Category Archives: Writing

Blogging Advice: Social Media and Networking

This is the fourth instalment of the series on blogging that  Ruth Feiertag asked me to write late last year. Scroll to the bottom of this post to read about how to begin a blog, how to brainstorm ideas for it, and where to find visual images that won’t violate any copyright laws.

Now that you’ve gotten your site set up and have some posts published on it, how do you find readers?

Today I’m going to be discussing some strategies for attracting new those readers, connecting with likeminded fellow bloggers, and getting the word out about your site that I’ve found useful.

It all begins with how you behave online and what kind of reputation you’ve built up. The Internet can feel like an anonymous and impossibly large place sometimes, but it’s been my experience that word can travel very quickly about how someone behaves on it. Anything you write or share as an update could go viral at a moment’s notice, so be mindful of that when you’re deciding how to present yourself online just like you do in real life.

Play the Long Game

None of the tips I’m sharing today are going to turn you into a fabulously wealthy, world-renown blogger or writer overnight. It takes time and effort to build up a loyal following, and no one is guaranteed success in three easy steps or anything like that. Just like many other things in life, there is no shortcut here. Anyone who tells you otherwise may very well be trying to sell you something.

Be Generous

No matter what strategies you decide to use to hopefully attract new readers to your site, be generous with your time and attention when you stumble across things that resonate with you.

For example, if I read a blog post that I really love, I’m going to leave a comment on it telling the blogger how much I appreciated that post if their site allows comments. I will probably tweet or retweet it, and I might even send links to it to a few friends or relatives who are interested in the topic it discusses if they’re not on Twitter.

Not every post I like receives all of these different types of attention, of course, but I do regularly promote the things that bring me joy without any expectation of reciprocation.

In my experience, people can tell the difference between you sharing something because you feel obligated to update your feed X number of times a day (and are hoping to get similar signal boosts from others yourself) and you sharing something that you genuinely loved without attaching any strings to it.

Be the second kind of person online. Speaking of social media…

Social Media

No, you don’t have simultaneously maintain Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Pinterest, Youtube, Tumblr, Reddit, and Instagram accounts. The thought of that is exhausting!

Pick one or two of them instead, and focus on getting to know those sites as well as possible. Ideally, they should be places where you and people you know already spend time.

The culture of a (generally) anonymous, teen and twenty-something site like Reddit is completely different from somewhere like Facebook where the audience tends to be older and everyone is expected to use their real name. I can’t tell you which social media site(s) to choose. So much depends on what you’re writing about and where your audience is located.

What I can tell you is that Twitter is what works best for me. The hashtags on that site make it easy to connect with potential friends who are also into underwater basket weaving (or whatever your passions are in life), and I enjoy the fast-paced conversations that happen there.

Once you’ve chosen a site or two to follow, begin sharing updates about your life. I like to see at least two-thirds of the tweets I read from any given account be non-promotional in nature. That is, don’t endlessly tweet links to your website, book, or product. Instead:

  • Tell a funny story about something that happened to you recently
  • Ask a thought-provoking question and discuss it with anyone who responds
  • Reply to other people’s status updates
  • Share a quote, picture, or meme
  • Talk about something you’re struggling with (or doing well at)

In short, treat social media like a dinner party, not a sales pitch. Of course you can and should occasionally share links to your site, but those updates should be the garnish instead of the main course. I generally tend to mute or unfollow people whose accounts feel like never-ending advertisements.

How Often to Tweet

Some of the people I follow on Twitter post new tweets multiple times an hour from morning to night. Others might pop in once a week, once a month, or less.

In general, I think it’s best to tweet at least one new, non-promotional thing every day if you can. For example, your tweets for a week might look something like this:

  • Monday: Post a link to your new blog post for #MondayBlogs* and retweet other participants, too.
  • Tuesday: Ask your followers an open-ended question and reply to their responses.
  • Wednesday: Tell an amusing story about your dog running around in the backyard and trying to catch falling snowflakes during that big snowstorm last night. You’ll get bonus points from all of the animal lovers if you include a picture, too!
  • Thursday: Share a thought-provoking quote.
  • Friday: Talk about one of your hobbies or interests, especially if it’s somehow related to your blog’s subject matter.
  • Saturday: Grab a post from your archives and share it on #ArchiveDay.*
  • Sunday: Start a conversation with your followers about how everyone’s weekends went. Did you or they do anything interesting during it?

