Cellphones were created to keep us connected 24/7. No room is off limits anymore, not even the bathroom.Continue reading
In my lifetime, I’ve seen two wars, two political assassinations and two assassination attempts, two political scandals: Watergate and Monicagate, as well as several terrorist attacks and two recessions.
And now once again I find myself in the middle of another seismic social shift in a country reeling from political and cultural turmoil.
We live in chaotic times. Our country has been in a constitutional crisis since January 2017.
There. I said it, even if the media pundits won’t. They carefully parse their words when discussing the proverbial tipping point of a constitutional crisis.
If you can’t fit between the lines, don’t try to squeeze into a compromising position.Continue reading
You may have noticed a silence lately emanating from my blog. Words missing. Subscribers slipping. A blog on the verge of extinction. But, it couldn’t be the farthest from the truth.
I’ve just migrated over to the Medium blogging platform that has a wider audience than mine. Medium is a community within many communities. Topics abound from humor to politics to inspirational thinking. Whatever your interests Medium has a publication for you.
Each publication is an established platform with built-in followers. If accepted as a writer, publications provide a much larger audience than your blog, which in many cases is just one voice among all the Internet chatter.
A Petri Dish for Ideas and Goals
Besides the huge platform that Medium offers, it’s also a petri dish for ideas and goals. By choosing to write for a particular magazine, you are narrowing your focus, embracing what topics you enjoy writing the most.
My blog has been a quandary for me lately. Stuck on the point of my focus. Many days flailing on the keyboard in the hopes of my fingers showing me the way to my goals. But growth and focus aren’t a quick fix. It’s more of a slow grind, a slothly approach toward your prime directive in writing that stands beneath the fancy trimmings on top. The prime directive being my love for writing. Everything else is wallpaper.
Once you have the desire to write, the willingness to defer to the obstacles in your way and study them instead of repelling them will nudge you closer to your goal, as long as your willing to put in the time and grind.
The Blogging/Writing Tug of War
I often question what it is that I seek for my writing. The immediate gratification from a blog post or the slow burn of desire involved in a longer piece of work. Since I started blogging in 2009, I’ve had a tug of war inside myself between blogging and writing.
For some writers, blogging becomes part of their goals of work already produced. Book writers write about the process. Others write about subjects that are geared to their books. But for a writer without a book and with many ideas on a variety of topics, the search for your blog’s identify can be more convoluted.
That’s how Medium can help. When you choose the tags that interest you while setting up your profile, you get a sense of what your interests are. My interests are humor, satire, politics, writing, and culture. Noticeably the topics on the sidebar of my blog. So, maybe I’m not as off-goal as I had thought.
But then the question: How do I synthesize my writing on Medium and my blog? Again, if you are a writer with a book, you can direct readers from Medium back to your blog to sign up for a mailing list. If you’re a writer with a book, that is.
So, how would someone like me without a book use Medium in conjunction with my blog?
One answer might be to publish new material on Medium (because new material is prime real estate there) and then repost it to your blog.
When I first started writing on Medium, I reposted articles from my blog to Medium, which is a huge advantage of writing on that platform. Although reposting writing from your blog to Medium doesn’t excite Medium’s algorithm as much as new material.
But another approach could be to use my blog as a publication unto itself. Write something different here than what I write on Medium. Another vexing predicament. There always seems to be another obstacle around the bend.
As I write this blog post, I even consider not publishing here at all and only airing my thoughts on Medium. The thought still lingers. A decision hangs with the fixtures. What to do? Where to do it? Since this is a WIP post, I’ll provide the thoughts while you provide the answers you’ve found helpful in your own journey.
If you thought you would find answers to your own writing problems here, you might be disappointed to find more questions instead. But I thought by thinking out loud about the problems I face in my own blogging/writing journey, I may collaterally help you work out your problems, too.
Your feedback would be most helpful if you’ve been able to get a grip on the blogging/writing thing.
Are we having fun yet?
I used to wait until I had a headline before writing a blog post but realized a headline corrals your thoughts. Sometimes you need to let your thoughts run free. See where they lead you, not follow where your headline tells them to go.
That’s when I have the most fun writing—when I let my mind wander, and get that “jump off the cliff without a parachute” thrill while sitting on my ass. Because jumping off a cliff was never my thing, on those rare occasions, I got off my ass to exercise my legs, instead of staying on my ass to exercise my thoughts.
You exercise your thoughts without breaking a sweat or pulling a muscle. Though eye strain is possible. And some people have been known to slam their heads against the keyboard every now and then. Ouch! A Confusion Contusion.
But I’m not talking about timid writers. I’m talking about adventurous writers who live for the thrill of creating something out of nothing. Turning a blank page into a word paradise. Writers who aren’t afraid to jump off the page into an unknown place that gets the heart and mind racing, and keeps the fingers tapping the keyboard, yearning for more.
It doesn’t matter what you write, as long as you write.
Creating something out of nothing can be scary and intimidating. Yet, most days, life detours off into places “unknown.” Places you didn’t intend to go, which should be a blueprint for writers who want to evolve. Your writing won’t get better if you stay on your comfort cushion with the indelible ass print that says, “Here sits status quo.”
