Category Archives: Blogging

writerinsoul

September 14, 2017

This post is overdue. If only in my own mind. It’s been percolating since I wrote my post Thoughts on the Blog as I approach my three year anniversary (part one?)  back in March this year. As I said then, and I say to myself often, this is not a job, my blog is not a job. Yet….I have a sense of obligation to it that I can’t shake. Or I don’t want to shake. It may not be a job (there’s no pay, no set schedule, no deadlines, no people “counting on” me) but the blog is an important part of my life. There is no denying that.

My postings this summer have been skimpy. It wasn’t for lack of ideas; I had a number of them in mind that I never posted. When other things in my life need to take priority, the blog has to drop down the list. The irony is that in not posting, I saw how much posting means to me. It isn’t that I didn’t know exactly, so much as NOT doing it made very clear how important blogging here on WordPress is to me, even after three plus years.

One of the things I sometimes think about WordPress is that line from the Wizard of Oz where Dorothy says, “People come and go so quickly here!” When you get attached to a blog or a blogger and they disappear, with or without warning, it can be quite disconcerting.

I didn’t follow Doobster religiously, but I did read his blog Mindful Digressions a number of times as did many others. He got tons of comments on his analytical, thought-provoking posts. He seemed like somebody that would be blogging indefinitely. Then, in 2015, he was gone. Just gone. The boiler-plate WordPress message said the blog was now private and you could “request” access. I requested. Nothing. I requested again. Nothing. Gone. (As someone who didn’t read regularly, the most I could find via someone else’s blog is that he quit for personal reasons.)

Some of you followed John of Get Off My Lawn Please. Over a year ago he had substantial changes in his personal life, promised to return shortly and never did. When you know people only online, it can be tricky to gauge how far to push your interaction. Saying,”Where the hell are you?! Come back!!” to anyone you don’t know well or only know online doesn’t really seem appropriate. (I told John not to let anyone pressure him into returning prematurely, including me. I take it back.) Still, in the end I realize you have to respect what other people do or don’t do with their blog. (Note to self: Repeat as necessary.)

I spend quite a bit of time online. I am attracted to social media. I follow community groups closely on Facebook. Email is a significant part of my life. Other than this blog, though, I don’t share a lot of my personal life. The blog is definitely the place I talk about myself; my life, my interests, my thoughts, my past.( It’s also the primary place I post photos.) What really appeals to me, both in writing and in reading other blogs, is the DEPTH that is available in blogging. I like to write – as well as read – long, thoughtful posts. I’m not on twitter. Most people do not have brilliant, witty, insightful 140-character thoughts. I don’t think in 140 characters, I don’t talk in 140 characters, nor am I particularly interested in reading the same.

On WordPress, especially when you stick around awhile, you can get to know how someone thinks. I won’t say you can intimately get to know them, but in many – or some – cases, there is an approximation. There may be a tendency – both on my part and others’ – to extrapolate, to read a bunch of posts and fill in or assume the rest of the person’s personality. I try to guard against that as I’ve learned (not on WordPress but elsewhere online) that what people write on the internet can be quite different than the reality of the person. Over time and hundreds of posts and comments though, bloggers do reveal themselves or significant aspects of themselves.

I mentioned this in my March post but I won’t argue online. Never have, won’t do it. It’s a rule (when I’ve broken it in private emails, I have usually been sorry). I will, however, argue with you – people I know – in real life. Debate what is being said. Challenge someone. Which is a part of me I largely leave out – or soften – here. Arguing with strangers, that is people I’ve never met, doesn’t seem wise or profitable. It’s like arguing with phantoms. (I also think words online are so easily misconstrued; arguing is just asking for trouble. We are more empathetic in person and maybe less reactive.)

The little corner of WordPress I’ve carved for myself strives to be decent and if not profound at all times, at least worthwhile. And when I refer to my little corner, I mean what I am putting out in my own blog, but also the kind of people who are drawn to my blog and vice versa. I have no doubt there are nasty, mean-spirited corners of WordPress, same as everywhere else online. I just don’t see the point. Not that my blog is any kind of Pollyanish zone – NEVER! – but I want decency to prevail. I think the people who read my blog would agree, both those I know of (by name or blog name), and I imagine, those I don’t.

