Improved Offline Publishing

The best technology is invisible and reliable. You almost forget it’s there, because things just work. Bad technology never disappears into the background — it’s always visible, and worse, it gets in your way. We rarely stop to think “My, what good Wifi!” But we sure notice when the Wifi is iffy.

Good technology in an app requires solid offline support. A WordPress app should give you a seamless, reliable posting experience, and you shouldn’t have to worry whether you’re online or offline while using WordPress Mobile. And if we’ve done our jobs right, you won’t have to! 

We all need fewer worries in life, so if you haven’t already head to https://apps.wordpress.com/get/ to download the apps.

Offline Publishing

On the go and without a connection?  No worries! The apps will now remember your choices and once you’re back online,your content will be saved and published as requested.  But if you changed your mind about publishing a post while you’re still offline, you can still safely cancel it.

The new Offline Publishing flow.

This improved publishing flow comes together with a revamped UI for yourf post status.  You’ll be able to clearly see which posts are pending, saving or publishing.

Smoother Messaging

We removed several alerts that were being presented while you were offline.  These blocking alerts required you to take action but often provided no insights on either what the problem was, or how to resolve it.

  They have been replaced with contextual non-blocking messages both within the UI, and in notices appearingright above the toolbar.

As a result, you’ll see less disruptive and uninformative alerts, and more inline and informative messages, such as the one shown above.

Safeguards

We also added some safeguards to ensure there are no surprises!

You can cancel offline publishing.

Modifying posts that are scheduled for publishing will cancel the publishing action. Don’t worry, though – you can always reschedule the post for publishing.

All queued save and publishing operations will be canceled if your device stays offline for more than 48 hours.  We want you to be in complete control of what gets published and when.

Perspectives on Going Viral

You wake up one morning, check your phone, and spit out your coffee. You have thousands of likes on Facebook, hundreds of retweets, and an inbox that has exploded. Your little blog — which normally gets a dozen views per day and has an audience of exactly two, your spouse and mother — has been shared all over the internet, and that post you wrote last night, in your pajamas, has gone viral.

Going viral is different for everyone, but it can be a strange blend of exciting and terrifying — and very emotional, as writer Sam Dylan Finch described in his recent interview. Here, four bloggers on WordPress.com share their experiences.

Gretchen Kelly, Drifting Through My Open Mind

Gretchen KellyLast November, Gretchen Kelly published “The Thing All Women Do That You Don’t Know About,” in which she described all the tactics women employ to move safely through a world of sexism and harassment. Nearly two thousand comments and more than two million views later, the post continues to generate a lot of activity.

Can you pinpoint the spark that set it all off?

Twitter is where my post first started to get some traction. I knew something was going on when I started seeing retweets and comments from non-bloggers. Soon, my Twitter notifications were going crazy. People started asking to publish it in different languages, and the Huffington Post and Upworthy contacted me. It was circulating on Facebook, too, but I wasn’t as aware of that. I think it was shared initially because it resonated with so many women. Then, it was shared by people who were angered by it. There’s definitely a sweet and salty feel to going viral.

What is one thing you learned from the experience?

I don’t know if anything can prepare you for the turbulence of going viral. I learned that I’m not as thick-skinned as I’d like to think. I received so many positive, touching messages from both men and women. But the negative, hateful comments? Those were tough to take. At times I let them get to me and affect my mood. Eventually, I had to turn off notifications on my phone and take a break from it all.

Is there anything you would have done differently?

I don’t think I would do anything differently. I almost scrapped the post right before publishing it. I was filled with doubt, worried that no one would get what I was trying to say. But I published it and hoped for the best. I try not to question or overanalyze anything when it comes to my writing or blogging. It’s a struggle because I think generally, writers are an over thinking, self-doubting bunch. But I also know that overthinking can be the death of creativity. I try hard to just go with it and let things happen. So, no. I wouldn’t change a thing.

Has blogging been a challenge since this viral post?

My desire to blog hasn’t waned. What was a challenge was deciding what to write next. I am not a niche blogger, and I don’t want to be pigeonholed. I sometimes write about feminism, but I also write about grief, about my life, about love. Would I lose new followers or let them down? Would people pick it apart like some did with the viral post? Eventually, I just wrote what was on my mind at the time. I’m still working on that not-overthinking thing!

Matthew Fray, Must Be This Tall to Ride

Matthew FrayLast month, Matthew published “She Divorced Me Because I Left Dishes by the Sink.” Before he knew it, the post had gone viral — no promotion needed on his part. Since then, he’s been experiencing the aftermath of the experience, which he reflected on in “Of Course It Was About More Than Dirty Dishes.”

Can you pinpoint the spark that set it all off?

Kind of. I work in digital marketing, so checking web traffic and content performance is part of what I do. I published the post on January 14th. It was viewed 263 times that day.

This is how the post performed afterward:

Matthew-Fray-Stats-Chart

Matthew’s post views from January 15-28, 2016.

Views are slowly returning to whatever my blog’s new normal will be.

It was nothing more than some readers sharing it on Facebook, then their friends sharing it on Facebook, and then their friends doing the same.

What is one thing you learned from the experience?

I learned that blogging CAN make a tangible difference in people’s lives. A silly post about a dish by the sink — the deeper meaning was sadly lost on many readers — sparked countless conversations about marriage online and among couples. Some people said their relationships will never be the same. In a good way.

