Internet, please meet my friend and guest blogger, Jennifer Sharp: I recently met Jen through her blog, “SipsOfJenAndTonic.com.” I was so intrigued and entertained by her wry, yet hilarious article, “A Straight Shot to the Babymaker,” that I didn’t know whether to burst out laughing or call my sister and say, “Oh, now I get why you married IBM and traveled the world instead of staying home with babies who vomit in your mouth.”
Jen’s writer’s voice is quirky, bright, and authentic; one percent Heather Armstrong (Dooce.com), one percent Jon Stewart, and 98 percent pure Jen. So I invited Jen to guest blog on SavageSites to tell you about the influences in her life that helped her to develop her unique writing voice, and what advice she might give other bloggers who are just starting out about how to start blogging, and she graciously accepted. Thanks, Jen! Comments, as always, are welcomed.
I became a writer because of lasagna.
Some people have stories of being heavily impacted by a book they read as a child. Others will tell you that they felt a calling to put words to paper the first time they held a pen. I discovered my passion because of baked noodles.
I loved writing growing up, and was one of those annoying kids who enjoyed diagramming sentences. I thought of writing as a form of art: the artist was the author, and the medium was words. I wanted to be a person who shared their words with the world, but didn’t think I had the chops for it.
My vision always included thick glasses, a lot of brooding, referencing Kafka in conversation, and the kind of writing that brought people to their knees. I was someone who had barely figured out how to stop eating paste. (FYI: teachers really hate that.)
My freshman year of college I had an English professor who assigned us to write about any food of our choice. We needed to describe the way it tasted, smelled, looked and so on. “I can’t believe they pay this guy to ask us to give him ideas for dinner.” I struggled with the task, but eventually decided it would be fun to write about lasagna from Garfield’s perspective. I was surprised when my professor pulled me aside a few days later, and told me I had a future as a writer.
“Oh, this is why they pay him the big bucks- he has impeccable taste.”
I had found my voice; I would be the person who made people laugh.
Fast forward a few years, and the internet became a handy platform for writers. I stumbled across a site which allowed anyone to post content; additionally, everyone had the opportunity to network with, and receive feedback from, the other writers. I wrote from the heart (as opposed to my preconceived notion of “good writing”) and was taken aback by the support I received from others. My beginning pieces were really rudimentary (seriously, they make me cringe when I read them now) but I still value that I wrote in my own style.
My goal now is to amuse people, and give them that moment of, “Wow, I can totally relate to that.” This isn’t to say I’ve thrown caution to the wind, and just write anything that comes to my head. I won’t make fat, mentally handicapped or gay jokes. I try to avoid cursing, or being overly vulgar unless it’s to make a point. I won’t tell stories about friends or family members if I haven’t gotten their approval first. I try to be honest, but not mean.
I needed a place to put my articles so I decided to create a blog through WordPress. I think the biggest misconception is that you need to be a tech wizard to create a blog, and that simply isn’t true. There are so many user-friendly platforms to choose from, and websites like this one which help you navigate the murky waters of writing on the internet.
Once you have the blog up and running the first thing you need to do is network; other bloggers are your biggest allies. It seems counterintuitive because wouldn’t we be competing for the attention of the same pool of readers? No; in fact, your best bet is to align yourself with people who write in the same tone and style as you. If they post about you on Facebook or Twitter, they are promoting you to your target audience.
While some competition exists between bloggers, the majority of the people I’ve met are enduringly supportive people. They know how much time and effort it takes to come up with, and post, fresh content on a regular basis. The new bloggers are in the same boat as you, and are eager to cross-promote. The established ones remember what it was like when they just started, and the excitement of getting a new subscriber.
Is it all sunshine and rainbows? No. I’ve gotten messages from people who tell me they think I suck. There are days when I have intense writer’s block, and can’t write even one sentence. There are times when I want to commit computer homicide after my laptop shuts down and erases the last half hour worth of work. Sometimes my regular job is so taxing that I don’t have energy left over for my blog.
And? That’s the question I ask myself when things get tough. My only alternative is to quit writing, and that’s just not something I’m willing to do. I kick myself in the pants and keep going.
If I was to only offer up one piece of advice to bloggers out there, it would be to remember that there isn’t a blueprint to blogging. You don’t have to post multiple times a week. You don’t have to write serious political pieces. You don’t have to post on every social media site out there. All you have to do is keep your eyes and ears open to inspiration because you never know when a piece of lasagna will be lying around.