My 500th Blog Post: Why Blogging Rocks

When I look back at my earliest blog posts, I found myself editing some, deleting others (including reblogs–don’t waste your time on those, unless your blog or name is mentioned).  I wanted my 500th to be my true 500th.  It was quite a task going through all the old stuff.  I’ve learned so much about copy editing since then, and my writing has improved tremendously.

My blog used to be something I only posted on when inspired.  Now, it’s Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, without fail–the other days, when I feel like it.  This self-imposed discipline has helped me become better at meeting deadlines.

I had written this piece about blogging, and why blogging is awesome, for a scholarship contest. I’ve won hundreds of dollars writing scholarship essays, and even when I don’t win, I have a nice piece to post on here or LinkedIn, or submit elsewhere.  Who doesn’t love recycling?

Blogging, for me, hasn’t just been about the product, but the process.  It’s given me great writing practice, and given me an additional creative outlet, because sharing what I write is part of the fun of writing.

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Virtually Living the Good Life,
in the Blogosphere

A blog, unlike a painting, is a multi-layered work of art
that cannot be seen all at once.
A blog, unlike a book, is ever-evolving and has no end.

With the advent of the Internet, words have more power today than they ever have before, for they can transmit in a matter of seconds to billions of people simultaneously. The Internet is a virtual pond, where the thoughts of anyone with an Internet connection can ripple forever. Like blood scrubbed with bleach, even when something has been deleted by the administrator, there are still traces of it. Once you’ve spilled your guts into a computer, it is never completely gone.

So be careful with your words—they might come back to haunt you someday.

Since I was a third-grader in Ms. Yvonne Cahoon’s class, I’ve been a writer. “I just love reading your journals,” she would say, and the spark was ignited. Those journals weren’t just logbooks, but how I felt about what I saw and heard. (I didn’t learn how important it was to include sensory details, like touch, taste, and smell, until much later). Those journals were my first taste of writing creative nonfiction. I started with what I knew, and then, as Mark Twain would say, “distorted the facts as I pleased.”

My blog, besides my child(ren) and the few whose lives I hope I touch, are part of the legacy I will leave when I depart from this world. I like to think that my descendants, a hundred years from now, will know so much more about me than I know about mine. Many of my words I will take with me, but the ones I’ve written and will write for the enjoyment, and, hopefully, the enlightenment of others, are the ones I will leave for my great-great-great granddaughter to read. I like to think even if my words don’t become famous in this life, perhaps they will posthumously (à la Emily Dickinson). I suppose that’s why I chose creative writing over journalism, for how many newspaper articles about local politics or blog posts about parenting endure like a poem or a piece of literature?

That said, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to stand out, for with the ease of sharing, there is oversharing, as there are over 74 million blogs on WordPress alone. Though I cannot control how many people choose to follow, share, reblog (also known as the Holy Grail of blogging), or comment on my posts, I do have control over the quality of the content. I’ve found that the shorter the post (400-600 words is recommended), the more likely it is that someone will read the whole thing. (I suspect that’s why haikus are so popular.) We like our information bite-sized now. Think about it: We’ve gone from the cake slice, to the cupcake, and now the cake pop.

You will (usually) get more mileage out of a tercet (a 3-line poem) than a 500-word blog post; in short (pardon the pun), you will be able to make more with less (i.e. generate more readership).

Wednesdays are the only days in which I have to create new content, which frees up time for me to spend on writing pieces that may get published for pay. (Every April and November, I post my Writer’s Digest PAD, or Poem-a-Day, Prompt. This is when I get a bulk of my followers, but you will stretch yourself too thin if you try to post 365 days a year. Once a week is the minimum you should post.

My blogging journey started in October 2014, after I picked up a copy of The Writer’s Market.  I read that blogging should be a part of every author’s platform, and Sarah Lea Stories: A Flurry of Creativity, was born (which I’ve since renamed). I blogged about everyday life: marriage, motherhood, food, and many other things (none of which I am an expert, but rather just have an interest in), though a part of me felt why should I give it all away for free? Did followers really translate into sales, even though I had nothing tangible to sell, but would someday? (The only time I’ve ever bought a book from someone I knew was if they were a member of my local writers’ group. Other than that, my way of book shopping was browsing the bookshelves at one of the local bookstores, reading Amazon.com reviews, or listening to my friends about the books they’ve read, simply because anyone can publish a book now.)