One thing I learned about myself is that everyone will not like or agree with me, and I need to be able to live with that. I didn’t like having so many people who didn’t know me make judgments about my marriage and my beliefs based on one post that most didn’t seem to read all the way nor understand. Moving forward, thicker skin will be required.

Is there anything you would have done differently?

There are sentences in the post which made sense to me and regular readers because we have context, but to millions of strangers, some thoughts were understandably misinterpreted. Had I known so many strangers would read it, I’d have exercised more thoughtful and prudent word choices. But, big picture? This got people talking about marriage in meaningful ways. I’m proud of that. In that respect, I wouldn’t change a thing.

Has blogging been a challenge since this viral post?

In my two-and-a-half years of blogging on WordPress.com, people have mostly been exceedingly kind when leaving comments. Opening the floodgates to a larger cross-section of humanity introduced me to criticism and some less-than-pleasant insults in a way I had never experienced.

Sometimes people (or maybe it’s just me) have a unique capacity to ignore the ninety percent saying nice things, and hone in on the ten percent who aren’t. I didn’t always handle that with grace and professionalism. Learning to accept that not everyone will agree with me, like me, or understand me will be my biggest challenge moving forward.

Lisa Durant, Can Anybody Hear Me?

Lisa DurantIn April 2015, Lisa wrote “The ‘After’ Myth,” a post about losing weight, yet failing to discover and truly love herself. A year on, the piece continues to resonate with readers.

Can you pinpoint the spark that set it all off?

Although I can’t be entirely sure, I think a photo made my post go viral. Since my post was about my weight loss journey (or, as I prefer to put it, my life gain journey), it included a before and after photo of my physical transformation. While I understand that a dramatic high-impact photo makes for good clickbait, in this scenario, it’s kind of ironic. That post (and my entire blog, really) are meant to take attention away from the physical and focus more on the mental and emotional challenges of major weight loss.

What is one thing you learned from the experience?

I was surprised at how many people were surprised by my willingness to talk openly about personal topics. I also felt a bit of fear over being so visible. I’ve always been an open book, but I’ve never had so many readers paging through. I learned that people are a lot kinder than I ever knew. I was shocked at how few negative and critical responses I received and overwhelmed by the support I found.

Is there anything you would have done differently?

I could have capitalized on it. I could have ridden the wave of being visible and used it to gain even more exposure. I could have grown my blog, sold ads, and tried to turn it into a career as many others have. But I purposely chose not to, and I don’t regret that choice. Don’t get me wrong: I enjoyed briefly writing for other publications as a result, but I also chose to retreat and let the viral post run its course. I suppose that’s one other thing I learned about myself: I don’t want to be famous; I just want to write.

Has blogging been a challenge since this viral post?

At first, going viral made me second guess everything I sat down to write. I worried that whatever I posted next would never be as good. I also became much more aware of how many people could potentially see the sometimes very personal things that I tend to bring up in my posts. But then, I realized that these fears were exactly the right thing to write about next, and so I did. And, I made a decision and a statement: I couldn’t promise that every post would be viral-worthy or even interesting to anyone else, but I could promise to be honest. I decided that I would continue to do what I’d been doing for years: write for me, not for an audience.

Corinne Rogero, Duly Noted

Corinne Rogero“I Should Be Engaged,” Corinne Rogero’s quiet musings on being more mindful in the moment and creating meaningful connections, made lots of noise in January as well. Ten days after, she beautifully reflected on the experience that turned her world upside down.

Can you pinpoint the spark that set it all off?

I think a lot of millennials are bombarded with the notion that engagement and marriage are the keys to happiness. So the word “engaged” in my post’s title perhaps drew people’s attention, and I’m sure some readers hoped to hear a valid reason for why they deserved to be engaged in the marital sense as well.

What is one thing you learned from the experience?

There is greater power in sharing stories and exchanging words than perhaps we’ll ever fully realize. And I think because our words hold such weight — whether we realize it or not — they deserve to be shared in ways that connect with other souls and land somewhere deeper than mere surface level.

Is there anything you would have done differently?

I don’t think many people expect their post to go viral when their cursor hovers over the “Publish” button, and because my experience was just as unexpected, I don’t think it could have taken place any other way. I was writing just to write, and it just so happened to be read around the world.

Has blogging been a challenge since this viral post?

Immediately after my post crossed the 1,000,000 mark, I felt pressure to publish posts of the same caliber — that anything under a million views meant it wasn’t a good post. And the same expectation carried over into other social media platforms where I’d gained hundreds of followers because of my post. Suddenly, each Instagram photo or tweet had to be perfectly clever and professionally delivered. But I’m reminded that whether a post receives one or one million views, those one or one million people are exactly those who need to read it. Playing the comparison game in writing will only stifle your voice and suffocate your story.

Looking for something to read? Explore the latest picks from our editors at Discover.

“Discover” Great Features You Might Have Missed

Late in 2015, we launched Discover — a site to showcase the people who use WordPress and the amazing things they make and do. There, we publish editors’ picks from across the WordPress landscape as well as in-depth features on WordPressers making a splash in the world. Here are five thought-provoking features you might have missed.

Anne Thériault: one gutsy feminist

Image: "Fight" by seven_resist, (CC BY-SA 2.0).

Image: “Fight” by seven_resist, (CC BY-SA 2.0).

You may already know Anne from her incisive blog, The Belle Jar, where she writes candidly of her experiences as a woman and a mother. In “Too Loud, Too Outspoken, Too Feminist: Anne Thériault Writes Her Truth,” Anne talks about learning from her mistakes, protecting her family’s privacy and safety, and handling trolls. She has great advice for women bloggers who may shy away from sharing their true thoughts online.

