Archives for June 2008

I’m Not Here. I’m There.

I have a new post about hoochie mamas over at AllAccess.

Okay. Maybe not hoochie mamas.

But I am talking about the fact that it wouldn’t hurt if people would put on some clothes.

Some clothes with coverage, to be more specific.

And I’m asking some questions, too.

(Fancy!)

Finding Your Bloggy Identity

The first session that Mel, Shannon and I led at SheSpeaks was called “Blogging: What Works and What Doesn’t.”

You may have noticed that we went a little broad with our topic.

But the whole idea was that we wanted to be able to give information that would be relevant to both beginner and veteran bloggers, so a sixty-minute session on the finer points of search engine optimization might not have been very relevant to everyone in our audience.

Not to mention that what I know about search engine optimization wouldn’t fill up a thimble. So leading a session on that particular topic would be approximately as successful as if I decided to teach an advanced algebra class.

Which is to say: not at all.

So my part of the What Works and What Doesn’t presentation was about Finding Your Voice, but before I jumped into the particulars of that topic, I asked three general questions that I think all bloggers need to consider – no matter how long you’ve been blogging.

1. Why do I want to do this? – If you start a blog because you’re hoping to get a book deal or because you want to make some money from ads, you’re probably going to be disappointed. So if blogging isn’t fun for you, if you don’t enjoy the process of writing and posting and commenting, then this probably isn’t your ideal writing outlet.

And another thing – which I didn’t mention at the conference but I wish I had – is that ultimately, blogging shouldn’t be some extended exercise in networking. It’s about community, at least in this little corner of the web (and it’s NOT a replacement for real-life community, by the way). If you’re not interested in community, then you’d do just as well to type out your thoughts in Word and call it a day.

I’m just sayin’.

2. What’s my blog’s purpose? – It’s good to know this and be consistent with it. Are you trying to interact with an audience you’ve gained through books or speaking? Do you want to document your family’s life? Entertain? Encourage? Inspire? Exhort? Advise?

Think about it this way: if you started visiting here and finding posts about the best brands of car parts, you would be puzzled. Ditto for if you clicked over and found me talking about a critical piece of legislation that’s up for a vote in Iowa.

It’s not that you can’t go off-topic every once in awhile, but I think there do need to be some common threads that run throughout your blog, and if the purpose of your blog is constantly shifting, then those threads get broken.

LOOK, MAMA! I MADE A METAPHOR!

3. What’s my blog’s personality? Every blog has a personality, and ideally that personality is a reflection of the person who writes it. Authenticity is the thing that results in bloggers meeting face-to-face and saying, “She’s the same in real life as she is on her blog.”

Plus, a blog is easier to read if it has a reliable tone. People like to know what to expect when they click over. And if you’re happy one day, frustrated the next, manic the next, etc., people will get tired of the bloggy whiplash and quit reading.

This, of course, is just my opinion. There may be a large contingent of blog readers who enjoy moody.

So with all that established, there are three things I think you can do to help establish your bloggy identity:

1. You need one online identity. Be consistent with it. – It’s easier for people to get to know you if you comment under the same name as your blog, and if your blog name matches your URL.

For example, I comment as BooMama, the name of my blog is BooMama, and you can find my blog at http://boomama.net.

See how it all matches?

It gets confusing for people – and makes it difficult for them to keep up with you online – if you comment as Nancy, write a blog called I Love Corn More Than You’ll Ever Know, and your blog is located at http://youwillnotbelievehowtirediambecauseofthesekids.bloghost.com.

There’s a lack of consistency in Nancy’s approach.

When it’s possible, keep your blog name and your URL short and sweet. If you like using your real name in comments, then try using something like Nancy @ I Love Corn to help people remember where it is that you blog.

2. The look of your blog should reflect its purpose and personality.

THINK ABOUT the colors and the graphics and the photography you use on the masthead of your blog. Think about how much of “you” is on the front page (if you’re a published author or a speaker, you might have one of those cute little pictures where you’re crossing your arms and tilting your head at the top of your blog so people will realize that Hey, she’s the woman who spoke at my church).

