Why I’m a Horrible Blogger

typinghands

I started blogging four years ago for no other reason than to get my work out there. I liked to write. People had told me I was reasonably good at it. At boredom’s gentle prodding, I developed my first blog. I can’t even remember what I used to call it. At the time, I had only been on Facebook for two years, I barely knew what Twitter was, and Pinterest, at least in my world, wasn’t even a thing yet. There was no “promotion” of posts, no partnerships to negotiate, no real “sharing” to speak of, at least not in the sense that we “share” now.

When the idea for Just Joywriting came to me, I quickly abandoned the old blog (title and content–it all had to go), and I set about reformulating my online persona. I had what I thought was a great new name. The design was, at the time, unique and reflective of my personality. I was getting two or three readers a day. On the surface, I should have been thrilled. But I couldn’t help thinking something was off. The Internet was supposed to be a great tool for reaching readers, a great way to engage in a “virtual community.” I had friends with fashion blogs who were making friends everyday. Somehow people just found them and engaged with them. That’s what I want, I thought. Where are my readers?

At the time I thought that maybe it had something to do with my writing. It just wasn’t that good (maybe it isn’t–maybe I am just trying to rationalize here). I could take it. At least I had been brave and put something out there, right? Then I started really paying attention to these other blogs. I started looking at what they did that I wasn’t doing. The experience was enlightening. From studying and reviewing other successful blogs, I’ve come to realize that maybe it’s not the graphic design of my blog or the writing or the name. Maybe I’m just a bad blogger. Here are some possible reasons:

1. Voluntary self-promotion. The blogs I read seemed to offer intimate glimpses into the lives of the people who wrote them. There were children’s names, pet names, husbands’/wives’ names. There were details about professions and weekend hobbies, pictures from vacations and cozy dinners. I wasn’t offering any of that. Somehow I thought that my blog could be about the writing, the writing, and only the writing. Sure, it was based on things I observed while enjoying weekend hobbies, family vacations, and cozy dinners for two, but my life and the details thereof remained largely removed.

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2. Visual content. I started noticing pictures for the first time as I was studying what made some of my favorite blogs tick. They had not just pictures, but good pictures. The kind that make you want to be wherever they are. The kind that make you wish you were doing or wearing or having whatever the subject was doing or wearing or having. I had nothing of the sort. In fact, I thought I was doing quite well for myself when I included a thumbnail picture of the book I was currently attempting to review. The pictures, though, are what drew me to some of my faves in the first place. Apparently, that’s how to catch and keep a reader’s attention. Part of it anyway.

InstagramlogotwitterlogoFacebooklogo Pinterest

3. An aptitude for social media. My favorite bloggers are invested in social media. They use Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram and seem well versed in each, using them deliberately based on the post’s content. Fashion posts lend themselves really well to Instagram and Pinterest, as do design and style posts. Twitter allows for daily glimpses into their everyday experiences and how they encounter the subjects and ideas for their blogs. So it would seem. The thing is: I’ve never been a big social media fan. I didn’t necessarily want people to know that much about me. More than that, though, I just didn’t think anyone would care. I’ve given it a good hard try, but I can’t help feeling phony when I post on Twitter, and my Facebook feed, well, you could say it’s a bit neglected. I tried Instagram, but I found myself focusing on searching for subjects and settings rather than enjoying the subjects and settings themselves. It’s an effort I continue to make, though, this social media stuff. I want to connect with people (otherwise I wouldn’t bother with any of this), but the introvert in me wants to cower in the corner at the thought of so much interaction, virtual or otherwise.

4. Platform, Platform, Platform. I’m drawn to book blogs and fashion blogs. I read them everyday, with my mid-morning coffee and biscotti. Wouldn’t it be nice, I thought, if somewhere out there someone else was having their midmorning coffee and reading my blog, my…what kind of blog exactly? When I first started blogging, I had no platform, and I continued that way for awhile. Over the years, I’ve played with the concept of platform, but I’ve never felt truly cemented to one. In my most recent overhauling frenzy, I’ve pulled the DIY section of the blog to focus specifically on reading, writing, and living, as these are the things I find myself doing most frequently. I’ve learned that by doing this I’ve not only given my blog more focus, but I’ve given myself more focus as well. When I think of a potential blog topic, I am now forced to ask myself under which category this topic would potentially fall. If I can’t logically justify its place, I don’t include it. This one, I feel, I’m getting better at.

