Archive | Blogging

Tips For Adulthood: Five Traits Of Successful Bloggers

Every Wednesday I offer tips for adulthood.

I’m teaching a bunch of classes on blogging later today at a local university.

So I’ve spent the past 24 hours immersed in “the art of blogging.”

One of the great things about teaching is that it forces you to reflect on all that you’ve learned about a given topic, cull that together and impart it to your students.

I’ve written before about five reasons I love to blog.

But in reviewing my material for today’s lectures, I’ve also reflected on what it takes to be a great blogger.

To wit, five traits of successful bloggers:

1. Curiosity. Contrary to what people may think, you don’t need to be an extrovert to be successful blogger. Susan Cain is a case in point. But you do need to be endlessly curious. The best bloggers I know – Gretchen Rubin of The Happiness Project comes to mind – never run out of material to write about because the they never run out of things that fascinate them. And they are able to transmit that sense of wonderment onto the page. Don’t believe me? Read this post by Gretchen on cultivating a sense of smell.

2. Perseverance. If I had a dime for every friend or acquaintance who told me that they were starting a blog and then never followed through, I’d be a rich woman. I was combing through my blog subscriptions in my RSS feed just the other day and realized how many of them had gone dormant. This isn’t a bad thing, necessarily. Blogging is a huge commitment and it’s not for everyone. But there’s no question that you can’t succeed at it if you aren’t willing to go the distance. Which is probably why even most blogs that do launch don’t last more than a few months. I point this out because most people who balk at starting a blog are concerned that they aren’t technically up to speed. But take it from me, the technical part is the easy part. (If I can do it, anyone can.) What’s hard is committing to your audience – and yourself – and persevering week in and week out.

3. Generosity. There’s no question that blogging is a more narcissistic activity than straight up journalism. But the best bloggers are those who not only get that blogging is all about community, they actively practice it. One of the things I’m emphasizing in my classes today is the all-importance of the hyper-link to blogging. Sure, it takes awhile when you’re just getting started to figure out which Online community/ies you belong to. But once you’ve identified that space, you need to be actively linking to that community:  through your posts, through your comments, through social media. This isn’t just a practical strategy for building an audience. The dirty secret of blogging is that it’s when you’re generous in crediting the work of other bloggers, it’s actually loads more fun.

4. Humility. Related to #3, the best bloggers are also humble. If they’re smart, they let their work speak for itself, rather than relentlessly and shamelessly self-promoting. I’m personally always wary of bloggers who only show up on Twitter or Facebook when they have their own work to share. It gives the impression that they’re just too self-involved. Another way to demonstrate your humility as a blogger is to own your mistakes and to not be afraid or unwilling to accept criticism. Time and again, I’ve been surprised and delighted to discover that when someone dumps on something I’ve written Online, if I just “show up” in the comments section and address them personally – taking their criticism seriously but also reasserting my own point of view – we can respectfully work through it, or at least agree to disagree. I think readers really appreciate it when bloggers take the time to acknowledge that they may be wrong or why they feel  they’re being misconstrued. The This American Life episode, Retraction, that I linked to last week is a great case in point.

5. Voice. I’ve written before about how important it is to set a tone when you blog. There are lots of different ways to do this, but basically it’s about conveying your personality on your blog and letting that shine through your writing. The reason voice is so important is that as a reader, it’s what connects you, emotionally, to the content at hand. One of my favorite bloggers, Colleen Wainwright of Communicatrix, recently took a short leave of absence from her blog. And when she returned after several months, I heard her voice again and realized how much I’d missed it while she was gone. That, to me, is the sign of the truly successful blogger.

How about you? If you are a producer and/or consumer of blogs, what do you think makes for a successful blog?

 

Image: Moo cards for blogging workshop by Mexicanwave via Flickr under a Creative Commons license

 

When Life Gives You Lemons

And we’re back…..

Well, sort of.

With luck, this blog is now – after 12 days or so – reaching anyone who subscribes to it, whether by RSS feed or by email.

If, however, you try to access it via Google, Chrome or any of the other splendid search engines out there, you are still likely to encounter some sort of warning telling you that if you click on this site your body will burst into flames, your bank account will depleted and a plague of locusts will infest the entire planet. (But hey, go ahead and click. It’s your funeral!)

I once wrote a post entitled Crisis Management: Lessons From France about staying calm during a crisis. (Note: You probably won’t be able to read that post right now. See above). It concerns a trip my family made to France during a train strike a couple of years back. While we basically flipped out as we a. missed our scheduled train b. caught one four hours later and then c. had to sit on our bums in the aisle for the entire two-hour journey, I noticed that all around us, the French were just drinking wine, laughing and completely chilling out.