But if you’re like me and want something a little more title-focused, then really think about if your font and your colors reflect the personality of your blog.

And for heaven’s sake, don’t go spending any money to personalize your blog until you know you’re going to stick with it. That would be like buying a car when you’re not really sure if you’re going to take to the whole driving thing.

Also: a general rule, readers prefer light backgrounds with black type. They like frequent breaks in paragraphs. They like fonts that don’t require magnifying glasses. And they typically don’t like music that plays automatically, nor do they care for things that blink.

3. The writing on your blog should reflect its purpose and personality.

This is the biggie, my friends.

Here’s the way I look at it.

There is only one you. There is only one person in the whole wide world who has your background, your experiences, your perspective. You have the ability to articulate the events of your life like no one else can.

So. Given all that, WHY IN THE WORLD would you try to sound like someone else? Why in the world wouldn’t you use the UNIQUE voice that God’s given you?

And your voice doesn’t have to be perfect. It just needs to be yours.

The best way in the world to develop that voice is to write regularly. Your voice will get stronger and better the more you use it, and you’re shortchanging yourself and your readers if you’re content to imitate someone else’s.

That being said, it’s only natural that certain phrases are going to get passed around the blogosphere. I believe that’s what we call slang. And I think using a little bloggy slang every now and again is perfectly fine and normal.

What I object to is the notion of sitting down to write and thinking, “I want to sound like Veronica in this post. Or “I want to sound like Shaun.” Or “I want to sound like [some-other-blogger-whose-style-you-enjoy.]”

Bottom line: there’s only one you, sister.

So get after it.

The last thing I did in my little presentation was to show some screenshots of a few blogs that do a great job of keeping their look and voice consistent with their personality and purpose (I found MANY blogs that do this well). You can find that list here.

And I’m sure I said lots of stuff besides this stuff because, well, I RAMBLE, but this is the gist of it.

So there you have it. I believe I’ve fulfilled my advice-giving quota for the next, you know, forever.

Thank you and have a lovely afternoon.

Oh, Wouldn’t It Be Fun If I Had A Good Title?

I would be lying if I told you that I was easy-breezy in the weeks leading up to SheSpeaks. Because the fact of the matter is that I was what you might call PLAGUED BY ANXIETY. I was utterly convinced that any situation that involved me saying real-live words in front of a real-live people had DANGER! DANGER! written all over it, and there were days when the simple act of, you know, breathing raised my heart rate to aerobic levels.

In fact, I’m thinking of writing a book called The Crippling Fear and Anxiety Workout: Lose Weight – And Your Sanity! – While Sitting Perfectly Still.

It’s sure to be a bestseller.

Fortunately, the anxiety subsided a little bit when I landed in Charlotte. And once I actually settled into the swing of the conference routine, I had so much fun. Even if I wanted to throw up as Melanie, Shannon and I made our way to a luncheon Friday afternoon.

Because nothing conveys an attitude of calm confidence like vomiting in a lovely, light-filled atrium.

The luncheon turned out to be great, though. Lysa was as gracious and encouraging as ever, and I loved getting to know some of the people who work with her at Proverbs 31 a little bit better. They were, without exception, warm, engaging and kind. I tried my best to behave so that I wouldn’t embarrass them.

Though I may have crossed the line when I used the phrase “pimp my post” in our Q & A session Saturday afternoon.

I do, as ever, have such a delicate way with language.

One of the weekend’s biggest highlights was being led in worship by Lindsey Kane, a girl so adorable that Melanie and I honestly could not look in her direction without lapsing into our very best Martha imitation and saying, “She’s darlin’! Just darlin’! Can you even BELIEVE how darlin’ she is?!”

Because, well, she’s darlin’.

And talented, too.

I especially enjoyed getting to hang out with blawgy friends. Mel, Shannon and I met so many neat people, and do you know that Robin even brought me a box of the fancy Cheez-It Sharp Cheddar and Parmesan Duoz? They’re PRACTICALLY MY LOVE LANGUAGE, Y’ALL.

