Category Archives: Blogging

What Rookies Should Know About Blogging

I consider myself a new, inexperienced blogger who attempted to blog since January, 2010. You are probably wondering what useful information I have to share if I call myself “inexperienced.“ Please, bare with me just for another minute and you will see.

Majority of guest posts on a lot of popular and professional blogs feature mostly successful and experienced bloggers who share their blogging experience and advice. But what about us, young, inexperienced but enthusiastic bloggers? We also have something to say. Sometime we wish that someone, who just has started blogging, would share his/her experience. Blogging is not an easy craft. Especially in the beginning.

I decided to share my early blogging experience for one reason only. I hope that new, young, inexperienced and somewhat lost bloggers will read it and say “Hey, we are not alone. We are in this together.” I also hope that experienced and professional bloggers will read it, smile, nod and remember their early days in the blogosphere.

Blogging can be a long and lonely process that requires a lot of commitment and patience. Not everyone is a blogger. Not everyone should blog just because someone told them they write well, have great ideas and can make money blogging.

I have opened and closed three blogs within a period of three months. My first blog turned very fast from being fun into a huge overwhelming responsibility. For God Sake, I was writing a novel on a blog! I didn’t give myself any chance to explore any other subjects. Within three weeks I got writer’s block and closed the blog.

Lesson Learned: don’t jump into blogging because today you have something to say to the world. Will you have something to say tomorrow? In a week? How about in a month? Think, research, evaluate. In other words, plan before you jump this rope. Give yourself time and flexibility. Leave a few doors open, especially in the beginning. If you do choose a very specific narrow subject, you might and you will write yourself out.

My next blog was a book review blog. It survived about two weeks and had a total of five reviews. No one ever commented on my blog. But neither did I. Soon it got very lonely. I was blogging by myself with myself.

Lesson learned: blogging can be a lonely business unless you create a collaborative working partnership with your readers. Build open communication. Put yourself out into the blog world, go visit other blogs and write meaningful and sincere comments. Let other bloggers know that you exist, read and like their blogs.
Next time I was very careful choosing a blog niche. I gave myself time. I left a few doors open. I brainstormed and carefully planned my re-entrance into the blog world. This time the idea was to open a literary magazine that would feature new and/or already known talent in writing, poetry, photography and art.

It was a great idea for someone who did not want to write. I dove into the work and started posting other people’s stuff. It was easy. It was fun. People were submitting their poems, short stories, memoirs, photography and etc. A waiting list of bloggers wanting to post on my blog was growing day by day.

The problem was that I wanted to write, express my opinion and share my own work. I needed to be a part of my blog because the blog was already a part of me. Unfortunately, I did not have time to do any of my own writing because all I did was read, edit, schedule and post other people’s work.

I have yet to issue an official apology to the subscribers and guest bloggers for closing this blog down. I am very sorry I let you all down. Please forgive me.

Lesson Learned: a blog is an extension of you. It is a part of who you are. It represents your personality, knowledge and creativity. Embrace this fact and express yourself freely. Learn to share your ideas, insecurities and confidences with your readers. Don’t be afraid of what you have to say and how it will be understood by others. Trust your readers. Be yourself and feel safe about it.

Reading Picks of the Week

Every other Tuesday I will be posting a number of my reading recommendations. These are the articles I read during the week. They made me think, laugh, dream, discover something new and learn something different:

Green Energy: How Much Can You Save @Every Day Tips;

Pizza, Beers, Frat Parties, Credit Card Cosigning @Wealth Informatics;

The Yakiezie Challenge is Open to Everyone @yakiezie;

How We Became Reluctant Landlords @GetRich Slowly;

Thoughts from a First Generation Immigrant @Musings of an Abstract Aucklander;

Thrifty Sucks – The 30 Day Compact @Live Real Now;

Travel Trails: Niagra Falls @Cities of the Mind;

The Social Network Movie Review @World’s Strongest Librarian;

If you Enjoy Financial Obligations, Don’t Read This @Invest It Wisely

Munich, Day One @At Large in London

I also want to say Congratulations to BrownEyed Mystic (who describes herself as “a dreamer, a writer, a thinker… a mystic“) on her 6 months blogoversary (I think I‘ve heard this word before)! I am very happy I got to know you, Browneyed.

Happy Readings, Everyone!

Personal Finance in a Non-Confrontational Way

What kind of blogs do you read? I like to read a wide variety of blogs from writing blogs, travel, photography to personal finance. One of my favorite blogs is The Simple Dollar: Financial Talk For the Rest of Us. Some of you already know him. Some of you never heard of him. His name is Trent Hamm, and he writes about finance and self-development from a personal angle. I was lucky to get his time and attention. Trent is a busy family man, a writer, a blogger and much more.

