A Tale of Two Blogging Platforms Why I Write On Medium.

Where's the path?

Where’s the path?

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?

Blog Post: Headline Not Included! Writing without a headline frees your thoughts.

When you're ADHDI 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?

A Blog In Progress

FearI’ve been blogging off and on since 2009, the year I lost my job during the not-so-great recession.

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?

For The Love Of Writing

The creative process

I’ve always wanted to be a writer, which is a silly notion. How can you want to be something you already are?

Writing became me. It is intrinsic to how I live my life. I am a scribbler, an anthropologist, a curator of words.

Writing is my religion. It’s as close to God as I can get. When I write, I reach a meditative state known as “getting in the zone,” where I allow my mind to wander and find my creative sweet spot.

To stop writing because you think your work sucks or don’t know what to write about contradicts the writing process. Yes, we’re told to have a focus for our writing, to know our audience. But, writing isn’t like the movie “Field of Dreams” — write the post, and they will come. If you write for others and not for yourself, squandering the passion that compels you to write, your writing loses its shine.

Over the past year, I’ve been questioning my writing focus. Instead of embracing spontaneity and writing in raw form — dumping thoughts onto the page, an essential step in the creative process — I embraced perfectionism, which doesn’t exist, and mitigates the impact of a word.

If you stop to edit while you write, you drop out of “the zone” and lose your creative edge. Your writing becomes dull.

The other word destroyer, overwriting — not knowing when to stop revising a draft — muddies the qualities that make your writing unique.

If you’re stuck on a sentence, stop revising it and walk away. Let your unconscious mind take the wheel. You will likely find the answer you seek while emptying the dishwasher or performing another mundane task.

Don’t obsess over changing a word you think is too simple. Sometimes a fifth-grade level word is a better choice than a college level word. The simple word expresses the rawness of your feelings during an emotional purge.

Venting your frustrations in rough form is a visceral response to an impulsive emotional thought. You wrote it because it came from the heart. Wrote it for yourself, not for a publisher, or agent or target audience.

Sure, it’s rewarding when your work elicits a positive response from a reader. But, to write for validation or praise shouldn’t be what drives a writer to write.

A writer must be passionate about the process. Enjoy the discovery of words and how they sound when read aloud. It’s the pleasant torture of word wrangling during a revision and knowing when to stop, which comes with experience.

Over the past year, I discovered that I write because I enjoy the writing process — the words, the sounds of vowels and consonants, the joy of creating something out of nothing.

If I allow outside or inside critics to distract or deter me from writing, then shame on me. It’s time to shut out the noise and refocus on the passion. I don’t write for the accolades or validation of others, I write for myself.

Do inside/outside influences distract you from writing? 

My Existential Blogging Crisis

Door Closed

Blogger, Writer, Tech Support

I stop by my blog every now and then to dust off the dashboard.“Why am I here?” I ask, waiting for divine intervention. But, all I got was spam.

Other times, I return to the dashboard after receiving a bad news email from a security plugin that’s a bit of a drama queen.

“Stop what you’re doing and get over here!” It said in a panic. “I found a virus in a WordPress file.”

My instinct was to ignore it. But if I did, the plugin would just send ten more emails, screaming in all caps, “IF YOU DON’T GET RID OF THE VIRUS, I’M CALLING THE CDC.”

To avoid ending up as a hot spot on the government’s map of diseases, I logged into the dashboard and wasted an hour trying to fix the problem while food deprived and cranky from working all day. Clearly, I was in no condition to tackle a WordPress pandemic of this magnitude.

I called BlueHost tech support who couldn’t help me. Thirty minutes on the phone with them resulted in a support ticket and “Good luck with that,” which galvanized me to fix the problem as I scarfed down a snack at my computer.

Technical issues are one of the hazards of running a self-hosted WordPress blog. I was clueless about 404 pages, plugins, and widgets before I made the transition from Blogger to WordPress — a birthday gift from my parents while I was unemployed. Though the last thing I needed was more stress in my life at the time.

The Blogging Conundrum

When I started blogging over eight years ago, I wrote about the pitfalls of having an open-ended schedule while looking for work and then keeping the work I had found. As I told my husband who thought that writing meant goofing off, “Blogging is my therapy. There are just so many hours in a day in which I can look for a job or hold onto one.”

Blogging kept me as sane as I could possibly be. As a creative thinker, one hundred percent sanity is a condition I try to avoid.

In 2010, after I became a member of the underemployment club and started working four days a week, I published fewer and fewer blog posts. Until a year ago, my blogging screeched to a stop and skidded into a ditch. I didn’t know what to write about. My creative GPS was directionless. She kept telling me to “Make an illegal U-turn if at all possible.” But I couldn’t because I was stuck in a rut after getting lost from all the confusing signs along the Internet highway.

Signs like…

“You need to have a direction for your blog.”

“You need to know your audience and write for them.”

“If you cover too many topics, you’ll confuse your readers.”

Blah. Blah. Blah.

“My readers?” I said. “You mean the trolls who leave spam comments and thrive on chaos? I don’t want to encourage them.”

Confusion Is Confusing

But, I was still confused. I stood in the ditch watching the traffic light turn from red to green while others, who knew where they were going, whooshed on past me.

Then a thought approached me from behind and tapped me on the shoulder. “Excuse me,” it said. “Maybe confusion should be the focus of your blog.”

“Isn’t that crazy?” I asked. “Confusion would be too confusing, unless…” And at that moment, I realized that the thought was right. I should write about my journey to find a focus for my blog and my writing, collateral damage from being stuck, as well as the distractions that drove me into a ditch. Confusion will be my hook.

Today, I embrace chaos.

A Blogger Looks Back to 2009 and Asks, Why Am I Here?

 

disgusted-oh-god-why-text

I started blogging back in May 2009 shortly after I lost my job as a customer service rep at a bakery where only the baked goods were nut-free.

The gal who preceded me and the one who followed were also let go after three months. We all got the tee-shirt, but one of us didn’t survive. She killed herself several months after losing her job. The word “unstable” comes to mind. But she had help. The owner of the bakery expedited her journey into hopelessness.

I was in a dark place, too, when the owner told me, “We’re letting you go. I really need someone with more inventory management experience.”

He knew I didn’t bring that to the job when he hired me. I told him that. Nothing I said mattered. It was my time. The damage had been done.

I needed to purge dark thoughts from my head and blogged about it.

TODAY FRIDAY

A day without work. At home trying to get organized. A problem. Always. Can’t reign in my thoughts to stabilize the content in my head. The executive function in my brain takes too many coffee breaks, gets in late, and leaves early. The proverbial cluttered mind with a desk by the window. I look outside and see trees but can’t see the forest through them.

Where will the trajectory path of my day go? Probably nowhere, fast until I look outside and see darkness but not the trees. If I squint and look up, I’ll see stars, none of them for me. Although one year, I received a star for Christmas named after me. An ex-employer’s idea of a really nifty gift. The card ended up in the garbage before I knew about shredders.

Today, I hope to deposit a check (checks and balances, you know) and get some food. Food is minimal like my thoughts. Tomorrow, I hope to get up and remember that it is Saturday and not a day that I should be working when I’m not, like today.

Blogging helped me reconnect to the world. Odd indeed since I only interacted with otherworldly types, often hidden behind an avatar.

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