On Being Okay With Dying

The steps for writing a poem are as follows:

1.  Don’t write a poem for a year or so, only use previously written poems when people ask you for one, and wallow for that year in your inability to write anything quality.  Feel crushed.  Consider becoming a stripper to pay the bills. Buy only lettuce to try to channel and bask in that “starving artist” mentality.  Give it up cuz lettuce sucks and eat an entire pizza.  Feel briefly and primally satisfied.

2.  Stay up way too late one night so your brain is a mess of emotions and words and stanzas.  Read Dickens.  Turn out the light and listen to your bird make his way over to his perch in the darkness.

3.  The inspiration comes: it’s often just one line that just makes you want to take your muse by the shoulders and whisper sweetly

you are brilliant you are

 

(because apparently I can’t get through a post without including a Doctor Who gif)

4.  Your heart rate increases dramatically.  Gotta get the adrenaline going in order to make the trek across your room to notebook and pencil.  Much to the annoyance of your bird, you turn on the lamp again.

5.  Then you write.  It’s like how whittlers say the shape of whatever they’re carving is already in the wood, and they’re just coaxing it out–in writing a poem, you want to feel around in the corners for every scrap of imagery and line that’s supposed to be a part of it (I’m very spiritual about this okay) and make sure it all gets there somewhere.

Usually at this stage my mind is 90 miles ahead of my hand and sometimes words get combined or even whole stanzas.  Afterward I have to go back and disentangle them.  The important thing is just getting everything down.

6.  Stay up for another hour or so, heart still racing, unable to sleep because you’ve penned the Great American poem,  you feel it, and won’t your mother be so proud?  (It’s midnight now so you can’t rush to her and brandish it under her nose.)

It’s always much worse when you wake up, but, eh, it’s something.

Without further ado, I guess: the poem I wrote last night.

***************************************************************

On Being Okay With Dying

Maybe, someday, kids everywhere are gonna have to memorize your name

cramming first and last, middle initial, basic life stats

down their throats the night before History finals.

 

Maybe, someday, you’ll be a scorch mark in a family ledger

that obscure branch of the tree your nieces can’t quite remember

because, as far as they can recall,

it bore no fruit.

 

Maybe you’ll crawl into bed with someone some night

and to them your smile will taste like lemonade spritzers, watermelon sangria

and your laugh is like orchard workers tossing apples to each other from the tops of ladders

The way you move to turn off the lamp is peach brush strokes on a gray canvas.

 

Maybe you’ll start spending too much time in cemeteries

swaddling yourself in black and buttons and a scarf thrown over your mouth

walking with the crows and mostly trying to avoid one grave in particular

because you know how you’ll scuff your toe along the empty plot next to it, thinking,

Mine.

And who’s to stop you digging into it now,

folding earth around you like the cloak of a magician

performing his final disappearing act?

 

Instead you waltz, alone

slowly and gimpily

the way they never quite managed to teach you.

You can see your breath suspended in the chill

and you start to laugh

because you’re quite literally dancing on your own grave

and then you stop because you wonder if it’ll still be funny

down on the receiving end.

 

Maybe, someday, they’ll dig up your diaries

and you’ll be a relic, and a legend

a little girl in a checkered dress

imagined in sepia,

scented like yellowing old books and dust and sunbeams in an abandoned house.

Not watermelon sangria.

 

Maybe they’ll dress like you and your friends

at a theme dance at a middle school.

 

Maybe you’ll do extraordinary things with your life.

 

Maybe you won’t.

 

Maybe you’ll go down in textbooks.

 

Maybe you’ll go down quietly in the obituary section of your town newspaper,

circulation 800,

like a late-summer peach no one notices shuddering and bumping to the ground.

 

Maybe someone catches you before you bruise;

maybe something comes along a few days later

and leaves

with sticky whiskers and paws.

**********************************************

So…that’s all, folks.  As always, things are ©The Girl in the Orange, BUT if you luuurve (or hate?) things then any feedback or sharing (via reblogging, Twitter, Tumblr, email, shouting from the rooftop of your school gymnasium, etc) is GREATLY appreciated.  I’m pretty serious about this writing thang; every bit of constructive criticism/exposure helps.  Happy Sunday! 🙂

Week in Review

If you haven’t cottoned on, for my last few posts I’ve been trying, albeit with questionable success, to give my posts zippy and witty and possibly punny titles.  (No, autocorrect, that word is not puny.)  My brain is fried this week though, so I guess you guys get a blessed reprieve mournful absence of my normally on-point and ineffable wordsmithery.

So, yeah, um.  My brain is fried.  Don’t mind too much, though, it’s a great excuse for rambly posts with lots of comma splices and erratic ideas from all corners of it.  (It being my mind.  This might not be a too-coherent post.  I’ve just finished up with finals and am trying to type this up while streaming Sherlock S3 for the second time…)

Weekity Things: (by which I mean events of note that occurred over the course of this week, excusez mois)

  1. Reading Good Omens.
    DSCN4422I don’t–I can’t–it’s just–*exhales sharply through nose in frustration* this book is now one of my all-time favorites ever, and I can’t really explain why.  Why does it make me tear up when I think of it now? Why did I feel the need to put off studying and self-care for a whole two days in order to tear through it?  Why did this religious satire speak to me on a more profoundly spiritual level than any other book I’ve read?

i don't know doctor who gifIt’s just ineffable, I guess.  (Heads up: I will be using the word “ineffable” so much in the coming posts that you will become so ineffably done with it that you feel an ineffable itch to ineffably strangle me.)  It was one of those weird things that really struck me in exactly the right way, and now my conversations with anyone new this week have been beginning with a sharp and judgmental “Have you read Good Omens?!”  Most people haven’t.  Uggghhh.  Get on this book, world.  It is so good (and hilarious) that whenever I think of it I’m pretty sure my heart rate speeds up and the emotional center of my brain (is that the amygdala? *googles* yes it’s the amygdala) sort of spasms out and my face is kind of caught between doing this
giphyand this.
glass cage of emotion
IT’S NOT EVEN PARTICULARLY SAD OR PARTICULARLY HAPPY IT JUST GIVES ME ALL THE FEELS UUGGH.

