Renewing my Vow

I logged in to WordPress today with the weight a month’s worth of guilt about not posting resting uncomfortably on my shoulders to find the cheerful reminder that today is my seven year anniversary with WordPress.com.

Waaaay back in 2011 I was halfway through my first year of medical school. I wanted to transition from personal blogging on Livejournal to public blogging on WordPress. I started wellreadrobin with the hopes of posting regularly about everyday life and sharing my story for others to see. This was my very first post.

Seven years later, have I accomplished that?

My posting habits are best described as infrequent, worst described as irregular and uncommitted. Blogging as a form of writing is a form of creative expression for me, providing an outlet for energies that swirl around ceaselessly in my mind. I’ve been dabbling in other types of writing – journaling is one example – but I always circle back to blogging as a gateway to writing stories. If I can commit to writing true stories here on the blog then one day I’ll be able to write real fiction. At least, that’s the story I tell myself.

So for the umpteenth time, I’m renewing my vow to myself, the same vow that birthed Project 52 (an ill-fated attempt to share one blog post a week for 52 weeks).

It’s only 52 weeks. Only 52 essays or stories or random, coherent streams of thought. (Is there an innate oxymoron lurking somewhere in that last line?).  Only 52 attempts at something that has eluded me for far too long, something I should be good at, would be good at if I dedicated time to doing it properly. 52 ways I want to improve. 52 things I want to share with the world. 52 times my better judgment failed me (or impressed me). 52. Fifty-two. That’s all I’m asking.

-Well Read Robin c.2011

The promise is to blog with consistency and a reasonable amount of frequency. Once weekly, no pressure. Just to see if I can do it. Lord knows I’ve got more than enough things to say.

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Engage Me. Engage, Me.

It is a truth universally acknowledged that human beings love interaction. It’s one of those inescapable facts of life, like me quoting Jane Austen. We like interaction in all its forms: good publicity, bad publicity, likes on Facebook, retweets on Twitter, and comments on WordPress

Yes, comments on WordPress. Nothing feeds a blogger’s greedy little soul (and writers are always greedy for recognition) more than having people respond (thoughtfully, cleverly, desperately) to what they write. And in this age of instant gratification, no one is sitting at home waiting for fan mail. So it’s disheartening to write something that goes unnoticed and unremarked upon. It simply means that as a writer you’re . . . unremarkable. But this is not to be borne!

The internet is teeming with advice on how to write more engaging blog content. 16.1 million articles, to be precise. It’s a bit overwhelming, to say the least. And I can’t quite convince myself that it’s not all one big scam.

‘Listen to me,’ they’re all shouting ‘I’ve got the best advice on the web’. Maybe they do, they’re all saying the same thing. Do search engine optimization, host polls, ask questions, be witty, have great titles. All good advice. And yet a niggling feeling in the bottom of the stomach at the back of my head (there is in fact a stomach at the back of my head; it’s what digests the words) leaves me skeptical.

And the simple reason is this: all the bloggers I love to read don’t look like they’re following any of this advice.

I don’t read many (any) professional blogs; they’re all little bits and pieces of some suburban housewife/working mother’s life (yes, my demographic confuses me). I don’t see my suburban demographic carefully selecting their titles to pull in more readers, or liberally sprinkling keywords throughout their writing or even asking questions most of the time. Or maybe they do and make it look so effortless it’s unnoticeable.

Mostly what they do is write interesting, funny, or heartwarming stories about their lives. Or share pictures of Paris or their cats. Or talk about their insight into a particular issue that wandered across their mind some idle Tuesday morning. But it’s usually written in a way that makes it seem like such important content, content that I need to keep reading because I’m consumed by a desire to know about them and their lives and what makes them tick and how is it different from what makes me tick and how can I apply the principles they’ve figured out to my own life?

I want to mirror their methods, but I’m concerned about talking about myself too much on the internet, or I don’t have enough stories or this isn’t even really a personal blog – I only started it just because.

