Editor’s Note: The following is a guest commentary from the esteemed Dr. Brian, a non-certified psychologist who has very firm opinions about how other people should lead their lives. (Some of you in the Bonnywood Manor community may recall that Dr. Brian once hosted a blog entitled “Idiot Fondue”, until an unfortunate incident in Paris involving a can of Crisco eventually led to Dr. Brian pursuing alternative employment.)
Earlier this afternoon, Dr. Brian burst into my office, snatched up an antique stapler that I had purchased on eBay after an exhilarating bidding war, and threatened to end the life of said stapler unless I met his demand that he be allowed to make a guest post on my blog. This rude intrusion appeared to be a bit extreme, something one would do when desperate for attention, like Paris Hilton not wearing panties whilst getting out of a limo, and initially I balked at the concept. But then I remembered that I had been swilling margaritas at Ojeda’s last night and never got around to composing a post for my own blog. It was now 5pm, and I was blogless. Perhaps this could work out in my favor…
Me: “Please take a seat.”
Dr. Brian: “Squatting is a submissive posture in most known primitive cultures. I simply will not go there. I refuse to be subjugated.”
Me: “No one is expecting you to squat. How you got there, I don’t know. I’m simply asking you to place your outraged and possibly delusional buttocks in the chair behind you, a chair designed by Frank Lloyd Wright during one of his less-popular phases and he just needed the cash.”
Dr. Brian, hesitating, then sighing and plunking into the chair: “Oh. This is extremely uncomfortable, which proves that it must be a Wright original.”
Me: “Yes, it seems Mr. Wright was all about how things would look in a photo spread and not about how functional his creations might be. Still, owning something that he may have waved his hand over before proceeding to a trysting place with his latest non-wife does make the piece endearing.”
At this point, there was a knock on the door. My assistant, Lanae, then thrust the door open and marched inside, all aflutter. “Something extremely annoying has just been posted on Twitter,” she proclaimed, as if announcing that there has just been an uprising in Wales in 1574. “I thought you should know.”
Me: “How unpleasant. Should I summon lawyers?”
Dr. Brian: “Wait a minute, Lanae person, didn’t you used to be my assistant?”
Lanae, sighing: “Sweetie, you went to jail and I’m not Tammy Wynette. I moved on.”
Me: “Just ignore him, Lanae. He can wait. He’s begging for a job.”
Lanae: “Really? Can I watch?”
Me: “As soon as you get to the point of your intrusion. Something about Twitter?”
Lanae: “Right. Well, there’s this person, @Copuletta, who is tweeting that you promised to write about proper blogging behavior and then you never did. She’s very upset and she’s using some very harsh emojis. And she has four million followers.”
Me: “And that’s a bad thing?”
Lanae: “Anybody who has four million anything should not be ignored.”
Dr. Brian, clearing his throat: “And this is where I can help! I can write the blog post. About proper social behavior.”
We just looked at him. He just looked back at us. The Frank Lloyd Wright chair just looked at the floor, shamed over his shoddy construction.
Lanae: “You were in jail for improper behavior. And a goat was involved.”
Dr. Brian, desperate: “But all of that is behind me now! I haven’t been near a farm or France in three years.”
Me: “Your credibility has been shot.”
Dr. Brian: “I never had any credibility to begin with. I just had high traffic numbers on my blog, and those are two completely different things.”
Lanae: “That’s true.”
Dr. Brian: “So you’ll give me a chance?”
Lanae, to me: “This would free up your schedule. And happy hour is just about to start at Esparza’s.”
Me, to Lanae: “It would be rude of us to ignore such an important engagement. I suppose we could give him a few hours to whip something together while we nibble appetizers and let the alcohol convince us that our lives are meaningful in some way.”
Dr. Brian: “Oh, I’ve already written the post.”
Lanae: “You horrid person. Now we can’t drink!”
Me: “How could you have possibly already written the post?”
Dr. Brian: “I got @Copuletta’s first tweet whilst I was ironing my boxers this morning.”
Lanae: “You’re one of @Copuletta’s four million?”
Dr. Brian: “Aren’t we all somebody’s four million at some point?
Me: “I’m actually intrigued in a small way, a way which will allow this story to get to its actual point. Let me see what you’ve written.” As Dr. Brian began rummaging in a designer messenger bag that smelled faintly of brie and lost hope, I turned to Lanae. “We should still be able to do happy hour. Would you mind heading on over to Esparza’s and getting us a table before it gets too crowded and-”
“I’m on it. I signed out two hours ago and I’ve just been waiting for you to come to your senses and realize our hands weren’t holding cocktails. See ya in a few.” Then she was gone, the office door slamming before I realized she was actually moving.
Dr. Brian placed a sheet of paper on my desk.