Here’s my equally non-articulate GoodReads review, if anyone’s interested:

Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, WitchGood Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch by Terry Pratchett

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Oh, man. Why didn’t I read this book sooner? Why, oh why, did I pick it up for “idle reading” in the heat of Finals season??
I’m not really sure how to describe this book, except that it’s one of those books where you drift around with your eyes unfocused for hours after reading, and you spill a bunch of stuff because you’ve been well and truly entranced. It’s one of those books that you can stare at and squeeze to your chest because the characters, even those that hail from the pits of Hell (especially those) feel like your best mates and the whole book fills you with a kind of existentially ironic warm fuzzy feeling, which I didn’t even know was a thing. Laugh-out-loud hilarious, a good read for those who want to stop taking themselves so seriously. The writing was beautiful and I loved the dialogue. In the beginning (haha, Bible pun, haha) it felt like there were WAY TOO MANY characters for my poor feeble mortal mind to juggle, but it pares down into a glorious semblance of sense.
I also have the hugest crush on Aziraphale, bless his soul.

View all my reviews

(bee tee dubs you should all become my friend on GoodReads because I need more virtual friends to fangirl over books with okay? okay)

     2.  Scholastic Art and Writing Awards results!  (This was the thing that my poetry collection won in last year, with the celebration at Carnegie Hall.)  This year I submitted a short story (that I wrote in 8th grade and that you haven’t read), “We Hired Death as Our Landscaper,” a poem collection of “Dichromate,”“Ellipse,” and “Silver,” another poem collection including two of my spoken word poems “Solicited Advice to Prepubescent Nintendo Freaks” and “Sweet, sweet Adolescence,” and finally, my poem “The Professional Aimless Wanderer”.  Two of the poem collections won Silver Keys (which is like an honorable mention except there is actually also an honorable mention category so I guess Silver Key is like one step up from honorable mention) and “Wanderer” is going on to National Judging!

SAWA 2014 announcement

Hmm.  Well, I realize this doesn’t actually look too…legitimate.  (You gotta love the PicMonkey “paper scrap” feature though, amiright?)  I promise these were my actual results. Huzzah for creative censoring.

It’s kind of wryly funny that Scholastic always loves my poetry (at least they seem to), whereas I work a lot harder on my prose and like it better than my poetry.  I wasn’t sure about some of the poems I submitted, but I definitely thought the short story or at least “Landscaper” was going somewhere.  I guess I’m too biased.  I also guess that the fewer words in which I have to say something, the better I say it…which I kind of already knew.  Brevity is not my forte, but when I can manage it, it definitely improves my writing.

3.  FINALS SEASON IS OVAHH! *upturns a science lab bench and begins tap dancing upon it*  Really, that’s being a bit overdramatic, and it wasn’t nearly as bad as I was expecting it to be. In a fit of procrastination and denial one night, I even wrote a satire of Robert Frost’s “Fire and Ice” proclaiming “Some say the world will end with Finals…”  I had just heard so many rumors about how awful they were, and I suppose I had it easy since I’m but a wee freshie, but they were all right.  My lowest score was in Algebra 2/Pre-calc, predictably, and that was just an A-.  I am in a state of ineffable gratitude that there was no Orchestra final, because my Orchestra grade has now squeaked up to a 93.01%, which is literally one-hundredth of a percent over the requirement for an A.  So now my GPA is a 4.0. *smiles beatifically*

Hope you had an equally eventful week, my dearest tropical fish, and that the next 7 days also hold, for you, a trove of mystique and ineffable excitement. (Congrats on getting through finals, if you’re a student!)

Back to the Future

We’ve been having to take a lot of career aptitude tests online in Health lately.  The grown-uppy-types are very concerned that our lives have no apparent direction or focus (they are right on this account) and that online aptitude tests where you check boxes and mark bubbles will somehow help direct us and manifest our destiny (woefully wrong).

Apparently I should be a stand-up comedian.  *winks and smiles while the ba-dum-dum of drums and cymbals plays behind*  That or a naturopath, but, you know.  I really can’t see myself ever pestling herbs and prescribing clay masks for ailments.  I don’t doubt its veracity–nature is good, yay nature, I am very pro-nature–it’s just not my cup of herbal tea.

I’ve decided to post about my increasingly nebulous future simply because it’s started to feel all the more nebulous as of late.  I’ve always been told I have years and years to figure out what I want to do with my life, and now suddenly I…don’t.

I’m forced to face the fact that the ONLY THING in this world that I am very, very good at, and that I can see myself doing happily for the rest of my years, is creative writing.  It always has been, and I’m pretty sure it always will be.  And this is kind of a hard lot to draw.  Every day, even during said career aptitude tests and college education classes, I’m bombarded with reminders that careers in the arts are notoriously fickle in regards to financial security.  And, ermghurughmrrm.  As someone who relishes planning and security and self-sufficiency, this doesn’t really sit well with me.  BUT I CAN DO NOTHING ELSE.

And then there’s the whole question of c*llege??

I have never before in my life questioned the fact that I was going to college.  It was handed to me on a platter at birth the same way things like “the world is round” and “you have ten fingers” were.  But…I’ve spent a long time researching the pros vs cons of obtaining an MFA in creative writing.  Most successful authors, even those with such degrees, seem to be of the mind that it’s not really worth the money. And I might be on the same page with them.  (Haha, literary pun, haha.)  For me, at least–I don’t want to sound snobbish–creative writing has always been more about intuition, inspiration, practice, and trial and error than algorithms or plot diagrams or instruction.  Definitely, I think the environment of a college literary program would be inspiring, and it definitely would be helpful to be around other likeminded individuals for feedback and midnight NaNoing sessions (and possibly meeting cute college writer guys, ya never know).  But…maybe it’s actually more helpful to me to read a lot and toodle around on my own?  The problem is I’m also deeply engrained with the stereotype that if you don’t continue onto college, you become a reckless, rampaging teenage delinquent set loose on the world with no direction in life, even though there are plenty of wonderfully intelligent people who never continued to higher education and are still huge forces of awesome in this world.  (One of those links is not like the other.) Also, it may be that if I do not go to college I will hole up in my apartment or whatever and order all my groceries online and never see the sun and never socially interact again because it’s so much easier.

