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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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…
- 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!