By Any Other Name: Why I Call Myself A Writer

August 25, 2011

Warning: This post contains rants about blogging and travel blogging and writing and other topics which I understand may be of little interest to many of my lovely friends and readers out there. I will warn you when we get to that point.

Until then, I’d like to share with you a little story from my childhood.

It’s kind of like a metaphor.

Or a cry for help.

You decide.

For a very brief time in the fourth grade, I was part of the cool kids’ club.

Seriously, we had a club.

And I was in it.

To be honest, the club did not start out being the cool kids’ club. It was just this group that my three friends and I had created. We hung out all the time, and we decided we wanted to make things, you know, official.

At the time we were kind of obsessed with Grease 2.

No, not the original Grease. That would have made sense. I mean, I’m still kind of obsessed with the original Grease. Who isn’t?

We were obsessed with the sequel to Grease. And, yes, there was a sequel to Grease, and, yes, it’s just as bad as you can imagine. Possibly worse.

We would watch the video over and over again, and to this day I can still remember the words to the song, “Cool Rider.” (In which a young, fresh-faced Michelle Pfeiffer, playing the part of the lead Pink Lady, explains to her hapless suitor that she’s looking for a “dream on a mean machine with hell in his eyes” and “a devil in skin tight leather.” And, yes, this was a totally appropriate song selection for a ten-year-old. Why do you ask?)

Inspired by the Pink Ladies, we decided we needed to give our little posse a name. So we called ourselves the Calicos.

Why?

Well, the Pink Ladies all had pink jackets, and the four of us all had cats – calico cats, to be exact.

Yes, you heard me correctly.

I was in a club for girls with cats.

It’s obvious I was destined to be a crazy cat lady from a very early age. You just can’t fight fate, people.

Once we had the name of our super secret club down, we decided that we each needed a code name to sign the secret notes we would pass to each other in class – this being the number one activity of our super secret club.

We all went to this small Catholic school where the nuns were really vigilant about cracking down on secret clubs because, according to them, exclusive clubs were not the Christian way of doing things. (Umm, Apostles, anyone?)  By using code names, we were sure we could avoid being found out should the notes ever be intercepted.

For some reason, we decided to use the first names of the Beatles for our code names, even though I’m pretty sure none of us actually listened to the Beatles. And I’m pretty sure when my friend first suggested this I had no idea who the Beatles actually were. I mean, I was ten years old at the time, and this was my idea of thought-provoking song lyrics:

I want a coooooool rider,
A cool, cool, cool, cool rider.
I want a coooooool rider,
A cool, cool, cool, cool rider.
I want a C-O-O-L R-I-D-E-R.
I need a C-O-O-L R-I-D-E-R.

So, yeah, I wasn’t exactly a music connoisseur back in the day.

But I went along with the plan because I was pretty sure passing around notes signed “John” and “Paul” was totally going to throw those nuns off our track. And possibly make them think we were referring to the Pope.

Well, I wasn’t going to be signing my notes “John” or “Paul.” I would be signing my notes, “Ringo.” Because that’s the name I chose for myself. Like, on purpose.

Looking back on this now, it’s obvious to me that my stint as a cool kid was going to be short-lived. Like really short-lived. (I mean, Ringo? Really?)

But, back then, I thought I had finally made it. I was in a super secret club named after cats. (Cats, people! Cats! How cool is that? Wait. Don’t answer that.)

I had a super secret code name.

I was passing around super secret notes in class even though super secret notes were strictly prohibited and could get you in deep, Catholic school trouble – which usually involved lots of praying and the Beatitudes.

We even had a super secret club oath, which, sadly, I can’t remember. But I’m pretty sure we all meowed at the end. (Seriously. And, in case you’re wondering, I’m sure that was my idea. Sure of it.)

And, then, word got out.

One day during our lunch period, news of the Calicos’ existence spread through class like wildfire. I’m really not sure how this happened considering our CIA-level of information security. (I mean, code names, people! It’s like we were leading double lives! Which is not easy when you’re ten years old, go to Catholic school and believe that Jesus will personally smite you every time you say something that’s not technically true.)

Pretty soon all the other girls in class were clamoring to be part of our club.

At first, we were resistant. After all, we had some strict membership guidelines. You had to own a cat. And it had to be a calico. I mean, we weren’t about to let just anyone into this club.

Besides, we’d kind of run out of code names.

But, then, the pressure started getting to us.

We let in a girl who had a black cat, but she was willing to give us enough scratch-and-sniff stickers to make up for the difference.

Then, this new girl from New Jersey convinced us that we should let her into the club even though her family didn’t own a cat, but they did have a rabbit once, and it had some spots on its back kind of like a calico cat. Plus, she let me wear her gummy bracelets every afternoon after lunch if I’d plead her case to the rest of the club.

Then the girls who were not in our club started to form their own clubs. Except things weren’t so super secret anymore.

One group called themselves the Jellies because they all owned jelly sandals. And rather than being like, “Cool, we all own jelly sandals. Let’s form a secret club and not tell anyone about it because it’s secret,” they totally told everyone about it. This was not how things were supposed to work– especially because it made those of us who didn’t own jelly sandals (like, umm, me) feel really bad about ourselves.

Well, it wasn’t long before the nuns got wind of our secret club formations. The principal of the school, Sister Diane, forced all the fourth grade girls to go out into the hallway together while the boys sat in the classroom. (The boys, apparently, had not been using their lunch breaks and recess time to form secret clubs. I’m sure there’s some sociological reason behind that, but, at the time, I figured it was just because they were stupid. I mean, if you had the option of creating a super secret club named after cats, wouldn’t you? Wait. Don’t answer that.)

In the hallway, we each confessed to our club-making-ways, and then we joined hands to pray (because that’s how crackdowns are done in Catholic school, yo).

By the end of the whole thing, we were all crying and hugging each other and promising to abolish our secret clubs. (While secretly hoping that this didn’t mean we’d have to give back all the scratch-and-sniff stickers and gummy bracelets we’d manage to score along the way.)

We returned to class, where the boys were all sitting with this stunned look on their collective faces that said, “What the hell just happened?”

Anyway, if there’s a lesson that I learned from my very brief stint as a cool kid, it’s that excluding others is really not as cool as it may seem.

And you should probably do a little research before picking out a code name. (I mean, Ringo? Really?)

