“I just called to say, I love you…” [bananas at Psar Leu market, Siem Reap]
For the first time since I’ve started Life, the Universe and Lani, this blog feels like an inadequate outlet. I wouldn’t go so far to say, I’ve outgrown it, but I need to make some changes.

Like a lot of bloggers, I read about how to be a better blogger, yadda, yadda, yadda (yup, decided to bring that back), but then I felt like I was reading the same thing, over and over again. Not only has the message become redundant, it’s become dogmatic. It’s ironic that the Internet has given everyone a voice, but so many are just repeating the same things.

So, I decided to stop reading those kinds of blogs and stop trying to come up with a “blogging plan”. Watching and studying the herd seemed like a good idea until I figured out the herd is trying to sell me the same insurance package.

I also got rid of my Pinterest account because who the hell needs one more social media platform to try to figure out. Then, of course, I saw an article about how it’s the fastest growing social media and laughed. Ugh. I can’t win.

Do I want to win?

It’s been almost a month since I’ve done this purge and I feel myself expanding in better ways. I’m reading more and I have more time to devote to – writing.

Back to the basics, girl. Back to the basics.

Reading at Psar Leu market.
Reading at Psar Leu market.

After all, the reason why I started blogging in the first place is because I love to read and write.

First, I signed up for a poem-a-day at poets.org because somewhere I had read that you should read more poetry and that sounded like a good idea. Plus, I love poetry. Words are powerful magic and poetry strips down all those words right down to their naked selves. That’s right. It was time to get naked. Brrrrr.

Next, I signed up for How Writers Write Fiction, a MOOC course run by the illustrious University of Iowa. I’ve done a few classes with them and they reminded me that they had another one coming up, so why not? It’s free. It’s a great way to gain new ideas. I go at my own pace and participate as little or as much as I want to.

Lastly, I kicked myself into gear and started working on the second book again. It needed to be done. I had to stop avoiding it. Hey, it’s not like I don’t want to write it, it’s just there are so many excuses to come up with, so I don’t do it! With {the missing teacher}, I pretty much worked in chronological order, even though I played with the structure several times in the earlier phases. But with #2, I’m working with short stories.

It will be my second memoir, and my theme will be on growing up Asian American.

Which actually got me thinking of the first book and the other blog, {the missing teacher} and I’ve been updating it on blogger. It’s a lot of work, but the change has been dramatic because my old theme was REALLY ancient and now I’m in the middle of updating posts. It’s a good blog with a unique point of view so it gets a lot of views through Google searches alone.

Which brings me back to Life, the Universe and Lani…it needs an update, too. I’m thinking of moving it (again) to its own domain name and hosting. My prior experience really burned me and I lost money so I’ll be moving at a glacial pace and if I still feel this way in December (when I have oodles of time), I’ll be doing the move then. Your advice and thoughts on this are most welcomed.

What’s going on “behind the scenes” with you?

Found. Thai food in the French Quarter.
Found. Thai food in the French Quarter.

41 replies on “✍🏼 Behind the scenes: a blogging + writing life

  1. I hear you. It’s hard to fit everything in, and sometimes you do have to take a step back and focus. (But the fans, Lani! Why won’t you think about the fans!)

    I’ll have to find your posts on your first memoir and how that all came about. So don’t hide them!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I don’t like that WP put adverts on each blog post. I don’t see them and WP users don’t see them, but readers without AdBlock will see them and think it’s from me. I understand that I’m using a free service, but I’d rather I had some choice in the matter that didn’t involve me shelling out money. I mean, I have no idea what they put on my site. It’s suppose to be my site, right?

      I’m also frustrated with the limitations of WP. Having experienced a self-hosted site before I know how much better it is – even Blogger has some really nice features that have made me wonder if I should go back.

      We’ll see though. Free is nice. Especially in unpredictable times.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I had no idea you had another blog Lani. That is so cool, and a blog about being a teacher and education. It must be hard maintaining two blogs. Love your reason for blogging in the first place is that you love writing and reading. Me too – and it’s a sentiment that keeps me grounded each time I ask myself where do I want to take my writing, and blog.

    Haha, I’m another one who doesn’t use Pinterest either. I have an account, but barely touched it since I made it. I am thinking of putting in more effort into my GoodReads account, though. It’s certainly a great way to keep track of books I’ve read and books others like fellow writers whom I follow like to read. I am so looking forward to your second book, good luck with it 😉

    As for behind-the-scenes with me: I’ve been thinking about where I want to take my blog. The thought of migrating to my own domain outside of WordPress has always been around my mind but I feel that I can achieve what I want to achieve where my blog is currently at. Other than that, I’m focusing on my real-life job and living life 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Well, you have a great community surrounding your blog. I think that helps you to feel satisfied and you’ve also recently updated your header and theme.

