Sunday, March 13, 2011
Most of you know my "day job" is my other blog, Cake Wrecks. (Well, ok, now all of you know.) I created Epbot as a kind of pressure valve for CW; it's where I come to blow off steam. I quickly learned that I didn't need to talk about my stress to relieve it, though; writing about fun things other than cake, and interacting with those of you who share so many common interests, was really all I needed.
Still, sometimes I hear from one or two of you asking about my day job, either for advice on how to grow your own blog, or just for an insider's peek at what it's like to write for 80,000+ people a day.
Advice could easily fill a book, but I can answer the latter in four words:
Granted, there are a lot of caveats to that. Obviously it doesn't always suck. Sometimes it's amazingly wonderful. Sometimes I can sit back, look at the next day's post, and feel a small spark of pride over that one particular punch line that I just *know* is funny.
Then the post goes up, and - sometimes - everyone gets mad at me.
Hey, it goes with the territory, I know. Frankly, if you're writing online and NOT ticking off someone, you're probably not doing your job right. And to be fair, we usually get very, very, VERY little criticism. So if half a dozen people are reading us the riot act at once, it can feel like our own personal Dooms Day. Rational? Of course not. Human? I like to think so.
Every person I talk to about CW always asks, "Do you get a lot of bakers mad at you?" The answer is we really don't. In the history of the blog we've had less than a dozen bakers ask us to remove a photo. Considering that we have well over 5,000 photos posted, those aren't bad odds!
What no one expects - and certainly, what *I* never expected - is that you get far more flak from readers for joking around about, well, anything. Over the years I've learned to self-censor pretty well, but we still get knocked on our tuckuses once in a while over, say, claiming that a certain kind of dessert is a deep-fried donut. When it's NOT. [twitch]
And rather than dying down, sometimes these ridiculous "controversies" only escalate further with time. Arguments between readers break out. Lectures on "cultural sensitivity" are given. Tweets of deep "disappointment" are written, and curt, "Unfollowing" comments are left.
All this, over cake.
So, yeah: sometimes it sucks.
Again, it happens. You have to take the bad with the good, and try to keep in mind that 99.5% of readers are *not* offended, and that many of the remaining .5% are just plain loony. In fact, for every "controversy" we've ever had, we've always gained readers in the long run.
However, let's say you're having a particularly rough Monday. The kind of Monday where your new accountant calls up and tells you that your *old* accountant has been royally messing up your taxes and payroll, so much so that it's likely you now owe the government a sum roughly equivalent to half of your home's purchase price.
Then let's say an hour later the sweet college girl you pay for monthly house-cleaning gets mad and quits when you ask her not to bring her unemployed boyfriend along to "help."
Now, reeling from dramas big and small, you log on to moderate comments on a nice, safe, easy King Cake post. And you get lectured. Yelled at. Accused of who-knows-what. There are even e-mails, earnestly explaining baking techniques, traditions, and why someone as ignorant as yourself should not be writing a blog.
This was not me I'm talking about, by the way: it was John. He's the one who handles everything in the morning, because, frankly, I've learned that if I work until 4AM and sleep 'til noon, I get to skip any surprise morning ambushes. And after that triple-whammy, I'm kind of impressed John didn't post a big blinking "EFF YOU ALL VERY MUCH" on CW and shut the whole thing down then and there.
Instead, he woke me up.
And let's just say that this time *I* wasn't the one throwing dining room chairs around.
I like to look for humor in horror, so to speak, so Monday night I wrote a post that honestly made me giggle. After three years, those kinds of posts don't happen too often, so I cherish them when they do.
Needless to say, the reaction to Tuesday's post was even worse.
Adding to that, Tuesday afternoon we had an hour-long conference call with our accountants, which involved a lot of incredulous "And who advised you to do THAT?" on their part, and a lot of shell-shocked, confused silence on ours.
Tuesday night, John showed me this insanely hilarious King Cake photo which had just been submitted. I looked at him and said, "No. We can't. We just...CAN'T." Then I looked at the cake again, and knew we'd never be able to post it any other time, and that we really needed more posts for that week, and I thought, 'How much worse can it get?' And I wrote the post, and I went to bed.
By the time I emerged from the bedroom Wednesday, comments were already shut down. John was gone. Julianne, my friend and part-time helper, emerged from the office wide-eyed to explain that he'd taken comments off-line after only two hours.
"Well, that's a record," I said. Then I logged off of Twitter, shut down e-mail, and went and read a book.
That afternoon I had a doctor's appointment, because over the weekend I'd had a relapse of my health problem. (Which I feel kind of bad blaming all on that poor corset.) It was my first relapse in nearly two months: another record. I'd been starting to think I was cured. I'd even been writing (and deleting, and writing again) posts about it for here on Epbot, so I could share with you all how amazing I've been feeling, and how wonderful life has been, and how excited I was to face the future again.
But the badness came back. Perhaps as a hefty dose of foreshadowing, too, since it brought with it a pretty bad week.
Still, it could always be worse. We get a surprising amount of fan mail for a goofy cake blog, and there were a few encouraging e-mails this week about the King Cake fiasco in particular. Lots of 'LOL's and "Don't ever stop!"s and such. This was one of the weeks when those e-mails really made a difference. (Of course, most readers had no idea a problem even existed, since most readers [wisely] never venture into the comments.)
We've increased my treatments back up to once a week, since my relapse occurred during our first attempt at spacing them out to two weeks. I still don't feel as well as I did 8 days ago, but I have hope that I may again soon. (And when that time comes, I look forward to telling you guys all about it.)
I tend to clean when I'm stressed, so having the cleaner quit gave me something nice and physical to do. There's nothing like scrubbing bathroom floors on your hands and knees to give you a fresh bit of perspective over some stranger online calling you a misogynist.
And, at the end of the day, if we do owe the government half the amount of what our house cost, then I guess we'll get through that, too. It won't be easy, but it could always be worse.
At the very least, I might not have you guys, or this blog.
[Note: After writing this post I spent some time catching up on the current disaster in Japan, and was reminded yet again how petty my problems really are. It also reminded me that helping others is often the best way to lift yourself out of a funk, so if that's you, too, click here for a list of ways you can help the Japanese people.]
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