Posts Tagged ‘blogging’

6 Things to Give Up (as a sensible adult)

February 21, 2013

I’ve long since given up giving things up for New Year or for Lent, which is now upon the believers amongst us. But, as I contemplate life now, methinks it is timely to give up some parts of life and move on…

So, this is my list

1. Cheeseballs and such like evil snacks. There is nothing redeeming about these abominations – there is no cheese, only starch and salt and fattening addictive substances. Just like Twisties from the homeland (missing them too, friends who will be here in Sumer…) they are evil and belong to times gone past. No adult should snack on Cheeseballs or Twisties.

cheeseballs

 

2. Blogging and Tweeting – simple time wasters that take away from the real writing – just bits of ephemera and nonsense that don’t really add anything to the world. So I should stop and concentrate on being a better ‘real’ writer. (And finish my bloody PhD!!)

twitter

 

3. Working where I’m not wanted. I’ve done this before and should know better by now. It’s no good working where your face doesn’t fit – even if it once did. You don’t have the power to influence matters; you’re not what management wants, so move on. But find a place that fits you!! This time I’m going to take the time and find something that suits me. Like Paddington Bear, who was Not Wanted on Voyage but went onto find a loving place to be, I will too.

PaddigtonB

 

4. Hoping for a slimmer me without actually paying consistent closer attention to what is going into my mouth. I need to be thinner, if only for my health and self esteem. But to think I am going to ever fit into my wedding dress again is pure nonsense!

wedding me

 

5. Worrying about what others think about me. At my age and with my hair colour you would think I was past this bit of nonsense. But I still want people to think well of me. And, this is the stupid thing, those people I do NOT think well of. It’s silly. I need to worry about what the people I care about think of me, not troublesome others.

Polar B-think

 

6. Fantasies about life that are too far fetched. It’s no good dreaming your life away planning a life that can never be. It’s time to bring the fantasies to earth, to find a future that is within reach, to make plans that will bear fruit. It’s time to stop thinking I can be Fay Weldon or John Irving, or buying a brand new Jag XK. It’s time to plan a happy future in the not too distant future!

jagxk

So, dear friends and followers, what should you be giving up? What needs to be excised from your existence to make it better for you? (Images courtesy Google Images & Private Collection)

 

Blog-free Zones – A month without blogging and (almost) no Internet

September 3, 2012

It’s back to life, back to reality, as the Soul 11 Soul song from 1989 went and I have returned to the land of Blog, from whence I have been missing – a self imposed ban, tis true, but worth it, methinks.

Let me recount the wonders of an (almost) internet free 40 days.

1 No time wasted pootling around all sorts of distracting rubbish on Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter; or my wondrous in-box (which I normally love)

2 Lots of time to read – 4 academic texts with extensive notes + the wonderful Night Circus – more of that to come

3 Even more time to write – to not write blogs means you can write other stuff and so 50 000 words of first draft of new novel completed + 2 draft chapters for PhD exegesis

4 A lovely feeling of freedom, of being disconnected from the world, so no Olympics, no naked Prince Harry, no R-Patz – Kristen Stewart shenanigans, no GCSE melt-down, etc, etc. The world does keep turning without knowing all these things as they happen!!

5 No obligation to respond to FB, or email

 

So, it’s been like a return to another time, another galaxy where none of the electronic wonders of our modern world existed. Instead I read and studied and wrote all day long. Beloved plastered, painted, ripped out walls and re-made the house, girl-child helped too.

 

The Young Pad Wan played her saxophone every day, exercised and entertained herself with lots of self improvement stuff important to mid-teen girls. We played scrabble, trinominos and had fires outside and drank wine, talked under the stars and had picnics at the lake.

It’s nice to be away, it’s nice to live life differently for a while, to shut off the real world. You can live without all sorts of things. God knows I love my iMac and I love my blog – do I devour my stats and agonise over pix for my posts? Indeed I do, dear reader. Am I keen on growing my following? Absolutely. I love the magic of blogging, of having real readers. We all do.

But it’s nice to know that we can live without it – even if, really, ultimately we don’t want to. And still the spam and readers came while I hibernated. Spam count: 66. Visits: 783 – not too shabby for nothing new for Jactherat for all of August.

But it’s nice to be back, so, onward and upward: new recipes to come, some new pondering about life, love and relationships, a book review or two and some more wonderful general wisdomosity, dear and faithful readers. (Pictures courtesy Google Images and Private Collection)

The Artistic Imperative – Or why Writing’s better than Drinking

April 15, 2012

By now you know that writing is as essential to me as breathing, that it is one of the things that nourishes my spirit, that makes me who I am, that it brings me joy.

