A How They Blog Interview with Deidra Riggs
Give us a quick intro to you, your family and your blog.
My husband and I live in an empty nest on the Nebraska plains where life “as they say” is good. We have two adult children, one farm dog, and I proudly profess an undying devotion to disco music, Motown, and long bike rides beneath the wide open sky.
My blog has become a safe place to ask tough questions and to figure out together how to tear down the walls we have built to keep one another at a distance. This blog is where it all got started. I write about life as I see it; about race in the Body of Christ; and about living with courage, even when you’re scared to death. Most of the time, I’m just trying to figure it out. But always, I’m saving a place at the table for you.
2. Tell us your blogging story.
In 2007, I was working for an insurance company. It was a great company, and they took really good care of me. I had the best manager ever, and a really cool team of coworkers. One day, my coworker asked if I’d ever considered blogging. I didn’t even really know what a blog was, but my friend showed me a blog called How About Orange. First of all, orange is my favorite color, and secondly, the blog was beautiful. I thought to myself, “I should try that.” And I did.
I’m pretty impulsive, so I didn’t have a plan or a strategy for blogging. I like to write, I like nice design, and I lived far away from my family members. I thought a blog might be a good way to keep our friends and family updated on what was going on in our lives. That first post of mine is still out there somewhere in cyberspace, and if you buy me slice of Polynesian Pizza from Yia Yia’s, I might share the link with you.
I’ve only ever had this one blog, but I started on Blogger and now I use WordPress. I don’t know the answers to the technical questions, but I can tell you I like both platforms. Blogger was easy to start with and then, when I decided to have the smart, talented, and beautiful Erin Ulrich redesign my blog, we switched it over to WordPress. And by “we” I mean she.
With blogging, I have done all the things we all do. I’ve tried to write the way other people write. I’ve tried to monetize. I’ve tried to understand SEO and RSS and stats and all the numbers. You know what I’ve found out? My blog is a reflection of me. I’ve got to use my own voice. Monetizing doesn’t work for me, so I don’t do it. When I try to pay attention to numbers, they drive me crazy, so I’ve turned off all those stat notifications and reader numbers and follower counts. I have no idea how many people subscribe to my blog. Those things work for other people, but not for me. I like being married to my husband, and if I have all those numbers turned on, it makes being married to me a very difficult task.
Kat and Crystal have asked me to “feel free to share anything that might be helpful for growing bloggers,” and I’m going to tell you something. I think it’s best to not worry so much about growing my readership and, instead, focus on what it will take to allow God to grow a better me. I think “growing bloggers” means letting God be in charge of all the words and all the readers and all the comments and all the shares, so that our relationship with him is the most important thing. Just because I think that doesn’t mean I do it all the time. I still get caught up in the craziness of ranking and comparing and forgetting my own voice. But ideally, I want God to grow me, more than I want him to grow my readership. — Tweet This!
3. Tell us about a blogging “success” or “failure” that taught you a powerful lesson.
In 2012, I had the sudden idea (I told you I’m impulsive) to take The Nester up on her 31 Day Challenge. I had written for 31 days the year before, and decided I’d do it again. The first time I did it, I wrote about living smaller, and shared insights from selling our big house, getting rid of a bunch of stuff, and moving into a tiny rental where we still live today. That series had been fun, and this time around I decided I’d write about 31 Days In My Brown Skin. I wanted to write something about race, specifically as it relates to the North American church.
I contacted Rachel Goode, a fellow blogger who is white and who had adopted a brown daughter. I wanted to know if Rachel would be willing to write a guest post for the series. She was excited, and immediately agreed to participate and, when our email exchange was done I thought, “Nah. I’m not gonna write that. Who wants to deal with that?” and I put the idea out of my mind.
Well, about one week before the launch of that year’s 31 Days Challenge, I happened upon a tweet from Rachel in which she was excitedly sharing the news that, for 31 days in October, a black woman would be writing about race. I was instantly intrigued, and so excited that someone was going to tackle this touchy subject! I clicked on the link in Rachel’s tweet, intending to subscribe to this woman’s series and I thought I would pass out right there when that link led me to a photo of me!
