Behind The Scenes of Blogging – The Writing Process

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My desk at home

My desk at home

Correr Es Mi Destino will turn ten this year. Yes, this blog is the same age as Twitter! Older than Instagram! Pinterest!

Okay, tiny detail: I’m not listed on the stock market and I have yet to make millions of dollars. Still, ten years…

I thought of hosting a party (“hosting” pun somewhat intended) but I’m really not sure what’s on a blog’s wish list—SEO keywords? Google love? A spam net?? So instead, I thought I’d take you behind the scenes of blogging and explain what has been going on between the keyboard and the screen for the past ten years.

Plot twist: I am a real human being, not a computer program.

I tried to find the right adjectives to describe this strange 21st century activity, but all I could come up with was a series of antonyms. Blogging is never a chore but it’s more time-consuming than you’d think. It’s a bit of a navel-gazing exercise yet it’s done in a strange selfless way since you end up giving advice, sharing experiences and hopefully entertain strangers. Finally, anyone with a computer and an Internet connection can blog, yet it can get extremely technical and strategic.

So, where does it start? Well, In the beginning was the Word… Or as the more modern saying goes, “content is king”.

I’m lucky, verbalizing my feelings and experiences comes easily to me. I rarely have to beat the dreaded writer’s block, although inspiration comes and goes. I chose to publish two or three times a week rather than daily because it allows me to write without pressure. I absolutely hate “filler articles” and I’d rather not publish than posting something meaningless along the lines of “sorry, been busy, here is the picture of a cat!” What matters most to me is consistency and the feeling that weeks after weeks, years after years, I’m telling a story—not just mine, ours, through shared life experiences.

The blog’s main topics evolved over the years. When I first started, I had just gotten permanent residence status in Canada so I mostly wrote about the technical aspects of immigration, a process still very fresh in my mind. I didn’t really have a theme or a plan, nor did I ever image I’d still be writing ten years later.

Today, the blog mostly revolves around four main themes:

  1. Life in Canada, from the expected (these fucking long winters…) to the more mundane yet surprising aspects of the country, like the healthcare system, business practices, popular foods, political campaigns, automobile folklore, people and their pets, personality traits of Canadians, the downside of life in North America, traditions (Boxing Day, Halloween, Remembrance Day, etc.), the work culture, etc.
  2. Immigration topics, with a focus not so much on the process itself but on life as an immigrant after landing. For instance, how to Canadianize your resume, interviews of newcomers, homesickness, crossing the border easily, choosing to immigrate or not, etc.
  3. Parenting, because although I don’t want to this blog to be a “mommy’s blog”, raising a multicultural kid in a country where you didn’t grow up in is quite an adventure and is worth sharing. This is where you will learn about the lunch box tradition, how hard it is to find a daycare, dealing with other parents, other kids
  4. Traveling, as blog goes full mode into photojournalism when we are on the road.

There is nothing earth-shattering about the actual writing process. As I’m describing it, I realize it’s about as fascinating as watching paint dry.

I keep a list of topics I want to write about in Evernote. Inspiration can come from an article I read, a podcast, something I overheard, saw or noticed. If absolutely nothing is going on in our life, I rely on that list. Otherwise, I write about current topics. It often starts with a single sentence, an observation for instance. I can be walking or under the shower, and suddenly a sentence comes to mind. I tweak it in my head until it flows well. Then, because I’m not a genius who can write stories entirely in my head, I sit in front of my laptop, usually at my desk. It’s often late at night, when I’m finally relaxed.

First draft is always in Evernote. I love the auto-save and the “block note” aspect of it. No distraction, no spellcheck feature, no fancy formatting. At this stage, I just write a rough draft. When it’s completed, I copy-paste it in Word and start fact-checking, editing and adding relevant links. I also pick a picture to go with the article, often a new one I take especially for it, but sometime I also dig into my Flickr account. Most of my articles are between 700- and 1,000-word long. I can never seem to write shorter articles but I do edit them to make sure they don’t go into War and Peace territory.

