I discovered My OBT (One Beautiful Thing) in 2014, a few months after Donna Kramer launched it. I noticed that she regularly posts about my favorite interests: art, dance, humor, music, and photography, among other things. She’s introduced me to some of my favorite performers and artists. Her Etsomnia™ posts are a hoot, and her captions crack me up.
Her About page explains that Donna started her blog after a difficult time in her life, because her doctor said she needed to reduce her stress. Her response was to look for one beautiful thing every day and create a post about it. Her stress-busters have blessed me and many other readers on a daily basis. I am so happy that Donna graciously agreed to be interviewed for ARHtistic License.
ARHtistic License: How do you come across all the beautiful things you write about? Do you find them all online? Do you use search engines? If so, what specifically do you look up?
Donna Kramer: Initially, I had to make a real effort to look for beauty, but eventually, I got better at noticing the marvelous things around me. Now, when something strikes me, whether it’s from a magazine or someone’s post in my feed or a conversation or something I spy out in the world, I hunt it down. I’m also a big believer in following the breadcrumbs, especially on Instagram and YouTube. Once I spot something wonderful, I don’t stop there. I follow the suggestions to see where they lead. I’m also a voracious (late night) browser, so I regularly hit the websites of museums, concert halls, PBS, and of course my darling Etsy, which never fails to deliver new wonders. And of course, my readers are incredibly generous with their ideas. They send me artists and things to check out constantly!
AL: What’s in your head when you’re writing?
DK: As you pointed out in your post about writing and confidence, every writer has someone in their head when they’re writing. Sometimes it’s a good voice, often it’s not. Maybe it’s a partner, maybe it’s a critical parent, maybe it’s an encouraging professor or a tough boss or someone you admire. Maybe it’s just your third grade grammar teacher, but there’s someone talking to you as you write. I am very lucky in my muses. When I’m choosing my post subjects and writing my blog, I have my most loyal readers in my head, telling me what they think. And they don’t always agree with each other, either. If I were to write just for Beverly (who reminds me so much of my mom), everything would be sweet and crafty and beautiful. If I were writing for Hal, it would mostly be gorgeous women and dance videos. Laura has a wonderfully perverse sense of humor, and she most enjoys the more unusual artists and Etsomnia™ finds. There are many others as well, but these three pretty much sum up the three sides of me. When I’m writing, if I conclude my subject won’t make at least one of the three happy, I scrap it and go back to the drawing board.
AL: How do you find the time to write, considering that you also have a full-time job that requires you to work long hours? Do you have a special discipline?
DK: I wrote an article about this once, which your readers might like. I did used to write every day. These days, though, with the new career and the utter madness of the NYC real estate market, I no longer have time for that. Instead, a couple of days a week, I block out some time after Beloved goes to bed (she’s a morning person. I am definitely not.). Though it feels a bit like cheating, I now research and write half a week’s worth of posts in one sitting. At other times when I find something inspiring, I set it up as a draft post in WordPress and come back to it. I currently have 1,000+ drafts hanging around waiting for my attention. When I’m stumped for inspiration, I go wander through my drafts folder until I find something about which I want to write. I also always try to have a couple of fully-written posts hanging around for emergencies.
AL: Do you have a blogging schedule that you use? I notice that most Thursdays you post an Etsomnia™ article. Do you have a day for music and a day for art?
DK: In the early days, I posted music on “Wordless Wednesdays.” However, I noticed my numbers on Wednesdays were lower than the rest of the week (so much for my taste in music), so now I mix it up. I do still deliver Etsomnia™ on Thursdays, because I know there are people who only tune in for that feature, but the rest of the weekdays can be anything. I also now do reposts on weekends and most holidays (and when I’m on vacation).
AL: What is easier about blogging now than when you started? What is harder about blogging now? What is your biggest blogging challenge, and how do you handle it?
DK: When I first started, my challenges were very different than they are now. I was worried that my voice wasn’t right, that I wasn’t picking subjects that would be interesting to people. Now, I realize that my voice is my voice. If people didn’t like it, they wouldn’t be readers. And when I pick a subject that some of my regulars don’t like, they still read, they still engage, they just tell me what they dislike about it. I love that dialogue.
The biggest challenge for me now is time management. It’s easy to go down the rabbit hole of glass artists, for example. There is a never-ending stream of gloriously-creative people out there, and it’s really easy for me to (joyously) lose myself in the search. However, when I come back up for air and realize it’s 4 AM and I have a 9 AM work Zoom call, it is not so joyous. I have learned to use my calendar, adding a blogging “appointment” with a start time and an end time a couple of nights a week. When the appointment is over and the timer goes off, I may hit snooze to complete my thought, but I am at least more conscious of time passing.