I picked it up.
Bringing Your Blog to the Big O: Ten Thoughts on Good Sex and Good Blogging
One. This isn’t the Big Bang Theory.
You aren’t going to be an overnight sensation. Regardless of what might be happening in your dreams late at night, it is not a matter of posting a few things and then suddenly you are appearing on Ellen by the end of the week, with everyone celebrating the depth of your posting. A successful blog takes time and effort, long nights full of sweating and grunting. Many of the people who start a blog don’t really get this, and they give up when they don’t immediately get a thousand followers or a phone call from Oprah’s booking agent. This is why the blogosphere is littered with the slim carcasses of blogs that only have three items in their archives.
Two. Make sure you wear something attractive.
It’s fine to have a great command of the written language, disciplining the words until they do what you want. But no one is going to see those words if they can’t find them. Make sure your boudoir is appropriately designed for what you are trying to do. If a person lands on your trysting pad and can’t figure out what erogenous zones need to be caressed in order to satisfy both of your needs, that person is going to leave without tossing a quarter in the tip jar.
If the blog theme you are using is customizable, then customize it. If you are using the default template, you don’t look any different than 100,000 other people in the chorus line, even more so when your legs are in the air. Even the randiest of readers will grow bored with seeing the same outfit over and over. Put up some new curtains, move the sofa to the other side of the room, wear something with zippers; make it yours.
Three. Don’t let cobwebs build up on your hoo-hoo.
If you want people to come look at you every night, make sure you keep something fresh and tantalizing in the window. Nothing irks a voyeur more than showing up at their favorite house only to find the curtains closed, over and over. To keep your numbers up, you need to be showing the goods regularly, with a smile on your face, happy to be here. Sure, going on a vacation with your family to Beaver Gulch is fine, perfectly understandable. Have fun, don’t worry about it. We’ll hook up when you get back.
Not posting for weeks or months at a time? Different story. You can’t play hard to get for that long and then belatedly throw open the curtains and expect all your paramours to still be there. Your numbers will drop, tumbleweeds will blow by, and you’re back where you started when you made your first post. You are a virgin again. There are way too many other blogs out there who will gladly take over your client list.
Four. Make sure that your guests can touch you.
You should always have the ‘like’ option turned on for your posts. If your template doesn’t offer such a thing, get a different template. If you’re of the “I don’t really care about such things” school, then you’re just being the high-school cheerleader who pretends that she doesn’t want the attention. If you didn’t want feedback, you wouldn’t be posting in a public forum. You would instead be scribbling out your missives and then tucking the pages into a drawer next to your vibrator, fully content. That’s clearly not the case, since you took the time to get your own personal URL on a blogging website.
Now, it’s a bit more understandable when you don’t have the ‘like’ option turned on because you don’t want to be disappointed when no one chooses to hit your G-spot. And yes, it does sting a little when you spend forever on a particular post, getting it just right, and then no one claps when you pull off a triple back handspring with a wide-split dismount.
But here’s the thing: Your readers don’t know about your personal psychological drama. What they do know is that there is no ‘like’ button. This makes them feel like their opinion does not matter, that you don’t care what they think. The next thought they have? Why should I even bother to come here? Next thing you know, that reader is across the street at a more accommodating bar where everybody knows his name and they have ‘like’ buttons. And really tasty peanuts in cute little bowls.
Five. Commentus Interruptus is not a good thing.
This angle escapes many bloggers, and understandably so, because you really don’t know there’s an issue until it’s too late, just like delusional Tea Party candidates somehow getting elected to Congress. Many of the blog themes out there (and this is especially prevalent on WordPress) have a default limit of how many times anyone can respond to a particular comment on a post. Often times, this limit is as low as “3”, and, in radical cases of anal-retentiveness on the part of the theme designer, “2”. This can lead to cruelly-truncated conversations such as this:
(1) “OMG! This was an absolutely amazing post! This has changed my life!”
(2) “Wow, I’m so glad you liked it. If you don’t mind, which part was most significant in your path to enlightenment?”
(3) “That one paragraph where you talked about tempura shrimp. I’m assuming you meant the shrimp symbolized cutting off all worldly ties and becoming a monk in Tibet. Please tell me I interpreted that correctly, because I just bought my plane ticket. If I don’t hear from you, I’ll know I did the right thing.”
And BAM, communication is shut off. Neither of you can contribute any further to this thread. The only subsequent means of interaction is if you start a new comment, something that may end up way down the line, right after an obscure, robot-generated comment from “Lydia” in Nova Scotia who promises 5,000 Twitter followers if you just send her 100 bucks on PayPal.
Moral of the story? Check your settings. If there is a limit on comment responses, jack that thing upwards so you aren’t responsible for your readers selling all earthly possessions and getting their head shaved. You really don’t want something like that coming up in a subsequent court hearing.
