Occasionally I get email from other aspiring queer bloggers asking for advice, and I received another one recently, so I thought I'd share some general, hard-won blogging advice. Take it all with a boulder of salt.BW's Tips for Bloggers
I'm sure other bloggers feel differently about lots of this stuff, and I hope they'll weigh in with other thoughts they have. What about you, dear readers? What are your favorite qualities in a blog?
- Assuming you want an audience, your blog should revolve around a theme, not just be a diary. For a following, you need an angle. (Once you have a following, it's okay to deviate sometimes--regular readers are forgiving... As, I hope, you all are right now...)
- Let your personality shine through. Whether it's nerdy, quirky, punny, whatever--it's genuine you, and this is the fun of it.
- Keep a running list of possible topics. Then on the weeks you're running dry, check the list and see what inspires you.
- You don't need to know anything about coding or building websites. Personally I use Weebly, because I like their templates and options and easy-to-view stats. But there's also WordPress and a bunch of others.
- Reach out to more experienced bloggers. After you've got 10-12 good posts, ask if they'll put you on their blog rolls.
- Don't feel obligated to post every day. It's nice if you can, but you don't want the blog to feel like something you have to do.
- Give people an option to subscribe to your blog via email.
- Do it for love, not money. I'm positive I've spent more on BW than I've earned. Would I like to make a living writing BW? You bet. Am I willing to post ads all over my page and pimp products I don't care about? No freakin' way.
- Have patience! It can take a really long time for your audience to grow.
- Some people will hate you, disagree with you, and/or think you're stupid--and won't be afraid to say so. Pay attention to thoughtful critiques; ignore the morons.
- Don't be defensive. You will screw up. When you do, admit it.
- You're going to offend some people, even if you try not to. This is not a nice feeling, but it's a virtually inevitable one.
- Readers love pictures, especially if you take them yourself.
- Have fun! Be silly, be weird, be random. If you're laughing while you're writing, your readers will laugh while reading it.
- Keep a separate email account for blog-related email. This will keep your blog life from leaking into your work life, and vice versa.
- Think carefully about whether to be anonymous. It's a hard choice. I'm still closeted for professional reasons (and deeply ambivalent about it), but plan on coming out in the next couple years. Once you're "out," you can't go un-ring the bell. While being up-front about your real identity will increase your credibility (and get you a bigger following, I bet!), it may limit what you feel comfortable writing about.
- Social media is your friend! Lots of people have stumbled across BW randomly through Twitter and Facebook.
- Don't write about friends/family who read your blog, unless they've told you it's okay, or you specifically let them know ahead of time. Some will get pissed off; it's hard to predict who. Also: use pseudonyms.
- Interact with your readers! Most of them will be awesome, and eventually you'll probably get more emails than you can handle, but if you see blogging more as a conversation than a mouthpiece, readers will be engaged (and they'll share smart, interesting ideas that will teach you cool things and inspire you to write more!).
- You're allowed to vary: sometimes you may be funny, sometimes reflective, sometimes informative. Don't feel like you have to keep up some kind of consistent "persona."
- Don't get too obsessed with your numbers, and certainly don't write in response to them (e.g., "People like posts about fashion so I'd better write about nothing but fashion").
- Don't apologize if you go a while without blogging. (Yeah, I broke my own rule recently. Sue me.) Just roll with it.
- Focus on creating good, interesting content. Rachel Maddow said recently that there are too many great content-container creators and not enough great content creators. Be one of the great ones, and strive to get better. I'm talking about technical stuff (for grammar tips, there's no better source than Strunk and White) and non-technical stuff. Think of the bloggers you admire most. Why do you like their posts? Strive to embody the qualities you admire.
- Good writing takes way more time than you think it will.
- Understand that you have something to say. If you're thinking about blogging, it's because you want to tell something to the masses. Don't second-guess yourself. Everyone's an expert on his or her own corner of the world. A blog is an awesome way to share your point of view!
Edie and Thea in the 1960s
A few of you have asked what I was going to write about Edie Windsor, so I thought I'd go ahead and post what I wrote, even though it's kind of incomplete.
The day before the Supreme Court arguments, I dreamed about them. For some reason, they were taking place in a high school gymnasium. And one of my biggest heroes (who was involved in the case, but didn't actually argue it) was arguing on behalf of Windsor. My parents were in the audience for some reason, and so was I, but I didn't seem to have a seat, and kept darting about the folding chairs to get a better view.
