That’s right. To celebrate this blog’s fourth anniversary this month, I got myself interviewed. I asked the bloggers I have featured in the Blogger Adventure column to email me their questions. Some were easy and some were hard to answer, but all made me think and empathise with the process I put people through for the feature.
What inspired you to start your blog? Had it been something you had planned to do for some time? (Vicki Loomes, Girls do Film, October 2013)
I was writing for numerous online publications at uni and interning at Drapers magazine. One of the publications turned down a pitch on a topic which I thought really mattered. That’s when I decided to blog on my own platform, so I could write about anything I felt like. In retrospect, the topic can’t have been that important because I never wrote about it.
I had never entertained the idea of launching a public blog before (I was already writing a password-protected one to update my sister on my life) because I felt my writing could get better exposure on existing and respected platforms. My uni years were all about getting my writing noticed. Having my own blog, with the digital work and community building it implied, didn’t seem fit for this purpose.
Blogging under my own name is different from writing for somebody’s publication: it’s much more personal. I am responsible for the content I publish so, in a way, it needs to be even better. But I can also write much more freely. I can take my time to publish an article, and wait until it reaches a standard I am happy with. There is no word limit. I can switch the angle half-way through and do any hyperlinking I want.
Will we ever get a glimpse into the life of Lucie Goulet? I feel like I know your mind and intellectual preoccupations but, unlike most bloggers, your day to day living is a mystery! Is this on purpose? (Jessica Stanley, READ. LOOK. THINK., December 2012)
It’s completely on purpose and also because it isn’t that interesting. My sister regularly bugs me to be more personal in my posts because she thinks it would make for a better reading, but I don’t feel comfortable with it.
Blogging is a big part of my day-to-day living anyway. To write long form posts like I do on Fashion Abecedaire, I spend time writing, researching etc. Blog entries take me anything between four hours and a day to write, which is why there are some months when I write more than others.
My reluctance to get too personal goes against what numbers are telling me. The posts where I reveal myself most, for instance the one about moving to London or my review of Laura Vanderkam’s What the most successful people do before breakfast, which turned into a post on why I like getting up early, tend to do better, if not from a Google Analytics point of view, but from the likes, reblogs and comments left. Understanding how people manage their life, so you can improve yours, is a big part of what people seek in blogs.
I blog about myself in a different way, by writing about what interests me. I don’t have a single focus, unlike bloggers I have interviewed: fashion in film at Girls Do Film or workplace leadership at *popforms for instance. The common link between all my articles is that they all are about topics I feel I can contribute to.
This lack of direction used to frustrate me, until I put together an editorial calendar. The first step was to audit all the articles I had written in the run up to July 2013. I then realised I only write 12 different types of blog entries. So there is more of a direction in my blog than I used to think, and using the editorial calendar has reinforced it.
What are the challenges of writing on such a range of themes and topics in English as a non-native speaker? (Stacy-Marie Ishmael, #awesomewomen, November 2013)
Most of what I write these days is in English and I have reached a point where words flow as naturally in English as in French. When I struggle to express any idea or feeling, I generally turn the structure of the sentence around. I didn’t realise until I started doing English-French translation how fundamentally different sentence structures are between both languages. If something doesn’t read right, it’s because of the order of the words, rather than the idea I put in it.
From the moment I start a blog post on a topic until I send it to my subeditor, I forbid myself from thinking about it in French. It gets tricky when I write about something where most sources are in French. In that case I take notes in English so I’m not too influenced by French structures.
Using as few words as possible is one of my writing obsessions. If my draft hasn’t shrunk by at least 15% between its first iteration and the one I send my sub, I am doing something wrong. Adverbs and “ands” are the first thing to go, followed by expressions of doubt such as “I feel” or “I think”.
Françoise Giroud, one of my favourite French journalist and feminist writer, used to say that a writer should always choose the lesser of two words. She also said that writing wasn’t something you could learn but something you had to work at.
The structure and flow of an argument concerns me more than grammar and spelling. They can be improved with research, learning and a good sub whereas the other two are harder to nail. When an article is stuck in my draft folder for weeks, it’s because I can’t organise the paragraphs in a natural way.
I asked Vicki Loomes to sub my blog entries nearly a year ago to avoid the pitfalls of writing in English as a non-native speaker. She’s also proved invaluable in pointing out to the missing part of an argument, or an angle I had ignored. It was part of my attempt at taking the blog more seriously and also at making sure that what I publish under my name is really good.
Why did you chose Tumblr for your blog? I associate Tumblr with bite-sized content, mainly images, optimised for virality. Your blog, on the other hand, is so thoughtful. (Jessica Stanley)
I blogged on a number of platforms before starting Fashion Abecedaire: Wordpress for the LSE Students’ Union election blogs, Typepad as London Fashion Intern, Blogger for a private blog shared with my sister…
Fashion Abecedaire, in its first, short-lived iteration, was actually on Blogger. It lasted a couple of weeks before I read an article about how Tumblr was the next big thing for fashion blogging. I didn’t understand at the time that Tumblr worked best for pictures, a functionality I now use for my Waves from the Mulberry Superhero blog.
My photosets always get the most likes and reblogs. Some have more than 200 notes, which I was a bit shocked to discover! Longform isn’t what people come to Tumblr for. That’s why I now do longform next to photosets, it gets me more hits.
I stick with Tumblr because it is easier than having to migrate all the content to a new site. Plus, I love how easy it is to create new content. I also love the fandom aspect of Tumblr, which this blog isn’t part of but which I can get involved in thanks to the dashboard.