Six. Be realistic about the size of your equipment.
You know that follower count that you check every day, the one where you become slightly aroused every time you get an email notification that the number has ticked higher? Don’t put any faith in that number. A big chunk of that tally will be people who have only followed you on the off chance that you will follow them back. This is not a commitment ceremony, they didn’t even bother to actually read anything on your blog, and they will never come back again. These people are the equivalent of Jehovah’s Witnesses who firmly believe that if they knock on enough doors, somebody will answer.
This doesn’t mean, of course, that everyone who follows you is a soulless succubus just looking to increase their own stats. There are some really good people out there, people genuinely interested in what you may have to offer. You want to welcome these folks into your digital home and let them eat whatever they can find in the fridge and spend the night on the couch. Which leads to the dilemma: Who should I follow back? How do I differentiate between the one-night stands and the possible long-term relationships?
You have to put on your Nancy Drew hat and do some research. Check out their blog, see what they’re doing. Don’t necessarily look at the subject matter, look at the quality of their efforts. You may not share the same interests, but what you should share is a dedication to presenting material that is interesting. Respect the effort and follow back when you find a good writer, even if the topic is not necessarily a fetish of yours.
What you shouldn’t do: Blindly follow back. There are some who support the concept of “courtesy” follow-backs. I’ll scratch your back since you scratched mine. And that’s fine, if you choose to go that route. But it really doesn’t get you much in the end.
Seven. Don’t be the tease with a chastity belt.
If you’re serious about building a strong following, you can’t just lay back and expect to be satisfied. It’s a two-way street. If someone comments on your blog, you comment back, regardless. (Merely clicking ‘like’ on their comment is not sufficient, unless it’s the tail end of a conversation where it’s clear that the topic has run its course.) If somebody took the time to make a comment, you should take the time to honor that. (Unless the commenter is clearly a deranged psychopath who just wants to throw a brick and then run back to Mommy. Delete that mess, ain’t nobody got time for it.)
In the same vein, and this may be the most important missive in this whole rambling dialogue: Don’t expect people to automatically find you. You have to work equally hard at finding them. The time you spend responding to comments on your own blog and reviewing who has followed you or clicked “like”? Spend an equal amount of time plunging into the wide-open sea of bloggers out there. Search on keywords or click on the followers of a blog you like. You’ll run into a lot of crap, and there will be a lot of wasted time. But you’ll also stumble onto blogs that will amaze you. Seize that moment. Don’t be afraid to start a conversation that will enrich both of you.
Eight. Don’t fake your orgasm.
Don’t click “like” on a post if you didn’t really like it. Don’t make comments that are insincere. It doesn’t help anybody. Say what you really feel. And if you’re not feeling anything, then don’t say anything. False flattery gets you false results.
Nine. It’s okay to have an open relationship.
You don’t have to be monogamous in your blogging. It doesn’t always have to be about you. If you run across a post from a fellow blogger that really speaks to you, hits a mutual trigger of some kind, why not share it on your own blog? There are certain situations where this won’t work, obviously. If you’re serializing a work-in-progress novel, or perhaps posting real-time updates on your investigative work concerning a serial killer in Boston, your followers won’t be impressed by an intrusive blurb about a fusion restaurant in South Dallas that will close in two months when something newer opens up down the street.
But if you’re like most bloggers, where your posts fluctuate like the weather, depending on your mood and/or medication, you can work in some randomness. Do it. Highlight a fellow blogger that has impressed you. This will not diminish you in the eyes of your decent followers. And it might send some new blood in the direction of an aspiring writer who is working just as hard as you are. How is that not good?
Ten. Don’t be afraid to have sex with the lights on.
Don’t write blog posts with the intention of not offending any potential followers, hiding your flaws and your realness, softening your edges and slathering makeup on the bits that might not be so pretty. Find your voice, don’t hesitate in using it, and don’t apologize. It can be intimidating, taking off all your clothes and letting everybody judge. But the freedom that comes from complete honesty, complete release of fear, will let you be the writer you were meant to be.
Originally published in “Bonnywood Manor” on 10/05/15. Minute changes made for this post, mostly concerning typos that have survived eradication for two years. As a side note, NaNoWriMo starts tomorrow, so I thought I’d end October with this lengthy post in case NaNo wrecks my soul and my posting becomes erratic. (It won’t, but it’s fun to type such things so some of you will think I’m embarking on a much more noble mission than I really am.)
Story behind the photo: A lusty snap of the pie we ordered at Grateful Head Pizza Oven & Tap Room in Hochatown, Oklahoma last weekend. This is the “Tree Hugger”, an all-vegetable option that will make your toes curl and is therefore appropriate for this post…