Interim

I have exams this week and all, but I still find the time to go blogging, researching what to blog, and to generally faas inna peepl bizniz. I’m kinda happy with what I found, and I better be since I’m using much-needed study time to go frolicking through the interwebs.

Jamaica Writes
We’ll kick start with Jamaica Writes.com. Where has this blog been all my life? A website where writers and photographers embark on a writing/photography challenge? This. Is. Totally. Awesome. The latest challenge has been 62 words attached to a photograph, and the posts have been overwhelmingly good.

Moore Talk JA
And then there’s Carla Moore’s blog which is kind of a companion to her vlog on Youtube, and her social commentary is totally awesome. As a Jamaica living in Canada, her blog has a distinct yardie feel to it, and then half her posts are done in Creole which makes it even better.

Veritas
And rounding out the awesomeness is the winner of several awards last year at the JA Blog Awards, Veritas aka Mr. Editor. This man’s blog gets crazy traffic, and he too is into the social commentary thing. And I am probably being weird about this, but ohmygoodness he reminds me of myself:

Male. Jamaican. Student. I have an avid interest in Politics, Literature and Art. I’m often controversial, and rarely apologetic. I say the uncomfortable things and challenge the established thinking.

Robyn. 19. Jamaican.
med student.
avid reader. ardent writer. hapless dancer. spiritual seeker.
scientific. logical. creative.
sarcastic. polite. reserved. curious.

You see it too, right?

Ahem.

Silliness aside, I encourage anyone who’s reading my blog to check these guys out. I love finding fellow Jamaican bloggers, because it reminds me that I’m not alone. And that this idea to blog isn’t totally insane because there are Jamaicans out there who get it.

Shout out to JA Blog Awards (even though their website is sorta defunct right now) and all Jamaican bloggers, no matter where in the world you’re blogging from.

Pax.

Year in review

I have been blogging for about a year now, and I think it’s been pretty good so far. I’ve made friends and found a ‘niche’ among the bloggers of WordPress. I have yet to be Freshly Pressed, haha, but this blog is only a year old, so I suppose there’s hope for me yet.

I’ve learnt a lot about blogging (and myself) in the meantime, and I’m glad I have this outlet and this opportunity for growth and discovery. And I think this blog is a good chart of my progress as a writer: from the content-desperate posts to the short and sometimes witty pieces.

Blogging is a challenge in writing: to find content that people will care about enough to read, and to write consistently well (or at the very least not badly). I’ve found that’s it not so much about the number of hits you get on a post as the personal satisfaction of knowing you gave it your best shot.

So I’m happy with the 25 or so hits I get every other week; I’m happy with my one-or-two commenters and the three or four bloggers who like my posts. Because it means my writing is out there and being read. Which is all I can ask for, really.

Pax.

Blogging advice from my swim coach

My swimming instructor likes to say that he’s not teaching us to swim from one point to another – that’s just being able to handle ourselves in the water. He is teaching us to swim for long distances, over lengthy periods – that’s real swimming.

Part of doing that is establishing a breathing pattern. It doesn’t do you any good to hold your breath until you absolutely need air right now because you starve your muscles that way and get tired faster. Also, air is kind of important to the whole staying afloat process. So you breathe regularly, every four strokes or so.

I figure the same tip holds true for a blog. If you can establish a regular pattern and stick with it, you’re less likely to flounder around so much. Posting once a day or once a week gives you a regularity that you can play around with: every third week is about the colour red, Mondays are about feminism and so on. It makes blogging seem less like work and more like something to look forward to.

(You could just wait until you had something ‘post-worthy’ but readers prefer blogs with some kind of regular schedule.)

Pax.

They make blogging look hard

Pictured here: irony

We’ve all seen them, had to slog through them, maybe even written one or two (I know I have). The Long Blog Entry. Cue the shrieks of horror. But seriously, why do people write them? And do people even read them?

I used to think that long entries were a requirement for serious bloggers (and who knows, maybe they are). And I used to really go on about a topic, dredging the depths of my imagination and stretching a point of interest until it wore thin. I didn’t realize it, but this was one of the things that would discourage me from blogging. The mental effort needed to say one thing 50 different times was just exhausting.

As for reading them, sometimes those super long entries are really grabbing, witty pieces that just keep you glued to the screen. Most times they’re not. And the dreaded tl;dr is a staple for today’s denizens of the internet, to whom reading anything longer than a tagline is anathema. Unless you’re a fellow geek geeking out over something really geeky, the aim is to pretend you’re writing for first graders. Or goldfish.

The conclusion? Keep it short and simple (spicy, if you can). It’s more fun for you and your readers.

Pax.

{24} Project 52 – what the hell is it, and why am I doing this again?