I’m including a list of blogs I read regularly here. Take one look at any of them, and you will see exactly what I’m talking about. I still have a lot to learn. Obviously. The important thing is that it’s gotten better, this whole blogging experience. If growth is the point, if the process of improving is more important than the improvement itself, then I can honestly say I’m doing pretty well for myself here in my corner of the web.

Carrie Bradshaw Lied

Book Riot

Cupcakes and Cashmere

Could I Have That?

That’s What She Read

A Beautiful Mess

Life Abundant

Nerdy Book Club

Brooklyn Blonde

Poor Little It Girl

The Aftermath: A Character Sketch

Inside him is a pool, black in its depth, smooth, dangerous. It is composed of the feelings he’d rather not have, emotions he’d rather not feel, that which has been relegated but remains unavoidable. Most of the time the pool lies still behind the mask of what he wants people to see, the impression he wants them to have. But sometimes a pebble of reality falls through the cracks. Sometimes something from outside wakes the deep inside and wakes that which is better left sleeping.

When small truths penetrate the surface, when he’s made to confront himself, the pool becomes a maelstrom, violent in its intensity, ready to swallow whole whatever is nearest and dearest. Then eventually the water calms. He returns to his normal state but more alone, and those of us who became collateral, that which could be sacrificed, are spat out of the vortex on a side unfamiliar to us, left to wonder where there is left to go and if we can recover.

CharacterSketchSoldier

Outdated Processors

For the most part, life as we know it is not immutable. It is constantly in flux: seasons change, fashion changes, culture changes. People change. These changes take place over time; usually they are not abrupt. The old fades. Suddenly we realize the leaves are a different color. We are wearing different pants, different shoes now (or maybe we aren’t–everyone else is). Our favorite television shows are being shown in syndicate on channels like TVLand or NickatNite. Technology, however, changes right before our eyes. The only constant thing about it is that it’s constantly changing. And we accept these changes as unavoidable, in the way that tax season or natural disasters are unavoidable.

My students are always teaching me things. Thanks to them I know how to circumvent dorm monitors and where to buy the best tacos at 2 am. The educational exchange never ceases to amaze me, particularly with regard to their fascination with technology. Every backpack holds a laptop, every palm of every hand a cell phone. Excuse me, smartphone. These gadgets have been parts of their lives forever. They’ve never known a world without them, and they never will. Changing technology is their norm; they can chronicle the timeline of their lives with old cell phones, batteries long since dead, chargers long since lost.

When it comes to technology, age discrepancy becomes glaringly obvious. There are those completely resistant to change, those who embrace change with some measure of hesitation, and those for whom change is the only way the world works. My students are of the last ilk. They will continue to upgrade those smartphones until they themselves become irrelevant. I am of the middle kind: I appreciate change, but I’m beginning to feel technology-induced exhaustion at the prospect of yet another software update. Technology has a way of making me feel obsolete. Sitting in Starbucks on campus I overheard a conversation: two guys discussing whether or not it is better to rebuild an old computer or purchase a new one. “My processor is old, outdated,” one of them said. “I would replace it if I could.” I discreetly turned to look at them. They were not old. They were not young either. They were somewhere in the middle, both wearing sport coats with patches on the elbows. Professors, I thought. Then I wondered: were they talking about the processors in their computers, or were they talking about themselves?

LOL: Languid, Oblivious, and Lazy?

Written English and spoken English are two vastly different monsters. Any teacher of composition can tell you that, and most can prove it. Just because we speak in certain accepted patterns does not mean we should write in them, they say. But over the years, crafty as we are, we have developed many ways to circumvent the conventions dictated to us both by dusty grammarians and
rhetoricians whose glory days of face-to-face, interpersonal communication have faded into the realms of nostalgia.

Text messaging, instant messaging, and various other forms of digital messaging that negate the necessity for proximity have supplanted archaic forms of communication like conversation, debate, telephone use, and written correspondence. Our fancy new methods of interaction do not require us to be honest with our behaviors, our reactions; they allow us to be stingy with ourselves, giving something to the conversation without actually being forced to feel anything.

