16 kinds of bloggers: which one are you?

Originally posted on September 25, 2015

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There are as many types of bloggers as there are blogs. Here I’m going to describe the 16 different types of bloggers I’ve encountered. Which one are you?

1. The Self-Therapist.
I began my blogging experience as a member of this category. Having just left a long, abusive relationship, I felt the need to document my journey to recovery after abuse by writing about it. My intuition told me that making my therapeutic journal public for all eyes would ultimately be more beneficial for me than just putting it on WordPad or something. My intuition proved correct and I’ve been able to help others too, just by going public.

After awhile, as I no longer felt much of a need to blog about my mental health and relationships with my abusers, I moved more in the direction of The General Purpose Blogger (#13) and now I’m strongly leaning into Pundit (#5) territory. Self-therapy blogs (pejoratively referred to sometimes as “crazy” blogs) have become increasingly common in recent years, probably because of the sagging economy that makes it difficult for many people to be able to access or afford good psychotherapy. Blogging definitely *is* effective therapy, though!

2. The Journalist.
Somewhat related to #1, The Journalist writes about their daily experiences, observations, thoughts, opinions, activities, etc. for the whole world to see. The intention isn’t necessarily self-therapeutic, just a way to express to the world their subjective state or feelings at the time. If well written, these blogs can be brilliant and entertaining slices of life many people can relate to, sometimes rivaling New Yorker essays. But if the writer isn’t careful (or is a terrible writer), such posts could come off as narcissistic or just mind-numbingly boring.

3. The Show-Off.
This may be the most common sort of blog, and they are a dime a dozen. Basically an extension of a Facebook or social media page, Show Offs post blog entries documenting family picnics, children’s school events, Breanne and Jacob’s soccer trophies, the progression of the blogger’s pregnancy, home projects, the Family Trip to Disney World, “what I cooked for dinner for the kids last night using only leftovers,” and other bland minutiae of family life. These would be the infamous “Mommy blogs” that have become so vilified of late. Show Off blogs aren’t just limited to moms though–here you would also find teenagers and young adults posting pictures of their friends making silly faces, documenting their social activities, posting videos of drunken parties, and of course, lots and lots of selfies. Show Off blogs could also include pet lovers posting pictures of Fido sporting his new rubber boots or Fifi in her brand new tutu. In all cases, these sort of blogs are essentially extensions of their social media page. Sometimes these sort of blogs even include a Music Player (always the blogger’s current favorite song) that cannot be turned off when viewing the blog.

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4. The Vindicator.
Not that common, but there are a few blogs that exist solely to “get back” at a person or group of persons they feel offended them personally. Blog entries are basically endless rants against the offending person or group. Occasionally, the person or group attacked will attack back, and blog wars can arise. These kind of blogs tend to be short lived, until the blogger’s rage burns out, or the offending party (now the offended) threatens civil action.

5. The Pundit.
Many blogs are basically political soapboxes for people to spew their political beliefs. There are also bloggers on larger news sites such as Huffington Post, who have been given their own license to do the same thing. Since Trump’s election, many small-time bloggers like me have found themselves becoming armchair political analysts. Such are the times we live in.

6. The Preacher.
Related to The Politician (above), The Preacher’s mission is to convert everyone to their belief system, whatever it may be. These blowhards may quote from the Bible or other religious text excessively to back their views. If you don’t do exactly as they say, you are going to burn in Hell. Disagreement in comments is usually not tolerated, and comments are sometimes not even allowed.

To be fair, however, there are a number of more liberal Christian/religious blogs that are not like this at all, and are open to other points of view and encourage people to ask questions. But I don’t personally consider them “preacher” blogs, even though technically they are.

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7. The Expert.
Usually a professional in their field, such a blogger may be a paid guest blogger for a large website. Such experts could be doctors, psychologists, nurses, teachers, finance and business executives, or experts in any other field.

8. The Practical Muse.
These are the “how-to” bloggers, who focus on their hobbies or interests like cooking, gardening, home decor, beauty and fashion, child-rearing, car maintenance, blogging, etc. Sometimes the focus is more specific: bonsai gardening, dessert cookery, antique car maintenance, fashion for wannabe hip hop stars, raising a child with autism, blogging for fame and fortune, etc.

9. The Creative Writer.
These blogs can be either great or terrible. These are the blogs where you’ll find the angsty adolescent poetry, word-salad like prose, bad (or sometimes great) fiction, fan fiction, etc. This category sometimes bleeds over into #1 (The Self Therapist) or #2 (The Journalist).

