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8 Burning Questions from RowdyReaders

Recently, I’ve been getting a lot of questions from readers about blogging, writing, and books. Rather than replying to each question via email, I thought I’d group the inquiries into a themed interview about these topics.

I hope you find this useful!

1. When did you start blogging and why?

I started blogging in late December 2007. Since then I’ve been blogging consistently for three and a half years. At the time, I wasn’t thinking about starting a small business or using my blog as a platform to connect with like minded people. Prior to starting RowdyKittens, I hadn’t thought about the direction I wanted to go with my writing or even if the blog would have a general focus. My goals were simple and straight forward:

A. Learn as much as possible about WordPress and social media.

B. Find my writing voice.

C. Keep friends and family up to date by using the blog as an online journal.

Read the full back-story.

2. What blogging platform do you recommend?

Both WordPress and Tumblr are rockin’ platforms. They are user friendly and have a lot of free themes, which is perfect for folks who are just starting out or who are on a tight budget.

If you’re looking for a premium theme, I recommend the Thesis theme. RowdyKittens was built using this wordpress theme.

3. How do I come up with a blog name and brand it?

When you’re trying to decide what name to go with, pick something that resonates with you. If you’re still having a hard time deciding on a name, make a list of words that you like. Try to combine some of them into two-word pairs and see what you come up with. By combining two words you can often create a term with a new meaning. I used that exercise when I came up with the name for my ebook, Smalltopia.

I didn’t start RowdyKittens with branding in mind and it’s not my primary concern right now. When it comes to writing and business, my core philosophy is simple and straight forward:

– Write helpful content.
– Send out a consistent message.
– Be honest and authentic.
– “Free Is Not a Business Model.”
– Have fun!

For more info read: Branding 101 – How to Promote Your Blog Like the Big Guys Do.

4. What’s your take on blog comments?

During December of last year, I decided to close comments for the month. Moderating comments was a lot of work and I wanted to try putting that energy into writing instead. But as the weeks went on, I felt like it was the wrong decision. A huge part of my writing has to do with community building and I believe that interacting with readers via comments is one way to do so. Turning off comments felt a little bit like sticking my fingers in my ears and running away from the discussion.

However, with the comments turned off, I felt more freedom to write what was on my mind. Overall, I have mixed feelings about comments. Comments are great because I’ve learned a lot from readers; but, on the other hand, dealing with trolls isn’t fun.

For now, I’ve decided to open or close comments at my discretion.

5. How did you monetize your blog?

When I started blogging, monetizing my blog wasn’t a concern. But when I left my day job last year I got more serious about using my blog to diversity my income stream. I’ve done that by selling ebooks, letters, participating in affiliate programs that I believe in, and doing freelance work. In essence, my blog is my home-base on the Internet.

For more on this topic, read:

Running Smalltopia: Thoughts on money, education, gratitude, and comments

Everything You’ve Been Force-fed About Blogging Is Wrong

How to Make Money on the Internet

6. Do you have a writing routine? Can you tell me a little bit about it?

I write everyday. I either start my work day by journaling or writing in 750words. Journaling helps me focus on larger projects because I allow myself to write really badly.

Your first draft will always be a shitty draft. So ignore your inner perfectionist and just write. You can edit later. 🙂

7. How can I become a better writer?

Peter Roy Clark encourages writers to “read for both form and content.” He goes on to say, “The writer must answer this question: what am I trying to build? And then this one: what tools do I need to build it?”

Keep writing and reading. If you don’t write, you won’t be able to improve. Second, I’ve found that reading a wide range of material has not only improved my writing, it informs what I write about on the blog, in my weekly letters, and in larger writing projects.

To improve your writing I suggest reading: “Bird by Bird: Some Instruction on Writing and Life” by Anne Lamott and “Writing Tools: 50 Essential Strategies for Every Writer” by Roy Peter Clark.

8. On Twitter, you mentioned that you’ll be unplugging during the month of July. Will you still be blogging?

Yes, I will be unplugging during the month of July. I won’t be blogging, tweeting or facebooking. But I will check my email a few times a week to stay in touch with business contacts as well as friends and family. So what will I be doing? I’ll be working on my print book. Stay tuned for an in-depth post about my sabbatical next week.

Other questions? Leave a comment or ask via Twitter.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Logan June 20, 2011, 1:03 pm

    I just started my own blog and I have been having one big problem:

    How do you find the motivation to write and and share your ideas? I always seem to falter when writing because my ideas seem like they have been addressed by someone else already. Also, sometimes I just lack the motivation to tell everyone about some epiphany I had in while out on a walk because someone else might think its obvious. So, put another way, how do you find the bravery to put your ideas out there, typos and all?

