a peek inside the fishbowl

31 Dec, 2010

Further to yesterday’s post

Posted by andrea tomkins in: Publishing/writing/career stuff|The business of blogging

YAHOO. This is going to be ALL OVER THE PLACE.

First, here’s my eyeball!

I spy on my little eye

I took this photo of a photo at the Toronto Science Centre over the summer.

My eyes are actually blue, but that little ring of amber make them appear green sometimes. Or gray.

All this to say, despite the fact the colour seems muddy and unclear at times, I know who I am and I want to be doing.

I received another pitch about granola bars yesterday and it made me want to bury my head in my blankets AND NEVER COME OUT AGAIN. This blogger does not pour herself into this space in order to receive free granola bars. No disrespect to those who are in it for the swag, but free granola bars don’t make me happy.

Have you heard about the Canadian Weblog Awards? It’s a new blog award. And it’s juried. I want to stress the juried part, because this gives it some serious street cred, more so than all those other so-called blog awards. What a concept. A blog award with a judging panel that follows a “specific set of criteria” to “evaluate the nominees” to “ensure that the winning weblogs are chosen more for their quality rather than by how many people they can mobilize to vote.”


I seriously question the meaningfulness of other blog award sites/ceremonies because they don’t actually reflect great blogging, and the next time a nomination comes along I’m going to politely turn it down. They’re supposed  to be about recognising the best of the best but it doesn’t actually happen. Nominees campaign to get readers, friends and family to vote for them so they can win. And let’s be blunt: the ones who (a) nag their readers the most and/or (b) use all of the computers in the office to vote as many times as they possibly can, win.

I’m up for a CWA Lifetime Achievement Award, which makes me feel a little like I’m about to shuffle off this mortal coil any day now, but it is a nice recognition nonetheless. One of my favourite blogs in the entire world is Kerri Smith’s Wish Jar, which has been nominated in the same category. I have been reading her on and off for many years and I respect her widely, deeply and immensely. She deserves to win.

A lot of other local bloggers made the final rounds in their respective categories too. Do check out their sites. They’re all great.

 (Please let me know if I missed anyone!)

Blogging has become a part-time job for me. And here is how I know I’ve chosen the RIGHT kind of job… Show and Tell was my favourite subject in kindergarten. (Blogging is sort of the same, right??)

But behold Exhibit A, my career-planning printout from eight grade (click here for enlarged version):

My 8th grade career planning printout

Isn’t that hilarious? The description comes pretty close to blogging, doesn’t it?

Have you ever wondered how I’m able to crank out a post every day? It’s because I love blogging and I have a lot to say.

I took down the Twitter and FB share buttons on each blog post yesterday. I decided they weren’t very helpful and were just cluttering up my space and it was causing me some stress, not to mention subtly reinforcing the concept of Blogging As Popularity Contest.

This is neither why I started writing here, nor why I keep writing here. 

We bloggers need to remember what we love to do. And keep doing it. I enjoy:

  • Taking photos
  • Sharing our Ottawa-area adventures with you
  • Travelling
  • The outdoors
  • Writing about issues I care about
  • Food, health and healthy living
  • Arts and culture, reading

The first question in blogging always has to be WHY. Why are you blogging? For what reason? Is it:

  • for catharsis
  • to make money
  • to keep a digital record of your life
  • to position yourself as an expert in your field, whatever it may be
  • to flex your creative muscle
  • to get free stuff

I think if we bloggers can figure out WHY it will go a long way to answering a lot of questions that pop up along the way. My dilemma here is that my personal blog, which I started because I needed a space to be creative and get stuff out of my head … started to earn money. I need to keep my readership up, and so I worry about things like stats and I check them often. I worry about comments too, even though the rational side of me knows that comments are not a measure of a successful blog. I know it to be true from my own perspective. I read a lot of blogs and have very little time to sit and tap out a pithy comment.

At this point I’m trying to think of some blogging guidelines, not just for myself, but for other personal bloggers to keep in mind as we go along and to help keep the enjoyment factor high. Here we go, in no particular order:

  1. 1. Write in a way that satifies you first, and makes you and your creative side happy. Popeye said it best: “I YAM WHO I YAM.”
  2. 2. Don’t rush. And don’t post if you have nothing to say.
  3. 3. If you are writing for yourself first, comments are not a measure of success.
  4. 4. Be inspired by others, but don’t copy or steal. (Not that I ever would!!)
  5. 4. Build your community ever day. Take time to read and comment (even briefly) on other blogs.
  6. 6. It’s hard, but don’t let the trolls get you down. They’re just jealous, and they obviously have their own problems to deal with. Their problems cannot be your problems.
  7. 7. Be proud of your work. (This one is hard for me and I tend to undervalue my work. And I find it tough to toot my own horn because I don’t like braggy people and never want to come across as a braggart. There’s a line in there somewhere …hmmm. )
  8. 8. Be nice.

Got any to add?

Number 8 is a biggie. It comes up in many conversations I have with people, whether they’re bloggers or not. The Power of Nice is huge. And it is grossly underestimated. Many of the jobs and projects that have come my way are a result of The Power of Nice. :) I think I’ll write more about that later.

I’m just going to go ahead and press PUBLISH on this one. I might edit and correct and tweak. So if you see updated text, that’s why.

13 Responses to "Further to yesterday’s post"

1 | Johnny Waite

December 31st, 2010 at 1:12 pm


Thanks for the peek inside the Peek Inside the Fishbowl. I like hearing why people write, and why they choose to make writing a priority in their lives.