I know, right?!?!
So, I took a deep breath and jumped in and I can’t begin to tell you how very right that was. More than a year later, we are still having these conversations at my blog – conversations where people ask the tough questions, give the tough answers, and shower one another in grace. It’s incredible, really. And what I learned from that is that, ultimately, the blog belongs to God. God clearly wanted to create a safe space for people to have these conversations and, for some reason, he thought my blog would be the right place.
4. What are the intangibles that have helped you succeed?
There are a couple of things that I think have helped in my blogging journey, and I can’t take credit for either of them.
First would be my season of life. Something happens after 40, 45, and beyond, that makes it a bit easier to do things others would consider risky, or even brave. I’m not as invested in my reputation or my own success as I used to be when I was younger.
Second would be my family. My husband and my children support me in this craziness. They are my biggest fans, and the most important people in my life.
Gadget and App Recommendations
1. How do you capture your blog ideas?
I have a journal and I write more in my journal than on my blog, or anywhere else. I have kept a journal since I was about sixteen years old. It is still my favorite way to write. I also keep a sheet of paper or a small notebook (or an old receipt or a used envelope) beside my bed for those middle-of-the-night or early morning epiphanies. And…I think every writer should have one of these!
2. What are your most useful phone/tablet apps?
On Social Media and Writing
1. How do you keep social media from running your life? Is it a struggle for you? Any social media management tips?
Social media is like watching kids grow up. If you live with them, you don’t necessarily notice they’re growing until they walk through the kitchen and you notice their pants are too short, or their toes are hanging over the front of their flip-flops. Their growing sneaks up on you. Social media is a lot like that. At first, you have a flip phone bouncing around in the bottom of your purse, and before you know it, a smartphone is a permanent fixture in the palm of your hand, and each lag in conversation results in everyone checking Facebook instead of enjoying the comfortable silence or pressing in just a bit further.
I sort of have a social media manifesto. When I’m writing, I close down all tabs in my browser except for WordPress and Pandora. I don’t take my phone with me to events where I’ll have the opportunity to engage in face-to-face conversations. I don’t take my phone to church. We don’t bring our phones to the dinner table. I don’t keep my phone in my bedroom, and, in the morning, I don’t check email or texts or status updates (on my phone or laptop) until after I’ve spent some time on the couch with a cup of decaf, a few words from the Bible, and a prayer that God will be in charge of the day.
2. What is your writing process? When do you write? How long does it take you to create a post?
I am always writing. In my head, I always have a pen in my hand, and a journal lying open in my lap. I am constantly taking it in, and studying people, and making up stories for them. It’s the way it’s always been.
Words are my favorite, and stories are beautiful. –> Tweet this!
By the time I sit down to write a blog post, I already have most of it written in my head. It takes me about an hour to actually get it typed out, and then I edit, and add links and images. Then, I hit publish. But the post has actually taken days, and sometimes even weeks to write. Only, it’s all in my head, until it isn’t. To get it out of my head and onto the blog, I often have aimless and odd conversations with my husband who endures all my words with great patience and encouragement. He’s the best.
3. Do you have a blogging mentor or accountability group (formal or informal)? How have you created and fostered those relationships?
I have a lot of great friends who do what I do. We share life together, and, because we write about life, what we share impacts what and how we write. We can’t not talk about writing when we’re together. It’s our common denominator. Well, writing and Jesus. Two good things.
Mostly, we communicate online. We are writers, and phone calls aren’t our favorite. We send cards and we write letters and we save them in pretty bags or boxes because those words are treasures. Sometimes, we get together for a glass of wine, a home cooked meal, a conference or a retreat, and it always feels like the best thing ever. You know how the Bible says to weep with those who weep and celebrate with those who celebrate? Yeah. We do that. And I am a better person because of it.
4. What is the best blogging advice you have received? (OR) What is the best blogging advice you could give?
My husband always gives me the best advice. He says two things: “You can’t help but tell your story,” and “You can only be you.”
Q & A with Deidra Riggs
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