April 25, 2013

Blogger’s Quest(ionnaire): Angela Wang of American Taitai

Angela Wang writes about a variety of topics, from food to TV shows to trips, at her blog American Taitai. These are topics that directly relate to the experience of everyday life. Angela’s basis of which is Seattle. Her posts deliver a meaningful viewpoint of the everyday experience, which sounds ordinary but is endowed with extraordinary properties to potentially sense and express. Angela explores these properties through blogging. She can be found on Twitter: @americantaitai.

Why did you create a Website of regular entries?
I’ve always been interested in reading and writing. But while the whole blogging movement was taking off in the US in 2007-ish, I was living abroad in Hong Kong working at an investment bank, and I didn’t know a single person who blogged. So I kind of missed the whole “blogging revolution” boat. But after I got married and moved back to Seattle, I wanted to try my hand at something I had never done before, and so I decided to start blogging in 2012 after taking a memoir writing class at the UW. I had accumulated a fair bit of material that I never intended to publish, but I thought that blogging would push me to at least write more consistently through the week. It’s now turned into a 1x/week blog (which I know is quite infrequent, by blogger standards) but I try to publish longer posts (1,000–1,200 words) that are either amusing observations (to me), or that answer an un-answerable question. I had thought of the title of my blog when I was still living and working in Hong Kong, as everyone there knows what a “taitai” is. But an American Taitai is quite different, and while life is certainly somewhat less glamorous, it’s been no less interesting, especially living in a dynamic city like Seattle. I thought the idea was worth exploring and what initially started out, as a compare/contrast between HK and Seattle, has turned into something a little different and much more observational.

What Web-based solution did you select and why?
I decided to use WordPress.com because it was easy to set up, and I liked the look and layout. I’m not super tech-savvy and so the more customizable WordPress.org site was beyond my skills. I’m also on Tumblr as well, but mostly to follow other sites, as WP is able to push my posts to my Tumbr site simultaneously.

“Procrastinator’s Productivity Chart”—later blogged about in “Procrastinator's Dilemma”

“Where things stand now” as I don’t do an entry every day. It’s kind of sporadic. 

What is your definition of a good blog
and what are three good blogs that you frequently visit?
My basic definition of a good blog is one where I find good writing and where I’m able to immediately strike a chord of identification. A simple test for me is where my first gut response reading a blog post is either:
  1. “Me too!” or
  2. “Wow, I never thought of this, but this (idea, observation, theory) totally makes sense!” or
  3. “I love this voice!” or a combination of any or all of the three. I follow Jen Brown’s Expat Lingo because her blog falls primarily into category 1 for me, and I love her sharp and humorous observational voice and re-living the expat life through her eyes in Hong Kong. I also follow Scott Berkun because I’m always learning something new from him. His blog falls into the 2nd category for me. His writing is so clean and crisp, and the topics he writes about are often quite complex and difficult to grasp (philosophy, creative thinking, management), and so that’s a feat that I really admire. Another blog that I’ve just recently found (and have quickly fallen in love with) is The Epicurean Dealmaker, which falls primarily into category 3) for me. Simply hilarious because ted’s voice is like no other. If you want a glimpse into in investment banking + philosophy + humor, ted is a must read.  
How do you create content for your blog?
I keep a running list of topics, but sometimes I post about funny things that happen to me during the week or recent news events that affect me and seem to be more compelling relative to my list. Generally my blog posts don’t follow the news cycle, but once in awhile a bigger story or event (usually a tragedy) compels me to talk about that topic instead of my normal “mundane” observational stuff. And regarding everyday life, I’ve always wondered why certain things seem to be the case (why the Chinese food in Seattle is so mediocre, why some of us procrastinate and yet still get stuff done, why do we buy stuff on sale, and what is popularity, and the link between perception and acceptance as a kid vs. as an adult) and so my blog allows me the space to explore some of the possibilities, especially in answering an unanswerable question in everyday life. I also have quite a few links to certain TED Talks that I think do a terrific job of answering a lot of my “why” questions, and so that’s been a great learning tool and resource as well.

Combination of my to-do list and a running list of blogging ideas

How do you stay organized and motivated
to contribute to your blog?
I’m pretty old-school, and so I don’t use digital note-taking programs, or Siri + Notepad on my iPhone, but I guess I should. I used to write things down on various scraps of paper (and I still do), but I’ve been trying to be more organized and to keep the scribblings into one single notebook (which I talk a little bit about here) but carrying around a huge notebook is sometimes a little awkward, and so I try to remember a topic when I’m out or scribble it down on a scrap of paper and then copy it into my notebook when I get home. I’m always on the hunt for good topics, and the quirks of living in an eclectic city like Seattle fills many posts. I also find that the rhythm of writing, editing, and posting is quite satisfying in itself, irrespective of how many hits or readers I might have, and so I try to stick to the 1x/week bar, which (again) is pretty low. But you have to start somewhere, and writing is something that I enjoy and have more time for now, and so I’d like to keep it up.

Another thing that helps me to organize: the Evernote Web Clipper, which saves webpages into a virtual notebook. I find it really helpful for keeping research and other virtual stuff organized. I use the free version, and it suits me just fine.

For those aspiring to make a Website composed of 
regular thoughts and/or images, what is your advice?
I’d say to start reading a lot. And not necessarily books, but find blogs that you enjoy reading and ask yourself why you like them. Then I’d encourage you to think about your handle and blog name. After you’ve got that down, you should just do it! Sign up on WordPress.com or Blogspot for free and dive in. For me, it took the longest time to find the right “look” via a free “theme” that I liked. But once that was squared away, the rest was pretty easy. It also helped that I had at least 3–4 pieces/posts ready to go at the outset, because you want to build a steady rhythm for yourself in posting. Trying for consistency was my goal, and 1x/week seemed reasonable to me, so setting a reachable goal was important. I haven’t been successful in posting every single week this past year that I’ve been blogging, but I have been successful in establishing a regular cadence of blogging that is achievable for me, which was my goal this first year.

What is your quest in blogging?
My quest is simply to get better at writing. For me, the blog is a powerful tool in tackling my own unanswerable questions and for answering the why questions. Finding and identifying with something beautiful (or funny or informative) in our everyday lives is an achievable goal that ultimately makes us all feel less alone. This powerful sense of connection and the “me too” moment is why I write.

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Photographs courtesy of Angela Wang.

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Typeface of quote is Futura designed by Paul Renner in 1927.

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Read more of the Design Feast series Blogger’s Quest(ionnaire).

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