Even if you write about one topic most of the time, you can push the envelope of discourse. Because I bet there are times you get bored or blocked or mad at your keyboard and hurt it instead of stroke it. That’s when you know you’ve stopped writing for pleasure and started torturing yourself.
Ideas are fragile. They need to be massaged, not bruised.
I’ve spent months torturing myself. I’ve been told by the so-called “experts” that I should write on point and keep my content within certain parameters. I tried to cookie-cut my writing, tried to squeeze my content into a box, but I don’t think inside a box. My content needs to speak from me, not someone else who thinks they know me better than I know myself.
Listening to the so-called “experts” broke my writing. For months, I was blocked. I questioned my very writing existence while I tried to focus on four or five topics. The best format for my content I was told. But the experts didn’t know me. Something that may have been best for others wasn’t best for me.
Write from the voice in your heart.
My blog is my playground, a place to think and breathe words, not to smother them. If every time I write I have to worry if a post fits into a theme or a headline, it’ll stifle creativity and the blank page wins.
All the so-called “experts” can tell you what you need for your blog or writing, but if you’re not comfortable with what you’re being told and your writing becomes stifled or even non-existent, you’re not taking advice from the most important person, yourself.
Write for the right to speak the truth in your voice and heart. Otherwise, that blank page will stare at you and say, “Why bother?”
Have you ever gotten bad writing advice?
After three weeks of the dashboard doldrums, I can finally write again without waiting five minutes to login, and another 10 to access a draft.
On the phone with GoDaddy support ten times or more (maybe a billion) over the past several weeks. I had an opportunity to meet everyone on the team, or so it seemed.
Though none of the calls technically fixed the problem — slow dashboard osmoses — all the tech helpers were really nice. They took their time to show me around the GoDaddy dashboard because mine was on hiatus for reasons unknown.
What was the problem? It depends on who you ask. The Google said “my template.” GoDaddy said “my template.” But in fact, the template had never slowed dashboard access before.
I had a theory. It was either the Sucuri security software, activated around the same time the dashboard became sluggish. Or, Colonel Custard in the library with a candlestick.
Since I don’t know Colonel Custard and my house doesn’t have a library, Sucuri became the prime suspect.
None of the “so-called” experts agreed with my hypothesis. But after hours on the phone with tech support, learning how the GoDaddy dashboard worked, someone accidentally nudged me in the right direction. And I stumbled onto the “speed test” button, pressed it and hoped I hit the jackpot.
Instead, a very important looking page, with lots of words, popped up before the test ended. Speed Test Button tapped me on the shoulder and said, “You’ve got issues! Try again!”
I know I have issues. I don’t like hanging out in crowds or making small talk at cocktail parties. But Speed Test Button wasn’t talking about me. I had to remind myself. “It’s not always about you!”
Since learning that “something wasn’t kosher” in the dashboard, I signed up for speed test No. 2. Yes, there was a second speed test.
During speed test No. 2, I received a message from a higher-power, Speed Test Button, who told me, “I can’t find your site, dumb-ass, because the DNS address is wrong.”
“Holy crap! I’ve got a DNS problem!” I shouted. “What’s a DNS?”
I had no idea but didn’t care. I clicked the link that showed me how to fix the DNS thingy, copied the new address into another window with other DNS addresses. (I had never seen so many DNS addresses in my life.)
After I pasted the numbers into the window and saved the settings, I thought, “I can really screw things up if this is wrong.” But I hit save anyway because I knew GoDaddy could restore a backup of my blog if it imploded or disintegrated into nano-bytes.
I immediately hung a U-Turn back to my blog and logged into the dashboard rather quickly.
“It was the DNS thingy!” I shouted to my dog, who yawned and went back to sleep. “Woo-hoo! I didn’t break anything!” (that of which I was sure).
But what caused the DNS outbreak?
I have a theory and it involves Sucuri. I think the software install settings were wrong.
For three weeks, I had to sloth my way around my blog dashboard. I’d click on the posts list and wait while GoDaddy loaded the page, and waited, and watched the spinny thingy somersault in place in an endless display of its gymnastic abilities. Of this I soon grew bored.
Interestingly, I still can’t login to my dashboard on Google Chrome unless I’m in incognito mode. Yes, I put on a wig and glasses and sign in to my account. Not really. It’s a double-secret setting in Google Chrome in plain sight on the taskbar.
What did I learn from my three weeks of DNS hell? Next time hire somebody to fix it.
Back to writing. I can stop dabbling in the nuances of tech support which is above my pay grade anyway.
Where thoughts run free…
I’m back at the keyboard trying to put together a sentence. Woo-hoo! Got one! Now, where do I go from here?
Down the page, of course, keyboarding my way through a bramble of thoughts.
Ouch! I wish they’d stop needling me. Yet, they continue pushing their prickly points. Bramble! Bramble! Bramble!
She lays on the rug in the family room, old and broken, a fixture of decline. Her gaze holding onto a moment.
I’m always, sort of, almost there — Butt on the chair. Thoughts up in the air.