And my answer is this. You are interesting enough. Your life in Jamaica is just as interesting as their lives in Texas and Washington and South Africa. Your passions are not their passions but you have your own passions that people will love hearing about. You do things and you think about things and yes, you’re afraid of sharing most of the things you do and think about but 2015 is the year to beat that. It’s the year to do like Hemingway: sit down at a typewriter and bleed.

If brevity is the soul of wit, does that mean short people are really clever?

Hello, friends. Today I come bearing gifts. Mostly gifts to myself. But sharing is caring?

My blog turned three years old on Friday May 2.

Yay.
Yay.

For me, it is still Friday May 2 because I’m still awake at one in the morning on Saturday May 3. At my ripe age of 22 I am too old to keep these hours. It’s taken me almost every day of those three years to finally figure out the purpose of Well Read Robin, which is vastly different now from what it started out as.

I started with Project 52, a misguided plan to write once a week for an entire year that crashed and burned fairly quickly. My content was all over the place, I had no unifying theme and every time I sat down to write I’d draw a blank because I just couldn’t figure out what I needed to say.

I’m happy to tell you that I have finally found that purpose, which I think aligns well with the name of my blog (big plus). As my default, go-to question whenever I am stumped on the content of a post I will ask myself “What did I last read?” and then talk about that. Not review style (not always) just talking about how it made me feel and my response to whatever it was. Of course, there will still be posts about life here at UWI Mona because I think the world needs to hear about that too.

I wrote a thing.

Bookophilia’s marketing manager (I do not stalk these people, I swear) has a blog and he started a writing competition which I have entered. My short story can be found here – Mind Manifesting – and I’m somewhat proud of it. So if you can, please go over there and comment so I can feel all warm and squishy inside. You guys are good at giving me warm squishy feelings.

That’s all for now, but stick around to check out my post later today on surviving 4th year.

Housekeeping (and an apology)

I missed posting anything last week, which I feel guilty about. I’d like this place to have a kind of regularity, like a bar. Except less seedy. But if you’ve been reading my friend Tricia’s new blog then trust me, you would have gained way more than you missed out here. Go check her out.

My computer has been having issues, probably due to me having put the fancy new Windows 8 OS on a considerably old model. Imagine your grandmother in fishnet stockings. It’s not quite so accurate an analogy but you’ve now been scarred for life. You’re welcome. K suggested I try Linux’s Ubuntu which is what I’m going to do. I’ll let you know how that works out. So far I haven’t pulled my hair out, but I’ve had a few close calls.

Image not my own.

I am stuck with my idea for the JCDC creative writing competition. I have two vague ideas that I don’t trust myself to do justice to, even though anyone else could probably run with them straight into an honorary mention, at least. The dealine is April 30 so I need to get a move on.

What’s holding me back is my problem with writing Jamaican. It is such unfamiliar territory for me, and I’m always afraid of being called out as a fraud. It sounds silly but I get that all the time just by living here and being myself. I’m afraid the minute I put pen to paper about any of it people will dismiss it and me as pseudo-Jamaican Americanized rubbish.

Image not my own.
LIAR.

I am a week away from starting my fifth and final year of medical school. The general response I get from people about that is “Congratulations!”, “One more year!” “Excited?” and so on. No, I’m not excited. Yes, there is one year left (and a half!) and I am batting away terror over the whole business. I am not ready to wander off into the world and be partially (minimally) responsible for people’s lives.

This is not a thrilling prospect (maybe in the sense that movies like Scream and I Know What You Did Last Summer are thrilling). Fifth year is a whole new kettle of fish as it pertains to grades. I’ve heard our clerkship exams are actually harder than final MBBS (on purpose) and if you fail any of them you can’t graduate. Yeah. I’m totally excited about that.

Image not my own.

This will probably mean less time for blogging. But I’m going to try and keep up with things here. Or not. We’ll see how it goes.

Speaking about blogging, there’s going to be a shift in focus for Well Read Robin because I have a fancy new theme. Mainly, I’ll be discussing things I’ve read – newspaper articles, books, magazines (yeah right, I haven’t read a magazine in years) etc. I will still have the occasional “This is My Life Now” post and tidbits of writing here and there, but those will be bookends and bookmarks for the Real Stuff.