Project 52 was born out of an insane desire to actually make regular blog updates. (Who does that? I don’t know a single person who does that in real life). And like the special cookie I am, I decided that the challenge would be worth a shot. The second purpose behind P52 was to improve my writing skills through the diligence and dedication of consistent updates.

So far?

Near total failure.

Instead of motivating me to write, I’m shirking my duties because the looming deadline is counterproductive to my creative juices. And instead of forcing me to dish out high-calibre work weekly, it’s making me serve crappy, low-quality writing that I wouldn’t even want to read in a tabloid magazine. Project 52 would pretty much be considered a wasted effort, except – what was it Edison said? – I may have failed a thousand times before learning the right way to maintain a blog, but I learned one thousand ways not to maintain one.

Which is basically a ridiculously circuitous way of saying that I learned more from trying and failing and trying and half-assing than I would have from just doing nothing. The mere fact that I pushed myself to get an update out every week – the mind-numbing searches for content, the depressing site statistics, the rare and priceless feedback – has given me so many lessons. What’s that oft used expression?

Experience keeps a dear school, but fools will learn in no other.

I’m nobody’s fool (for very long anyway), but there are some things you have to learn the hard way, and blogging is one of them. For me, at least.

So I’m not quite ready to give up on P52 just yet. Here’s to entry #25 and 27 more weeks of trying to get it right.

{23} Rules of Blogging III – Networking

I’m going to need to do a bit of technical manoeuvring to get these dates in order. I hate missing posts.

When is xkcd not appropriate?

The long-term benefits of networking have been proven by sociologists, whereas the rest of my advice has no basis other than my own meandering experience.

There’s no way a blog or blogger can exist in a void. No man is an island, and even without thinking about it or meaning to, everything we say and do impacts someone else. That’s even more true for bloggers, whose sole purpose is to put things out there to reach people. That means reaching readers (hard enough) and reaching other bloggers.

I think the trick to it is not considering the other bloggers as competition. Y’know, it’s not like BK and Mickey D’s in the Blogosphere. Unlike large chain fast food restaurants, we small fries kind of need each other to survive. And wasn’t the whole reason for blogging to make friends anyway?

Maybe not.

The point remains that most of us are small fish in a huge pond, and working together is really only in our best interests. Know a blogger? Help them out. Remind them to post, often. Talk to them about their ideas. It’ll make both of you feel better.

Pax.

Rules of Blogging II: Do Your Homework

A few weeks ago I posted some advice on how to write a blog based on my own experiences. I’m toying with the idea of doing a series. Since there are already so many blogging how-to’s already available on the internet, I figure one more voice can only help the cacophony.

As it turns out, doing research before writing a blog post isn’t nearly as critical as I’d thought. How did I figure that out? Through research. Irony is one of life’s simpler pleasures. Having a blog that is thoughtful and well-written depends on a lot more than just getting the facts straight; it almost seems to be tacitly understood that research is key. So tacit, in fact, that not one of the three sites I visited last night stressed knowing what you’re talking about.

At the same time, though, I know I picked up tons of useful tips just from doing a simple Google search. It’s a small thing, but a well-researched blog – far from making you sound pedantic and stuffy – will actually make your posts sound more informed and therefore more reliable. Maybe even fun.

Instead of:

Cats used to be gods in ancient times.

You could get:

Cats used to be worshipped in Ancient Egypt and the cat-goddess, Bast, was a sort of precursor to the modern day sex kitten.

But make sure you don’t cross the line from interesting tidbit to tl;dr land, or you’ll remind your reader of that teacher from Ferris Bueller. It’s all about balance. And it comes with practice. Don’t just stick to background research on your topic either; be ready to do a quick check to see if you’re using ‘obsequious’ in the right context, or if Emancipation is celebrated on the same day everywhere (incidentally, this year it will be). A little homework makes a huge difference.

My advice? Go for the Google. At worst, you’ll come across as someone willing to learn; at best, your readers will be impressed enough to keep coming back for more.

-ras

For the fun of it:

{11} Rules of Blogging – A Blog is NOT a Journal

When I’m looking for something to write about for Project 52, I tend to pick topics that are of special interest to me, regardless of how uninteresting they might be to other people. They always tell you to write what you know, but sometimes you have to get out of that little box inside your head and write about the things people – not just you – want to read about.

Which leads me to: Rules of Blogging: Things I Figured Out Along the Way

Rule #1: A blog is not a journal.

Venting your ire about what happened with that crazy b** at work is perfectly fine (and even recommended) for your piece of mind, but it isn’t really necessary to splash your dirty laundry all over the internet. Similarly, it’s fabulous that your boyfriend is the sweetest, most amazing guy in the whole world, but contrary to what you feel, the world is pretty ambivalent to unasked-for declarations of affection.

The rule is simple. If you want people to read your blog, you have to blog about things people want to read. It’s a common sense truth, but it’s taken me a little while to figure it out. Hopefully I can spare someone else the mental meandearing.