10. The Hater.
Blogs like these exist to celebrate hatred toward a person (usually a celebrity or other public figure) or group of people. These blogs can be entertaining (if you agree with the prevailing sentiment) or infuriating (if you do not). Unless you are in a agreement, it’s probably best not to comment on these blogs, because you will be mobbed and acquire a new lower orifice in the process. Hater blogs tend to last only as long as the blogger’s passionate ire lasts, so they tend to burn themselves out (or are sometimes forced to be taken down by offended parties).

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11. The Motivational Blogger.
All sweetness and light and positive thinking, 24/7, 365 days a year. Such bloggers focus on inspirational memes, verses, quotes, and sometimes original essays, meant to make you feel inspired or motivated. Unfortunately blogs like these can sometimes have the unintended effect of making you feel like a horrible person or a failure because you’re not that upbeat, happy and successful all the time. Or they can simply be annoying.

12. The Artist.
A showcase for an artist’s creations, showing their paintings, sculpture, photography, jewelry, etc. Sometimes these can also be “Merchant” blogs, if the artwork is for sale.

13. The General Purpose Blogger.
Opinionated Man’s A Good Blog Is Hard to Find (formerly HarsH ReaLiTy) is such a blog. A General Purpose blogger writes about everything. Nothing is off limits. General Purpose blogs tend to become popular due to the fact they attract a large audience who have varying interests. The only problem with blogs of this type is the blogger can be seeming to spread themselves too thin, and the blog seems to lack a focus or sense of cohesiveness and can overwhelm readers with too much information.

This blog seems to be veering in the General Purpose (and Pundit) direction too, because I’ve been running out of new things to say about narcissism. But this has always been sort of a general purpose blog anyway, because from the very beginning only about 80% of my articles have been about narcissism or mental health. I’ve always written about other things too. It’s just that lately, “other things” is a larger chunk of the pie.

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14. The Popularity Seeker.
These bloggers just want to get as many views and hits as they can. They want to present an image–a sort of online “false self,” if you will. They are trying to be cool and only write about things they think are cool or “cutting edge,” even if those things don’t really interest them. You can always tell a blog that’s trying too hard to be popular, because it will usually bore you to tears. You can just tell the blogger doesn’t really give a shit about what they’re posting, they just want as much traffic as they can get and want to present an image of something they probably aren’t in real life. Bloggers like these are usually narcissists or people with low self esteem using blogging to try to feel better about themselves.

15. The Merchant/Entrepreneur.
A blogger whose posts are essentially cleverly concealed advertisements for items or services they’re selling. Artist blogs (#12) often (but not always) bleed over into this category.

16. The Fan.
Like #10, fan blogs focus on a celebrity or other public figure, a sports team, a TV show, a musician, or the like. The only difference is the blogger is a fan instead of a hater. Haters of the blogger’s object of adoration need not comment. If you do, you will probably be banned.

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15 ways to write an unforgettable blog post.

Originally posted on 6/8/15

In my two plus years of blogging, I think I’ve learned a few things about how to write interesting (and sometimes controversial) posts people want to read. Sure, I’ve posted weak articles no one seems to want to read–we’re entitled to have those days sometimes–but I think my track record on the whole has been pretty good. I don’t consider myself any sort of blogging guru or anything, and there’s still a lot I’m learning, but I think I have learned enough to be able to share what I know with other bloggers and people who want to start a blog.

1. The title is everything.

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Never mind the subject matter, this is a great title. Did it grab your attention? That’s the only important thing.

Keep your titles “grabby.” Make them stand out. Make them a little controversial (“Don’t Judge Me Because I’m Poor”), a little true-confessional (“People Think I’m Stupid” or “All My Narcissistic Lovers”), a little cheeky (“Why Are Some Things So Annoying?”), or even pose a challenge to the reader (“My Son is Furry–Have a problem with that?”) Don’t try to make them too “nice”–because that will make them boring.

When all else fails, just keep them short and to the point. “I Have Issues” is a better title than “I Don’t Know Why I’m So Depressed, Nervous, Bitter and Angry all the Time.”

Keep your titles as short as possible. Never, ever write a title that sounds like a Ph.D thesis, such as: “Preternaturally narcissistic and sociopathic actions within the social media milieu: a paradigm of the interglobal loss of interpersonal altruism.” WUT?

Never, EVER use the word “paradigm” in a title. If you do that, I will personally come to your house and splash water all over your keyboard. That’s a promise. The same goes for “milieu.” Don’t use that word. Ever. No one knows how to spell it anyway.

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2. Keep your subject matter on topic as much as you can.

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It’s alright to veer off topic to tell an anecdote or provide an example to flesh out your article and add human interest to it–in fact doing this can make your post seem more personal and that’s almost always a good thing. But try not to veer off the topic too much. It’s hard to do sometimes, but if you do, always somehow bring the article back to your original topic, and it will look like you intended for it to veer off topic a little to make a point.