If I had to give advice to a woman who wanted to write but thought no one would care, I would tell her that reading stuff by other women has been so incredibly validating and affirming and enlightening. Hey women! Please keep writing! And if you’re thinking about writing, please do it! You are a treasure and your thoughts are interesting and don’t let anyone tell you differently.

— Anne Thériault

Curiosity meets camera: on the passions of Cameron Karsten

Photo by Cameron Karsten.

Photo by Cameron Karsten.

Cameron Karsten is a visual storyteller. Armed with his camera and innate curiosity, he travels the world to document people, customs, and raise awareness of environmental causes. In
“Stories of the World: A Q&A with Photographer Cameron Karsten,” Cameron shares his passion for the people, places, and causes he photographs:

I look forward to photographing people when I pick up a camera. I approach a person not as a subject but as a person who has needs and wants, a history of joys and sorrows, of gains and losses. I’ve never connected with the industry’s idea of using a camera to hide behind a lens as if to separate myself from the rest of the world. People aren’t subjects to me. Inanimate objects are what I call a subject. I first try to relate to and connect with a person by just being myself. Taking the photograph comes later.

— Cameron Karsten

Lori Duron blogs through fear and finds her community

Photo courtesy of Lori Duron.

Photo courtesy of Lori Duron.

When Lori Duron started to blog about the questions, fears, and challenges of raising C.J., her gender non-conforming son, she — like many of us — had no idea what she was doing. In “Raising a Rainbow: An Interview with Author Lori Duron,” Lori talks about why she writes about her parenting journey and the overwhelming support she’s received from the world community.

I received emails from parents who were struggling with the gender identity of their child; they felt alone and helpless like I once did. I tried to help them the best that I could. I have readers in more than 190 countries. There are little gender-nonconforming boys in Ireland, the Philippines, Iran, all around the world. And, their parents need help.

— Lori Duron

An exercise in process: 365 projects across WordPress

In addition to personal profiles and interviews, Discover features roundups highlighting the things people create with WordPress. “365 Days, 52 Weeks: Bloggers on Posting Daily or Weekly in 2015” profiles a handful of bloggers who participated in a 365-day or 52-week project and posted their sketches, stories, and essays online.

I write because Writing is a box under the category Creativity under the list Happiness that I have the luxury of checking off every morning. For nearly six years, I committed to writing and posting daily because on the days I didn’t write, I felt an itch of discontentment, and sooner or later, I realized it was because I hadn’t created something.

— Yi-Ching Lin

Danny Gregory on making creativity a habit

Danny Gregory -- self portrait.

Danny Gregory — self portrait.

Ever wanted to learn to draw, but felt you lacked that special talent? Danny Gregory will be the first to tell you that anyone can learn to draw with practice. In “Making Creativity a Habit: An Interview with Danny Gregory,” the prolific author and Sketchbook Skool co-founder shares the best advice he’s received on establishing a creative habit and his advice on sticking with your drawing dream.

My advice: keep making and stop critiquing. And think about how what you are doing matters to the world in some way, how your creativity solves problems or brings joy. Get out of your head and your own concerns and see how you can make a difference with your art. It’s just a drawing, you say? Well, what if drawing something can bring you peace? Or give you an insight you can share? What if that drawing stimulates your imagination so you can solve a problem that’s been vexing your family or your coworkers? What if that drawing is a way of honoring yourself, of investing in yourself, in freeing yourself…

— Danny Gregory

Don’t miss out on inspiration — be sure to follow Discover in your Reader and check out editors’ picks and features.

What Was Your Favorite Post You Wrote in 2015?

The last few weeks of the year are the perfect time to look back and reflect on our most memorable work, so we asked a few bloggers to tell us about one blog post they put together in 2015 that they especially liked. Here are their responses.

Myfanwy, myf draws apparently

Favorite post: “How I experienced the life of a model, with Gudrun Sjoden”

stockholm-diary-p1-myfanwy-tristram

I think I’d have to say that my favorite post was my account of traveling to Stockholm in Sweden to be an unlikely fashion model; it describes a rare and treasured couple of days, and then I got to relive the pleasure all over again by drawing and sharing it on WordPress.com! The comments were so warm and appreciative that I really got the feeling I’d added just a little bit of joy to the internet.

It was a welcome affirmation that people enjoy my view of the world, even if that view comes from a middle-aged aficionado of thrift shopping. That’s one of the real pleasures of blogging: showing who you are, and finding the people that appreciate that.

Sarah E. Bond

Favorite post: “Searching for the String: Labyrinths in Classical and Medieval Art”

My favorite post is actually about labyrinths. When I was younger, my favorite movie was Labyrinth (1986). The film spoke to my already steadfast love of muppets and no doubt fostered an early appreciation for David Bowie, but it was the movie’s maze — a character in the movie in its own right — that stuck with me year after year.

screen-shot-2015-11-19-at-12-22-22-pmAfter graduating high school, I decided to become a classicist, and began to learn more about the ancient origins of the labyrinth. Although mazes and even the word labyrinth predate the myth, it is the Greek tale of Theseus and the Minotaur that gave us the famed Labyrinth of Crete (as it turns out, Jim Henson was also a fan of the myth.) In Greco-Roman antiquity, the symbol of the labyrinth became popular on coins, in mosaics, and in various literary works. Although you might think the pagan myth would die out in the transition to the early Christian period, it was again adapted for new purposes well into the Middle Ages and again in the Renaissance. The labyrinth, in its various iterations, often served as a metaphor for life in general. Whether a Greek or a medieval pilgrim, any person can relate to the feeling of being lost and searching for the string that Ariadne provided Theseus to allow him to escape.

