Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Behind the Scenes of a Mid-Sized Blog

It never ceases to surprise me that sweet strangers will stop in regularly to read the documentation and whining of a girl who runs and does other stuff (me) while zero of my family members have any interest whatsoever.

I'm not sure if it's that they don't understand how blogs work (certain conversations have led me to believe they think that each post is a "blog," so I am currently operating over 200 blogs) or if they think I only post when I link to it on facebook (which is something I only do for races with a worthwhile recap).  Whatever the reason, none of my three sisters nor my parents regularly read.  I think I may have lured my mom over to the dark side of reading though.  And while I'm mentioning her, I must remark that she is looking hellllla fine.  Seriously, 60 looks GOOD on her.

She's the one in the mouse costume.  KIDDING she's the gorgeous one on the left.

My older sister, the one who created an adorable baby and not the one on the right in the photo above who so far has only succeeded in ovulating 150 cute eggs (too graphic?), recently stumbled upon the blog, got lost in a whirlwind of some of the BEST reading of her life, and then remarked: "that seems like a lot of work! How long does it take to write a post?"

Well, the truth is it is not a lot of work, and the answer is it does not take very long.

Anyone, even those with negative interesting things to share, or a second grade level of writing skill, can write a blog.

Her question inspired me to venture behind the scenes.  For anyone who doesn't blog, here's a peek inside--and for those of you who do, let's compare! I assume that many people approach their blog in a much different way than I do, so please share your own blogging habits because I'm plain curious.

1) How long does it take to put up a post?

Well, the writing pours forth instantaneously.  While not the hallmark of a well-edited blog, my writing is freeflow.  Brain spill.  I write whatever I'm thinking.  Then I read it over once, twice, and try and correct any blaring typos.  Delete a few things that will potentially lead to an explosion of sensitive reactions.  Tame down a rant.  Notice that half of what I wrote is completely inconsequential and realize, at least it is more interesting than 79% of shit up in blogland, so post I shall.

The biggest time wasters for me are a) photos and b) blog titles.

I'll start with the latter.  I can't tell you how many times I have finished a post, and then stared at it for a FULL five-to-ten minutes, stumped for a blog title.  Yes, I've considered "fuck it, I can't think of a blog title."  For a while I was just inserting the date when I couldn't think of a title.  Titles are the most terrible chore.  Someone teach me a good tip for a quick and easy title.

Photos: yes, there are many blogs where the writing is the clear standout and photos are largely and welcomingly absent (my girl, my dear, sweatykid--who just ran the Philadelphia marathon in 3:02:42 after earning it the hard way with a year of intense mileage).  And even I have posted without photos before.  Hard to believe, I know, given my notoriety for photography skills. Those posts were the quickest, easiest posts of all.  But wish I may and wish I might, I continue to insert photos because my instinct is that it pulls the post together.  It throws an image in your mind to connect with a specific post.  It breaks up the monotony.  It allows the eyes to rest on something pretty.


I MADE THIS.  For real.

I know for a fact there is technology out there that would make adding photos easier.  Whether it is uploading the photos straight to your blog from your iphone, or a platform superior to Blogger.  But I don't have any of those [I don't own a camera, and my phone is from 2006, so ya dig, adding pictures involves stealing the Gentleman's iPhone or camera and uploading the old fashioned way].

Ironically, in the best sense of the word (I think), I have just hit a 15 minute problem with photos, in which Blogger is telling me I cannot upload any new photos because my "Picasa album" is full.  And I have to pay $2.50/month to add new photos.  For Beyonce's sake, what? I hate blogging. (No, don't leave me, I love you!)

To come full circle, the short answer is: each post takes about 90 minutes.  Give or take 30 minutes.

2) How many page views do you get per day?

This many:


Honestly, I don't know if it is taboo or not to share this stuff, but crap if I care.  On days I post, I typically see 600-800 blog views.  Occasionally something exciting might push the views over 1,000. On days I don't post, it is usually in the 350-550 range.  And it trickles off from there each day I don't post.

