Why I Blog

Today’s topic on The daily Post is to tell the reason you started blogging.

I suppose the short answer is that I wanted to write.

But, like anything else, there is more to it than that.

All my life, I wanted to be an artist. I felt like I was an artist. I wanted to write, tell stories, draw, paint, create.

When I was a child, I discovered that I could write poetry. My Grandmother was a poet, and reading her poems and then writing one of my own was an easy transition for me. That same Grandmother was also a self-taught painter, and her paintings have inspired me to paint a few canvases of my own.

However, it wasn’t until I was in my late forties, and married for the second time, that I discovered what it is I really love to do. My husband and I were laid off from our manufacturing jobs at the time, and I was getting a little tired of sitting around the house trying to keep it clean. My mother called me one day and said that she had read that my Uncle had his magazine for sale – and I should think about buying it.

My Uncle Joe, my father’s brother, had started a local magazine in 1975. Called Scene Magazine, it was a small, free publication that showcased photography, events and businesses around my city, Wilmington, North Carolina. Or, as Uncle Joe liked to call it – “The Cape Fear Country.”

I knew nothing, and I do mean nothing about publishing a magazine. I had had several jobs – cashier, waitress, seamstress, day care worker, optometry assistant and fiber processing technician – none of which prepared me for writing, editing, laying out and marketing a magazine.

But? I don’t know why – it sounded like a reasonable idea.

So I called my Uncle Joe and we talked about it. I figured he would laugh, tell me to stop being cute and hang up the phone.

But? He didn’t. Actually he said he would love to turn his magazine over to his favorite niece.

Thinking back on it, I’m surprised I had the guts to even approach him. This was my Dad’s brother. He had never had any children of his own and we had never been close. My parents had divorced several years earlier and although I was proud of the fact that my uncle owned a magazine – a magazine that I always proudly picked up and read – I had never talked to him on the phone, never been invited to his house, and, quite frankly, had no idea what he was like.

I had to literally get directions to his house. Every day for six weeks, I arrived on his doorstep with a composition book and a pencil at 9 o’clock sharp to be tutored on how to run a magazine. He taught me everything he knew – how to make a list of advertising prospects, how to call on them to “pitch” our magazine, how to design the ads, how to plan the magazine articles, how to obtain the photographs, how to lay out the magazine, how to organize the pages and get it ready for the printer and how to get the whole thing done and delivered within the 30 days allotted without going crazy.

What he didn’t count on, and couldn’t believe, was that I would learn how to do it as easily as I did, love it as much as he did, and actually want to write the articles and take the photographs as well (two things he had always relied on someone else to do.)

What neither one of us bargained on was that we would discover how much we had in common – we both shared a deep love for our city and its history, we both loved the same music, the same art, the same places, had the same values. We are both deeply religious – yet, don’t feel the need to religiously attend church. We both love the ocean, and dogs, and beer.

I went into it thinking I was going to buy a magazine. What I really got was so much more. I got the privilege of getting to know my Uncle. And we became more than relatives. We became friends.

For thirteen months my sweet husband (who was drafted into helping me with this project against his will, y’all, but he loves me that much!) and I labored seven days a week, and fourteen to sixteen hours a day eating, sleeping and breathing Scene Magazine.

We made it work. We sold enough ads to cover our printing cost, plus a bit more. And for any business in its first year, that was pretty much a success. We had some stunning cover photos, some interesting articles, new advertisers, excited readers and, well, a lot of fun.

We also made a few mistakes along the way, lost some advertisers, lost some money, put way too many miles on our car and about worked ourselves to death.

But we learned a lot.

One day I woke up as if I had been in a coma and realized that I needed help, but could not afford to pay anyone. I also had to admit that this wonderful creation of a magazine was not lucrative enough to pay our bills or provide us with health insurance. At least, not any time soon.

So I went back to work – as an Ophthalmic Assistant. Which is, about as uncreative a job as you can get.

After a year of working for a glaucoma specialist, I saw a want ad in the newspaper one day for a position at one of the other, local magazines (very much like Scene Magazine, but bigger). On a whim, I wrote a letter to the editor, got asked to come in for an interview and wound up with a job as the assistant to the publisher of  that magazine and a local newspaper!

I loved working for that company. I was able to write magazine and newspaper articles and seeing my work published in the larger venue was thrilling. And since I wasn’t responsible for the entire publication – it didn’t consume all of my time.

After I had been working there for about another year, I received an unexpected phone call one day from the HR lady at the production facility that I had been laid off from. Business had picked back up and I was being offered a chance to return. Returning meant going back to shift work, long 12 hour days (and nights) and boring, repetitive work. It also meant great medical benefits, union pay, paid vacations, a retirement pension, a 401K and a seven-day “break” (time off!) every month.

I went back to the union job, y’all.

And I don’t regret it (much.) My husband and I work there together and we have the same hours, so that helps. We love having the time off to travel (we just got back from a trip to Florida to visit my Uncle Joe!) and I have made significantly more money doing this than I ever would have from working in the publishing business.

But there are days when I really feel the need to create. To put together a good-looking page. To write an article, or story. To publish pictures of my beloved, beautiful city. To let my creative side get out and stretch its legs for a bit.