A word on Stats. For readers who are not also bloggers, “stats” are numbers available to bloggers to show how many readers have read your blog each day. These stats do not reveal WHO is reading, but simply show figures. It can show which posts have been popular and which not so much. Stats may show where the readers came from; that is if they came to your blog by way of Google, for instance. (One of my favorites showed that someone arrived at my blog by typing the search term “potatoes that look like rocks.” You wouldn’t think that anybody would search such a thing, but there they are! When I see something like that I hope that the person isn’t disappointed by arriving here as a result of their search. Yes, I feel beholden to strangers doing searches on rocks. Such is my life.)

At times I’ve felt quite frustrated with my blog, wanting to “grow” my readership and seeing well, not a whole lot. It’s times like that, somehow or some way – so far  – that I get just enough encouragement to keep going. Someone will write a lovely, thoughtful comment, or I’ll see a surge in my stats, or the mood will pass. To be quite honest, I can see that my thoughts on the blog are not much different from some other areas of my life where I get frustrated or disappointed at times (and question why I’m doing something or feel a sense of impotence, that I’m stalled so far as “making things happen”).

Expectations and I have a long, muddied history together. I am no Buddhist. I HAVE EXPECTATIONS. WANTS. DESIRES. With the blog, as life, finding the Happy Middle Ground (the place that allows you to keep getting out of bed and putting one foot down in front of the other every day year in year out) is my challenge, balancing my expectations against what is or can be.

I have such philosophical internal meanderings about the blog and sometimes the way out is I think of something funny or see or hear something that makes me laugh and I’ll post it and it kind of saves me and moves me past inertia or waffling. When something is funny to me, I must share it! And here’s the blog, waiting patiently, always, for just that.

Something that’s been kind of nice in this Summer of Scant Postings in the Year of WordPress 2017, is that as I’ve continued to check in (if not post), I’ve seen that people are still reading my blog, reading old posts. That is very gratifying. It’s like the time I’ve put into the blog over the past three years still pays dividends. Emotional ones, if you will. I think it’s great that people have come around even when the blog doesn’t have fresh (and in blogging, “fresh” is pretty much that last 24-48 hours) posts. It gives my heart a little lift.

I didn’t plan to be so absent this past summer. I am not leaving WordPress or my blog. Or the other bloggers I’ve found and cherish here. I didn’t forget people (other bloggers might be surprised how often I think about them, people I’ve never met or even spoken to). I don’t know exactly how the future continues for WriterInSoul, just that I want to continue to blog – infrequently or not – and hope that in three years, I’m still sticking around. I can’t imagine anything taking WordPress’s place in my life (well, unless they start charging those of us with freebie blogs or get bought by Jeff Bezos or something). I’m hooked.

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writerinsoul

March 10, 2017

You know, I always like it when other bloggers write about their blogs or blogging and yet I’ve rarely done it myself. It isn’t that I don’t think about blogging A LOT but I keep most of my thoughts about it off my blog. Still, like other bloggers, I think about the purpose of my blog, how I feel about it, how to attract readers, how much time I can justifiably spend on it, and what I hope to gain from it. As in: what do I consider a successful, worthwhile blog?

In April, about a month from now, I’m coming in on my three year anniversary. For kicks, I put a “widget” on the main page of the blog (right hand side) with a count-down to the date. This is mainly because I was trying to get myself to figure out and use a few more blog features (frankly, the technical aspects of blogging don’t really excite me; they are a means to an end). My overriding philosophy is that all the bells & whistles come to nothing if you don’t have something to say.

Also on the main page of the blog (right side) I have added “Other bloggers who’ve visited my blog“. The feature is called “Blogroll” or “My Community” on some blogs but I wanted to make up my own name for it (because honestly, I never really understood what “Blogroll” or “My Community” were exactly when I saw them). WordPress generates the people on it automatically.

