I had at least three reasons to be offended by being called a cock and bull girl.
“So you’re a cock and bull girl,” someone once said to me upon learning I’m a Taurus born in the Chinese Zodiac year of the rooster. I had at least three reasons to be offended. One, at best I was being likened to an English pub. Two, I was being characterized based on someone’s notion of astrology. Three, the phrase sounded vulgar, or at least, my mind leapt to a phrase where “bull” is replaced with “ball.”
I remained unmiffed, because bulls and roosters aren’t meek or stand down, and I equated a cock and bull girl to what I am: an all-or-nothing girl. That means I’m a tortured perfectionist when it comes to pursuits of my own choosing, and sometimes incapable of half-assing even mundane chores. I deliberately don’t tackle certain tasks to avoid being sucked into that hyper-focus trip of darkness and misery where there’s no food, water, sleep or friends. As such, I don’t clean my own home, I pay money – that could be better spent – to someone else to do it. It takes that life-saver of a person six hours to do the job. But it would take me, my toothbrushes, and other implements small enough to attend every dust-collecting crevice present in a normal apartment, three full days.
An all-or-nothing approach for the purpose of this post means that I can’t possibly publish a piece without a subject or idea that genuinely stirs me. It needs to be well-thought out and interesting even if discussing the commonplace. After that, I cut down, polish and fine-tune paragraphs nonstop until the cringe of horror on my face relaxes and I could bear my own writing. Even if you threw hundred-dollar bills at me, I couldn’t bring myself to regularly contrive cutesy non-sequiturs just for the sake of posting. But I’m not ruling it out on an irregular basis, especially if hundred-dollar bills are involved.
You can see the problem. If you take on blogging seriously, you glean right away that you’re expected to post frequently – twice or more per week, preferably on a set schedule – to first, build any sort of readership, and second, to keep it. The idea for many is to monetize and/or grow their reach beyond their blog to become contributors on big sites. Between writing, refining, promoting, and interacting with readers and other bloggers, blogging takes over your life. So imagine what it’s like for a person like me, for whom any endeavor takes over.
I re-established my abandoned Twitter, only to discover I enjoy it as a social, rather than promotional tool, and that it requires its own full-time upkeep. It’s also a great exercise in brevity and conveying thoughts clearly and concisely. So then I joined Instagram to support my blogging habit. But I really got into the images and realized cultivating followers there would take too much time away from my blog and defeat the purpose. I’m not even going to touch on the countless blog networks and platforms for tribes and hops. The fact is, you could have no other obligation in life but maintain a blog and still find every waking hour filled. Most of us have many other obligations, therefore consumed as I am with my blog, l landed myself in a quandary.
Time mismanagement was an issue I contended with long before taking on blogging to pile on top of my filmmaking endeavors, studies, overactive social life and half a dozen hobby obsessions ranging from snowboarding to drumming. Only recently have I begun to see that everything I’ve hinted at in this post – hyper-focus, perfectionism, obsessive-compulsive tendencies, time mismanagement, unrealistic goals – might be symptomatic of one personality-glitch umbrella that pharmaceutical companies call “disorder” in order to peddle pills. But that’s another discussion. Suffice it to say, in the short time I’ve been blogging, not only have I learned much about myself, I’ve had to adopt a system that would allow me to continue to blog and live my life. It’ll prove a challenging feat for Miss All-or-Nothing, but I couldn’t just up and walk away from my blog, child of mine born of passion.
And so, my personal blogging dance, which I emphasize, is by no means what I believe to be a universal standard, but rather, what works for me personally – I call it The Cathartic Monkey System for Maintaining and Growing a Blog.*
1. Post regularly. In my case, that means once a week (on occasion twice), and because I work best with flexibility, I’m giving myself the option of any weekday except Friday. If you can keep up with publishing posts that are meaningful to you daily or every other day, great. But remember, people respect, trust and respond to consistency. Writing every day for two weeks but then disappearing for two months might be inconsistent and disappointing to your readers. That’s not to say I’m relinquishing my option to disappear (lest I dig myself into a hole here).
2. Maintain an organized site design. Often I click eagerly on a new blog address only to find my eyes assaulted by a cluttered front page. And each time, I run. Time is short, and a densely packed page with no organization could potentially keep people from exploring a blog. It’s helpful to have basic buttons like equivalents of Home, About, and Contact in plain sight. Periodically testing links to make sure they remain unbroken is not a bad idea either. Simple navigation to all your posts through drop-down menus, side bars, etc. is valuable – it stands to reason, if readers can’t get to your posts, they won’t read them.
3. Promote your work with class. Use Social Media for authentic interaction. Remember, it’s not a one-way platform, engage with others as much as they engage with you. Your personality is key. Spamming, automated messages and robotic tweeting of posts aren’t just devoid of personality, they’re counterproductive. The point is for people to develop an interest in each other so that they may be drawn to one another’s work. Automated methods accomplish the exact opposite: they annoy people and cause them to tune-out the offender.
4. Seek others like you. The most time-leeching and ineffective activity for the sake of my blog was indiscriminately reading and commenting on every blog that found its way to my browser. Don’t get me wrong, I only leave comments I mean. But it’s far more efficient to cultivate a selective list of blogs you enjoy by bloggers who feel the same about yours. The result will be mutually fulfilling interaction, and far less eye-strain.
5. Reciprocate. Courtesy is a human trait applicable both in life and online. Most of us know to write thank you notes when warranted, and not to show up to dinner parties empty-handed. If you’ve received a comment on your blog, replying to it is your thank you note. But reciprocating is visiting the other person’s blog, and commenting is the equivalent of not showing up empty-handed. Sure, sometimes we might enjoy a post but have nothing to say, or we’re short on time, or simply forget. But if you make repeated visits to blogs and find the interest isn’t returned, perhaps seek other bloggers who write well, but also practice etiquette. There is no shortage of great bloggers, so in the interest of time and common courtesy, I choose to cultivate authentic, mutual interaction.
Growing the readership of a blog takes time, but once in a while synchronicity and the generosity of established bloggers speed things up. Unless you can manually align stars, synchronicity happens on its own and you have no control over the right person discovering you at the right time. But if they do, often they’re generous with their experience and tips. Needless to say, if the rest of us also act with generosity any chance we get, together we’d build an enriching blogging community.
It’s only been a few months since I began blogging, but between those who are kind enough to share their knowledge with me, and the diverse, fascinating blogging circle I’ve begun to cultivate, the experience has been so far worth it.
*My posts usually end with Cathartic Monkeysims, but this post is already one big chunk of it.
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