In my own professional quest, I moved four times in the past six years: Chapel Hill, Lexington, Milwaukee, Iowa City. Along the way, I have gained and lost relationships, lamented how long it would be until I saw my family again, and wondered if there was any real purpose to this academic labyrinth. It took a lot of heartache, but I finally feel like I found the string I am supposed to follow. The reason the labyrinth has remained a malleable symbol for so long is that it speaks to humanity’s persistent questions of purpose, salvation, and creation. At the end of Labyrinth the movie, young Sarah realizes her own power to solve the puzzle and to escape the grasp of Jareth (David Bowie). She discovers that she is the heroine of her own story, and I guess I had to learn something similar. Perhaps that is why this is one of my favorite blog posts this year.

Tommy Tomlinson

Favorite post: “Our Old Dog”

FredYou always hear that you should tell people how much they mean to you before it’s too late. I’m not sure how this applies to pets, but I wanted to write something about our dog, Fred, before he got to the end. He was such a big part of our lives. After I wrote this piece I heard from readers all over the world who shared memories of the pets they loved. It was one more moment of beauty that Fred was responsible for.

Catherine Ryan Howard

Favorite post: “I’ve Been Bursting To Tell You: I Got a Book Deal!”

I remember quite clearly setting up my very first WordPress.com blog in early 2010. A few months earlier, I’d made the drastic decision to quit my awful, soul-destroying office job and use what little savings I had to go “all in” on my dream of being a published novelist. Part of my plan was to self-publish some non-fiction and use the proceeds to keep myself in coffee grounds and ink cartridges (both crucial novel-writing tools, I’ll have you know), and the blog was where I was going to publicly chronicle my self-publishing (mis?)adventures.

I had to admit why I was doing it, which meant I had to publicly declare my goal of being a published novelist. I remember thinking, What if it never happens? What if I never get to write “the” blog post? What happens if the end of this journey is a quiet fade into public failure?

littlecatThe next five years were one hell of a ride. My posts about self-publishing were a hit and they helped make my self-published books hits too. I began to speak on the subject, got a job working with a major publishing house as a social media marketer, and connected, through my blog, with fellow writers all over the world — some of whom became good friends in real life.

Then, in May of this year, I got to write the blog post I’d been dreaming of writing ever since I started my blog back in 2010, the one in which I shared the news I’d been dreaming of having all my life (as evidenced by the photo I included in it, one of me aged 7 or 8 banging away on the typewriter Santa gave me while Barbie’s Pink Magic Van sits to the side). Now I’ll be using my blog to chronicle my next adventure: my debut thriller will be published by Corvus/Atlantic in Ireland and the U.K. on May 5, 2016.

Where will your blog take you?

Sarah Kelly, Extra Dry Martini

Favorite post: “The Beach”

img_4997

Extra Dry Martini is my diary. I document my life, and in particular, the challenges inherent in navigating an uncertain future while trying to heal from tremendous loss and grief. My writing is raw and honest, but also, I believe, hopeful, and ultimately about redemption. This year has been a rollercoaster — with incredible highs and lows — so when WordPress.com asked me to pick my favorite post, it felt a bit like asking me to pick my favorite moment from the whirlwind that was 2015.

I settled on “the beach,” a piece I wrote this summer that’s essentially a love letter to the place where I grew up. It’s a place where all of my happiest childhood memories are contained, but also a place that harbors a great darkness underneath the sunshine and saltwater and sea air. I didn’t realize it at the time of publication, but the beach would also end up being the place I’d travel to a mere six weeks later to see my beloved grandfather through hospice.

In good times and bad, the beach is my constant. Writing this post made me realize just how important this place is, both in my life, and in my writing.

Anne Thériault, The Belle Jar

Favorite post: “Being a Girl: A Brief Personal History of Violence”

10385463_10154373034305215_8972420320531447358_nI chose this post because it came from such a place of personal vulnerability and yet seemed to resonate with so many people. I think that all women have stories similar to mine — a fact that’s both infuriating and a sort of unifying force. It’s so powerful to understand that our experiences of misogyny aren’t unique. They didn’t happen because of anything we did or because we were just in the wrong place at the wrong time. They happened because we live in a culture that dehumanizes women. I also think my post was a sort of wake up call for a lot of men who maybe don’t realize how relentless and grinding misogyny is. I hope that’s the case, anyway. Because as much as women can push back against all the awful sexist stuff we endure day in and day out, the only people who can end the behaviors of men is men.

* * *

Explore the latest from more great bloggers at Discover!

The New WordPress.com App for Windows Is Here

You asked, and we answered—quickly! Just weeks after unveiling the all-new WordPress.com and desktop app for Mac, we’re thrilled to introduce our new Windows app.

07-laptop

Now you can manage your sites, write and publish, and even customize your site and view stats from a dedicated app in your Windows Start Menu. Use it for your sites on WordPress.com, as well as for self-hosted WordPress sites. (For the latter, you’ll just need to have the Jetpack plugin installed to connect your site.)

And just like the rest of WordPress.com, the new Windows app is simple, seamless, and blazingly fast.