How frequently I’ve blogged has depended on two things. I’ve mentioned in passing, without offering details, that I’ve been dealing with a stressful, ongoing problem that at times has resulted in less blogging. I think any big problem or stressor in my life would likely impact the blog. The other factor in my blogging frequency is unreliable internet access. This means not only do I blog less, but sometimes I haven’t been able to respond to people’s comments as quickly as I might have liked (I mean hell, 24 hours is a week in the blogging world). It also means that I am not able to read other people’s blogs as much, which I regret. If I have a limited amount of time online though, writing comes first, then reading.

I copied down this quote by pouringmyartout, who said it back on 10/31/14 in the comments on another blog which is now marked “protected”. It’s been helpful to me from year one:

You can’t read everybody. You follow a handful of the best. Then you have a second tier…people that you are crazy about. You try to remember to visit their blog as often as you can, read a few posts, leave a few comments. But you can’t follow all of them. This will set you up to fail. Spend too much time reading and your own blogging will suffer. And your first responsibility is to be a good blogger, not a good follower. You know like the responsibility of parents is to raise good ADULTS, not good children. If you can do both, more power to you.

Without much forethought, I rather automatically made a few “rules” for myself as I started blogging and I’ve held to them.

No arguing. I won’t argue with anybody (that’s true across the board online, a personal philosophy). Fortunately, argumentative people rarely show up on my blog but then again maybe that’s because of my unspoken rule. (Disagreeing or offering alternative ways of looking at things is another matter, especially once a basic level of trust is established.) I am very put off by much of what I read online, on social media and in other places, by how ugly and vitriolic it often is – with no meaningful result  – and that’s even in the most innocuous of places!  I’ll argue/debate with someone in person, so long as it’s civil but not online. People are so wackily REACTIVE online, so quick to take offense, so quick to give it, and so very needlessly nasty in the way they interact. I think of WordPress, at least my corner of it and the corners I visit, as a haven from that. This means that participating on WordPress is far and away one of the most positive, if not THE most positive and satisfying way, I spend time online.

That being said, THIS IS NOT A JOB. The blog is not a job. The blog is not my job. The blog does not pay me any money. The blog has no set hours or requirements. I needed this rule for myself because guess what? I tend to make things into jobs. I create internal demands for myself in general. Any time I get any kind of obligatory or “I should…” type feelings about the blog, I hastily remind myself THIS IS NOT A JOB. Not. A. Job. It is very easy to pour lots of time and energy into a blog. That needs to be balanced against other aspects of your life, like the kind that maybe pay money, for instance. A blog needs to find a spot where what you put in and what you get back are roughly in sync.  That “spot” varies over time.

I will write what I feel like writing. This rule dovetails nicely with the previous one. I never assign myself writing tasks or topics. The only slight rule I have is to try not to write posts on the same topic back-to-back. If I post something about decorating my home for instance, I make the next post about another topic. If I write a heavy, introspective essay, I post something lighter next.  I do that to keep the blog interesting for me and readers. Supposing (in my imagination, I don’t actually know this) I have a reader that likes 75% of what I write about but really doesn’t care for my cooking posts – that reader can at least generally expect not to find two cooking posts in a row. And that’s no hardship on me.

I will only write when I want to. After almost three years, I have found that the blog is much like eating. Hunger builds up, eating satisfies it, and the feeling passes. Repeat. If I don’t feel like writing for a day or two or a week, invariably the desire returns. There have been times I’ve felt discouraged and wondered why I was blogging and if I should continue to.  My sense, from reading other bloggers, is that this is a common sentiment. Some bloggers “take breaks.” I’ve never taken a break. There have been months where I didn’t post much, but I never specifically decided to go away and there’s never been a month with no posts.