At least I can't make the joke, "thanks mom! I know 500 of those page views are from you!"

I think I heard Cupcakes & Cashmere say once that she gets 100,000 page views per day.  So, pretty much neck and neck with her.  Should be getting a book deal and painting my nails all day soon.

3) Money?

If you're new here and haven't yet heard me complain about the enormously disgusting amount of advertising, cross-promotions, and give-aways on blogs then let me introduce you to the FACTS.

I have never had an ad on this blog.  Not even Google Sense or whatever that easy avenue is.  I have never reviewed a product in exchange for it or for some other benefit.  I have never received anything free because of the blog.  Any free stuff was earned on account of placing in a race, winning a giveaway, or showing up somewhere as my real self, not as a blogger.

I still hate FitFluential and still am glad I dropped that offer like it was hot.  You KNOW WHO YOU ARE, your blog SUCKS right now because of all the promotional shit going on.  I can't read through the cracks to know when a product is worthwhile or when you are just aroused by the free-ness of it all.  

If reviews, giveaways, or going to free events is more than 30% of your blog, then you have officially lost control of your blog.  You are owned and controlled by Stuff.

More than anyone I love free stuff.  I AM that nut at Costco hoarding free samples.  But still, when it comes to the blog, which doesn't even represent the REAL me--it represents the anonymous exaggerated version of me--I still ignore every request in my inbox.

Free? I'll take 40.

I'm sorry to those who have asked for me to review/endorse/try out a product.  I never reply.  I tuck them away in my inbox, and I have considered many of them, but ultimately I can't be bound to writing about something because someone asked me to--even if there is something in it for me.  The only way writing is fun is when it is about what I WANT to write about.

Straight up, we all could use some more money.  Some day I may accept an ad.  For now, with my 600 page views/day, not gonna happen.

Any other behind the scenes stuff to discuss?  

Spill your blogging secrets, please!

**And a running recap in cliffs-notes: treadmill this a.m. due to threat of rain, 8.77 miles in one hour, a progression run starting at 8.5 ending at 9.0 mph.  1.0 incline.  Buttcrease pain level = 3.2 on a scale of 1-10.**  

44 comments:

  1. Appreciate the honesty. Your stance on bloggers who turn their blogs into product reviews / promote their ambassador status with brooks/reebok/whoever on their ad-laden blogs is fantastic. I'm glad that someone else feels that way.

    Is the buttcrease pain in the hamstrings (High Hamstring Tendonopathy?) or is it actually glutes? I've been struggling with similar pain for a year+ now. Has anything worked for you yet?

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    1. It is mostly in the upper hamstring. It could be the tendonopathy, but it's never been diagnosed. 2 weeks off + lots of hamstring stretching helped temporarily, and standing at work has helped a little. Has anything worked for you!?

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    2. Nothing yet. It was just one leg for a year and I started to feel it in my other leg after a road marathon. I'm taking the rest of the year of from running and trying some exercises / stretches / foam rolling so I'll see what happens around Xmas. Please write about anything you find that helps.

      Thanks!

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  2. Your shitfluential post (and, well, pretty much all of your blog rants) rank up there with some of the funniest posts I've read in this crazy blog world. There's a lot of crap out there and it's nice to see someone actually willing to point out just how bizarre it all is. That said, while I'd like to think I'm above accepting free stuff, I'm not sure that I am.

    As far as what goes into my fledgling blog, just take what you wrote (time/effort per post, creativity, page views, etc.) and divide it by like 200 and you've just about got it. And you're right, coming up with post titles is THE WORST THING EVER.

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  3. And this is why we read you. Because we are reading about you and not some gimmicky bullcrap about "omg how wonderful these bars,drink,ugly clothes, shoes are". I strongly feel that most of the fitfluential bloggers would fail any fitness test. It annoys me that they don't partake in one before joining...it's all about the fitness, right? ;) Your mum must have some anti aging secret. You should bottle it and pay me to promote it on my blog. I'm a sell out.