*I’ll talk more about these hashtags in the next section of this post.

Any retweets you want to share can be interspersed between these snapshots of your everyday life.

This doesn’t mean that you should spend twelve hours a day on social media. I know many people who set strict limits on how long they spend on Twitter and similar sites. After their 10 or 15 (or fill-in-the-blank) minutes are up for social media time, they close those windows or apps and get back to writing and other work.

One of the downsides of social media is that individual tweets tend to only attract an audience for a short period of time. By tweeting and retweeting regularly, you’ll begin to build rapport with the other people you meet there as they see you pop up over and over again on their timelines.

How to find new people to follow on Twitter might be worthy of its own post, so I won’t say anything else about it today.

Recurring Hashtags to Follow

Some of the hashtags I use are meant to be tweeted only on specific days of the week. If you’re able to spend a bit more time on Twitter sometimes, I’d recommend checking out one or more of the following hashtags.

#MondayBlogs

Rachel Thompson created this hashtag in 2012. Use this hashtag to share links to your blog posts on Mondays. You can use a current post or something from your archives, just don’t share anything that is pornographic or a promotion for your books. Be sure to retweet other participants as well!  Click on the link above for more information about this hashtag and the woman who came up with it.

#ArchiveDay

I believe that #ArchiveDay was originally created in late 2010 or early 2011 by Rosh Sillars so that he and other bloggers could share links from their archives and attract new readers. It wasn’t associated with any particular day in the beginning so far as I’ve been able to determine, but  for the past few years it has become a Saturday tradition for many of us. This is the least well-known hashtag I’m sharing today, but I love the idea of digging through your old posts and introducing them to new audiences. I hope it will become more popular in the future.

#SundayBlogShare

This hashtag was created in 2014 by Suzie81. As of April 2018, she is no longer participating in it, but I still see people using it to share old and new posts every Sunday. To the best of my knowledge, any posts that don’t include pornographic content are welcomed to be tagged with this hashtag.

If you only have time for one of these events, I’d recommend going with #MondayBlogs due to it’s large, active, and diverse population. Definitely don’t feel obliged to participate in all three of these hashtags every week unless you truly want to.

Leave Relevant Comments on Other Sites (and Allow Comments on Your Own)

Let’s say that last week you wrote a post about how to keep sharks from getting tangled up in your underwater basket weaving supplies. Today you noticed someone on Twitter sharing a post on their struggles with the same problem. You love their writing style and really want to connect with them.

This is the perfect opportunity to comment on their post to discuss what worked for you and, if their comment system allows for it, share a link to your post on the topic.

Relevant is the key word here. I definitely don’t share links to my blog posts in the body of every single comment I leave. In fact, most of the time my responses have nothing at all to do with what’s on my site and everything to do with reacting to whatever it is the other person is blogging about that day.

Many bloggers appreciate comments, especially when they know that you’re genuinely interested in who they are and what they’re talking about. If they’re interested in learning more about who you are, they’ll click on the website link that’s included in most commenting systems.

By allowing comments on your site, you’ll give your readers a chance to do the same for you.

Linkup Parties

A Linkup Party is a special type of blog post that is created specifically for people to leave links to their sites in the bodies of their comments. Some of them have specific themes (e.g. share a link to something you wrote on the topic of history, or it might be a linkup for LGBT+ bloggers only). Others are open to all participants.

Generally, the host will ask you to give a brief summary of your site, share a link to a post, and then visit other posts in the comment section of that post. Be sure to follow any additional instructions they give you and check out the other sites, too. You might find some that are right up your alley!

Blog Hops

Finally, we come to blog hops. A blog hop is a weekly prompt that a group of bloggers all write posts about. The site that created the blog hop will provide a space for you to share a link to your response and click on links to the responses of other participants as well.

