An Exclusive Interview With 2010 Canadian Weblog Awards Winner Lindsay Smith Of Sometimes Icing

Lindsay Smith authors the 2010 Canadian Weblog Awards winner Sometimes Icing, which placed 2nd in Humour and 3rd in Fashion & Style.

Why blogging? Why did you start blogging, and what drives you now?

I've always been a writer. In grade 6 I wrote a book about a dragon named Nogard who didn't know how to breathe fire. Get it? His name is dragon backwards. I was very clever. Once.

I started blogging about 6 years ago as a way to coach myself through what I considered to be a quarter-life crisis. The blog was originally called Quarter Lifer. When I started it, I had just left a fancy job at the CBC, moved back to Montreal and was living with my parents, trying to figure out what to do with the rest of my life. I was questioning everything. And everything was the end of the world. I was a bit, um, dramatic in my younger years.

Totally over that drama thing of course. Totally.

Eventually I started freelancing in Montreal as a journalist and got a few regular gigs. I kept the blog going, not thinking anyone was really reading it. It was more of a place for me to figure stuff out as I navigated my career, my personal life and the old lady who lived next door who was convinced I was a teacher.

Writing things down has always been my best way of working through things. I'm sure a lot of people can relate to that.

Then, a few years ago, an old friend from high school was curious about this mysterious blog I kept. I didn't feel comfortable sharing it with the world. It was too personal. So I gave it a facelift. I changed the name, and deleted all the posts I considered too personal. It was that friend who encouraged me to discover my voice. It took me a while to realize that being funny was my strength and I had a unique way of viewing events. When my friend compared me to David Sedaris, I pretty much made out with him out of pure joy.

True story.

I keep going because I like telling stories. I have to write, or I think I would die. I'm very self-deprecating. I make fun of myself a lot. Is that redundant? Whatever. And I think that if you can laugh at yourself, and make others laugh while you do it, it's a pretty neat thing.

I see you've expanded your blogging empire to include Sometimes Fancy.

Yes!

I sometimes pretend I want to be an author. Of a real live book. Actually, I play that game a lot. And I read a lot of advice out there about marketing yourself as such. So I had a bit of an existential crisis with Sometimes Icing. What is my platform? Who is my target? I have no blog focus! Who am I? Orange or blue Gatorade? OMG! WTF! LOL! BCBG! OBGYN!

I felt like it was just a mish-mash of Lindsay-isms.

Some of my male readers, ahem, didn't love my posts about new eyeshadow and getting my hair cut and manicures. So I decided to find a home to let my fashion and beauty addiction live. Sometimes Icing will be focused on entertaining and funny stories. With the occasional photo of my new hair cut. Or my cat.



You are an adman during your day job. Do your blogging and ad writing feed off each other in any way?

For sure.

Writing is writing is writing. It all connects somewhere.

But more technically, I guess working in advertising helps me be more concise on my blog.

Writing for the Web is tricky. You have to assume most people have a very little attention span. If you want them to stick around on your site, you have to absolutely catch their attention. Keeping it is another challenge. I know I often turn away from super long blog posts. I try to use short sentences and a formatting I think is easy to read and doesn't allow for the reader to get too lost.

And if you want to be funny, there's a cadence to it. A one-two punch, if you will. It's a formula I often use in writing scripts for television and radio. I once took a whole class that was only about learning how to write humour. There are serious rules about being funny.

Um. Perhaps we shouldn't refer to my answer to the previous question as an example of "concise." I mean, I'm a blogger after all. Obviously I like to talk about myself.



Where do you find ideas for your content? If you are feeling less than inspired, where do you look for inspiration?

Writing silly stories about yourself is a little bit like writing a memoir. You are the protagonist of the book, trying to find your way. You sort of have to look at yourself in the third person and ask yourself, "that time I found my underwear pinned to the community bulletin board in the laundry room at my old apartment building - is that a funny story?" If I feel like I'd like to read about that silly, but very pretty and very bright girl, then chances are it'd make a good story.

