And, unfortunately, it’s not the kind of reputation that will get me any dates or make me any more popular among the men-folk.
You see, people keep calling me “snarky.”
And, not just any people – Internet people.
I’m not quite sure when this all started happening, but, lately, it seems like anytime anyone mentions me and my blog on the Interwebs, they also bring up the s-word. In Claire Litton’s post for Vagablogging, she calls my blog a “snarky personal commentary.” Michael Hodson in his article, “Top Travel Blogs to Discover” on Huffington Post called me “snarky,” “long-winded” and “thoughtful.” (Thoughtful, Michael? Really? Did you have to go there? Great. Now I’m never going to get a date with a reputation like that!) La Presse, a French language newspaper from Montreal, mentioned my blog post in an article about authentic travel, calling it “cyniquement.” (Which, I’m pretty sure is French for “snarky”… and, I’m pretty sure, is actually a compliment in French.)Why do I bring all this up?
Just to toot my own horn and let you all know that people are talking about me on the Internet? (Even if they’re not talking about me in the men’s restroom… or writing my number on the restroom stall’s wall… or calling me after I had to go through the dirty business of writing my number on the stall’s wall all by myself because no one else would do it for me even after I paid them five whole dollars.)
I’m totally not mentioning all this to brag. (Or to get a date… but, hey, if you’re interested, umm, call me, okay? I’m pretty sure you know where you can find my number.)
Well, maybe I am bragging just a little. (Please, just give me this, okay? I don’t have much else to boast about. I don’t have any kids or athletic ability to speak of. I don’t pick up languages very quickly… or, ahem, at all. I can’t juggle or do magic tricks. And, well, you already know about my romantic life. All I’ve got is this blog and an ability to put back gin and tonics with the best of them.)The real reason why I bring this all up is to say that having a reputation as a sarcastic smart ass does come with its disadvantages.
(No, my lack of a dating life is not one of those disadvantages. That happened long before I started gaining an Internet reputation. In fact, it happened long before the Internet – like in the ninth grade when I learned how to fashion my hair into the beguiling triangle-formation you see below. Really, boys, how did you not find that look irresistible? How, I ask you?)
You see, reputations can be pretty limiting – especially when your reputation is that of a crotchedy crank. There are a number of things I would like to do with this blog and with my writing, which I can’t really do as it doesn’t seemed to fit in with the online personae I’ve created for myself. (Okay, so maybe I am a crotchedy crank in real life, too, but only when I’m tired or deprived of chocolate or forced to leave my apartment before noon.)
For example, I’d love to give advice – helpful advice – and not just the really bad made-up stuff that I usually blather on about. But, the problem is, I fear people won’t take me seriously. After all, people don’t associate my personality with helpfulness – they associate my personality with cynicism and that old guy who lives in the ramshackle farmhouse at the end of the road and regularly threatens the neighborhood kids with garden rakes.
But, I’ll have you know I have advice to give, people – helpful advice.
And I don’t even own a garden rake, so there.So, in what may be an Unbrave Girl first (and, most likely, last – after all I have a personal brand to keep up here, people), I have decided to give you all some tips – some real tips that you can actually use.
To do what, you may ask?
To make yourself your very own blog!
Wait! Don’t go.
Yes, yes, I know the last thing the world needs is another blog with tips on how to blog. I know this because I read those blogs with tips on how to blog. (Don’t laugh. I do read them. I just don’t choose to listen to them. Just like I didn’t choose to listen to any of those teen magazines back in the ninth grade when they were doling out hair styling advice.)
So how is my blog post about tips on how to blog any different than all those other blog posts?
Well, it’s coming from me – so you know I won’t be giving you any advice on how to have a super awesome, ridiculously popular blog. I won’t tell you how to increase traffic or influence people or conquer the world with your blog. I won’t tell you how to improve your SEO ranking or how to monetize your blog or even how to make your mom read your blog.
Because I don’t know how to do any of those things!
But you know what I do know how to do?I know how to have a totally adequate blog.
Yep, I got adequate down pat.
Sure, my blog has gotten some really nice shout outs and mentions from other blogs and websites over the past year or so, but, as far as travel blogs go, my blog is pretty much the quirky younger sister of the other travel blogs out there – you know, the travel blog that makes you laugh and you might hang out with on occasion… like, when no one’s looking.