I just…I dunno, guys.  At least I still have a few more years to think on this.

Anyway…it does not do to dwell on dreams, Harry, and forget to live.  What am I doing now to work on my writing?

  • I’ve made it to my school competition of Poetry Out Loud, which is exciting and fun and terrifying.  If I win, which is unlikely, seeing as I’ll be going up against kids four years older than me and vastly more experienced, I think there’s a regional competition, then state, then nationals.  Granted, this isn’t working on my writing at all–it’s actually one of the first times I’ve ever performed a poem not my own–but it’s still working on my stage presence and spoken word skills.  (I also love spoken word.  I would not be disappointed in the slightest if my future career ended up focusing more on performance poetry than other types of writing.)
  • Novelling has been somewhat stalled lately.  Remember Thaw?  I gave that up during the summer to take a new idea out for a spin because I am a NAUGHTY, NAUGHTY GIRL WITH COMMITMENT ISSUES.  Luckily, though, I realized that that new idea was actually way too complicated and it never progressed into novel-shape.  I’m not saying I’ll never do anything with it, but I realized it’s going to take a huge amount of finesse and concentration and dedication to flesh out the idea into something that doesn’t seem too bizarre, and, as I am a lazy sack of caffeine and societal angst, that doesn’t sound too appealing right now.  So I am back to Thaw.  It’s around 60K words at the moment.
  • Writing is gradually getting less dark!  Yay!  Remember when I was having this problem?

tumblr_inline_mthr9h93F81qi7ifk(The last two years of my writing life…)

I’m not sure why this took me so long to realize, but the only way to make things less fiery-destruction-y was not to force it.  My older writings were reflecting my mood at the time, and that’s been getting better this year.  And the dark writings weren’t bad–they were just a different side of me.  It’s good to write multiple moods, since everyone experiences multiple moods.  I still get a kind of twisted pleasure out of writing from the blackest pits of my soul, but I feel the need to do that less often. 😀  I’m slowly mastering the art of whimsy, and I like it just as much.  I’m learning balance.

  • Voice is developing!  Before it tended to be really malleable–as in, I would read Jane Austen and for the next few days I would write like Jane Austen (or a shoddy teenage version of Jane Austen), then I would read a shoddy blog post and would not be able to pull myself from the depths of the shoddy-writing mindset until I read something breathtakingly clean and articulate.  My current mood or mindset would influence the way the words came out a lot. But now, looking back on Thaw, especially, I’m starting to see some voice consistency and development of unique character voices…and I like it.  I’m not so critical of myself now, with some distance between myself and the novel, and I’m liking what I’m writing.  It’s really cool.

If you stuck with me through this entire post, thank you so much!  I had, um, a lot of thoughts.  I hope you all have a FANTASTIC 3-day weekend! In the comments: anyone know any really good quotes regarding THE FUTURE?

5 Hours of Sleep and Lots of Coffee (Belated Friday Faves #3)

Yeah, I should probably call this post “Sunday Faves” for the sake of accuracy and all that.  But I feel like I had a good thing going with Friday Faves and the ensuing alliteration, and so the thing stays.

I should probably also explain about the title of this post, but it doesn’t make any sense because it’s true.  I would only choose such an odd and nonoriginal title if I was truly running on 5 hours of sleep, and, alas, this is the case.  The first week or so of school has been thoroughly dominated by BUCKETS of homework!  It’s only really because I’m taking all honors classes, and maybe there isn’t ACTUALLY that much work, but with my OCD perfectionistic tendencies, a simple 40-minute assignment can equate to days of slavery and stress.  MUST ACE ALL THE THINGS.  Unfortunately, last week didn’t really go well for me in terms of remembering assignments, performing well, and handing things in on time–let’s just say I was definitely feeling Friday the 13th a couple of days ago.  Ah, well.  Tis but a small matter.  And while my GPA might suck right now, I can certainly bolster it over the course of the semester–right??!!  At any rate, I’m looking forward to putting the snafu of last week behind me tomorrow as I embark on what surely will be a better 5-day stretch.

Hoo, you can tell I’m really tired.  That paragraph rambled and strayed considerably.  I was meaning to tell you that because of the massive amounts of homework (and my unfounded Doctor Who addiction that I cannot seem to shake and requires daily feeding), I’ve been operating on around 5 hours of sleep for the past few days, compensating with extra coffee in the mornings, and I feel like crap.  Definitely not making the healthiest decisions here.  My immune system took a hit as well, and, coupled with the new environment of 1800 kids and all the circulating germs, it’s only natural that I should be sick now.  Bleh.  My throat is scratchy and my tummy hurts, you guys.  Wish me tasty tea and restful sleep from here on out.

Thus far this has not been a very optimistic Friday Faves post.  Being sick is not my “fave”.  Onto the meat of the matter!

#1.  Spaghetti Bowl!  Ooh, look, I’m a big girl now!  On Friday I attended my first *official* HS football game with a group of gal pals, and, you know, we had to get into it.  Memorizing cheers, shouting ’til we were hoarse, decking ourselves out in all blue, blue face paint, the works.

2013-09-13 18.06.51

Although I have a feeling that you can tell from this awkward selfie that I was not totally sold on the face paint.  You can also tell that, as I constantly reiterate, I am REALLY BAD at the art of selfie and I have to go into PicMonkey and apply all these weird color effects to my face in order to feel okay about posting it here and that my nose is really oily and shiny  SPUNKALICIOUS and that my hair has absolutely no idea what it’s doing at any given moment but we shall not talk about these things.  (Something we shall also not talk about is the fact that the whole sexism and objectification thing of football and cheerleading bugs me.  I fear this post is not long enough to contain my feminist rantings.)

Right, then.  Focus on the face paint.  And my cute blue sweater, if you’d like.  Sweater season!  So excited.

While we’re on that subject…

#2.  The arrival of autumn!  At least before everything gets dreary and sludgey and rainy and the SAD-depression-stuff kicks in, early fall has got to be my absolute favorite time of the year.  Everything seems to slow, become just a bit more ponderous–nothing seems as frantic, or as frivolous.  Also, cute sweaters.  Also, herbal tea.  Also, orange leaves!  Also, PRETTY NATURE!  Also, PUMPKIN SPICE ALL THE THINGS!  Also, flu season!  😉 *cough cough, literally*  And there’s that whole not-sweating-when-you’re-just-sitting-still thing.  That’s nice.

