Like many bloggers, I have an about page. Unlike most bloggers, I sprinkle the basics with a few strange and bizarre facts. Things I feel you should know. Like that I was once attacked by an angry mob of mosquitoes in Senegal and that I can sing all the verses to that famous kids’ song, I’m a Little Pile of Tin, No One Knows What Shape I’m In.
Because these are the things that shape a person’s character.
And yet, from some of your recent questions, I feel I haven’t covered all the bases. So here they are, my brutally honest responses to stuff you’ve been asking me about.
7 Questions My About Page Doesn’t Answer
1. Why do you tell stories in your blog posts?
I can’t seem to help myself. I think it probably came from growing up in a story-centric family. Mama was a housekeeper, berry picker and scrounger of odd jobs, but she had a way with words. When I was eight, she won the $500 first prize in the National Bellas Hess Company jingle contest.
But it was her stories that made her legend. She told them slowly, with drama, stretching out the suspenseful scenes, with pauses in all the right places, until we were on the edge of our seats. If the story was too long or we had heard it before, Daddy would try to head her off at the pass and finish it for her. She would glare at him, her eyebrows a ‘V’, and say, ” I was getting to that part!” (Maybe that is why my posts tend to be on the long side.)
Though she never wrote any of them down, Mama taught me a lot about telling captivating stories, particularly how to paint colorful characters that people care about, get them into trouble, stir the pot with more complications, then get them out just in time to avoid a meltdown.
2. What’s the one thing that improved your blogging the most?
Having written just last April about 21 things I did to improve my blog, it’s tough to choose just one. But if you back me into a corner, I would have to say that it was finding myself, I mean my true blogger self. The one who ricochets from profound to slightly crazy. The one who loves to drive a point home with a story.
It was a matter of proudly claiming my voice and having enough confidence to write with it. That part did not come easily to me. But I’ve captured my voice and it’s not getting away from me again.
3. What’s up with the ‘Lee’ in your name?
For some reason, people seem to be surprised by and curious about my middle name. All through my childhood, I carried it around with great shame because I thought it was a boy’s name. But Daddy’s family grew up in the hills of West Virginia, where the tradition was to give kids—boys and girls— a ‘double name,’ thus there were lots of names like Jessie Lee, Billie Lee, and Jimmie Lee.
But the biggest reason I’m pulling out my middle name and dusting it off? There is already an established children’s book author named Judy Dunn and a woman with two memoirs under her belt who writes under the name of J. Lee Dunn. I want to carve out my own path and identity as an author.
I wrote a whole blog post once about the other Judy Dunn’s.
4. Why did it take breaking your wrist to venture out as an author?
My short answer: I am an incredibly slow learner.
The longer one: I was a single parent for many years and worked at jobs for a long time to pay the bills. Teacher. School principal. Marketing copywriter. Grants specialist. Manager at a global nonprofit organization. Newspaper reporter.
Once one of Mama’s friends asked her, “So what’s Judy doing these days?” Mama said, “She is writing.” The friend said, “Oh, that’s nice. But what does she do for a job?” That may sound familiar to some of you.
And fracturing my wrist in four places so I needed surgery and pain pills that made me dreamy? Well, it slowed down the breakneck speed my brain was operating at long enough so I could think.
A month after the accident, last July, Bob got me a bottle of Miracle Bubbles for my birthday. (Well, actually he got me more that that, but that was my favorite present.) He said, “Dream a little.” I sat around, holding the bubble wand with my good hand, blowing the biggest, most perfect bubbles I could. And I dreamed. When I turned to Bob and said, “All I want to do is write,” he said, “Well, then, why don’t you?”
Sometimes out of really simple things, like blowing bubbles, the most profound things emerge. And that was how it happened.
5. Do you ever worry about getting too personal on your blog?
Personally, I don’t. But if you are a psychotherapist looking for OCD clients and you blog about things like your obsessive need to line all the cat food cans up by flavor, with the picture of each Friskies cat facing out, well, that’s probably not a good idea.
On the other hand, someone like me, who tells personal stories on my blog about my compulsive, slightly neurotic self? Well, I’m blogging about writing and my journey to publishing my book, a memoir of my childhood, so quirky works for me.
6. Is blogging about everything in the world a good strategy?
From someone who changed her college major like a bazillion times (“Oh! Romance Languages!” “Oooh, political science would be fun!” “I’ve always wanted to be a newspaper reporter, so I think maybe Journalism!”), I get this. I really do. Choosing a niche can seem limiting.
I must say, some bloggers have made the multiple topics thing a huge success. Just like Seinfeld was the ‘show about nothing,’ some bloggers write about everything. Yet, when you think about it, they are still attracting a niche audience: people who are interested in everything. With a unique voice, this can work.
Lori Gosselin over at Life, for Instance, is a perfect example. She describes her blog as “a gathering place where introspective people talk about the things that matter, about the thing we all have in common, life.” Could anything be less ‘nichified’ than that? And yet Lori has created a very interesting blog with a loyal readership and growing base of followers.
I really think it depends on your blog’s goal. If you are writing for yourself— and, if readers come along, that’s just icing on the cake— then you will probably write about what interests you on any given day. If you are blogging to get clients for your social media marketing business, you’d better stick to those topics most of the time. Because you want to build your credible expert status.
7. Are your favorite posts always the ones that get a truckload of comments from readers?
Surprisingly, no. And that has taught me two things:
1) It is okay to take risks and try different things. Those posts won’t always resonate with your readers, but they help you think in different ways, stretch parts of your brain that haven’t had a recent workout and help you generate even more ideas.
2) However, it also helped me understand the kinds of topics and ideas my readers are interested in and the ones they may say, “Meh,” to. If I am writing for my readers and not for myself, that is valuable information.
What about you?
Have you struggled with any of these questions?
Which things have you aced and which are you still working on?
Anything to add?