3. Break up your text!

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Even if you write like Shakespeare or Hemingway, readers will bypass your well-written post if it’s just a long wall of text. While a photo, graphic, drawing or cartoon isn’t required for a very short post, it can make your post stand out more and look more appealing. Walls of text for long posts hurt people’s eyes.

If your post is very long, break it up. Use photos or pictures or quotes at appropriate intervals that illustrate the point of your story or article. It’s easy to Google images you want to use–just type the subject matter into the browser and click on Google Images, and I can guarantee you’ll fine the perfect image to illustrate your article. Your own photos or pictures are fine to use too, when appropriate.

But be careful with this too. If you use too many pictures and graphics (as I tend to do), your post could wind up looking like the cover of a supermarket tabloid, and that will turn off readers too. Make sure your post looks clean and uncluttered, especially if you also run ads on your site.

Quotes and block quotes also work well at breaking up walls of text, and never be afraid to use humorous quotes or captions, even in a serious post (as long as it’s still in context). You can also use subheadings within the article and that will make it easier to digest too.

Beyond that, break up your paragraphs into smaller, easier to chew pieces. Readers are not cavemen gnawing an entire flank of beef all at once. They are civilized humans who like their steak cut into small pieces that can be picked up and savored one at a time. The same advice goes for paragraphs. Keep them bite size and they will be much more readable and taste better too.

4. Use the share buttons!

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Even if you hate social media, make sure each blog post contains all the social media share buttons available, which can be found in the dashboard. Even if YOU don’t want to link your post to them, OTHER people will use them. If they’re not there under your post, people probably won’t bother sharing your post. Share buttons are a lazy way of getting your post seen by many people, only you’re letting your readers do the dirty work for you. That’s nothing to feel guilty about.

5. Use links in your posts.

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Linking to other blogs within your post creates a pingback: the writer of that blog will see that you quoted them, and more than likely will come and check out your blog. They might even follow you back. Creating a blogroll (in Widgets) or somewhere in your header will help too. It shows you read other blogs as well as your own, and the other bloggers will appreciate your support, and may even recommend your blog to others.

And of course, if you quote someone else’s material, make sure you link to their post or at least credit them.

Link to your own articles too. Doing this not only adds depth and background to your article, but it also encourages readers to not stop with the article they’re reading–they might click on your links and read your other articles too!

6. Don’t ignore your comments!

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If you ignore your comments, people will lose interest in your blog. People like it when their thoughts are acknowledged and validated. No one wants to feel ignored. Replying to comments may seem like a time consuming chore, but if you fail to do this, it’s insulting to the reader who wrote the comment or asked the question, and it will seem like you don’t care. If you don’t want comments on your blog, you can always disable them. Personally, outside of writing for yourself only, I never understood why anyone would do that. All popular blogs are dynamic, interactive blogs, where people can comment and lively conversations and debates can get started. It’s helpful to comment on other people’s blogs as well.

Replying to comments keeps your readers around and makes it seem like you care about them. It also creates a sense of community that keeps people coming back for more.

You do not have to reply to every comment, but at least “like” it if you don’t have time to reply. If your blog is very active, it may be hard to reply to every single comment or give long well-thought out replies, but a “like” or a few words such as “thank you for your kind remarks” should be sufficient.

If you have the time (unfortunately I don’t much anymore), comment on or at least “like” posts by other bloggers. Follow as many other bloggers as you can, too. Most people are polite so most likely they’ll follow you back.

7. Write frequently.

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You should challenge yourself and try to write at least one new post a day. If you can think of nothing to write about (we all have those days), post a funny, cute or attractive photo or a quote you like. Cartoons work well too (I use them all the time). And don’t forget about cats. Cats online are like sex in the movies–they will “sell” your blog post. You can also reblog someone else’s article, but make sure you give credit. If it’s a WordPress blogger, that is automatically done for you.

If you don’t post frequently, people will stop visiting your blog. Sometimes I write 3-5 posts a day. You don’t have to go that crazy, but at least one post a day will keep your blog from stagnating like unmoving pond water. There’s nothing that will kill a blog faster than abandoning it. If you don’t appear to care, your readers won’t either and will go somewhere else.

8. Write as if you’re speaking.

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You don’t have to be a Shakespeare or a Poe or have great writing ability to write a good blog post. If you know how to string together a few sentences and have halfway decent grammar (grammar and spell check will help), you can still write a post people want to read. The key is to make it conversational and personal. Don’t overload the reader with too many facts or overly pedantic language. And always, ALWAYS be honest. People can tell when you’re lying or leaving out pertinent information. They will finish reading your article feeling like you’re hiding something. They will feel cheated and may never return.\

If possible, write your post in a conversational, personal tone. If it’s a scholarly article, of course you cannot do this, but for most blog posts, writing in simple, casual language and using personal examples to illustrate a point makes your article seem more personal, as if you are talking to the reader. Be a story teller.

