For me, starting a new blog was daunting. I didn’t know the first thing about it and I’m still learning new things all the time. I’ve always wished that I had a blogging ‘big sister’ that could help me out with all my questions, which is how the idea for this feature came about.
Each month I’ll be chatting to an upcoming blogger about their personal journey and it’ll be an opportunity to share their tips and advice. So whether you’re new to this or simply looking to find other great bloggers out there, I hope you find these posts helpful as well as inspiring.
This month: My London Dream
I met Laura whilst interning at Sheerluxe last month and as soon as we got chatting, I knew we would get on. She shares many of the same interests as me and we bonded over our odd collection of books, ranging from fashion to psychology to psychopaths!
Laura has the type of personality that draws people in – she’s confident, talkative and always has a beaming smile on her face. Teamed with her killer dress sense, she’s definitely an inspiring person to be around.
Like me, she loves to keep long-form journalism alive through her blog, My London Dream. She enjoys writing descriptive, in-depth reviews on exhibitions, theatre productions and films, as well as documenting her personal memories. Her blog is full of substance and personality, which is why I deem her very worthy of the title, ‘Blogger of the Month.’
How did My London Dream come about? And tell us a little bit about the inspiration behind the name.
My blog originated quite naturally when I first moved to London, as a medium to chart my adventures in the big city. My first blog post was actually already written before I even set up a place for it! In university, I took a course called In/Visible London. One of my first assignments was to attend and write about Open House London, where places that aren’t normally accessible by the public are open for a select few days in September.
I visited a Greek Masonic Temple that is located in the depths of a hotel and I thought it was the coolest thing ever! There was a torrential downpour that day and I sought refuge in a telephone box – how quintessentially touristic! I wanted to share my explorations with people who might want to do something a little off the beaten track. I threw myself into London living with reckless abandon and a blog was born. Living here has always been and continues to be (three and a half years later!) my dream, hence my blog’s name. It just made sense to start a blog in a place where I feel so inspired by my surroundings.
Is blogging your profession or a hobby?
I blog for my own pleasure and I view My London Dream as my portfolio. If anyone wants to gain an idea of my writing style, I think it’s best represented through my blog. I write about what I get up to in London, which means predominantly theatre, art, fashion, and lifestyle pieces, with restaurant, concert, hair, and beauty reviews thrown in for good measure! I also publish interviews that I conduct, mainly with designers.
My blog is really eclectic and I don’t like to limit myself to writing about any one thing. I see it as my creative space to write freely about my adventures in London, a city I absolutely adore.
What inspires you to write?
Truth is often stranger than fiction, as the saying goes. I have a notebook where I scribble down story ideas or a string of words that I like. They’re typically based on things I’ve seen or done, or just through observing people and being perceptive. Sometimes, I take a step back from the moment I’m in and I’m able to see it in a creative context. Senses, especially smell, are incredibly evocative and they can often trigger ideas.
I have bouts of manic writing very late at night or very early in the morning where I can’t get the words down fast enough. For people who consider themselves writers, like I do, I think we are compelled to write. Sometimes I feel like I don’t have a choice in the matter, because certain stories just need to be told. I can’t rest until I’ve purged an idea out of my brain fully. I’ve been writing for as long as I’ve known how to and it will always be a constant for me. It’s my favourite form of expression. You won’t ever catch me without a pen and paper!
Who has impacted you most?
My family has always been there for me and supported me, which I appreciate more than words can possibly say. I highly admire my parents, who are my biggest role models. I have them to thank for shaping me into the woman that I am today. My parents still have all of my old stories and poems and are the biggest fans (as well as editors) of my writing. When I was younger, my mother always requested that the only present she wanted for her birthday or an occasion like Christmas was for me to write her something. In fact, she still makes this request now! My parents’ unconditional love and encouragement means the world to me.
How would you describe your blogging style?
Longform, longform, longform! I write a lot for any given post and I know that’s not everyone’s cup of tea. I’ve been experimenting with keeping my posts slightly shorter, but I have a gut feeling when I’ve done a piece of writing justice. If I’m passionate about what I’m writing about, the word count will probably not reach less than 1,000! I can’t help myself!
Above all, I’m a creative writer, and that’s why I’m pursuing magazine journalism as a career. It provides the opportunity for an individual’s own voice and style to shine through. In that vein, my blog is a creative outlet for me to publish reviews about what I find interesting, written in the way that I would like, without any limitations!
What do you find most rewarding about blogging?
The most rewarding thing about blogging is the feedback and opportunities I have gained from it. I am now invited by the Almeida Theatre in Islington to attend performances as press and then review the shows for my blog. It all started with me sending the theatre a review of American Psycho the musical, which was the first production I saw there. I’ve now been back for several shows, and the rest is history!
There is also nothing more satisfying than publishing a new post. After copious amounts of tea and biscuits and finally tapping into that self-motivation (after much procrastination), it’s like a big check mark on my mental to-do list to say it’s finally done. I love looking back on my old content to see how far I’ve come. I’m constantly honing my writing style and experimenting with syntax and wordplay.
What do you find the most challenging?
Producing regular content is difficult for me. It’s not because I struggle with what to write about, but my motto is quality over quantity every time. I’m not going to churn out a measly paragraph and load the post down with photographs just because I haven’t published something for a few days. I know that it’s important to keep an audience and a readership through updating my blog, but since I’m not a full-time blogger, life often gets in the way.
I set aside specific days to dedicate to my blog, which means spending the better part of that day writing and formatting a post, which takes a lot of time and effort. I find it more harmful than conducive to pressurise myself into deadlines. It saps the fun out of the writing and makes it feel more like a chore rather than something I enjoy. If I stopped enjoying it, I wouldn’t do it anymore.