To make Uncle Joe proud.

So. Here I am. Blogging.

And I’ve learned that instead of boring articles about what’s going on around the city, or the history of one of the area’s grand homes – I’d rather write about something funny, or ironic that has happened to me. I’d rather write about my family, my hopes, my fears, my life.

And I’ve learned that I’d rather take photographs than paint. That I love to take my camera everywhere, just like I used to do when I was hoping to get a good “cover shot” for my magazine. Only now, I’m thinking about how it will look on my blog, and what I can write about it.

I don’t feel like I’ve even begun to scratch the surface. There is so much left to write about. So much learning to do. So much more improving. And so much more courage needed to tell the stories I have bottled up inside.

Like this one, about why I blog.

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I Blog to Defy the Shrews

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This week’s Spin Cycle is about blogging. Well, why you’re blogging. And how you got started. And why you decided to call it whatever it is you call it. Your blog, that is.

I started blogging because my friend, Debbie, at Buzzin’ By, said to me, (well she didn’t really say anything, she wrote it because that’s how Debbie and I talk, bein’ cyber friends, and all), she says, “You need to start a blog.” So, I started a blog. I pretty much do everything Debbie suggests, because she has that kind of power over me.

See, there was this creepy place we used to hang out at, called TSC, or The Stepfamily Connection. I got involved with this whole crowd of stepmoms because I had just married my second husband and started down the twisted, broken, root-infested, ankle-breakin’ path we call “Step Life.”  I had just gotten my first computer, too, and although I knew nothing about discussion forums, I was enlightened about Google, thank God. So I was googling “how to survive being a stepmom,” or “how to deal with a vicious, immature, selfish, brainwashing ex-wife,” or something along those lines, when I stumbled onto TSC and my life ain’t been the same since.

The whole world of meeting people online and sharing my most intimate problems with total strangers was opened up to me that day. Eventually, a bunch of us decided to meet in person and it was uncanny how we not only clicked, but how our husbands clicked, too. It’s like they were long lost brothers.

Over the course of a few years, our group on TSC became divided into two groups. Let’s call them the “Jealous Shrews” and the “Pretty Nice Girls”. Debbie, bein’ the Queen of the Pretty Nice Girls, our “Queen Bee” (her screen name), was despised the most by the Jealous Shrews. What they particularly hated the most about her, was her ability to bee-friend everyone. She was, in a word, popular. She kept up with everything and everybody and had the best advice. So, the Jealous Shrews, bein’ eaten up by the green eyed monster like they were….did I mention that they all just happened to be fat and ugly? I’m just sayin’!….started a hate campaign against “The Queen” and what they thought of as her “followers.” They even named her “Bee-sus” and said she had the ability to suck out the brains of her disciples, which they named “Bee-sciples”.

The owner of this mess (called TSC) tried to swoop in at the last moment and moderate. By then, it had pretty much turned into a mud-slingin’, reputation bashin’ free-for-all and she shut the whole thing down before it gave her a nervous breakdown, or worse, caused her to break a fingernail.

I’m not makin’ this up, y’all. My imagination is not this good. These so-called ladies actually sat around and took the time to type all this crap. What they meant, by all this brain suckin’ talk, was that Debbie seemed to have an influence over the rest of us Pretty Nice Girls that they, in their petty, small brains, could not understand. What she had, and what she still has, is a sense of humor, a sense of fairness, integrity, and a  thoughtful, intelligent, interesting and caring personality. (Plus she’s pretty.)

I’m very proud to call her my friend.

So when Queen Debbie makes a suggestion, I jump all over it. Partly because it gives me a little wicked thrill to think about how the Jealous Shrews would be bangin’ their heads up against the wall, if they knew, but mostly because I respect her advice. She’s never steered me wrong, yet, and I know I can trust her.

Where Debbie leads, I will follow. So this here blog is my foray into another part of the great big ole  Internet. Right now, I’m like a baby, crawlin’ around on the floor and stickin’ stuff in my mouth to see how it tastes. One of these days I’ll pull myself up and try to take a few shaky steps, but I’m still in my creeping along stage right now. My creeping and tasting has already lead me to the realization that one blog is not enough. So I’ve already branched out to the crazy Wild Side of Snowy, which is about another one of the Nice Pretty Girls that I love.

A couple of months after I started blogging, my grandmother passed away. I found that posting her poems and sharing my memories of her was a tremendous help in my grief process, and so I began to get a taste of how therapeutic a blog can be. I plan to do another blog about her and her life, with old scanned photographs and her poetry. It will be, I hope, a nice memorial to her that my family across the country can read and participate in.

The Story About My Name has already been written, in one of my first posts. I wanted to have a safe place where I could “snap” in style, if and when I got good and ready. I wrote for a magazine, Wrightsville Beach Magazine, for a while and I owned my own publication, Scene Magazine, which was about my home town, Wilmington, N.C. I love to write and I want to write a novel someday. I also want to start a photography blog and a blog all about Wilmington, which would be sorta like an online version of Scene Magazine. Until then, this will do.