Oh, and don’t try to keep secrets from nuns because those ladies have ways of getting the secrets out of you – and usually these ways include the Beatitudes.

Warning: Remember back at the beginning of this post when I told you that at some point I’d be putting on my ranty-pants about blogging and travel blogging and writing and all that other stuff that some of you may not care about?

Well, that time has come.

If you are not interested in these topics, please feel free to mosey along.

May I suggest you check out my photo album from my recent trip to Hangzhou? The photos are quite lovely, and I even included captions this time, which I’m usually pretty lazy about, but I wanted to show you I cared.

Or, can I interest you in a kitten video?

Or feel free to go buy yourself some adult-sized jelly sandals should you, too, have missed out on this essential fashion stable as a child. You’re never too old for impractical footwear! Trust me on this.

Ahem.

Still with me?

Right.

My ranty-pants are now officially on.

Consider yourself warned.

Yesterday, I read a blog post entitled, “Why we need a clear definition of a travel blogger.” In the article, the author defined a travel blogger as “someone whose main income-generating activities are derived from the site or sites that they own and manage.”

I don’t make any money off my blog, so this means that, according to this article, I am not a travel blogger. This also means that most of the travel bloggers whom I read and enjoy on a regular basis can also not consider themselves travel bloggers as they also do not make money off their blogs – or at least not enough to qualify it as a “main income-generating activity.” Whatever that is.

Now, I understand that this is only one person’s opinion on the topic (and judging from the comments the author received on the post, it’s definitely not everyone’s opinion).

Plus, to be honest, I’ve never really considered myself a travel blogger. Yes, I do travel. Yes, I do have a blog. And, yes, I do blog about travel. But I also blog about cookies and my couch and the super secret girl club I was in during the fourth grade.

Despite all this, I still couldn’t help feeling a bit excluded.

And I can’t say this feeling is anything new.

In the past year and a half, I’ve read a lot of travel blogs and expat blogs and bloggy-blogs. I’ve read a lot of articles and blog posts telling me what is and what is not a blog and who is and who is not a blogger. I’ve also read plenty of posts defining travelers and travel bloggers and travelers who blog and bloggers who travel and bloggers who just want everyone to draw camels.

And then there are the articles expounding on the differences between writers and bloggers — as apparently these are two entirely different species and they’re not allowed to mix for fear that they may produce some weird Labroodle-like hybrid.

I usually come away from reading these articles feeling left out – like I somehow didn’t make it into the club. Either it’s because I’m not making money off my blog or because my blog doesn’t get a million hits per week. Or maybe it’s because I don’t really know what SEO means. Or I’m not living out of a backpack. Or my posts are longer than the constitutions for most countries and apparently that’s wrong.

My usual reaction is, well, kind of stompy and annoyed. I huff and puff and blurt out things like, “Fine, I didn’t want to be in your stinking blog club anyway! I’ll just go write more 2,000-word posts about my couch, and we’ll see what you have to say about that. And, oh, those jelly sandals make your feet look stupid.”

But this article irked me in a different way.

It irked me in the same way that the articles that differentiate between writers and bloggers irk me.

It wasn’t because it was telling me I couldn’t be part of the club.

It was because it was telling me what I was allowed to call myself and what I wasn’t.

I’m fine with not calling myself a travel blogger, but, frankly, I think that choice should be mine.

If I got to call myself Ringo Starr in the fourth grade, I think I should be able to decide what I want to call myself now.

Usually I just call myself a writer as I feel that pretty much sums up what I do. I write stuff. And then I edit that stuff. And then I send that stuff out into the world hoping against hope that someone might read it. And maybe like it. (And then make it official by liking it on Facebook.)

And, well, isn’t that what a writer does? Writes stuff and edits it and sends it off into the world?

Okay, so, sure, I’m not making an income off of my writing.

And, yes, I write words and a lot of those words end up on my blog, but I’m still the one writing them. These words were not strung together by some blog-post-generating robot. (I swear! I mean, would a robot know anything about jelly sandals? I think not, my friends, I think not.)

Besides, I wrote stuff long before I had a blog and a lot of the things I write now never even end up on my blog. It stays on my computer where I continue to polish it and poke at it and prod at it into the hopes that it will one day blossom into something I can publish.

And that’s why I call myself a writer – because I write stuff. I’ve always written stuff. And, frankly, I can’t imagine not writing stuff.

If I can’t call myself a writer, I don’t really know what else to call myself.

Maybe I should just call myself a Labroodle?

 

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I've blathered on long enough! Now it's your turn!

  1. On August 25, 2011 at 3:03 pm Joseph said:

    Don’t ever listen to posts/people that try to determine what you are and what you aren’t…the only person who can do that is you and only you. So you didn’t have jelly sandals…I bet those girls who had them don’t have a couch in China (so there, you sure showed them)…I for one really look forward to reading your posts and I do consider you a writer (once again I urge you not to listen to me, you know best :P ), so keep up the good work, write more over 2000 words of entries and I’ll keep on reading!

    • On August 26, 2011 at 8:13 am Sally said:

      Thanks, Joseph! Yeah, those girls with the jelly sandals would be totally jealous of my couch. Maybe I can create a new super secret club. I’m going to call it Awesome Couches, and only people with awesome couches can join. It will be VERY exclusive.

  2. On August 25, 2011 at 3:03 pm Devon said:

    I, too, find myself annoyed when people try to make up rules about these sorts of things. Who died and made that guy the boss of the internet? I consider myself to be a runner, yet no one pays me to run. Similarly, I consider myself to be a blogger even though no one pays me to do it. I don’t think most people know or care how much money a writer is or isn’t making – if you are an entertaining writer they will come back for more. Wouldn’t the world be a boring place if every so-called travelblogger followed the same formula? I mean, how many 10 Things to Do In ___ articles can a girl take?!? So, keep blogging about your couch, for free, because it’s funny! :-)

    • On August 26, 2011 at 5:47 am Sally said:

      Thanks, Devon. I think one of the amazing things about the Internet is that it allows anyone and everyone to get their work out there and in front of readers. (Of course, I’m sure there are plenty of people who would disagree with me on this. In fact, I sometimes disagree with this depending on what website I’m looking at.) I’ve discovered so many amazing writers who are doing innovative, creative stuff on the Internet that they probably wouldn’t be allowed to do in mainstream media. And, therein, I think is the awesomeness of online publishing — it really lets you be creative without having to filter yourself or fit into a mold. So then why are there all these articles telling me how to write for the Internet? Gah!
      I mean, I get it. There are certain things you can do to make your content more readable and accessible. But, at the same time, it’s the Internet. Why not be creative with it? Why not do something a bit different?

