(*anyone who gets this reference gets a cookie)
Over the last year and a half Home & Away has become the most satisfying, frustrating, and time-consuming creative outlet of my life, and it’s worth every minute I spend on it. The entirely unforeseen benefit of this experiment has been connecting with other bloggers, such as the cake and Toledo aficionado Lady of the Cakes, who tagged me with this writing assignment; Riga-adoring Expat Eye on Latvia; need-her-own-lifestyle-mag MontgomeryFest; and the most Russia-tolerant American A Girl and Her Travels, whom I am putting on the spot next.
Having your work read by people other than family members and close friends whom you force it upon is validation enough. But having a platform for exchanging ideas, sharing frustrations and engaging in debates with interesting and inspired travelers, writers and photographers? That’s what had me coming back to H&A every time I was ready to call it quits.
What am I working on?
Work. For the last five months, due to circumstances outside of my control, my life has been all about my job. I had to make a conscious commitment to the blog, which meant jotting down ideas on my phone while walking to the office and typing up drafts on the metro. I also have an editorial calendar, which helps me flesh out ideas and schedule posts in such a way that there is a diverse subject mix – food, art, sightseeing, daily life, personal stories, and so forth. Yes, I know I am overthinking it.
When I started Home & Away, I thought it would be something of an aid to my writing-heavy job, a place to practice and experiment. The relationship turned out to be much more symbiotic. Thanks to my work I am better at writing on a tight deadline, with a strict word limit and a specific objective in mind, all of which are essential for quality blogging.
I also thought that the blog would be a practice range before I embark on writing, simultaneously, The Great Travel Novel and an Epic Fantasy Adventure. That hasn’t happened yet, but a mini-, hybrid version of the two ambitions is currently materializing on Home & Away in the form of my 24-part Crimea series.
How does my blog differ from others in its genre?
Home & Away is a blog primarily about travel in Russia and expat life in Moscow. Not the most original of premises. When I started writing, I was actually very concerned about this: will I have anything original to say? Who, with any interest in Russia, HASN’T read about why New Year’s celebration is a bigger deal than Christmas, or seen a hundred photos of the Red Square? And I couldn’t even offer a lot of advice for new expats or travellers to Russia, never having to deal with such issues as a language barrier or finding an apartment here. As a result, in the first few months of this blog, I was rather reticent to post anything.
What helped was reading other blogs, including half a dozen of those by foreigners in Russia. Even when they covered the same or similar topics, they were all distinct in how they did it, they all offered something original and interesting. That was encouraging. I started writing more, and the more I posted, the more my own “voice” developed, the more new ideas popped up in my head.
Probably the defining differentiator of Home & Away is that I see Russia like a native, but talk about it like a foreigner would. Also, there are a lot of photos of bad Moscow fashions and classical Russian art galore.
Why do I write what I do?
Russia is a gorgeous, fascinating place, and I like to draw attentions to aspects of it that rarely make the headlines or guidebooks’ “must” lists. For example, I am absolutely fascinated by the microcosm that is the Moscow Metro. It’s the ideal place to people-watch, whether to judge their fashion sense or perv on ubiquitous amorous couples. It’s where you can track the city’s commitment to becoming more user-friendly, for example by updating all maps to include a Latin-script names of all stops, or installing fast automated ticket booths. It’s where you can see the most amusing ads and listen to bits of Russian history while riding the escalator.
Also, because I take obscene amount of photos, and I like making other people look at them.