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  4. Love this post. Making up Titles is awful, that's why I take the lazy way out and use a quote or song lyric.

    The giveaway, freebie stuff posts have gotten out of control. Every blog (plus their moms blog) is reviewing something "awesome guys!"

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  5. Ok I seriously love this post. I feel like you are creepily in my head because I agree with every single thing you said. Except the page views, mine are way less, and a good portion DOES come from my family (but my husband doesn't read, can I still get street cred?), so you go girl! Also I've never gotten anything free from placing in a race except for a GIANT container of Heed that I still haven't even opened. It varies how long it takes to write a post mainly depending on how much I wrote in my head on my run/in the shower. And I HATE making up titles, I love race recaps so much for that reason. Any product I talk about on my blog is something I bought myself and I just feel the need to share the awesomeness with the world, and more often than not it's something to do with a dessert. Apparently I had a lot of thoughts on this post.

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  6. I quit reading blogs that are all give-aways. I am not even slightly interested anymore. I refuse to like something on facebook UNLESS I REALLY LIKE IT (ok, honestly, even if I did I still refuse to like anything on Facebook because I don't do free advertising) and I'm not going to tweet about some stupid sock giveaway. I don't even have a Twitter account so that stance is easy.
    I do like actual, honest product reviews, but with the endless promotions and giveaways, you're right - I don't know what is real and what isn't. What I'd like to read is some awesome, fast runner saying, "Hey, I switched to this new product X, and it worked for me and here is why" or "This sucked and fell apart in two weeks, don't buy it".
    I accepted one free blog thing but it didn't come with a required-review attached. So I took it and didn't review it. Ha! And I did a product review of an item I won once, but it wasn't a requirement either. So I'm pretty much in line with you.
    The exception is that if a shoe company gets it into their little head that sponsoring a slow runner is a good idea, I'll lie about my grandma for free shoes. Those things are pricey.

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    1. And your mom's beautiful. Dang! Good genes, lucky you!

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    2. I like honest reviews too. It's just so hard to tell these days....can you remember a time before compression socks? Are any compression gear reviews legit?

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  7. I love this!
    I could not agree more with the whoring for free stuff.
    A couple of years ago I applied to be on a team and got accepted; I had no idea that I would be required to post monthly about the product, and actually have to sell a certain amount of the product. What? That was such a turn off and led me to not do any of the things I was asked to do. This year I am part of Brooks ID and was never asked once to post anything. I LOVE Brooks and so posting about them is so easy.
    Off to read your fitfluential post.
    XO

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    1. You must be an awesome athlete to have made that team! Very odd to turn you into a salesperson though...that's not what athletes should be doing

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  8. Thanks for the honest post. I've been a subsriber to your blog for a couple of months and enjoy reading your thoughts on running and everything else.

    I'm afraid creating a title is more art than science. If you're not interested in the SEO rage, than follow your instinct and go with a title that's right for you.

    Thanks for the commentary on FitFluential. I've been looking at for awhile for my blog. It kind of feels like a scam or like joining a cult (maybe somewhere in between).

    Keep up the great work.

    Thanks,
    Chris
    http://amplifytoday.com

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  9. All of this Fitfluential prattle must largely be contained to running blogs. For years, I only read cycling and backpacking blogs, and had no concept of the HLB sphere where daily inspiration and food photos rule. Since I started running, I've been sucked into a whole new blog vortex that no matter how icky of a taste it leaves in my mouth, I can't turn away. I do take heart when I stumble across blogs like yours, which seem to have a strict policy of refreshing realness. I'm a slow Bay Area trail runner who usually has little to add to the discussion, but I wanted to delurk to out myself as a fan.

    Oh, and blog titles — when in doubt, I like to use random song lyrics.

