Saturday, 28 April 2012

Blogging for Dummies: Part Two.

Lately I have found this site. It says a lot of the things about blogging that I think the more popular bloggers are thinking but afraid to say lest they destroy their page views and readership. Well, I really have nothing to lose. I don't rely on this blog for my income, I don't rely on it to validate me as a person and I certainly don't care if certain bloggers fall out of favour with me because I had the fortitude to disagree with them and stick up for myself in the process.

I do like certain other 'popular' blogs, but that's because the women who write them are nothing but genuine to me. That's because their heads haven't yet exploded with an ego the size of the moon (and I'm willing to bet that it won't ever) or that they're not self-entitled self-serving people in general. The blogs I read, every single one of them hand-on-my-heart here, are written by real people. Maybe some of them grew up with a certain middle class privilege, but in a way I did too so how can I hold that against someone?

Now, while I grew up with advantages over others, the buck stopped when I moved out of my parents home. In fact, I have never been handed anything more than a roof over my head, food in my belly and clothes on my back - which is an advantage more than others who never know what parental love is, or what it feels like to have a home-cooked warm meal waiting on them when they walk in the door. In terms of advantage, the type of advantage I had was loving parents who provided for me and I see that as a wonderful thing. I was never handed a car, driving lessons, a pony or a trust fund. When I went to university, it came out of my pocket - or rather, the tax payers pocket, but it was and still is my debt. I have to pay that off because I took it on myself. I didn't once, either growing up or as a grown up, expect my parents to foot any bill of mine; be that food, rent, bills, university fees, whatever.

I remember the year before going to university my dad continually kept saying to me; "we'll help out." He never once clarified what the 'help' meant but I knew it meant financial help. I can't tell you how uncomfortable that felt because I'd chosen to live in London and I was 22 years of age, by law I'd been an adult for 4 years and technically I'd felt like I'd been an adult my whole life, or at least the sense of being responsible for myself and looking after myself in every way. It was uncomfortable and it felt sleazy to take money from them.

I know other people don't take issue with these matters, but I certainly do. I find it very hard to even admit I need help from people - I'm working on it but I couldn't draw you up a list of things one person could do in order to shape up my home yet I could spend all month doing tasks on my own. I wasn't always like this, I remember as a teen thinking that people should help me but struggling to really voice what it was people could do for me. And when I found that voice it was dismissed. I was told to work for my own things, that I should complain less and do more, that I should just take control of my own problems etc. And well, it's turned me into the me I am today. And it's hard to rewire that. 

Over the years, people have been sneaky about their help. They just do things for me, usually without proclaiming it, and I have to accept it then because I am not rude and I am grateful in the end. I don't want to embarrass anyone here by talking about the ways in which people help me but my aunt, parents and certain friends have been big contributors over the years - but just so we've not got it twisted we pay all of our bills, rent, clothes, food etc. People are just generous and do what they can when they can - and when I allow them.

Now, it's not exactly a secret that my parents gave me a sum of money (a generous one and we'll leave out the numbers because that is private) for my wedding. Could I have footed the bill myself? Yes, I just would have had to scale back a heck of a lot - we're talking second hand, possibly charity shop wedding dress and absolutely no food. As it was there were plenty of complaints about lack of food so I don't think I could have stood that ;). Was taking their money difficult for me? Yes. I let it sit in my bank account for days because I seriously considered paying it back into their account. I also reassured my dad that one day, when I could club together the money, it would be paid back in full. He told me not to be silly, that they wanted to do this for me. 

Even after all of this I still let it sit in my account and tried to pay people I owed money to out of my own funds, just to see if I could do it using my money. It wasn't too long before we had to start using up the money my parents had given us and that's what it was for, I saw that, but it took me a good while before I really had to let go the idea of not supporting myself 100% in paying for my own wedding - something I'd always dreamed of doing.

Before anyone starts judging Bryan, he spent an awful lot on my engagement ring - far more than I had wanted him too. In my typical fashion I had told him we could just buy an imitation diamond on a metal ring - figuring that we could put the money to good practical use, like a deposit on a place to live or even invest some money on a car or driving lessons. He dismissed my down-scaling and we went ring shopping (a task I honestly believed I would hate but ended up really enjoying and not only because I got to shock everyone in the ring shop by telling them how little time we'd had between dating and engagement.) He spent a fair amount on an engagement ring and then covered our first months deposit and rent - and continued to pay for the rent for the first two months we lived there until I got a job in April.

I'm not a fancy person in the least. My camera and perfume are the only brand names I own and for everything else, I don't care. I wouldn't even care about the perfume but seeing as it came as a gift, I don't think it counts. I don't even want to be a fancy person, or someone who surrounds themselves with designer brands that cost more and don't really add value. I'm happy with the clothes I have (and have had for years), I'm happy that people see fit to buy me new clothes when they spot my much loved jogging bottoms have holes in them or have lost their elasticity - and as a side note, thanks mum and Jinty, you've single handedly kept me well dressed for the past few years because I would quite happily go around dressed like this all the time (Bryan calls it my 'Tellytubby' outfit. I think he's right. But wow they are so comfy. And yes, I have the decency, well bred upbringing and manners to cover any exposed jiggly flesh.)

So we've covered that I don't dress like most of the other whimsy Zooey Deschanel look-a-like bloggers. We've covered that I had a fairly middle class upbringing, that when I left home I truly left home and didn't think my parents bank balance was my overdraft or fall back fund. We've covered that I got into debt for a university degree (that I didn't complete due to very ill health) and didn't expect my parents to foot the bill. And we've also covered my uneasy feelings around Bryan paying for my engagement ring and my parents footing the bill for a majority of my wedding, an event I have always sincerely believed I would cover financially. 

