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.
| Moment Catchers | Word Shapers |
Many of us didn’t choose to become writers. Writing became us. It is an intricate part of who we are that inspires us to become better writers and therefore better people.
Writing is therapy, a self-motivating, actualizing process that helps us understand the world and ourselves, by observing then assessing from a creative perspective. It is a way to get to the truth, to uncover things we don’t want to see, and then report our analysis with words that hold a reader’s attention.
You can’t fail when you write.
You can only learn from your mistakes and mistakes are how we evolve. You can fool yourself into thinking there is nothing more to learn. That you know everything about writing you need to know, but you’d be deluding yourself. When you stop learning, you become the opposite of what a writer is — a passionate observer, an inquisitive seeker with an insatiable lust to learn about the world and ourselves, always searching for ways to perfect our craft and crystallize our perceptions.
Writing is a gift that should be embraced, not dismissed. It allows you to observe the world from the creative platform in your head, and then describe what you see with words. If you try to turn off the creative spigot, you’ll lose an intrinsic part of you. On days you don’t write, your mind will overload to the point of dysfunction. You’ll become cranky and restless. Life will look dull, and you’ll lose your visceral connection with the world.
Fear appears in many forms: failure, insecurity, commitment, criticism.
Don’t give into the impediments of creativity. You were always meant to write, to create something from nothing, to air thoughts that intrigue you, that if you don’t express, will haunt you.
Not everyone will agree with what you say, which should be expected and accepted, but do not write for fear of others criticizing your work or your point of view, would be an injustice to yourself. If you write for acceptance, your words will hit the page with a thud, and you will disappoint yourself and distance your readers.
Whether your goal is to publish your words or purge your thoughts, if you stop writing, that invisible appendage that’s an extension of you will always feel like it’s part of you.
Don’t let the moments slip by that others miss. You were meant to catch them.
I’ve been searching for my blog’s soul that I lost over time.
-Will I find it with my car keys?
-Do blogs have a soul?
Questions, so many questions…
A nugget of curiosity rattles around in your head.
Do you have the answers? You might ask.
Yes, I might reply. I’ll tell you what I know and stop the rattle in your head, but not in your car.
DOES A BLOG HAVE A SOUL?
Yes, it does. You are the soul of your blog, the heart that connects you to your audience. When you inject your soul into your writing, it triggers an emotional response in your readers. Otherwise, they’ll be staring at meaningless words that fall off a page into the abyss.
My words slipped into oblivion when my thoughts wandered outside and hit a tree. “Temporary memory loss,” the focus doctor said.
“Do I know you?”
That was months ago. Yet, I still couldn’t find my soul.
So, I created this flyer.
Though hitting the metaphorical tree hurt a lot and sent my thoughts to the ER for a while, it put me in a self-analytical coma. During which time, I dreamed of what my blog could be and received a room full of metaphorical flowers.
Thank God, I didn’t pull the plug or incur hospital charges. Our insurance deductible is as high as the Washington Monument, where I stood, hypothetically, while my readers mingled on the plaza below.
DON’T PUT DISTANCE BETWEEN YOU AND YOUR READERS
If you stood with me at the top of the Washington Monument, you’d see that the people on the ground look like ants (and might be ants). But never treat them like ants, unless you’re in the habit of inviting ants to a picnic.
Now ride the elevator down to the plaza and look at the people up close and personal — No ants here. Just faces, smiles and hearts — the people you need to reach by staying emotionally in touch.
It took me months to realize that I was writing from a distant place. Rather than communicating with my readers up close and personal, I reached out to them from atop the Washington Monument, putting distance between us, losing the humanity in my writing — the soul of my blog.
Even though I knew where to find my soul, I still couldn’t ID it in the swath of people on the plaza. It looked like a fuzzy blob in the crowd of tourists snapping photos of my hypothetical situation.
While I squinted to see the details on my fuzzy-blob soul, two emails dropped in my inbox, asking for permission to link to older posts on my blog. Since the sites looked legit, I agreed to their proposals.
In the process of adding the links to my posts, I found the humanity and humility that linked me to my readers.
FINDING YOUR SOUL IN OLDER BLOG POSTS
I read the older blog posts that I wrote in 2013 and saw what I had lost over time — my voice and passion, glimmering like spits of waves on a moonlit night — the soul of my blog sparkled in something old, yet new because it was from the heart of me.
You can find your soul, too.
If you’ve been blogging for a while and feel stuck, go back in time and read older blog posts. It will help you reconnect with the voice that sings when you write.
If you’re just starting out, don’t be afraid to write something, anything, even if you feel it isn’t right. You might need time to find your voice. Don’t be discouraged. And never stop writing because of it.
These are the two posts that helped me find my blog’s soul:
How did you find your blog’s soul?
Back then I blogged to purge my thoughts and never thought about finding a niche for my blog. I considered blogging a platform for testing ideas, where I could meet other bloggers and get feedback on my posts.
But over the years as I’ve changed, so have my blogging needs and ergo my focus.
As a writer/blogger/person in progress, I’ve received lots of advice from experts on what I should write or not write about and the topics on which I should focus my blog. I agonized for months to find a focus for my blog, and my writing by association.
With my thoughts caught in a perpetual tug-of-war, my sanity stepped in and forced me to make an executive decision. “Whatcha gonna do girl?”
“I’ll focus my blog on finding my focus,” I said, with indecisive certainty, “which includes a large chunk of everything.”
“A no-no!” yelled the “they sayers” in the blogosphere who advise bloggers to narrow their audience.
Impossible for someone like me with a genre disorder. Someone who vacillates between writing and blogging, nonfiction and fiction, humor, culture, and politics. Oh, my!
Add ADHD to the mix (I’ve got attention deficit disorder.), plus a four-day work week, three days w/o a routine (dangerous for an ADDer), and I’m back in a 2010 time loop, the beginning of my underemployment status, which left me in a creative vacuum.
Lost in an ADD world where time is an anachronism, I’ve never been able to cobble together a major success in my tilted perception. Success means landing a book deal with an agent or just sticking to one project until the “end,” which isn’t permanent anyway in writing until printed in ink.
Today, at the start of another unstructured day, I kidnapped myself and duct taped my butt to the chair in front of the computer, then asked myself: what should I write about? To which I replied, I have no friggin idea.
My head is filled with lots of ideas, which end up in three or four notebooks on my desk, or a digital “note” file on my Mac. Where do I begin when I can’t see past a flock of ideas that block my view like a Sharkanado cloud?
How can I focus when lingering childhood insecurities bully their way into my conscious thoughts? I know. We’re all products of dysfunctional families. But many of us are able to escape the cycle of “almost there’s” when we grow into our adult selves.
I feel like I’ve been idling on off ramps for years, with a few successful stops along the way, one of which is my 27-year old son. He has surpassed all my expectations by overcoming the educational and social hurdles that encumber a child with Asperger’s Syndrome.
It’s a huge accomplishment and I would never minimize my contribution to his success.
Now that my son is on the path to success, I thought it was time for me to cement my own path.
I need to stop the vicious cycle of “I’m stupid” in which I’ve been stuck, leftover from the adolescent years and the stigma of growing up with a mentally challenged brother 22 months my senior. This is my time to get unstuck and reboot my life, replace the negative inner voice, “I can’t” with the positive, “I can.”
A long time ago, I realized that when life sends you down a circuitous route, having GPS is helpful, but only the person at the wheel can drive you to your destination.
Do you feel stuck?