If you follow the case at all, you probably know some of the details: Edith Windsor's 40-year relationship with Thea Spyer, her longtime care of Thea after Thea was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, and the financial blow dealt to her after Thea died (because their marriage--in NY and Canada--was not recognized by the federal government).
Edie and Thea in the 2000s
When I think about how hard it was for me to come out in the 2000s, and how much anti-gay rhetoric I heard as a kid, I'm especially amazed by women like Edie and Thea, who were out and proud when it was much harder to be.
Regardless of how the case comes down, I'm overwhelmed by my gratitude to Edie Windsor and the many others, young and old, who have been fighting this battle for a long, long time.
When I started this blog, I swore that I was never going to apologize for not posting frequently enough. I'll just post whenever I want
, I thought. It's not like I'm going to feel guilty if I don't
I'm going to go back on my word: sorry it's been so long since I posted! A few things have happened in the last month-ish of time that have taken me away from blogging. Want to know what they are?
So there it is, dear readers; you're totally caught up on my life. Now stay tuned for our regularly scheduled programming...
- Someone I respect immensely recommended a job to me that I wouldn't have considered on my own. Now I've applied and have that kind of excitement that buzzes around in your head and throat and prevents you from doing anything useful. I'm not sure if I'm more scared that I won't get the job, or that I will. Either way, it's shaken things up in a way that is not at all unpleasant.
- I am taking two classes, just for fun. Haven't done this in a while. Readings! Homework! Papers! It's madness, I tell you!
- My DGF and I turned some kind of indefinable "corner" and I feel closer to her than ever.
- I broke my foot and it has to be in an "air cast" for two more weeks. Then I get another x-ray. And only then am I allowed to even think about getting back to hiking. Gah!
- My DXH and his DGF are engaged! Whoa! I am immensely happy for both of them and excited because they are totally happy and make a phenomenal couple. (Actually, they got engaged more than a month ago, but they sent me their wedding website the other day, and that was when I realized: OMG. They're getting married!)
- I met Butch on Tap when she took a work-related trip to my neck of the woods. It was fun! We agreed that we are officially friends, and I'm hoping we'll collaborate on some stuff in the future. Stay tuned...
- I thought lot about the gay marriage arguments, listened to the oral argument in Windsor, and started to write a couple of different pieces about it, none of which came to fruition because they all devolved into rambling about how much I admire people like Edie Windsor, and how grateful I am to the LGBTQ folks who paved the way for us.
Just a quick post to announce that The Trevor Project
won the poll, and 1/3 of the proceeds from Mad 4 Equality will be donated there. Thanks for voting--I expect to post entry info in a day or two, and am super stoked about the tournament. Stay tuned!On a slightly different BW note, I wanted to apologize for being such a lax little blogger lately. A couple different things have been going on, one of which involved me stepping off of a sidewalk onto uneven pavement and twisting my foot, causing a ligament to pull a chunk of bone off. So I'm hobbling around on crutches and demanding things from my DGF, who is being a ridiculously wonderful sport about it. I'll try to pick up the pace, though, for your reading pleasure. I miss you guys! Love, BW
Last week, I posed five writing prompts to BW readers
. (I'm still taking answers, so feel free to send yours in
.) One of those was: "Write a letter from your 2013 self to your 2003 self." Here are five of my favorites:Dear kid,
I know you're reading this at age 31 but I know you still feel young and dumb, sometimes. I want, no, need to let you in on a few choice secrets. First, you have a lot of growing to do. You may feel like you are stagnant and the gears have stopped turning in your identity formation. I'm here, 10 years down the road, to urge you to hang on and keep your mind open. You're in for some heartbreak, which will make you question everything but you'll survive and only get better with age. Also, bear in mind that within the next decade, you'll become so comfortable with the you who you are that you won't give a tinker's damn what other folks think of how you present or label yourself. You'll be a fine person, who has expanded beyond terms like tomboy and lesbian and will embrace new aspects of self like boi, genderqueer and butch while never neglecting what it is to be female. In short, you will create a pretty balanced synthesis where you can appreciate your masculine and feminine qualities. You don't need to be afraid that you'll be unappreciated or unloved because you rock that short haircut and tie. You won't bow to societal pressures to conform, get married, wear attire that doesn't mesh with who you are, etc. You'll be a work in progress, even in 2013 but you will be a happy butch, who exudes confidence and class... and you will not be alone.