Do you have any creative rituals? What does your writing process look like? (Stacy-Marie Ishmael)
Tea. You taught me that actually Stacy, using tea for a better writing flow. I realised last year that most of my articles are around the 700 words mark, which didn’t make much sense - except it is exactly how long it takes me to drink the content of my teapot (I’ve timed it).
When I get too stuck with an article, I abandon it. For instance, WWAHD: What would Audrey Hepburn do? was in my drafts, worked, reworked and re-reworked for over a year. In the end, I turned it upside down, which works when I can’t move forward. When I first write, I have a habit of leaving the crux of an argument till the end, which just doesn’t flow when you read it.
How do you think the readers of your blog perceive you, based on your writing? Does it match who you are? I’m asking because I thought you were older than you are before I met you. (Rachel Malcolm, Francofille, June 2013)
In real life, people assume I am younger than I am, which has been a problem at customs before. People believing I am younger when they see me but older when they read me is the perfect balance though.
I like to think readers can get a picture of who I am and, if not of how old I am, at least of how old my brain and soul are. Even as a child, I wanted to sound (and be) smart and wise and I think the blog still reflects that, at times in a rather self-conscious way.
Blogging isn’t just about being who you are though, it’s about presenting who you want to be, or at least who you want other people to think you are, to the outer world. There is a weird autobiographical pact with blogging, of being both an honest and an unreliable writer. Take many style bloggers for instance: they seem to live a glamorous life but many, off the front row, struggle to make ends meet or experience visa issues.
Fashion is clearly an important part of your career and blogging identity, but you also focus a lot of reading and writing on Fashion Abecedaire (book reviews, Blogger Adventure, etc). Where do you think these two things overlap? (Kate Stull, *popforms, January 2014)
I like reading as much as I like fashion (probably more in fact), so writing about it felt like a natural extension. Fashion and books overlap: books teach me about fashion and in fiction, and I learn a lot about a character from his/her outfits, which is why many book reviews are focused on characterisation through clothes.
Despite the name, I didn’t want to pigeonhole Fashion Abecedaire as a fashion-only site. You can’t understand fashion if you analyse it as a stand-alone industry. I remember translating a Latin letter when I was in high school where the sender complained about how the craving for silk suggested the Empire was about to end, because it showed people’s values were in the wrong place. And when you looked at the date, the Roman empire did fall shortly after.
The “It’s OK for intellectual feminists to like fashion” tagline came because I was frustrated, as an intern, to have people tell me over and over again that fashion is filled with imbeciles, uncultured people. Fashion Abecedaire was my own way to demonstrate it isn’t, which is why I write about books so much. I tend to equate smart and cultured with books, since it’s my traditional way of learning.
You write about women in the workplace a lot. Do you think the industry you work in enables you to have an objective vision? (Camille Goulet, Fashion Carrousel, June 2011)
Probably not, although I research my articles at length and they are never solely based on my experience. Of course, my job in the industry influences what I write.
Working in fashion, there is an inordinate proportion of women, including women at the top. I have been proud to work for a company ran by a woman for over three years now.
There are issues in the industry pertaining directly to women though, for instance I think that the low wages have to do with how female-dominated the field is. I also doubt that if fashion was a male sector, it would have the same reputation for being filled with pretty, wealthy airheads. No man would stand for it, if only because of how much it diminishes your credentials with people in other industries.
Thinking about your blog’s content, is it how you envisaged it to be when you started blogging? And if not, how is it different? (Vicki Loomes)
It is a lot less fashion-focused than I first planned. I was at Drapers when I started writing Fashion Abecedaire, determined to get a job in the fashion industry so a lot of my days revolved around it. Now I work in it, I am writing about other topics, mostly because thinking fashion all the time isn’t sustainable to me.
I have also started interviewing people more, even outside the Blogger Adventure feature. I wanted to learn more about what other women do, to give them a voice. It’s new to me as a format because my natural idea of blogging is sitting in my living room (not in my pyjamas!) and researching an idea. To interview people I have to reach out, which can be a challenge for an introvert like me. It’s a learning curve.
Which bloggers would you like to interview and why? (Camille Goulet)
I actually started the Blogger Adventure series so I could promote your blog Camille. It was meant to be a one off, and then as I had more and more friends and acquaintances with blogs, I decided to feature them.
I also wanted to learn how other people were doing it. Blogger Adventure is really about snooping in other people’s creative processes and being inspired by it. It’s that “read about how people lead their lives to improve mine” aspect of blogging I mentioned above.
Blogger Adventure is about promoting work I enjoy and admire so I do little editing on it. It’s an easy way to guarantee me at least one blog post a month.
I have a few friends left whose blog I’d really like to feature, a few I’d like to convince to do it even though they have said no. Then I am going to move on to the blogs I read most often. I am exploring other forms of creating content on the Internet, like podcasts and newsletters. The March Blogger Adventure will be the Sherlock Holmes-dedicated podcast Baker Street Babes, the second time an audio-based platform will be featured (the first was The Broad Experience).
I imagine everyone will ask this, but what will you be in five, ten, twenty years? If The Gentlewoman had not already been invented, I imagine you creating it. (Jessica Stanley)
Thank you! Not many people have asked me how I see my future, which is good considering how I struggle to answer this question.
I have considered starting a new blog a few times, because Fashion Abecedaire has evolved, as have I, over the past four years. I plan to continue on it though, not just because retaining all the readers seems like a massive bother, but also because I find it interesting, from a personal journey perspective, to see how I change.
From time to time, I give myself blog objectives, like “start a newsletter” (done), “get 50 subscribers by Christmas” (not done). I’d like to bring the type of writing I do on Fashion Abecedaire to other platforms, though I am not bothered enough to pitch.
I am working on a site about women, foreign policy and education at the moment so I think it will be my next big thing, hopefully for start of the new academic year.