Granted, French people have way more experience with strike activity than we Americans do. But they just took it all in stride. Fast forward to last week. Sure, I was incredibly frustrated that some alien virus had snuck into my blog and basically destroyed it – over Thanksgiving, no less – which meant that my wonderful web guru was (quite understandably) not on hand for most of the week to help me out. But there was absolutely nothing I could do about it. Radical acceptance, to borrow another phrase from myself.

But I learned something else from that excursion to France which I forced myself to remember several times over the past week. It comes from that old adage: When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.

Because it wasn’t only my blog that went pear-shaped last week, as we say over here. I had a job interview that didn’t quite work out. And – oh yes – there was the power outage that nearly prompted a divorce. (Of course, it could have been worse. At least I’m not Herman Cain.) So here’s the lemonade, in reverse order:

a. Exhibit A: Power Outage. Sunday morning. Furiously trying to throw together an apple pie for belated, Expat Thanksgiving Day celebration here in London. Clock is ticking because I meant to do this the night before forgot to defrost butter. Also rushing because of new-found zeal for Zumba and I wanted to squeeze in class at 11 while pie was in oven. Then entire endeavor grounds to a halt as computers, lights, stove, heating and hot water all shut off abruptly. Takes approximately 90 minutes to diagnose problem, at least half of which is consumed by furious bickering with husband over assorted switches, circuits and general mayhem that ensues.

Silver lining?: He eventually diagnoses problem, which appears to reside with short circuit in washer/dryer, and rest of house resumes activity. Realize that I could never have done this on my own and feel instantly grateful for the division of labor within our marriage, and all resentment lifts.

b. Exhibit B: Job interview with fabulous organisation in London that appears to be a great fit with both my interests and skill set. Go in to do an eight-hour trial “work day” to see if it’s a good fit. It isn’t, but mostly because the position that’s open isn’t what I’m after at this point in my career. Feel really dejected afterwards as for a brief moment, I thought I had this whole job thing all sewn up. And now I’m back to the drawing board.

Silver lining?  I have a much stronger sense of what I want – and don’t want – from my professional life right now. I’d never have known that with as much certainty if I hadn’t have gone in and tried this on.

c. Exhibit C: The Blog. Was absolutely devastated not to be blogging as there were – as always – so many things I wanted to share with this community.

Silver lining? I really missed blogging. And that was perhaps the best lemonade of all.

 

Image: Lemon by Chugy via Flickr under a Creative Commons License.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Breaking Up With Friends Online…and In Life

I broke up with a fellow blogger recently.

She doesn’t know it, of course. Because I don’t know her. In that curious Online way in which we now Friend and Follow and Subscribe to many of our “friends,” you can just as easily unfriend, unfollow or unsubscribe to someone’s RSS feed and they won’t necessarily even know that it happened.

It was a weird experience for me, nonetheless – the end of this relationship. She was one of the very first bloggers that I began to follow, long before I launched my own blog. I followed her because she seemed wise and funny and edgy. Most of all, she had super-insightful tips on an array of topics that interested me concerning blogging and career change and work/life balance.

Over time, however, she began to blog less and less about these professional topics and more and more about her personal life. That didn’t bother me, at first. For starters, she has a super-interesting personal life. And she’s also got a terrific voice. And, let’s be honest, blogging is an inherently narcissistic activity. So if you don’t have a strong voice, it really doesn’t work. (Thank goodness for all of us that narcissism is no longer in the DSM…)

Still, the more I read her blog, the more I came to feel that I was going there out of some voyeuristic impulse, rather than than because I was getting all that much out of it. In other words, somewhere along the way, our relationship had changed and I didn’t feel that it was particularly healthy for me anymore.

And that was when I knew that it was time to break up.

Once she was gone from my life, I found that I didn’t really miss her. To the contrary, I felt a sense of relief. It was just like ending a long-standing romantic relationship that’s become unhealthy and unproductive, one where you can no longer remember why – exactly – it was that you first hit it off but, regardless, the chemistry simply isn’t there any more.

Which got me thinking that my Online breakup with this blogger was a bit like breaking up with friends in real life.

We’ve all been there:

*The childhood friend with whom you shared everything – even your chewing gum – but is now embracing social and political causes you can’t quite stomach.

*The co-worker whose banter was fine at the office, but slipped into something more inappropriate after hours.

*Or simply the person you befriended because he seemed cool at the time, but, upon closer inspection, turned out to have several bodies hanging on a meat cleaver in his basement refrigerator.

Sometimes those break-ups can be painful, especially if you didn’t initiate them.