  3. On August 25, 2011 at 3:38 pm Jonathan Evans said:

    Completely agree – too many people taking themselves far too seriously as either “writers” or “entrepreneurs”.

    I’ll let you into a little secret – the moment I come across a sponsored post on Parking Services at Gatwick Airport, that blog gets removed from my feed straight away. You might have to make money to remain a “Travel Blogger” but have a little respect for your readers.

    Looking forward to more couch stories!

    • On August 26, 2011 at 5:37 am Sally said:

      Oh crap, I guess I should cancel that blog post about Gatwick Airport Parking Services? :)
      I really have nothing against people making money off their blog. In fact, I have tons of respect for people who manage to support themselves through blogging — well, at least those people who manage to do it with integrity and honesty and quality writing. I know how much time and effort it takes to run my own half-ass hobby blog, I can’t imagine doing that kind of work full-time.

  4. On August 25, 2011 at 5:35 pm Katherina said:

    Oh, so wait. One can only be one thing in life? So, me, someone who doesn’t earn a penny on blogging, doesn’t write a book or write for a newspaper… I’m just non-existant?
    I’m of the thought that we all can be as many things as we like. I’d say I’m a financial manager (ha! Just got promoted last week, love the way it looks). But I’m also a travel blogger (because, uh, I travel and write about it in my blog). Oh, and a photographer! (when it comes to trips with friends, at least).
    I’ve read many articles that try to fit everyone in a certain box (like that while back, where I read this article that called backpacking the only real way of traveling – according to this, I think I’ve only traveled to Mexico and New Zealand!)
    So don’t let others annoy you by “deciding” in which box you belong. I think you’re a fantastic WRITER. and blogger! And am always looking forward to read more :)

  5. On August 25, 2011 at 5:46 pm Shane said:

    I used to call myself a writer but after a few years felt I deserved a promotion. I now call myself an editor. None of this really matters. When I say I work on the internet most people assume I repair laptops or want me to design them a website.

    • On August 26, 2011 at 5:33 am Sally said:

      Little do they know that you’re actually the guy sending them email messages about Viagra. That’s you, right? :)
      I think I’d like to call myself an editor, too. Does this title apply to me if the only person I edit is myself? (And I don’t even do a very good job of that — as my blathery, 2,000+ word posts will attest to.)

  6. On August 25, 2011 at 7:31 pm Angela said:

    A few months ago I quit my teaching job. When my friends ask what I’m doing with myself now (letting me know they’re obviously not reading my blogs!), I tell them I’m writing. Yes, they say, but what are you going to do about a job, as if I don’t exist unless I have a job and a label they can attach to me. So I tell them I’m writing and working on a website, and they seem satisfied with that (even though I’m not making a penny off either). Seems a lot of people are not satisfied unless they can pigeonhole you into, or exclude you from, something of their own making.

    • On August 26, 2011 at 5:32 am Sally said:

      Yeah, when I quit my job to travel it became hard to answer that question, “What do you do?” And, even now, with a job, I find it hard to answer. Being a teacher is such a small part of what I “do,” you know? But, as much as I hate answering that question, every time I meet someone new, I ask, “So, what do you do?” Bad habits die hard. :)
      And good luck with the writing and the website!

  7. On August 25, 2011 at 10:03 pm Erik said:

    I have a feeling this post is going to solicit a lot of reaction, so I’ll keep mine short. I have a blog, it’s VERY small potatoes and that’s all it’s ever going to be because I have a good job and the days of selling everything and wandering the world with laptop are passed me, I fear. I write because I like to share what I done and I want to engage people about travel, something I am passionate about. I’ve had a number of bloggers give me reasons I shouldn’t call myself a travel blogger. Fine with me, I don’t need the label.
    I’ve only been doing this a short time, but what I have see about the ‘professional travel bloggers’ is what you are referring to when you talk about clubs. When I’m on twitter or their blogs, I really only see them engaging each other, which is fine. That is what ‘social’ media is about. You can find your own little group if you choose. The blogs I really love are the ones that are well-written and I feel like I know the writer because we have engaged each other in some discussion.
    Anyway, whatever you call yourself, It’s an enjoyable read. So I’m willing to forgive your childhood obsession with Grease 2. We all make mistakes. :-) (I should offer that I often catch my wife watching it on cable before she quickly changes channels when she sees me noticing…)

    • On August 26, 2011 at 5:27 am Sally said:

      Erik, Don’t get me wrong. There are tons of things that I’ve loved about being involved with the travel blogging community. I’ve met lots of awesome people both online and offline. I’ve learned lots of things about blogging and writing (some of them I’ve actually applied to my blog… others not so much). It’s challenged me to be a better, more consistent writer and to take my blog and my writing more seriously. And, even the times I disagree with other bloggers have been appreciated. Honestly, I’m the type of person who is inspired by disagreement (some people call this “ornery”) and, frankly, a lot of my favorite posts have come out of me being annoyed and argumentative (this being one of them).
      Of course, like any community you’re involved in (work, school, WWWF fans, etc) there are things that frustrate me. But, to be honest, I think it’s all worth it. I hope you do, too.
      And, wow, I had no idea there were any other Grease 2 fans out there! I, honestly, think that movie didn’t get the recognition it deserved. (Okay, so it didn’t really deserve any. But still it rocked my world when I was 10 years old)

  8. On August 25, 2011 at 10:38 pm MaryAnne said:

    As you know from our yearlong, 1000+ email-long conversation about this subject matter, I agree with you on this one. Nobody puts Baby in a corner, and well, nobody puts Writer in a pigeon hole. Dirty Dancing knew, intuitively, the reality of the matter. We are both people who write, who have always written a lot, who travel, who blog. A reasonable apt descriptor might be, I’d wager, ‘travel blogger’. However, since we don’t need their dirty, sleazy ad money and we don’t need to pander to PR or sponsors because we are intelligent writers of independent means, we are free. Yes! We are unshackled by the limitations of those who wish to exclude us from their self defined club.

