On June 26th I granted a radio interview through WTER Radio with Janet Garraty, the owner and creator of Go Jane News and Write It Like You Mean It. We discussed the ins and out of blogging, from setting realistic goals and deadlines to enlisting trusted friends to give honest content and editing input. But I also wanted to give aspiring writers permission to grab inspiration from where they find it and follow that passion where it leads them, and ultimately to remember that writing should be fun, right!?! Below are responses I wrote in preparation of the interview (although we did stray from this script). The whole process got me thinking about what I write, why I write, and how vital you, my reader, is, to the joy I experience as Nine Cent Girl.
Where did you come up with the name for your blog?
Interesting story! I did have a list of half a dozen names, but they were all taken in the .com realm. My spouse suggested we browse through our library, look over book titles and see if any spur the imagination. After scanning the shelves, she pulled a collection of turn of the century short stories and opened to a fascinating story about the nine cent girls, shop girls; something about the title struck me as just right. I knew in an instant Nine Cent Girl captured everything that I wanted to express.
You have been blogging for years. How did you set up your long-term commitment to it? How have you been able to stay with it and continue to find inspiration?
Early on set a realistic plan for your writing. If you have a full time job and/or are raising small children, being able to write daily might not be possible. For me it isn’t, so I set a goal of posting weekly. If you look back over my blog posts, you will notice there are a few times when I missed a week, but overall set a goal and do what it takes to stick with it. Once you get into a rhythm of posting weekly, it will become routine, and you will not want to miss a date. You may have followers, readers who encourage you, who love what you write, but bottom line, you need to write for yourself. You need to write out of an internal need. That’s what will keep you reaching for pen and paper, sorting through research or pondering your own view, until you can state it just right.
What platform do you use to publish your blog?
There are several different platforms that make blogging quite easy. I began with a quick blog template on Go Daddy, but after a year I switched to a WordPress template. This past fall I updated the look of my blog, but decided to stay within WordPress because of their user-friendly format and the network of other WordPress bloggers that you are instantly connected to. I love how easy it is to follow another blogger, or like a post, or leave a comment. No matter which platform you use, make sure it is searchable, and provides an easy avenue for readers to respond to you.
I have known bloggers who after time migrate to a full-blown website. This may be appropriate if you have something to sell or have multiple pages; but a simple blog allows you to create a strong platform to start on, and even for me, after 5 years, this format is perfect.
As soon as I click publish on a Thursday night, I am thinking ahead to next week’s blog. When I first started I knew I didn’t want to post a daily blog, that I wanted to allow myself time to let an idea percolate and develop. Like most writers I have paper and pen nearby, although if I’m driving I dictate ideas on my iPhone. I try to never let an idea go by without capturing it. I’m fairly certain that ideas are always floating around and all we need to do is take the time to capture them. Sometimes the idea is to do a seasonal photo shoot, so I put together a few summer outfits and arrange with my photographer to join me by a lake. Or perhaps something in the media might strike me as interesting, like when “The Wolf of Wall Street” hit the theaters. I stumbled out of that film and started digging. I was incensed by the comic characterization of Jordon Belfort, a man who destroyed countless people and despite being ordered to repay $110.4 million to a victim compensation fund still hasn’t. Scorsese not only made a bad film, he made a poor film. I had to write about that. The soda aisle was another reactionary post. I want to see that entire aisle removed from our super markets and convenience stores. I am very concerned with the Food Deserts and Food Swamps plaguing our country. “Food deserts are rural or urban areas where access to foods like broccoli, apples, chicken breasts, and other fresh nutritious products is limited and finding these foods is difficult and time consuming… The abundance of convenience stores, fast food restaurants, and junk food may make the term food swamp more appropriate for some of these areas. Additionally, people living in low-income communities are subjected to more advertising of junk and fast foods as compared to more affluent neighborhoods.” (Blumenthal, M.D.) This is a topic I hope to research and write about this summer.
As an English teacher are there any rules that are okay to skirt in blogging?
For sure. You can impose a more informal tone in a blog. You can use photos to convey mood. You can make your own rules on acceptable language. Although I’m not a fan of dropping the f word, I have once or twice through the years. But it’s deliberated, and deliberate.
And what are others that you should not skirt around?
Editing has to be top notch. I’m not the best self-editor, especially on the computer screen. I spend as much time editing as I do crafting. Spelling is critical. As is getting to your point. A journalist is taught this on day one. Hook your reader in. Tell the story. Be concise. I was fortunate in my early years to always have a second reader before I pressed publish. I am eternally grateful for all my various editors, whether working on a newspaper piece or literary journal or even with my writers’ group. Where to cut, where to tighten, where to end, are all areas to consider when writing anything.
Has anything surprised you about writing your blog?
I hadn’t anticipated the network of other bloggers I would connect with. But over the years I established a rapport with bloggers across the globe—and this came as a surprise for sure. One of my favorites is a woman in Scotland who visits teashops: Lorna’s Tea Delights. She writes in vivid detail about the china and scones, the landscapes and quaint towns she travels discovering these eateries. Another blogger, in Seattle, posts about exercise with just the right nudge, Joy, Fitness & Style; she gets me moving even if all I can do are a few stretches in the morning. Of course I have several favorite fashion bloggers too. Sohl in the City writes from NYC and inspires me to put together an outfit from the shoes and accessories on up!
Another surprise is the way that my readers respond to my posts. Some leave comments on the site or on Facebook, but others send private messages to let me know how much they value my view. I forget that so many people are out there reading in their own spaces and taking in my musings. You create a web as a blogger and this is pretty special.
How can people find you?
Ninecentgirl.com is my blog site but Nine Cent Girl is also on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram and Tumbler. I find that I use all these social media outlets for my varied moods and responses to life. For example I might only post an image that expresses my ‘random joy of the day’ or I might write an in-depth blog post in reaction to news I hear on NPR on my way home from work. There is no end to my responses apparently.
Read. Read what you like and what you don’t like. Follow other bloggers. Study your craft. But at the end of the day, enjoy yourself while you write. Make a physical space that reflects the persona you want to project and step right into it. This is, after all, your calling, right?
A podcast of the program can be found here: Write it Like You Mean It