Sometimes they enable you to find a new equilibrium. I wrote not long ago about a semi-unhealthy best-friend relationship my daughter got into – and out of  – last year. Once she severed that tie, I was sure that particular friendship was dead and gone. But now she and her old Bestie are friends again – albeit of a much more casual sort.

A big part of growing up is figuring out what’s important to us in a friend. But equally, it’s about realizing when it’s time to move on.

Image: The Broken Hearts Club by Chrissy Ferguson via Flickr under a Creative Commons license.

Welcome To RealDelia 2.0

Hello and welcome to the new RealDelia.com!  Notice the snazzy new logo? Matching social media icons on the sidebar? Testimonial and Connect pages? Tasteful yellow accents when you click on the Menu?

If you’ve been reading this blog for awhile, you’ll know that I’m not much of one for makeovers, at least when it comes to my own sorry-ass self.

With the blog, well, that’s different. I’d been thinking about giving the blog a makeover for some time now. But  – heeding the advice of many veteran bloggers out there – I wanted to focus first on building good content and a strong readership before expending any energy on enhancing the blog’s look.

But after two years of blogging continually (the 2 year anniversary was January 29th!) I decided that it was time to dress for success.  So I re-designed my website late last month. And today, February 14, 2011, I hereby present you with RealDelia 2.0.

I apologize if you’ve had a hard time getting onto the blog over the past week or so. Speed bumps are inevitably part of this process and we hit a few last week. I’m sure there will be a few more technical glitches before this whole thing is over. So I hope you’ll be patient.

Please have a look around the site and explore. Truth be told, it  isn’t *all*that different content-wise from what I had before. But hopefully the look is a good deal more personalized and professional. Over time, my hope is that I can do a whole lot more with it.

I also wanted to say a few thank yous while I’m at it.

First, to my old friend Gretchen Rubin of Happiness Project fame, who shared her wisdom and insight about blogging with me when RealDelia was just a twinkle in my eye. It was Gretchen who encouraged me to think broadly about this blog’s subject matter and helped me to arrive at “adulthood” as my theme.  Gretchen has had huge and much-deserved success with her own blog and I continue to learn from her every day.

I also wanted to thank the amazing team at Shatterboxx Media, Jamie and Nicole – who came to me via another fabulous blogger, Communicatrix.  They were punctual, professional, personable and – most of all – incredibly open to my numerous suggestions and changes as we went about conceiving a new brand identity for RealDelia. I absolutely love my new logo.

While I’m at it, let me also give a HUGE thank you to my wingman in Chicago, Josh Andrews of Lackner/Andrews. Josh built the site and is responsible for its amazing functionality. He held my hand through the entire process – from the minute I first pondered a re-design all the way through to writing this very first post.  He is knowledgeable, friendly, proficient, and above all, very  patient. If you are in need of a social media consultant, you can do no better than Josh.

Finally, I wanted to thank all of you. It’s Valentine’s Day today, which is normally a time that we think about that special someone. But my oldest brother – who’s a reference librarian and knows a whole lot about a whole lot of things – informed me that in Finland, Valentine’s Day is called Ystävänpäivä (the Finnish word for friendship), and thus Friend’s Day. Unlike many other countries where Valentine’s Day is mainly a day of “Romance,” in Finland it is also the day when close friends send cards and gifts to each other to commemorate friendship.

So because I’m a sucker for all things Finnish, let me raise a virtual glass of bubbly to Jamie, Nicole, Josh and all of you – the readers of RealDelia – who make this whole blogging thing so special for me, day after day.

To friends!

Image: Champagne by ali wade via Flickr under a Creative Commons license

On Vacation

Hi All.

I’ll be away on vacation in Berlin this week but look forward to catching up with you next week.

Auf Wiedersehen…Ich bin ein Berliner…and all that good stuff.

Have a great week!

 

Image: German Flag by Craig Is Shooting via Flickr under a Creative Commons license

RealDelia Reader Survey

Hi folks.

I’m taking a break from my normal posting today to ask a big favor.

I’m in the process of re-designing this blog (stay tuned!) and as I go about doing that, I thought that it might be helpful to know a bit more about my readers.

Should I ever try to syndicate all or parts of this blog (for profit), I need to know a bit more about the demographics of my readers. And should I ever wish to run ads, I will also need to know a bit more about you.

So I’ve designed a survey to learn a few details about who’s reading this blog. A few points worth making up front:

*I’m running this survey through an on line company called Survey Monkey.

*This is completely anonymous survey and all data will be handled confidentially. No one will know who you are (even me!)

*This won’t take more than a few minutes of your time. (Promise!)

