It made me laugh, so I shared it on my blog, and after that people started sending me rooster-related gifts, and even duck-related gifts when they couldn't find roosters. I have a little rubber rooster figurine, a rooster necklace, and a tin wind-up duck wearing a propeller hat, among other things. Finding one of my roosters works on my mood every time. Thanks, Neil!
Why did you start blogging in the first place, and what's surprised you about it?
—August McLaughlin, Girl Boner
I started blogging for two reasons. The first reason was that I had been too afraid to share any of my writing for 20 years, and I knew I was never going to get better at it if I didn't learn to get over myself. I didn't want to be one of those people who talked about writing as something they used to do.
I also started blogging because Aidan had started blogging almost seven months earlier in 2003, and he got me into reading a few other people's blogs. I think I started out with luvabeans (only her profile on Diaryland remains) and mimismartypants (her present blog lives here). I recognized that they were doing something new in writing. There was something happening specifically with personal writing online that I had never seen before, and it tasted good.
Blogging also felt safe. Writing online in 2003 didn't feel nearly as public as it does now. People had never heard of the word "blog" before, and almost no one would search you out online to find out if you had one, so it felt like there were maybe a dozen of us writing and reading each other.
What really surprised me is how wrong it turned out I was. I went to my first ever blogging conference in 2008, BlogHer '08, and so many people told me they had been reading my blog for years. Years. I suddenly felt more naked than I ever had in my entire life, but I also felt powerful and empowered. I wasn't taking part in the secret, hidden world I had imagined it to be. I was part of a much larger and not strictly online culture. I had found my people.
What are your favourite posts, and who else do you love to read?
—Laurie White, Laurie Writes
I make a point of adding my favourite posts from my own blog to this Best Of Schmutzie.com list every month. It's a good cheat sheet for new readers, it lets me show off a bit, and it's a great way to find inspiration for new posts when I'm running dry.
I jump in and out of reading so many blogs that it's hard to keep track of all the ones I check in on, but a few of the ones I keep returning to are:
That's a short list of 10, but after 12 years at this blogging thing, there are tens more I could add.
How do you feel your blogging success has changed you and the way you relate to your audience?
—Tammie Booth Willis
When I started blogging, almost nobody used their real names, and I quickly settled on Schmutzie. It turned out that this Schmutzie person was a little braver and more outspoken than my offline self, and for a time I felt like I was two distinct people: Elan and her superhero alter ego, Schmutzie. Now I am Schmutzie, who is very much like Elan but stronger and braver and louder. Of course, my legal name is Elan Morgan, but inside I'm Schmutzie.
I know I sound like a crazy person, but I feel good about it.
How does this change the way I relate to my audience? It means that, to the best of my ability, I try to tell the truth at all times, because within that bravery and outspokenness is a strong attachment to ethics and ethical behaviour. It's part of why I let Schmutzie happen, I think.
You've marked some big personal milestones on your blog (moving away from pseudonymous blogging, talking about sexuality and gender identity, alcoholism, for example) - what did you learn, from those revelations, that you wish you'd known earlier? With the benefit of hindsight, is there anything about the process of such public disclosures that you might have handled differently?
—Catherine Taylor, @cathesaurus
This relates to my answer to the question above. In breaking out of pseudonymous blogging and writing so personally about vulnerable topics, I learned that I had more strength inside than I had previously thought, and I learned that I could use that strength to affect real change in my life.
It was my earlier writing about gender and sexuality, cancer, and depression that gave me the courage to quit drinking, that made me believe I could follow through with it, and I did! I DID IT. I am five years sober this month, and it is truly blogging that made me start down this road to sobriety.
I really don't think there is anything I would handle differently about my public disclosures, looking back. Some people have felt hurt when I disclosed things online before coming to them, and it can be awkward having certain people in my offline life know so very much about me, but I would not have come to the place I have in my life had I done things differently.
Do you think you would ever stop blogging?
—Julie Coffee, Coffee With Julie
I honestly can't envision it. I have 12 years of continuous archives here, and it feels like another limb to me. You could cut off all my fingers, and I would use voice-activated software to get it done. It has become the tool by which I work out my mind; it is the math that unknots me.
If you were trapped on a deserted island and could only have one kind of cookie, what would it be? Please include a recipe.
—Brian Thomas, The Cheek of God
If I were trapped on a deserted island and could only have one kind of cookie, it would be a dark chocolate cookie with a dollop of peanut butter butterscotch swirl in the middle and lightly sprinkled with sea salt after baking.
I just invented this cookie, so I don't have a recipe to share. Please forgive me.