I’ll tell the truth as I know it. I don’t write about everything (the blog is not a diary) but what I do write is honest. That means not everything I have to say is positive and delightful. My blog is not anonymous. Granted, I don’t spell out my full name, family or friend names, or where I live on the blog itself. Still, I remind myself that anyone can read what I say here and I need to be comfortable with that. Within my community, I associate my blog with my name (I don’t hide that it’s mine). Initially I thought people who knew me and/or also lived here might be interested so there was incentive not to be anonymous on that front. A couple people I know have been faithful blog readers (hello locals!) and I appreciate them. I can sort of tell from my “stats” that I have other local readers who are anonymous but I believe most of my readers are other bloggers (I’ve seen a slight uptick recently in readership but I can’t tell exactly via WordPress where they are coming from. If I could I’d do more of whatever it is!)

Here’s the current version of the “ad” I put up on a few bulletin boards:

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I have grown very fond of my blog and very fond of other bloggers. A few in particular deserve a mention. Battlewagon13 (aka Tim) who writes Flying Here in the Middle of Somewhere (…or random thoughts of an almost-closed mind) first started liking and commenting on my blog in June 2014 (I went back and looked) and he’s been coming around every since. He’s a smart guy with a dry, misanthropic sense of humor and a good heart. Vanbytheriver (Living life. Paying attention) has continuously read and supported my blog for a long time. Her comments are thoughtful and generous. John Callaghan of Getoffmylawnplease, has been gone for a year but when he was here he regularly added much to my blog with his (sometimes bawdy) humor and original way of looking at things.

Now I know this post is long so I’ll wrap it up here but leave open the possibility of taking up the general topic again in the coming weeks (that’s why I wrote “part one?” in the title). Something about the three-year anniversary has made me very reflective about the blog and I want to share some of that with you. I certainly didn’t imagine I’d be here for three years when I started but I didn’t know then how addictive blogging is, and how attached I’d become both to the blog and other WordPress blogs and bloggers.

New levels of spammery

In WordPress bloggers have spam folders just like email has. Occasionally I check mine just in case a real message accidentally landed there. I don’t answer spam except to have a little blog fun. I just found this beaut of spam.

Hello, i reead yoyr blog frkm tie tto tiume and i
oown a similzr one and i wwas juswt curiouss
iif yoou geet a lott oof spzm feedback? If soo howw ddo you stopp it, anyy pllugin oor abything yyou can recommend?
I get so mjch latel it’s drifing me crzy sso aany hellp is vvery mufh appreciated.

A spammer “asking” how to avoid spam?!? And in such a deliberately annoying, hard-on-the-eyes way?? If that doesn’t beat all…

Deere Spmmerr, Ii noo juswtt whaatt u meene. I surre pheel urre PAIINE. I noo whhatt wee can do. Rounnnd upp awll the spmmerrs an tookk them oout two thhe woodz andd llet thhe wooolfs eatt thm.

Subtle changes to blog “header”

Earlier this year I updated my blog header (the static picture you see at the top of the blog)  by putting up 3 photos that “randomize” – hey, that’s the WordPress word for it, it being “automatically rotate.” I’ve tweaked it again by ditching one, adding another and slightly cropping the other two (why? Eh, one of the photos was bothering me and I wanted to make the cropping more consistent).

Anyway, here’s the photo I’ve added.

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(Joining the slightly cropped “keepers”)

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New header for blog

My header (the main photo at the top of my blog) is two years old. I figured I needed an update. When I started this blog I knew I wanted my eyes to “represent” the blog more or less and I still do. I took a few shots today and these were the 3 I chose from. I like each in its own way. I think I’ll put ’em all up and let WordPress “randomize” them.

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Weird(er) spam

Those of you who aren’t also bloggers may not know that bloggers get lots of spam pretending to be genuine comments on posts, just like you do with email. Fortunately WordPress recognizes most of it and puts it in a spam folder. Once in awhile I take a look at what’s in my spam because occasionally real comments get dumped in there. The spam is fairly typical and never has anything to do with the actual post. However, it’s taken a peculiar turn lately with a “personal” touch; nonsensical messages from “people” who talk as if we know each other. Computer-generated? Not sure.