    We are not a Tupperware Party! We don’t need to always invite the same people over for snap lid demos and hope that we’ll be able to make a living from selling what we can do out of love. When we metaphorically knit, we can give the booties out freely and not worry that we’ll end up on Regretsy! We can write our minds and our hearts (not literally, as that would be messy) and not worry about alienating anyone who pays for our daily coffee and bed. We can write 2000 word posts and not fret over whether people can handle so many words in one place at one time!

    We are free! We are knitters! We are writers! We are cats and jelly-shoe wearers— we are who we are and if someone wants to draw arbitrary lines of distinction to shut us out of their club, well, that’s their problem.

    (I probably shouldn’t comment at 6am after a stupidly sleepless night, right?)

    • On August 26, 2011 at 5:08 am Sally said:

      I love the Dirty Dancing reference. Yes, no one puts this blogger in a corner!
      And, I do so love your 6 AM blog-comment-rants. But, uh, I’m still trying to work out the Tupperware party reference… Maybe you can explain over gin & tonics sometime soon?

  9. On August 26, 2011 at 12:13 am Sasha said:

    Sally, I’m so with you on this post I think you might even have read my mind (you can probably call yourself a mind-reader now, oh wait the mind-readers might say you don’t read minds in the correct way and consequently can’t use that label). But to celebrate your obvious mind-reading skill I just went out and got myself of pair of matching ranty pants to wear as well!

    I’m so baffled, since when was Travel Blogging an exclusive club like some kind of secret men’s club you can only join if your earning enough money! Last time I checked all you had to do be blogger was to have a blog (ahem, easy, blogger, wordpress, writing poetry posts on myspace [Ok I was 16 and slightly emo!]). And travel blogging I thought all that was a blog that happened to talk about travel sometimes! Really if we’re going to be creating labels and excluding people from such labels wouldn’t it make more sense to give the minority of ‘money makers’ their own label like, I dunno, “Lucky Business Minded Travel Bloggers”. These days I don’t have the patience for this ‘travel blogging world’ too much “I’m more of a traveler than you, I’m more of a blogger then you, I have a cooler backpack then you” what are we, 14! Who gives a crap, let people do what they enjoy and spare the labels.

    But if everyone insists on continuing this stupid label business with such strict definitions on what entitled you to call yourself that then we should make our own club, the Labroodle club. No one will have to prove how much they’re earning, all they have to do is feel left out like us and bring cookies!

    • On August 26, 2011 at 5:06 am Sally said:

      The Labradoodle club. I like it! Can we get matching jackets? Or maybe those t-shirts with the fancy dog paintings on them? And… umm…. where can I see this Myspace poetry page you’re talking about? Just, umm, curious. (I’m SO glad they did not have MySpace when I was 16. This world is a better place for having escaped my bad poetry phase.)

      • On August 29, 2011 at 7:28 am Sasha said:

        Yes please lets have matching jackets!!! :) I tried to search for my Myspace page just the other day, thought it would be a nice look back into the time casual of my 16 year old self but apparently when I started wearing less black I deleted it!!! Shame not to share that lovely poetry with a depressive undertone of cracking under the study pressure lol :P
        Sasha recently posted..The Chinese Airport Experience

  10. On August 26, 2011 at 12:16 am HIlary said:

    You’re innovative because you transcend categories.

    While those other folks are wasting keystrokes imposing rigid categories on the internet literati, you’re producing strong and insightful writing. This reminds me of the lit crit world because the most sensible discussions about genres use them to understand literary techniques in more depth–not stifle a particular work’s capacity for meaning with a “neoclassic” or “romantic” label, for example.

    But what really made me want to comment on this post is that I had a freakishly similar “club” experience at around that age (maybe 5th grade) in Catholic school. My club wasn’t inspired by Grease 2, but it might have had its roots in some vaguely (original Grease) Pink Ladies-esque desire for friendship and glamour in my small, rural rust belt town. And no relation to cats. My peerless behavior record was sullied by my only visit to the principal’s office in my entire 9-year Catholic school career, where I was confronted by a classmate, her mother, the super innocuous (and rather snazzy, if I do say so) “invitation” to the club (I think that we might have been called the “Angels” [no relation to the baseball team]). I would have laughed in their faces at the absurdity of the meeting if I hadn’t been so mortified to show up in a place reserved for the “bad kids.” What the hell!? It’s not like I was inviting the girl to smoke crack in the church sanctuary…maybe just get satin jackets, eventually, pink or no. I knew even at that time that the gravity of the meeting drastically outweighed the actual significance of what I had done…but it always seemed to me that their m.o. was to make mountains out of molehills.

    • On August 26, 2011 at 5:04 am Sally said:

      Hilary, That story rocks. I can’t believe you got in trouble for that. I mean, your club WAS named after Angels. ANGELS! That’s totally holy! It’s not like you were calling yourself the Crack Whores. Plus, the invitation makes things classy. Really, they should have been giving you kudos.
      And I still remember the one and only time I was called to the principal’s office during my Catholic school career. It was for throwing wet paper towel wads on to the girl’s bathroom ceiling when I was in the 8th grade. (It wasn’t my fault! The new girl totally made me do it.) We had to scrap the towel wads off the ceiling and I totally cried the whole time. I was certain that was going to show up on my permanent record.

      • On August 26, 2011 at 2:40 pm Hilary said:

        The permanent record! The biggest concern was keeping that thing blemish-free. I still think about how freaking strict that school was: an intellectual and creative strait jacket, but that was also the case in high school, to a slightly lesser extent.
        I think that I was just bored and in need of stimulation and enrichment (one of the age-old reasons for getting in trouble, eh?).

  11. On August 26, 2011 at 12:24 am Don said:

    Sally (or is it Ringo?)

    Seriously, the “Catholic School Girls – Calico Cat Club” story made me shoot milk out my nose and I may have even pee’d myself a little laughing so hard. Milk shooting and pee! If that is not great writing/blogging I don’t know what is.

    • On August 26, 2011 at 4:59 am Sally said:

      So glad you enjoyed it, Don! I cracked up a lot while writing it… mostly because it was so pathetic. I mean, naming your secret cool kids’ club after cats? Okay, whatever, that’s still awesome.

