Haley Overland authors the 2010 Canadian Weblog Awards winner Cheaty Monkey, which placed both 1st in Life and 3rd in Best Written.
Why blogging? Why did you start blogging, and what drives you now?
I blog because I love writing. I started blogging because I saw it as an opportunity to write for an audience that didn't involve hiring an agent or approaching publishers. I'd worked in the publishing business, and I knew how hard it was to get published. When I heard there was such a thing as a "blog," I was thrilled and started blogging right away. I began by posting several times a day about life with my then 8-month-old daughter, celebrity gossip, my cats, The Young and the Restless....
Blogging is much different for me now. With two young children and a full-time job, I don't have the same kind of time. And blogging in general is much different now than it was then. Bloggers communicated with one another through their blogs, so it was imperative that we posted well and frequently just to stay on the map. Now we communicate and stay relevant (primarily) through Twitter and Facebook. This just means (at least for me) that the blog posts we write are richer and more thoughtful now — worth it for readers who are actually taking the time to visit and to read more than 140 of our characters.
What drives me now are my readers. I have a beautiful group of readers who've been reading Cheaty Monkey for a long time. They remember the birth of my son three years ago, and even when I announced I was pregnant with him. They were there when two of my cats died and when I went to Bermuda by myself for a friend's wedding. They know I love trashy TV, that I'm dedicated to yoga, and that I have an insatiable chai latte addiction that horrifies me. And I know a lot about them. We're friends. I write for them. And I write for myself. Like yoga, writing is absolutely my "practice."
With almost five years of archives, you have a considerable amount of history at Cheaty Monkey. What things have supported and/or encouraged your blogging path, and what have been wrenches in your works?
My readers have been my biggest blogging support system. Again, they are amazing. And my mom — who still often comments on my blog as "it'sgrandma." Others have been less supportive because they think blogging is frivolous or a "hobby," or because they're embarrassed to say they read my blog, which I totally don't get, because it's there to be read.
Wrenches in my works? Fear. I've had some pretty strong views over the past few years. I've even been involved in the odd "flame war." I lost readers, and I gained readers, and I quit and came back and quit and came back. Now I'm at a really comfortable place with my blogging, which makes winning some blog awards this year particularly special. I no longer put pressure on myself to be relevant. I write what I want, when I want. I still put myself out there, but I'm okay with what people think because I know my fabulous readers respect me and my journey as a blogger, a mom, and a human being.
You're a busy person on the internet. Tell us about some of your other online projects.
I also started blogging because I wanted to own my own business and be a work-at-home mom. I started my online art store, Kidsdeserveart.com, alongside Cheaty Monkey. I sensed that the blog would help me gain clients' trust. People on the internet were still so anonymous back then. The blog made me relatable, trustworthy, and real to my clients — not just a random "Haley-O." Now, my clients don't think twice before they buy art online from "Cheaty"!
Amazingly, and very fortunately, my blogging has become my career. I'm an online "Writer/Editor" at Today's Parent Magazine, and I'm their celebrity blogger at Celebrity Candy. My blog, Cheaty Monkey, is the reason I got this job. I'd say it was my million-dollar smile, but my readers know I've been having some pretty comical tooth issues this year.
Where do you find ideas for your content? If you are feeling less than inspired, where do you look for inspiration? How do you find it?
I'm fortunate when it comes to finding ideas for content. Because I'm my own boss when it comes my blog, I can write about anything in the universe, and that's so freeing and fun! When I feel like it's time to write, I sit down to my computer and write. I rarely know what I'm going to write about; although sometimes, during the day, a first sentence will occur to me, and I should write it down. I often don't, but it'll come back around, and the post will follow.
This is going to sound like I'm trying to be poetic, but I'm honestly inspired by the moment. I look to the moment for inspiration. How am I feeling right now? What's happening around me right now? What's my mood like right now? Is my cat staring at me? What's on my TV right now (The Bachelor)? What's going on in my life right now? What's my view of life right now (the moment can get deep)?
Are you open about being a blogger? How do people offline react to your online writing?
I'm too open about being a blogger. I really regret that I told my dentist about my blog (hi, Dr. G!), for example, because every time I see him he asks me about it and will often blurt out "Cheaty Monkey" — out of nowhere, like, when he's scraping or prodding. I have a cousin who does the blurt thing too. "Chea-ty Chea-ty Monkey.... Chea-ty Monkey!" I can only respond with "heh." Drives me crazy.
People offline react in two extreme ways (and somewhere in between, of course). Some are amazed that I'm a "BLOGGER, OMG!, CAN WE BE FRIENDS THAT IS AMAZING." Others react in a really annoying way: "I could NEVER do that! Aren't you uncomfortable that the whole world knows everything about you?" Then I make the mistake of asking people in category #2 if I can post a picture of the back of their daughters' hand: "OMG, NO! THAT'S DANGEROUS!" And then I get anxiety.
What advice do you have for new bloggers?
I've actually been talking to a lot of new bloggers lately. People are calling me for advice on starting up. It's a funny time to start blogging. There are a trillion blogs out there — but it's so easy to spread the word. I think if things were the way they were when I first started blogging, my advice would be different. But the one piece of advice that would stay the same would be WRITE! And WRITE WELL! Don't worry about "stats" or pleasing your readers right away, or you'll get stuck and you won't enjoy blogging as much. Write about things that interest you, figuring out who you are (forget about who you want to be) in the process, and your readers will come.