DSCN3841.jpg

#3.  Being asked to perform poetry with the Washington State Poet Laureate.

(Doesn’t my elegant and poignant use of Doctor Who gifs serve to underline my mature and poetic nature?)

I received the inquiry from my old Language Arts teacher a few days ago (it’s not PC enough to call it “English” anymore), and this was basically my reaction.  People think I’m good at words!  Moreover, people think I’m good enough at words to sort-of-somewhat represent youth spoken word poetry alongside the State’s Great!

Reaction GIF: laugh, are you kidding me?, David Tennant

At first I was excited…majorly…and now there’s this crushing void of self-doubt inside me, knowing I’ll have to WRITE SOMETHING for the occasion and OH GOD WHAT IF I NEVER WRITE ANYTHING GOOD AGAIN and EVERYONE WILL HATE ME and OBVIOUSLY I AM NOT CUT OUT FOR THIS TYPE OF THING and WHAT IS THERE TO WRITE ABOUT MAN I CAN’T DO IT and WHY CAN’T I BE BRILLIANT AND SPEND MY ENTIRE DAY WATCHING DOCTOR WHO??

Lack of sleep may make me a bit dramatic, methinks.  Just a heads-up.

I have more things to say but I’m working on condensing my posts and posting more frequently.  That will probably be a good thing.  And you know what else is my favorite?  Sleep.  Sleep is very nice.  Never mind the fact that I wasn’t up and at ’em until 11 this morning, I think I’ll turn in for the night.  Hope your weekend was awesome and that you are able to recover from the dreaded influence of the last Friday the 13th!!

 

Friday Faves #2

Featuring 5k fears and finds, beautiful blog buttons, bolstered body image, link love, and writing-related reads.  Not in this order.

Greetings my dear friends.  I would like to apologize for not posting since last Sunday, but I know you’re cool with it ‘cuz you’re cool like that.  It wasn’t that I had writer’s block, really–it was more that I did have a lot of ideas but, incidentally, there was a lot of stuff I wanted to do a heck of a lot more than sit down to pound out a blog post.  Projects, people…mysterious projects. 😉  Ah, well, you’ll find out about them soon enough.  They’re good ones. 🙂

Anyway, this, at least, means that come September 4th when I forgo my internet-inhabiting ways for the academic lifestyle once again, I will not completely abandon you for a week!  I now have many “backup” post topics saved up to prevent total radio silence here.  So, everyone has won here.  Let us move on.

1.  Beautiful Blog Buttons.  Have y’all noticed my new lovely ORANGE social media buttons in my sidebar?  They were only 99 cents 5 dollars in the Etsy store, made by IGottaCreate, who also offers FREE buttons, though not all in orange. 🙂  Cheap Etsy downloads are quickly becoming a kind of vortex for me…  At any rate, I’ve finally found out how to make social media icon bars, as per my question in my Blogoversary post!  I used this tutorial, designed for WordPress.COM blogs, to integrate the buttons into a widget.  It’s way easier than I was mentally building it up to be.

2.  Bolstered Body Image.  Maybe it’s come across around these parts (because I’ve written about it at length) that, lately, I haven’t been exactly happy with my appearance.  I’ll skip the melodrama.  Then I found some clothes that actually fit me nicely, wrote a post in an attempt to shape myself up, read some even more awesome posts, stripped down to my skivvies in front of a mirror and recited some self-esteem mantras (a la Kiss My Broccoli), started running longer and harder (why is running like the magic self-esteem-boosting drug?  though I’m not complaining), and bought some pretty eyeshadow and liner for my peepers.  I’ve always really loved my eyes–probably my favorite superficial feature, and I’m glad I’ve figured out how to play them up a little bit more now.  No shame in flaunting what ya got! 😉

IMG_20130823_141747

I also got a haircut.  Not that this picture makes it very easy to tell.  Also, I’ve coined a term–that above hairstyle?  That’s not “unruly” or “out-of-control”, folks, that’s SPUNKALICIOUS, you hear me?  SPUNKALICIOUS.  Please let’s integrate this into our daily conversations.  As in, “My bangs are being especially SPUNKALICIOUS today”, or “My day was sure hard; I guess life’s just testing me to see how SPUNKALICIOUS I can be about it!”  Yes, SPUNKALICIOUS must ALWAYS be ALL CAPITALS.  Preferably accompanied by a Z-formation fingersnap, if you can manage it.

3.  5k fears and finds.  My second 5k ever is tomorrow!  AHHH/yay!/I’m going to be so dead by the end of this!  Funny thing: since I’ve done this before (once), my brain has seemingly gone into “pro mode” about the whole thing.  As in, why should I worry about preparations?  Stretching beforehand, hydrating sufficiently?  Why even bother, especially when you’re not shooting for a PR?

I really hope I can snap out of this before tomorrow morning; at the very least, I have no doubt it will dissolve into a cloud of fear and crippling self-doubt at the starting line.  But this too must be worked through!

If your arrogant brain hasn’t gone into everything-under-control mode about your next 5k, here are some great reads from around the internet to help you prepare yourself for the race:

4.  Writing-related reads.

  • 10 Things Teens Should Know About Writing.  He comes right out and says teen writing sucks.  I can’t figure out whether I’m awestruck and thankful that someone prevented me from getting my hopes up too high, or feeling crushed…
  • Maureen Johnson’s Brain Monkeys.  Her answer to that eternally-posed question, “Where do you get your ideas?”  And it’s Maureen Johnson.  You’re guaranteed an out-loud laugh.

Also, this and this.