If you can think of a topic, there is almost certainly a blog hop for it somewhere. That directory I just linked to is just one of many out there.

Top Ten Tuesday and the Wednesday Weekly Blogging Challenge are the two I participate it. They’ve brought quite a few new readers to my site over the last month or so since I first began doing them.

How many of these strategies have you tried? Ruth and anyone else who would like to chime in, what other questions do you have about blogging?

Additional reading:

15 Things I’ve Learned From 15 Years of Blogging

Blogging Advice: How to Begin Blogging

Blogging Advice: Brainstorming and Idea Management

Blogging Advice: Finding and Using Visual Images for Your Site

Blogging Advice: Finding and Using Visual Images for Your Site

Welcome back to my series on blogging that Ruth Feiertag asked me to write late last year. This is the third instalment, and today we’re talking about the important of including visual images in your posts. (There are  links to the first two instalments at the bottom of this post).

I’m going to be spend the vast majority of my time talking about the two specific types of visual images that I’ve seen used most often in the blogging world: photos and videos.

If you can master these two options, you’ll go a long way in attracting and retaining new readers.

Why Including Visual Aides In Your Work Is So Important

How quickly did it take for you to notice the picture of the sliced citrus fruits I included in the beginning of this post? My attention was immediately drawn to the pink slice. I wondered if it was a dyed piece of lemon or if it was supposed to be part of a small grapefruit instead.

A  well-chosen picture or video is eye-catching. Ideally, it will encourage the reader to ask questions about what it is they’re seeing and experience your post in ways that wouldn’t be as likely if they were only staring at words on a page.

Does this mean that every single post you share must be filled with images? No, not necessarily. You might only find one picture or video that is at all relevant to your subject matter. Sometimes you might not find anything at all! There are times when the topic I’ve talked about doesn’t have many good stock image photos that match it.  This brings me to my next point…

Make Sure Your Visual Aides Are Relevant

If you’re writing a post about whipping up a batch of your top-secret chili recipe, it wouldn’t make any sense to include a photo of elephants alongside the ingredient list.

In my opinion, it’s better to publish something that doesn’t contain any pictures at all than to shoehorn in images or videos that don’t actually fit the topic of conversation. This is something I’ve been guilty of in the past, and I know it has confused at least one of my readers.

Do your best to avoid my mistake. Take as much time as you can to find pictures or videos that match the topic you’re discussing.

Obey the Copyright Laws

Honestly, this shouldn’t even need to be said, but be sure to research and obey the copyright laws for your country. I’ve heard of multiple bloggers who were sued for using photographs and other creative works without permission. If you have any doubts about whether or not you’re allowed to use a specific work, find something else to fill that space instead or leave it blank.

Where to Find Free Stock Photos

Assuming you don’t know the photographer or creator personally and haven’t received special permission to use their work, here are some of the labels you’ll want to look for when searching for photographs that you’ll be able to use for free on your site.

Look for Public Domain and Creative Commons Licenses

As a general rule of thumb, the copyright on most photos and other works will expire 70 years after the artist’s death. Do not assume that every photo published after that date is free to use, however! Each country has their own laws on this topic, and sometimes those laws vary based on when the artist died. Always double-check what the rules are in your country before using any visual aides.

It is also possible for an artist to forfeit their copyright claims if they wish. This means that you can use their work for personal or commercial reasons without needing to seek permission first or pay for the rights to use that photo.

Public domain photos can be used for commercial and personal purposes. You don’t have to credit the photographer or provide a link to the site where you found it for this type of photograph.

A Creative Commons License is a little more complicated. In general, photos that have this license can be used for free if you follow the rules the creator made for them. For example, they might ask you to provide a link back to their personal site, include the Creative Commons logo,  email them for permission first, and/or take some other step  to indicate that you are not the owner of this photo and you do have permission to use it.

There are many free stock photo sites out there. Pexels is my favorite site for public domain photos due to their huge selection and high-quality images.  Wikimedia Commons has a smaller and more historical selection of photos that are mixture of public domain and creative commons licenses.

