8th: Seaworthy Sailor
June 9th: The cool kidz. Loosely inspired by the amazing style and abundant positivity of Kandee Johnson.

 

How was your week? What did you get up to?

This week was week 5 in the Artists Way for my creative partner LB and I. While not as difficult as week 4’s week of media deprivation (I’ll write a post on that soon! It was quite the thing to experience), this week brought about a new sense of clarity. Having gone a week without TV, reading, music, social media, etc, I was hesitant to return to my previous ways of spending (read: wasting) time. I definitely watched less youtube and spent less time on tumblr this week, which was great.

I joined the Toronto Urban Sketcher’s group and went to two sessions. The first was at Ryerson University and I spent two and a half hours sketching Young St. It was definitely an exercise in patience, let me tell you! But I am very proud of the sketch I produced and am trying to turn it into something more professional – so stay tuned! It was really energizing to meet some great people, some fellow artists in this big city. It was especially nice to meet people who are trying to pursue the life they want, to put making art front and centre. It’s scary to do so, but scarier I think to live a life of regret for not having done so.

Young St. From Ryerson University
Sketch in progress
Condemned apartment building in Forest Hill. Apparently Hemmingway lived here when he was working for the Toronto Star!

LB and I went to Rouge Park and spent the day hiking and enjoying nature: the dark pine needle covered forest floor; the green stained glassed leaf canopy; the cool bubbling brook. Even though it brought sunburns and bug bites, it was lovely… especially when the day finished off with some summery coolers on the balcony! Summer may finally have arrived in Toronto!

What am I watching?

  1. I’m currently working my way through Veep season 3 with LB. Very happy to see strong, smart female characters in a comedy.
  2. RuPaul’s Drag Race season 9 is unfortunately coming to a close. I will miss it so much when it’s done. I’ve been #teamSasha since day one! She’s so intelligent, well researched, and talented.
  3. Twin Peaks Season 3: OMG. This is what I live for week to week. I can’t get enough! So weird. So good. So scary. So unlike anything else out there. Bathe me in it!
    What am I reading? (in five words or less) 
  4. The Four Agreements by don Miguel Ruiz:
    “Life changing! Ends all suffering” 
  5. QU33R. a collection of LGBTQ comics edited by Rob Kirby
    “Sad. Beautiful. Inspiring. Funny. Life.”
  6. Big Kids by Michael DeForge
    “Amazing! Everyone read this please.”
  7. Goodnight Punpun by Inio Asano
    “Weird little kid. Bad things.”
  8. The Miracle of Mindfulness: an Introduction to the Practice of Meditation by Thich Nhat Hanh
    “Calming. Inspiring. Simple.” 

 

Shout out to MJ, one of the organizers of Toronto Urban Sketchers. Check out her lovely, cloudy artwork at  https://www.instagram.com/mjsketchbook/

Also, if you’d like to read some charming comics and interesting stories, check out LB’s work. He posts new words every weekday, so there is always something to read. He’s quite the wordsmith in my view.  https://loganbrightworks.com/

 

Now, off to watch the latest episode of Drag Race and finally make that pesto pasta I’ve been putting off all week!

Have a great week, dear reader!

MerMay 2017 Complete!

Wow! Has it been a whole month already?

For those of you not following me on instagram, I’ve been participating in “MerMay” – an art challenge where you are asked to draw a picture of a mermaid every day for the month of May. I learned about this challenge too late in the year last year to join. This year, however,  I had it written down on my calendar so I wouldn’t miss it!

Here are all 31 images together. If you’d like to see them in greater detail, pop on over to my instagram (@leslietaylordesign)

What I am proud of:

  • My use of colour. I have discovered not only the opacity tool, but the hardness slider on my photoshop brush, and suddenly the world is my oyster. I also experimented with adding little dots for colour and texture and really like the effect!
  • My line work and image quality Somewhere around day four, May the Fourth (be with you), my line work really improved! I had been challenging myself to work from a reference as little as possible and under no circumstances copy an image in and trace it in photoshop. As a result, I am really blown away by some of the faces and bodies I drew this month.
  • Mer-Basset Hounds, Mer-weimaraners and Pug-topuses! This month was full of cute doggy sea creatures.

