“When you write a story, you’re telling yourself the story. When you rewrite, your main job is taking out all the things that are not the story.”-Stephen King
“When you write a story, you’re telling yourself the story. When you rewrite, your main job is taking out all the things that are not the story.”-Stephen King
A good friend of mine asked me to please send him notes on how to start blogging. I laughed because this dear friend used to give me ten tons of shit about having a blog, and so I was highly amused that he wanted to know how now. Then I was informed the info is "for a friend."
Uh huh. Suuuuuure.
Anyway, after I wrote him an email I thought it was worth reposting here. Maybe not, but I'm doing it anyway.
HOW TO START A BLOG
First, you have to put your blog posts and pictures and stuff somewhere, so you have to pick what is called a blogging platform. Plenty of them are free and awesome. No need to pay for one. There are lots of fine options. You can use Blogger.com, Typepad.com, Wordpress.com, but the one that I think is the easiest, the prettiest, the most likely to get a new blogger read and by far the hippest is Tumblr.com.Just go to Tumblr.com. Fill out the quick three screen registration. Then it will guide you through the setting up process. You'll get to pick a category to put it in, then choose a name for the blog itself. This is pretty important. Make it unique and something people will remember. Not like, "Ashley's Musings" or anything bland like that. Then it will create a URL for the blog. It will be something like, http://mynewblog.tumblr.com.
You can pay to get rid of the tumblr part of the URL for pretty cheap by registering a domain. Tumblr makes this an option in the setting up process. That way you can have AshleysMusings.com, but for the love of God, no one should call their blog that.
Then you get to pick what it looks like. Tumblr has a buttload of themes you can pick from, half of which are free. They are very nice looking. It is fun to go and look at all the different "skins" your blog can wear. I recommend picking a theme instead of trying to design it yourself (which Tumblr allows you to do). Leave it to the pros. You can also spend like $20-$100 for a nicer theme which will be less common since, duh, it's not free. That can give a new blog a nice edge, but totally not necessary.
After that it's pretty much go time. This is the part where, after one post, people freeze. This is the part that is actually blogging.
You have to write. Or if you're not writing you better be posting photos. Or podcasts. Point is you have to make something. This can be pretty much whatever you want. I assume if you want to start a blog you know what it is you want to publish. So, get your ass in the chair and do it. Write your first post. Tumblr will make it obvious how to do so. It's as easy as using Microsoft Word. VERY IMPORTANT: Don't get intimidated. Just write the first post and hit publish. Just get it out there. Then immediately write a better, second one. Then publish that, too.
Blogs don't have to be perfect. They are better if they are not. Publish your first draft. It's not like anyone's reading it yet anyway unless you have had some kind of ribbon cutting party where you handed out the URL on gift bags.
Then keep doing it. Then read other blogs and comment. Market your blog in whatever way you see fit. But you have to keep updating it. Regularly. That's it.
That's how you start blogging.
Things are different now.
I'm entering my fourth week of work at CBS SF in my role as Social Media Coordinator. I'm pretty overwhelmed.
I'm using spreadsheets for the first time in my life! I work at nights and on the weekends. Next week I begin presentations to "the talent." (Yes, they still call them that.) I can barely keep up. It's become very clear that I need better time management tools and abilities.
That said, I enjoy the challenge. My writing has clearly taken a back seat during these first three weeks at CBS, so I look forward to figuring out how to best manage the hours in a day so I can get back to what I love. I don't feel right if I don't write.
Which leads me to a little hint about something aroung the corner. I have a new reason for writing, a little deal in the works, that started with a short meeting at a publishing company in midtown Manhattan last week.
I'm very excited. And I'm going to ask you to be a part of it.
Several months ago I gave up my media job in San Jose and began waiting tables. The goal was to spend a couple of years carving out a career as a freelance writer. I was going to go back to my roots to put that magazine journalism degree to good use. I was taking a leap of faith in my own abilities, discipline and drive. I was prepared to be poor. I was asked what I wanted to do, decided, then threw myself into it whole-hog. I was going to write.
I've published nothing since. In 7 months I've earned not a single byline. It's not for lack of writing. There has been lots and lots of writing. But when I began to explore what I wanted out of this endeavor, what I was best at, where my strengths were, I discovered I didn't want to write articles for newspapers, websites and magazines. I didn't want to be a freelance journalist.
I want to tell my own stories.
Whether in raw essay form or barely hidden behind the veil of fabricated characters, the power of my voice exists within the stories I have accumulated. Telling you what happened, secrets and all, is what I'm best at. Telling my tales is where all the impetus lies, the real reason I sit down to write most days. Everything else distracts from this best goal.
