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?

Why Writers Write

Salkin -Full Sunset Through Trees

| 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.

In Search of My Blog’s Soul

ElectricityI’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:

Why Is This Dog Smiling?

Feline Cat Robot with Dog Death Ra

How did you find your blog’s soul?

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?

A Draft From My Fleeting Thoughts

Jenny looking out the windowI tried writing a blog post today and ended up floating through social media sites, adhering to the parameters of my short attention span.

On Twitter, I attempted to write 140 characters of prose for the 1st-line Wednesday hashtag game. Instead, I wrote 116 characters, which included the hashtag #1linewed, falling short of my 500-word goal.

Writing is hard. I know this and have accepted it, embraced the work ethic required that I haven’t yet mustered.

I castigate myself every time I get distracted and end up on the Internet. “You’re better than this,” I say.

If only I listened to myself.

I know I should disconnect when I’m sitting at the computer or use a distraction blocker to keep my focus on the screen, but I don’t. I allow the allure of whimsy to attract me.

I allow my thoughts to get stuck in the dusty light of fleeting things and end up writing something only 116 characters long, not worthy of the word “accomplishment.”

Why do I let myself slip into this redundant behavior of idling nothingness, the place self-control gives in to a quick digital fix? Why do I embrace the instant gratification of a social media high after which I drop into a hole so deep I can’t climb out?

Why do I allow my attention to mindlessly float in a sphere of whimsy? A conscious coma in which my thoughts slip into a montage of talk show appearances where I promote that book I never wrote.

Fantastical mind-wandering thoughts that float in my head like pond scum, eventually get stuck in the drain suck of inertia where passion nods off.

A sudden reflexive jerk snaps me back to another meaningless hashtag game, the rush of instant gratification gone as soon as I leave the page.

Nothing gained from my mindless wandering. Just fleeting thoughts of fancy that embrace you while you drift, then slip away.

Drifting is pleasant. Writing is painful. It’s black and blue. Dark and light.

It’s acceptable human torture when you’re not in the zone. Getting there requires discipline and a workable routine. That’s hard to harness when you’ve got time to squander on a week off (without pay).

A rigid time-constrained schedule keeps you within the designated lines on which you need to write. Without them, you fall off the document into the gray moat around the page.

How do you discipline yourself?

Do you have a regular writing routine?

Writer’s Block: Blame It On Trump!

Trump 60 Minutes Interview

I had every intention of writing a blog post but that same old dread enveloped me like a noxious fog — President Trump.

Eye twitches.

I tried to calm myself by meditating: ohm, ohm… Oh, my God, President Trump.

Throat constricts.

I tried taking a walk to get inspired: Trees, birds… Trump.

Brain freezes.

I’ve got nothing, I said. Any thoughts? I asked Myself, usually a very good listener and purveyor of good advice.

But she wasn’t helpful this time. “I don’t know,” Myself said introspectively. “Maybe write something about Trump.”

“But that’s depressing,” I grumbled. “Thinking about Trump makes me grumpy, or dare I say, Trumpy. You know I haven’t written anything in months because of Trump.”

Myself just sighed. She knew that Trump’s bigoted, unhinged comments stifled my creativity and provoked me to yell at inanimate objects like the shoe I just tripped over.

“What the hell, shoe!” I yelled. “Are you trying to kill me?”

The shoe offered a laced up rebuke. “You left me here,” it said. “… abandoned me like all the ideas you’ve scribbled on torn pages in your notebook. This one is on you, missy!”

“But, but?”

But, there were no more buts. The shoe was right–literally.

I had no business yelling at anything and went on an apology tour to all the inanimate objects in the house.

I realized that being depressed and stuck is exactly what a bully would want from the ladies he’s grabbed by the pussy, metaphorically or figuratively.

It didn’t matter. If I allowed Trump to victimize me from afar, my voice would be silenced–exactly what Trump would want.

So, I’ll do my best not to get Trumped and rant in run-on sentences with protruding cartoon eyes. It only upsets my blog who stares at me blankly, sputtering nonsensical words across an anemic-looking page.

“Damn it!” I screamed. “Write something smart!”

At which point the sidearm of my chair slapped my wrist and said, “Stop choking the monitor!”

“My God. I’m a monster!” I unclenched the computer and wiped my fingerprints from the screen.

“Sorry blog. This anger thing is unconscious and scary pervasive. I need to get a grip without getting a grip. Use my hands for good, instead of evil.”

“The power of Christ compels you” to purge the beast and write.

But write about what? Puppies or politics?

I love puppies but their cuteness is wasted on words, best captured in video or pictures.

I love politics but lately just see the giant orange burrito spew guacamole on TV. It sends me on a taco spending spree to crush them in the compactor.

No, I need a Trumpectomy, to turn off the TV and get Trump out of my head. Once there’s nothing left of him, I’ll be able to write again.

Now, if I only could think of something to write about.

Has your writing been Trumped?

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.

That Awkward Moment – Writing A Blog Post Then Promoting It.

PERFECTION IS A FANTASY

Once you finish writing a blog post and then publish it, you panic.

You see a word or two you want to change, a sentence that could be phrased differently.

And you think. Who would want to read this? It’s crap! It needs another revision. You backslide into “this isn’t good enough syndrome,” and get stuck in the weeds.

Literally and figuratively.

Writing IS like weeding. You’ll always find something you want to pull and toss.

Stop oppressive gardeningAfter bagging hundreds of dandelions you caught choking the life from your somewhat greenish lawn, you’re ready to drag the bag to the curb. You grab it, then stop.

You spot a dandelion at two o’clock. It taunts you. “Come and get me, plucker!”

“Me, too!” another one screams.

“And me!” laughs Dandelion #3.

You drop to your knees and continue yanking and bagging. Every time you think you’re done, more dandelions appear.

The same is true with writing. You’ll always find a weedy word you want to extricate from the page.

But don’t let your proclivity for perfection paralyze you.

Your post may not be perfect. But, Damn it! It’s close enough.

Restrain the obsessive beast in your brain by setting a deadline before you start to write. When you reach the deadline, stop and say, “I’m done! Really done. Now, what?”

It’s time to promote your post.

CLIMB OUT OF YOUR SHELF

The brain

The brain (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

How does a writer reprogram their brain from writing to promoting?

For a writer who’s thrilled when anyone reads her work, the thought of promoting it can be terrifying.

But don’t give in to your fears. Push past that fluttery feeling in your gut and seek out other like-minded souls on the Internet.

Join Twitter, FacebookPinterest and other social media sites.

Find your tribe: people you want to hangout with. Join a writer’s group on Facebook.

After you find your tribe, don’t bore them by only talking about your writing. Join the conversation.

Just like at a cocktail party, if you meet someone who talks at you, not with you, you make excuses and walk away. You avoid self-absorbed people who tell you how great they are. The same is true with social media.

Don’t monopolize your tribe mate’s time by promoting your work. Promotion is NOT one-sided. Promotion IS interactive. Make friends. Say hello. Share a post. Ask them about their day.

Then something amazing happens. Your tribemate cracks a joke. You LOL. And someone shares your post.

The more you meet people and engage them, the more comfortable you’ll become with social media. After a while it will be fun… maybe too much fun, maybe a bit addictive. That’s when you need to take a breath.

Learn to manage your time, so you don’t stay online for hours, or days, and lose focus of your passion. Take a break. Quit the Internet. Reboot your brain and write!

 

This post is based upon the recent Twitter chat, “How to Overcome Self-Promotion Anxiety As A Writer,” hosted by Amanda Chiu of Atomic Reach #AtomicChat.

Thanks again for inviting me to be a guest on the last chat of the year.