September 27, 2004

I Think Lisa Is Using a Voodoo Doll...

Those of you who are long-time readers of Yarn Harlot will remember the knee-slappers she posted in March of last year about The Claw, the name she gave her hand when it rebelled against her attempt to use, in The Claw’s estimation, the wrong needles, the wrong yarn, the wrong pattern, or all three. Those entries had me on the floor and were, in fact, the ones that got me hooked on Harlot’s blog. Well, now that I have it, come to find out the Claw ain’t so damn funny after all. Fortunately, my hand has cramped up in exactly the shape I need to use my mouse, so computing and blogging go on!

On the positive side, for Lisa, this means that she can, with a little effort, roar past me in the Faina row count since I got all of two rows knit before I begged The Mysterious K to take my knitting bag away from me. (TMK loves it when I ask her to do this. As a supportive partner who wants to help me get better, she is willing to take possession of the knitting bag. As a not-so-supportive partner who is, in truth, 41 going on a mischievous 14, not only does she take it, she hides it. This weekend it was on the bathrobe hook on the back of her bedroom door. I think this is her revenge for times when I foil her plans to have a second brownie.)

So, since I can’t knit and sure as heck don’t have any photos, I thought I would post the article I wrote for our Guild’s newsletter about things you might want to consider if you want to start a blog. It’s not a terribly entertaining article (no mention of our fantasy fiber commune, I'm afraid) but soma youze might find some helpful information in it.

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So You Think You Want to Blog...
© 2004 Ryan Morrissey

When I saw my first Internet weblog (“blog”)—essentially a public, online diary that people anywhere and everywhere are invited to read and comment upon—I was aghast, truly aghast. I believe my hand even flew up to my mouth in horror. I couldn’t fathom wanting to hang your personal laundry out to air on the web, much less inviting complete strangers to read it. Then and there, I made a solemn, eternal vow that I would never have a blog.

Fast forward a few months, when I decided to plant a natural dye garden and dip my toe into the natural dyeing world. When the dye garden was bursting with fresh, green seedlings, it occurred to me that I might want to document my seedling-to-swatch experiences and share them with other knitters. It further occurred to me that I would most likely want to include photos of my dyed swatches; it further occurred to me that I have always loved to write; and it further occurred to me that the Net might be a good place to post my writings about my experiences. And that was when I realized I was sliding swiftly and inexorably into the world of blogging, like a hapless animal into quicksand.

I have now had my blog for about 1.5 years and can sincerely say I haven’t regretted a minute or a word of it. Through the blog, I have made great “e-friendships” with generous, kind, and humorous knitters and non-knitters from around the world, have had the great pleasure of meeting some of my readers face-to-face, have renewed some family ties, and have been able to spend many pleasurable hours writing about knitting, dyeing—and, yes, even my personal life.

If you are planning on starting a blog, here are some things I’ve learned that might help you get started on the right track:

  • Make sure you have time to write and maintain a blog. You can spend a considerable amount of time writing and editing the entry; taking photographs for the blog; processing, “tweaking,” and uploading the photos; responding to reader’s comments and emails; and maintaining the lists of blogs that you read and extraneous links, not to mention the time you spend just pondering what you’re going to write next. I spend approximately 7 hours a week on my blog, 4-5 hours on my (relatively long) entries, the rest taking and processing photos and answering comments.
  • Decide how often you are willing (or, more importantly, able) to update your blog. I update mine every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Some writers update every day, some once a month, some on an irregular basis that averages out to every two or three days. Make sure your readers know how often you plan on updating, since your more faithful readers will come and check your blog every day. For this same reason, if you are not going to post for a while (you’re going on a vacation, you’re too busy, you need a temporary break from blogging), let your readers know. They will appreciate this and will be waiting for you when you come back.
  • Make a concerted effort to include photographs in your blog. As knitters, your readers will greatly appreciate pictures of yarn, fiber, fleece, knitting tools, and your one, two, ten, twenty or fifty current projects.
  • Pick a blog name that lets readers know it is a knitting blog and conveys your blogging “vision” or “persona.” I chose “Mossy Cottage Knits” for my blog in an effort to convey the coziness of knitting inside my small house on a rainy Seattle winter day.
  • Decide what the “parameters” of your blog are going to be. Do you want to write exclusively about knitting or do you want to include broader topics? Do you want to discuss religion and politics and invite debate among your readers, or do you want to stick to tamer, less-controversial topics? Do you want your entries to be humorous and anecdotal or simply objective reports of your day-to-day activities?
  • Regardless of your initial vision for your blog, be willing to “go with the flow.” Your blog will most likely be a dynamic, changing entity that metamorphoses regularly. My readers, their comments, and the events in my life play an important role in defining what appears in the blog, and it’s not always what I had envisioned—usually it’s something better!
  • Use links in the body of your entries to add depth to your blog and provide further information to your readers. For example, if you refer to someone else’s blog, link to that blog. If you mention something or someone obscure, link to a web site that provides more information about that person or topic. If you refer to an event that you wrote about earlier in your blog, link to that blog entry so your readers can refresh their memories. (This is especially helpful for new readers.) While this may take more time, I do find that my readers appreciate the links and make a point of visiting the other sites.
  • If, on your blog, you list the names of other blogs that you read, take time to keep that list up-to-date and accurate. Bloggers are constantly changing web addresses, changing the names of their blogs, going on hiatus, or discontinuing their blogs altogether. These changes should all be reflected in your blog list.
  • Be prepared to deal with blog “spam,” unwanted and usually distasteful “junk” comments that are posted on your blog. Last year, in one night, my blog was hit with 3000 such comments. Fortunately, my blog hostess was able to remove these for me, and it turned into a nonevent, but you still have to spend time deleting the occasional spam message and finding ways to prevent the spam from occurring in the first place.
  • Keep a running log of ideas for blog entries. I maintain a Word document, currently three pages long, in which I keep ideas inspired by my readers’ comments, experiences I have had that I want to write about, and interesting links. This helps me retain fleeting ideas and gives me a constant source of inspiration for my blog entries—particularly helpful for those days when you have “writer’s block.”
  • Avoid writing your drafts in the blog software itself. Instead, write them in another application like Microsoft Word, save the draft, and copy the text over into your blogging software. You do not want to lose everything you spent the last hour writing simply because you’re blogging software “hiccupped!”
  • Be judicious in what you are willing to post. Don’t post anything overly personal or anything that you wouldn’t want the whole world to know. Also, I highly recommend against writing, especially negatively, about your job, your employer or your co-workers. You will be surprised by how far word about your blog spreads and who actually reads it.
  • Protect your identity and those of your family members by using only first names or blog “nicknames,” and by not posting pictures that show home addresses, car license plates, or places of employment. Using graphics software, you can crop this identifying information or blur it. Similarly, don’t write about other people, or post photographs of them, without their permission.
  • Don’t be surprised when total strangers walk up to you—in my case, usually at Guild—and start asking you personal questions as if they’ve known you all your life. You’ve just had the great pleasure of meeting what I call a Dear Reader, a fan of your blog! In my opinion, those moments are what make the blog all worth it—the opportunity to meet in “real time” people who share your interests.
  • Lastly and most importantly, let your readers know loudly and often how much you appreciate their willingness to spend some of their precious spare time visiting your blog!
  • Posted by Ryan at September 27, 2004 11:05 AM
Comments

Cuz, I love you, and we're fambly and all, but in my heart I've given TMK carte blanche to exact whatever revenge upon you she deems appropriate for having denied her second brownies.

Posted by: Cuzzin Tom on September 27, 2004 11:24 AM

I have seen The Claw and The Claw is not good. Sorry to hear you've been stricken by this serious ailment. Pamper yourself and let yourself be swayed by other activities until The Claw goes away. Perhaps TMK has other good ideas to make you feel better? O yes, and that extra brownie? it isn't really as bad for you as you think it is. :)

Posted by: anj on September 27, 2004 11:39 AM

As I was reading about the knitting bag/second brownie subject I thought to myself "Wow, K really must love her...."

I mean, really, to come between a woman and her chocolate?

Whew...you are pretty brave Mizz Ryan.