Download the app

06-desktop-with-app

The new Windows app includes:

  • The My Sites dashboard for managing multiple sites, whether WordPress.com or self-hosted WordPress with Jetpack.
  • The new WordPress.com Editor, with in-app previewing and draft auto-saving.
  • The Reader, which lets you follow and read any of your favorite sites, and the all-new Discover, which recommends outstanding content from across all of WordPress.
  • Insights and Stats, which show you exactly how your site and posts are performing.
  • In-app notifications, so you can see comments, likes, and new follows all in one place.

This, of course, is just the beginning. We’re excited to have you try it out, and thanks for all your continued feedback and support. 

Learn more about the new WordPress.com in the video below. Since its launch you’ve already published upwards of 3 million posts using the new editor!

Introducing: Our New, High-Speed Editor

editor-announce

From parents and poets to journalists and politicians, WordPress.com’s publishing tools allow people to make their voices heard.

We have heard your excellent feedback on our interim editor and today, we’re excited to introduce our new editor: a faster, cleaner, and more streamlined way to create posts and pages, and share, promote, and manage content across all your WordPress sites.

editor-posting-gif

Highlights: instant saving, quick sharing

  • It’s fast, responsive, and allows you to create posts and pages quickly on desktop and mobile devices.
  • Easily manage your posts, whether you run an individual blog or wrangle multiple sites, authors, and posts.
  • Access draft posts with one click so that you can iterate and revise quickly when inspiration strikes.
  • Content is automatically saved, allowing you to focus and write — free of distraction.
  • Drag and drop photos, music files, documents, and videos right into your post or page.
  • Tags, categories, and sharing tools are at your fingertips, so you can make your content easier to find in the WordPress.com Reader and across your social networks.
  • Scheduling is a breeze with the revamped post calendar.
  • It’s available for self-hosted WordPress.org sites, too! Just install the Jetpack plugin and activate Manage.

A big thank you

We love that you’re passionate about WordPress.com, and most importantly, that you share that passion with us. If you’ve got feedback about the latest editor updates, we’d be grateful if you’d take a moment to share it with us in our support forum.

Five Posts that Made Us Think

What makes a great blog post? We all have our pet criteria: sharp prose. Enlightening content. Stunning photos. (“Lots of GIFs?” Sure, why not?) Beyond its style or tone, a standout post invites us to take a peek into another person’s home or field of expertise, and offers a glimpse of that individual’s mind at work.

The five recent posts featured here touched a nerve with readers, and have the buzzing comment sections and social media shares to show for it. Read them and you’ll see why: smart, well written, and engaging, you might feel the urge to jump into the conversation yourself.

Does Sean Bean Always Die at the End?

If you’ve been on the internet in the past five years and/or are a Game of Thrones fan (that’s roughly 103% of those reading this right now), you likely know that actor Sean Bean’s characters always die violent, gruesome deaths.

sean bean chart - dave steele

Chart by Dave Steele.

But do they? Science writer and comedian Dave Steele took this piece of conventional wisdom, soaked it in a rich marinade of stats, pie charts, and humor, and ended up with an insightful reflection on the way our perception works, especially when it comes to popular culture.

In Which I Learn Why There Are No Great Women Composers

Back in September, British magazine The Spectator published a polemical article about the supposed dearth of great women composers. Musician-blogger Emily E. Hogstead would have none of it.

Luckily the “goodness” of music is a totally scientific and quantifiable thing that allows no room for personal preference, bias, or interpretation.

— Emily E. Hogstead, Song of the Lark

She responded with a sharp, witty, point-by-point takedown of the original article’s claims, while also educating her readers about — surprise! — some great women composers (and their struggles to be recognized).

Why I’ve Stopped Doing Interviews for Yale

It’s college application season in North America, when millions of high school students polish their essays, list (and/or embellish) their extracurricular activities, and anxiously await an invitation to an interview with alumni/ae of their top choices.

Illustration by Ben Orlin.

Illustration by Ben Orlin.

Teacher and math lover Ben Orlin won’t be among them, having decided no longer to conduct interviews for his alma mater, Yale. Orlin bemoans the randomness and excessive emotional toll of the admissions process, and uses his trademark stick figures to make an important point about the American fixation on getting into the right school.

Being Fiction, Instead of Writing It

Michelle, blogging at The Green Study, charts the arc of her writing life, giving us an honest and uncompromising account of her achievements — as well as her struggles and failures.

I’m putting a spin on my forties, when I decided I’d become a martial artist, super mom, Japanese ink painter, personal trainer, officer of the law, marathoner, web genius, everywhere volunteer and organic vegan superfreak. It was all research for writing. It sounds so much better than a midlife panic.

It’s time to ante up or fold. I’ve run off in a thousand different directions and always, always, I come back to writing. And the only opposition to me seriously pursuing it, is me.

— Michelle, The Green Study

This post perfectly channels the angst and self-flagellation that often follows writers in their careers regardless of their success. But it ends with a renewed commitment to the act of writing, however frustrating and humbling it might be.

Seeing the Sorrow Anew: Recapturing the Reality of Suffering Through Srebrenica

Matt LaRoche, writing at the The Gettysburg Compiler, a student-led history blog, asks an ever-important question: how can we preserve the lessons learned through the horrors of past wars once the last survivors pass away?

The hundreds of thousands of unknowns of the Civil War were just as raw to the loved ones they left behind as the one thousand-plus unknowns of Srebrenica are to this day.