Dear Self from 2003,
Do yourself a favor and come out of the closet now. You know you're gay and so do your friends. I know you're scared that your family won't be fine with it but they will be as long as you are happy. Also never leave any of your girlfriends for someone else. It's lame and will rob you of true happiness. Keep trying to lose weight... it definitely pays off. Never give up!!! Life out if the closet is so much better than the life you have now.
Me from 2013
The third letter is from Whitney, who chose to send it in in video form. I totally love this--click here to check it out
Kiss a girl. One of those long lingering soft kisses that you can feel right down to your toes. When you are done don't feel guilty and don't feel ashamed; but most of all don't be afraid.
Your life begins here. YOUR LIFE. Not the life you just assumed you should have. The life that you were conditioned to believe was the proper, moral thing for a good girl to do. This kiss will allow you to start really living.
What you want is important and it matters. You will feel for the first time that you have found what you've been searching for. The thing that lingers just outside of your reach. Finally understand why you have always felt so different from other girls.
Love yourself for who you are. Start to look how you feel inside. Dress how you've always wanted to. Be comfortable in your own skin. Take advice from Dr. Seuss "Be who you are and say what you mean because those that matter don't mind and those that mind don't matter."
With this one simple act, do for yourself what years of therapy will not be able to do for you. Understand your relationship with your husband, then let him go. Give yourself the opportunity to experience real romantic love for the first time.
Trust in your family to understand and to be there for you no matter what. Believe that they love you and feel that your happiness is all that matters in the end.
Be brave. Be true to yourself. I'm not saying it will be easy. The sacrifices will be many. Some of them easy to take, while others will leave you heart broken and change you forever. But I promise you will never regret any of it for a second. The rewards far outweigh the hardships. Everything that you have ever imagined for yourself is what's at stake.
Kiss that girl! Then sit back and enjoy the ride.
Stevie LoveHi there, Laura.
I know it's a pretty confusing time for you after just breaking up with Jade. I know you think you're a little bi-girl, but let's be honest; we both know you're gay; don't pretend any more--it will be so much easier. You will meet people in your new secondary school who will find you with other girlfriends, will bully you and you shouldn't let it get to you like it did to me. The bullying got quite bad for me and I let it get to me but ignore them, actually in a few years the main ones have themselves come out.
Don't get all worried you won't suit short hair. It looks awesome on you! In the next few years you'll notice you meet some amazing people, especially in 2012, you will meet an amazing woman who makes you very happy. Don't let her go... ever.
I know you want to be with the guys and you've always acted like one but let's face it, you've always checked out the same girls they have without wanting to admit to yourself. Rugby is awesome. Just because you like to wear men's clothes doesn't mean you're weird. Keep smiling; it does get better. It gets a lot better and you are happy in the future. Life is good when you admit you're into women. Oh... you look damn good in a shirt and tie and don't you ever forget it.
Your future self.
I'll share some more of my favorite answers from readers to these and other questions
in the next couple of weeks. Readers' answers are making me wonder what I
would tell my 10-years-younger self. Would I tell her not to marry my DXH? I'm not sure. It broke my heart and sent me reeling for years... but on the other hand, I learned a lot from being married to him, and we had some absolutely wonderful times. In a very real sense, he and I grew up together. Plus, if I'd come out earlier, would I have ever met my hilarious, gorgeous, terrific DGF?
It's hard for me to think about what I'd want my 10-years-younger self to know. Even the things I learned the hard way sculpted me into the person I am now... so maybe that's good. Or maybe it's just cognitive dissonance.
What do YOU wish you would have known ten years ago?
I've talked often on Butch Wonders about the difficulty of defining "butch," my distaste for policing "butchness," and the value I find in labeling myself "butch." I've been communicating with some of my dear readers about these and related questions, and I'd like to put a call out there for YOUR answer to one of the following:
Over the next month or two, I will post several of the most interesting, thought-provoking answers I receive. Please email me your entries, along with the following information:
- How do you define "butch?" Does butch necessarily mean "female?"
- Write a letter from your 2013 self to your 2003 self--maybe to give younger self some insight; maybe to prepare you for the next decade.
