*Guest post: Ever wondered how a blog post really comes together? To celebrate the blog’s six month anniversary, my husband wrote a behind-the-scenes account of what it’s like being a Blogger Husband.*
Or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Blog
By Teddy Luxband
At a certain point on any given Sunday afternoon here at Chateau DeLuxe, the following exchange takes place:
Me: “Honey, it’s getting kind of late in the day. Shouldn’t you be writing your post for tomorrow by now?”
Luxe: “Oh…haha, don’t worry, I basically wrote it all in my head already. This one’s gonna be a piece of cake!”
Oh God, no. Not again. No no no no no. Sweet Lord in heaven just take me right now.
Let it be said first and foremost that there are no eight words in the English language that trigger my blogger husband PTSD like “This one’s gonna be a piece of cake.” I fell for this line once, maybe twice. I have the emotional scars to prove it. But never again. I’m the kind of person who believes utterly in the sanctity of deadlines and doing things on time and OH MY GOD almost every blog post here is like that scene at the end of ‘Speed’ where Sandra Bullock is frantically driving and poor Keanu is half dangling out of the bus hanging on for dear life. Is the bomb going to explode? Are they going to make it out of the bus in time? HOW IN GOD’S NAME IS THIS BLOG POST GOING TO GET WRITTEN, EDITED, DESIGNED AND PUBLISHED BY TOMORROW FREAKING MORNING??
So, no…it’s not a piece of cake. It’s the opposite of a piece of cake. More often than not it’s a white-knuckle thrill ride right up until she hits ‘publish.’’AND YET. Twice a week here (usually) Luxe bears down and delivers the goods. I swear sometimes I don’t know how it happens. She has her own unique process and she takes her own sweet time, no matter how much it makes whatever hair I have left turn grey from anxiety.
For the six month anniversary of TLS (yay!) I am here today to bear witness. To go behind the scenes to show you how – step by step – it all comes together into what this completely unbiased, impartial blogger’s husband thinks is THE UNDISPUTED VERY BEST PERSONAL FINANCE BLOG (OR ANY BLOG) IN ALL OF CREATION!
1) The Idea Phase
At the beginning of each blogging cycle Luxe offers three or four ideas for my opinion. Concealed within this group of ideas is the one Luxe really wants to write about and will end up doing anyway, no matter what I say. My job is to help coax this hidden preference out and thus affirm the decision she’s already made. I learned early on never to outright reject any idea, as this only invites a blistering 20-minute cross examination on why. And never ever ever suggest that an idea has already been sufficiently covered on other blogs. This implies Luxe can’t find a clever angle and breathe new life into a topic. Like the time I tried steering her away from the “How to Negotiate Your Salary” post. Not only was I (rightfully) ignored, but I think she felt EXTRA motivated to write a good post so she could discourage me from ever again questioning her editorial instincts.
2) The Picture-Taking Phase
“Wait a second,” you might ask, “shouldn’t you wait until the end to take the pictures that run with the post? Wouldn’t it make more sense to leave the cute and fun part until after all the hard writing work is done?” FUNNY YOU SHOULD ASK, dear reader, because I happen to wonder this very same thing myself all the time. Alas, here she is taking pictures usually before even one word has been written. Like eating dessert before dinner, which, come to think of it, given Luxe’s raging sweet tooth isn’t that surprising.
You know those artfully arranged minimalist photos of Common Project shoes and designer bags you see on some of the posts here? Do you want to guess how many versions of each photo are taken before the final one is chosen? Well, it’s a shame I can’t tell you the answer because I don’t know how to type exponents on a computer! Here’s a typical back-and-forth from the picture-taking phase:
Luxe: “Which of these four pictures do you like best?”
Me: “They are all EXACTLY the same.”
Luxe: “No, they are not.”
Me: [pulling out my industrial-strength magnifying glass] “oh, you mean the one where the vase with the peonies is, like, 1.5 nanometers closer to the jeans? Or wait…maybe the one where the cuff of the jeans is at a 46 degree angle to the sneakers instead of 45 degrees?”
As with everything, Luxe is a perfectionist about these details and I trust that her choice of the pink background poster board instead of the light blue one was worth at least 1,000 extra page views for the “How To Sell Your Clothes on eBay” post. And the ironic thing is she HATES any kind of clutter, with the one exception being the permanent photo staging pile on the dresser in our bedroom. Somehow that’s exempt.
3) The Research Phase
The research phase is broadly defined and can last anywhere between 4 and 78 hours. “Research” can include any or all of the following: blogs, comment sections, online forums, Reddit, eBay, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, watching Lifetime movies, and sleeping. Here’s a typical conversation during the research phase.
“Honey, it’s late and your next post is due tomorrow.”
“Yeah, I know.”
“So, uh, what are you up to on your phone over there?”
“I’m doing research.”
“But it looks like you’re just scrolling through your twitter notifications.”
“That’s not research!”
“Yes it is, I’m researching social media marketing for the post.”
The entirety of my contribution to the research phase consists of me standing by in various contortions of anxiety wondering how on earth this post is gonna get finished on time.
4) The Outline Phase
One of my “innovations” for the LS blog has been suggesting Luxe do an outline before any writing begins. This eliminates a tense and complex Jenga-like rearranging of paragraphs during the editing phase by establishing a structure right up front. The outline phase is usually about the time I banish Luxe from the living room to go concentrate and work on “The Productivity Chaise” in another room. Free from being distracted by either my arresting handsomeness or whatever happens to be on the Lifetime Channel, miracles of productivity abound on the chaise. I don’t know what it is about this non-descript yet enchanted piece of furniture, but it somehow gets the blog motor running.