DSCN4119The former, I was lucky enough to snag for free at the magical old library, and the latter I pre-ordered.  (It’s been out for about a month now.)  The former…well, it’s Stephen King!  So witty, hilarious, and wonderfully profane; and since it was an older copy, I didn’t feel guilty about underlining quotes and dogearing pages.  For reference, you know.  😉  It’s just general, down-to-earth writing advice that doesn’t even bother to be tailored to specific ages.  And the latter, obviously, is geared more toward young writers, and it remains optimistic about a writer’s chances while still cautioning you to get a “real job”.  😀

The parents are also very supportive of all my writerly endeavors, but then again, they are parents.  That is Job of Parent.  So…does my writing suck?  Do I have no chance of success?  Or am I an amazing undiscovered gem (Mother Dearest’s viewpoint on the matter)? 😉  I’m getting whiplash darting back and forth…I guess the only thing I can do, in either case, is to keep pounding on.  Work hard, put in effort, always be striving to improve.  Maybe even query anyway, despite my age deficiency.  The worst that can happen is “No”.

No further alliteration for today…Happy Friday! 🙂

***

What’s your favorite thing about your body?  Please divulge all in the comments!  Today, take a moment to appreciate at least one thing that is beautiful about yourself.  Don’t fall prey to the “but that’s so vain” thing.  Strut yo stuff, gurl.  And tell me what it is that makes you beautiful!  (Well, one item from the list, anyway.)

Blogoversary Tips, 4th Installment: DFTBA

So much for a 7-day tips series, huh?  *halfheartedly facepalms* I was cruel and left this series in the dust for three days as I busied myself with other endeavors.  It wasn’t that this isn’t important to me, it was more that…

Camp NaNoWriMo is ending!

Beloved Camp NaNoWriMo is wrapping up!  Guess which girl loftily promised to have her 75,000-word manuscript typed up and completed in all its first-draft glory by tomorrow…and guess which girl’s Scrivener file still only boasts 53,000 words…

Urrgh.  I struggle with daily discipline.  I do think I got a lot of concrete, quality writing done over the course of the month, which is I guess the point of NaNo, but of course it was hard for me to hit that quantity mark.  It did help me to realize that I need to discipline myself more, another plus–I just wish I didn’t have to discover this the hard way.  For the last few days I abandoned blog in favor of typing up a storm, figuring it might be possible to hit a big inspiration spurt and get propelled across the finish line last minute–but no.  That high of a word deficit was only stressing me out, and my writing definitely suffers when I’m stressed instead of having fun.  So.  Blog got compromised a little, and writing got compromised a little.  But I’m back now after the 3-day break, and it turns out that that break was actually okay because I came up with a way to build a post around it :), fraught with metaphor and resonance and instruction!! 😀  Hoorah!

DFTBA, for those of you unenlightened folk out there, is an increasingly-popular acronym standing for “Don’t Forget to Be Awesome”.  (Look it up, and watch the rest of your life’s productivity crumble before your eyes.)    I’ve been mulling over it the past few days (not that there’s terribly much about it to mull on) and have come to the conclusion that ultimately, this is the best blogging (and life) tip I can give you.  Maybe it’s just the blogs I read, but to me it seems that this medium is notorious for attracting Type-A personalities in all their glory–complete with obsessive perfectionism, occasionally low self-esteem, and a ruthless, cut-throat competitivity.  Since blogging is at once intensely personal and extremely public, the natural urge is to want everyone who comes across your blog to absolutely adore it, for them to share it on all their social networks and tell all their friends about it and just watch your blog grow to superstar status within a couple of months.  Sometimes, the urge is even there to bypass what you want to post about in favor of what you think will bring the most hits to your blog/make you seem more fantabulous in the eye of the public.  I know I’ve fallen victim to this many a time…

“I’ll try for cute points!”

Then Zixie wanted to play.

DSCN3526

I’ll admit I laughed at the pun as I “cropped” this bird photo 😉

Old Pics 208

or “I will only write ‘powerful’ posts that hold deep thoughts and life resonance, rather than logs of my daily life…”  (Link, link, link, linkity link.)

or “I’ll scrounge up a crappy WIAW post because I told myself I was going to and besides linkups bring in more pageviews anyway…

or “I’ve had this idea knocking around in my skull for a while and it has the potential to be really well-written and thought-provoking but I scheduled myself to post it today so it’s going up, regardless of quality”  (I’m still embarrassed by this post.  Literally, the only reason I posted it was because I felt really obligated to…you probably shouldn’t click that link.  [I know it’s soon going to become one of my most-clicked links this week.])

Whereas when I get what feels like a really good, creative idea for a post really suddenly, and just decide to go for it even though it’s not “scheduled”, it ends up being a favorite, and much more entertaining than the strained-through fare.

I guess what I’m trying to stress here is quality over quantity.  (Oh look, this is relating to NaNoWriMo in even more ways than I originally anticipated…)  In the first few months you manage your blog, as with anything, identify your strengths, weaknesses, and proclivities so you can recognize what needs to be changed, what can’t be changed, and what’s working really well for you!  For instance, over this year I’ve learned that I can’t be a post-a-day blogger, not to mention those incredible morning-noon-night posters.  I get burnt out quickly and need time away from the computer to refill my creative stores if I’ve been blogging too heavily.  Yeah, sometimes–especially when I’m doing a segment like this Blogoversary segment or Poemography–I’ll bang out multiple posts a day for the sake of commitment, but, as I’ve said, my creative writing suffers from this as well.  (Haven’t penned a single novel word today…)  I also can’t be a happy-happy-shine-shine blogger all the time, although I try to keep TGITO overall positive and enthusiastic!  It’s just who I am, as a person and as a writer–I see myself as a glass-half-full type, but I’m also pretty cynical at times, always introspective, introverted, and majorly socially awkward, and often sarcastic.  This has its benefits, because I see myself as pretty galdang witty sometimes, but I’m sorry that I can’t be that beacon of glowing inspiration and happiness in your life.  (Or maybe I can?  Maybe you love me so galdang much that you can look past my human introspective tendencies and see my inner awesome The Girl in the Orange..?)  Anyway, I comfort myself knowing that there are a lot of insanely positive blogs out there, so hopefully they can round out your blog-reading experience and you can still keep coming back for more TGITO! 😀 😉

These realizations, I think, are incredibly important in determining your blogging style and keeping your blog going in your own authentic voice–identifying your nuances, flaws and strengths, and coming to terms with them.  Ultimately, I think your readers appreciate when your true voice shines through your blog, and it’s obvious you aren’t just attempting “groundbreaking” and “impressive” posts because other people will like them.  Create a blog you would want to read, one you’re happy with.  Don’t Forget To Be your Awesome self.  If you like the content you’re producing, no matter how many followers or “likes” or shares or comments you get, you’re doin’ it right.  🙂

dftba

Orange peelings:

We hired Death as our landscaper

pm1 pm2 pm3 pm4 pm5 pm6 pm7This was the flyer Death left tacked to our door.  I stood on tiptoe and took it down to read it.