But it will be enormously helpful to me as I move forward with RealDelia.

I wish that I could give you a prize for doing this, but I will instead just thank you from the bottom of my heart. As a token of my appreciation, I will also bequeath you the virtual flower bouquet featured above for being such loyal and devoted readers of this blog.

Apparently the survey link was not working when I first posted but it should be working now. If you tried to do the survey and could not, kindly try again.

Please take a moment and Click here to take survey

Thanks!!!!

Image: Thank You For 44,000 Views This Year by Poppy Wright via Flickr under a Creative Commons license.

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Cherry On Top Award

Erin over at Cross’ The Pond sent me the Cherry on Top Award – for which I am truly grateful and deeply flattered.

There are rules, of course. I must pass it along to six other bloggers and they too must follow the rules. Here they are:

Answer this question:
If you had the chance to go back and change one thing in your life, would you, and what would it be?
Thank the person who gave you this award.

PICK 6 people/blogs and give them this award. You then have to inform the person that they have received this award.

There are many things I’d change, of course. But the one major thing I’d do differently would be to counsel my younger self not to think that I needed to have it all figured out by the time I was 25. When I was young, I put so much pressure on myself to know what I “wanted” out of life – especially professionally. I didn’t feel like there was time to wander or to test things out. I thought that I needed to know and so I made decisions – important ones – because I felt like the most important thing was to decide. That proved to be so wrong and while we all learn from our mistakes, I now see that if I’d just loosened up and let myself breathe a bit more, I could have gotten to a happy place professionally much sooner. Of course, then perhaps I wouldn’t have this blog – which is all about that journey – or maybe I’d have it but it would be called something like “Finding yourself in adulthood…at 25!” Ha!
So thank you for nominating me, Erin.
And here are my six folks:

LPC at Privilege: A High Wasp Stops To Consider

Katy at The Book Snob

Ms. Bougie at Another Bourgeois Dilemma

Jen at Jenography

Susanna at A Modern Mother

Patricia at Patricia’s Wisdom

Please stop by and visit these folks’ blogs. They are all fab!

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Let's Be Friends: Join Me On Facebook

OK, so at long last I’m going to go ahead and open up my Facebook account to…(drumroll please)…you!

I’ve held off doing this for a long time. When I first joined Facebook a little over a year ago (yes, I know, I was a late adopter…), I wasn’t quite sure how it would fit into my life and wanted to keep it just for close “real life” friends and family.

Well, as any of you fellow Facebook-o-philes realize, that model quickly went right out the window. Although I wouldn’t “accept” anyone as a friend that I’d never met personally, the range of people who made it under the radar because we’d once met was still quite high. One year later and with 325 friends (and growing), it now seems silly to call all of those people close friends.

In addition, I blog regularly at places like Politics Daily and The Huffington Post and Yahoo! Shine where it’s pretty much du rigueur to invite readers to not only follow you on twitter (which I’ve always done), but to friend you on Facebook. It’s all part of the new journalism, dontcha know, and I need to get with that program.

Until recently, another barrier to going global with my Facebook account was that I decided – erroneously, I now believe – to use my given name, Delia Boylan, for Facebook and my professional name, Delia Lloyd, for everything else. But that just proved confusing. I’ve recently solved that problem by changing my Facebook name to Delia Boylan Lloyd so that there’s something for everyone (including my own multiple personalities…).

But probably the most important reason that I’ve changed my Facebook policy is that there’s absolutely nothing I post there that I wouldn’t be 100% comfortable with other people seeing. Which doesn’t mean that my status updates anodyne or dull. It’s simply that I gradually realized that there’s no rational reason that people who don’t know me – but might want to Know me (in a non-biblical sense, heh-heh) – shouldn’t.

Plus, I’m an inherently extroverted person and I enjoy reading status updates from people I don’t know as much as from those I do. They’re witty, informative and (among other things) often give me writing ideas. And since we now know that social networking isn’t destroying the whole fabric of friendship, just evolving what the concept means, I say, bring it on.

Since I’m opening up my virtual floodgates, let me briefly explain how I use these two wonders of social media. Facebook I use mostly in a very personal sense, by which I mean that I post short, often humorous snippets about my day to day life – e.g. something funny my kids said, a great book I’m reading, a film I’ve seen. It’s a sort of “behind the scenes” RealDelia.

Twitter, in contrast, I tend use in a more professional sense. I share neat articles, interviews and videos I come across, or other cool stuff on the web. It’s very much a sort of daily version of my Friday Pix series, except that I update it throughout the day.