9. Surprise your readers.

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If your blog focuses on one or two subjects as this one does, it’s okay to add in an occasional article or post about something unrelated or even totally random. In fact, I think doing this (as long as you don’t overdo it) makes your blog fresher and more interesting. Another benefit of posting off-topic material is that you will attract readers who may not otherwise be reading your blog. I have had a number of foodies and furries reading this blog (and even following it) because of articles I wrote about those subjects. It helps to be versatile, but be careful not to lose your original focus or you will just look like you aren’t that interested in your theme topic.

It’s okay to have a general interest blog though. Many blogs aren’t about any topic in particular, just whatever the writer wants to write about that day, and that’s fine too. In fact, some of the most interesting blogs out there are general interest blogs without a focus.

10. Don’t dwell in negativity.

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If your blog is about a serious or dark subject (as mine is), watch your pessimism and negativity. People won’t feel inspired or come away feeling like they’ve learned something of value if all you do is bitch and moan and talk about how the glass is always half empty. While emotional honesty in a post is great, people also want to feel like you’re giving them some hope for their hopeless situation too. That’s why I include inspirational memes and quotes, happy or cute photographs, cartoons, jokes, and lots of music. (Music has been an important factor in my recovery, second only to writing). Sometimes I find that if I post something positive even when I’m feeling like I want to jump out a 16th floor window (it happens more often than you think!), it actually improves my mood. Don’t lie in your posts and pretend to be happy when you’re not (which can come off as insincere and obnoxious), but don’t suck people into your vortex of darkness with you either.

11. Don’t require people to sign in.

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Unless you are in a situation where you have a potentially dangerous stalker or group of people harassing or stalking you online, never, EVER require people to sign in to read your blog. I know if I see a blog that requires me to sign in or use a password to read posts, I’ll bypass that blog, even if it’s about a topic I’m jumping out of my skin to read about. I just don’t have the patience or time to fill out all that garbage if I want to read your blog.

12. Don’t write about something because you think it’s cool.

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Never write about something just because it’s popular or trendy, if it doesn’t interest you. People will be able to tell your heart isn’t in what you’re writing about, and you’ll come off as a wannabe or a hack, and certainly less than honest. Nothing will drive a reader away faster than if they sense a lack of passion or honesty in a blog post. It’s okay to be uncool and embracing your uncoolness in fact makes you cool.

13. Run naked in public sometimes.

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If you have been keeping an article set to “private” because you think it’s too personal and feel shy about sharing it with the world, take a deep breath and make it public! In my experience, whenever I’ve been afraid to post something due to its personal nature, I have NEVER regretted taking the plunge. It will set you free.

14. Controversial articles get more views.

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It’s a fact. I’ve posted several articles that proved to be extremely polarizing. People either loved them or wanted me to die a prolonged and painful death. Yes, posting something controversial or “un-PC’ WILL get you more haters, trolls and you may even have to face bullies, but guess what? My stats SOARED! That article TRIPLED my usual number of views for that week. Sure, most of them were probably clicking it on to see what all the fuss was about, but along the way, I got a ton of new followers too, and while my views have gone back down, my overall visibility has increased. And the trolls and bullies have moved onto other things. (To handle trolls and bullies, please check my articles under the “Handling Online Trolls and Bullies” tab.) I find it’s best to ignore them, but sometimes even a hater post can make great fodder for a new article, but be careful about identifying anyone by name because that could get you in trouble.

15. Check your grammar and spelling.

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This should be a no-brainer, but it’s surprising how many blog posts I see that are full of unecessary spelling and grammar errors. If you can’t write a proper English sentence, you probably should take up another hobby besides blogging. Theirs nothing mor disstractng & anoying than a sentenzes who no can read becuase your writting in bad grammer & falty speling.

A few other things to remember.

If you’re a new blogger, don’t panic if things go slowly at first. Don’t get discouraged, frustrated or give up because at first it will seem like no one is reading your blog. It takes time. Becoming visible and getting lots of views and follows takes some people longer than others. Dedication, patience and honesty will reap great rewards in time. Of course, if you write about a “hot” topic, like I do, that will help your growth too. But it isn’t necessary to write about something trendy. I don’t think the growth of this blog is because it’s “better” than any other–but because I’ve put so much time and effort into creating it.