- Would we all be better off without any labels?
- What is your butch "style?" How is it different (if it's different at all, which it needn't be) from being a man?
- Describe how some other identity you have (race, religion, social class, whatever) interacts with your sexual orientation.
I reserve the right to edit these as I see fit for grammar, length, clarity, etc., but I'll do so as sparingly as possible.
- Which question you are answering
- How you'd like your name to appear (if at all--anonymous is fine)
- A link to your website (optional--I'll publish it with your entry)
- Your mailing address (also optional--a few lucky folks may win a prize)
No minimum or maximum length, but anywhere between 150 and 750 words is great. You don't need to identify as butch, or as gay, or as anything else, to submit an entry. I can't wait to read these! (And yes, if you'd like to answer more than one, feel free--just make sure to send each answer in a separate email.)
As you've probably noticed, I list a bunch of my favorite blogs in the right-hand column--you should definitely check them all out(!). I try to keep it fresh, so I delete blogs that seem inactive (i.e., haven't posted in 2012).
I'm grateful to my fellow bloggers, who always have something interesting to say, keep me on my toes, and comment thoughtfully on BW. I don't know if these folks know how religiously I read them, but I do(!). And I wanted to highlight some of my favorite posts from the past couple of months:
What else have you been reading online lately?
- Mainely Butch writes about the things she loves most about being visibly butch... and the things she finds the most awkward. My experiences are a little different from hers (though there's certainly some overlap), and I loved reading her lists.
- Butch on Tap gives lots of advice for staying sane through a breakup. I think all of it is terrific, except for the part about avoiding Ben & Jerry's, which seems to me a little rash.
- Butchtastic Kyle writes a terrifically interesting account of coming out to his parents (sort of accidentally) in high school.
- Neutrois Nonsense shares advice about things to do before, during, and after top surgery. (No, I have no interest in getting top surgery, but a friend of mine is planning on it.) She said it was super helpful, so I thought you all might like it, too. (It can also help you help a friend.)
- Bren of Diffuse 5 writes a great post on breast-binding for beginners. I prefer not to wear anything more binding than a nice sturdy sports bra, but if you want to experiment with something more, this is a must-read.
- Can I Help You Sir sometimes posts these great catch-all "links and whatnot" entries. They always contain interesting stuff, and this latest one is no exception.
- DapperQ, always a fun read, has this great post that illustrates some basic how-tos, like tying a bow tie, with amusing old-timey pictures.
- mx.punk has this interesting, thoughtful post on "Internet pansexuals," and takes issue with the statement, "Love shouldn't be based on something as trivial as gender."
It's been a full week since I've written a Butch Wonders entry. Often when I have something I have to (or want to) write and I haven't really been doing it, my brain does this (click to see a bigger version):
I'm learning to write a little faster and get stuff out there immediately. This is the "prototype early and often" principle (in design thinking parlance), or the "fail, fail again, fail better" principle (in Samuel Beckett / Zadie Smith parlance), or the "brain crack" principle (in Ze Frank parlance).
...Anyone else ever experience anything like the flow chart above?
Me, headed to a bachelorette party
Recently it feels like people have been writing with more and more questions about me and my blog. I thought I'd answer a few of them today as best I can. Here are some that I've received from readers over the past couple of months:Q: Why did you start BW?
A: I didn't think there were enough websites out there for women like me: lesbians toward the masculine end of the spectrum. I was unsure what to wear, what etiquette was like in certain situations, and whether other people were interested in the same kinds of discussions around identity that I am.
Q: How many hits do you get every day?A: It varies. In the last month, my highest has been just over 3000 and my lowest has been 1000. On days I post something decent, 1500 or so.Q: How does the traffic you get compare to other lesbian blogs?A: I have no idea.