  12. On August 26, 2011 at 1:47 am Torre said:

    I have a problem with anyone who tries to impose rules on the way other people live their lives. Like those people who post in forums, saying, “Can we all please make sure we’re doing it THIS way, people?”

    No. No we cannot all do it *your* way, bossy pants. In fact, now that you’ve gone to the trouble to tell me how I should be living my life, I’m going to go out of my way to rebel, sucka. What’s that? You say post once a day to build a successful blog? I say POO ON YOU, I’m going to post NEVER. Hahahahaha. How do you feel about that? Hmm? I win!

    • On August 26, 2011 at 4:58 am Sally said:

      Ha ha! We are so much alike it’s SCARY. The first reaction I have to any kind of advice (bossy or no) is to instantly do the opposite. In fact, the more articles I read telling me to keep my writing concise, the more blathery I get. I should probably stop reading those articles as I think posting 5,000 word articles about my couch may be a bit excessive… or not. It IS a nice couch.

  13. On August 26, 2011 at 1:59 am Katie said:

    I read that post too and found it quite annoying and condescending. I also recall a while back reading another one about who can call themselves a travel writer and I disagreed with that as well.

    Whatever you want to call yourself, that’s what you are. It’s not up to others to judge or label you.

    It’s funny, I’ve run 4 marathons now yet for a long time I felt uncomfortable calling myself a “marathoner” – feeling like that was reserved for the elite runners. Then a friend pointed out – why can’t I call myself a marathoner? I run the same 26.2 miles that the elites do, just slower, so why not?

    Likewise, I don’t think you have to be a travel blogger or travel writer earning a certain income or being published in certain places to call yourself one.

    • On August 26, 2011 at 4:56 am Sally said:

      FOUR marathons? Sweetheart, you aren’t just a marathoner, you are a total ROCKSTAR! (Add that to your business card, stat!) I ran one marathon and I still brag about it. I don’t care that it took me over 5 hours and my knees have still not forgiven me. I deserved those bragging rights, dammit!

  14. On August 26, 2011 at 2:27 am Mary Jo Manzanares said:

    I agree! Except for that whole Ringo thing. Which I think would’ve been a super cool code name.

    • On August 26, 2011 at 4:54 am Sally said:

      And that’s probably why I picked it — I thought it sounded super cool. (I mean, compared to George. No contest!) But I think picking the name of the least popular Beatle probably did not bode well for me. And that’s why I was never invited to the drinking parties in high school. That and I was a dork.

  15. On August 26, 2011 at 6:13 am Erin said:

    This is so true. I’ve read posts that say travel bloggers shouldn’t call themselves writers and other posts that say you shouldn’t NOT call yourself a writer. It’s just annoying and we need to tune out that noise – sometimes the internet can make you doubt yourself far too much.

    I call myself a travel blogger as I don’t feel that my writing is high enough quality to call myself a writer (and I do know a bit about SEO), but yours certainly is. It’s always great to read your crazy long posts – so refreshingly different from other travel blogs. I love that secret club story!
    Erin recently posted..August Update: Back in Asia

    • On August 26, 2011 at 7:55 am Sally said:

      Aww, thanks, Erin. You’re totally welcome to join my super secret adult club. (There will be gummy bracelets & jelly sandals for all!)
      Someone left a comment on Andy’s post (maybe it was Pam from Nerd’s Eye View?) saying that a blog is just another medium for writers. I tend to agree with that. I think pretty much everyone who blogs is a writer because they are, well, writing.
      But I say, hey, pick the title you feel comfortable with and go with it. After all, putting the word “writer” by your name can sound pretty highfaluting. But I’ve always kind of liked highfaluting. (Hence, the reason why I was drawn to a code name like “Ringo.” It sounded fahhncier, you know? :) )

  16. On August 26, 2011 at 7:08 am Andy Jarosz said:

    Hi Sally, really enjoyed reading your post and completely agree with your point of view. As the writer of the original post that inspired your rant I should probably add my thoughts as well.
    The post was never intended to create a division of who can or cannot use any labels. I’m dead against that too. I appreciate that my post didn’t come out as I intended it to.
    Anyone should be allowed to call themselves whatever they want to – blogger, writer, publisher, etc. That is up to each and every one of us. The point of the post was to highlight the fact that those who work with bloggers (PR industry, advertisers, travel companies) too often lump anyone who blogs into the same bucket and as a result approach them in exactly the same way. We all do things differently and the label travel blogger is so broad that it doesn’t begin to describe the diversity of skills that those of us who have a blog can offer.
    I know it’s odd but although you disagree with my post I am fully in agreement with you :-)
    Andy Jarosz recently posted..Why we need a clear definition of a ‘travel blogger’

    • On August 26, 2011 at 7:49 am Sally said:

      Andy,
      Thanks for your response and, umm, agreement. I’m so glad I could make you see things my way. (ha ha! Just kidding!)
      I don’t work with PR reps, etc, so I don’t really have the experience you have with having them lump everyone together. But I can understand the frustration this might cause. Especially since, let’s be honest, not everyone holds bloggers in the highest regard. (As can be evidenced from the number of articles going on and on about the difference between bloggers and writers — usually written in favor of writers.) I can imagine if you’re a professional blogger and you take what you do very seriously (because it is your paycheck after all!) it could be really annoying being lumped into this big melee of professional and unprofessional bloggers and not having what you do taken as a serious business.
      But it can also be frustrating to be an unpaid blogger and feel like what you do is not being taken seriously, either, simply because you’re not doing it for the money. Yours was not the first article that I’ve read that seemed to suggest that if you don’t get paid for blogging than you must not be serious about it. (And, I apologize if this was not your intent… it’s possible that’s what I just read into your words seeing as I was in a rather ranty mood. And I kind of have a way of doing that.) I do take my blog very seriously and pour a lot of time, effort and attention into it, and I think my posts reflect that. I’m not the only one, of course — I know plenty of other unpaid bloggers who do the same.
      I guess what we (paid and unpaid bloggers) both really feel like what we need is more respect — more respect from industry professionals, more respect from writing professionals and more respect from other bloggers. Of course (and I think you touched on this in your post), the best way to do this is to create quality work — whether or not we’re getting paid to do so.