Wanted:  Odd Jobs, & Odds and Ends

Hey there.  Death’s the name.  (Yeah, people say I should change it all the time; make me more approachable.  But the only other thing I could think of that kind of suit me was Lucifer, and as Lucifer people still avoided me.)

Anyway…I can take care of almost anything you need taken care of, but my real specialties are extermination, varmint control, weed control, controlled burnings, etc.  And music lessons.

I’m good with kids.  I know how to silence them when they’re crying.  And no one who’s experienced my services reports back negatively.

I’ve included a picture on the back of this flyer because most people get the wrong idea of what I look like.  Usually I get skeletal, white, draped in black flowy robes in desperate need of a wash–no nose.  Then if I get too close people usually snap change their minds, saying I’m surely some big jolly old white guy perched on top of a cloud.  I guess you could say my identity is fluid..?  I hope you don’t have anything against the genderqueer.  Like I said, I’m great with kids.

My fees are what I consider reasonable; years of work have worn me pretty thin, you know, and we all have to support ourselves.  I understand that modern medicine has its benefits but it’s really thrust tough times on some non-deservings with its increasing prevalence.

I really appreciate you taking the time to read this flyer, and, if you’re interested?  Just give me a call.  You know where to find me.

Death had been standing right behind me, reading the flyer with me, over my shoulder.

Preface to Poemography #…6, is it?

Haha, yet another random scrivening that is by no means actually a poem–more like flash fiction, I guess?  I was outside for an hour this morning taking pictures of dead things and having several nasty brush-ins with spiders and their webs and I eventually convinced myself that there was a mountain lion after me because I kept hearing swishing noises.  Do we even have mountain lions in the PNW?  Ah, well…this is what I get for writing dark things.  In my defense, I don’t seek out things pertaining to death to write about, they just sort of pop into my head.  I promise I’m not a psychopath, and I’m not thinking darkly all the time…

Blogoversary Tips, 3rd Installment: Blog Upkeep & Promotion, Marketing; all that jazz

So by now, you’ve gone out and registered yourself a fancy lil’ domain name under the platform of your choice.   (I realize I forgot to mention Tumblr as an extremely popular option for a blog platform in my last post, but, to be honest, I don’t really take it into account when thinking of blogs–sure, it has a wonderful community aspect, and so many things on there are hilarious, but it’s more than a little too zany and usually not professional in the slightest.  Whatever floats your boat, though.)

Even after your initial ego-boosting baby boom of followers is long over (anyone have an explanation for this phenomenon?), you’re left hunched over your laptop, yearning for your stats meter to climb up day by day as you slave away over your content, painstakingly drafting each post over and over and peppering each sentence with little scraps of ingenuity.  Your blog, you’re thinking, is the single best place on the internet and you can’t understand why the masses aren’t flocking to it.  You’re happy with your site’s layout, you’re on a regular posting schedule, your wells of inspiration are practically overflowing and you’re spending all day at the computer jotting your many ideas down for new posts, just so they won’t abandon you.

I don’t think, even if you plan to eventually make it a career, you should start your blog as a way to make bathtubs full of money to wade in as you bask in your fame and adoration of the public.  (Spoiler alert:  this doesn’t even happen if you’re a highly successful professional blogger.  [Not that I would know–just a hunch!])  But growing your blog and maybe earning a little cash on the side isn’t too bad a gig, if you can get it.  This takes focused, professional approach, though–you have to actually work for people to want to read your work.

At this point in your blog’s development you should be reflecting on why you originally wanted to start your blog.  Shall I do this now?  Hmm, let’s see…

Why I started TGITO

1.  I’d been struggling with self-worth and identity issues for up to a year prior, and I read the works of a lot of bloggers whose sites tackled that very subject.  I thought that creating my own little internet niche and gleaning support and wisdom from others in the blogging community would help me work through these issues–and, lo and behold, it did!  While I still can’t say I’m a beacon of self-love, I’ve definitely made a lot of progress in self-acceptance and self-discovery, and I credit my decision to start TGITO (and everyone who’s interacted with me through it) for that.

2.  I’ve always loved writing, passionately, and I knew that starting a blog would force (in the best way possible) me to work on my writing skills on a more regular basis.  The style and medium are both a far cry from my usual poetry and novelling endeavors, but I figured fleshing out my expository voice a little bit more could only be a good thing.  Even if you’re a writer who’s regularly inhabiting the heads of other characters, I believe that truly unearthing your voice will help you immeasurably in your fiction–and blogging is an awesome way to do this!  (I didn’t expect the medium and community to also inspire me in my fiction as much as it did–this was a happy surprise!)

3.  I’d kept a journal for four pensive years, and, to be honest, I kind of liked what I was putting down.  My thoughts on daily life, musings on famous quotes and things in the news, a few lost poetry lines scribbled in the margins…I wondered if the rest of the world would, as well.

4. It's okay, Remy.  You are not alone.

Glad we cleared that up. 😉

Keeping the values from your list in mind–your blog “mission”, the reason for it all–keep churning out content in keeping with your values and awesomeness.  If you write good stuff, people will notice–most times…

The World is Not a Meritocracy After All

I hope Kerri Majors won’t mind me borrowing the title of one of the chapters in her amazing book/writing memoir, This Is Not a Writing Manual–as compensation, I shall link to it on GoodReads here (links to buy the book in the bottom–B&N, Amazon, + Indiebound if you dig that).  This chapter in the book deals with the frustrating fact of life that the quality of your content may not reflect on your number of followers or blog hits, and vice versa.  I don’t want this to come across wrong, but…I think my blog is better quality (well-thought-out, worded better, etc.) than some other blogs I’ve seen out there that have a gajillion followers.  (Keep in mind that my version of a gajillion is something like 200–I have jealousy issues, sometimes…)  So why do people flock to some blogs and not to others?  Why is it that some people have infinitely more success at blogging than others who may work harder or have more at stake…is it simply luck of the draw?

the world may never know

It’s true, but I think part of the phenomenon, at least, has to do with Social Media & Marketing:

If you have a blog you want people to read (which you don’t have to be shy about or anything–it is Point of Blog), get on social media.  Seriously.  Growing up in the Pacific NW, the heart of hipster-ville, on principle I was initially kind of opposed to the whole idea of social media, but the act of getting yourself an account on Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter is like steroids for your stats meter.  Put a nice little description of yourself in your profile (original, but don’t try too hard to make it witty–that’s annoying) and keep your profile picture pretty much consistent across platforms.  (And make sure your url is clearly visible when you first visit your profile!)  If you’re promoting your own awesome stuff while also offering some other “exclusive” thoughts and things people can only see by checking you out on social media, it’s a huge intrigue for your site.