Of course, coming to terms with what I am supposed to be writing meant coming to terms with the knowledge that people will be hurt. Telling one's stories means being brave and taking huge interpersonal risks. It means pushing down the voice inside you that demands, "This is off-limits. Stop your story." And that voice is very loud.
Deciding to tell my stories also means finding myself in tears on a regular basis. Or as angry as hot lava as writing a passage reveals more about that incident than I had previously recalled. Or dripping in self-doubt. Telling one's stories is a constant therapy session. It's exhausting.
Much like waiting tables is exhausting. I had forgotten how much it takes out of you.
I just remembered that I waited tables and tended bar while going to college. Surely, I could do that again and write on the side. Waiting tables would free me up to carve out that freelancer writer life I thought I wanted. Waiting tables would pay the bills while I created a sustainable income for myself doing what I love.
But waiting tables is fucking hard! Even working part-time, the work leaves me both mentally and physically worn out. It's stressful, high-impact and it leaves this nearly 35-year-old beat and with a backache. And it's certainly not as lucrative as I had imagined. You don't get to come back to the restaurant industry after a decade away, now living in one of the most acclaimed dining cities in the world, and get primo shifts at Michelin-star rated restaurants. I have friends who pull 80 grand a year waiting tables, but they have been working their way into these choice positions all along, and they are absolutely phenomenal at their trade.
Truth be told, I'm just a mediocre server. I was told by my dear friend Leo, a friend I made at the restaurant where I work now, "you're not a restaurant person." At the time I was offended. He refused to go into detail; that's how Leos do. But I thought about it for days: "How am I not a restaurant person?"
One beer-soaked evening (for those in the industry there are many), Leo indulged me and expounded further: "You care too much. You let people get to you. I can see you standing at your tables with Pissed Off written all over your face. If you let your tables get under your skin, you are not a great server."
He was right. And putting it that way made me feel less like a failure at serving. I'm decent at it. But I'm never going to get a gig at The French Laundry. Not happening.
And so, because freelance articles were not where I was focusing my writing efforts and because it became apparent that, for me, waitressing was a dead-end enterprise, I began to panic. OH MY GOD, I thought, I'm going to be a 40-year-old waitress barely scraping rent money together. The idea kept me up at night. How was I going to retire someday? Ever take a vacation? Have adequate health insurance, for fuck's sake?
Lucky for me--I am often lucky for reasons beyond my comprehension--a career angel came knocking at my door. A position for CBS Local Digital Media became available: Social Media Coordinator. And the guy who recruited me to come out from Tennessee in 2007 asked if I wanted to come back to the world of Twittering and Facebooking for the media.
It was an offer too good to refuse. It includes a 401K, sick days (!), vacation time and the most precious thing of all: subsidized health insurance. Mr. Dentist, it's been too long, here I come.
I start next Monday. I'll be back at Broadway and Battery where my tenure in San Francisco began. I'm thrilled. It's the smart, responsible path to take, and I'm so much more secure in my well-being knowing something more financially stable is around the corner. At present I fear a bone break or sudden illness like children fear closet monsters. A hospital visit would put me back so far I'd never recover.
And I'll make time for writing. If I want to get it done, I will. I don't need a part-time job to tell my stories, just the wherewithal to get my ass in the chair and put the words down. John Grisham managed to pump out best-sellers while working 100 hours a week as a practicing attorney. I can tell my tale and also work 40. A media career path does not preclude literary accomplishment. I'm going to prove this theory.
October 1st I'm back to an office job. My desk is huge, my co-workers awesome and my bank account is breathing a sigh of relief. I'm excited. I feel incredibly blessed to have the opportunity.
For now, that's all the life news that is fit to self-publish.
...the best writers left their websites for jobs with established media companies; established media companies asked these writers—along with many who really shouldn’t be in these jobs—to make content sound blog-ish; cross-site discourse fell off, with the power to shape a conversation aggregated among sites from which so much content now flows down a hierarchy; memes and traffic-generation schemes quickly eroded what had once been innovative ideas; a shared conversational tone predominated, suggesting that certain content was supposed to sound certain ways; a once open and growing system became a series of echo chambers as writers and readers congregated in various places where they could feel good about participating with each other. Websites have grown incredibly stale as a result, and most with passable content have lost differentiating elements.