But I’m definitely not one of the cool kids. I very rarely make the lists of top travel blogs – unless it’s one of those lists of “travel blogs you’ve never heard of” or “travel blogs that will make you laugh” or “travel blogs that remind me of underwear and gay pride parades” (don’t ask).
And you know what?
I’m totally cool with that.
In fact, I’m more than cool with that.I’m proud of the little bit of success that I’ve had with this blog.
I’m pleased as punch that a couple hundred random strangers take the time to read my blog every week. I mean, you know how long my posts can get! Heck, I’m already at 1,000 words with this post and I haven’t even gotten to the freaking point, yet. So, the fact that people take time out of their busy lives and days to slog through my endless drivel is just amazing to me — like really, really amazing.
I’m floored that after spending all that time reading my posts, a significant number of people spend the time to comment on my posts. I mean, don’t these people have jobs or kids or hobbies or something to do with their time? Why are they wasting their precious minutes on me?
I’m simply flabbergasted that anyone would become my Facebook fan. I mean, me? Fans? What alternative universe is this?
So, yeah, being adequate is pretty dang awesome.
And, should you want a little bit of adequate for yourself, I’m happy to share my tips (real tips!) on how you can set up your own totally decent blog, too.
Step 1: Pick a name that’s easy to remember…. and stay consistent.When picking my current blog name, I made sure to pick a memorable name and then made sure that everything was consistent – my blog URL, my blog title, my Twitter username and my Facebook page.
I bet you thought I did that because I’m some kind of blogging super genius, right?
I did this because I have one of those memories that is only really good at remembering useless tidbits of information (like, say, the name of my first roommate’s childhood pet). But it’s not so good at remembering anything helpful (like, say, my ATM pin number or where I put my keys or the name of my childhood pet). Because of this little personal defect, I always make sure to choose usernames and passwords that are particularly easy to remember. And then I keep everything consistent – I have the same username and password for pretty much everything. (Which, yeah, yeah, I know is bad and all, but it would also be really bad if I could no longer remember how to log into my Facebook account. Like really, really bad. Like the whole-world-would-end-kind-of-bad, okay? So just lay off.)
Step 2: Choose your blogging platform carefullyIf you’ve read some of those other blog posts out there about how to set up a blog, you know that there are a number of popular blogging platforms out there. You probably also know that, should you pick the wrong blogging platform, there’s a very strong likelihood that you will end up in a special hell reserved for people like you.
Not to scare you or anything.
I’ve dabbled with a couple different blogging platforms in my day. When I started blogging four years ago, I had a free site through Blogger. Then for a year or so I switched to iWeb, an Apple software. (Yes, yes, I know I’m totally going to Blog Hell for that one.) Now, I have a self-hosted site with Wordpress. Recently, I’ve been thinking about starting up a new blog on Tumblr, but I don’t really trust brand names that skimp on vowels.
To avoid the hassle of switching platforms, I would really suggest you do a little research beforehand, check out some blogs on the different platforms, and ask your blogging friends what they use. Luckily, most of the platforms offer a free hosting option, so you can even open a couple different accounts to try out the different platforms and see which one feels right to you.
If you pick the wrong one, I’ll totally be your BFF in Blog Hell.
Step 3: Create an About pageI know, I know, you’re all like, “But I feel weird blathering on about myself on the Internet for everyone to see. Besides, who cares about me and where I grew up or what my favorite food is or that my first pet was a parakeet named Mr. Jankles? How about if I just skip the About page or just fill it with Robert Frost quotes?”
Well, stop that silliness right now. This is your blog, honey. Your blog is made for your blather!
Besides, people are curious; they want to know about you. (And, yes, by “people” I mean me, okay.)
Not only do we really want to know all about you and your favorite food and your pet parakeet, we (again, me) also really, really, really want to see a picture of you.
Not to worry.
This picture need not look anything like the real you – after all, this is the Internet we’re talking about here, people. The Internet was invented for the purpose of posting misleading photos of yourself.
Just take a look at my About page. Do you think I walk around looking that adorable every day?
Okay, the answer is, “Yes, I do.” (No matter what my ninth grade yearbook photo might tell you otherwise.)
But don’t worry if you’re not as naturally adorable as I am – that’s what photo editing software is for! It’s like makeup — for the Internet!