— Matt LaRoche, The Gettysburg Compiler

He goes on to argue that it’s through listening to those who had to endure more recent atrocities — like victims of ethnic cleansing in Bosnia in the 1990s — that we can capture some of the lived experience of war, in the hope that we avoid perpetuating it.

Thirsty for more great reading? Try Discover, our showcase of editors’ picks and recommended sites, or visit Longreads for the best longform stories from around the web.

What Inspires Us to Blog?

Every day, people from all around the world start a site on WordPress.com to share everything from photos from their latest adventures to deeply personal stories from their lives. What motivates them to do so? We asked seven bloggers from the WordPress.com community to tell us what inspires them to blog. Here are their responses:

Mica, Busy Mockingbird

My primary reason for blogging came from the multitude of projects I have going on all the time. A friend once said, “Oh, you’re so creative — I could never do THAT,” and I insisted that all art is trial and error. So I started the blog to share ideas about what I’m doing, things I learn, mistakes I make — just to show people that art isn’t always some mystical, magical, PERFECT thing. It takes work and practice and mistakes, and it’s okay to have fun doing it! I always get such great feedback from people saying, “I think I’m going to give that a try!” — which always makes me smile.

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Sarah, Problems With Infinity

So, I can be an excessively lazy person. I don’t mean just your average lie around in pajamas all day lazy, I’m talking like wear dirty socks at least three days too long because I can’t be bothered to do a load of laundry, and also deciding that washing my hair is just too much work and “hair wadding” is probably the next big fashion trend anyhow, so why not start early? But I’ve learned over time that I can trick myself into being less lazy about blogging by promising myself brownie rewards once I finish a post. I guess you could say that a main inspiration for me to blog is a combination of my highly tuned skills at self-trickery and warm gooey brownie treats.

“Blogging has given me an outlet to just be myself, and it turns out I kind of like me…”

But all silliness aside, I started blogging during a really tough period of my life, and I think I just needed to be able to reach out and share who I was, not only to other people, but to myself. As a long time sufferer of severe social anxiety, I have an incredibly difficult time being myself around other people. And I desperately needed a way to show myself and other people that inside I am someone more than what my anxiety allows me to be on the outside. Blogging has given me an outlet to just be myself, and it turns out I kind of like me, and some other people kind of like me too, which is a surprising and wonderful feeling. So I suppose what inspires me to blog even more than my own self-trickery is really just the ability for me to be me in a way I was never able to before.

Angelica, table twenty eight

My blog, table twenty eight, began over three years ago as a solution for collating and documenting two of my greatest passions – photography and food. I’ve been an avid photographer from a young age, and that became intertwined with my love of cooking (and eating), impulsively picking up my camera to capture a dish I’d made or taking it along with me to a restaurant in the hope of being served a visually impressive dish.

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My blog started as a little personal project, a place to function as a photographic journal and “brain dump/collage” for anything related to food; however, it’s now grown into something much more valuable. It’s not only provided me with a creative outlet, but has also allowed me to vastly improve my photography skills and experience throughout these years.

By setting myself the goal of photographing and writing a post once a week, it’s inspired me (ok, sometimes forced me!) to pick up my camera and style a food shoot. It’s paved an invaluable path to developing my own personal photography style and providing motivation for hours and hours of practice. I daresay I wouldn’t be taking the photos I am today if it hadn’t been thanks to my blog.

Joe, Developing Dad

The first answer would have to be my kids. I’m an older dad and my blog started with several aims — all of which were the result of me being a dad. It’s such a transformative experience, and so much of my private writing had started to become singularly focused on it; I guess it was just natural to start sharing my musings.

I thought of it as an art project for my kids. I wanted there to be a piece of me—a piece of me in my own words that they could visit for any number of reasons; to find out more about who I was before I had them; to meet the me they’ll only remember from pictures and movies. Or even just a way for them to visit me and to hear firsthand how much I loved them — right from the start. I should be around for quite some time and when I do leave what I know is that my voice will live in their heads. This will provide them some words so they can hear me whenever they need to. It won’t be the same as having me around, but it’s something.

“It’s really been remarkably cathartic.”

A big part of the transformation for me has been to become more comfortable in my own skin. My blog is a great way to challenge myself to keep pushing through discomfort so I can have as little difference between my internal and external selves. Had you asked me what was keeping me from starting a blog before, I’d have told you that I was too embarrassed to be “naked” in front of so many people I know and have known. Now I’d say being that honest, raw and vulnerable has been amongst the greatest outcomes from the whole endeavor. I don’t want my boys to be afraid to be wholly themselves or ashamed of something so normal as having feelings. The wonderful and loving feedback from so many people I know and people I have never met before has allowed me to put down so many misconceptions about who I was “supposed” to be. It’s really been remarkably cathartic.

Laila, Tape Parade

I’m inspired to blog by so many things: by music, by films, by other bloggers, by the city I live in (London), and by the people I meet in my day-to-day life. I think for most of us, life can be hard and there’s a lot of figuring out to be done, a lot of conclusions to reach. Whenever I reach a rare moment of realization, I’m inclined to share it with my readers — just to see if anybody else feels the same. I often write about my own inspirations and the places that I’ve been and things I’ve seen. I work as a musician, and I try to take as much inspiration from the world around me as I possibly can. I’m very lucky to live in an amazing part of the world and it’s hard not to feel inspired when surrounded by so much history, so many people, and so many stories.

