My Thing For Words: Unveiling the Writing Process

writing a blog

Blog. /blɑʊg/ n. A shortening of the term “web log,” now a ubiquitous part of the Internet. The fact that my mother has a blog shows just how easy they are to create. (She asked me how to open an attachment once.) More difficult, however, is everything that goes into maintaining said blog.  

I was recently tagged by Cassandra of the amazing Spain expat blog Gee, Cassandra, to write a “metawriting” post. That’s a fancy way of saying, write about my process writing a blog. Though I was initially skeptical to participate since the Internet is teaming with weird taggy ploys, I quickly warmed up to the idea. As Cassandra explained, a discussion on metawriting peels back the layers on something I consider very near and dear: the actual writing process. (You can read her original post here.)

I may despise social media. I may not know anything about Google’s inner workings, or site stats or domain names. But I started this whole thing cuz I love to write, dammit.

So here’s my process writing a blog over here on A Thing For Wor(l)ds:

1) What am I working on / writing?

I’m currently transitioning over to more posts about Barcelona, while trying to keep things relevant to the language theme. Back in the early days of my posts (don’t look!) I wrote about whatever. That’s what people in the industry call “not knowing your niche,” or, being a scatter-brain that no one besides your parents will follow. Now I am trying harder to tie language and culture together. Sometimes it’s not feasible, but other times I think they blend seamlessly. What’s important to me is to have both language and expat tidbits peppered throughout my blog—the travel component is secondary to me. I actually consider A Thing For Wor(l)ds to be not a travel blog but a lifestyle blog, where travel is integral to that lifestyle.

Last year in Bilbao I spat out two posts a week no problem. I actually bumped it up to three some weeks. I now realize that’s because I wasn’t the happiest English teacher in all the land back then, and writing was my outlet. Now that I am busier working, exploring Barcelona, becoming active in a bunch of social things like language exchanges and old-lady things like book clubs (what), and trying to launch a freelance career, it’s much harder to find the time or motivation to blog (added to the fact that no one pays me to do it). But once I actually sit down and force myself to write, the words come, as they always did.

Oh, speaking of, I just mentioned a freelance career. A major goal for 2014 was to begin freelance writing (for REAL ACTUAL MONEY! A writer getting PAID, what a concept!), and I’m happy to say I’ve started that, bit by bit! I write some travel pieces and some language pieces. It’s all very tentative at the moment, but the important part is I’m putting experience in the bank. And a lil’ cash.

Federal cafe | writing a blog

One of my favorite writing “offices” in Barcelona: Federal Café

2) How does my work/writing differ from others of its genre?

Not many expat or travel blogs out there focus on the language component of life abroad. I studied linguistics and language has always been an obsession for me, so it was a natural thing to write about. I think I’ve shifted the focus more to language in recent months because everyone blabbers on about the importance of finding a unique “niche” in the saturated blog market, and language is pretty unique. Language is NOT, however, something that scores you press trips or freebies. Maybe some day people will be more interested in verb forms than the Top 10 Beaches in Thailand. Till then, I will write away about grammar, mistranslations and linguistic relativity, and just hope that fellow language nerds enjoy.

In the end–and not to hurt anyone’s feelings out there!—I write for myself, first and foremost. So if language and culture is what interests me, it’s what’s going to fill these (virtual) pages.

3) Why do I write what I do?

In the first place, I write because I love it. It kills me when people start blogs out of a feeling of pressure, i.e. “I made a Blogspot because I’m studying abroad so I had to.” Blogging and writing for the “world” (i.e. your parents) to read should be something you do because you want to. Otherwise, you’ll drop off after two posts, and then your clever blog domain name will be taken forever and ever and the rest of us can’t use it ;)

I write about language because when I had one of those lame study abroad blogs back in the day, I didn’t write much on my own language learning process, which was actually a huge focus of my year in Granada. When I got back to the U.S., I thought it would be a great idea to PUBLISH A BOOK about the “hilarious” missteps I made—which are pretty much only hilarious to me, and only hilarious in the moment. Hence my “lost in translation” series isn’t a real hit. Anyway, three seconds after I thought of writing a book, I thought of the tedium of writing a book. So I said, “I know! I’ll start another blog!” and 2+ years later I’m rambling here about it.