      For me, I change focus and don’t really have a niche, so people don’t know what to expect from me + expats come and go with great frequency. So I have to think about what I need or want to do without feeling any resentment.

      To be frank, I think Pinterest is ugly. I forced myself to try it and use it, but it never “clicked” for me and so finally I stopped bothering. I think focusing on Goodreads makes more sense!

      The other blog pretty much runs itself. I don’t do much to do it and that’s why I’ve thought about getting rid of it and phasing it out, but I think I want to keep it maintained. I’m amazed that people keep finding it.

      Thanks for being part of the journey, Mabel 🙂


      1. I’ve always thought of your blog as an expat blog since I feel most of the posts I read here touch on that topic. And through that you are able to connect with fellow expat bloggers. Very cool to have a network like that. Only time will tell where my blog is headed 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Only time will tell where we’re all headed! Yes, I’m glad you feel the same way about my blog. It felt like it took me a long time to recognize that my blog fit into the “expat” category as insane as that might sound.

        Thanks for your kind words, as always, Mabel.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Yes, blogging can consume your time. But one can learn so much though.

    Good luck with the second book.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I hear you, Lani. I am also at a place where I need a change with my blog, and I am mulling over a new approach. I’ve been sitting with it for a while now, so I guess I will soon have to start doing something about it. Change, in my opinion, is always a good thing, otherwise we will just stagnate. That said, it is not always easy to veer off the path we are on, but hey, it is always worth a try. Good luck with that second book. I am keen to see what you will choose to do on the blogging front. Whatever you decide to do, don’t forget to have fun. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Good luck on your decision, Lani. I’ve tried self-hosting when I was looking after a blog for my partner’s business ventures. I actually couldn’t spend oodles of time and found self-hosting just annoying and inconvenient in terms of figuring out problems.

      I like the ease of .com freebie where everything was tested for us. Then I can concentrate on writing, cycling and art. 😀 I understand about the ads, but I don’t notice them anymore.

      For my blog, I wish to find a theme that is fresher but has certain features. I’m picky… However I don’t feel like investing many hours to fix photos when certain themes demand it when changing over…

      What kinda pisses off, is over time, how good favourite blog posts get covered up with newer ones. I try to highlight old faves..so will have to look into other techniques.

      I have a writer in family. She’s my niece and writes romance.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thanks for your honest reply. Yes, I remember all to well contacting the help desk for my self-hosting problems, mainly problems on their end. It was frustrating. I suppose we take for granted that WP works – but I’d like to think that other bloggers have not had any problems with self-hosting, too.

        Yeah, the themes for WP. I know, right? Blogger, on the other hand, has really stepped up their game. Their themes are light years ahead of what they used to be.

        As far as reviving old blog post, I just have my archive page. It’s not the best solution, but it works if anyone wants to go digging around. Also, my “best of Thailand” page highlights some goodies from that life. You could do something similar.

        Ohhh, I could never write romance. I’m too immature! 😛

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I do plan to a page on favourite blog posts and ones with some surprising readership results. Right now, I have a bit of a line-up on future posts. So I hope hand out my bons-bons, slowly. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

    2. Thanks, Jolandi. I’m glad I’m not the only one feeling this way. Now I wonder what you’ll end up doing, too.

      Yeah, in this day in age of “just a click away” change, I’m going to try to sit on this even longer than I’d like. I’m much more impulsive, but I’ll just have to explore and think about what I want from my blog, and what is the point of it…you know, deep questions. Hahahhaha. Thanks for the “fun” reminder. Always one to remember.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. The Internet is so swamped with people speaking their minds all the time that it can become rather noisy out there. I really want my voice to be clear and distilled, and not just add to the noise, and although I am game for change, I am also one of those people who has to contemplate new ideas for a looooong time, before I am comfortable to act. So I am as curious as you to see what I will come up with in the end. 🙂 Happy thinking and planning.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Yes, I find myself a lot more hesitant to put stuff out there. In the past, I was much more fearless and so I thought this feeling must be because I’ve been in the game longer (so to speak) or maybe getting older. You’ve hit it though…what can I say that doesn’t just add to the noise?