    Thanks!

    • Tammy June 20, 2011, 3:45 pm

      @Logan – That’s a good question . . .

      I love blogging because it’s allowed me to connect with so many amazing people and that’s one of the main reasons I keep publishing. In addition, the act of writing every week holds me accountable to myself. If I wasn’t blogging, I don’t know if I would be writing regularly.

      It’s also taught me to be okay with imperfection. For example, after I published this post I noticed a bunch of tiny grammar errors and a few other formatting issues. I was annoyed with myself for not catching them. But instead of beating myself up, I fixed the issue and went on with my day.

      Nothing in life is perfect and that’s something writing has taught me. There will always be errors. It’s just a matter of going back and trying to fix them and asking yourself what you can learn from the situation.

      Also, we all have our own unique stories to share with the world. So don’t let fear hold you back or the idea that it’s “been addressed by someone else.” Every perspective is unique. 🙂

      You might want to listen to these TED Talks about creativity. http://rowdykittens.com/2011/01/radio-station-kfkd/

      I hope that helps!

  • Katie June 20, 2011, 6:43 pm

    Hi Tammy,

    Thank you for always being so willing to share how you got to where you are right now! As someone fairly new on the blogging scene, who is also working towards a simpler existence, I can’t tell you how much I appreciate your tips. You’ve been immensely helpful as I try to maneuver this new direction in my life.

    So thanks :o)

    Katie

    • Tammy June 21, 2011, 7:25 pm

      @Katie – Ahhh thanks for the kind words and for reading! 🙂 Keep writing. Best of luck!

  • Becky Lerner June 20, 2011, 10:12 pm

    Tammy,

    Glad to see Roy Peter Clark’s book on your list! 🙂

    • Tammy June 21, 2011, 7:24 pm

      @Becky – Heck yeah! Thanks for the fantastic book recommendation. I’ve learned so much from Clark’s work and I’m re-reading the essay’s for a second time. I still have a lot to learn about the craft of writing. 🙂

  • Greg W June 20, 2011, 11:19 pm

    Hi Tammy;
    A timely post as usual with great information, thanks. Ahava and I will be in Portland the first week in August and I would love to see how things are proceding with your little house. Any chance we could interest you in a cup of tea and conversation sometime at one of your favourite spots? Cheers Greg

    • Tammy June 21, 2011, 7:27 pm

      @Greg – I’d love that! I should be around in early August. I’m planning a trip to California, but I won’t leave until Aug 9th or 10th. Drop me a note and we’ll coordinate the details. http://rowdykittens.com/connect/

      • Greg W June 22, 2011, 7:38 pm

        Great! We’ll be in touch once we firm up our plans. G

  • Sherri Dunham June 21, 2011, 5:41 pm

    Tammy, I too appreciate whenever you share with us how you make it all work. You’ve inspired me in so many ways: to live with less, live more, and to write. A had a complete paradigm shift the first day I read that New York Times piece on your blog. I’m glad you don’t let imperfections get in your way because your work is so meaningful and important. I hope I can be as successful as you one day. Thanks 🙂

    • Tammy June 21, 2011, 7:28 pm

      @Sherri – Ahhh that’s really sweet of you to say. 🙂 Are you blogging? I’d love to read your work.

      Best of luck and thank you again!

  • Nina Yau June 22, 2011, 1:34 pm

    Excellent tips and resources, Tammy. Just stoppin’ by to say a fond hello. Love to you!

    • Tammy June 22, 2011, 3:38 pm

      Thank Nina! Love you back. 🙂 I hope you can get up to Portland soon.

  • Jo June 23, 2011, 3:04 am

    I’d love to hear more about the upcoming blogging sabbatical. Is it scary? Or freeing? Or I shouldn’t put words in your mouth…

  • dawn June 23, 2011, 9:34 am

    hi tammy,

    always fun to read the ‘story’ behind the person. i like how your intention remained the same from the beginning of your blogging experiance, but you have been bold and changed things when you deemed it was needed. i also like the idea of taking a break along the way by ‘unplugging’, as that keeps you true to your idea of simplifying and has you more in control of your blogging ‘ship’. sounds like you have more big plans on the horizon…exciting!

    take care, dawn

  • Nina Nelson June 25, 2011, 9:08 pm

    Hi Tammy!
    I’ve been reading for awhile and just thought I’d say hello. Your content is so helpful! And I love finding other Oregon bloggers. 🙂 Will you be hitting the Oregon Brewer’s Festival at the end of July by any chance?

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