Final step is to copy-paste the text in WordPress, add the picture, pick the excerpt, the category and tag words. I have a SEO plugin but I’m having a hard time complying with expert advice, such as using keywords. I naively think that good writing matters more than SEO hacks.

Finally, I hit “preview” and proof the article one last time. This is the stage that drives me crazy. English is technically my third language so I’m always self-conscious about my grammar and syntax. Beside, I work as an editor and proofreader so I feel awful if I leave a glaring mistake behind. That said, I learned to live with it. I don’t have another pair of eyes to edit me, let alone an entire communication team behind me. At one point, I have to click on “save” and move on.

I schedule posts a few days ahead using the very smart Editorial Calendar plugin and then promptly forget about them. I try to proof articles one last time the night before they are published, that’s it.

Except when I’m in travel diary mode, I try to mix topics so that I’m not that annoying friend always yapping about her kid, Canadian culture or the fucking weather (warmer, thanks for asking).

Once live and online, I can never predict people’s reactions to the articles. Some in-depth articles bring very few comments at first but end up doing very well as reference and comments will add up over the years. Sometime, informal “snapshot of life” articles I write in thirty minutes get thousands of hits, while very meaningful ones will get zilch. It’s a bit like handing out an art project or a philosophy essay, appreciation of these non-scientific matters if purely subjective.

Up next… let’s get geeky, a look at the technical aspects of blogging!

Meanwhile, do share your blogging routine!

 

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About Author

French woman in English Canada. World citizen, new mom, traveler, translator, writer and photographer. Looking for comrades to start a new revolution.

26 Comments

  1. Martin Penwald on

    > anyone with a computer and an Internet connection can blog
    I’ll add “unfortunately” at the beginning of this sentence. Naturally, we aren’t obligated to read something we don’t like, but still, there are some very idiotic things in blogging.

    • I find more… ahem, silliness on social media. Blogging requires a bit more work than a Facebook wall post, for instance. 😉

  2. And I just realized where the title of your blog comes from! Duh! Now I’ll have that song in my head all week 😉
    It’s funny because I actually “write” my posts in my head. Ideas will randomly pop up in my head, I plan the whole thing (usually when I’m working out or showering… random) and then commit it to paper (WordPress) when I’m in front of a computer.
    I don’t really plan ahead and tend to write and then press post.
    Thank god for Word, it’s tough writing in French on an English keyboard.
    And I write in French because I was losing touch with my first language.
    PS: hope the little guy is doing better?

    • I won’t comment on health… because I don’t want to jinx anything right now 😉

      To type with the proper accent français, did you try the Canadian multilingual keyboard? I find it’s the easier way to deal with accents using a qwerty keyboard.

      • Martin Penwald on

        Or you can use a modern¹ keyboard layout to correctly put accents and other things even with a standard english QWERTY keyboard, like that : ç é û ä œ, etc.

        ¹ : by modern I mean using a system that is able to handle a compose key, so something that appeared after 1984 (so, yeah, more than 30 years ago).

        And yes, it is, again, a whining about how Microsoft has make computers so regressive since the beginning of the 80’s.

        • I write in my head too. But usually I’m in my bed and the following morning, when I try to find my great sentences again, I don’t remember anything.

          But I used to write on my iPhone, on the Notes app, in the train 🙂

        • I’m not sure if I’m picturing what you are describing. I think when I first came here, I used alt codes for accents but it’s annoying. Now I just got used to the multilingual keyboard. How do you type in French?

          • Martin Penwald on

            Yeah, I’ve heard of this thing, like Alt-Gr+153 for something with an accent or else, it is dumb (powered by Microsoft).
            Like on old typewriters, the compose key do not advance the cursor. Here, the compose touch has to be hold in the same time you type the first part, like when you use the shift key.
            So, to make an ‘é’, you type Compose ‘ then ‘e’
            For an ü, you type Compose ” then u.
            For an Œ, you type Compose O then E.
            etc.
            On my keyboard, the right Ctrl key is used as Compose because on current keyboards the touch itself does not exist anymore.
            It is incredibly practical (because it is not limited to French characters : ŕ ş ø å ò ñ) but Microsoft is not able to expose this feature (at least last time I checked, maybe it is possible now but I don’t know how). An elegant solution to this problem existed before you were born, and still not standard in Windows.
            However, you can install that to have a functional compose key on Windows :
            https://github.com/SamHocevar/wincompose

          • Thaks Martin, I’ll look into it as well. For some reason every time I use the multilingual keyboard on my keyboard I end up with the wrong characters and really frustrated / angry…

          • It does take a while to get used to it. I guess you have to find the best method for you, we are all different!