My goals for June’s daily drawings

  • Speed! I am going to restrict myself to 30 minutes per drawing. When the time runs up, I post what I have. My drawing teacher at college said that time is the money, meaning you could take 30 minutes to complete a painting, or five hours, but if you’re only getting paid $50 for the piece, you could be earning $100 an hour, or $10, it’s up to you.

 

My daily drawings will continue, though I’m not sure what I should draw for the month of June. Any suggestions?

This post is dedicated to Ravyn, the smiling weimaraner I mermaid-i-fied on May 12th. Unfortunately, she passed away on the 30th due to poor health. She lived 15 wonderful, yet neurotic, years.

Daily Drawing Challenge: In the beginning…

I’m currently in my second year of my masters degree, and let’s just say it is not doing very much in the way of satisfying my creative needs. I think I’ve come a long way as an adult to know myself and my needs; now I am able to identify when I’m feeling off and what I can do to fix it. As is usually the case with me, art is the answer! What better way to get a little art into my life than challenging myself to draw something new everyday!

I didn’t want to make a big fuss about starting this project… just in case it didn’t work out so well. I am happy to announce that I am not one…but THIRTEEN days in! That’s almost two weeks of drawing every day! Wow. I’m impressing myself over here.

My goals for this project:

  • Become a better draw-er.
  • Develop/reveal/become comfortable with my own style.
  • Trade in my old clunky imagination for a souped-up Lambergini of an imagination!
  • Create/Build an online presence as an artist.

My self-imposed rules for this project:

  1. “Draw” something every day for a year. It must be a unique image created for this exercise, not as part of another project.
  2. An image of the drawing must be posted on instagram by 12am each day.

I will admit I had my reservations and fears and doubts before starting this project, and lord knows I am many days away from the end. The fact that I have been able to get over the major humps gives me great hope. The hardest thing I thought would be finding time to do the drawing. Yes, most of my drawings have been done at 10pm while watching TV, but, hey, I got them done! So far, I’ve been blown away by the activity the images have created. Likes and comments from fellow artists online mean a lot to me. My art is reaching people and they’re liking it! Thanks to the momentum from this project, I know I am on the right track.

I think it was in a podcast I listened to recently where I heard someone talk about how you should have started the thing you wanted to do a year ago. That really made me think. What do I want to say that I started and accomplished a year from now? Improving my art is one of those big ones. This blog is another. I’m feeling good about this new school year… though not for traditional scholarly reasons. (Sorry Uni!)

I want to give my drawings themes month to month. September’s theme is “No references”. I’m really good at copying an image, but I don’t want to copy other people’s work. I want to create my own images that uniquely reflect my take on something. Plus, it will really force me to think.

Here are my drawings thus far. Thirteen down, Three-hundred-and-fifty-two more to go!

If you want to see how my challenge is going in real time, I post new art every day on my instagram (@leslietaylordesign). If you’ve been waiting for a sign to start doing this challenge yourself, consider this it! It really isn’t that hard to fit it into your day. I’m surprised at how quickly it became a really fun habit!

Daily drawing: sterile surreal construction. #sketchbook #sketchdaily #dailysketch #dailydrawing #art #surreal

A photo posted by Leslie Taylor (@leslietaylordesign) on

Daily sketch: #5 Tim Burton Geometric #dailysketch #dailydrawing #sketch #Art

A photo posted by Leslie Taylor (@leslietaylordesign) on

Daily drawing challenge: day 4. #sketch #dailysketch #dailydrawing #art #purplepen #drawingchallenge

A photo posted by Leslie Taylor (@leslietaylordesign) on

Daily sketch challenge day 3: anxious robots in space. #drawingchallenge #dailysketch #sketch #art #markers #robot #space

A photo posted by Leslie Taylor (@leslietaylordesign) on

Daily sketch challenge #2: no reference challenge month. #sketch #drawingchallenge #art

A photo posted by Leslie Taylor (@leslietaylordesign) on

Daily sketch challenge: day one. No reference month challenge. #drawing #sketch #art #drawingchallenge

A photo posted by Leslie Taylor (@leslietaylordesign) on

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!

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.