Shiro Gaitho is the the face behind the beautifully written blog, The Cultured Cow. She describes herself as a quiet storyteller, a mental wanderer and a walking paradox.
She talks to Nation.co.ke about her journey to becoming a creative.
Can you give us some information about yourself and your path to becoming a creative?
Well, I never really thought of myself as a "creative" before. I enjoyed reading from a young age, and writing compositions was one of my favourite things to do in primary school.
I thought I was pretty decent at it (at least my teachers told me I was), so I decided to study Communications, which led me to a newsroom where I worked as a reporter.
I'd have lulls in my day, say while waiting for my stories to be edited, so I started using that time to write down little stories about my experiences, and I ended up blogging around 2010 on shelikessweetthings.blogspot.com.
I transitioned to The Cultured Cow while pregnant in early 2017, because I needed something to do besides feeding and changing diapers while on maternity leave.
It's like a public journal of sorts to me, but also where I tell stories about fascinating people I meet and share my love for interior styling.
Now that I've told you that, I'm actually beginning to think of myself as a creative, ha!
How would you describe your blogging style?
Conversational, laid back, descriptive. I find that I remember the most mundane of things, and the way different people or situations make me feel, so I try to describe them in a way that paints a picture for the reader to see.
What guides you?
I'm guided by an innate desire to remain authentic in a world full of calculated, highly curated perfectionism.
What have you learnt from influencing so far?
Influencing is such a buzzword these days, I'm often questioning whether those we call "influencers" actually have any tangible influence.
I prefer to think of what I do as storytelling rather than influencing, and I've learned that stories - whether through a blog or ephemeral micro-content on Instagram for example - can be really powerful.
What about blogging?
That Kenyans still read. My blogs tend to be a little longer than what we're told people like to read, and I've sometimes considered shortening them so as to appeal to more people, but at the same time I feel that a good story will be read and appreciated regardless of its length.
And as a reader myself, I wish more people would read, because it really does make a difference.
How did you build your following on social media?
It happened pretty organically; I made no conscious effort to do it. I just share what I'm feeling, thinking, reading, observing, and I guess people have been drawn to that.
What strategy has helped you best in getting more traffic to your blog?
I haven't had a clear strategy in place to be honest, but whatever traffic I get I attribute to my ability to share stories that people identify with.
I'm told I make people laugh, even if I don't consider myself a funny person. I like to think that I make people feel something through my stories.
There's a quote I like by Samuel Johnson, an 18th Century English author. He said: "What is written without effort is in general read without pleasure." So I put effort into what I share on the blog, on Instagram, and now on my YouTube channel.
What would you say is the best service a blogger can give his/her readers?
Consistency. It's something I've struggled with, which I'm trying to conquer. Some days I want to write all day and have a bunch of stories up one after the other; other days I literally have no idea why I even have a blog, especially when the writer's block kicks in.
But I'm trying to be consistent, because even the most loyal of readers will get tired of checking for new content if they never find any.
What is your ideal working environment?
I like some relative quiet when I'm working on my content. I usually have 90s RnB playing softly in the background (music was so good in that decade), herbal tea in my favourite mug or a glass of wine, and a very unhealthy snack.
Who has greatly influenced your blogging? And how?
Would I be a narcissist if I said that I've influenced my own blogging? I only say this because I focus on myself: what I'm thinking, feeling, what I've seen, who I've met. It's all very subjective, all shaped by my personal experiences.
In addition to that, motherhood has definitely influenced my writing.
Not so much in style, but in the kind of content I've been able to create and share as a result of this experience.
Interestingly, I've found that my articles about being a mom are often the most popular, so I tend to be quite raw when writing about this because I've learned that women want to read about this stuff since nobody talks about it. I mean, I've learned a lot from the school of Google and mommy forums, but I've also learned that women want to hear these stories from someone they can relate to, so I try to tell them.
What are some of your strengths that have helped you in blogging?
I really enjoy writing, telling stories about people; about my experiences. I'm very detail-oriented, so I notice the smallest things.
Sometimes those little details give me a whole story to share.
It could be the sound of somebody's voice, how they walk, talk, different mannerisms. I zero in on those and build my stories around them.
How do you manage your time in order to run your blog?
I have to confess that time management has never been my strongest suit, but guilt is a fantastic motivator! So even when I have no idea what I'll write about, the guilt compels me to power on the laptop and start typing until I get a sensible flow and turn that into a story.
Most times through, I like to think through my stories before I start working on them. I've found that I do a lot of thinking in the shower. I think the sound of running water calms me, gets me in the zone, and allows me to play around with different ideas. I’d love to live by the ocean one day.
I'm a night owl, so I work on my posts on Friday and Saturday nights, while everyone else in my house is asleep, or on Sunday mornings - if my daughter allows me to.
Greatest achievement in your blogging?
Being able to share stories through the blog, meeting this amazing community of women that have been so kind, so supportive. These women cheer me on even though we've never met, are quick to throw in a kind word, share their own experiences, and give advice when I ask for it.
They give me faith in the world.
What of outside blogging?
Having a child probably tops the list. Not because I always pictured myself as a mom, because I never did, but because having my daughter has given me a renewed sense of purpose and urgency. I look at the world very differently now, and it amazes me every day.
What would you say has been your greatest failure and how what did you learn from it?
It's a toss-up between taking the battery out of my weighing scale so I could live in ignorant bliss, and getting these tattoo on my foot and back that I deeply dislike now. But they’ve taught me something: they’re a constant reminder that mistakes, even when they leave permanent marks, do not define you. I'm not the 20-something year-old that got those tattoos, and now every time I look at them I realize how much I've grown since then. The ironic thing is that one of them used to read: ex tuis disce erroribus. Latin for: learn from your mistakes.
How would you want to improve yourself in this year?
For the blog, I would like to be consistent, to get more people checking it out, sharing, and commenting. I'd love The Cultured Cow to grow into a brand that can stand on its own.
I also need to quit junk and live a more active lifestyle. Junk is my weakness. I just ate some biscuits and tea while typing this, and it's almost midnight. I want to be healthier for me, for my husband and our daughter, and to spend more time in solitude. I want to think and feel more.
What tips would you give to someone who wants to make money off a blog?
I'd love to hear those too because I wouldn't mind an extra coin!
But what I would say to anyone who wants to start blogging - whether or not they'll make money off it - is to be consistent, be authentic and remain authentic. At all times.
Don't change yourself for the numbers or the cheque. I know it's tempting to "give the fans what they want", to create this persona that's very different from the real you, but I'm convinced that once you do this you lose the very thing that attracted your real fans to you - and you'll lose them. It's also a hell of a lot of work keeping up the facade.
What do you do in your spare time?
I like to sit by myself with some good food and a book, movie or series, feed my interior styling obsession by taking virtual tours through people's homes and real tours of home styling stores. I also love hanging out with my girls, sipping wine, talking and laughing.
We call ourselves DKD - Dada Kwa Dada – which is lame, I know. But we love it.