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.

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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.

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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! 🙂

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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?

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! 😉

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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.)

Safe Haven

In lieu of a proper Poemography post this week (because those take WORK, and I’m kind of not willing to expend that right now #sorryimnotsorry), I’m going to spare a few minutes (or thirty) here rambling about magic places.  Magic, safe places.  Enchanted places.  Wonderful places.  Wondrous places.  See?  Ramble.

First there is the library.  There isn’t a card system, or any overdue fines, or any computers or organization system or even librarians, unless you count the moths and mice.  There’s a short, winding footpath that you take to get there.  There’s an American flag flapping outside.  This is the building where my parents married, and there are antlers affixed to the wall inside.

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It’s made of logs, like everything here.  There’s a few decrepit washing machines inside, a bucket of ping-pong paddles and balls but no table, and cushy moth-eaten daybeds.  There’s tables to be rolled out come the 4th of July, when everyone brings their famous Jell-O Salad Spectacular and their most festive garb.

There’s a typewriter with no paper or ink, on a table next to a hibernating Shop-Vac, for the kids to bang around on.  Including this kid.

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Typewriters thrill my soul.

And this is the inside of the library.  It’s nothing much, but it’s everything.

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I found a Copyright-2006 book there today, which is an immense rarity.  Mostly these are 1950’s-70’s, at the latest.  They’ve all acquired that lovely and acrid and wholesome yellowing-book smell.  And mostly they aren’t literature books, but they’re books with character, books with backstory and history and so many varied noses inside of them, all laid out and free for the taking.  It’s like a home for misfit books, and I want to make all of them my babies.

Honestly, the fact that places like this still exist are what kindles my hope for the future.  Pictures can’t really capture the aura of the free-for-all run-down library.  It’s magic, and mysterious, and historic, and lovely.

Then there is the dock.  Nothing actually docks on this dock.  It’s T-shaped and floats in the middle of the oh-so-creatively-named Second Lake.

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And it’s rickety and creaky and bobby and old and overall not too structurally sound but you step onto it and suddenly you are The Focal Point of the World.

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There’s just no other way to describe it.  It puts you in your place.  You are small and the world is huge and beautiful and amazing and you better galdang appreciate that for the brief time you spend here.  And it’s quiet.  The kind of quiet that you literally can’t imagine after living in a city.  Sometimes people fly-fish, and then there’s that soothing skimming of the line, and there’s the trill of bird and the creak of the planks, but it’s silent.  In a way that really should be eerie, but is the exact opposite.  Peaceful.  Very peaceful.

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I meditated on it.  Which, really, what??  I know; not usually my thing.  I’m pretty high-strung and, to be honest, I revel in being high-strung.  It keeps the ideas flowing and the mind bouncing around so as not to dwell on any one thing for an inoptimal length of time.  But it felt like The Thing To Do, and kind of renewed my faith that there is A Thing “out there”, regardless of what that Thing may be.

Tepee (my cabin village) has always been my safe haven.  You can’t feel sad, or stressed, or pressured here.  There’s no one here you don’t know and there’s nothing really disturbing the peace and most importantly there’s no Society.  I blame the constructs of Society for a lot of life’s daily stress and problems, which is maybe not the most healthy or proactive attitude to have about life, but…being here just reinforces that belief system.  Here, a boy from another state that we didn’t even know randomly dropped by our cabin last evening to ask if he could play with Little Bro, because he’d seen him in the yard earlier.  Here perfect kid strangers strike up impromptu baseball games with one another—here even I can bond with someone over fort-building and minnow-grabbing.  I don’t have to be a high-performing teenage academic or any of the other labels that are inevitable slapped on me—I can revert to Wild Child status in its most innocent form, and romp in the stream at the base of a waterfall.

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Special-looking toes, grimy sweatpants, and all.

This is my safe haven.  It’s wonderful here.

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BLOGOVERSARY

So I was perusing Plants & Pages and discovered (well, it was already lurking in my subconscious, but this brought it to the top of my mind) that not only is today my blogoversary, it is also the birthday of Harry Potter and JK Rowling and Neville Longbottom.  Now if that’s not awesome enough for you I wash my hands of you.  I’m feeling pretty prophetic right now.

(You know you’re a Potterhead when you can’t help but hear the theme music that goes with that scene as you watch that .gif…)

To spare you from all the sap that would normally come with this type of occasion, I made you–not cake, as I had once thought, but Chocolate Covered Katie’s Double Chocolate Brownie Batter pancakes, topped with peanut butter and–what else?–the mandatory sprinkles and a candle.  As my attempted shortstacks always do, it turned out kinda ugly special homely, but that’s all right.  They tasted delicious, if a bit…legumey from the gluten-free flour I used.

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DSCN3548(^^Oohooh, smoke. Fancy photographin’ times.) 😉
TGITO IS 1!!!  BLOW THE NOISEMAKERS!!  BANG THE CYMBALS!!  THROW GLASS AT A WALL AND WATCH IT SHATTER INTO PRETTY PATTERNS!!  It’s the occasion of the year!

Okay, no, I promised myself I wouldn’t get too .gif-happy when compiling this post.  But between the pancakes, the Potter .gif perusal, and my ecstatic electronic celebration, it’s shaping up to be a fine morning indeed.