Perhaps more fascinating than anything (for those of us who fancy ourselves wordsmiths at least) is the habitual melding of written and spoken English that developed organically from digital communication media. Now, more often than not, we can conflate the way we communicate in informal situations with the way we write, causing those grammarians and rhetoricians in the musty, dusty corners of our culture to cringe and twitch and denounce us all.

A combination of this sort has its own unique requirements though. A new language, new universally accepted thought processes. Thus was born a hybrid language, one content with abbreviations and substitutions, cryptic in their trendiness: LOL, BRB, ROFL, and LMAO.

While theses abbreviations certainly serve a useful function for those of us too lazy or too busy to complete our thought processes in complete words or, God forbid, complete sentences, they do imply more emotional activity than we generally physically express.

For example, Laughing Out Loud is a wonderful sentiment. And we would probably all be better off if we did it more often. But the truth is that we don’t do it nearly as much as we say we do, creating in us the kind of emotional liars we would never be if we were communicating face to face. The truth is that more often than not we don’t even crack a smile as we LOL at our friends and loved ones. And while I’m pretty sure the sight of someone Rolling On The Floor Laughing would probably make me LOL, I have never actually seen someone do it, but there it is, all the same, in emails and text messages, floating through cyberspace, bringing feigned joy to those for whom it’s intended.

Most of this communication is harmless in its effect. We are not, as a rule, scarred by the mingling of conversational and formal speech, and an acronym, to my knowledge, has never harmed anyone. But what happens when our semantics and our behaviors don’t match up? What happens when the disconnect between what we say we feel and what we actually feel is found outl? What do we do when we realize we really aren’t as funny or clever as we thought we were? Do what we say we feel and what we actually feel have to be so exaggeratedly different? And what would happen if we reverted to honest communication, if we didn’t LOL every time we didn’t want to sound too harsh?

The truth is: IDK.

The Wordy Truth

“Why do you like to write so much?”

An innocent question. No subtext, no implication. Perhaps a little incredulity, but I expect that from freshmen composition students. If only the answer was as simple as the question.

I haven’t written in awhile, not for lack of things to say or words to say them. I really don’t know why. I’ve noticed an ever-growing compulsion to hoard myself, to gather the thoughts and feelings that compose who I am and keep them from those nearest and dearest to my heart. No excuse for that either, except that sometimes, when she can’t belong to the one who really matters, a girl simply needs to belong wholly to herself.

And writing is a promiscuous activity.

Writing is the drug, and I am bound to it. I’ve stopped asking why, for the answer is shrouded in the mystery of addiction. My fingers itch with the sharp points of the words that jab and poke, waiting to be bled out. Hyperbolic and overly figurative? You caught me, but I haven’t done this in awhile, so please be indulgent.

The urge is easy to ignore. Most of the time. The voice in the background crying, “Write me! Write me!” is easy enough to silence when you heap upon it steaming piles of life. And perhaps mine is a twisted literary masochism, a sick predisposition to delayed gratification. Because the time inevitably arrives when holding back ceases to be a choice.

The words adopt minds of their own. They rush forward and assume places on the page without care for or acknowledgement of the one from whence they’ve sprung. They settle there, take up residence in what they (in their wordy naïveté) believe to be permanent printed bliss, while I, their careful curator, am left with less of myself.

And oh God, does it feel good!

Something Fun to Get Back In

The English language is fraught with its fair share of well-intentioned rules. In our attempts to make ourselves indisputably clear, we have created for this language a tangled, mangled web of instructions upon which even the most strict grammarians cannot agree. We have created substitutions and short cuts that, when properly used, create a mellifluous effect. But more often than not these words are improperly used, placed in awkward places within our speech and causing more confusion than they remedy.

If overworked people become unproductive if they are not provided breaks, can the same be said of our parts of speech? If we gave them a break, would they become more effective tools of communication for us? And to that end, what would, say, our pronouns do if we left them unattended? What would they look like if we refrained from imposing our grammatical laws on them and allowed them to let their hair down? What would they do with a night off?

