Friends, it’s the six-month anniversary of Rhapsody in Cool and I hardly know where the time has gone.
Moments ago, I was peering into the void at WordPress, thinking, “Do I dare? Is it ethical to squeeze another blog into that great Cloud that, when it finally bursts, will rain down enough toxic prose to kill us all?”
So I went right ahead, of course.
But if I’m going to keep at this—and stats be damned, I am—then I’ve got to share what I’ve learned, or at least what I am pretending to know as I add to this spiraling mess of text and misappropriated imagery.
By holding court here in our salon, mixing cocktails and expounding on topics unbound by any detectable theme, I’ve learned a thing or two about blogging. And like any good blogger, I took those two things and expanded them into a list of twelve things.
This guide is dedicated to the hundreds of thousands of new bloggers who have signed on at WordPress since Rhapsody took up the keyboard last December. That’s a researched fact by the way. You might like to take it with an aspirin, or better yet, a Gin Fizz—the preferred cocktail of seasoned bloggers.
But enough of this insiders’ jibber jabber! Let’s begin, shall we?
* * * *
If Fran Lebowitz is right that the opposite of talking isn’t listening but waiting, then blogging is even nicer than talking, because it eliminates the wait.
And herein lies my first tip for new bloggers:
1. Always begin with a quote.
By gaining height on the springboard of someone else’s ideas, the rest of your post is just easy trampolining. A little trick I learned in graduate school.
2. Have a topic. But don’t wear it too snugly.
Like any well-made undergarment, a topic gives you a bit of shape, while still allowing you to move and breathe. The only further explanation I care to offer about my “topic” can be found at the top of this page under The Rhapsody Mission.
Anything more I consider to be a rude, rude question.
3. Create a persona, and keep her impeccably groomed.
To make your blog rich and full-bodied, you need a persona who will seem at once like a long-lost friend, and the most intriguing new troublemaker in town. You want your readers to ask, as mine so often do, “Who is this fascinating woman with the diamond teardrop earrings and mink stole who keeps inviting me to sleepovers in her living room?”
When I am casting around trying to find the true timbre and pitch of Rhapsody, I go back to my inspiration, Barry Humphries, a.k.a. Dame Edna, who described her chat shows as “an intimate conversation between two friends, one of whom is a lot more interesting than the other.”
That’s you, darling. Of course!
4. Take pride in your art. (Rhapsody’s blogging manifesto)
Many droll people have asked if blogs aren’t simply a way for unpublishable writers to sidestep the service that editors have provided for centuries. And they are. But that’s not the only good thing about them, Readers!
By blogging—as opposed to trapping live audiences at cocktail parties—I can be sure that the only people here are those who wish to be, and everyone else has quietly let herself out the back. And doesn’t that make a blog the conversation of our dreams, Readers? The chat you can simply stroll away from, unnoticed?
Truthfully: how often have you found yourself bound in the stocks of convention, nodding your way through a numbing conversation and lacking the courage to say, “I’m sorry, but while we were discussing tiling options for your new bathroom I seem to have lost my will to live”?
A blog, on the other hand, is absolute freedom for us both. By merely pretending to be in the same place at the same time, we can each do what we like, and stay friends.
5. Don’t fret about the impossible number of blogs in the world.
I’m sorry to tell you this, but there are an estimated 152 million blogs on the Internet—a fact I carefully researched by Googling “how many blogs?” and then jotting down the figure I saw in the first hit, which I did not then click on.
So many of us finding our voices creates quite a din. I think when blog #152,000,000 went live, Jesus himself must have sent a mass text saying, “On second thought, why don’t you all get your lights back under the bushel?”
The point is that we must blog as if no one is listening. Because they isn’t.
6. Draw inspiration from the resourceful bower bird—nature’s blogger.
A good blogger uses everything, just like the clever male bower bird who decorates his nest with shiny, found objects—colored glass, plastic spoons, bits of cassette tape ribbon—to impress the female and convince her to stop in for a latte.
What first appears to be just a bower of dry grass is—behold!—a tinkling workshop of priceless treasures. This is exactly like blogging.
Case in point: bower birds don’t really exemplify blogging at all but I happen to love them, and have waited a long time to say so. And now, through sheer force of effort, I’ve convinced even myself that the connection is both apt, and useful.
See how subtly I did that?
7. Promote your blog using social media!
We can’t talk about the contemporary blog without talking about Facebook, and Mark Zuckerberg—the richest jerk-friend I never had when I was not at Harvard.
Mark—who turned 30 last week, my word they grow up fast—has changed the way I think and talk and socialize with that one little stolen idea. Even talking to myself feels like a public activity now, like I’m walking around the house reading my own news feed.
On the other hand, without my debutante ball on Facebook (“born” July 29th, 2008), I probably never would have started Rhapsody in Cool and dragged you here to celebrate it with me.
So that’s something nice, isn’t it? Cheers to that.
8. Don’t let your Un-Fans depress you.
Your blog cannot be all things to all people. At most, it will be three or four things, to around eight people.
The truth is that only a small circle of people will make your blog their neighborhood tavern, and a majority of these will leave shaking their heads and muttering, “What in the hell was that?”
I would like to think the person who searched for the words “interesting facts about pioneer women” and landed on our review of Pioneer Woman Ree Drummond, got what she was looking for. Probably not, though.
9. Consider the merits of quizzes, give-always and contests in your blog.
But don’t actually do them. They are tasteless.
10. Find your authentic voice, through mimicry.
The best way to illustrate our next point is by telling you the story of two young men whom Rhapsody knew in college. These two best friends liked to play something they called “The Imitation Game.”
First one of them would say something—an ordinary sentence, for instance, “It’s so cold in this room!” And then the other one would do his best imitation of that utterance, including any bits of stage business like widened eyes or a shiver, and then the first guy would imitate his friend imitating him, and he’d imitate his friend imitating his imitation, and so on until the imitations became unintelligible and both of them were simply lying on the floor, writhing and twitching.
I miss those guys.
And that’s basically how we bloggers refine our craft—by copying the voices we like and aping what works. It’s like method acting in the insane asylum. Try it!
11. For humility’s sake, let every post contain at least one mistake.
The only perfect typist is God.
12. Plan ahead. The end of your blog may be closer than you think.
Blog abandonment is so common and yet, as a society, we have not yet created a safe, healing space where real conversation about this can take place.
I don’t want any of you to you worry about—or advocate for—the end of Rhapsody in Cool, so I’m telling you now that I have a plan. I’ve considered what I want the shape of Rhapsody’s complete oeuvre—or “egg” for those of you without a liberal arts degree—to look like, and I will bring it to a dignified close, when I’m good and ready. Something meaningful, yet understated, like the last scene of Thelma and Louise.
Except in our case, the car can fly.