Today, on the actual, much-hallowed blogoversary itself, I thought I’d share some “tricks of the trade”–in other words, techniques, sites, and programs that I wish I knew about before I started blogging!  It took me a long time and a lot of poking around to eventually discover most of these, and they’ve proven immensely valuable to my overall blogging experience!  So, without further ado:

  • PicMonkey!  Seriously, if pictures are at all important to you and your blog, visit this site.  You don’t even have to make an account or membership or anything!  PicMonkey is one of those things that really sounds too good to be true–it’s a free, online photo editor (though you can upgrade to access more features for $33/year) with tons of special effects, overlays, text options and fun graphics.  Did I mention it’s free?!  Quite possibly the only downside is that, since it’s online, you can’t access it anywhere like you would be able to on photo editing software dowloaded to your laptop, only places with WiFi.  But it’s pretty amazing stuff!  Some images I’ve created with Picmonkey:

Stitch consolation

Stitch Confessional

Hummus Pasta 015 picmonkey

And PicMonkey helped the pictures on my latest poemography post to go from this:

DSCN3387

to this:

pm1

by muting the colors (“Dusk” effect”), bumping up the browns (“Boost” effect), and spotlighting the lone plant (“Spotlight” effect).  I know some people are principally opposed to photo editing (*cough cough* Cleo *cough cough*) but I think when the lighting isn’t right or you just need a different mood from the photos you’re working with, effects like this can be extremely helpful.

So…visit PicMonkey!  Start clicking around!  You’ll be surprised at all you can do (this includes making collages!).

  • Making Grab Button Images/Basic HTML Coding.  It’s apparently very helpful to have a “grab button” for your website that visitors can, erm, “grab” and display in your sidebar.  This way, when their readers stumble across that image on their blog, clicking it will direct them to your blog, so more people can meet you!  For example, Kiss My Broccoli and The Smart Kitchen both have these types of buttons, which you can find in their sidebars.  I myself don’t have a grab button–I dunno, to me it’s a bit too much of a shameless self-plug (is this anything anyone would be interested in me doing??)–but I used this tutorial to create the new New Reader/Citrus button in my sidebar.  I wish I’d known how easy HTML coding could be when I first started blogging!  I created the image itself by having a photoshoot with Citrus :), selecting my favorite shot, adding the text in PicMonkey, and then transforming it into a button that, when clicked, will take you to my To the Newcomers post.  I wanted new readers to be able to find this introductory post quickly and easily, and what better way to do that than a picture of the world’s gorgeousest bird??
  • Making .gifs.  Not that I made any of the .gifs in this post, but there’s several tutorials floating about the internet on how to construct them, both from your own videos and a conglomeration of stagnant slides.  Like a hybrid of a photo and a video (without annoying audio!) they can be an interesting and interactive form of media…and, for the record, they’re pronounced .gif.  🙂
  • Picasa, and Gimp.  Picasa is another photo editor, this one hosted by Google–it’s downloadable, and lets you organize your photos and optionally share them in an online album.  The “I’m Feeling Lucky” effect is great to use when you just need to spruce up photos a little bit–it brightens colors and sharpens edges.  And an online album can only be good times for you and your blog.  Gimp is also free, and downloadable; an open-source program like PhotoShop but marginally more confusing.  I use Gimp mainly when I need to blur something out, resize a photo (though you can do this in PicMonkey too) or apply a fancier effect, like in this picture, where I leeched the color from half the photo:

such vibrancy

(And a little “behind the scenes” for this photo, in case you think I just happen to have someone to kiss hanging around the house: this was achieved by me slipping my brother’s jeans over my arms and his shoes onto my hands, and bending over so my hands were resting on the floor.  Camera on self-timer on the floor.  The pink shoes are my actual feet, and the grey shoes are hiding my hands.  🙂  Ah, the magic of photography!)

  • Windows Live Writer.  Another program I wish I’d learned about way sooner!  This is a downloadable program that allows you to compose posts even when you don’t have internet access, and it syncs up with your blog account when you hit “Publish”, sending it right to your blog to go live.  Many bloggers use this program because the importing and editing of photos is much faster and goes much more smoothly than with WordPress!  And it even lets you see what your post is going to look like on your blog as you’re composing it, because the “compose” box is like an empty post on your theme…I’m not explaining this very well.  Anyway, try it and see what I mean.  Myself, I don’t use this very often, because for some reason it tends to double each photo in my Media Library, thereby making me take up twice the space the post normally would, which is not fun times…
  • WordAds.  If you’re looking to make money from blogging, one of the most popular and stress-free ways is probably by enabling advertisements on your site.  (I’m actually looking into this–I just don’t want it to degrade my poetic status if I “sell out”…)  For Blogger bloggers (teehee), you can use the program Google Adsense, but for the non-self-hosted, WordPress.Com bloggers, WordAds is the program of choice.  Additionally, perusing Pinterest today, I came across this post which details two other ways you can earn money by blogging: sponsored posts, and sponsored tweets.  May be worth looking into.

Now it’s my turn to ask the questions! 🙂  If any “big-time” bloggers happen to come across this post, would you be so kind as to enlighten me about these aspects of blogging that still baffle me?

  1. How do you Instagram such beautiful food photos?  Surely you didn’t take them with your smartphone…but I can’t figure out how to upload camera/computer pics to my Instagram account…
  2. You know those bars you put in your sidebar that have all the icons for all your social media profiles in a row?  Yeah, how do you make those?
  3. Blog logos?  Pro designer job, or possibly DIY?
  4. Tips for selfies in the sidebar?  We don’t want anyone thinking I look like this all the time…

DSCN1727(Although, in this total glamour shot, my undereye dark circles are virtually nonexistent!) 😉

So…how’re you celebrating this fine occasion today?  You can join me in my .gif-and-pancake-palooza and, afterward, raise your fork in the air in delight, so glad The Girl in the Orange is in your life…or I suppose you could just get a little creative in celebrating Neville’s birthday.  Cuz I mean come on, the guy always gets overlooked.  And ya gotta love that accent…

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.