Well…

He would sit on the couch waiting for her to finish “getting ready.” She would furiously text and tweet her friends while trying to decide which dress to wear, even though She knows He’s waiting.

They would meet up with Them at the corner bar. She would hope He wouldn’t embarrass her with his inane attempts at humor. He would hope She would refrain from dancing.

Who knows with Whom They would join before the night is finished. But they agree: the more the merrier.

I is by far the most popular with Everyone, and They wouldn’t be able to wait for Me to get There.

While it seems there’s potential for a fabulous night to be had by All, the pressing question remains:

What would You do with a night off and no limitations?

A Lovely Day For a Surprise

Every now and then it becomes necessary to break the routine and make someone’s day just a little bit better. That’s what happened for me this morning, and that’s what I hope to do for the others you’ll see listed below.

Laura Stanfill has shared with me the Versatile Blogger Award. Laura’s blog deals with writing, reading, and talking about writing and reading. Her posts help me not only to be motivated sometimes, but also to find inspiration when I feel it is lacking. I couldn’t have found a more wonderful surprise when I checked my blog this morning. Thank you, Laura. You helped my day to start off on the right foot.

Now, with this award, I need to:

-Thank the awarder and link back to her blog (or his, whatever the case may be)

-Share seven things about myself

-And pass this award on to fifteen blogs I’ve recently discovered

Easy, right? We’ll see. So here goes:

7 Things

  • I still like to buy those gallon-size bottles of bubbles at Wal-Mart during the summer time.
  • I like to dance when no one is looking, although I’m really, really bad at it.
  • I have two dogs, and they are my absolute besties. They have to be; they know too much about me.
  • I have a party in my mind every time I check my blog and see that someone actually read it.
  • I love farmers’ markets. It saddens me that they are ending for the season.
  • I am a very passionate person. If I take up your cause, whatever it may be, I will see it through to the end, and it will seem like the only thing that matters.
  • I am a fierce friend. When I allow someone into my life, that person becomes family. I feel a deeply entrenched sense of loyalty, sometimes to my own detriment.

Now, I’m still scouring the blogosphere to find writers with interests similar to my own. And to find those that make me laugh. Or feel better about my humanity. The blogs you see here are some that have provided inspiration, amusement, motivation, and a general sense of community. Here goes:

Bekah the Merrymaker- Bekah’s blog deals specifically with fashion. She’s one of the sassiest, hippest, coolest people I know, and even though I can never hope to achieve the same level of ensemble awesomeness that Bekah has, her blog still gives me an insight into new ways of doing (and wearing) things.

Kate Shrewsday- Kate possesses talent I only wish I had. She blogs about her life, but she writes in a way that makes even an ordinary day in the garden into a fabulous story. She includes a lot of history in her posts, which I find to be fascinating because she doesn’t use the boring stuff, the stuff of textbooks. She provides little insights into lesser known (to me anyway) historical characters.

A.P. Alessandri- I enjoy this blog because its author and I have a lot in common, particularly when it comes to genre of interest. She writes personal essay and memoir, which is what I aspire to do someday.

Valerie Fletcher Adolph- Val’s blog You’re a Writer! has been really helpful for me. I find inspiration both in her posts and in her accomplishments.

Presents of Mind- I also feel like I have a lot in common with this blogger. From trying to figure out my own process to admiring the processes of others, it always feels good to know that we’re not alone.

Monica’s Tangled Web- I really like how Monica writes her story, things that are happening or have happened in her life. I also really enjoy her style of writing. The tone keeps me engaged.

Easy Reading is Damned Hard Writing- If you’ve ever experienced the fatigue of writing, how true is that?! I like that this blog explores the complexity of being successful when it comes to conveying emotion and human nature.

Jen Farhat- Jen’s style is straightforward and to the point. Her style and tone are honest, making her blog refreshing. It’s nice to read someone who isn’t pandering to anyone in particular.

Nothing to Read Here- This blog is new to me, but I’m really enjoying it. Once again, part of the awesomeness that is the blogosphere is that we get to interact with people who are like we are. This blog is honest in that its author embraces his potential for growth and expansion.