  17. On August 26, 2011 at 10:38 am Lauren Fritsky said:

    I’m the person who had a post about travel blogger vs. travel writer, which was asked by a reader in a specific section of my blog focusing on freelance writing. If you ask the people who write guides and articles for Lonely Planet and Nat’l Geo who left comments on my post, they feel that you do have to earn the term “travel writer.” The issue appears to be that people with more of a writing or journalism background who have experience with major travel publications and sites feel that people are starting travel blogs and trying to assume the same “title” they’ve worked years for. Other people solve this issue, if you want to call it that, by saying they are professional writers or professional bloggers.
    Lauren Fritsky recently posted..My Overly Ambitious New Zealand Itinerary

    • On August 26, 2011 at 11:47 am Sally said:

      Lauren,
      Thanks for weighing in! I can understand why seasoned, published travel writers would be miffed that it seems like these days everyone with a travel blog is claiming to be a travel writer. But, to be honest, I think this is the risk that you run into when pursuing a creative profession. Unlike, say, the CEO of Microsoft or a district court judge, writers, like all creative professionals, do not have sole ownership over their job title. I know plenty of musicians, actors and comedians who aren’t able to support themselves through their creative career alone or they’re in between gigs or they just simply haven’t gotten their lucky break yet. But I would never say they’re NOT musicians or actors or comedians just because they’re not one of the lucky few able to support themselves with their art.
      I think calling someone a professional writer or professional blogger is probably the best way to solve the debate. But, then again, I’d hate for someone to call me an “unprofessional blogger”! :)

  18. On August 26, 2011 at 1:45 pm Anne McKinnell said:

    No one can define you Sally, you’re on your own there! :) I mean how can you define someone obsessed with their pants and couch and jelly sandals, other than perhaps hysterically funny and talented writer? Honestly you’re the only person who can write 2,000 word posts that I actually read. Usually I am scared off by the great wall of text, but I always enjoy yours.

    Since I left my old life, when people ask me what I do I usually say either “unemployed nomad” or “I do what everyone else wishes they did”.
    Anne McKinnell recently posted..Woodstock, New Brunswick

    • On August 26, 2011 at 2:50 pm Sally said:

      Aww, thanks, Anne. Yes, I probably should start my own self-defined strain of blogging. Maybe I could call myself a Couchstyle Redesigner or a Digital Couchpotato?

  19. On August 26, 2011 at 7:18 pm Ken C. said:

    Well, I read through Andy’s post about “defining a travel blogger;” I don’t know that he makes a compelling case as to why a taxonomy of travel writers is necessary. I mean, I know there is a “travel industry” on-line, but I didn’t realize that there’s a cabal of bloggers doing their bidding [is this true?]. Certainly, some travel writers get free stuff [lodging, trips, tours, swag], but they are usually upfront about these things, and I hope they give us honest evaluations of what they’ve experienced.

    Anyway, I do think of you as a travel writer [didn't I mention this in my last comment?...your trip to Hangzhou?]. You do write about your travels…and you also write about modern Chinese life, and you write about teaching University students, you write about expat life, and you write about your childhood adventures; you write about lots of things.

    As a writer, you’re eclectic. Many people read your writing because it is different [that is, a bit exotic] and very funny. It almost goes without saying that your writing is quite polished and technically very accomplished.

    You may earn income from your writing, we won’t know unless you tell us. But, do you need an income stream, or credentials, to call yourself a writer?

    I was in Wash., DC, in the mid-90s, and saw the Vermeer Exhibit at the National Gallery. “Girl with a Pearl Earring” was there. It is exquisitely & breathtakingly beautiful [my layperson's opinion]. I recall reading later that, while Vermeer was likely middle class, he died poor; he couldn’t make enough money as a painter…Vermeer would NOT have passed Mr. Andy’s acid test. How about that?

    Of course you are a writer!

    • On August 27, 2011 at 3:53 am Sally said:

      Ken,
      As always your encouraging words are much appreciated! And that story about Vermeer was inspirational… and kind of depressing. I guess I should be taking my retirement investing a bit more seriously. :)

  20. On August 26, 2011 at 7:22 pm Phil said:

    While I agree with your sentiments here, I think the most important thing you did here was mention camel drawing. This will help me in my larger goal: anyone who calls themselves a blogger needs to be able to draw camels. My eventual goal is of course to make it so that in order to call yourself a human being, you need to be able to draw camels :)
    Phil recently posted..Putting your African Adventure to Shame: Kilimanjaro by Lionback

    • On August 27, 2011 at 3:50 am Sally said:

      I had no idea that teaching people to draw camels was actually your secret plot to take over the world. You are one evil genius mastermind, my friend. :)

  21. On August 27, 2011 at 4:26 am Sarah said:

    I hear you loud and clear, my friend.

    Assigning labels (and making them oh-so-exclusive) is pretty tricky AND becomes really dangerous territory. (But you already knew this from your super secret girls club, right Ringo!?)

    I don’t like the idea of someone else deciding what I am or what I am not. Or even what my words are or what my words aren’t. (But for the record, they would probably tell me I use more run-on sentences and brackets than is really acceptable in the English language).

    Whatever, it’s not like I really wanted to be a part of that club anyways. Besides, they don’t even appreciate the value in scratch-n-sniff stickers as incentives…
    Sarah recently posted..The Time I Took One Big Breath….And Left with Only a Backpack

    • On August 27, 2011 at 9:05 am Sally said:

      I’m all about the overuse of brackets. And m-dashes. And using periods to separate stuff that should be separated with commas. I’m like, “It’s the Internet, yo! Your rules of punctuation don’t apply to me!” (That being said, it drives me crazy when people misspell stuff on their blogs. Because I never make those kind of mistakes. :) )

  22. On August 27, 2011 at 5:46 am Kyle said:

    I mean…Labradoodles ARE really stinking cute. It’s true.