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  10. Thanks for writing this. I also blog about fitness and I'm pretty much okay with the fact that I will never get any money or freebies from my blog for the simple reason that I don't want my blog to suck. Not only is it boring, but then it's like you can never say anything remotely negative/critical again because advertisers don't like it. Boo for that.

    Anyway, I'm coming out of lurkerdom to tell you that I love your blog and I find it inspiring and hilarious. Whatever you're doing - avoiding FitFluential, being a badass at running, whatever - keep doing it, because it's working.

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    1. Caitlin! Hi, and I like your name, WINK WINK WINK. It's my first name too.

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  11. Love this post. There are some blogs that only post giveaways and reviews. I'm glad you chatted about page views, I always wondered if it was taboo to talk about page views. Like eating, sex and alcohol. (apparently). I am also a complete brain spill when I post and I'm 100% fine with that.

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  12. HA. This is solid gold. Sometimes I feel like most running blogs merely exist to get free stuff. And those blogs are boring. I like blogs that are honest and freeform. The occassional review of a free thing is fine (sometimes useful?), but when that's the only content? Thumbs down. Honestly, my favorite posts are typically race recaps. I love reading about how people tackled a race (pacing/fueling/mental game) for some reason. There's a lot to learn!

    My blog mostly exists because I have nowhere else to really talk about my running. My friends are kind enough to feign interest/indulge me, but I try not to abuse this since I know they don't want to hear about my tempo runs. When it come to picking out titles I usually pick out two random things that I write about in that post. For example if I talk about butts and track workouts maybe that would be called "Butts and the Track". Genius, right?!

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  13. Titles...I often create a title first. And then take the swear words out. So they are often awkward titles. Your blog traffic is ROCKING! Way busier than mine for sure, anyway. But the numbers are pretty inconsequential in the grand scheme of things. The real connections are what I like the most about blogging :)

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  14. RR, you are so f*cking cool. It's getting embarrassing how much I <3 you/your blog. I also don't know what the f*ck fitfluential is... nor do I care. Keep on keepin' on!

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  15. Ha! I was thinking about blogging about this myself. I"ll try not to write that blog here.
    Really don't like product advertising blogs. The occasional giveaway is fine, but constantly it turns me off. Even then, the writer has to be really good. SUAR good. I'll never have advertising on my blog.

    I look for blogs where the author has a real voice, talking about something they are interested in. A modicum of grammar and vocabulary is nice, but not essential. I won't read a blog that reads like it was written by a robot, or is trying to sell me something, or is boring. I like to see some passion, an opinion or position on what ever the topic is.

    I rarely have trouble with titles. In fact, my trouble is usually there are too many titles, all good. I do not tame down my rants. If people see themselves as the subject of my rants, then they should take it as a learning experience. I've never timed my writing. Some are very fast, under 5 minutes. Others can take several hours to produce the dreaded wall-o-text.

    Photos are sometimes a real pain. I don't go out of my way to add them, but will if it works out. Once you've started, its just as easy to add many as one.

    Holy page views blogbroad! Those are killer numbers compared to my tiny little blog. If a post gets 100 readers, that's the big time for me.

    I find like other things, it's a habit. If you get into the habit of pumping them out, then it will happen. If you leave it, you start thinking of ideas, and then it gets long, and then it gets hard to write.

    I love getting comments. LOVE IT! I put disqus on my blog because I thought that would make commenting and responding to comments easier and more attractive for readers. I'm not sure if that was a good idea. I think some people think they need a disqus id to comment.

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  16. Amen, Sister. I am a huge fan of your blog because of your integrity, openness and honesty. Keep up the great work!

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  17. Just happened upon your blog and I am soooo happy to find someone not trying to teach me how to balance kids with running - or work with running - or personal life with running. Also appreciate your not showing me daily photos of your cute kids/dogs/cats/meals. You are a breath of fresh air!

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  18. omg same in rgds to the blog giveaways and fitfluential and now so many others that i have no idea what they are. it's out of control. and someone gets 100,000 hits on their blog??? i can't even imagine what they blog about but also not clicking on cupcakes link to find out. is it about cupcakes? lol. oh boy.