I feel uninspired all the time. But ideas can come from anywhere at any time. I try to open my eyes a little bit and just look around. Absorb what's happening. "That weird noise at work sounds like a ghost." "These guys at the deli counter keep flirting with me." "I could never date anyone who doesn't like olives."

You know. Stuff like that.

When I worked at the CBC, the producer used to always tell me "you don't find ideas in the office, Lindsay. Take the car and go drive around." Working in advertising, or with blogging, I don't really have the luxury of taking a car and driving around all day, but the same premise works for any creative process.



Are you open about being a blogger? How do people offline react to your online writing?

As I mentioned way up at the top there, at first I was not open about it. But once I started feeling more confident in my writing and filling my blog with content I didn't consider "therapy on the page" (because nobody wants to read that crap) I started telling people about it.

I'm a very transparent person. I'm a terrible liar and I suck at keeping secrets. More often than not, you can read my emotion on my face. I don't have a "work" Lindsay and a "home" Lindsay and a "drunk" Lindsay. Except maybe that last one. So it was only fitting that people who knew me, knew I had a blog.

I'm always surprised and humbled by the feedback I get. The things people have said about my blog, or my writing, I sometimes can't believe. I always think "are you sure you're talking about me?"

I've told employers about my blog, and I always get a good reaction. As I write for a living, I think it shows another side of my writing skills besides headlines and radio scripts. Twitter helps too. I guess it shows what I can do in 140 characters or less. And you often have less than that to sell something to a consumer.

Which weblogs are your current favourites? Which weblogs have been most influential in the shaping of your own blogging?

I always I assumed I was in a category all my own. Next to the mommy bloggers, behind the design bloggers and around the corner from the foodies. The Internet is a big place. And I didn't know where I belonged.

Woah. That sounds a lot sadder than it actually is.

When I discovered The Bloggess, that's when I realized that there were other bloggers like me out there. Then I discovered a whole network through her.

Right now, one of my favourite blogs is Humans are Funny. Laurenne works in advertising too. She lives in LA. I went to LA in December for work, and we were hoping to meet up, but we were both too busy. Working in advertising.

Is that irony? Probably not.

I think actual writers are more influential to me than bloggers. I mentioned David Sedaris. Sloane Crosely, Woody Allen and Dorothy Parker are other authors whose work I try to absorb as much as possible. I also love to lose myself in a well-written novel. As cliché as that might sound. But it's good storytelling that inspires me. There's nothing better than reading something that feels like candy on the page. That's what words can do. Sometimes it amazes me.

Stephen King said that if you want to be a writer, read. Read all the time. And I couldn't agree with him more. I suck up as much well-written stuff as I can. And sometimes I suck up the crappy-written stuff too. You know, for balance.



What advice do you have for new bloggers?

One of the best parts about blogging, is the community you can connect with. I've made friends on Twitter. Real people! Whose phone number I have and everything!

Someone once told me "write what you know" and I think that's a pretty good place to start if you're new to blogging. If you love nail polish, write about nail polish. If you love gardening, take pictures of your garden and post them on your blog. If you love motorcycles, wear a helmet.

Oh, and write about that too.

And I think starting out a blog to make money, or to get a book deal, or to get something in return in some way is a bad idea. Start it because you want to share something. Original content, original content, original content. That's what drives readership. People can see right through you if you're trying to get something from them. There's a common expression in advertising - especially where the Web and social media are concerned - content is king. Original content is God.

Now go forth and blog.

CHEAT SHEET

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Name:
Location:
Weblog:
Twitter:
Other Notables:
2010 CWA Winner:

Lindsay Smith
Montreal, Quebec
Sometimes Icing
@sometimesicing
Sometimes Fancy
2nd in Humour
3rd in Fashion & Style
3 Comments

Elan Morgan

Elan Morgan is a writer and web designer who works from Elan.Works, a designer and editor at GenderAvenger, and a speaker who has spoken across North America. They have been seen in the Globe & Mail, Best Health, Woman's Day, and Flow magazines, TEDxRegina, and on CBC News and Radio. They believe in and work to grow both personal and professional quality, genuine community, and meaningful content online.