When I first began blogging, which was only a few months ago, I admit I knew nothing about it. Still, I wanted to dip my toe (or pen) into the metaphorical pool of blogging to muse about things that interested me, share some of my traditional publishing background with other writers, and just generally explore some intellectual topics that have always interested me.
No one ever told me how difficult all this blogging would be.
Some make it look so easy. Guy with his Red Pen of Doom, for example. My twin Sophie, who seems to have recently changed her theme to an even more attractive one. (Another) Alexandria of I Don’t Blog But If I Did never seems to have trouble coming up with topics. And I suppose I don’t have to mention Amanda Hocking, whose blog-site is longer than some of my novels. Some writers I admire – John Dolan, Seumas Gallacher, and Anastasia Vitsky, among others – all make it seem effortless.
Though daunted, as I always am when I try new things, I did a few blogs and got nice comments from my Sis and friends. I managed to get in some film or music videos when I was trying to illustrate a particular creative writing topic, or just to entertain my readers. I got some compliments and some Retweets on the Twitter. I even found a blog-theme which resembled my website theme, complete with coffee cup (necessary), pen, paper, sticky-notes, and laptop as decorations around the posts. Up till today, I thought I was getting better at this blogging thing.
Though I still find it difficult to come up with topics, I started to feel a bit proud of myself.
What a mistake.
Today, when I signed in, there was a notice that my theme had been changed and needed to be updated. When I originally updated my theme from a rather bland one to that which matched my website, I experienced no difficulties whatsoever. All I did was choose “Activate”, and my entire blog-site was there, complete with my customized side-bar, which took me at least 2 weeks to master and arrange to my satisfaction.
Since I liked that theme – some sort of Messy Desk Theme – I went ahead and updated it.
Without looking at my site first (mistake #3), I began to update some of my earlier posts, making the hyperlinks more sophisticated, for example, and introducing some videos into posts which had not earlier had them, eliminating some videos from posts that now seemed cluttered. Having taught students to use computers in my writing classes for the last ten years of my University career, I save obsessively – the memory of crying students who’d lost work still rings in my ears – so the blog changes were saved successfully. My only non-mistake of the day, it would seem.
Then I looked at the blog.
It was totally deformed. And I mean that seriously.
The footer was partially obscuring the header, though I had merely updated the theme that I had successfully been using. There was a dark background behind the posts, a background almost identical in color to the posts’ print, obscuring the writing. The sidebar was missing completely. At least, that’s I thought. Until I scrolled down the entire length of 6 months of blogs and found the sidebar in the footer-area. Not arranged as a footer, mind you, but as a long, SuperModel-skinny sidebar. Stuck down in the footer area.
I tried refreshing the page.
I tried to return to the un-updated version of the theme.
Nope. Not possible now that the theme has been updated.
I tried to switch to another theme. Though its customization indicated that it had room for a main column and a sidebar, I simply could not get any sidebar to appear, despite my moving all my WordPress widgets from the “Inactive Widgets” box where they’d been placed to the area titled “Sidebar.” Apparently, though there was nothing in the theme’s description or Live Preview to indicate this, its Sidebar was limited to a certain number of widgets, which happened to be about 1/4 of the ones I have.
I tried another theme that seemed quite simple and had only one main column and sidebar. My “Inactive Widgets” box was empty, though none of the widgets I’d so laboriously constructed was in the Sidebar. I quickly switched to another theme, hoping that my widgets would re-appear in the “Inactive” box (they did). However, I couldn’t get any of them to appear in the newest theme’s Sidebar. I went back to the Messy Desk, hoping that it might have been fixed somehow in the two hours I’d been attempting to re-create by blog.
Wishful or delusional thinking, I suppose.
I tried to apply – I mean, activate – three more WordPress themes. All had similar problems with sidebar widgets, footer areas, blog posts. One had all the titles of my posts on one page, with the first sentence of each. Ugly and too crowded. Most seemed to have a limited sidebar area and randomly selected which of my sidebar widgets to include, without allowing me to change which showed up. Several had no background or header photographs, no matter what their previews showed. Some had no color selection even though the description indicated “marvelous customization.” A few even had multiple footers – on top of each other.
After screaming, raging, and cursing designers who don’t ensure that their updates work with the applications they’re designing them for – I’ve been through this before with Android devices, Mac apps, and apps for the iPhone – I poured myself yet another cup of coffee, apologized yet again to my boyfriend for waking him up by making him think the house was on fire, and tried one more theme.