Finally, you can’t “make” a post go viral. Unfortunately there’s no way to tell ahead of time which of your posts will grow legs and spread all over the web like wildfire. It could be a post you think is “boring” but somehow resonates with many people, or one you posted a long time ago. Maybe the “right” person sees it and helps get it out there for you. But when it happens to you, it’s an amazing feeling and makes you feel validated as a writer.

6 ways to turn things that annoy you into hilarious blog posts.

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This ever happen to you? Yep, it’s beyond annoying. I bet you could write something funny about it.

Let’s face it. Annoying things are funny.   If you can look at the humorous side of the things that drive you crazy,  two things happen:  (1)  it no longer seems as annoying; and (2) you can write a great post that makes your readers laugh.   Some of my most popular posts–such as “12 Reasons Why I Don’t Like Autumn“– have been biting jabs at things I don’t like.

Here are 6 ways you can turn something that makes you want to stick white-hot steel pins in your eyes into something that makes your audience (and you) laugh.

1. First, try to find the funny side of whatever it is that annoys you.

Come on, you don’t have to dig that deep.  Almost everything has a funny side to it.  Most things that are merely annoying (as opposed to, say, tragic, where it might be hard to find a light side) are very funny indeed.   Hate morning radio shows? (I do.)  Make fun of them!  Talk about how idiotic they are or the way they never play any music.  Rant on about the way there’s always a dumb-as-a-bag-of-hammers female sidekick who gets paid to do nothing except laugh idiotically at Bubba and Ed’s lame jokes. Lampoon the way all the jokes are about celebrities and sex.  Or celebrities having sex.  Like anyone cares.

2. Don’t be afraid to use sarcasm.

If you’re good at it, that is. You should know if you are.  I’m one of those people that is not.  Snark and sarcasm don’t come naturally to me.   But if you’re good at it, that’s a plus because it can make your funny posts even funnier.     If, like me,  you’re not good at sarcasm and snark, skip it because you’ll seem like you’re trying too hard, and worse, come off as nasty and mean instead of bitingly funny.

3. Exaggerate!

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“That Turbo-sized mug of Pumpkin Spice cappuccino she forced on me against my will smelled like cinnamon-and-clove-scented sewer” is a lot funnier than “that large mug of Pumpkin Spice cappuccino she gave me smelled terrible.”   You’re not lying; you’re embellishing the truth with colorful imagery to enhance its humorous effect. (Oh, and almost everyone  I know is fed up with Pumpkin Spice everything).

4Profanity can be useful, but use it sparingly.

I try not to use too many profanities in my blog posts, not because I’m some prudish church-lady afraid of “salty” language, but because most of the time,  it just makes you sound low class, mean, and uneducated. It’s also lazy.  There are usually better ways to  express frustration, anger, surprise, or whatever strong emotion you’re trying to convey.  That being said, sometimes a well placed expletive gets your point across more effectively than anything else, and you don’t have to worry about Those Words making you sound pretentious, as a euphemism might.   You can usually get away with naughty words if you’re writing something humorous–especially if it’s about something you find f***ing annoying.  It’s the surprise factor of seeing a four letter word there that sometimes sets off the guffaws.  Everyone can relate to the F-bomb (and well-placed,  it does act like a kind of bomb!), even if they don’t admit it.   Only use it once or twice though.  If you overload your post with profanities, you’ll probably just turn off most readers instead of making them laugh.

5. Make a numbered list.

Everyone loves lists–or “listicles,” as they have been recently (and annoyingly) called when they refer to lists on blog posts.   The human love of lists is the reason why back in the 1980s, “The Book of Lists” was a huge bestseller, and spawned a jazillion followup books.  It’s the reason why every article about writing engaging blog posts will tell you to “put it in a list.”    If you’re writing about something that annoys you, you can either write a list of all the different things that annoy you, or focus on one thing and list all the reasons why you hate it.

Lists are also a lot easier to write than regular prose, and easier to read too.

6.  Find funny images to illustrate your post.

I love Google Images, and I can almost always find the perfect image for any post I’m writing.   All you do is type in a few words describing what you’re looking for or what your post is about, and click on Images, and voila!  Then it’s just a matter of choosing the one that “speaks” to you the most.    There are some pretty hilarious ones too, for almost any subject you can think of.   Images, memes, cartoons, and funny photographs can make your funny post even funnier, but don’t overwhelm your readers by posting too many.  After all, you want your  own words to stand out, not have their effect diluted with too many funny pictures.  One at the top of your post, and maybe one or two others sparingly placed should be enough.  If you’re good at writing captions, do it, because sometimes those are the funniest things in a post.   If you love funny captions,  check out those on Cracked.com.  Theirs are the greatest.

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You can also turn things that elicit other disagreeable emotions in you (as long as they’re not “serious” emotions like sadness or grief) into comedy gold!   Try writing a funny post about things that disgust, bore, or scare you!    Here’s one I wrote called “25 Things That Gross Me Out.