Finally, anyone who writes about TV shows or films should always check the IMDB page for the program they’re reviewing or discussing. There are often set photos, film posters, and previews on them that can be used in your review!

I highly recommend all of these sites. No registration is required for any of them, and you are free to use as few or as many photos and other items from them as you wish. In all of my years of including pictures in my posts, I still haven’t run out of possibilities from these sites. They’re all updated regularly with relevant and interesting content.

Sometimes I’ve also found wonderful stock photos by googling “public domain X photos,” where X stands for whatever topic it is I’m blogging about today. Be careful about double-checking the license for pictures if you go this route, though!

Since I haven’t needed to sign up for any paid stock photo sites so far, I won’t give recommendations for or against any particular companies. I try to only give advice on topics I’m experienced in.

Where to Find Videos

The copyright for videos is both easier and more difficult than it can be for photos since so many videos out there were either intentionally created to be shared or may have been stolen from the original creator. On the positive side, I am seeing people becoming more diligent about finding the original sources for videos (and forms of art not relevant to today’s post like comic strips) than they were even a year ago.

If I can’t verify who originally created a video or if the creator’s identity is disputed, I don’t share it. I work hard on my writing, and it’s only fair to give proper credit to other authors and artists, too.

The vast majority of the time, the videos I share come from one of two sources because of how (relatively) easy it is to track down creators on them: Youtube and Vimeo. The other nice thing about them are their share buttons. If a specific video has that option disabled, it’s a sign that the creator doesn’t actually want you putting it on other sites.

To repeat myself for a third and final time, don’t take my word on whether or not you can share something. I’m not a lawyer, and I don’t have the copyright laws from every single country on Earth memorized. Always do your due diligence and err on the side of caution if you’re not sure what the rules are.

This has been a long post. To thank you for reading it, I’ll share one of my all-time favourite Youtube videos with you. As anyone who knows me has probably already guessed, it is rabbit themed!

Cute Bunny Jumping Competition 

Additional, non-rabbit-related reading:

15 Things I’ve Learned From 15 Years of Blogging

Blogging Advice: How to Begin Blogging

Blogging Advice: Brainstorming and Idea Management

Blogging Advice: Brainstorming and Idea Management

Welcome back to my series on blogging advice. There were a few reader questions in the first instalment, How to Begin Blogging, about the actual process of creating a blog, so I thought I’d take a moment to briefly address that. I’ll share a link to that post at the end of this one for anyone who would like to read or reread it.

I was originally planning to write a full post about the process of creating a new blog, but the official instructions for setting up new WordPress sites were so clear and easy to follow that I decided to link to them instead. There’s no use in reinventing the wheel when it already exists!

If you’re interested in setting up a tumblr account, check out this tutorial.

If you’re interested in setting up a medium account, go read this post.

Now to move on to what I think is one of the most exciting portions of blogging: brainstorming ideas and creating new posts.

Brainstorming

Today I’m going to assume that you’ve chosen a few topics for your blog. It’s perfectly acceptable if you’re still not entirely sure what all of them will be as long as you’ve made up your mind about at least one of the things you’re planning to write about. Other ideas might come to you as you explore the topic(s) that first came to mind.

Before you write a single word, do as much brainstorming and research as possible. Approach your topic from every single angle you can possibly imagine regardless of how likely it is that you might actually blog about them.

For example, if I were going to start a new site about rabbits, my favourite animal, my list would include lots of typical posts about what to feed them, how to teach them tricks, or when to call a veterinarian if they became ill. Mixed in with those ideas would also be potentially quirkier ideas on this topic like:

  • Famous Stories, Myths, and Folklore About Rabbits
  • Should You Date Someone Your Rabbit Hates?
  • How Rabbit Care Has Evolved Over the Last X Years
  • Human Foods Rabbits Should (or Should Never) Eat
  • Is It Dangerous for Rabbits to Chew on Christmas Trees?
  • What Rabbits Think of Fireworks
  • How to Respond to People Who Joke About Eating Your Pet Rabbit
  • Should You Take Your Rabbit on Vacation?
  • Keeping Rabbits Safe at the Beach/Mountains/etc.
  • Types of Music Rabbits Do (or Don’t) Like
  • Halloween Costumes for Rabbits
  • How to Befriend a Shy Rabbit
  • What Will Rabbits Look Like After Another Million Years of Evolution?
  • What Do Rabbits Really Think of Humans?
  • Where to Find Your Rabbit When He’s Hiding Somewhere in the House and Won’t Come Out
  • Help! My Rabbit Just Ate a Chicken Nugget!*