As you can obviously see, it’s rather girly.
While I readily admit that flowers and the color pink are among my favorites when choosing clothing items, I’m not certain I like it as a blog theme.
Still, it has a sidebar that allowed me to recover all my missing items. It doesn’t have five footers. I could put my sidebar in the order I wanted. My blog posts actually showed up – as opposed to just appearing as a title list with the first sentence of each.
I’ll probably get used to it, though the girly-pink-flowery theme doesn’t seem to fit some of my more intellectual blog posts. Like the ones on Shakespeare, Alzheimer’s, Caregiving, the Holocaust, acting, films, traditional v. Indie publishing, Creative Writing, classic Literature, unreliable narrators, mastering literary point of view…
The über-pink-hyperlinks containing the titles of my books seem rather odd, given that some of my books are on the Holocaust, Alzheimer’s, assisted suicide, serial killers, severe child abuse, rape, death, Jesus (as a great Jewish teacher and spiritual leader), the Roman Empire during its occupation of Judaea, and other such sundry topics.
Maybe I won’t notice the pink after a while.
Still, I won’t be updating themes with any regularity. I won’t be changing them because I get bored either. I’m too terrified to do that.
Yes, there were warnings that you should save your material: I did that. It’s not that I actually lost anything. Not permanently. It’s just that I lost things long enough to take me seven hours to restore my blog-site, and the only theme that seems to work is a girly-pink-flowery one that makes me feel kind of silly.
I wear flowery dresses, retro-design pink embroidered sweaters, red stilettos, and classic costume jewelry from the 1930’s-1940’s because I like the contrast between looking feminine – like a Barbie doll, as one of my best friends once laughingly commented – and having a fierce intellect that scares most people off until they discover I have a sense of humor. I like the fact that my appearance makes people think I’m a powder-poof until I open my mouth: the more astute ones usually then get the joke. Even if they don’t, they usually find me charming or interesting. (And if they don’t, it simply doesn’t matter to me.) You see, I choose my clothes to contrast with my personality. I like frilly, girly, flowery clothes, but that is not my personality, brain, or intellect.
Thus my hesitation with a girly-pink flowery blog theme.
It doesn’t even go with my name, which I chose myself.
I dumped the ugly Appalachian name I was given, as well as the silly nickname I used in high school when I was too young to legally change my name, to a name I thought suited my personality and my art better. Alexandria Constantinova. My first name was chosen when I was about 17, after I read Lawrence Durrell’s The Alexandria Quartet.
My middle name is the Russian-feminine version of Constantine, after Emperor Constantine, because he unified the divided Eastern and Western Roman Empires, among other things, and somehow, it just seemed to fit me. I also liked the “theological-noir-action” film Constantine, based on the series of graphic novels HellBlazer, because theological/moral topics and Noir art are two of my favorite things in the world. They’re the intellectual equivalent of dark chocolate and coffee.
(Alexandria Szeman didn’t appear on my first novel because my editor at HarperCollins insisted that my name “wouldn’t fit on the cover of my book” and claimed, furthermore, she wanted an “easy” first name to go with my “hard” last name. Despite my protests, my first agent did not argue with the editor, so I was intimidated into using my high school nickname. When my second and third books were published, my second agent and second/third editors/publishers were horrified by my insistence on using my real name: they didn’t want to “lose the name recognition of The Kommandant’s Mistress“, so I was stuck. Only my fourth editor laughed at the idea that my real name wouldn’t fit on the cover of a book, or that my readers wouldn’t be able to find me or my work.)
I chose Constantinova because it seemed to go well with Alexandria. Both those names seemed a perfect contrast to the way I dress, while matching my personality and art. They also honored my ethnic heritage.
Will people look at my blog now, with its flowery-girly-pink theme, and assume that its content is lightweight and frivolous? Will potential readers assume I am only concerned with clothes, makeup, and celebrity gossip? I wasn’t even interested in those things when I was a little girl, although sometimes I pretended to be to hide the fact I was smart because my family kept telling me that I’d never get married (this, when I was as young as 6) if boys ever discovered how much I liked to read and what big words I used.
All this time, I thought that coming up with topics to blog about would be my most difficult task.
Maybe, I’ll get used to the pinky-pink blog theme.
Then again, maybe not.
On the other hand, I could always pretend I intentionally chose it to contrast with my intellectual blog-posts…