On Writing

Not referring to Stephen King’s book here (a book I plan on coming back to this year, actually). A few weeks ago I had this great idea pop into my head for a short story. Then a few things in life happened, and I haven’t really thought about it much.

The idea is still there – I haven’t given up on it exactly. I actually transformed it from one idea into something else in my little notes, I’m just not writing it. I find that I’m back into a reading & podcast groove that is taking me away from the writing head space.

Still, I have it tucked away for future use. It’s part of my 2019 goals to start and complete a piece of writing, so this falls under the “started” pile.

In the meantime, I thought I’d share a writing prompt I found earlier in the year that I’m no longer going to use. It comes from the Writing Excuses podcast:

You are about to cut into a cake…and it speaks.

Have fun with that!

Adding to the Cultural Landscape

I’m well aware I’m not going to be famous on TV in the immediate future – that’s never been a goal for me. I know I’m also not going to be “Internet Famous” either. I don’t have the follow through to make it happen.

All I want is just a small following of people that every now and then tell me, “Hey, I really like what you’re doing. Keep it up!” To that end I always have something swirling in my head to create something for the cultural landscape online.

All I know is what I don’t want to do: a recap show or a review show where I spend my time watching a TV show (new or old) and talk about it. I would much rather talk about that kind of thing with family and friends, and I don’t think my “takes” are interesting enough to put them online en masse.

What I want to do is offer up something that is more or less unique, find a way to contribute that hasn’t been done before (or at least hasn’t been done often). That’s one of the reasons I put Alternative Airwaves together. So I look to archive.org to see if there’s anything interesting I can use there.

Bottom line – I like to produce things, but I don’t know what I like producing. I rely too much on a personal filter that says, “Nope, that’s not worth completing, don’t bother starting this project”. Somehow Alternative Airwaves gets through that filter, I think because it’s something I just do.

Everything else – I just leave festering for too long and it doesn’t make it past the filter. I think that’s my new writing goal for 2019: create something and just put it out there. The point is no longer about whether it’s good enough or people like it, the point is picking a project (or multiple projects) and finishing it.

I feel good.

I just came back from a walk (at the time of writing – 12:45pm today). It’s cold – my weather app says it’s -8, but with the wind it feels like -16. I think it’s colder than that. I was bundled up – good jacket, warm hat, new gloves – so I really only felt the cold on my face.

I walked to the local Tim Horton’s, about 10-15 minutes up the road on foot. I picked up an XL dark roast coffee, and a lone Old Fashion Plain timbit. I was going to go with a full doughnut, because I honestly forgot that I could get individual timbits. These ones are 50 calories each – a much better option than 210 calories from a full doughnut.

I kept it in my pocket the entire walk back to the office. It tasted so good. Yeah, a full doughnut might have been nice, but I think I would have wasted 160 calories. I’ll take the feeling of enjoying a great tasting, tiny doughnut combined with a brisk walk over the extra 160 calories.

A Short Story Suggestion

I haven’t written anything in a while (specifically referring to this blog) and while there is a post I want to work on, I’m feeling a little unmotivated to put a lot of effort into crafting it (or even another post on another subject). So instead, here is a link to a short story I read over the holidays that I enjoyed.

It’s by Wil Wheaton. He wrote it on a bad mental health day, and I thought it was pretty good!

http://wilwheaton.net/2018/12/the-captain-dreams-of-flying-but-hes-oh-so-scared-of-heights/

I tried to embed the post into this one but I’m betting that there’s a security setting on Wil’s end that prevents this, so instead just click on the link and read it that way ūüôā

Notebook Habit

I’ve got what I consider to be a “weird” hobby (or habit?) – writing in notebooks.¬† I consider it weird, because I have no practical use for notebooks – other than my “bullet journal” set up, I don’t really write down anything of substance day-to-day.¬† And yet, it’s an extremely enjoyable thing to see my personal font jump out¬†just right from the page.

Excerpt from a notebook
Excerpt from a notebook

OK, the picture I just included is a little on the messy side.¬† But what I hope it illustrates is just the right balance of colour and shape of the letters that seems to look…”right” on the page.¬† This is the part where I consider my hobby / habit weird.¬† I don’t spend as much time writing things out as I used to, but finding the perfect paper and perfect pen (or sometimes pencil) for that paper is fantastic.