Step 4: Write some stuff… on a fairly regular basisThere is a lot of advice on other blogs out there about what you should write on your blog and how you should write it and how often you should write about it and on what days you should write about it.
But guess what?
It’s your blog.
Do you know what that means?
You can write whatever the heck you want!
And you can update it whenever you want, too!
Personally, I like to keep people on their toes. I usually try to post a new blog post every weekend, but some weeks I go a bit crazy and post stuff on a Monday. (Yeah, I know, wild, right?) Other weeks, I don’t post a thing. A few times I was ambitious and managed two posts in a week. (Never again. I swear, I almost died.)
I feel my slightly erratic posting schedule adds a sense of mystery to my blog. (That, and the fact that I happen to be wearing a pink top hat in my About page photo – I mean, who does that? Talk about mysterious!)
Step 5: Get the word outNow that you have your blog up and running, it’s time to tell everyone you know about your blog.
Well, not everyone. Of course, you won’t want to tell the people you plan on writing about (unless you plan on writing nice stuff about them – but where’s the fun in that?).
You can tell everyone on Facebook about it. You can blabber on about it at work and family get-togethers. You can introduce yourself at parties by using your blog name instead of your real name. (Which may be a bit awkward if your blog name is something like “asshat.com” or “shutyourface.org,” but, hey, go with it.)
After you finish telling all the people you know about your blog, you’ll want to start telling people you don’t know. This you can do by using Twitter or setting up a Facebook fanpage or, you know, scrawling your blog name across restroom stall walls.
I know, I know, you’re all like, “But I feel weird having complete strangers read about my life.” Trust me, strangers are the best kind of blog readers! They’ll never know if you’re lying… or, ahem, embellishing the truth. And, they’ll have no idea that you’re not nearly as adorable in real life as you are in your About page picture. (Which I am, by the way, but this may not be the case for you. I’m just looking out for you, here.)
Step 6: Don’t listen to what anyone says.(Yeah, yeah, I know I said I was only going to give you five steps in the title, but, I’ve gotten so good at not listening to what anyone says, that I don’t even listen to myself these days!)
I love blogging.
I really do.
In the past four years that I’ve been blogging, I’ve grown as a writer. I’ve developed my voice and gained an audience for my writing. The supportive comments and feedback from that audience has given me the confidence to pursue my writing more seriously. And, it’s connected me with people that I would have never met in the “real world”… many of whom, I’ve subsequently then met in the “real world.” (Ain’t the Internet great, people?)
Blogging has truly become a part of who I am. (I know that sounds dorky, but I already posted a photo of myself from the ninth grade, so I don’t really have much to lose here.)But, blogging can be like anything you love – frustrating.
There are weeks when I don’t have anything to say, but I crank out a post just to get something out there. There are other weeks when I do have something to say but life and work and all that other stuff gets in the way, so I don’t write anything. And then feel guilty about it. (Because, uh, why? I don’t know.) Some weeks I have too many things to say and a million ideas buzzing in my head and I end up trying to squeeze twelve different topics into one really long post. (Like I, maybe, kind of, am doing right now.) Sometimes I write a post that I think is saying what I want to say — only to wake up in the middle of the night and realize, “No, that’s not what I wanted to say at all!” (Yes, I do this. Yes, I’m a dork, so shut it already.)
The blogging world can be frustrating, too. There are lots of amazing, encouraging, supportive people out there, but there are also plenty of people ready to tell you that you’re doing it all wrong. Your posts are too long. Or they’re too short . You don’t have enough bullet points. Or you have too many bullet points. You need to post more pictures. Or what’s with all these pictures, already? And you talk way too much about cookies. (Whatever. Like that could happen.)
It’s easy to think that maybe they’re right. Maybe you are doing this blogging thing all wrong. Maybe you should write shorter posts or have more pictures or more bullet points. Maybe you should write less about yourself and more about, I don’t know, stuff that isn’t yourself. Maybe you shouldn’t be such a crotchedy crank. Maybe you should just ditch the cookies thing all together.
But guess what?
It’s your blog.
Do you know what that means?
You can do whatever the heck you want!
All you have to do is be you.
How can you get that wrong?
(Besides, if cookies are wrong, I don’t want to be right.)