  3. I’ve been blogging shortly after I had my first baby, almost 12 years then. Being a young mother at that time (btw, I am 5 yrs older than you), I often shared (of course) my daughter, later her brother.
    For the past 3 years, after I picked up running as a regular exercise, I also put my race recap and training log on my blog, as a reminder.

    Anyway, I have no schedule on publishing my blog. But yes, sometimes I got an idea what to write while commuting with train, write in on Notes, copy paste to WordPress mobile.

    and eh…I wonder, I don’t think I have found your writing on your mother tongue.

    btw, keep writing and travelling! I’m glued to your blog! 😀

    • No, I never write in French on this blog. I think I did a couple of times when I first started… but I wanted to write in English.

      12 years of blogging, wow! Now I admire you for both running (and being super good at it!) and blogging 🙂

    • That… a bunch of new skills I don’t have! I don’t know why, I’m not a huge fan of videos. I don’t even watch YouTube. Any vlogs you like?

  4. I always thought you were a cyborg!!
    Well… a human…
    Anyway, you apparently are good at your blogging process because your blog is the only one I go check everyday. I don’t even want to suscribe at a RSS feed as I want to be surprised when there’s something new! I’m totally a groupie. Can you please sign on my boobs? (oops, sorry)

    • Considering I technically can’t see out of one eye, I am a cyborg 😆

      I’ll sign your boobs… books… anything! 😆

  5. Love your blog, I’m happy when I see an update.
    Most of the bloggers I followed just stop without saying anything. It is sad because I love their writings.
    I blog in blogger so I just make a draft when I have an idea. But then I have many drafts in my list that I lost motiviation to finish.
    It is true living in a foreign country and raising a kid there generate many topics. But then gradually I stop writings them because it sounds like complaining, but I was only sharing, like the strikes going on in France right now.

    Looking forward to write about the technical espect of blogging, if you know of good measure to stop spam comments let me know.

    • I really enjoy your perspective and as a former French, I’m never offended by any “complaining” you may have! I only wished you wrote more often, but I know it’s hard because, well, you’re busy. I enjoy the way your multicultural family blends traditions.

  6. It was something I have always wanted to know 🙂

    I love reading your blog, of course you know that. I like writing too, and I keep playing with the idea of having my own space, but this is hard work and I feel I am not there yet. You, are there and you rock at this 🙂 I love this space of yours

    Thanks for sharing

    • Well, you could always start a blog on WordPress.com and eventually move to a self-hosted version later if it makes sense to you! What would you like to write about? I’d love to know how you feel about Canada… but of course, I’m biased because I always enjoy reading about cultural differences!

      • Like you have mentioned in this post, and like you have mentioned it earlier, at least couple of times; blogging is very appealing however it is hard work, I feel it is kind of a job in itself. I love writing or any form of expression, it is so satisfying, however to keep a blog alive and happening is really something, I keep wondering if I will be able to maintain or not.

        However, the thought just keeps coming back to me. Maybe someday soon 🙂 or maybe it’s just one of those things, that one likes to think off, since it’s appealing

        • … or maybe you just have to start and find your pace 😉 There is no hard rule, you don’t have to be popular, leave thousands of comments, post every day, etc. 😉 Just write, post and see what happens! Sometime I find writing exhausting but the feeling of… completeness? I have afterwards is priceless. Kind of like cooking a good meal yourself 😆

          • Yeah, I have to give it one good try, for sure, one of these days 🙂 a real good cup of coffee is going to get the job done

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