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Phoebe, Girls Like Giants

I teach writing (and television studies!) to college students and consistently hear myself reminding them that writing is about process — a way of thinking, hashing out, and ultimately (on a good day) communicating ideas. For me, writing also rarely stays in a vacuum, nor should it — at least apart from my grammar school journal full of delightfully repetitive lists of daily activities, including accounts of gymnastics practice, homework, school, and snacks. I’ve long loved writing and do a lot of it in my daily work, writing academic articles and a dissertation and now working on a book. Academic writing, while awesome in so many ways, also moves quite slowly. But when I started blogging on Girls Like Giants (GLG), it gave me a platform to practice writing about things I cared about in pop culture and to work out my ideas in a public space and it made my academic writing stronger. I also blog about cooking, which is more for me than anybody else, but still provides an outlet to practice and keep my writing muscles active — especially important for me during a busy term of teaching.

“[My blog] gave me a platform to practice writing about things I cared about in pop culture and to work out my ideas in a public space…”

At first, it was really hard for me to put my ideas out there — I am by nature a pretty private and shy person. But what I found in blogging consistently is that it got easier and easier and became exciting to force myself out there via writing and finding and connecting with a community of people. It helped me test ideas and practice backing up my points of view. Plus, through blogging on GLG (a blog I co-founded with my friend Sarah), I found a partner in crime and somebody who has been instrumental in propelling me to write (and she is a great and generous editor) — a community within a community, so to speak. So, in sum: I blog for a lot of reasons. And, ultimately I do it for myself, but I always hope that other people also enjoy engaging with my writing and that it resonates with readers.

Liz, Cats and Chocolate

I’m inspired to blog by any number of things. It can be something I’m interested in — an idea, a philosophy, a place, an experience, a thing — or something that I intentionally blog about, like writing, books I’ve been reading, or a film I’ve seen. When I started blogging 10 years ago, blogging had a very DIY feel. But thinking back on it, I still hold to that fount of inspiration, the importance of being true to yourself, and writing about things that matter to you. First and foremost, blogging comes from you. Second is writing for the audience and connecting with a community. If you are passionate about and interested in what you are writing, then that comes across and readers will be able to see that.

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As the years pass, keeping to that foundation means that your blog will adapt to your changing interests and passions, and will be something you can look back on, as a record of who you were, perhaps still are, and all the things that you have been through. Don’t be afraid to challenge yourself occasionally either. I’ve participated in a couple of monthly blog challenges, and also try to write about emotionally difficult topics when I feel that they will help other people. This is the tension between writing for yourself and writing for readers: The trick is to also think about how you can turn your experiences and what you’ve learned into something that can advise and inspire your readers and community.

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Interested in honing your blogging skills and making writing a habit? Blogging U. is a fantastic way to get expert advice, instructive assignments, and support from a community of bloggers and staff. Find more information about Blogging U. here.

On the Run: Blogging the European Refugee Crisis

People all over the world were horrified last week when they saw the picture of a dead Syrian child, Aylan Kurdi, being picked up from the beach in Turkey. His family’s attempt to escape the brutal civil war in their country had ended in tragedy.

From Calais to Kos to Lampedusa, the blogging community has been following the refugee crisis in Europe — as well as the conflicts that feed it — as it rapidly escalated over the past two years, and especially this past summer. Here are some of the most powerful voices we’ve come across weighing in on this massive humanitarian disaster.

“A Letter from One Mother to Another“

In a post full of tragic irony, a writer contrasts the plight of a refugee mother with the sanctimonious complaints of a mother who’s safe at home with her kids:

Dear Irresponsible Migrant Mother,

What exactly were you thinking when you woke your children in the dead of the night, picking up the baby still asleep? Don’t you know how important it is for children to get enough sleep?

[…]

That baby you’re holding needs to be warm and comfortable, cocooned and safe, like a tiny bud, waiting to bloom in the morning. Those toddlers won’t be able to walk the miles you want them to in the black night in worn out shoes without a good night’s sleep.

“A Dispatch from a Syrian Refugee Camp“

Lionel Beehner visited the Zaatari refugee camp, in Jordan, back in 2013. He described the chaotic scene he’d encountered there in vivid detail, and his dispatch is even more haunting today, seeing that the plight of Syrian refugees has grown dramatically worse in the past two years.

Photo by Lionel Beehner.

Photo by Lionel Beehner.

“Heading Off into the Refugee Tragedy in the Med“

Ali Criado-Perez is a registered nurse who has worked with Médecins Sans Frontières / Doctors Without Borders since 2007. She recently took off for a rescue mission in Malta, one of the Mediterranean islands that sees the highest numbers of refugee boats off its shores. Here are some of her words on the eve of her departure:

I don’t know exactly what lies ahead of me. I hope I’m prepared, physically and mentally, for this trip. I’ve done a fairly arduous sea-safety training, which entailed me leaping from a height into water, dressed in a survival suit, and clambering into a wobbly life-raft. But I don’t think anything — not even seeing people dying miserably from Ebola — can prepare one for finding 52 people dead in the hold from asphyxiation, as my colleagues did recently.

Quartz: Borders

Quartz, an online business magazine, has put the spotlight on the refugee crisis in its Borders “Obsession” (a collection of related stories). It’s a place where interested readers can find the latest coverage of the news, including some of the more offbeat stories that might get buried in more traditional media outlets — like this one, on an Egyptian billionaire who proposed to buy a Mediterranean island on which to welcome refugees.