Q: Who's your staff?A: My "staff??" It's just me, sitting in my living room with my dog and a cup of coffee, typing into cyberspace and hoping someone will read it.Q: Do you make a lot of money writing Butch Wonders?A: I've spent about $700 on site costs over the last year. And through the Butch Store and selling occasional ads, I've made maybe $300 total. So, still in the hole. I never envisioned this as a business, though, so that's okay (though it would rock to get paid for doing something I love so much!).Q: Why do you keep the blog anonymous?A: This has been a hard decision. The short answer is: my job. My supervisor told me my chances for advancement could be harmed by this kind of outside writing. So
I'm on the DL (as BW, not as a lesbian!) because I think I can do more good by advancing in my career first and coming out as BW second. But I struggle with this. Plus, I'd love to make videos for you, and right now, all I can do is appear on the radio (which, I hope, is happening again soon--stay tuned). Q: So does anyone know that you write this?A: Yep. Mainly family members and close friends. A few professional contacts. And one or two folks who wanted me to write for them and needed to verify that I'm really the thirty-something dyke I claim to be (I am, though arguably more nerdy than sometimes represented here).
;)Q: Is it true that you used to be married to a guy? A: Yes. You can read about it
in several entries. Check out my Index of Topics
, under "Married to a Man."Q: Aren't you limiting yourself by writing this for butches rather than for all lesbians?A: Sure. But a lot of the issues I'm interested in apply mostly to masculine-of-center women. I didn't want to write about suits and ties and then claim to be a "lesbian" blog, since plenty of lesbians aren't the tie-wearing type.Q: Do you have a girlfriend? Is she butch or femme?A: I do! I refer to her as my DGF (dear girlfriend) on the blog. She identifies as neither butch nor femme, and mostly eschews labels (I really want her to write a post about this sometime). I suspect that most people consider her butch or soft butch, and that many people in the community would consider us a butch-butch couple (so do I, most of the time).Q: Why don't you write a column for Curve?A: I pitched it to them, but they never got back to me. I followed up: still no response. So at the moment, I'm not a columnist for anyone.
Need a columnist? Email me
!Q: Where do you live?A: I'm going to stick with the whole anonymity thing and not say. But I will say that I'm in a rural area that's very close to a large urban area. I think this provides a nice balance for me, though it does mean that I burn more gas than I'd prefer to.Okay, dear readers--that will do for now. Got any other questions for me?
These may not be as patently silly as May's search terms were, but it still amazes me what people can search for to reach Butch Wonders. Here are some of my favorites from this month:
- "top 10 butch chick names" (Flopsy, Mopsy, Cottontail, Mittens, Pammi, Tammi, Kitti, Kiki, Candi, and Lulu.)
- "how to be more butch" (Change your name to one of the above.)
- "my butch will not have sex until after marriage." (I just hope you don't live in Arkansas or something. That could be a loooong wait.)
- "i have a crush on my friend angie who is a lesbian shes 30 im 62" (The specificity of this search is what gets me. Did this person expect to find a website that was like: "Hey, if your name's Angie and you're 62, you've got to read this?")
- "straight women attracted to butch women" (Butch women hot. Straight women not so straight.)
- "are rachel maddow and susan still together" (Rachel hasn't called to ask me out yet, so I'm assuming so.)
- "lesbian bloogs" (Are ooften gooood tooo loooook at.)
- "want to do it all syndrome" (If this is a real thing, I totally have it.)
- "why does ellen only wear pants?" (What is this person watching?? Disappointingly, in everything I've seen, Ellen is wearing a shirt, too.)
- "wonders of the world very very very very very very very very wonderful than all wonders of the world" (Butch wonders very very very very very very wonderful indeed.)
- "my daughter is beautiful and is attracted to butchish women" (Yay! Lucky you! You get the best of both worlds: a true gentleman for your daughter, and a daughter-in-law for yourself.)
- "lesbian thank you for smelling good" (You're welcome.)
- "how many dogs have the name butch" (3667.)
- "i want a faux hawk but im a girl" (Sorry. Your sex presents an insurmountable obstacle to the haircut you want.)
- "dont date temperamental men" (Good idea.)
- "does it mean your gay if you have a fohawk" (Yup.)
- "why are people butch lesbians" (Because sometimes hairstylists accidentally give straight women fauxhawks and it turns us into butch lesbians. Sadly, it's irreversible.)
- "wear only suit vest" (Bad advice. I suggest pants as well.)
- "Do straight guys hug a gay guy as friends?" (No. As I've covered in the past, this turns you gay. A straight women can hug a lesbian without becoming a lesbian... but if the lesbian she hugs is butch, they will probably become at least a little bit gay.)
- "how to tell if your butch" Look at the palms of your hands. If you are butch, there will be either a green crescent or a purple star immediately below one or both of your index fingers.