Do you have any design and layout tips for new bloggers?
I launched My London Dream on Tumblr, but then transferred over to Blogger. I chose Tumblr because it’s pretty foolproof! However, it’s more of a space for images and media rather than writing and I couldn’t view any analytics about how many people were visiting my blog, which is why I made the switch. I would like to ultimately end up on WordPress, as I hear it’s the best and most professional platform for blogs. I think you should start out with something you feel comfortable using.
I commissioned someone to design my current blog layout for me, as I had a vision of how I wanted it to look, but didn’t have the means for it to come to fruition. (Coding is hard!) I was involved in the process every step of the way. Since the overall design and layout of your blog is the first thing that a potential new reader will see, I think it’s absolutely vital that you’re happy with the way it looks! Consistency and continuity are also immensely important. I choose to italicise and bold my photo captions, which means they are always italicised and bold in every single post. The most seemingly simple details really do make all the difference in taking your blog to the next level if you want to be taken seriously. I’ve visited blogs where chatspeak is used within the text – not for me, thanks!
Do you work with any blogger programmes or brands and how did you first get involved with them?
I stumbled across The Bloggers Hangout when I was looking for blogging communities to connect with. They organise events so that fellow bloggers can network and learn from one another in really fun settings, like at Bloggers Fashion Week. Whenever complimentary manicures are involved, I’m in! Writing is quite a solitary activity and it can be difficult to meet people who share this same interest, unless it’s through social media.
Meeting other bloggers does narrow the blog-o-sphere so that it doesn’t seem quite so daunting and vast. I like putting a face to a name and gaining blogger contacts is not only helpful, but you also make new friends in the process!
Who takes the majority of your photos?
I take all of my own photos, unless specified otherwise. I do have a confession to make though! Taking photos is my least favourite part about blogging. Humans are visual creatures and I understand the necessity of having visual aids. Looking back through my archive, I used to only feature two or three photos per post, with a big chunk of text in between. The photos are great at breaking up a post and making it more readable, but I really don’t like seeing blogs that have these stunning, well-thought-out images and poor writing. I want my accompanying photos to be good, but my perfectionist tendencies are already being utilised when it comes to my writing! It probably wouldn’t bode well to enlist them with photography as well, when I take hundreds of shots before I’m happy, because I’d never finish a post!
How do you go about growing your following?
My aim in creating My London Dream was never really to rack up hundreds of followers, which is why I’ve probably not pursued it as much as other people have. I haven’t made it my top priority. As I mentioned earlier, it’s really important to me that I enjoy blogging and what I’m writing about. If other people enjoy it too, that’s even better! I use my personal Facebook and Twitter accounts to promote new blog content, as well as SEO practices so that when people search, they find me! Well, hopefully!
What are your long-term blog goals?
I’m a big traveller, so I would love to transport My London Dream out of London and write about other cities and countries that I visit. The natural progression for my blog would be to incorporate more opinion pieces, general thoughts, creative writing, and interviews that wouldn’t necessarily need to be linked to London. I’d have to rethink my blog name and layout, but that would be an exciting and inevitable revamp. It would be purely me, purely Laura, and there’s something I find quite appealing about that.
I’ve also desperately wanted to try creating step-by-step makeup tutorials by taking photos of the process for a while, so watch this space!
Please share with us your top three book-marked blogs.
Best piece of advice you’ve been given?
Most pearls of wisdom that I receive come from my mother. One “life lesson” that particularly stands out in my mind is “There’s only one first day.” In other words, all of the anxiety and turmoil that you go through at the very beginning of any unknown venture will only last for the duration of that initial day. After that, you’ll wonder why you were so worried in the first place, because you’ll know what to expect. I say go for and try anything at least once! Nothing ventured, nothing gained!
Biggest lesson you have learnt yourself through blogging?
Having my blog has made me even hungrier to get into magazine journalism. At university, I studied psychology and philosophy, but outside of that, I was exploring and writing about London. If I had chosen journalism for my undergraduate degree, I don’t think I would have the same zest for it that I have now. When I set my mind to something, I won’t rest until I’ve achieved my goal. In order to have a writing or journalism career, running a blog is a necessity. It seems like everyone has a blog these days, but not everyone maintains it or realises how much effort goes into a single blog post.
My blog has also helped me to become more confident. I have attended so many events alone and that can be really intimidating. It’s easy to be a wallflower and blend into the background, but then no one will notice you! It has actually served me better to be a lone wolf on many occasions. Being personable, inquisitive, and outgoing are all qualities that serve journalists well. I would even argue that they’re required to make it in the field. I’m inherently quite shy, but blogging quickly knocked that out of me, as did London! You can’t be a timid or indecisive interviewer, for example. If you don’t ask, you don’t get!
Any inspiring words for aspiring bloggers out there?
If you want something badly enough, you’ve just got to be bold and go after it. The worst answer you can hear is “No”, or just receive no response at all. In the great scheme of things, you will bounce back from those rejections and it will make the “Yes” that counts taste all that much sweeter. There might be times where you think, “What is the point?” but persistence and hard work are always rewarded in the end.
Above all, blog about what you know and what you love. Think about what makes you different from everyone else and what you can offer. For me, it’s longform articles. I know that most people don’t make it halfway down the page before they click off or start skimming the photos, but I honestly don’t mind. I am a writer and write I shall! When you’re happy with what you’re doing, it shows, and people pick up on that genuineness.
I hope you enjoyed reading this post, please share your thoughts! I’m always on the lookout for more great bloggers and I’d love to hear your suggestions in the comments below…
If you liked this post, check out: Blogger Of The Month: What She Does Now
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