Yes, some of these titles might sound a little like clickbait, and I certainly wouldn’t use everything that popped into my mind as I was writing. The point of brainstorming is to come up with as many possibilities as you can without worrying about whether any or all of them are actually useful at this point. Instead, follow every single rabbit trail – pun intended – as far as it will go and see what you come up with.

*This was a real conversation I read on Reddit a while ago. The bunny in question suffered no ill-effects from his snack, although no one could figure out why a fluffy little herbivore would want to eat a chicken nugget in the first place. Maybe he or she saw a commercial for their favourite fast food restaurant or something? Ha!

Managing Ideas

Keep Track of Everything

Once you’ve come up with a preliminary list of ideas for your site, it’s time to figure out what to do with them until you decide whether or when to use them.

I highly recommend holding onto every idea that has the slightest chance of being used. There’s a file on my computer filled with potential ideas that I’ve been referencing, taking inspiration from, and adding new possibilities to for years now. It’s an invaluable source of information for me on those days when I have a blogging deadline looming and no clue what to write for that post.

Some of the bloggers I’ve met prefer to write their ideas down in a notebook instead. However you decide to do it, make sure your list is somewhere safe and accessible.

The Sorting and Grouping Process

Once you’ve made your list and checked it twice, start sorting your ideas out into various groups. For example, I’d pick out all of the holiday-themed prompts in my hypothetical brainstorming list above and start tentatively assigning them publication dates on or near those actual events.

  • Should You Date Someone Your Rabbit Hates? (February 14)
  • Can You Take Your Rabbit on Vacation? (June 10)
  • What Rabbits Think of Fireworks (July 2)
  • Keeping Rabbits Safe at the Beach/Mountains/etc. (August 1)
  • Halloween Costumes for Rabbits (October 20)
  • Is It Dangerous for Rabbits to Chew on Christmas Trees? (December 8)

If you only want to publish one new post a week, you’ve just knocked out six of the fifty-two posts you’ll need for the entire year. That’s more than 10% of your goal! In addition, someone who knew rabbits well well could easily come up with another half-dozen topics that are tailored to specific times of the year if they put their minds to it.

It might also be interesting to pick a broad theme like food and spend a few consecutive posts talking about what rabbits should eat daily, occasionally, or never. I might then round off that series with a short and funny anecdote about a rabbit who couldn’t resist the lure of a chicken nugget before talking about the warning signs that your pet bunny has eaten something dangerous and when he or she might need to be medically treated for it.

There’s something fascinating about seeing how many different ideas one brainstorming session can create.

Mixing It Up

With that being said, I’d also recommend mixing up your posting schedule in general. If your last few posts were about heavy topics, it might be time for something lighthearted. Something that clocked in at several thousand words might be best followed by a shorter post if your subject matter allowed for it.

Work Ahead When Possible

The beautiful thing about planning at least some of your posts out in advance like this is that it allows you to work ahead. If you know you’ll be on vacation or recovering from an elective medical procedure at a specific time and already have an inkling of what you might want to say then, why not get those posts written well ahead of time?

When possible, I also like to have a few posts sitting in my queue that could be published at any time of the year. This comes in handy for everything from power outages to illnesses that can make it hard to write new content on a deadline occasionally.

Series, Responses, and Other Renewable Writing Resources

This is where series, response posts, and other renewable writing resources come in quite handy.

To continue with today’s theme, if you’ve already written one post about games to play with domesticated rabbits, you might be able to come up with several more suggestions on keeping rabbits entertained, fit, and mentally stimulated that would work beautifully as a follow-up to the original.