I was deeply touched and will remain forever grateful.

And I finally – FINALLY – got to meet DeeDee and Tina in real life. After two years of reading their blogs. And they were just as wonderful as I knew that they would be.

Saturday night several bloggers made an impromptu supper run, and I ended up sitting across from Annie and Missy, also known as my Bravo-Watch-What-Happens soulmates. I laughed until I just flat-out guffawed, and I was slack-jawed, really, over how much we have in common. It felt like we’d known each other for years.

Yesterday, as I was alternating between dozing and reading Us magazine on the flight home, I couldn’t help but think that if I’d let that stinkin’ anxiety get the better of me – if I’d done what comes naturally to me and said no to Lysa’s invitation – I would’ve missed out on so much.

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Missy, Mel, Shannon and Annie

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Dawn, Shannon, Jo-Lynne, Mel, Annie, Some Loud Girl, Robin, Valerie, Lisa B., and Sarah

Because I would’ve missed out on them. And so many others.

That would have been a very sad thing indeed.

So yeah, I’m a person who is most comfortable when I’m sitting on my couch, wearing my pajamas, hiding behind my computer and cranking out some stunningly mediocre content. I’m a behind-the-scenes girl who will tell you in a heartbeat that Home Is My Happy Place, especially if there’s some quality reality and/or home improvement television involved.

But this past weekend reminded me that every once in awhile it’s good to stretch my heart and my faith by stepping outside of my comfort zone. It’s not easy for me, but it’s good. It’s necessary.

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And it’s worth it.

It really is.

It Certainly Would’ve Been Quite The First Impression, Though Not Necessarily A Good One

We’re buckling our seat belts, getting ready to leave our house so that I can catch my flight to Charlotte:

“Hold on! I just looked down and realized that I can see through my shirt.”

“Oh, your shirt’s not…WOW. Your shirt is REALLY see-through.”

“Let me grab a tank top from my suitcase.”

I hop out of my seat, walk to the back of the car, open the trunk, unzip my suitcase, grab a tank top, then proceed to put on the tank top in the driveway while hiding behind a car door so the neighbors won’t think I’ve taken up an odd – and somewhat disturbing – new hobby.

Then:

“Can’t you just SEE me showing up for the SheSpeaks conference wearing a see-through shirt?'”

“Well, then they’d have to change the name of the conference to SheSpeaksVolumes.”

“You make an excellent point.”

“I try.”

I’m Leavin’. On A Noontime Plane To Charlotte.

So Martha just called to tell me how much fun! so much fun! just more fun! that she and Julia Claire had on the computer the other day, and OH, Julia Claire is such a dear friend! she’s just dear! so dear!, and do you know that they went to the Sam’s the other day and just had the best time? The best time!

(Julia Claire bought her grapefruit and Martha didn’t buy anything because everything she needed just comes in these ENORMOUS sizes and where would she put it? She doesn’t have anywhere to put it!)

She also wanted me to tell y’all that – and I quote – “An old dog CAN learn new tricks! She can! Oh yes she can!”

I think we’d all do well to have that engraved on some sort of commemorative plaque, don’t you?

Words for the ages, my friends.

Amen.

So, completely unrelated to Martha but relevant just the same because, well, IT’S ABOUT MY HAIR, I went to get my hair cut the other day and got home from the hair cut and decided it was WRONG, ALL WRONG, not what I wanted at all, and the root of the problem (OH YES I DID) was that I tried to “direct” the local guy who cuts my hair into doing what the hometown Hair Wizard has done for the last two or three haircuts.

Anyway, after I stared at my post-haircut self in the mirror for a solid four minutes, I picked up the phone and called the salon and asked if I could make a return trip because I’d made a grievous error in terms of trying to stifle my trusted hair care professional’s creativity. And the sweet receptionist told me to be there at three, that they’d work me in and get everything taken care of.