Monique- The concept of this blog is completely awesome! The stories are entertaining, and they have a way of drawing the reader back to the blog. Awesome!

I realize that I am five blogs short of fifteen. I’m not so terrible at math that I can’t figure that. However, I am limited on time right now. I’ll try to feature one new blogger every couple of days to make up for the shortage. In the meantime, check these folks out. They really are worth the read!

Thanks again to Laura for passing on the honor!

Fiction Friday: Making the Call

Mike slammed the car door, turned the key, and headed for the turnpike. He was running late already. He would miss the dinner. But they couldn’t have the surprise without him. No, the surprise was his deal. Too bad he wasn’t looking forward to it.

He slammed on the brakes. “Hey moron! Ya tryin’ to get us all killed? What the hell’s your problem? D’you getcha license from a cracker jack box?” Generally Mike was pretty good at weaving in and out of traffic. Sure, he might cut someone off occasionally, but when they saw his hulking form looming over the steering wheel, they knew better than to mouth off.

He had to drive an hour out of his way to run this errand. By the time he wheeled into the parking lot, he was feeling less than cheerful. It had just started to rain, and the lights in the store window were warm and welcoming. At least they would have been to anyone but Mike. He slung the door open and sauntered in. The salesman who should have approached him found himself otherwise occupied with a tower of cords and cables. No one would look him in the eye.

Mike looked down. “Christ!” he mumbled, tearing the bloody apron from his neck and shoving it inside his coat.

“Can I help you?” came a voice from the back corner of the store.

“Yeah,” Mike said. “I want your basic package. Nothin’ too fancy, huh?”

“Are you shopping for yourself?” inquired the salesman. His pseudo-cheerfulness grated on Mike’s nerves.

“Hey look, if I wanted you to know the details, I’d’a give ‘em to ya, huh? Just give me the basic package and the basic equipment.”

The salesman selected the merchandise, second-guessing himself twice, no, three times. He asked Mike for the name on the account, threw in the extra cords, cables, and cases with which the other salesman had so diligently busied himself. Mike turned to go.

“Have a nice night,” bleated the salesman. Mike threw up his hand and grunted.

All the way home Mike fretted over what was about to happen. He thought of best case scenarios. This could be a good thing, a learning experience. He thought of worst case scenarios. Maybe she’d be distracted. She wouldn’t see the end until it was too late. He generally liked to know the outcome of a situation before he went into it, so this uncertainty was maddening. He tightened his grip on the steering wheel.

“Here goes nothin'” he thought. And he entered the house.
“Damn it!” he growled as he sprawled, grasping for the countertop. He’d tripped over something small and pink. A ballet slipper.

“Sweetie, you’re home,” his wife said. She looked beautiful in her red sweater and pearls. He might have told her so if he hadn’t still been cursing the ballet slipper. “We waited for you as long as we could, but you know. We haven’t cut the cake yet though.”

Was this supposed to be his consolation?

He took off his coat and threw it and the bloody apron inside it to the back of the coat closet. He checked his hair, checked his face, and made his entrance.

When he walked into the dining room, the roar of conversation trickled to a mere murmur. Mike had that effect on people, if only briefly.

“Hey Mike, how are things down at The Butcher’s Block?” his neighbor Randy asked.

“Good, good,” Mike grumped. “People gotta eat, even in tough times, ya know?”

They shared a chuckle.

“It’s about time you got here,” said Aubrey Finnerman, another neighbor.

“I just had some last minute, uh, business to take care of,” he told them. “You know, somethin’ for the, uh, party her–”

“Daddy!” He turned in time to catch the whirling, twirling form of his fifteen (soon to be sixteen)-year-old daughter.

“Hey, short stack,” he said. “Happy birthday.”

“Where’ve you been? We’ve been waiting on you to cut the cake.” With that she grabbed his hand and led him to the front of the room where a cake in the shape of a Volkswagen Beetle was parked.

“Here you go, Daddy. You do the honors.” She handed him the knife. At that moment, somewhere in the back of the room someone started singing “Happy Birthday.” He searched the throng of faces and found his wife’s. She winked at him. She knew he’d been dreading.

When the Beetle had nothing left of a trunk or a backseat, Mike retrieved from the closet the bag he’d brought home.