Lucky Otters Haven has a new look.

Sample of colorful paint. Cans of red, yellow, blue and green paint.

Boredom isn’t always the devil’s playground.     Sometimes boredom is so intolerable it can lead you to desperate actions to rid yourself of its special kind of pain–actions like, hmm…getting falling down drunk, hitting the mall and buying a bunch of stuff you don’t even want, sleeping the day away, eating an entire roll of chocolate chunk cookie dough, watching Internet porn, having sex with strangers, building a giraffe made out of toothpicks, crafting a voodoo doll of your narcissist ex (hey, if anyone has ever done this, can you post a picture of it, pretty please?), or…remodeling your blog.

So that’s what I did.   I’m too scared to change my whole theme yet (I’m still on Twenty Ten) because of my (probably irrational) phobia about losing everything or the slightly more likely nightmare of my blog becoming FUBAR, or at the very least, all my Shares and Likes disappearing. But t I did make some pretty drastic changes within the same theme: the title font, the background, the header graphic, the sub-header, and the color scheme.

I think this look is more eye catching and the fonts and font background colors easier to read.  I also think the new sub-head (up in the header graphic) fits my new focus–while I still will cover personality disorders (especially Cluster B disorders), narcissistic abuse, and healing,  I realize that only about 60-70% of my posts have much or anything to do with those topics.   I cover a lot of other topics that interest, inspire, or entertain me too, and have been doing so for awhile.  So I wanted a sub-header that might attract followers and readers who just like general purpose blogs that have a lot of different kinds of content.

I also took the apostrophe out of Otters, so now the title is Lucky Otters Haven instead of Lucky Otter’s Haven.  I think the look is cleaner, and it isn’t ungrammatical either, because I know I’m not the only otter here swimming up from the dark and murky waters of a traumatic past.  I kept the word “borderline” in there because it’s an important part of this blog’s focus and my recovery, but it’s far from being my only focus. I wanted to draw less attention to BPD being an affliction, even though it is (BPD is to Marburg Virus what NPD is to Ebola) and more to the unusual and sometimes surreal vantage point it gives me when looking at myself and this crazy, horrible, and wonderful world I find myself a part of.

I hope everyone likes the facelift and new attitude. Please feel free to let me know if you think it could be even better or even if you hate it.   I do listen to suggestions and unlike real otters, I don’t bite (well not usually, anyway).

On September 10th, this blog will be entering its Terrible Twos!

I can hardly believe it’s been that long and at the same time, it seems like I’ve been doing this forever.   That’s next weekend.  I’ll be doing a big post about all the changes Lucky Otter’s Haven  has gone through since its inception, including screenshots (thanks to The Wayback Machine) of what this blog has looked like over time since September 2014.

My search terms are putting me to sleep.

man asleep at the computer Dreamstime.com
Credit: Dreamstime.com

I don’t have good ideas every day for new posts.  During the first year I had this blog, when I couldn’t think of anything to write about, I could always consult my search terms page and post the funny ones.  Sometimes I even got ideas for new blog posts from a search term.  Some of you may remember these posts.  They always got a lot of laughs, mostly from yours truly.

But for awhile now, my search terms have been about as interesting as watching paint dry.  I don’t think I’ve just grown bored with my search terms; I think my search terms really are that boring.   So I can’t use them for ideas or humorous posts making fun of them.  I wonder why my search terms are so dull these days.

New share buttons.

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I noticed WordPress has made three new share buttons available: Skype, Telegram, and WhatsApp (which I have never heard of).   I added the Skype and Telegram buttons.  I wonder why there isn’t an option for Instagram, with it being as popular as it is right now.

On being controversial.

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I don’t write to people-please. I did enough people-pleasing as a scared, awkward child and a codependent wife to a sociopath. Those days, for me, are numbered. I blog to be honest about myself and the way I see the world. Being completely honest isn’t always easy, and there have been many times I haven’t posted something I really wanted to because I was afraid of how people might react. But my track record is pretty good, and usually my desire to post an opinion or viewpoint that may not be “popular” overrides my fear of angering or upsetting someone. Even if I hesitate before posting an unpopular or controversial opinion, more often than not, I’ll eventually post it anyway and worry about the fallout (if any) later.

Most of the time, I’ve been pleasantly surprised. I’ve had people actually thank me for posting a controversial or unpopular opinion, because as it turns out, there are people who feel the same way I do, but haven’t worked up the courage to admit it in public. They are grateful to know they’re not the only person in the world who feels a particular way. Other than those occasional words of gratitude, posting something controversial or unpopular has usually proved to be no more eventful than posting something that’s completely vanilla and inoffensive.