Writers for Calais Refugees

Moved by horrific scenes of chaos and dispair in the French coastal town of Calais — a gateway to Britain — a group of writers joined forces to share their poems in solidarity with asylum seekers. Here is an excerpt from Nina Simon’s poem, “Refuge”:

On an airless summer evening
I sit in the garden
remembering how
we came with nothing
but the clothes we wore

to an unfamiliar address
scrawled on well-thumbed paper
dreaming of safety,
a city paved in freedom.

“On Encouragement“

When you talk about “encouraging more of them to come”, you have no idea what you are talking about.

In Sweden, British expat Helen Jones makes the case for the #refugeeswelcome movement, calling on Europeans to educate themselves on the causes behind the influx of refugees into the continent, and to find practical solutions to lessen the suffering of those who keep arriving.

Calais Migrant Solidarity

Temporary refugee housing in Calais, 2014 (Photo by Gustav Pursche / Calais Migrant Solidarity)

Makeshift refugee housing in Calais, 2014 (Photo by Gustav Pursche / Calais Migrant Solidarity)

This site is run by activists who support the cause of refugees in Calais. It’s used, among other things, to document the hardships suffered by those still stuck in the no man’s land that the city’s refugee camps have become, including their mistreatment by local officials and police.

“Calais: In the Warm Embrace“

Europe is itself made of transplants, migrants, and refugees — this is a point powerfully made by scholar and writer Claire Squires in her essay, where she recounts the history of her family (her mother’s side had settled in France to escape political turmoil in Algeria), as well as her childhood memories from visits to Calais, currently one of the epicenters of Europe’s refugee crisis.

“Escape to Freedom: Bringing a Syrian Family to Safety“

Russell Chapman, a freelance photographer and writer, recently helped a family of Syrian refugees to safety, accompanying them from Greece through Macedonia, Serbia, and Hungary into Western Europe. Read his post for an unfiltered, ground-level account of the harrowing trip through Europe’s eastern refugee corridor.

If you’ve read a powerful take on the crisis by another blogger, please share it with us in a comment.

Heather Matarazzo’s Personal Stories from Inside and Outside Hollywood

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Actor Heather Matarazzo has only published a few posts on her new blog, but each one has stirred up an incredible response from inside and outside the WordPress.com community.

Her first essay in February, “What the F— Is F—able,” took direct aim at what it’s like to be a woman in Hollywood — an industry she’s worked in since childhood, and as a teen starring in 1995’s Welcome to the Dollhouse, which earned her critical acclaim. In her essay, Matarazzo reveals an industry ruled by sexism, and she talks about what it was like to be a teenager working in it while growing into her own self-confidence:

For me, I had to stop sitting shiva, remove the blanket from my mirror and look. I had to look at my gorgeous face, with my piercing blue eyes, my pouty lips, small chin, slightly crooked nose, full teeth and smile. I had to really look at myself and see my beauty, and once I could accept the harsh reality that I was indeed, not only f—able, but f—ing beautiful, everything started to change.

Following the community’s reaction to the post, Matarazzo confessed:

“Originally this piece was a lot angrier. I called people out, and it felt good, but then I realized that this is not the kind of person I desire to be. I’ve spent quite a bit of time recently being angry. Theres a lot to be angry about, but sometimes it can cause one’s soul to atrophy into a dark mass of negativity, and that’s not what I want for myself. It’s hard to stay positive in this business — hell, its hard staying positive as a human being, with the state of the world right now — but I see that even after writing this, I feel more more hopeful, and I hope it brings the same to you.”

Matarazzo’s latest piece is a very personal childhood story about her quest to discover who her biological parents were, and how her mother reacted:

Back at home, my mother is leaning against the counter, arms crossed, staring at me. The ice out has begun. I stare back at her, my eyes inadvertently causing her head to look shrunken. I’m waiting for her to say something, anything, but she just continues to stare. Her eyes begin to well with tears as her head shakes in disappointment. When she finally does speak, she asks what she’s done wrong that would make me do something like that. She proceeds to tell me that I have everything, and keeps asking, “What did I do? Tell me.”

She also begins with an admission that will resonate with many writers and bloggers: the desire to be so personal in expressing herself, and the fear of doing so in public: “I have been hesitant to write anything about my life that is deeply personal, because that requires an incredible willingness on behalf of the writer to be vulnerable and honest.”

I spoke with Matarazzo via email about what led her to decide to start sharing these stories. “There wasn’t a specific moment where I decided to start a blog. I had been toying with the idea for awhile, and had no idea how to do it, or where to begin. I talked to a friend of mine (Lexi Alexander) who told me to just go for it. I also have to credit her for giving me the title and suggestion to write ‘What the F— is F—able?’

“I have been writing since I was a child. I make it a point to write every day. It’s not always personal, sometimes it’s a script or a play.”

As for the response to her stories, “I was overwhelmed.”

“In any kind of storytelling, whether it’s film, blog, or fictional narrative, what speaks most to me as an artist and human being is the relatedness of feelings,” she said. “For example, I’ve never been alone on a planet battling aliens, but I do relate with the characters feeling of aloneness, fear, etc. That’s what storytelling is all about. We are continually looking for ourselves in others (subconsciously or not), whether it’s on the screen, in a book or on a blog. And I firmly believe that we all have stories to tell along with experiences to share. That’s one of the ways that we create change. One story at a time.”

Follow her blog here.