    I was in a similar club when I was young except ours had to do with that game where you put yarn on your fingers and then knot it into patterns. So yeah. We were at a similar level of coolness as you and your cat club :)

    Also, I wouldn’t worry too much about what to call yourself. It’s not like there’s a travel blog police out there arresting all of us who don’t fit that person’s definition of the phrase.
    Kyle recently posted..The Appreciation Post

  23. On August 27, 2011 at 3:13 pm The Travel Chica said:

    I think when 50+ people comment on something you write, you may call yourself a writer and a travel blogger :-)

    By the way, I saw the blog post you are talking about in my Google Reader, and I decided not to read it. I actually didn’t call myself a travel blogger until very recently after other people started introducing me as a travel blogger.
    The Travel Chica recently posted..Buenos Aires Sucks You In

    • On August 28, 2011 at 7:11 am Sally said:

      Well, if other people are telling you that you’re a travel blogger, I think that means you’re a travel blogger whether you like it or not. Peer pressure can be a jerk, you know? :)

  24. On August 27, 2011 at 3:15 pm ehalvey said:

    I would have traded my My Little Pony collection to be in the Calicos (my cat is now a 17 year old gray tabby)!

    I I feel like I don’t fit into many of the clubs either because I don’t write a lot of narrative stuff, I’m not constantly traveling, I don’t fit into the food blogger category that much either, and then I throw in art to confuse the hell out of everyone. But it’s what I like and what I know.

    And I know I like any story featuring cats and jelly shoes. :)
    ehalvey recently posted..Saturday Snapshot-Wall Art in Lucerne, Switzerland

  25. On August 28, 2011 at 5:31 pm Katja said:

    I find it so weird how blogging has become a profession. When I started blogging, it was something that people did for fun, or to get all that pesky writing out of their system without the scary having-to-deal-with-editors-and-publishers-and-general-public-thang. I blog because I want to. I write because I enjoy it. I don’t actually call myself either a blogger or a writer because that’s not how I define myself. I do, however, say to people that I’m a teacher and I live in Calabria. Actually, neither is true. I’m currently an unemployed vagrant of no fixed abode. It’s just easier to say I live *somewhere*. (Also, it gets a brilliant reaction from everyone. ‘You’re English and you live in CALABRIA? WTF?!’) The point is, however (yeah, there is a point here *somewhere*), that we define ourselves by what is important to us. That’s not necessarily how others would define us – but I’d rather decide for myself what I am (or am not).

    ps my favourite song from Grease 2 was Reproduction – make my stamens go berserk? I mean, how brilliant is that lyric?
    Katja recently posted..Fishing for peaches

  26. On August 29, 2011 at 7:27 am choi kum fook said:

    Y ou are a great writer, as i have mentioned last post, Miss Sally! I fully support you! Please keep on writing————————-until—————–brain———!!??

  27. On August 29, 2011 at 11:21 am Jess said:

    My only foray into the cool kids club was in a club we had when I was about 11. The only thing I can remember about it is that we all had stupid ‘cool’ names. Mine was Flava. After the Peter Andre song. Seriously. Please don’t lose respect for me. I actually didn’t even know the song (still don’t! Perhaps why my foray was rather short lived?), but, you know, the cool kids did so it had to be cool right? Right??? One of other cool kids was called Mary-Jo Beth and there were probably about a dozen of us and we all put on really bad American accents (I’m Australian) because obviously that made us even cooler…

    Oh god, now I’m thinking of this I’m having flash backs, I was also in a club that pretended to be each of the characters in Now and Then if you’ve ever seen that movie? Although, that was really limited to four of us because there were only four characters in the movie so it wasn’t a cool kids thing sadly. Even then I was the most uncool character. Sigh.

    As for the whole what constitutes a ‘proper’ travel blog, I’ve read a couple of posts on the ‘right’ way to blog in the past and they’ve really irked me. Blogs mean different things to different people. If you like what you’re reading does it matter what it’s called?

    • On August 30, 2011 at 5:22 am Sally said:

      Omigod. This is hilarious. I had no idea having a really bad American accent made you cool in Australia. I really think I need to go back to Australia. And I need to Google search Flava. (I also don’t know what that means. Again, I really wasn’t cut out to be a cool kid like at all.)

  28. On August 29, 2011 at 5:50 pm Miss K said:

    I don’t understand why people feel the need to police others, especially strangers on the internet. I think it must come from a place of insecurity. Why would you feel the need to define who the “real” travel writers are unless having a certain kind of validation from others is more important to you than it should be.

    I just try to keep on doing what I’m doing and not worry about what strangers think of me. It’s hard but it takes a big load off of my mind. Your story about the “cool kids’ club” is very funny but some people can’t seem to move past that age.
    Miss K recently posted..In Which I Trick You Into Thinking I Am Bad At Math

    • On August 30, 2011 at 5:19 am Sally said:

      In some ways I get it. If you spend a lot of time doing something (especially if you are making your livelihood off of it), you want people to take what you’re doing seriously. You don’t want people to shrug it off as some “silly Internet thing.” So you make up rules and restrictions and write authoritative posts on the subject and have conferences and Facebook groups and all other kinds of stuff. In many ways this is a good thing — it pushes people to be more professional, it provides networking opportunities, it helps you learn from other people. But, at the same time, this can be very restrictive and intimidating for those who are just starting out. Plus, I think one of the great things about the Internet and blogging is that it is so fluid and changeable and open to everyone unlike traditional media. And because of this openness, a lot of top travel bloggers have managed to find success whereas maybe they wouldn’t have found success in the restrictive world of traditional media. So it’s all kind of ironic that the very same people who were allowed to flourish because of the open nature of the Internet, are, in turn, setting up restrictions to keep others out.

  29. On August 30, 2011 at 2:19 am Fiona at Life on Nanchang Lu said:

    Sally, now I’m having flashbacks of fourth grade. Your blog is like one big birthday party…..but I always arrive late, the cool kids have already eaten all the marshmallows, and I have brought the crappest gift.

    So I’ll just say….right on the tail end of 62 more writerly people than myself…….I agree. With everyone. Especially with you.

    • On August 30, 2011 at 5:07 am Sally said:

      Fiona,
      Aww, Fiona, not to worry. We saved you some marshmallows! (But just the mini ones. Look, you show up late and you’re going to have to take what you’re given, okay?) You realize that out of those 62 comments, half of them have been left by myself, right? So this is like the big birthday party where half of the attendants are my clones (which, frankly, would be both awesome and scary — awesome because I would totally know what to buy myself and scary because, well, we really don’t need 30 more of me around). So it’s a good thing you agree with us, as we obviously outnumber you. :)

  30. On August 31, 2011 at 12:59 pm Heather said:

    Like you, I love the friendships I have developed through blogging, especially in the travel blogging world. While I’ve never been included in secret clubs, on lists of people to watch, and the like, I sometimes compare myself to other people and feel behind or left out. Then I remind myself of my personal goals and try to shake it.