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  19. Ok so I think that I have been dealing with some proximal hamstring tendonitis...

    does your hamstring hurt when you get up from sitting for at least a few minutes (i.e. when you get out of a car?)

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    1. YES. It always feels much worse after sitting for a while. If I stand or walk all day, it feels great. What's going on with you?

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  20. I stopped reading a bunch of blogs after fitfluential also. Fitfluential bloggers review the lamest crap and always have glowing reviews about nasty sounding supplements and pre-made dinners that look awful. In terms of freebies, I've never ONCE seen a blogger say "I got this free $300 jacket to review and it blows. Here's why". The reviews are garbage because they're always glowing.

    I love reading your blog. It seems sincere and authentic. I don't mind ads in the sidebar of other blogs. I realize that blogs take time/money and I don't fault bloggers for wanting to be compensated for their efforts. It's when the writing becomes an advertisement that I have no reason to read.

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    1. Good points, I'll use this to justify a sidebar ad one day ;)

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  21. Very interesting and insightful post. When I first started my food blog in 2008, I would get myself into a tizzy about my friends and family who "refused" to read my blog... especially the ones who love food as much as I do. Then I stopped caring what they thought, realized that they don't read any blogs, and/or taught them how to subscribe to my blog by email. Now all is well.

    In 2010, I ventured into advertising on my food blog. I earn about $12/year (through a food-specific advertiser), but you get 6-10x as much traffic, so it would at least pay for one race entry/year, right? There are so many different companies that offer banner ads these days, and it's definitely possible to get one that fits you. That said, I'm glad my contract with the advertiser is ending this month, and I'll be able to remove that banner permanently.

    I agree -- photos are the biggest time-consuming things. I don't have any issues with post titles, but then again, I don't post as often as you. Re: product reviews. I was approached by a guy, who represented a company making running stuff, to review an item for them. I told him, "Sure, I'd love to. But just know that I'm going to be completely honest." He replied, "Sounds great. Please write your review and then I'll send you the product. Here are some examples of what you could write..." I told him that under NO circumstance would I EVER review a product that I had never tested myself. He pretended to understand and said he would send me the thing. I never got it. This really turned me off to the idea of reviewing products for free, and also to trusting product reviews on other people's blogs.

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  22. This is really fascinating. I'm new to blogging (my numbers are hilariously low) and I've always wondered how big some of the blogs I enjoy are in terms of metrics. That doesn't affect how much I like/read/comment on them - it's just nosiness really.

    I also think the whole fitfluential thing is ridiculous.

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  23. In reply to your comment - yes, I hope this calf pain causes just a brief hiatus (resting a few days has done the trick for me before), thanks. And I checked the Bob Harper dvd out of the library and burned it. It's called Complete Body Power Transformation (seriously?) and Bob Harper insists it is the hardest workout of your life. He's wrong. It's not nearly. But it is pretty good for upper body and also incorporates squats and lunges. I don't think it really works your core/abs, though.

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  24. Thanks for putting your thoughts out there RR and for the usual honesty. I have noticed a pretty predictable pattern here:

    A blogger start off with good intentions - writing about running and exercise because they genuinely love it. They will write about trying new things (successful or not) and trying to fit a vaguely healthy lifestyle around their personal life.

    Soon enough, this blogger will get addicted to the positive feedback that comes with publishing what is in reality, just normal behaviour when their growing pool of followers leave hundreds of those "I love your healthy pancakes/salad/smoothie... I CAN'T LIVE without that recipe!!" comments. I am seriously amazed that people get that excited about an internet stranger's breakfast but I digress...

    Now your blogger believes that what she has to say is soooo important, maybe they can make money off this! They quit their jobs ("OMG Girl, you are amazing for living your DREAMS!") and start blogging fulltime.