So at three I showed up and sat down in R.’s chair and repented. I said, “I should’ve never tried to tell you what to do. And I should’ve known better. I am so sorry. Work your magic. Whatever you want to do.”

He laughed and started cutting – HAIR FLYING EVERYWHERE. Ten minutes and about two inches later, I walked out of the salon with a short-and-sassy summer ‘do.

And while I didn’t think that I wanted short hair, I really do love it. It’s funky and flippy and fun. I’ll post a picture once I actually, you know, HAVE a picture.

Strangely enough, that’s a picture-posting formula that’s always worked well for me in the past.

So I guess that my short hair and I need to finish packing and then put on some clothes suitable for flying.

Which reminds me: when I was younger, Mama always thought we needed to get dressed up to fly on a plane because flying WAS VERY FANCY, and it’s only been in the last six or seven years that I’ve realized that boarding some sort of aircraft does not require a coordinated ensemble.

That would’ve been good to know when I went to Washington, D.C. my junior year of college and chose a red, white and blue outfit for the plane ride. I believe there may have even been some appliqued stars involved.

And while I didn’t actually sing “The Star Spangled Banner” while I was getting on the plane, I TOTALLY HUMMED IT IN MY HEAD.

While I carried a small – albeit imaginary – American flag.

Next Thing You Know She’ll Be On The Twitter

Late yesterday afternoon I saw an email in my inbox from Julia Claire, who is my sister-in-law Rose’s mother (stay with me) and one of Martha’s dearest friends.

She is also Martha’s only friend who has a computer with DSL, which means that she is pretty much Martha’s one and only link to the wide world interweb.

However, as some of you may remember, last summer Martha VOWED AND DECLARED that she didn’t think she could read my blog on Julia Claire’s computer because “it’s just for ordering things! Her computer is only for ordering things!”

Well.

Apparently Julia Claire upgraded to an internet package where she can send email, read the blogs AND order things, because that email that I got from Julia Claire this afternoon?

It was actually from Martha.

MARTHA SENT AN EMAIL, Y’ALL.

I’m thinking of having some t-shirts made.

Maybe y’all could use Julia Claire’s computer to order them.

Anyway, as it turns out, Martha was able to sit down at Julia Claire’s computer today and read my blog for the first time, and I don’t think I can even begin to articulate how deeply – DEEPLY – I would love to have a videotape of this particular milestone, mainly because I want to see what Martha was wearing the first time she surfed the ‘net.

I mean, did she wear her lime green jacket from the Steinmart(s)? Or her light lime green jacket from the Steinmart(s)? Or maybe her dark lime green jacket from the Steinmart(s)? Or the lime green jacket from the Steinmart(s) that’s really more of a yellow but not a golden yellow, OH HEAVENS NO, because that would clash with her hair and besides she would have a terrible time finding a lipstick to wear with a golden yellow jacket that wouldn’t wash her out! It would wash her out!

There’s just not a bit of tellin’.

So since I love the internets, and since the internets love Martha, I thought I would share her email with you.

It is quite a treasure.

Maybe even a future family heirloom.

Dear BooMama,

Guess who’s just been reading your Blog — Your Mother-in-Law!!!

Now that I know how to do this, you better be very careful what you say. JUST JOKING!!!

It was fun, and I really enjoyed the Rocking Reception.

Give Alex a big hug and kiss for me.

Love,
“Martie”

Now y’all have to admit that’s pretty adorable.

And I still can’t get over the fact that she called me “BooMama.” I mean, it was only a year ago when she asked me if there was a “handle” people needed to know in order to find me on the internet, and now she’s writing EMAILS with my BLOG NAME in the salutation. I don’t believe I’ve ever witnessed such staggering technological progress.

Also: you have no idea how happy the exclamation points made me.

(Not one! Not two!! But three!!!)

(Three exclamation points!!!)

(It’s more fun! So much fun! Just more fun!)

(!!!)

So welcome to the blawg, Martha / “Martie.” Who knows? There may even be a guest post in your future.

Provided that we can come up with a real cute “handle” for you and all.