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Me – a writer!

The other day I had lunch with a friend who mentioned that I had really got into this ‘blogging thing’. It felt good to know that she noticed. Then she said something that made my day. She told me that my English was really good – she even looked to be impressed. She seemed surprised that my writing English was of a high standard.  I suppose my speaking English must be of a lesser standard!

You have to know that I am not a native English speaker. I am from the Netherlands and only started to speak English fulltime in my twenties when I left Holland to live in London. I speak English fluently but I do have an accent – over time less than when I first went to live abroad. I very likely have picked up some Aussie slang, a bit of London jargon and before that Swiss German influences may have tainted my way of speaking, so who knows what it sounds like…..

But – when I write, nobody knows, as I have the time to think about whatever I am going to write. I do take my time to review, re-read and rephrase my articles. I actually spend a lot of time on getting it right. Certainly after I took the effort to blog about grammar in one of my earlier posts I make sure I use it correctly. I prefer to genuinely ‘walk the talk’- at least I try!

When I read other blogs I usually can pick up when the writer is not from an English speaking background. Most people write in English but the way they express themselves gives away that they may not be native English speakers. This also counts for comments I get on my blog. Some are unfortunately so cryptic that I can’t post them as I honestly do not understand what they mean. Sometimes I don’t even know whether they are genuine or whether they are attempts to ridicule.

Same letters – different pronunciation!

Hopefully I am not insulting anybody but this is the way it is. I have developed a rather thick skin when it comes to languages as on many occasions I get to hear that people do not understand what I say. It has to do with the way we, Dutch people pronounce certain letters. We apparently have an issue with the ‘a’s and the‘s’s. My name is also a good example – Marijke. I know it’s not an easy name for Anglophiles. In general people are thrown by the ‘ij’ but I pronounce it the way English people tend to pronounce it and not the Dutch way. So what I don’t understand is why half of the people seem to hear that I say Veronica when I answer the phone! It must be me but it does make me frown.

To be honest I have given up on being annoyed a long time ago. Actually the whole thing justifies me pronouncing names wrongly as well. Not that hard in a country where it is possible to have 20 nationalities in one gathering!

So hearing the other day that I surprised one of my friends with my writing ability makes me smile and gives me confidence. It confirms my choice to ‘indulge’ in writing about things that matter to me and publish it for anyone to read. It’s a wonderful feeling and it shows me I am on the right path.

A belated Happy Easter to all who read and enjoy what I write!


My blog has a total makeover

Well after my last post things have changed indeed. I was talking about changing my header and I had a go at this but I ended up going a different avenue altogether. The perfectionist in me won’t allow me to put something online that isn’t 100% to my liking and I started playing with other templates instead.

Choosing a new theme

There are 171 different templates available in WordPress. Spoilt for choice one could say. And you can browse them in various ways. Simple from a-z, the most popular or latest themes or the Premium section – the ones that come with a cost.

The advantage of browsing for a new theme when your blog is already up and running is that you can see how your blog will appear in a particular template. I can remember going through the templates before my blog was published. I found it hard to imagine which one would look the best and would reflect me, my topic and my writing style the most. As “Twenty Eleven’ has a style that is appealing to me I could imagine my blog looking attractive with that theme.

The advantage of having a ‘life’ blog already

With a ‘life’ blog however you can see how your blog will appear and this was very helpful. After I selected several templates I came across ‘Mystique’ and I loved it. The default colours and lay-out for this theme are the ones you see in my blog. I did try however every possible combination of colours and lay-out but came back to the ones I saw when I changed to Mystique. You can do this by going into ‘Theme Options’ and selecting from the colours and lay-out options on offer. Your blog will then appear in the format of your choice.

I even opened two versions of WordPress so I could see both themes –Twenty Eleven’ and ‘Mystique – next to each other. Although I had liked Twenty Eleven initially I found ‘Mystique’ more professional and classy. I can still adapt the header but the colour scheme of “Mystique’ is interesting enough and for the moment I like to leave it as it is. Furthermore I do like to add the occasional picture in the future.

There is a ‘Premium’ section of templates available and in order to use them you have to pay a small fee. Before making a decision though it is possible to see your blog in those templates as well. All over a nice feature and worthwhile having a look at once you feel more comfortable and daring.

How to get more structure and clarity!

I feel that I am getting closer to laying down the building blocks for my ‘real’ blog. In case you wonder, my real blog is my future professional blog, the one with the domain name, hosting and a flexible platform. The one about the topics close to my heart, the one that will support my business and where I like to attract advertising. In order to develop such a blog I have started ‘Blogexercise’ as a test blog.

Why not start writing and learn on the job?

Starting with a test blog has its benefits. It forces you to write content, it makes you think about how you want your blog to look and it motivates you to research things you want to blog about. It also enforces you to be ‘online’. Suddenly your stuff is out there in the blogosphere and it is public. Readers can comment, criticise and support you.

Some bloggers fall in the trap of feeling the need to change their writing style to appeal to their followers. This defeats the purpose as the reason they got followers is because of what they have published and not of what they think they ‘ought’ to write. So changing writing style to ‘suit’ may lead to people not liking what they read and stop being a follower.

A blog post is an extension of you as a writer and should therefore be natural and almost like a ‘conversation’. It is your chance to be ‘real’ and to be ‘yourself’. It is your voice!

It is a bizarre feeling to write something and to post it. You may not get any comments or reactions for a while and still people may read what you have written. It is anonymous and yet not… It is a thrill to suddenly see that you have followers and that people express that they like what you wrote.

What is your role as a writer?

With this in mind and speaking from my recent ‘experience’ I recommend prospective bloggers to start writing. It may help you to learn about your writing style and to experiment with the roles you like to have. Will you be writing as a reviewer, an educator or as a researcher? Or do you just want to have a good old rant! You could be very witty and your style could best suit an entertainer.

I like several of those roles and I have not decided yet what my ‘forte’ is. Maybe I can be more than one. I like to educate people – several of my past occupations and businesses have educated my clients. I thrive on that and it makes me feel fulfilled. I also like to review things and ‘tell the world’ if I am enthusiastic about something I did or have seen.

A review can also be negative and become a critique and even a ‘rant’. We all know the rippling effect of a bad review. We apparently tell 2 people when we are positive, but we tell 10 people when we are unhappy with a service or product.

A negative review on a blog could potentially be read by hundreds of people. Imagine the power of that….