Thank you for reading thus far and I hope you continue to enjoy WRR!

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Pax.

That sound you hear is my followers count rolling into the triple digits.

Tomorrow and Friday I have the worst exams of fourth year (Pathology aka The Balls Buster – they used to use this exam to kick people out of medical school. Now we just do a bunch of resits. Not that I intend to resit this exam though given the fact that I’m writing this instead of studying who knows?).

But to take the stress off, I am celebrating my 100th follower. Not the actual follower himself, see, just the number 100. It’s so nice and round (but still pointy!) and triple digited. And I always said that if I ever got to 100, I’d make a nice celebratory post. So here it is.

This kitten is too excited for words. Or maybe having a petit mal. I have no real life experience with kittens.

You’re welcome.

Thank you.

Comparisons and Confidence

This post brought to you by Procrastinating on my Surgery Case Notes.

Catching up on the blogs I’ve been ignoring has left me with deep-seated feelings of insecurity. Why can’t I write as well as she does? is the question that flies around my head, torturing me and then infecting the wounds. How come I’m not as popular as she is? As interesting as she is? Why am I not good enough? 

I whine a lot, yes. But this is only one facet of my insecurities. I feel this way about pretty much every aspect of my life – school, dance, you name it. I always feel less than adequate. The only difference is that I keep on pushing with those things. With writing and blogging, it’s entirely too easy for me to cover my head with a blanket and stay in the left lateral position until I don’t feel so bad any more. I don’t work through the insecurity. And I should.

If I run away every time I’m confronted with a problem, or with something I don’t feel strong enough to take on, then I’ll never become strong enough to do it. Or good enough. Or ever feel like I’m good enough. I tell myself to fake confidence until I have it, and so far it has been working.

(Seriously, people keep telling me how confident they think I am and I’m just like ME? The girl who used to hide in the bathroom and cry all the time? The girl who used to make lists of her imperfections?).

I can’t continue to get discouraged every time I read a blog that makes me laugh/cry/think. Because as much as these writers are all super-talented and were probably born that way, they also have way more experience than I do, both in terms of age and occupation. So I may not find myself clever enough or interesting enough at this stage, but maybe in the next decade or so people will be thinking that I am super-talented and was probably born that way.

Right?

One Love: Jamaican Blogger Tag

You guys. Oh your God, you guys. I have been tagged in my first ever blogger tag (which is a lot that that primary school game of tag except EVERYONE WANTS TO BE IT).

It started here at JaBajaNas (who I don’t know personally but who clearly is awesome for even coming up with something like this) and I was tagged by Shelley of Sweet and Sour Ramblings.

The Rules: 

  • Title your post “One Love: Jamaican Blogger Tag”
  •  Link back to the blogger who tagged you ( you may add a brief definition of what a tag is for the benefit of your readers)
  •  Copy and paste the rules at the beginning of your tag.
  •  Copy and paste the questions as well so readers know what’s going on.
  •  Answer the questions (No duh!)
  •  Tag seven other (untagged) Jamaican bloggers to continue the trend. Kinda forces you to make friends, no?
The Questions
  1. Why did you give your blog its name? (If it is named directly after you, try and make your answer interesting. eg: Did you feel nervous at all about putting your name out there? Did you just lack creativity at the time?)
  2. Why did you start blogging and why do you blog now?
  3. Do you think being Jamaican influences your blogging style?
  4. What do you think about the increase in bloggers in Jamaica?
  5. What is your favourite thing about being Jamaican?
  6. Ackee and saltfish or “ (mackerel) run down”?
  7. Stew peas or stew chicken?
  8. Tastee Patties, Juici Beef Patties or Mother’s?
  9. Pantucky or KFC?
  10. What do you hope to be the future of blogging in Jamaica?

My Answers:

1. Why did I give my blog its name?
Secret: I have been wanting to be asked this question for quite some time now. I have always loved reading, but I’ve only recently begun to appreciate my given name. I think my name makes a unique statement about me, and the associations with my eponymous avian counterpart are fun to consider. The “Well Read” in Well Read Robin functions as both an adjective and a commendation, by the way.