But occasionally, my posting something controversial has been met with anger and even hatred. I have my share of haters, but fortunately they are relatively few. Because I’ve always been a fairly non-confrontational person and also because I have such low self esteem and hate it when people hate me, at first the reality of having haters was hard to take. The first time I got skewered for posting something people strongly disagreed with, I was tempted to close up shop and stop blogging. My self-esteem and motivation to blog took a nosedive for weeks. I was extra careful to keep my posts as vanilla and bland as possible, so as not to offend anyone.

But being vanilla was boring to me. And I think it bored my readers too. My view count diminished, and after awhile of wondering where I went wrong, I realized that I was boring my readers because I was bored. I wanted 75% dark chocolate with chili powder and sea salt, and so did my readers, but I was giving them tapioca pudding because I was afraid of burning any tongues.

I’m not a shit-stirrer. I don’t write controversial things just to be controversial or to get attention. But I often have opinions that don’t go along with what’s popular or politically correct. Writing about these things, if I feel strongly about them, is exciting to me, because I feel like I’m sharing a point of view too often overlooked that I think deserves to be considered. I feel like I’m educating my readers, and sometimes they tell me my viewpoint was one they never considered before. That always makes me feel good. Telling them something nice and PC and popular doesn’t make anyone think. It doesn’t challenge anyone. It doesn’t rock their world. You can go on Google and find 3,654 other posts saying the exact same thing.

If you write honestly, from your heart, and you’re a thinking human being, you are going to have a few opinions that raise a few eyebrows (or even make a few hands curl into fists). And blogging, good blogging, is about honesty, even when it’s un-PC. Frankness and the courage to speak out about how you really feel is what makes a blog popular, even if the opinions stated always aren’t. As a bonus, you’ll get a lot more traffic too. And while you’ll get a few critics and even a few trolls, most of that boost in traffic will be from people who agree with you.

4 reasons why I won’t be switching to self-hosted anytime soon.

Digitally generated My brain has too many tabs open

Not very long ago, Opinionated Man migrated his popular blog, HarsH ReaLiTy, from WordPress.com to WordPress.org. I remember reading his stream-of-consciousness posts while he climbed WP.org’s very steep learning curve, and I got headaches and felt twitchy just reading them. Although OM was often frustrated and sometimes seemed ready to give up, he didn’t, and he now claims that becoming self-hosted was the best blogging decision he ever made. I don’t doubt he’s telling the truth, as being self-hosted allows you all sorts of options and freedoms you do not have as a WordPress.com blogger.

But you can count me out, at least for the foreseeable future. I’m a serious blogger, yes, but WordPress.com suits my needs just fine. Here are four reasons why I have no intention of ever becoming self hosted.

1. The community.
When you become a WordPress.com member, it’s easy to find a community of like-minded WordPress bloggers via the Reader, which makes suggestions based on your interests, and posts all new articles by blogs you’re already following. For new bloggers, this feature is a godsend. ALl you do is “follow” blogs that are suggested to you based on your interests and voila! Instant community! When you follow blogs you like, they’re likely to follow you back too, and before you know it, you are commenting on each other’s blogs.

When you self-host, you lose all that. You have to be more concerned about things like your Google page ranking and be a lot more careful tagging posts, otherwise your blog may not get seen by the people you want to see it. Or not at all. And if you’re self hosted, you don’t have access to the Reader; you have to find related blogs on your own. Your posts also won’t be automatically seen by other WP bloggers, since WP.org hosted sites do not show up in the Reader. If you prefer to spend time writing new content than recruiting an audience for your blog, then being on WP.com saves you a whole lot of time.

2. The steep learning curve.
Wordpress.com is simple to use, compared to WordPress.org. While it does have a learning curve, it isn’t very steep. After 3 – 4 days I was comfortable using the features. I felt like a pro in a couple of weeks. There are plenty of options for customization even if you use a free theme and don’t upgrade. For this blog, I wasn’t satisfied with the font used for the free Twenty-Ten theme (one of WP’s most popular free themes), so I upgraded to Custom Design, so I had the option of changing the font to one I liked better. Custom Design is cheap and gave me a few other options too, but CSS (which is available with Custom Design) still eludes me. I know nothing about coding and fortunately, really don’t have to worry about that anyway, since everything I want to do is available to me without knowing any coding at all.  For a small price, you can also have a custom domain (which is necessary if you want to run ads)–all that means is you get a URL without the “wordpress.com” in it.