So no, not for me, at least not right now.

That said, it got to a point where I struggled to find things to write about—not that I was running out of ideas, but I liked to save the really good stuff for professional (i.e. paying) publication, as once something is published online, even on your own blog (and even if you have only 100 followers), it’s considered published and you will likely never be able to submit it anywhere else. So, never publish anything online that you may find an adopted home for someday. I’ve written volumes of work I will never publish on my blog.

My advice: Never blog your book—you’ve worked too hard to give it away, and I have found that a book I haven’t paid for, but downloaded for free, is actually less likely to get read because I have so many books I paid for competing for my attention. Professionally self-publish before you ever blog your book. At least that way, you might have a chance at making a little money off of it.

Notwithstanding, you should still always post your best (but not necessarily your most ambitious) on your blog, and it should never be a dump site. When I write something (whether specifically or not) for my blog, it represents me, and it’s going to be polished to a fine patina.

Moreover, writing short on a daily basis has helped me add richness to my longer works, for what is a Great American Novel without great lines? With a blog, you see the results immediately, mostly via likes and maybe a follower or two (comments, apparently, take a great deal of effort because it requires you to actually read the article). With a novel, it might be months or years before you get feedback (much less published), besides the form letter that says it was great, but just wasn’t for them (which are the most maddening kind.)

Nevertheless, don’t let blog writing take too much time away from the writing that might make you money someday, unless you plan on making money from your blog. (I prefer the term “online column”.) Give your audience just enough to get to know you and your work (don’t just sell, but tell), because your blog will be one of your greatest assets when you publish that breakout novel.

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Don’t think of blogging as giving away your hard work for free, but as investing a little time in yourself and your brand. There are fifteen great reasons to start blogging now!

1. It helps people get to know you better. If you are at present unknown, people are more likely to take a chance on buying your book if they feel they have a personal connection with you. Blogging is also a great way to advertise your product, but make the ad entertaining. Everyone loves a story, so use a story; you’re a writer, after all. Even Jesus got people to “buy” what He said using parables.

2. It gives you a voice, an outlet. Blogging isn’t a diary, but a narrative. No one sees the world quite like you do. As Edmund Wilson says, “No two persons ever read the same book.”

3. It satisfies our temptation for instant gratification. That’s one of the many reasons why we write—to connect with others.

4. It gives you writing practice.

5. It instills discipline with self-imposed deadlines.

6. It enhances your creativity. I’m not sure I ever would’ve stuck with the Writer’s Digest prompts if it hadn’t been for needing regular content. (I always include the link to the prompt, as it helps with search engine optimization.)

7. It’s free. (You don’t even have to pay for images.)

8. It can make you money. Attract enough followers, and this can happen to you.

9. It can get you speaking engagements. This is where many writers make a lot of their money.

10. It sharpens your observation, makes you become more aware. Everything, and everyone, has a story.

11. It helps you learn. You can learn as much by researching as you would by being taught.

12. Depending on the job description, it looks great on a resume.

13. It leaves a legacy. Like any distant star, there is a chance someone might land on it.

14. It replaces the dreaded Christmas letter. (This is if you post personal stuff on your blog, and some do, for friends and family.)

15. You get to know yourself better. Though writers often live inside their heads, they don’t always self-reflect, especially if they’re used to making things up. I’ve learned how to capture the ordinary, and make it extraordinary.

I’m still learning everyday how to become a better blogger, website designer, photo editor, and someday photographer.

Blogging, if done right, will not take a great deal of your time. What’s great about it is that you have complete control over your content and can even write ahead for it if you know you’re going to be short on time. (I did this during my summer medical internship, with months’ worth of Monday and Friday blog posts “in the can.”)

Blogging is a great way to unload some pent-up creativity—a way of shedding the excess, so you can focus on writing down the bones.

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Phoetry: Words and Pictures

My husband and I recently watched a movie called “Words and Pictures”, and it was mildly entertaining.  I am always interested in checking out a flick if one of the main characters is a writer, but you can’t beat “Misery”.  However, “W&P” was different.  The plot was about a male English teacher, and a female art teacher at a preppy high school, who start a war over words vs. pictures, which is more important?  Of course, there’s the whole “A picture is equal to 1000 words”, and an asinine love story (only thing I liked about it was that the woman was disabled and the man, though highly intelligent, was otherwise an average Joe).  It was one of those movies that focused more on creating quirky characters than characters you felt for, related to.  It was supposed to answer a question which no one asks because we all know the answer to it:  They are both equal, but different (like men and women).