I don’t know if I’m more amazed by the match to your eighth grade career assessment, or the fact that you still have it lying around in your house to scan.

I have a quick question for you—how did (and do) you find blogs that interest you? I keep a personal blog that isn’t business driven, and would enjoy having other blogs to read. I’m struggling to find other blogs that I like. I have found a few (like yours) through Google Reader, but find that many of the recommendations end up not fitting the bill. I feel at a disadvantage because my blogging network isn’t very large yet, and I know that blogs like mine are out there.

Any thoughts?

2 | Annie @ PhD in Parenting

December 31st, 2010 at 1:16 pm


Great post Andrea! I love your tips. Good words to blog by.

I do use and like “share” buttons. I don’t see them as part of the popularity contest, but rather as a tool for building my community. When my readers recommend a post to their network, that means a lot to me.

3 | Stacey

December 31st, 2010 at 2:32 pm


That is interesting that your grade 8 career planning thing predicted your actual path. Mine told me to be a “ship’s purser”… I lived in a land-locked community at the time!

4 | Capital Mom

December 31st, 2010 at 5:54 pm


I have been giving some thought to “why blog” too. I think I had lost my way for awhile but it is finally back.

5 | FireMom

December 31st, 2010 at 11:13 pm


Fantastic read this evening.

I just put up a “note” on my reviews section that as of Jan 1, 2011, I’m no longer accepting unsolicited reviews. And I’m only working with firms/people/products that have shown an interest AND RESPECT in working with bloggers. Which basically means I should get nothing free this year.

And I’m okay with that.

As I said at the bottom of the update, “we’re blogging it old school in 2011.” And I am. It’s my 10th year blogging, and I want it to be real.

So this was a lovely read. Which I’m going to share on twitter. Because more people need to read it.

6 | andrea

January 1st, 2011 at 12:25 pm


Johnny: I often find good blogs to read by clicking through on the links people leave behind when they comment. Otherwise I’m picking up new links when someone I know recommends someone. Twitter is good for that.

Annie: I think the share buttons work really well for a site like yours. You inspire so much conversation! I think it’s a more natural fit for you. I’m always so impressed by the calibre of the comments on your blog. Your readers are passionate and super-engaged. Mine are more quietly so. I wonder if I also have a disproportionate number of non-bloggers reading. Those types tend to underestimate the value of a share or a comment, you know what I mean? Regardless, I will remain happy if someone shares what I’ve posted on FB or Twitter. Despite all I’ve read about the benefits of one-click engagement, they are just going to have to do it by cutting and pasting instead of clicking. :)

Stacey: my mom kept it filed away all these years. It only recently got passed over to me. :)

FireMom: as always, thank you! I’m impressed with your amendment re: unsolicited reviews. I might still go that route too. We’ll see.

7 | andrea

January 1st, 2011 at 12:26 pm


Capital Mom – I know we’ve spoken about this before. I’m glad to hear you’ve found your way. I look seeing what evolves for you in 2011!

8 | Scatteredmom

January 1st, 2011 at 2:12 pm


Your blog was one of the first I ever read, and now almost 5 years later I’m still loving it.

This post was exactly how I’ve been feeling about the awards and reviews. I don’t get many anyway, but I have learned to feel less guilty about saying no.

I love your guidelines, especially #8. Above all, be nice.

In 2011 I cut back on my working life so that I could focus on writing more, and I can’t wait to see what it brings.

9 | Elizabeth Howell

January 1st, 2011 at 5:41 pm


Found your website as a fellow Ottawan and Canadian Weblog Awards winner — congrats! It’s inspiring to see somebody keep up the effort for that long, and yet search for ways to do better. Best of luck for 2011.

10 | Lo

January 1st, 2011 at 6:32 pm


I think blogging is and should be whatever the blogger wants it to be….isn’t that supposed to be one of the great things about blogging and writing in general? What works for one may not for another but i don’t think it’s our place to judge how others are blogging or writing… That’s part of what makes up the icky side;)

11 | spydergrrl

January 1st, 2011 at 7:50 pm


Great post, Andrea. Glad to know you are going to be around for a while :)

12 | andrea

January 2nd, 2011 at 9:15 am


Elizabeth – Thank you! Congrats to you as well!

Lo – You’re right. What works for one does not work another. I have to continue to go with my gut. I think it’s a formula that works for me.

Spydergrrl – You too! :)

13 | Marianne

January 2nd, 2011 at 10:35 am


I’m coming late to this discussion, but thought I’d jump in to say I’m one of your non-blogger readers, and I really enjoy coming to your blog each day. I like that it has a bit of everything. It’s all tied together by the thread of things that interest you and it feels a bit like a chat over coffee, which can cover a wide variety of topics, rather than a discussion group on one particular subject area.

I will also confess to you (for the first time to anyone!) that I’m thinking about making a leap into blogging myself. I’m nowhere near ready to actually do it but I’m contemplating the purpose and direction I would take if I did. You’ve given me some focus for my ruminations, so thank you!

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The Obligatory Blurb

My name is Andrea and I live in the Westboro area of Ottawa with my husband Mark and our dog Piper who is kind of a big deal on Instagram. We also have two human offspring: Emma (24) and Sarah (22). During the day I work as a writer at the Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre. I am a longtime Ottawa blogger and I've occupied this little corner of the WWW since 1999. The Fishbowl is my whiteboard, water cooler, and journal, all rolled into one. I'm passionate about healthy living, arts and culture, travel, great gear, good food, and sharing the best of Ottawa. I also love vegetables, photography, gadgets, and great design.

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