Trent, thank you so much for agreeing to this interview and finding time to answer my questions. I know it wasn’t easy. Your blog idea was born out of your personal struggle with finances. Your desire to be a writer and desire to share your story created The Simple Dollar. You could have realized your desire to be a writer in some other different way. Why a blog?

Two reasons.  First, the production costs of starting a blog are very low, much lower than publishing a book.  Second, blogging is such a flexible format, allowing you to write anything from a single paragraph five times a day to a book-length article once every few months.

Fair enough. We all have plans with our blogs. What did you expect out of your blog initially?

I expected it to be read by a few of my friends, nothing more.  I was mostly seeking a way of telling them about the personal finance material I was discovering in a non-confrontational way.

Why The Simple Dollar? I don’t think that a “dollar” is that simple after all.

It was the best name out of the ones my wife and I brainstormed one afternoon. We wanted it to seem accessible and non-confrontational and not confusing to people who aren’t confident about their finances.

You openly told your readers your personal financial life story. Have you ever regretted doing it?

I don’t regret telling my story.  I do regret how I have told it at times in the past, mostly when my story overlaps with the privacy of people I care about.  I don’t want to violate their privacy, and I’ve had to make some difficult and awkward decisions because of that, and readers have become angry with me over such issues more than once. They see an incomplete story where a particular piece has been excised and get quite angry!

You talk and write about being frugal and frugality a lot. Why do you think this word has a negative connotation for a lot of people?

For a lot of people, frugality means not having the things that you enjoy in life.  They think of cutting back, and they imagine the knife plunging into the things that they value.  Of course, that’s not how it works at all – you actually focus the cuts on the areas you don’t care about, like the specific brand of detergent you use.

Do you think students loans exist to help students or to drown them in debt?

The idea of student loans is great.  In practice, they’re not so great.  America’s obsession with the idea that everyone needs a college degree is the real problem.  What America needs is more skilled tradespeople that take pride in their craft.

The biggest mistake that people commit with their finances is that they spend more than they earn. I am guilty of it! Is there a second biggest mistake that we all do with our money?

We spend to please other people instead of pleasing ourselves. We buy things to impress others and to prop up our own feelings for a short time, but it’s a fragile prop and we find ourselves right back where we started except with more debt.

People write to you asking for your financial advice. How comfortable do you feel giving your advice to them? Have you ever had anyone come back blaming you for their financial debacles?

I typically don’t like giving advice.  When I do, I stick to a handful of core principles that I reiterate all the time.  Keep costs low. Seek debt freedom.  Spend less than you earn.  Give to others when you can.  Those principles have worked for me and for many others.  I’ve never had someone come back at me with rage over bad advice because I don’t ever give advice that goes outside of those guidelines.

I believe that behind every successful person there is a talent and a  huge amount of hard work. What do you think made your blog so popular?

My guess is that it’s popular because there’s a constant flow of solid material that pushes people to think about their own situation and to improve it.  That’s what I focus on with every single post and I think others find value in it, warts and all.

I have to ask you this – it came to me as a shock (in a good way) when you recommended my articleInvesting Fiasco or Reminiscences on the Past for your blog readers. Why did you pick it as one of your recommendations?

The story it told was interesting, particularly in how it related social concerns and social changes to the personal finance moves that people choose to make.  We all do that, and it’s brave to recognize it in yourself.

What are your thoughts on 401K?

It’s a good investment vehicle for retirement purposes.  The big advantages it has is the ease of use because it’s facilitated through the workplace and the fact that many employers offer matching contributions, which amount to free money for the retirement saver.

My last question but definitely not the least… Can you share with us the best financial advice you ever heard?

For me, it was the idea that every dollar you earn represents some amount of your life invested – five minutes, ten minutes, an hour. When you spend that dollar, you’re essentially trading some chunk of your life for whatever you’re buying.  So, if I earn $10 an hour and then go out for a $60 meal, I’m trading at least six hours of my life for that meal.  Is that a trade I want to make?

About Aloysa, The Kitchen Sink and the Yakezie

About The Kitchen Sink: the blog celebrates a two months anniversary in October. I am getting to know a lot of you, my loyal readers. When I started this blog I was not sure where it will take me and what I was going to write about. So many subjects I wanted to discuss. A lot of questions I wanted to raise and search for answers. So I created The Kitchen Sink and decided it will be about:

– living a life filled with writing and blogging;

– exploring personal finance;

– trying to live a healthy life;

– traveling, researching, learning and reading.