I’ve just refreshed my Twitter account (according to most publishers, you need to have a strong online presence with Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter), and this movie (and this scholarship opp:  http://www.1800wheelchair.com/scholarship/) gave me an idea.  I would combine photography with brief poetry; while my photography is nothing to brag about, it gets the point across.  I do this because we are visual creatures and a phopoem (a poem on a photo) will catch a Twitterbug’s eye more than just a tweet.  I’ve already posted a few plain photos of poems (see:  https://twitter.com/SarahLeaSales), but this is my first “poetic thought” with a background.  I do believe it provides a nice contrast (I’ve always liked newsprint, etc., as a background).

Mightier than swords

Submission for Birkenstock scholarship

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So I found this scholarship opportunity on Chegg:  “Write about the best shoes you have ever had or your grandmother’s beautiful toes. Just be interesting or educate us in 400-1000 words,” and this is what I came up with:

The Red Slip-Ons:  A 5-Minute Memoir

I’m a flip-flop and bikini top kind of woman (meaning I don’t do bras or high heels).  I’m five four with a size ten foot.  I’d been a size nine till I had my daughter Hannah.  Now I can’t wear my shoes or my clothes.

Every woman has a favorite pair of shoes.  Big feet don’t make you cry in the dressing room.  No woman ever asks, “Do these shoes make my feet look fat?”  However, I won’t wear those with pointed-toes—they seem like corsets for feet.

It was a day that Target was having a clearance sale.  It was the end of summer, and their flip-flops were all half-off.  A ruby-red pair with red sequins had caught my eye.  A combination of retail therapy and Starbucks caffeine had made me heady, and I wondered if they’d put something special in my brownie.

It was starting to sprinkle outside and the smoky violet sky made me think of Liz Taylor’s eyes.  I’d tossed my crappy flip-flappies into the receptacle out front (near the big red balls some teenage girls were bouncing on) and worn these out.  They matched my retro red toenail polish.

I went to the car and rolled down the window, letting my feet dangle over the side, the cool breeze blowing through my toes.  The new shoes felt great.  Now I just needed a pedi.  That was the problem with open-toed shoes, they required foot care.  No mangled pinky toenails or hairy halluces.  I must have spaced out for a minute, for the next, there were a couple of guys passing by, chatting about Emerald City, rather animatedly.  I called out, unable to help myself, “Are you going to see the Wizard?”  They looked at me like I’d lost my mind and said, “Lady, you’re in the land of Oz.”

They walked off, laughing.  When my husband came out with our daughter and a bag of Moose Munch, I told him of the exchange, and he laughed.

“Oh, that’s a gay bar downtown,” he said, and I shook my head.  “They have great drag shows.”

I looked over at Pensacola’s self-proclaimed Moses on one corner, holding up an Israeli flag, and then over at some creepy ass cracker on the other, holding up a cardboard sign saying, “Cracker needs help”. Only in Lower Alabama (or L.A., as the locals call it), I think.

“You know something, Brian, there are times when I think we really are in the Land of Oz.”

Submission for Fifth Month Scholarship

Prompt:  May is the fifth month of the year. Write a letter to the number five explaining why five is important. Be serious or be funny. Either way, here’s a high five to you for being original.dice-2026955_960_720

A World Without Five

Five is an important number, in more ways than one (make that five).
If Five didn’t exist, then high fives would cease to exist,
and morale would take a high dive.

We would either have too many fingers or too few toes,
and starfish would be an X without an O.

We wouldn’t have the five golden rings like in “The Twelve Days of Christmas”–
the one with the pear and the bird in the tree–
and the whole refrain would sound quite the same, you see.

We’d be missing some nickels at 5 cents,
and the Five-and-Dime wouldn’t have made sense.

There would be Four W’s, but probably no H,
and so no one would know how to do anything
or how the hell anything happened to do.

None of us would have a clue.
The five-second rule would cease to exist,
for four wouldn’t be long enough,
and six would be enough too long.

Everything would have to be tossed,
and the world would be turned inside-out,
and right-side wrong.

That said, no longer would the letter S be seen as a 5–
they would no longer have to co-exist,
and it is only in this way that the number 5 would not be missed.