Focus is a temporary condition as variable as the Comcast channel lineup, which changed again.
Comcast and I have a lot in common as I shift my line of thought to the next thing, away from the “this” thing–completing a piece of work and summing up what I don’t know yet.
Up seems to be the theme, as in “up in the air” where my thoughts float searching for an anchor.
Will they land upstairs in the shower or downstairs in Dog World?
The shower equalizes me, prepares me for the real world, while in Dog World, my thoughts run free chasing tangents.
I don’t know when they’ll come home again.
Guessing is as good as it gets. It’s my specialty, along with mind travel, to escape the voices in my head. Will they ever shut up?
And we’re back to the “up” theme. But, that will change.
We’re seesawing in the improv playground of deranged spontaneity. No rubber mats here to cushion a fall or audible hecklers. Only internal voices taunting me, vying for attention.
“Hey! Hey! Pick me!” OCD Voice screams.
“Forget her! She’s boring!” ADHD Voice says while spinning around.
Instead, I focus on the keyboard in an attempt to ignore them, but it’s hard in the silence of the house–the house always wins. If I stay, I lose.
I leave in a daydream and find a time when I mingled with people, not dogs–before I joined the ranks of the underemployed.
As a member of the “too many hours in the week club,” today is a non-working day of sedentary discontent, idling without a schedule to reel in ADHD tendencies.
I embrace distractions that lead me through a parallel world where time speaks softly from a faraway place. “Come back,” she whispers, in a tick-tock way.
Of course, I ignore her and continue corralling wisps of thoughts as nebulous as clouds.
Whoops! Another thought gone. Another thought wrangled, ends up on the page.
Every day is a contest between thoughts I catch and the ones that get away.
Is there flypaper for the brain?
This inquiring mind wants to know, as I meander toward the end, wondering when the last period will leave a mark.
As writers, we have a responsibility to speak out when things get under our skin and poke at our gut in an unrelenting way.
Words that evoke emotion or provoke thought is what writers do and should be doing, especially now at a time of one-party government led by an authoritarian bent president.
Yes, our President has authoritarian tendencies. He embraces dictators like Putin, Duterte, and Erdogan and condemns our democratic allies — And no, I’m not speaking as a progressive, though I wear the label proudly. I’m speaking as a citizen of our great democracy, as someone who can’t sleep at night when I think about the man who sits in the oval office with a temperament of a five-year-old.
You may have noticed that his epidermis is thin. He can’t take criticism or responsibility for his actions or words. He has no problem blaming others for his mistakes then sacrificing them to save himself. His only loyalties are to his family and his bank accounts. That is the only constant in a chaotic administration ruled by an unstable man.
His masculinity is threatened if he’s not a “winner” or doesn’t have the biggest crowds. *wink* *wink* He responds to unflattering accusations by lashing out with pompous, incredulous lies to protect his manhood, while undermining the institutions that are a framework of our democracy: the press, the intelligence agencies, the judicial branch, the scientists and the laws that he believes don’t apply to him.
You might think he’s dumb or crass or inept at diplomacy. It doesn’t matter. He is capable of destroying us by the power he wields in the highest office, along with the controlling party of one that enables him, putting party over country to hold onto power.
The GOP started their power grab years ago by redefining electoral districts through Gerrymandering. They continued their absorption of power and deference to the powerful by hijacking Obama’s supreme court seat to keep the court conservative, by denying the reality of science for the sake of oil company profits, and by tweaking the Senate rules to favor lobbyists and special interest groups. If they approve Trump’s budget, they’ll cut programs for the poor and middle class and change the tax code to enrich the rich, allowing billionaires to control our country like Russian oligarchs — the men Trump admires and emulates.
It isn’t paranoid to think there could be a political shift in this country from democracy to autocracy. The cracks are evident in our divided political system and the uncertainty of what is real or false. Thanks to Trump’s cult-like repetition ridiculing and demeaning the “dishonest media” and branding them as “an enemy of the people.”
Undermining and vilifying the media is a playbook often used by dictators to effect a radical change in government.
“The phrase “enemy of the people” — that has a history. The only people that I know that have used that phrase were (Joseph) Stalin and the people who succeeded Stalin in the Soviet Bloc,” Nadler said. “The press is not the ‘enemy of the people.’ Nobody is an ‘enemy of the people,’ because they disagree with me or you about what we ought to be doing.”
During Trump’s recent overseas trip, he shut out the media, conducted press briefings off camera, and never held a press conference in order to control the coverage. According to MSNBC reporter Kelly O’Donnell:
When world leaders convened at the G7 Summit in Italy, the United States was the only country that didn’t hold press conferences:
If we ignore signs of the erosion of our freedoms or dismiss the notion as progressive neurosis or hysterical hyperbole, autocracy will blindside us one day.
It has happened before to people in nations content in their complacency of unintended ignorance. It happened while they sleepwalked through their day and missed the legislative creep of plutocratic policy passed by their leaders, as they pulled the strings that unraveled the fabric of society.
Whether we agree or disagree on right/left wedge issues is irrelevant, as long as we can agree that we need to be free in order to disagree.