    Inevitably, these bloggers become reliant on whatever sponsors knock on their doors because there is no other way to monetize being a blogger. For example, I think many of us will be familiar with one Paleo-loving blogger who just took a sponsored trip with the US Potato Farmers' Board, even though Paleo has a pretty strict no-white-potato policy

    Coming back to what you say RR, you keep a blog because it is a way to record your thoughts about running. Unlike many others, however, you make your ethical position clear to your readers with respect to sponsorship. In my view, it is unethical to take money for content if that content does not already reflect your views on a product. I know it is hard to say no to free stuff but it isn't free if you are selling your credibility in the exchange.

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    1. I don't know who this Potato-trip blogger is, but it sounds pretty funny. Out of control!

      I hadn't thought of turning a blog into an ad as unethical--mostly just disingenuous--but ethics does play a part too. Especially when you have a huge flood of readers.

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  25. I only get like 2 views a day, so it's not like I'd be a desirable product reviewer anyway, but I every time I accidentally read a review post, I think to myself that the only review I could give would be, "I like this because it was free, but I probably would never buy it with my own money."

    I suspect that deep down, many bloggers doing the reviews feel the same way about a lot of the products they receive even if they don't admit it... I guess it's all good exposure for the company anyway?

    Fitfluential makes me feel uncomfortable. Per the website, "The goal of FitFluential is to successfully connect brands in the fitness space with highly influential fitness enthusiasts that are an ideal match for that brand. An ideal match is one where the FitFluential member (and their audience) is a perfect representation of the brand’s target market." Ick. Shit like this makes me want to never buy new running clothes or shoes again so that I can avoid being part of the machine... but, oh well.

    (PS. I changed something in my computer settings and think this comment might actually post?!!)

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    1. Haha, nice find on the Fitfluential tagline. "highly influential fitness enthusiasts"? oh no. no they di-int. Gosh, I wonder what brand I perfectly represent. Doritos?

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  26. 1. I'm not ever above free stuff.
    2. I just ran into that same darn photo problem with picasa, so I started loading them through my google account instead of directly on the blog. One of my main goals in blogging is to not pay money to do it. What solution did you use?
    3. Title idea that I learned working at a tiny newspaper: just take a phrase from the piece and make it your title. It's not always the most informative title, but it works when your mind is blank. I never write titles before -- always after I write a post.

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  27. I don't really mind the advertisements, as long as it's not in every post. My post titles are actually the easiest thing for me, probably because I don't put as much time into it as I should. I literally sit down, write whatever comes to my mind, and then throw on a title at the end. My mom always wonders how I have so much time to write, but the truth is, it doesn't take me long at all, and it is actually a nice outlet for myself from the business and stress of residency and studying. I just love being able to write whatever the heck I want with to.

    You excited for CIM? I leave one week from today!

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    1. True, writing on the blog comes muuuuuch quicker and easier than writing for work.

      I'm....meh about CIM. Isn't that sad!!??! But it's hard to be excited when you don't feel like you're ready to throw it ALL down, you know?

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  28. Love your perspective and firm stand.

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  29. Thanks for the behind the scenes look! I can't believe how quickly you can do a post from start to finish. A big part of the reason I stopped blogging is because I took soo damn long to write posts. It just did not flow out of me easily. And yours are always funny and well written and I am just super impressed!

    And yes, your Mom is an ageless wonder. I want whatever drug she's taking. And don't tell me it's because she exercises, because I do not want to hear it! Argh. Damn exercise...so good for you...grumble grumble

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  30. Blog titles. Counselor, think of them as section headings in your briefs. "Heading titles are most effective if they're full sentences announcing not just the topic but your position on the topic: Not I. Statue of limitations but I. The statute of limitations was tolled while the plaintiff suffered from amnesia." Antonin Scalia & Bryan A. Garner, Making Your Case: The Art of Persuading Judges 108. Or they are possibly closer to those catchy law review titles like "The Best Puffery Article Ever." Or "Taxing Polygamy: Married Filing Jointly (and Severally?)." ;) Kristen

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