        Liked by 1 person

  5. I never got really into these kind of “how to be a better blogger” blogs. In the beginning I checked few things but forgot about them immediatly.
    For myself the only special behind the scenes is that I hope to find some time to get my youtube channel designed/ getting into the same kind of style as my blog, twitter and facebook page. So nothing really too much but still enough that I didnt manage it thus far

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Sigh… blogging strategy blogs sound so tiresome. Though I might have a more consistent blog ‘brand’ if I didn’t simply decide to write about whatever odd thing happened to me or popped into my head that week… Good luck thinking your next moves through.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, they are tiresome and actually depress you because you are constantly feeling like you have to do this or that. So, I decided to look away and I feel a lot better for it. Thanks.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Back to basics, that’s such an important thing to do, but so hard for me to remember sometimes. I don’t know why. Life, I guess. Yay for your 2nd book. I can’t wait to read it. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Hahaha, yes. I often go through the trying-to-learn-from-bloggers thing. But the blog world is a little funny because everyone’s trying to learn so much from each other that it’s gotten really incestuous and redundant.

    Excited to see where your blog goessss 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Michelle. No, pressure, right? 😛 And yes, the “How to be a better blogger world” has gotten incestuous and redundant. I think they’ve reached a saturation point. A lot of blogs have started to look the same, too, as everyone tries to copy success (or what they think it looks like). Sigh.


  9. Good for you, who needs a blogging plan? At least, make your own 😀

    I totally know what you mean about being stretched thin on social media sites…

    Naked words “brrrrr”, haha

    Best of luck with your writing!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I really like your blog, but wasn’t sure why, and this article got me to poke around and think about why. I think it’s because you’re a good writer, you tell stories well in your own voice, but without an agenda looming over the site, a “blog plan” for converting your words into a big money maker. I think it’s a really good thing that you make your living as a teacher, because it means you don’t have to milk your blog for income, which keeps it free, which lets you be yourself and write in your own voice. If you make changes, try not to change that part. I like having a place I can read stories without feeling like someone is trying to sell me something.

    “After all, the reason why I started blogging in the first place is because I love to read and write.”

    Straight forward, simple, the truth. Stick to that! It is why you should continue to blog, while pursuing your new directions. Iowa Writers’ Workshop, OMG my favorite writer was in residence there for two years, teaching one course each semester, Kurt Vonnegut!

    The ads are very unobtrusive, in fact I didn’t even think there were any ads at all and then I finally spotted one and then eventually three, but only one per blog post, and all from “asana,” whatever that is. I appreciate your desire to be ad free, after all, they are not in your voice. I clicked on the “About these ads” link and learned you are on the WP free plan and for $99/year you could switch to Premium and then the ads would go away, plus you could use your own domain. Maybe an easy solution? Otherwise you are thrown into the vast ocean of platform alternatives, which can use up incredible amounts of your time; time away from your reading and writing.

    I really liked your missing teacher manifesto, an honest expression of a desire to have some positive impact on, well . . . life, the universe and Lani! Maybe include a bit of that in your About page here to give the reader a better understanding of the blog title, with a link to the longer read.

    Next, Pinterest may be growing fast, but that’s because it’s a picture website and people like to share pictures. But you’re a writer and it’s a horrible platform for writing. You can include a nicely written comment about any picture you post, but when someone copies one of your pictures to their own Pinterest page, that comment goes along with the picture and then it looks like THEY were the ones who wrote YOUR brilliant comment! A major flaw in their platform for a writer.

    Finally, I notice your blog posts always get comments. That is a verrrry good thing, and not that common any more. I read many blog posts, many even by the “big names” in blogging (and nearly everything I’ve ever posted on my own blogs) that have NO comments. That is the norm, so appreciate that measure of your success as a writer.

    Keep up the good work!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wow. Thanks so much for the encouragement and thoughtful remarks. I’ll make the changes to my About page. Good idea.

      Right. Teaching gets me out of the house (otherwise, I don’t think I would leave – haahahaha) + it gets me out into the local community. I actually enjoy it, too. But I hear what you are saying. Working outside of blogging keeps the desperation out of my voice and out of my blog.

      It’s actually quite difficult to make money blogging, unless it’s about telling people how to make money blogging and so I want to be clear that I wouldn’t start trying to sell anything per se, but I like the idea of controlling my own space. We’ll see. You’ve made excellent points.

      Lastly, I didn’t know you blogged! Thanks again, Ron. Your comment was a good thing for me to read this morning. I needed it.


  11. First of all I want to say how much I enjoyed these photos. I must be missing the kind of market that has all those delicious bananas hanging over my head.