Every now and then (and now is one of those times) I go on a little quest to figure out, “what can I use my varied selection of notebooks for?”¬† The question is often unanswered, because either I give up or the feeling just fades away before I get a chance.¬† Predominantly I use it for planning my day or writing things down I don’t want to forget.¬† But that is purely¬†functional – I actually want to write something out rather than use a planner.

So my search has started.¬† At the absolute least I will probably start writing out my blog posts by hand before typing them out here.¬† Ultimately, I would very much like to use up the notebooks that I’ve spent good money on ūüėČ

Plans, plans, more plans!

OK, so it’s been a week since I wrote publicly that I wanted to get back into writing on this blog (writing in general, really) and yet, this is the first time I’m writing.¬† If I was serious about it, wouldn’t I have written some posts by now?¬† Maybe some actual content, instead of posts¬†about posts, like this one?

Don’t answer any of those questions, they’re rhetorical.¬† Yeah, I’ve dropped the ball already.¬† Thank goodness those weren’t resolutions, I dodged a bullet there.¬† I just came in from a walk with my puppy and as I did it without headphones lodged in my ears, I had the opportunity to do some thinking and some planning.¬† Naturally when I’m walking and without anything to write with is when I do the most thinking.

My pledge as I write this is to work on getting at least 6 weeks’ worth of blog posts written (or at the very least, mostly written).¬† Next, I’m going to turn Facebook sharing on, finally; I want people to read this, and the most views I’ve seen have come from when I shared a post or two on Facebook.

There are some reasons why I haven’t shared with Facebook up to now.¬† One is that I am I guess shy about sharing my work with people I know (which is stupid, since I’m perfectly fine sharing with strangers).¬† The other is that I feel like I’d be spamming my friends feed.¬† Also a stupid reason, since I barely post at all.¬† Sharing an extra 1-2 links every week isn’t going to hurt anything.

I am at least hoping that having more people read it on a regular basis will motivate me to keep searching for more things to write about and share.  Wish me luck!

Avoid creative block

It’s funny – just this afternoon I was feeling an urge to be creative – I just didn’t know¬†what I wanted to create.¬† I still don’t, actually.¬† But I thought opening up my WP dashboard (for the first time in weeks, admittedly) would be a good place to start.

I figured, “Why don’t I type my way through?”¬† And then on my Dashboard I saw that I had this draft sitting around, with a link to a Reddit post from /r/Blogging called “How to Avoid Creative Block and Have A Good Supply of Writing Ideas”.¬† ¬†It’s been a while since I read it, so I had another go.

So, go on and read the article below.¬† I hope that it helps or inspires you!¬† I can’t say exactly that it’s helped me, but I’m going to take some ideas from it.

(Oh – and the image I uploaded for this post?¬† I was going to create a graphic using Canva and a creativity-related quote, and one of the templates I found I just happened to like.¬† So I didn’t even create this one!)

How to Avoid Creative Block and Have a Good Supply of Writing Ideas from Blogging

Usefulness of Medium

I really like¬†Medium.com.¬† There’s a wide range of articles available on virtually ANY topic – from the trivial to the very important.¬† And if I were feeling lazy, I’d end my post right there – those are reasons enough for me to publicly state my fondness for Medium.¬† But I’m not (too) lazy.

View at Medium.com

I recently read the above article, which is what prompted me to start writing about a website.¬† If for some reason you can’t see the link, it’s an article called “This Is How Your Fear and Outrage Are Being Sold for¬†Profit: The story of how one metric has changed the way you see the¬†world“.¬† To give you a brief summary, it talks about how journalism has changed for the worse because of online metrics.

What struck me about this article, and others like it that I’ve read, is the simple fact that articles and reading such as this exists in the first place on Medium.¬† I think that it’s important that different viewpoints exist and are easily read, especially when more and more news feeds are curated to show you what YOU want to read, and often give you a skewed world view.

But on Medium, there doesn’t seem to be any particular algorithm (that I’m aware of, at least) that aims specific content your way.¬† Their main page starts with a series of article suggestions, which as far as I can tell, is based on a combination of what you’ve read previously + content categories you’ve identified as what you’re interested in reading.

 

View post on imgur.com

It then goes on to suggest articles that are specifically found in your categories of choice.¬† OK, so it is curated, a little bit; but the fact that the “you might like” choices are based on what you’ve already read is still leagues better than news articles who change their headlines and content based on what people are more likely to read.