If you self-host, be prepared to have to learn not only coding, but also you need to know all about about plug-in installation, Jet Packs (whatever those are), software upgrades, bandwidth, backups and troubleshooting, analytics, and SEO, among many other things.   Features we take for granted like Likes and Comments aren’t automatically there; you have to install them yourself.  Have a problem? You’re on your own. There are no support forums to turn to as there are for WP.com users. You either have to try to figure things out on your own and fix any problems yourself, or you have to hire an outside party to do it for you. For someone who isn’t especially tech-savvy, the idea of running into a problem and having no idea what to do about it is very scary indeed. And I really don’t have much desire to have to learn all these things.  I’d rather be writing.

overwhelmed

3. The expense.
Being self-hosted isn’t cheap. If you advertise, while you can make more money from advertising (WordPress.com only allows Wordads) and can choose the ads you run, to me that isn’t worth it, because of the payout required from you just to be self hosted. You have to buy your domain name, then pay for someone (like GoDaddy.com) to host your blog (in leiu of WordPress, which hosts all WP.com sites). Expect to pay about $250 and $450 just for the first year.

WP.com is free and so are many of its themes. Even if you decide to upgrade, the expense is very small. I paid $18 for Custom Design, and it’s good for a whole year. Even without knowing how to use the included CSS feature, I still think it was worth it. The themes available on WordPress.com are all attractive and there are so many free ones available that no blogger should have any problems finding one they love and that suits their blog. If you want to make some money from your blog, and you qualify, Wordads will post the ads for you and keep track of your earnings. All you need to do is set up a Paypal account. While you certainly have the potential to make more from a self-hosted site, the amount of work involved in gaining enough traffic to earn anything more than pocket change is daunting for the average blogger, who just wants to write.

4. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
I have no problems with WordPress.com, so why would I want to take the risk of losing everything I’ve worked so hard on for almost two years, or messing everything up beyond repair, by “importing” it to WP.org? Unless I start getting massive amounts of traffic (unlikely) or run out of space and can’t post anything new (and even then I understand it’s possible to buy additional storage on WP.com), I have absolutely no reason to be self-hosted.

Why you might prefer self-hosting.

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With all that said, if you’re the sort of person who is challenged and excited by learning complicated new things, or if you want the sense of achievement and pride that someone like Opinionated Man experienced once he mastered the process of being self-hosted (at least the basics anyway, as he says you never stop learning and are forever having to tweak and make adjustments), then being self-hosted may be the right choice for you.   It may also be the right choice if you prefer to own your domain name (and hence, your blog) rather than just rent it from WordPress.   When you own your own home, you have the freedom to tear down walls (and run the risk of the whole house falling down and crushing you to death), paint the exterior shocking pink, build a sarcophagus in the bathroom, or install a Roman fountain in the living room.  If you rent, you are probably limited to neutral colored walls and you can’t install freaky things or tear anything down.

I’ll stick with my plain white walls, thank you.   I can still hang pretty pictures and decorate my abode the way I want, and I know my landlord will come fix anything that breaks.    I prefer my WordPress dumbed down so I can just write and leave the complicated tech stuff to others.

Further reading:
7 Reasons Why Novices Should Not Self-Host WordPress

Using StumbleUpon to boost your traffic.

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About a month ago, at the suggestion of another blogger,  I added a Stumble Upon sharing button to this blog.  This blogger said they got a huge upsurge in traffic just from sharing on StumbleUpon.  I didn’t believe it though.  I never thought of SU as being one of the “big” social media sites, but apparently it’s a bigger player than you think.

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My  “trending pages” from StumbleUpon.

 

WordPress used to make the SU sharing icon available, but discontinued it for some stupid reason last year.  But it’s possible to make your own custom sharing button, which is what I did.   You can do this by saving the SU icon to your media file and resizing it, and then go to Sharing –> Custom Sharing and following the instructions there.  Now I “stumble” all my posts, as well as sharing to Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Google +, and LinkedIn.   And I have to say, my blogger friend was right.  I’m actually getting the most activity from StumbleUpon.  It’s actually trumping Facebook and Twitter for views.   Don’t believe me?  Here are my “referrer” stats from today:

 

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What to do the next time you can’t think of what to blog about.

sleepy_snoopy

Take a nap. It works for me about 90% of the time. Usually I wake up with at least one great idea for a blog post.

When I got home from work tonight, I had no idea what to write about. I was tired so I took a nap and now I have two ideas–this post and the one I’m about to write, which will be a lot longer.

Your brain is like a computer. While you sleep, your brain performs maintenance tasks–the biological equivalents of defragmenting and disc clean-up. More space is allotted in your conscious mind for ideas to bubble up from your unconscious mind that were trapped there before and you couldn’t access.

It always surprises me how often I’ll wake up from a nap with some idea I’m just itching to write about, but before I went to sleep it just wasn’t there.

So next time you can’t think of any ideas to write about, try taking a nap. I bet it will work for you too.