2. Why did I start blogging and why do I blog now?
I started blogging in 2007 because my friend was doing it. Seriously. And then she stopped and I continued avidly, mostly because of fanfiction and fandom (that’s my Livejournal here). Then I met WordPress, which looked like rl srs bznz y’all, and now I blog because I want to get better at writing and telling stories.

3. Do I think being jamaican influences my blogging style?
No, with a caveat. My blogging style is basically my writing style which is heavily (and almost exclusively) influenced by European authors and one American blogger in particular. However, there is a likkle-but-tallawah Jamaican voice inside me that comes out at odd times. The reason I stay away from Jamaican-isms on this blog is that I feel like I never get the flow quite right.

4. What do I think about the increase in bloggers in Jamaica?
I think there need to be more Montegonian bloggers! But that’s my bias talking. I think the surge of Jamaican bloggers is great, but there needs to be more decentralization of the demographic. Most Jamaican bloggers are either from Kingston or living in Kingston and blog with a Kingstonian mindset which is not so far removed from the larger Western mindset. I want to see a blog by a Jamaican from rural St. Catherine who can talk with equal poise about her life in the country as well as the latest Kesha song.

5. What is my favourite thing about being Jamaican?
Being able to call this country home. Jamaica is one of the prettiest places ever and our country has such a rich history that I’m so absolutely proud to be part of this heritage.

6. Ackee and saltfish or mackerel rundown?
For the non-Jamaicans reading this: this is what ackee and saltfish looks like and this is mackerel rundown. When it’s made properly, with coconut milk and yumminess, mackerel rundown wins hands down.

7. Stew peas or stew chicken?
So again: this is stew peas and this is stew chicken. I have a strong dislike for stew chicken, simply because most people prepare it with a lot of bone and very little chicken. Plus stew peas usually goes with pork or oxtail or some other such delicacy so it’s delicious.

8. Tastee Patties, Juicy Patties (because that is the name of the company) or Mother’s?
Mother’s is actually a Kingstonian thing, so I never really had it until I moved here. And then I had a phase where I thought I preferred Tastee to Juicy, but I was really just mixing both of them up.

9. Pantucky or KFC?
Pantucky = jerked chicken made in half of a drum by a man on the side of the road.

Real drum pan chicken made by a real drum pan man.

I have never actually seen a female drum pan man. Strange. Pantucky, because they are always around when you’re really desperate for food, so it invariably tastes really good.

10. What do I hope to be the future of blogging in Jamaica?
I hope blogs get more readers as time goes by. Jamaican bloggers are already getting recognized by TV personalities, so I want to see blogging get more attention from the average guy on the street. I want blogging to be a part of the literary revolution that Jamaicans need; I want people to want to read, and I feel like blogs are ideally placed to make that happen.

The Tags: 
I barely know three Jamaican bloggers, let alone seven!

  • GavRo of Doctor Gargamel (who is kind of like a student Dr. House)
  • Ken of Mr. Multilingual (who is all kinds of linguistically brilliant)
  • Farah Colette of farah colette (who lived my alternate life and survived to tell the tale)

And in keeping with the spirit of “hey let’s make friends with this game”, here are three bloggers hand-picked from the JA Blog Awards nominees and one past winner, none of whom have any idea who I am:

  • Kimi Small of TheSmallGirl (who sounds like someone I’d want to be when I grow up)
  • Charissa from DANCE Jamaica (because I never thought I’d find a blog about dance in Jamaica and it is awesome)
  • Lecia-Gaye (and her hubby by extension) over at JustHitchedNowWhat (who sound like pretty interesting folks)
  • Sean of From a Boy to a Man (whose blog I was first introduced to last year; his Tumblr always has interesting/humourous musings)

*ETA: So JustHitchedNowWhat has already been tagged. Mea culpa. But I am stubbornly not going to remove her (simply because I have no one else to replace her with).