:) L

Posted by: Lisa in Oregon on September 27, 2004 11:40 AM

Thanks for sticking up for me, Cuzzin Tom! I'm really starting to like you! ;-)

(Although to Ryan's credit, she's mostly trying to protect me from my insatiable need for chocolate as I am a diabetic who has trouble with the concept of "just say no.")

TMK

Posted by: The Mysterious K on September 27, 2004 11:41 AM

Smooches back atcha, Cuz, but TMK has diabetes and has also been cursed with an inordinate fondness for second brownies. Besides which, ever since we found out SHE has diabetes, MY access to second brownies has been curtailed sharply. Not fair, I say; not fair!

I've tried to encourage her to be like the Pseudo-Adopted Cat and substitute trickling garden faucet water for Kitty Krunchies/second brownies but that hasn't gone over too well.

Posted by: Ryan on September 27, 2004 11:42 AM

Sighs. Yeah, I remember K has diabetes. I just know that Em probably feels like she is taking her life into her hands when she oh-so-gently reminds me I'm trying to get control of my health....argh!

Faina calls...I hear and obey...which is easy, since I'm off work in two minutes. :)

However, Ryan Dear, I doubt I will catch up to you...I' surely about to hit one of those "rip three times" rows again...!

Posted by: Lisa in Oregon on September 27, 2004 11:59 AM

Hmmm...I think the existence of a condition that forbids second brownies should make the most fervent fundie among us deeply agnostic.

Excellent blog article, btw. Though you forgot to mention that the introduction of neighbors' odd sex habits radically ratchets up comment participation.

Posted by: Cuzzin Tom on September 27, 2004 12:24 PM

ack, the 'claw curse' sounds formidable- i would hate to be affected with anything that precludes picking up the ever-so-therapeutic hooks and needles- on the other hand, i am definitely looking for something (anything!!) that would make cooking, laundry, washing dishes, etc a great big 'no no' for awhile-

ryan, many of us are greatly indebted to you for deciding to jump into the blogging pool- you bring hours of smiles-

stay happy-

Posted by: barb in texas on September 27, 2004 12:33 PM

I wonder if there's a kind of surgery that could turn you into a Ryan Needlehands?

BTW, I was just thinking about how apropos Buddhist teaching is to the brownie dilemma. According to the Buddha, TMK is deprived of second brownies *now* because she witheld them from others in previous lives. There's no simple solution for this life short of a cure for diabetes, but if she wants to create the causes for oodles of guilt-free brownies to enrich *future* lives, the method is to be extra-generous with giving away brownies *now*. And, of course, it occured to me that the most potent way to create those causes would be to mail boxes of brownies to her beloved's smart-aleck cuzzin. Hey, I'm just trying to help.

Fambly note--did you know that Cuzzin Sarah's husband's younger brother is in the high-end chocolate-making biz (easy, ladies, he's a "confirmed bachelor", if you know what I mean)? I'm talkin' about straight-from-Madagascar cacao formed into various bars that make you cry uncontrollable tears of bliss with every bite.

Posted by: Cuzzin Tom on September 27, 2004 01:13 PM

*sigh. I feel bad for TMK simply b'c to have a life without a second brownie seems lackluster.. but if CT is correct, and by giving away brownies will increase her chances of potential brownies in future lifetimes I am willing to sacrifice myself and my waistline for her donations.

PS also willing to sacrifice myself to be a taste tester to this superb elixer CT described. I mean TMK wouldn't want to try it and find it lacking...

Posted by: anj on September 27, 2004 01:20 PM

I have tried the elixir CT is talking about and it is divine. Pure, unadulterated, ever-so-slightly-sweetened dark chocolate, with just a hint of Madagascar jungle freshness, i.e. lemur poo. ;-)

TMK

Posted by: The Mysterious K on September 27, 2004 01:48 PM

Add the word "compost" after "lemur poo." ;-)

Posted by: The Mysterious K on September 27, 2004 02:02 PM

Ry-Ry, you have the best fambly of commenters in the entire blog universe, you know that? Just an observation.