I DO get tempted to answer some of this junk but I never have because it’s kind of a fat waste of time and why encourage spammers? However, these two recent peaches ought to be shared with the responses I’d give them (if I was going to do that).

Weird Spammer #1: “Hello. I have not been on this page since summer. It was only because I was touring to Michigan because of my business at Alcoa. It requires a large amount of time from me, however I still think about your post. I remember our days at Columbia Centro Universitario (PR) in Florida. So pleased that we had a opportunity to play around the pool. Kindly send my thanks to Mary along with mack. Merci”

My imaginary response: “How kind of you to write! Has it been that long really? Time does pass, doesn’t it?! Oh yes, many people delight in touring to Michigan, and I hope your business at Alcoa is doing swell and that silly misunderstanding about your misappropriating billions of dollars in donated funds has been cleared up. A prison sentence sure wouldn’t be good for business would it? Wink, wink! I too remember so fondly our days romping at the University in Florida. Who would think that you could graduate with a D- average? But good for you anyway! Your parents certainly helped out there didn’t they? What with getting that incident with the cheerleaders expunged from your record. Good times! And the pool! Oh my, don’t get me started…that WAS indeed pleasing you ol’ devil you! Oh sorry to say that weasel Mary ran off with the two-headed boy from the circus when it was passing through town so I won’t be talking to her too soon. That’s what I get for taking her out for a fun time to try to cheer her up! Hey, you thank Carlos for sending those pictures to cheer ME up. Oh, oops! Maybe I wasn’t supposed to mention that! Um, who’s mack??? Au revoir! Write soon! But not too soon! Because I am also really busy starting my online business selling Meth Head Barbey and Crack Kenn (get it? I changed the spelling!).”

Weird Spammer #2: “Terrific post. I was thrilled to find this since I was also given birth to in New York. in addition, thank you for seeing Tampa and assisting me to better appreciate cooking skills. This supported me with my admittance to University of Alabama. Looking forward to seeing you in our home and catch up with our hockey game.”

My Imaginary Response: “OMG. YOU WERE ALSO GIVEN BIRTH TO IN NEW YORK??????!!!!!????? What are the FREAKISH odds of that?!?!?!? WOW!!! WE SHOULD GET A PRIZE!! Oh, I just remembered, um, I wasn’t given birth to in New York, but no bigee. I did see Tampa though!! Once, like on a map, I think I picked it out good. And you and I both know it was high time for you to appreciate cooking skills. I mean c’mon, you are 38! Enough with the Ramen noodles, amiright?!? So I guess you got that prep chef job after I helped you, that is so great!!!! I bet they were REALLY impressed with that on your college application to the University of Alabama. Gee, I never knew anybody who went to the University of Alabama. I guess you’ll start talking like a southerner now and walking slow and eating grits? See, I saw a TV show once about the South so I learned ALL about it. And there was a movie I saw too, something about banjos. I bet you will fit in just fine, NOT!!!!! Hahaha, sucka! Wait — you’re gonna come live with me in MY home? Was I drunk when we planned this? Okay, I guess you can because you just know I need you to ‘splain that hockey stuff to me. See you soon! You can demonstrate those great cooking skills but bring some pork rinds and Natty Bo too, k? Later dude!”

Dinosaur shame

recent post by Bun Karyudo about updating his computer reminded me that I regularly get prompted to do the same on my outdated home computer. I see it so often that I barely pay it any mind. Even WordPress tries to shame me into action with this half-hearted dinosaur illustration. I think it’s holding a computer or keyboard. That’s my best guess. Are the dinosaur and his prehistoric electronics sinking underwater? It’s hard to tell. There’s something printed in the upper left corner of the “computer” but even with a little magnifier, I couldn’t make it out. Anyhow, these people and their “Draw Blinky the Dinosaur” illustration don’t know who they’re dealing with. I still have cassette tapes. Homemade cassette tapes. Our little dinosaur friend ain’t gonna shame me!

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