Response posts are another favourite of mine. Occasionally, one of the bloggers I follow writes something that I have the uncontrollable urge to respond to with a post of my own. Not only is this a great way to generate new ideas, linking to the original will give that blogger some new traffic and may encourage them to alert their readers about your post, too.

The possibilities here are nearly endless. They can also include contests, year-end reviews of your most popular posts, blog hops, contests, interviews with people in your field, and so much more. I encourage you to try many different types of posts as you feel out what your audience is interested in and, of course, what it is you actually want to write about.

How do you all come up with fresh content for your sites?

The next instalment in this series will be discussing how to find and photos and other visual aides in your posts, so stay tuned!

Additional reading:

Blogging Advice: How to Begin Blogging

15 Things I’ve Learned From 15 Years of Blogging

Blogging Advice: How to Begin a Blog

Last month, Ruth Feiertag  left a friendly comment on one of my posts asking for blogging advice. Not only did I have far more to say to her than would fit into a comment, I thought her question would be an excellent jumping off point for a new series on this site.

Today I’m going to be talking about starting a blog, from figuring out which blogging platform to use to choosing the topic(s) you want to talk about.

I don’t know how many other posts will be in this series yet, but in the future I would like to also cover:

  • Social Media and networking in general
  • How to come up with new blogging ideas
  • How to handle writing slumps
  • When and how to promote posts, both old and new alike
  • Why it’s so important to include photos in posts.
  • Where to find free stock photos that are either in the public domain or can be used if you attribute them to the original photographer.

Some of these topics will be combined into one post. Others will probably need their own post to explore in greater depth. If Ruth or anyone else can think of other topics to cover in this series, please speak up. I’m quite open to suggestion.

In the meantime, let’s talk about starting or revamping a blog. As always, there are no affiliate links, and I’m not being compensated in any other way for mentioning the sites I will in a moment. I’m strictly speaking about them from the perspective of a user/visitor.

Pick a Hosting Site

The most common hosting sites I see on the sites in my RSS feed these days are WordPress, Tumblr, and Medium. While I’ve opted to pay for my own domain name, all three of these sites can be used for free and don’t require any knowledge of HTML or other programming languages in order to use them. In general, I’d recommend using the free versions of things like these and figuring out if you like them before you think about upgrading.

Tumblr seems to be particularly popular among people who write about niches that have a high rate of audience feedback and participation. It is a highly customizable site, and it has reblogging features that work well Every Tumblr page will have a different feel, of course, but in general I’ve noticed that the culture there tends to favour gifs, pictures, running jokes, pop culture references, and much shorter pieces of text.

Medium is a newer blogging platform that reminds me of what newspapers used to be like. From what I’ve observed, it often attracts serious subject matter and audiences. It’s not uncommon to find 1000+ word posts there, and some of them are much longer than that.

WordPress is what I use, and it seems to be one of the most popular options for bloggers in general these days.  I love how easy it is to customize the look of a WordPress site. They also have free Plugins you can download that will help you do everything from screen out spam comments to set up a mailing list to create a contact form if you want to give your readers an easy way to email you.

Again, these are all generalizations. I encourage you to do your own research before deciding which platform works best for your your needs.

Choose Topic(s) of Interest

It’s been my experience that blogs have a much easier time finding and keeping audiences if you limit the number of topics you talk about. My topics are as follows: writing, fitness, mindfulness, and anything related to the sci-fi/fantasy or horror genres.

I’ll occasionally step away from that list to tell stories from my personal life, but my readers know that at least 90% of the things I write about will somehow be related to one of the categories listed above.

What you put on your list is a highly personal decision. I’ve seen several bloggers pick one area of interest and dig deeply into it. This option seems to work best for very broad topics like history or art that can be approached from many different perspectives.  Three to five areas of interest seem to be most common, though.

Find a Posting Schedule that Works for You

As a longtime blogger, writing posts on a strict schedule works best for me. I’ve had new posts coming out on Mondays, Thursdays, and Saturdays on this site for years, and I love the predictability of that even if the days themselves might shift over time.