    Want to form some kind of secret club? It can include Bachelor Pad watching, baked goods eating, and a few other things I can’t share because it would give it away to everyone here!!!!! ;-)

    • On September 2, 2011 at 3:28 am Sally said:

      Heather, I thought we already were in a secret club! We just have to pick our code names (taken from the cast of characters on the Bachelor Pad). You get first pick. :)

  31. On September 2, 2011 at 2:43 pm Heather said:

    Let me have a think and send you a top secret DM on Twitter later ;-)

    Btw, was looking through some of my “favorites” on Twitter this morning and found this gem from ONE YEAR AGO:
    In response to a blog post in which I shared I cried my eyes out at LAX on the way to Oz, you said, “We should form a club: Association of Airport Bathroom Stall Criers. I am sure there are more of us out there.”
    Heather recently posted..London: Friends are worth traveling for

  32. On September 5, 2011 at 8:52 am James in Phnom Penh said:

    Wait. A pagoda with an escalator? You’ve gotta LOVE those Chinese. Now if the Nepalese and Cambodians would just get in on the act… (Confession: When I went to Swayambhunath in Nepal, I had the taxi driver take me all the way up to the top and guilty slinked in by the back entrance where there are only like 15 steps to climb (vs. the more traditional 365 steps). Sigh.

  33. On September 8, 2011 at 12:09 pm Ceri said:

    Oh, hun, I hate those articles that try and define what a blogger is. I’m sorry but my whole thing is, if you have a blog and write on it, you’re a blogger – whether you have one hit per day or a thousand.

    And, to be honest, as far as ‘travel blogs’ go, I find myself much preferring the low-key blogs rather than the ones with 45048387458 hits per second, adverts from here to the moon, and more guest posts and sponsored posts than actual original writing from the owner.

    I don’t define my blog as any specific type … When I first started blogging it was because I worked as a freelance writer and needed a place to link all my articles and reviews and, occasionally, write pieces about things I was passionate about. I gave up my job as a freelance writer about a year ago and now all I can think about is TEFL and exploring the world … and that’s what I like to write about mostly. But I’m not going to confine myself to that one category because, occasionally, I also like to write about politics, films, books, music and all things that ignite my passion and inspire me. :)

    What was my point?

    I don’t remember.

    Anyway, ignore all the silly crap about what constitutes a travel blog, hun. You’re one of my absolute favourites because you’re hilarious and interesting and so much fun and I love your 2000 word posts about your couch. :D
    Ceri recently posted..The So-Called ‘Gap Year’

  34. On September 22, 2011 at 4:42 am Barbara - The Dropout Diaries said:

    I have a confession to make. Two, actually.
    First. I’m a writer. I write stuff for work and I write stuff for my own personal enjoyment. And I write stuff for my blog, which may or may not make money in the future, but it will never make enough to support my family.
    Now here’s the biggie — I was in a secret club when I was at school too. Our secret club was also inspired by Grease 2. We were in seventh grade, there were no nuns and secret clubs were allowed. Our secret club was called The Pink Ladies. (There was a group of cool boys in our class who also had a secret club called the T-Birds.)
    And, erm, I now have a hot guy who rides a motorbike. And, erm, I sometimes sing Love Will Turn Back The Hands Of Time to our baby, because I’m crap at remembering the words to songs but somehow remember the words to that song.
    Oooohhh.. I feel a bit weird after confessing all that.
    Keep the fantastic long blog posts coming, Sally!
    Barbara – The Dropout Diaries recently posted..Singapore’s Pay-What-You-Want Restaurant

    • On September 25, 2011 at 1:00 pm Sally said:

      Whoa. You had a secret club inspired by Grease 2, too? I think I need to come find you when you’re in Chiang Mai & we can form our own secret club of people who used to be in secret clubs inspired by the secret clubs of Grease 2. :)

  35. On September 24, 2011 at 5:42 pm Dayle Fraschilla said:

    I recently had a debate with someone about writers vs. bloggers vs. professional bloggers vs. professional writers . . . blah blah blah blah!

    I think my blogs are a more accurate depiction of my writing than the stuff I actually get paid to write!

    You’re a writer . . . and you have right to call yourself a writer and all of those out there who want to squeeze writers into neat and tidy boxes are not the kind of writers I want to pay any attention to! (They’re also the same one who will probably condemn me for my dangling preposition – pisha! to them!)

    I do have to add my two cents on jelly sandals . . . When I was about 7 years old, I went fishing with my mom and step-dad. I was, of course, wearing jellies. I started to dance . . .on the wet rocks. And my mom said, “Dayle, don’t dance on wet rocks with jellies on. You’re going to fall.” and I said, “NO, I’M NOT!” and I continued to dance . . .The next thing I remember was being carried to the ER :P
    Dayle Fraschilla recently posted..Celebrate Bisexuality

    • On September 25, 2011 at 1:08 pm Sally said:

      Dayle, thanks so much for your comment. That’s such a sad story about jelly sandals. So… were you able to bring yourself to wear them again or were you completely traumatized for life? I probably would have been totally traumatized. (But I have a tendency to traumatize easily.)

  36. On October 16, 2011 at 9:30 am Chrissy Albice said:

    You are very clever and a great writer! Just getting my blog off the ground. I love to see what others are doing. Very inspiring. Keep up the great posts!
    Chrissy Albice recently posted..Foodie Heaven- Greek Tyropita

  37. On December 29, 2011 at 12:26 am jan said:

    I love your oh so funny writings (you are a writer aren’t you?) !!!
    jan recently posted..CHRISTMAS IS FOR REMINISCING

  38. On February 5, 2014 at 2:17 pm Lis said:

    Just discovered your site today and this post was like a little dose of therapy – minus the uncomfortable couch and someone asking me how I feel. ;) But I’ll tell you: I feel better! I’ve only been writing for about two years, and I’ve only been blogging for about a year, and I often get responses that make me feel like I’m not included in the Cool Kids That Are Super Successful Bloggers Club. But I do write – daily. And I want to keep writing. And I feel like a writer because I’m compelled to write. So who says the cool kids get to validate me? I’ll validate myself! Ha! Thanks for this post!!!
    Lis recently posted..Good News

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