Quite a wide blog niche you probably think. That’s exactly what I like about The Kitchen Sink. It breaks the rules of the blogging world, does not define a niche and does not limit me to one or two topics. It is a lifestyle blog that is scattered and full of unpredictable things. Just like our lives are.

About Aloysa: Aloysa is my blogger’s name. You know a male name Aloysius? Well, Aloysa is the same name; it’s just a female version of it that I came up with. I am an accountant by day and an aspiring writer and a blogger by night. I work in finance industry and deal all day long with numbers, budgets, debits, credits and journal entries. It is fun stuff but sometimes it gets to me. To get away from it all, I created this blog.

Before all of this happened, I was born and raised in the Soviet Republic of Lithuania (call it the Soviet Union) in a family of teachers. My grandmother taught Chemistry and Biology, my mother was a teacher of Russian Literature. My grandfather (a character worth at least a few blog posts) was a teacher of English and German languages. He should have taught me English but he never did. I guess, he never could imagine me moving to the US many years later.

Our life in the Soviet Union was not all that bad. Like in every culture and in every country, there were good things and bad things. In 1990, when I was close to graduating from the high school, the Soviet Union collapsed and The Soviet Republic of Lithuania became The Republic of Lithuania. It happened very fast: one night everyone went to sleep in the Soviet Union and woke up in the different country with a new government.

Everything was turned upside down. Russian language became a language of the enemy. Russian schools and Russian community struggled to survive in the new hostile world. About five years later, in 2000, I moved to the United States.

About the Yakezie: it is a personal finance and lifestyle blog network that was formed awhile ago. Their motto is “Selflessly Helping Others.” Sounds great to me! The group created the Yakezie Challenge (you can see their badge on my blog) for bloggers. The challenge requires the following:

– write quality content;

– post 2-4 times a week;

– selflessly promote others.

All of these are required in order to challenge and hopefully increase bloggers’ Alexa ranking. Before I stumbled onto the Yakezie I never even heard about Alexa. Apparently it is a very important ranking in the blogosphere. The lower your number (closer to #1), the better it is for your blog. I started my blog two months ago and my ranking is a whapping 2,693,805.

I joined the Yakezie Challenge yesterday. Let’s see where it takes me in six months.

Final word for my readers: I hope that my eye-opening and jaw dropping content will make you come back to The Kitchen Sink again and again. It is a potpourri of intellectualism, culture trends and out-of-the-box stories featuring smart and stimulating plots… Are you still with me? Good! I am joking! But I do hope you will come back, read, enjoy and subscribe. Without you, my readers, this blog would not exist.

You will find in The Kitchen Sink:

1. My book reviews;

2. Ramblings on life, writing and inspiration;

3. Interviews with great, empowering and talented people;

4. Personal finance discussions (I am an accountant after all);

5. Articles about health and fitness;

6. Guest posts that bring a new and fresh perspective.

I want to say a special Thank You to my most loyal and committed readers. Through The Kitchen Sink I met a lot of interesting, talented and inspiring people from all around the world. I hope to meet even more now as I joined the Yakezie Challenge.

You gotta love blogging for the opportunities it gives!

Thank you all for your support, encouraging and moving comments and kind feedback.

Please follow me on Twitter, or subscribe to this blog through email or RSS.

Interview with the World’s Strongest Librarian

He is a hugely popular blogger. He is a successful writer. He has written and published the novel, The Knot, and currently he is working on his memoirs. He reads a lot. He writes a lot. He has an amazing sense of humor, an entertaining writing style and a very articulate thought process. He promised to never bore his readers and he keeps his promise. He calls himself “an aspiring strongman, bookish nerd , twitchy guy with Tourette’s Syndrome, devoted family man, tearer of the phonebooks and humble librarian.”

Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you Josh Hanagarne, The World’s Strongest Librarian.

First, let me thank you for participating in this little project and generously giving me your time. I really appreciate your willingness to answer my questions and feed my curiosity. Thank you! Josh, I am sure that this question was asked before, but anyway, why The World’s Strongest Librarian? It is a pretty bold statement you know…

There are a few reasons.1. I am a librarian. I’m surprised at how many people assume that it was just a gimmick, but I have a master’s degree in library and information science. I’m a professional researcher and I’m pretty good at my job.2. I’m strong. I’m really strong. I am a passionate strength trainee and I do a bunch of weird fringe activities like bending nails and tearing decks of cards.

The idea for the blog originally came up because I kept losing track of the notebooks where I would record my workout numbers. Someone said I should start a blog that I wouldn’t misplace. Like a lot of things I’ve done, it was completely impulsive and I didn’t think anything of it.