Occasionally during the outline phase I am consulted for my “Man On The Street” take.
Luxe: “Remember the time you had all that credit card debt? I’m trying to understand the thought process behind that. Did you think the money was just free?”
Me: [all defensive] “I DON’T KNOW! STOP!”
Luxe: “Honey, I’m not judging you, I’m just trying to understand the thought process there, if…in fact there was one.”
You know that comic strip from Highlights Magazine, Goofus and Gallant?
As I’ve mentioned, I have a history of being sort of a personal finance Goofus so I guess it’s not surprising that I can be useful in this way.
5) The Writing Phase
I can’t say much about the writing phase because most of it happens in the small hours of darkest night. Since I’m basically Amish at this point in life and fall asleep shortly after sundown I have no idea how it really goes down. I will say that my belief in Santa Claus has been revived because when I wake up in the morning there’s a good 2,500 words or so sitting in my inbox waiting to be edited. Or maybe it’s the Blog Fairy who shows up with some magic Blog Dust. I’ll never know, since I’ve never seen it happen. I should start leaving cookies and milk out for the Blog Fairy and see if I can trap Her. A couple of times I’ve woken up in the middle of the night and found Luxe fast asleep, glasses hanging off her face, laptop aglow and open to the google doc of her draft. So…I know it’s happening. But, much like that one grainy photo of Bigfoot, this is the closest I’ll ever come to an actual sighting of the writing phase.
6) The Editing Phase
Because of the aforementioned outline phase, the editing phase has become fairly quick and painless. HOWEVER, if I do have a critique, I had better be prepared to defend it like it’s my PhD dissertation. Some criticisms are initially met with less than welcome enthusiasm: a grumpy combination of folded arms and avoidance of eye contact. I get the same way whenever she edits something of mine so I can’t really complain, but DANG those first few minutes of the editing phase can get real frosty. In case you hadn’t noticed, Luxe does NOTHING half-assed and so even the parts I’ve left untouched are eligible for a grilling. “Are you sure this part works?” What about the beginning, is it too long?” The decision-making behind every semicolon and sub-headline will be proper and thorough and perfect or Luxe will die trying.
7) The “Maybe I Should Just Start Over” Phase
This one is the blogger husband equivalent of almost being left at the altar:
Luxe: “I’m not so sure about this post anymore…maybe I should just start over with something else.”
Me: “Wait, WHAT?”
Luxe: “I don’t know…”
Me: “No no no no no…after all that, the research, the writing, the pictures, being up half the night writing, you’re just going to toss it out the window??”
Fortunately this is always just a mild case of cold feet, the perfectionist forever questioning herself. It passes, but oh my God it gives me a heart attack every time and I have to resort to some Lamaze breathing just to calm down.
8) The Publishing Phase
A typical post is published somewhere between 8:00 – 10:00am, but lately TLS has become a true 24/7 operation. Those last few hours can be a white-knuckle thrill ride so intense it makes the bus ride in ‘Speed’ look like a quaint little merry-go-round. A couple weeks ago I woke up at 3:00am and there was Luxe wide awake working on some kind of spreadsheet. I woke up again at 4:30 and sure enough there she is putting the finishing touches on some graphics, as though it was the middle of the afternoon and she’s sitting at her desk in the office. What the hell is going on around here, I may have mumbled, disoriented and half asleep. Have I mentioned she can get by on, like, twenty minutes of sleep if she has to? Like the blogging equivalent of a Navy SEAL. A few times lately she’s even set her alarm for 5:30am so she can get up and publish before work. It’s as if I have a newborn! By this point shouldn’t my blogger already be sleeping through the night? Should I be feeding her closer to bedtime or maybe slipping a little something into her water? I’m a light sleeper and bolt upright awake if someone so much as drops a cotton swab so you can imagine my sleep schedule. Maybe when the blog turns one we’ll finally have a normal night time routine around here. I don’t understand how I end up so anxious and exhausted when I’M NOT EVEN THE ONE DOING ALL THE WORK.
9) The Hockey Dad Phase
As SOON as a post is published I start checking Twitter and checking the comments to see what people have to say. I’m basically an overzealous hockey Dad when it comes to this blog. I encourage, I coach, I nag, I cheer way too loudly, I worry, and yeah overall I get a little carried away sometimes. God help me if someone ever leaves a nasty comment on the blog; I can’t say how I’ll react. I hope I don’t jump over the boards and pick a fight like a real hockey dad would. I even started a new Twitter account so I could feel like I’m part of all the action. I know Luxe would prefer I not stray into her PF social media sandbox like an out-of-control toddler, but I think she should just feel grateful I don’t open a “Teddy Luxtagram” account and bug her over there, too.
So, yeah, I’m 100% invested in this! I want this blog to keep going for two main reasons 1) I am proud of Luxe for starting TLS, admire the dedication and long hours she puts in, and want to be as helpful and supportive as I can so she continues to succeed and 2) my early retirement plan depends entirely on this blog turning a profit soon. Once she starts selling a few $10,000 Luxe Strategist autographed luggage tassels we’ll have a beachfront Malibu condo with central AC and an infinity pool in no time. Help me out…those infinity pools look expensive!
Now, if you’ll excuse me, it’s just about time to start the cycle all over again and have my next freakout about the next “piece of cake” comment.
Image: Teddy Luxband