    The novel I’m writing now is about the expat experience (an American in the Philippines and then in Vanuatu). So I enjoy reading blogs written by expats. To tell the truth, I haven’t found that many good ones. Yours is one of my favorites.

    Behind the scenes for me? I just keep plugging along, trying to find enough time to write and blog. One thing I like about blogging is that it gives me a reason to find the meaningful nugget in each of my experiences, past and present.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks 🙂

      I’ll be looking forward to reading about your expat experiences and I need read your Tiger Tail Soup book, too. You seem to have had such an interesting life and point of view.

      Yes, blogging can be a great way to sluth out what’s important to us.


  12. With regards to ‘how to be a better blogger’ posts, I personally believe what works for one may not work for another.

    I have been limiting my time on social media these days and getting back to basics. Pinterest may drive traffic to my site, but it is time consuming and I am guilty of wasting too much time on it.

    Now, my mind is back to where it is suppose to be – on editing my book, working on my second book [when I feel those ideas are flowing non-stop], and enjoying life. I started my blog as an outlet to share my ideas and pictures, not to become famous – that is what I want it to be again.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. I have been feeling the same way lately. Especially after falling so far behind on reading blogs during my (really quick) recovery version and just feeling overwhelmed and wondering why I am doing this to myself. All the joy has left the writing and now I just feel like I have to be this really boring marketing machine.
    I do love Pinterest though 🙂 Twitter is a hard one for me really.
    Also, I am sooooo excited that you are writing another book! I loved your first one! Hooray!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m glad I’m not the only one, not because I want everyone to be feeling the same way as me, but becasue misery loves company! 555+ Actually, I hope you get back to the basics, too. At least then we can say we are enjoying blogging. Or take a break?

      Yeah, that’s the good thing about social media, there seems to be something for everyone 😛 I just couldn’t get into Pinterest. I still haven’t gotten into Instagram! I like Twitter, but I probably don’t do it in any clever or smart way. It just seems straight-forward and I like that.

      Thanks for the encouragement Jen! ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  14. “It’s ironic that the Internet has given everyone a voice, but so many are just repeating the same things.” Ouch! This is so tweetable 🙂

    As I was reading, I kept thinking Lani has her hands full. But when I got to this, I realized you’re as ‘busy’ as you want to be: I go at my own pace and participate as little or as much as I want to.
    Still how do you juggle all?

    Your blog theme is attractive and the content is rich. I am partial to the shorter posts, but the longer ones are engaging as well. You make the places where you live as an expat come alive. I’ve also enjoyed your guest posts. In my opinion, you’ve been consistent with your subject matter.

    As for self-hosting, I dunno. I’m not ready to take the plunge. You’ve got experience, so your decision-making should be easy.

    All the best with the changes lined up for the future. Yes, we shouldn’t forget that reading and writiing are our firts loves 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks. I don’t think I do very well juggling it all to be honest. I feel like I don’t have time to read all the blogs I want lately, but since I told myself that I need to get working on the book that has taken priority.

      I’m also trying to branch out from blogs, too, so that takes up a lot of time as well. But it’s all good – reading, writing, repeating. 🙂

      I think I’m getting closer to deciding on self-hosting. I find my theme tolerable at best, maybe it’s just restlessness. I mean, will having a theme I like better really do much more? Hmmmm. Decisions, decisions.

      Liked by 1 person

  15. I don’t know anything about self-hosting. I’m too busy and too lazy to switch to another platform, and WP is tolerable and FREE! Well, I think I’m paying like $25 for a URL w/out wordpress in it.

    I do have to say about blogging that in the beginning I cared so much about stats and who was reading and who I was reaching. I felt like I need to blog often to keep readers (which is probably true), but now that I don’t care, I’m less stressed about it. I mean the main reason I started the blog was for me, to get my thoughts out there and maybe some of those thoughts will resonate with people and start conversations. Maybe not.

    But….I don’t know if I would call myself a writer, exactly. I am professionally (marketing, greeting cards, blah, blah, blah), but not in a real writer way (you know what I mean). So I think maybe your desire to write and blog and get stuff out there into the universe is much stronger than mine, which probably makes a big difference in how you view platforms and social media and all of that. Good luck and keep us posted on any changes (and if you do change, write more than one blog entry about it b/c I sometimes miss stuff!!!).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah, I don’t feel as strongly about changing as I did when I first wrote this. I think this is why it’s good to have someone tell you to wait and frankly I don’t have the time to do anything until the Christmas holidays when I will…so I’m still letting it all simmer. I think decisions like these are the worst when you can’t make up your mind because will it make much of a difference one way or another?

      Liked by 1 person

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