AL: Do you have any advice for bloggers who are just starting out?
DK: Yes. RESPOND TO EVERY COMMENT. I can’t stress this enough. Like I said above, even if someone is disagreeing with you, they’re engaging. It’s important to make people feel heard. If they get a response from you, whether in agreement or not, chances are they’ll come back. But don’t suffer trolls (unless you enjoy that kind of dialogue). I am happy to respond to anyone, but if a commenter is being abusive, either to me or to one of my readers, I cut ‘em right off. It’s very satisfying, actually. Wish I could do that in real life…
AL: Do you ever think about quitting blogging?
DK: Confession time. It would have been unthinkable to me until this year, but since starting in real estate, I have thought about it and discussed it with Beloved a number of times. I get overwhelmed, and it is the opposite of stress relief. But this blog is a labor of love, and I’m intensely proud of what I’ve built. Every time I have this conversation, either with myself or with someone else, my conclusion is the same. I love my blog and I love my readers and I don’t want to abandon either. So on I go…
AL: What are some of your favorite blogs that you read, bloggers who you admire?
DK: This is going to sound like pandering, but I honestly love your blog, ARHtistic License! I regularly read the blogs of my readers. I get great ideas from them all. I’m also a loyal fan of Messy Nessy Chic and the Houzz vlog, I’ve been reading humorist Dave Barry’s blog since the nineties, I love art blogs like The Jealous Curator and Booooooom, and I never miss a post by Cheap Old Houses!
AL: What are some of your favorite posts that you’ve written? What do you most like writing about?
DK: There are many posts about artists whose work I was thrilled to share, but the posts that make me the happiest are the ones where I get really personal. My favorite of all time is a love letter I wrote to parents after a miscarriage. It’s a rough one, but I still love it. I am also really happy with my posts about adoption.
AL: What are some of your all-time most popular posts (most likes and/or most views)?
DK: My most popular post of all time, which continues to flummox me, was a snarky little thing I did about the idiotic prices (and beautiful design) by Restoration Hardware. I wrote it 7 years ago, and it still gets hits every day. I cannot begin to fathom why.
My second most popular post was a bit of prescience on my part. My friend has an exceptionally precocious son, and I wrote about him when he started reviewing Broadway shows at the ripe old age of 4. He has since become a very successful child actor and is currently playing the lead character in Young Sheldon. I knew that kid was something special!
AL: I am so jealous of your readership (more than 7500 followers). Do you do anything to promote your blog?
DK: Not really. I share my posts on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter every day, but it’s mostly been word-of-mouth. I also often tag the artists I profile, and many of them have shared my posts with their readers. I wrote an article about building your reader base that your readers might find helpful. I used to spend hours every week chasing down new readers, but now I let things happen more organically (since I don’t have the time for much more than that).
AL: Of all the artists and performers you’ve written about, who would you most like to meet in person?
DK: That’s easy. They’re all dead, but I don’t think that materially changes my chances of meeting them, so why not swing for the fences? I’d love to meet Elaine Stritch, Robin Williams, Dorothy Parker, and Tom Lehrer. Humor is still my favorite art form.
AL: What is the most interesting thing that has happened to you because of your blog?
DK: I could never have imagined it when I started, but a small, sweet, loyal community has grown up around this blog. They now talk not only to me, but to each other. I love that so much! I now have a few of what Beloved jokingly calls “imaginary friends.” These are people with whom I’ve connected through my blog on such a deep level that I consider them real friends, even though we’ve never met IRL.
And a few of the artists I’ve profiled have sweetly send me thank you gifts of their work after they found the post I published about them. I treasure them all!
AL: Do you have any funny blogging stories?
DK: The funniest thing that happens in connection with the blog is that sometimes, I lose track of what’s written and what’s just a bare-bones draft, and I wake I the morning to realize that rather than a completed post, I’ve instead published a hyperlink and a few incoherent notes. I don’t find this particularly funny, but when I go running for my laptop shouting “nonononono noooooooo,” Beloved is entertained.
Also, because I have been known to schedule drafts up to a year ahead of time, I have told Beloved that if something happens to me, unfinished drafts of my blog will continue to haunt the blogosphere for some time after my passing.
AL: What else would you like ARHtistic License readers to know about you?
DK: I would like them to know something about YOU. You have been so kind and so generous to me over the years. I’m truly grateful for all the times you’ve included my posts in your Creative Juice lists. You can’t imagine what it means to me that someone I so admire is willing to share my work with their readers. I truly appreciate the interview, and thank you for all your support! XO
AL: And thank you so much for answering all my questions and sharing your expertise.