As I started writing about some of the challenges I have with my health disorder–Tourette’s Syndrome–I realized that “strong” could mean anything I wanted it to, which is convenient since other librarians are always writing to me and wanting to compare deadlift numbers.

You blog logo says: Get Stronger, Get Smarter, Live Better… Every Day. What does it mean for you? What do you think it means for your readers?

For me it means that I know how to make myself happy–by getting better every day. If there is a scientific explanation for happiness in my life it is simply the science of measurable improvements and progress. The easiest way I know to stay upbeat is to improve myself. I would hope that it means the same thing for my readers.

A lot of people don’t reveal their identities on the Internet (me included!) because they are not comfortable writing personal stuff and posting their picture. You openly talk on your blog about yourself and you are brutally honest. Have you ever had any reservations about it? Any regrets?

Yes and no. My reservations are usually after the fact when I get nasty hatemail. I write for myself. I often don’t know what I think about something until I write it down. But I gained a following without really meaning to. I’m not going to tell people “Hey I write for me so leave me alone if you hate what I’m doing.” My blog is an extension of me. Sometimes I’m worth knowing, sometimes I’m not. This is reflected in the responses I get to posts.

Your first book The Knot was self-published. Why did you choose a self-publishing route?

I wrote The Knot a few years ago during a time when I couldn’t speak much, due to a treatment I was getting for Tourette’s Syndrome. I never intended to publish it, but once I had a blog with a bunch of readers, I thought I might as well put it out there for fun. That’s the whole story.

Seth Godin noticed your blog and hooked you up with his literary agent. Now you have a book deal! It sounds like a fairy tale for so many of us waiting to be discovered. What do you think Seth liked about your blog-story?

I actually turned down the first book deal I was offered. It was a book I didn’t want to write and I’m not motivated by money. I’m currently working on the manuscript for another round of submissions through my agent.
As for what Seth saw in my nonsense–you’d have to ask him. I have no idea.

What does your family think about your blog? Do they read it?

My mom loves it. My dad doesn’t really care unless I tell a story about him. My siblings check in from time to time, but they’re busy and they know a lot of the stories I tell. I do get a fair amount of traffic from the search engines, however, and my relatives are constantly searching for terms and finding the blog that way.

You write a lot! Where do you find time to spend time with your family, work your full-time job, write for your blog and most importantly work on your memoirs? Do you sleep?

I don’t sleep much. Lifelong insomniac, compounded by the Tourette’s fidgets. I write really fast (when the stakes aren’t high, like on my blog) and I have a job where I am on a desk waiting for people to talk to me. I’m able to get most of my writing down on my lunch break at work. When I get home, I try to be home and not worry about writing. When I’m under the gun for deadlines, I just get up earlier. When I’m working on the book, I have to be alone and have things quiet. That’s getting harder and harder to come by.

What inspires you to write, what drives you?

Writing helps me make sense of my thoughts. There is also a lot of joy for me in simply creating something. I can point at my writing and, for better or worse, say “That wasn’t here before me.” But mainly I am driven by how fun writing is and how terrified I am of boredom.

Here is an unfair question for you – kettlebells, your blog and writing mean a lot in your life. If you had to choose only one of these three things, which one would you pick and why?

Writing. The better I can think, the happier I am. The more I write, the better I can think. There are lots of ways to get strong and healthy. Kettlebells just happen to be my favorite. I could always just start a new blog if I didn’t have the current one.

Let’s talk about boredom. You gave your wife a ring with the inscription that said “I will never bore you.” You made the same promise to your readers. Why do you think people get bored with their own blogs and/or their writing?

I don’t know that everyone should blog or write. It’s a very healthy process for me, but nobody should feel bad if they hate writing or blogging. I know a lot of people who get bored or frustrated with their writing, but they’re writing because someone told them they should.

Besides that, writing–especially writing a long project–can be lonely and thankless if you do not enjoy the process. It’s a grind. It takes patience and commitment, two things that are lacking in many people and that I am constantly working on in myself.

What are the most important things (name three or four) that beginner bloggers can learn from you (because we all want to know what we are doing right or wrong with our blogs)?

Ignore all of the advice you get from experts and just experiment. When someone tells you that you “should” do something, just test it out and see if you believe it. If it doesn’t work for you, try something else. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to blogging. Just about everyone I know is making it up as they go along. There is great opportunity for anyone with the curiosity to try things out. The easiest way to stand out is simply to do the opposite of what just about everyone else does.

Whether I’m writing, lifting weights, or doing anything else, I’m never trying to be “the next so and so.” I only care about being superior to the person I was yesterday.

Do what you love and I believe you’ll be rewarded. Try to follow someone else’s advice to the letter and you’ll never get as far as you could have if you were running your own experiments.