I follow people who post once a day, once a week, or whenever the mood hits them. While I do prefer structured posting schedules as a reader, I know that not everyone is able to commit to writing that often or that regularly. The important thing is that you find something that works for you over the long term and that you communicate any major changes to those patterns with your readers, if possible.

I don’t worry if a site that normally posts on Wednesdays skips a week or two (especially during busy times of the year), but I do get a little concerned when there has been six months of silence from someone who used to post daily.

Are they okay? Have they been abducted by werewolves? Will they ever blog on that site again, or is this a temporary hiatus? It sure is helpful when people share information like this with their readers if they know they’re going to be taking a long break or will soon be posting much more or less than they usually do.

 

Additional reading:

15 Things I’ve Learned From 15 Years of Blogging

People Watching and the Holidays

Like many other places, Toronto’s malls, subway system, and other public places are bustling with activity at this time of the year. No matter when someone might use or visit them in the month of December, there will be far more folks there than will be the case in January when the new year has finally arrived and everyone has settled back into their usual routines.

One of the things I like about this point in the winter holiday season are the opportunities it gives for people watching. I will be returning to the usual subjects for this blog soon, but I can’t stop thinking about this topic and thought it would make a good one for today.

There are so many folks out and about now that all of the stories they tell with their body language, facial expressions, and the occasional, accidentally overheard conversations provide endless scope for the imagination. You can learn so much about them by paying attention to how they behave when they think no one has noticed them.

I love seeing how people and animals interact with strangers, loved ones, and everyone in-between. You can learn a lot about someone based on how they present themselves and how they behave in public.

Dogs wiggle in excitement when their favourite, or sometimes any, human walks around the corner and into view. The occasional pet snakes, parrots, rabbits, and cats that I’ve seen folks carry around don’t seem to have a strong opinion about our species either way. Small children stare wide-eyed at the holiday displays, decorations, and advertisements in stores. Friends reunite, families figure out what to eat for lunch, couples embrace, and a million other interesting things happen simultaneously wherever large crowds of people gather.

There’s nothing like watching strangers live out these fleeting moments in their lives. The writerly portion of my mind can’t help but to make up stories about who these individuals are and what might happen to them after they’ve finished their to-do list and gone back home.

Not knowing if my guesses are actually correct or not only makes me more interested in continuing to play this game. Everyone that I’ve ever met has portions of their personalities, identities, and interests that aren’t easily or immediately noticeable when you first meet them. I love it when I notice little hints about these parts of themselves however those hints might be shared.

To be perfectly clear, this isn’t about stereotyping anyone or assuming that because they’re X they must love/hate/be indifferent to Y. (Let X and Y stand for whatever your imagination desires. I did not have anything specific in mind when I typed that sentence).

Instead, it’s about seeing how real people behave on a perfectly ordinary day that stands a very good chance of being neither the worst nor the best one they’re ever going to experience. In fact, they might not remember anything about it at all six months from now. They’re simply a regular person (or, in some cases, animal) going through the routines of their lives.

It’s the patterns that interest me the most. There are certain behaviours that just about everyone seems to share, especially when they’re feeling happy, hungry, or tired. On the other hand, I love seeing glimpses of the things that make each person unique.

I’m still looking forward to the quieter days to come in January, but in the meantime I’ll keep a friendly eye out for all of the things you can learn about strangers by noticing how they behave in public.

Do you like people watching? If so, when was the last time you did it?

Why Writers Should Pay Close Attention to the Insight’s Exploration of Mars

For anyone who hasn’t heard this news yet, NASA’s Insight spacecraft is scheduled to land on Mars today. If all goes well, it will dig sixteen feet down and soon begin transmitting data about this planet that no telescope can possible tell. Scientists hope to learn three things from this exploration: What material the core… Read More

Is It a Good Idea to Take a Blogging Break?

No, this isn’t my way of saying that I’m taking a break from blogging. I’ve done it once or twice in the past for various reasons, but I have no current plans to ever do it again. (If that ever changes, I’ll take my own advice and let you all know in advance that I’m… Read More

Posted By:
Tagged:
2