Also, take the time to thoughtfully read and comment on other blogs!  It’s great to foster connections and relationships with other bloggers, and, as an added benefit, get your site some more cred on the internet!  The key word here, though, is thoughtfully–lots of bloggers suggest to “Go Forth and Comment with Abandon!” on other sites, but it’s blatantly obvious and, frankly, really annoying if you drop a comment somewhere reading “great post…hey i just started a blog about my life and stuff it’s thegirlintheorange.wordpress.com you should check it out!!!!111!!!1! anyways haha yolo lol luv ur site by the way! 🙂 😉 😛 <3<3<3 hugzz!”

This isn’t even a shameless self-plug, which I’m incidentally a big proponent of if you can pull it off with a certain humility.  This is sloppy and unprofessional and says that you care more about pageviews, and followers bowing down to your capitalization errors and mass-marketed posts, than genuine blogger-reader relationships.  Like I said before–when commenting, offering feedback and fostering a strong blogger-reader relationship is the primary goal, and if it gets you more readers out of the deal too, then huzzah!

Lastly…

Engage your readers!  A blog is nothing if not a community.  Yeah, this is going to take a little extra work on your part, but this hobby is work!  Facilitate comments, and make it easy for your readers to contact you.  Reply to most, if not all, comments you get (the above thoughtfulness rule still applies here, though!).  The first few months I ran TGITO, I got a lot of comments from people I didn’t know (name of the game, girl!)  and for some reason this paralyzed me!  It was a rare thing for me to actually reply to a comment, unless it was from one of my irl friends.  I wonder how many potential readers simply drifted away because of this blunder, this failure to connect…*head desk*

Lots of bloggers (make that most bloggers) always leave boldfaced questions for their readers at the bottom of their posts–this is another great way to facilitate discussion, but for some reason, I never got into it hardcore.  I dunno, it just felt insincere, like the noncommital “follow me” comments–to me it seemed like an annoying little “comment on my site!” gambit.  I don’t think this when I see other bloggers doing it, it’s just never been my thing.  However…

I don’t always include bold-faced questions, but when I do… I felt this post called for it:  Any other marketing/sincere blog promotion strategies you can think of, or that you utilize?  Thoughts on creating quality content?  Explanations for the non-meritocracy phenomenon?  Technological aspects of WordPress.com blogging you want explained?  I’m all ears.

Blogoversary Tips, 2nd Edition: Starting a Blog

So you want to start up a blog.

First off, make sure you really, really do–it’s the kind of project that should have been sitting in the back of your mind, being mulled over and fermented by brain juice, for a couple of months at this point.  Know that it–the running of your blog, not just posting itself but networking, commenting, photo taking and editing, and, depending on the genre of your blog, book reading or recipe developing–will start to take up a lot of your time in the future if you choose to plow ahead with the idea.  It’s a hobby (sometimes career!) that you have to put a lot into, but when you do…you get so much out of it.  I’m definitely not arguing that you should hesitate to start a blog for fear of a workload–it’s one of my favorite and most inspiring activities, most times–but make sure you really have the determination/dedication/focus before you sign yourself up for the fancy free blogging platform!

Still determined?  Find yourself a network of bloggers you admire, absorb their styles–what they talk about, how they talk about it, and what draws you to their blog again and again–and get ready to get started!  (Oh, and depending on your blog genre, you’ll probably need to equip yourself with a good digital camera and computer at this point.  High-speed internet.  BFF.)

A couple of other things you need to consider…

Platform:  The first thing you have to take into consideration when starting up a blog is your blogging platform.  When it comes down to it, there’s a lot of different routes you can take, but the two most popular platforms are WordPress and Blogger (I blog with WordPress and would recommend this over any other platform, hands-down–explanation in a sec).  There’s also some more obscure ones, like TypePad, and I think LiveJournal might be a thing..?  For the most part, I think you’ll have the most luck sticking with either of the two big dogs, though this isn’t to say that a blog created on a different platform will always be less successful (just look at A Beautiful Mess!).

WordPress (why I likey very muchy):  I really can’t praise this platform enough.  I’d worked with Blogger in the past, but it’s not an experience I’d care to repeat–nearly all the generic site themes in Blogger look really unprofessional, and just generally unpolished.  The myriad of fun fonts and widgets and buttons and such is fun for a flingy, frivolous, personal blog if your ambitions aren’t that anyone else will start to read it (this was what my Blogger blog was like and it worked okay.  Just my friends readin’ my ramblin’s.)  But Blogger had a host of technical bugs, too–things that included deleting a bunch of my friend’s posts on a slew of occasions, and auto-correcting and formatting things weirdly.

Then, after I’d decided I wanted to make a more “serious” blog (story later on), I joined WordPress.  And my world was rocked.

First off, let’s look at some screenshots of my WordPress blogging in action–

wp screenshot 1(click image to view full-size!)

If you run a WordPress blog, you’re probably pretty familiar with this sight.  (Unless you blog using Windows Live Writer–topic for another post!)  This is what the main posting interface looks like.  You type up your post in the box (obviously), and you can choose to either save it as a draft, publish it, or schedule it by editing the “publish immediately” option.  There’s also a checklist of categories that you create that show up in your category cloud–

category cloud 5-17-2013

and a space where you can enter “tags” for your posts.