So join me,  friends, on Facebook. Here’s a link to my profile, which is also on the “About page” of this blog. (Note: I will ask you how you got to me, just to weed out the crazies.)  And if you’d like to follow me, I’ve included a handy-dandy blue bird in my side bar that will take you directly to my twitter feed.

Finally, if you’re one of those people who doesn’t know what any of this is and couldn’t be bothered to find out, I say: do so in good health.

Image: Facebook by Laughing Squid via Flickr under a Creative Commons License.

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Parenting: Discovering How Your Kids See You

As someone who writes personal essays and blogs, I frequently use my family for material. I’ve written about my husband’s obsession with gadgetry, my son’s first exposure to sex ed and my daughter’s penchant for cross-dressing.

So I guess it was inevitable that sooner or later, the tables would be turned and I’d be the subject of something they wrote. Needless to say, this experience caught me off guard.

At the school my children attend in London, the head teacher solicits “half-term” projects from kids who want to do extra work. The kids write a report, she reads it and they get a certificate at assembly. It’s all good.

Each of my kids has jumped onboard enthusiastically with these assignments. My 8-year-old son has covered topics ranging from Tamerlane (his favorite Khan, as in Ghengis) … Team U.S.A. at the 2008 Olympics … and some of the more obscure “Star Wars” characters. (Plo Koon, anyone?)

My 5-year-old daughter’s reports have been a bit simpler: a reworking of the Cinderella narrative or a series of drawings with self-explanatory captions like “Pirate Louis Is a Pirate.”

Until now. A few days ago, my daughter declared that she’d like to do her half-term project on — wait for it — me. She asked me to download a few photographs from Picasa and then began to work in earnest.

Read the rest of this story at the New York Times Motherlode blog

Image: Writing Lesson by radioflyer007 via flickr under a Creative Commons License.

Tips For Adulthood: Five Reasons I Love To Blog

Every Wednesday I offer tips for adulthood.

As some of you know, last Friday was the first anniversary of RealDelia. And while I fully intended to break out the champagne…the confetti…the whole nine yards, somehow I didn’t quite pull it off. (I had hoped that my wife would throw me a party, but she was too busy that day).

So I thought that I would mark the occasion today instead, by telling you five reasons why I love to blog, and why you might like it too:

1. It helps you to find your voice. I have been writing for a long time now in my adult life. I started as a research assistant when I first got out of college. Then there was that long, hazy academic morass when I was a graduate student and then a professor. Over the past three years, it’s been a blend of personal essays, reported features and occasional fiction writing. But it was only once I started this blog that I felt that I finally found my voice as a writer, and realized that – with all my career shifts – that was what I’d been looking for all along.

2. It makes you more mindful as a person. Mindfulness is one of those new-agey terms that I deliberately avoided for awhile. But in fact, one of the great virtues of blogging – at least if you are blogging about your own life and trying to extract lessons from it – is that it makes you more aware of how you lead your life, in ways both large and small. In my own case, one of the major innovations in my personal life was my decision to stop working on Saturdays. And while I can’t attribute that decision entirely to blogging, I think that being in the habit of examining my life on a daily basis (on the blog) gave me the tools to step back and change my life.

3. You make new friends. There’s my e-BFF Sharon, of course – of Neverbloomers fame – whom I first got to know through this blog because of our shared interest in adulthood. Now we’re on Facebook, we Skype one another and I think a professional collaboration may come down the pike. But there are a whole host of people I can think of right off the top of my hat – Colleen, Mike, Kristen, Katy, LPC – to name a few, whom I never would have “met” except through blogging (OK, I did in fact meet Katy once but blogging is our bond.) And I’m so enriched because of those connections.

4. You become more disciplined. Yeah, yeah. It’s trite, I know. But it’s true what they say. When you start writing on a regular basis, it makes you a better writer. Partly because practice makes perfect. But also because you’re able to just sit down and pound it out when you really need to. Which – in my case – has come in really handy over the past nine months that I’ve also been writing for PoliticsDaily.com.

5. You learn a ton. When I started doing this, I thought it would be fun to share my small musings about the world with other like-minded folk. And it has been loads of fun. But it turns out that the best part about blogging is what you learn from other people, either because of a comment they leave on your post, or because you subscribe to their blog, or because you encounter them haphazardly while doing some research on – say – adulthood – and then you end up staying to see what else they’ve got up their sleeve.

In that vein – and to steal a page from Nicola (another great blogger I’ve gotten to e-know), I’d love it if, in the comments section, you’d leave a link to a blog that you really like and which you think I (and readers of RealDelia) should check out. Feel free to leave your own blog’s name. I’d love to come visit.

And most of all, thank you!

Image: Blogging Research Wordle by KristinaB via Flickr under a Creative Commons License.