Cuzzin Tom, by "confirmed bachelor," do you mean the kind of confirmed bachelor I married at his age of 40, and whose old girlfriends (see my blog today) keep calling after a frigging quarter of a century (almost) wondering if he's available again yet because, in retrospect, they wish they hadn't let that one get away? or the kind that, you know, is REALLY not available to anyone of the female persuasion? And does it matter? I just want his damn chocolate anyway!

And Ryan, you failed in your article (but of course you couldn't think of EVERYTHING) to warn potential bloggers of the beehive-hairdo-sportin- ultra-right-wingnuts that profess to be one's soulmates. Not that I would know anything about that, now, would I? ;-)

Posted by: Norma on September 27, 2004 02:44 PM

John's the latter, Norma. Funniest moment was when he was featured in a magazine (as a champagne producer, then) as one of Marin County's most eligible bachelors. Being a shrewd entrepreneur, he didn't turn down the publicity.

BTW, you need to give your Dear Reader Alison lessons in counting limerick syllables.

Posted by: Cuzzin Tom on September 27, 2004 03:02 PM

I am so sorry you were inflicted with The Claw, Blog Mistress. It is a vile and fiendish curse. If I remember correctly, the Harlot even sunk so low as to pick up a crochet hook during that cursed time in her life. She crocheted something inspired by Jessica Simpson no less. Am I to see you joining the crochet ranks? Should I send you some hooks to get you started? Consider carefully, for therein lies the road to acrylic yarn....

As for second brownies, I don't care about the next life. I care about this life. In the next life, I won't know there was a previous life, so who's to say that if I DO share my brownies, I won't be cheated by the cosmos anyway? Nope. Not taking any chances. I don't wanna die healthy. That's a stupid way to go. I wanna die knowing I had my seconds, used as much of the yarn I could get my hands on and still had a huge stash of it, ate my dessert first and did something stupid and dangerous enough to give me the biggest adrenaline rush in the world. If I had to choose between dying while eating a salad or dying while eating a hot fudge brownie sundae with extra whipped cream and sprinkled nuts, guess which one I'm choosing?? And now that I have shown my self indulging side, I feel the need to make brownies and ship them all over the world for apologies. heehee

Ryan dear, you failed to mention the dangers, err joys, of aquiring a stalker in your article. *snort*

Hope everyone has a great day and a 2nd brownie!!!

Posted by: Stalker Angie on September 27, 2004 04:30 PM

Do I have to bore you with my yoga lecture? Don't make me do it...

Posted by: Leslie on September 27, 2004 04:49 PM

When I look back on the "Claw Days", I cannot believe what it came to. Crochet. Jessica Simpson. Pleasing my sister. It's all just too much.

Respect the claw. Rest the claw and for goodness sakes, if you start thinking that there's some interesting fashion on tv....take up jogging.

Love the article. Perfect.

Posted by: Stephanie on September 28, 2004 06:27 AM

Pizza is my second brownie. It's killing me but it's so worth it. Am currently living with the Claw, or a variant, and rest and frequent breaks are a big help. And eating pizza doesn't require finely tuned motor skills.

Great article. Thanks.

Posted by: Larry on September 28, 2004 07:47 AM

Thanks for the potential blogger advice article. Been thinking about it myself, still undecided - especially now that Cuzzin Tom (and to think I had a crush on you!! ) has pointed out my inadequacies. Good article, Ryan, thanks.

Posted by: alison on September 28, 2004 05:16 PM

C'mon now, Alison, we can still be friends! Limericks are all about syllable count and the natural rhythm of the language. To wit:

There once was a knitter named Ryan
Whose article proved edifyin'
To spice up yer blog
Just write about snog
And your comments'll be multiplyin'!

To extinguish the remaining crush embers, just go back to the photos Ryan posted of me. These not-so-bon mots squeeze out of a homely mug. A standard laugh line I use in talks is that I became a Buddhist monk just to give my premature baldness some dignity.

I thought you ladies'd be thrilled about Larry. A feller who understands what in the ever-lovin', blue-eyed world yer talking about. Show him some love, now.

Posted by: Cuzzin Tom on September 28, 2004 10:25 PM

Great article! Thanks for putting that together! :)

Posted by: Lolly on October 1, 2004 06:36 PM
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