Long story short: I write about language and culture because those are my two loves. Linguistics and travel. All through the medium of my convenient other love: writing. (My one true love, bread, takes a back seat on this one.)

4) How does my writing process work?

Jane Cafe san francisco | writing a blog

A temporary office in San Francisco this summer—Jane Cafe

I get ideas from anywhere. I am constantly thinking about the blog. I carry a little Moleskin journal around in case the inspiration strikes. Sometimes I write a quick post, thinking it’s a great topic, and then it sits in my draft folder forever and I realize how stupid an idea it was. Except I can’t get myself to delete it, because I already spent time writing it, so it just sits there molding away. Like a post on Bilbao’s transportation system that I’ve had since last year. Who the f*** cares about the metro vs. bus in Bilbao. (Google does, that’s who. Which is why my search engine results are dismal.)

My process is that of “simmering.” I can’t remember a time in the last two years that I’ve sat down, written a post, and published it all in one fell swoop. I usually write a bit here, come back to it the next day, edit some more, read it out loud to catch any mistakes, etc. Then I finally publish it, and inevitably my dad emails me about some spelling error. It’s a family of writers, I tell ya.

What I’m about to say may shock you, and I try not to think about it too much because it’s slightly depressing: I probably spend an average of 4-6 hours on each post. That, my friends, is called a TIME SINK. Between editing and uploading images (on an ancient Macbook that I come close to chucking against the wall every day); creating appealing header images with the title of the post using Canva; writing the post; coming back to edit it; adding in links; previewing the post and making final tweaks; and then sharing the post via social media—my God, how do people write blogs while working full-time jobs?

But I’m guessing Steve Jobs put in a few non-paid hours before he made it big, too. When you love something, it’s not too much of a chore :)

I’m now tagging Ryan, another fellow English-teacher-in-Spain-blogger who I met in real life at Bloghouse in Chicago. We instantly clicked over SEO jokes and the horrors of teaching phrasal verbs. His blog, Urban Serenity, is all about finding tranquility in the craziness of day-to-day city living. I love that unique take on expat life. Over to you, Ryan . .

If you’d like to keep up with the results of this writing process—i.e., biweekly posts—you can get future posts delivered right to your inbox! And make sure to follow A Thing For Wor(l)ds on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.

  • Kim

    I too am a word nerd and enjoy your linguistic-based posts. Keep up the good work!

  • Hey hey another blogger Blog Hop-ping! :P I enjoyed reading about your writing process, and it sounds like we have a lot in common what with developing a post slowly over a couple weeks and spending FAR too much time on one :D Keep it up writing linguistic-related things…even if those don’t draw the big page views I enjoy them!

    • So glad you also like the linguistic-related stuff. Although, de verdad, now when I do the little definitions at the top of posts, I feel extra pressure to get the IPA translation right, because I know that fellow linguists are watching, ha!!
      Incredible how much time blogging eats up, huh? I like to tell myself that once I get a faster computer, that time will be cut in half. A girl can dream :)

  • Cassandra

    I’m glad you decided to play along, Jenny! You definitely have an original idea here, and it’s always fun to read your unique slant on languages and living abroad.

    Congrats on your first steps in the freelancing career! That’s fantastic, I hope it goes well for you.

    Isn’t it crazy how writing a book seems incredibly overwhelming and time-consuming,yet we have enough discipline to keep up with our little corners of the internet? You may have that book one day yet, but a one on language ;)

    • Thanks for tagging me in the first place, Cassandra! This post was really fun to write. And I actually love reading other bloggers’ processes, so hopefully some people enjoyed this one as well!
      And that’s such a good point you make. The amount of hours I spend on WordPress could have produced 4 books by now, ha! Except blogging is way more interactive and fun :)