Worst of all, as these changes crept across the internet and cemented a way to do business, so to speak, they reinforced the notion that everyone can be an expert while staying at home and living life behind a series of screens. [emphasis mine]
I've written almost as long as I've read. I wrote plays in day care*. I scribbled in diaries for most of middle school in efforts to outwit the hormonal horror playing out inside me. And in high school I began filling those composition books with poetry so overwrought and melodramatic that Tori Amos herself would have winced. And I did it all with a pen.
Typewriting was not something that I did regularly until I got to college. That's when my dormmate taught me how to email and do internet relay chat in the computer lab. I was taken with the technology immediately, but when I was feeling angsty, which was a lot, I flopped on my bed opened my insides with a pen.
Homework was typed. Writing, for me, was always done in ink.
Then I got a blog. And then I did almost all my writing online. All of that stuff--years and years of entries--were typed, either initially (usually) or transribed (rarely).
Now that I've committed to spending a good chunk of time putting words down in an attempt at a writing career, I am experimenting with how best to do it: ink or keys? And while sometimes time or space necessitates pen on paper, I still haven't determined when I should be using longhand and when I should rely on the clack of a keyboard.
Using a pen allows me to be careful, to not rush, to slow down. Sometimes that's a benefit, sometimes it's a hinderance. However, when using my computer to write there are a million temptations just on the other side of the iA Writer application. Dazzling GIFs and new emails and other people's better writing lie just on the other side of my mostly blank white document on the screen. [For instance I *just* checked Gmail and remembered I needed to deposit a check and was nearly sidetracked until I saw this Typepad tab and returned to it!]
So, I'm often torn. Writing in notebooks satisfies a long-ago established urge, and well, it feels downright romantic. Until your wrist begins to cramp.
Writing on a computer is more efficient, but for me computer means INTERNET and it's hard for me to avoid the temptation of distraction on the other side. Because writing is hard work and looking at cats in birthday hats is not.
It would be interesting to compare output based on the manner in which they were written. I could assign myself a topic and a time frame and write two pieces--one in pen on paper, the other typed into a machine--and compare the two.
That I just might do.
*So what if they were near replicas of Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty? I was stealing like an artist.
It's been almost six months since I left.
I was reminded of this blog I created while I was there today. I hadn't looked at it in many, many weeks. I barely looked at it while I was making it.
I see it now and I see a good amount of sadness. I also see just a skimming of the surface of what was.
I have so many stories to tell, stories that need to be jostled out of me, but that are true and honest and more fantastic and more fucked up than fiction.
My tattoo is new, less than a year old, but I didn't know when I got it that I would soon be waiting tables again. I never dreamed I'd be sticking my forearm in front of the faces of people as I clear their plates or pour them more tea.
My tattoo is small, just text, just big enough for me to read. But they can see the line of ink on pale skin fluttering in and out of their field of vision and so I'm often asked, "What does your tattoo say?"
The way out is through.
Many seem dissatisfied with the answer. "Through what?," they ask. "Just through," I say.
Now I've taken to quickly adding, "It's an amended Robert Frost quote."
I think the girl I used to be wants to be sure everyone knows her tattoo has pedigree. This is no butterfly on my ankle, you see. This line is a long time coming.
Back then we didn't recycle plastic bottles, we threw them, half full, out of car windows at street signs. Upon impact a pop, then a fizzy explosion followed by the triumphant trills of teenagers.
There was nothing else to do, so we just drove and drove and drove. Back roads winding like coils, we knew them all. Our cars had memorized their curves and lines and so abandon was thrown to the wind.
I wouldn't do it. My arm was too weak. I knew they'd laugh, so I drank all my Mountain Dew down until it was gone.
[Photo by Enrique A. Gomez]
Eve Batey and Justin Beck were very nice to ask me to talk to them about why I decided to leave social media as a career and go back to waiting tables and writing. The conversation was recorded for their media podcast Punching Down.
Eve and Justin came all the way to me in the Mission, and Justin even brought beer. And not cheap Miller, neither.
It only took one Day Beer to get my big mouth moving.
You can listen to me talk Nashville is Talking, what happened after I flounced out of WKRN in a huff, how my work translated in San Francisco, how taking that job in New York was a mistake and why after a short stint in San Jose I said, "Fuck it. I'll just wait tables and write."
Posted by Brittney Gilbert in bay area, Bay Area Blogs, corporate blogging, Current Affairs, late adapters, Media, nashville, New York City, NYC, PR, San Francisco, SF, Shitheads and Assholes, Social Media Mess, tweets, Virgin Territory, Weblogs, Work Related, Writing | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
| | | |