“Now, uh, listen up, short stack,” he said. And she did.

“Your mother and I, well, we know you’re gonna be drivin’ soon, and listen, we want you to be careful,” he said. She nodded.

“We know you’re gonna go places and do things that, well, we’d rather you didn’t do,” he said. Everyone giggled.

“Look, I don’t like this, but, uh, your mother, well, she thinks it’s a good idea. So, uh, here,” he said and thrust the bag into her hand. “It’s only for emergencies.”

She reached in the bag, squealed with delight, and frantically sought the nearest outlet into which she plugged the charger for her new cell phone.

* * * *

Text only ©2011 Jessica Cocita. All Rights Reserved

Fiction Friday: Tough Defense (The End)

Tough Defense Part 1

Tough Defense Part 2

Tough Defense Part 3

Tough Defense Part 4

In court the next morning, Charlotte successfully delivered her closing arguments. She did what she could to refrain from making eye contact with Lester, and the prosecution did their best to keep from making eye contact with her. While Charlotte grappled with her unease, Lester attempted to draw the prosecution into a staring match. To rattle them, he said when Charlotte noticed what he was doing. She might have put a stop to it with any other client, but she felt too scattered at the moment to say much more than, “Hmm.” Could she actually be a good enough lawyer to convince both judge and jury of an acquittal she knew would be a mistake? Her head throbbed.

When it was time for sentencing, Charlotte found herself violently (though silently) opposing Andre Lester’s acquittal. As the jury read the verdict (not guilty, just as she knew it would be), Charlotte’s glance met that of the judge. She was startled to find a look of concern, a look that said, “Get out. Get out now before you’re too involved, before he knows too much about you and you know too much about him. Just get out.” Clearly Lester was not new to this judge’s courtroom. Charlotte briefly exchanged congratulatory remarks with Lester and the other defense attorneys before retreating to the the exit. As she passed the prosecuting attorney, his eyes (finally) met hers. She recognized the sentiment she found there, one of sympathy, and she forced herself to break away before he recognized the dejection in her own.

“Oh, Ms. Malloy,” she heard Lester shout from the front of the courtroom. “I am grateful for your services. I look forward to working with you again in the near future.” The cat that ate the canary? Yes, he was.

“Just doing my job, Mr. Lester. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to get back to the office to file the final paperwork.”

He leered after her as she left. Oh yes, he thought, as he attempted to shake a wrinkle out of his linen pants, he would be seeing her again soon. He had to.

* * *

Text only ©2011 Jessica Cocita. All Rights Reserved

Fiction Friday: Tough Defense Part 4

Tough Defense Part 1

Tough Defense Part 2

Tough Defense Part 3

Charlotte hustled herself out of the building that housed her office downtown. The southern sun beat down, and the humidity felt like a weight growing heavier on her chest. She clipped along to the parking garage.

“God, I gotta get out of here,” she thought, knowing full well that if he really wanted to know where she was going or what kind of car she drove, he could find out. He always seemed to be one step ahead of her, a characteristic that unnerved Charlotte in all clients, particularly clients of this ilk.

More than anything Charlotte just wanted to get out of there. Why is it that on the days she most needs to get away, the parking lot becomes an obstacle course, a maze with no exit? She drove around in circles a few more times and headed towards home. Andre Lester smiled through the office window at her effort.

“Where ya been, Sis? I been waitin’ for ya,” Kip said when she walked through the door. She had that silly spool of wire of the table in front of her, attempting, it seemed, to shape it into something artsy. She looked like she hadn’t been awake for too long.

“Did you just get up?” Charlotte asked. She was hoping whatever Kip had done that day would take her mind off her meeting with Lester.

“I been up since one. I’m an artist, not a bum.” Kip smiled through her feigned indignation. “Beauty doesn’t create itself, ya know.”

As Kip dove into the details of her day, Charlotte’s mind began to wander into tomorrow. She was confident that she had thoroughly memorized her arguments for tomorrow, including the parts she didn’t believe. That’s most of it, she thought, and shook her head. But what would happen to her afterwards? What would happen to Lester?

* * * *
To be continued…

Text only ©2011 Jessica Cocita. All Rights Reserved