With Medium, I have a choice of what I want to read.¬† The articles that are submitted here aren’t done so in order to increase precious advertising revenue or clicks; they’re on the website because somebody wanted to write that particular article and wanted someone to read it.

I was about to call it ‘one big letter to the editor’ – but that’s the thing; while there ARE opinion pieces on the website, there are also some well-researched journalism pieces that are more about facts than opinion.¬† And then there are some nice stories to read as well.

Given the state of current journalism, we need a website like Medium to continue to thrive.  I myself need to make a more conscious effort to read it on a regular basis.  You should, too.

I’ve Had Enough of You, Yoast SEO

When I started this new blog in January, my number one goal – and today it’s still the number one goal – was to engage readers. ¬†That hasn’t exactly happened. ¬†But that’s okay, and I’m still working on it.

But one of the reasons I pushed forward and bought a domain name with a WordPress installation was because I kept getting told I needed to be able to use plugins! ¬†And that I’d never get anywhere without a domain name!

Sadly, I think I was oversold on the domain name. ¬†Nonetheless, one of the plugins that kept getting pushed over on Reddit’s blogging subreddit was “Yoast SEO”. ¬†The long and short of it is that Yoast SEO is designed to help you craft your posts to optimize them for SEO (Search Engine Optimization).

I’ve had enough of Yoast SEO intruding in my writing.

I’ve definitely noticed since activating the plugin that I’m changing the way I might traditionally write a post, and that my own personal voice is marginalized. ¬†I don’t like it anymore, and tailoring my posts to perform well with search engines isn’t doing me any favours, anyway.

So I’m ditching it, officially. ¬†Consider this a negative review, and not just a pat on my own back.

If you’ve never used it before, Yoast SEO prompts you for a keyword (apparently several keywords if you have premium) and scans your post for SEO efficiency, giving you a red, yellow, or green light based on what you’ve written.

You get more points for adding images, headings, etc. ¬†Some of it makes sense to me. ¬†But some of it absolutely doesn’t – and maybe that’s a fault of my not understanding SEO, but I can tell you with certainty that I don’t feel like searching for or creating a random image to insert just because it increases my Yoast rating.

I think this is just my personal use-case showing through here; I believe that for people with focused, niche-oriented blogs, Yoast SEO might in fact be extremely beneficial for them. ¬†It’s just not for me.

If you’ve had better experience with Yoast, let me know in the comments! ¬†I’d love to be proven wrong, and given a lesson or two on how to use it and avoid losing my writing voice.

Adding to the Family

Well, August was certainly a busy month. ¬†I didn’t get to all of the comic books that I meant to write about. ¬†I’m still going to read them, and put reviews up, but I really dropped the ball. ¬†In fact, over the entire summer, I feel like I’ve dropped the ball with the consistent posting. ¬†So timing things with everyone going back to school, I’m getting back to consistency.

New Addition

This past Labour Day weekend, we made a last minute decision to adopt a new puppy. ¬†You’ll remember back in April we lost our dog Hank; it was hard going through these last few months without little feet following behind us, and we grew used to a quieter house (sort of).

Bailey with her new toy on her way to her new home.
Bailey with her new toy on her way to her new home.

Enter Bailey: a 1-year-old puppy who has loads of energy. ¬†All we knew about her was that she was a beagle mix, and her vet records were kept up to date. ¬†We’re not sure what she’s mixed with, but based on observation we think she’s part boxer.

We’re both learning – for Vanessa and I, we’ve learned that she still needs a lot of training and learning about her personality. ¬†Bailey is learning the same about our particular life rhythms.

One thing is for certain – she’s not going anywhere. ¬†She’s super cute, and despite needing some additional training, we know that we’re going to get along fine. ¬†I know that I certainly can’t complain, especially when I’m going to hit my FitBit step goal with no problems two days in a row.

Bailey hard at work in the home office
Bailey hard at work in the home office

I can proudly say that she’s only destroyed objects of minimal importance so far – and we take responsibility for leaving her on her own for too long. ¬†Other than that, she isn’t doing too bad.

I look forward to writing more about her, but for now, enjoy another picture of her sleeping.

Bailey Sleeping
Bailey Sleeping