But that's life. Sometimes you want to do everything yourself, take help from no one and just get on with it - not in a martyr way, just in a self-preserving way that bullet-proofs you a little from the disappointment of being let down by people or getting hurt by a friendship or a promise someone might not be able to keep. And sometimes you need to shut up, sit down and take help while it's there. I definitely had to surrender myself, in a good way, to many people during my wedding preparations. And it felt so good to do that, once it was all said and done.

I'm not a self-important or entitled whinger. And I avoid, like the plague, the blogs that have that air about them - as well as in real life avoiding people like that. I'm just not that into them. I work as hard as I possibly can at everything I do and it annoys me when people say 'blogging is hard.' Meanwhile there are single mothers out there scrubbing toilets 12 hours a day and you have the gall to say blogging, which you do in the comfort of your own home, is hard? Please go to an available mirror and check yourself before you wreck yourself. No one put a gun to your head and told you to spill the beans on your life through your blog. If you don't like it, delete it. Put up or shut up.

And while I've worked my way through all of life's different scenarios I don't look down on those with less - or more - than me. I know what living hand to mouth truly feels like. I know the feeling of living in terrible housing conditions. There are many, many bloggers who don't understand that. And there are many, many who don't even begin to try to understand it - how do I know that? Through their actions, their over indulged lives and the ignorant sweeping statements they publish on nearly every single post that boils my blood. Over time I've had to cut these bloggers loose because all they do is stir up contention in me. When in all reality, at worst, they're just not clued up at all. And their understanding would be about as good as mine would be if I were in their position. 

So, the best thing I can do is not read their blogs and not get myself involved in that theatrical portrait of life that doesn't represent the majority. I have no bad feelings towards or against these's just, they're not my kind of people. I wouldn't invite them round for whoopie pies anytime soon (because whoopie pies seem the 'done' thing in 2012) but I wouldn't walk past their house if it was on fire, either. So I harbour no ill feelings nor do I wish them any harm but I think they do seem out of touch with the majority of people - and a lot of their readership. 

I've been in touch with most of my favourite bloggers. They get back to me*. And I think that makes all the difference. These ladies (and one gentleman) don't have their heads in the clouds. They might be 'blog famous' but they don't have the ego or the behaviour of a typically arrogant famous person. 

*The only exception to that is C.Jane who isn't great at answering emails but will quite happily and speedily reply to something I've asked on Facebook. Yes, I read C. Jane's blog. And I am a Mormon. I'm a cliche. And yes, I mentioned her on here. And no I'm not being an ass kisser. And yes I said 'ass.'

I find it quite funny that most bloggers 'advice' to other aspiring bloggers seems to be; keep it real, be you, have fun and always, always be real. While that's absolutely true they forget to say that a lot of luck, who you know and how you sell yourself on Twitter is the real key to popularity. And the real advice should be; always, always be nice. Even if you receive massive amounts of snark, criticism and negativity. And act like it's rolling off your shoulders, or like you haven't even read it. This is precisely why I've shied away from Twitter this year. Earlier on in the year I had people calling me a slut, saying that I deserved to die and well the list goes on. I did bite back in those instances but mostly? I just stay away. Not because I believe Twitter is evil and all who inhabit it are the spawn of Satan but because I don't want to deal with that kind of crap just because I post one Tweet that others don't agree with (a political one.)

When you blog, it's a massive risk. Especially when you put photos of your family on your blog. I photograph things, it's what I do. And I photograph my child every single day. In my 'normal life' I edit, proof read and finely tune author manuscripts (and putting that on here amps up the pressure because I know people will nit pick my blog for grammatical and spelling mistakes.) I also studied for a degree in Creative Writing (in London) and Communications and Media (in Scotland) so blogging was kind of an obvious choice for me. I just happened to arrive at a time where blogging was booming and becoming business for people. I had no intention of making it a business for myself, I just wanted a space to write and share my life.

Then, I decided I'd like some free stuff from companies I like and enjoy - I'm putting that out here for transparencies sake and because I want to share it. So, I got in touch with some companies, gave them a bunch of stats about my blog, some got back to me, others didn't and I reviewed a few products. They were pleased with my reviews and told me to keep in touch - Graze box have the nicest communications department ever, if I ever want a job in the communications/PR industry I hope I end up there. I think a lot of bloggers can come off as false about their give away's, acting as though they haven't worked their butts off to get a sponsorship deal or give away with a company. And yeah, maybe a company did contact a blogger before they contacted them, but a lot of hard work goes before you can get to that stage.

And that's why so many people believe they can 'give this blogging thing a go' too. Because of the bloggers who make it all look so easy when in all reality it's luck, who you know, the opportunities you are given or reach out for, using Twitter effectively and working on getting the page views up in order that a company would even consider featuring their products on your skittery, meaningless blog that they probably have never ever heard of.

All in all: I don't understand the blog famous egos certain people develop. I can only deduce that their self-importance comes from a lifetime of a certain lifestyle and the amount of sponsorship's they have in their back pocket. They're all very willing to dole out advice to those wishing to imitate their style, their success but they're not so willing to share the dirty, nitty gritty details of that - just vague statements of 'be real, be you, be true!'. Well, I am willing to share nitty gritty details and after all I've not got much to lose in doing so.

So, there, I've said it. 

What do you think?