Tags are like categories except they rock the arrglleflarrging world.  Tags are the main force of nature responsible for others coming across your blog, and–if you’re lucky!–“liking” what they see, and maybe even perhaps givin’ you a comment or follow or the like.  Tags are how search engines index your blog, to some extent, and also how the WordPress head honchos find your blog to get you maybe-possibly-eventually featured on Freshly Pressed, or some smaller honor.  There’s also a box next to your WordPress reader where you can search for tags to find other blogs (yes, you get a blog reader out of the deal too!) (I’ve searched for things like “physical therapy”, when I wanted to connect with some other poor souls experiencing the same things as me, or “teenager” because I wanted to find some other scraggly adolescents in the blogosphere).

Another awesome thing that you can do is switch to “text” editing mode–

wp screenshot 2 picmonkeyed

Aww yeah I know you’re jealous of my PicMonkey skills. Especially that glorious little orange circling job…

I’m not sure if Blogger has an equivalent.  “Text” mode allows you to delve deep into the belly of the html coding of your WordPress post (which isn’t as scary as it sounds, promise) and edit stuff at your leisure.  I’ve circled attempted to circle an example of coding, in orange–the <strong> around that text means that it’s going to show up bold in visual mode, which it does indeed.  You can also apply <del></del> around text for the strikethrough effect, etc.  Once you get more advanced at coding you can work those grab buttons you get for joining linkups by simply pasting the code into your text editor where you want the image to show up, and even try your hand at coding a grab button of your own!

Those are pretty much the bare essentials of posting in WordPress.  As your blog grows and you manage it, you’ll develop a feel for all the stuff in the sidebar, too–fiddling around with your background, site title, tagline, etc.  WordPress has some pretty good startup tutorials on its site, anyway (wordpress.com–not to be confused with the formidable wordpress.org!)

So, that’s the first reason why I adore this platform so much–it allows you to do so much!  Not only with your posts, but your site in general as well–you start off with a free (genericblogname).wordpress.com site, but you can easily purchase upgrades to take your blog to, say, thegirlintheorange.com, or increase the storage space allotted (for pictures and the like) on your free blog.  The support staff that I’ve encountered have all been very friendly and helpful.  I think it’s the perfect catalyst to start a blog ready to take the world by storm.

But, naturally, a blog ready to take the world by storm needs an audience, right?  (Right, you answer, gazing in rapt fascination at your screen as TGITO unveils all.)  That’s another thing that’s so great about WP–the sense of community.  Within days of setting up my site, I had gained 14 followers–which isn’t, truth be told, all that many, but it was much more than I expected would ever possibly put up with me!  I was thrilled.  And then–andthenandthenandthenandthenandthen!–people started liking my stuff, and new people started visiting my site, and my stats meter kept going up and up and up, and I was…I was just overjoyed.  Even though it’s just a blog–a hobby–the community feel of WP makes you feel at home, and like each new follower that shows up on your dash is a new friend you’ve made.  I know it takes an immense amount of effort and time from your day that you willingly invest in keeping up with me here on TGITO, and I really appreciate that.

minion followersLook, another memion! 😀  Sap time over now.

Name & Design:  There are a great many great posts floating around about how to choose a blog name that’s intriguing and unique and sums your site up perfectly, so I won’t go into too much detail about that here.  Consult your search engine of choice.  My 2 cents on the matter: when in doubt, weave in a pun.  And make it something descriptive and original–as Julie Fagan testifies, a blog called ilovefood.wordpress.com probably won’t bring you in many hits.

As for your site’s design–the great thing about this medium is that it’s really versatile, and fluid, so if you try out a theme or a background for a few weeks and aren’t lovin’ it, it’s really easy to just switch back, or move onto something new entirely.  You can even change your url if you feel you fudged that up (but your followers may find this confusing).  When I first started up TGITO, I–I can’t explain it, but I was terrified to mess with the design at all, because I already knew I had something I kind of vaguely liked and I didn’t want to plummet my blog into the depths of ugly-background heck.  (I might have already done this, but, truth be told, I’m quite pleased with the way the site looks right now and that’s all that really matters, right? 😉  Mah blog, mah rulez.)  Another great feature of WordPress is that (for a fee) you can upgrade to a Custom Design, in which you can “unlock” more unique themes and even delve into your blog’s CSS coding and fiddle with stuff–fonts, design color palettes, etc.

In my opinion–not that, with my current site design, I can really talk–lots of white space on a blog is good; clutter up your sidebar (with interesting things) as much as you like but leave a lot of room to breathe in the design.  Probably don’t make your background a shocking neon orange, either–people are more likely to visit your blog if it’s easy on the eyes. 😉

Your first few posts:  Don’t stress too much.  As a professional ball of perfectionism, let me offer you the advice that the only way you’re going to be happy with your blog, and the only way it’s going to capture people’s attention, is if you genuinely let your personal voice shine through.  Don’t feel you have to mimic other bloggers you admire, although you can certainly play around with their styles a bit if it helps you determine your own trademark voice (I definitely do this a lot!).  Post when you have something to say, or a smile to share.  People love transparency and vulnerability in bloggers, but of course share things you’re proud of and little windows into your everyday life (and, of course, play it safe by watching out for full names or addresses in your pictures, especially if ye be but a lowly vulnerable teenager).  Don’t post because you feel like you “have to”.  Blogging should be insanely fun, first and foremost–when it starts feeling like a dreadful chore, I take a break from the computer for a few weeks!  🙂  As I’m sure everyone reading this can testify, y’all are incredibly forgiving–if I start up a post with “Ugh, sorry for the bloggus hiatus” as I do so often, you don’t get mad!  (Oh, I said the sap time was over.  Galdangit…)  Contrary to what it feels like, the people reading your blog aren’t terrible machines of judgement and critique, and they’re certainly not hanging on your every word and impatiently updating their readers, waiting for you to post.  Have fun, and breathe.  It’s one of the most rewarding hobbies I’ve encountered, but you need to let it reward you.  It’s a low-stress thing.  (Yeah, look who’s talking…do as I say, not as I do!)

Incidentally, I’m lacking a good solid way to wrap this post up, as it’s already too long.  You guys won’t get mad, right? 😉

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