But having spent an almost blissful holiday immured in my book (as well as blogging a bit more often) with the return to work looming I have been reminded of something else.

I took to writing because it was the thing I was good at as a child and won my only school prize for. I have won a few other prizes/awards over the years but not enough to cover my mantelpiece (unlike a child of mine who has a room of prizes, as well as his newly won PhD scholarship to Oxford). It works out as one a decade, so due again, methinks. I took to writing because I couldn’t paint, I couldn’t do this…

And so because I couldn’t paint such pictures by hand I painted them with words and haven’t stopped. I can’t stop, which is the imperative. If I don’t write I am not me. I took two days off from the novel in the holidays, as part of my revision plan. One of those days I wrote not a thing. It felt very odd.

I write to say something, to explore ideas and characters. But what I enjoy is being in that other world, just like reading, except I have the control and the power over all that happens (she smirks, gleefully). I found that to be a great relief at stages of my life. My work is not a place of pleasure or joy, it is grinding and stressful, without needing to be which also makes it frustrating. How to escape? Drinking comes readily to mind as an escape from all sorts of unpleasantness in life: extreme sports, gym addiction, sofa surfing, other drugs fit the escape bill.

Writing is my great escape, my addiction if you like. I can’t live without it and it makes the real world bearable. I live with my characters, struggling with their problems. I fall asleep thinking about how a room in their house is laid-out, I give them a wardrobe of clothes, I decide what car they drive. I wonder why my journalist was killed and who killed her? I found this out towards the end of draft 3. I struggle with making my protagonist suffer more. She does now – her life has collapsed and she can’t get it back.

I go to sleep thinking about the book, the current aspect that needs working through for tomorrow’s writing. I wake thinking of the book, ready to write. I become a sort of ghost at home, eating with my family, washing up, walking the dog, but back to my little room and my iMac where the real adventures are taking place. This is happiness.

Tomorrow morning work will interfere with this process, taking up too much thinking space with inanities, something new and time-consuming to be concerned with. But my escape is always here. My little writer’s notebook ever present, my mind, unwilling to relinquish all space to work or the real world, will continue to imagine and create and so I will continue to write and escape, because I still can’t paint as I’d like and never will. That’s my youngest daughter’s province and I think she finds Art as comforting as I find writing.

What about you? What is your imperative, what drives you to create or helps you to escape? (Images courtesy Google Images)

Happy 100 Blogs to Me!

March 8, 2012

Hey, ho I’ve made it too 100. It’s pretty impressive; two years and a bit and 100 posts. I have to admit I wasn’t sure I’d get this far when I started out.  The early months were tentative and uncertain, writing into the void, no echo, no response (only bloody spam) but something moves you on and so I continued to write.

Slowly, slowly it build, like a cyclone in the Gulf of Carpentaria, not yet a Category 5, or even a 4, but on its way to a 3 – some damage caused somewhere, well, let’s modify that – some impact felt somewhere: the winds and rain casting wider and wider spiral arcs. Perhaps not the most apposite metaphor but as a girl who spent the best twenty years of her life in the tropics, in and out of cyclones, it can stand.

What have I learnt about blogging?

It takes a while to find your voice. But it’s okay as nobody’s paying you any attention for a while anyway, so experiment, but keep your eye on what your saying (topics) and how you’re saying it (style and crafting)

You should read other blogs, comment and get involved in the great blog-sphere but be nice. There’s no need to leave nasty feedback, just don’t read the blog or revisit it. There are plenty of blogs out there to find and engage with; you don’t need to waste time or energy in negativity. However, thoughtful criticism or commentary is different. But not a lot of people here in ether-land seem to know.

Don’t expect blogging to pay your bills: very few people are making money out of blogging. The real money came and went years ago, or is for the exceptional few. If you’re blogging to make a fortune STOP RIGHT NOW.

Write what you want to. If you’re single purposed it is probably quicker and easier to find your audience. Some people choose to run several blogs to cater to their range of writing interests – seems exhausting and time consuming to me, but each to their own. Also – it’s better to write it out first, draft and then copy to your post box – more efficient way to write and keep track of your topics.

As you know by now mine is an eclectic blog, but I am noticing as my hit/visits/followers increase that more people are drawn to my Lifestyle-wisdom pieces in my Live Strong and Well category.  Does this shape the posts I make? I’m not sure. Certainly it’s been rewarding reading the stats about visits (hopefully reads as well!) to see that more and more people are visiting or people are coming back to read more. Either way is good.

I’ve noticed is that pictures seem to add to the attraction. I like the extra zing it brings to my post – either from my own photo collection or courtesy of the immense Google-images, where choice is abundant and can easily distract you from your purpose. From my observation getting onto Word Press’s Freshly Pressed seems to be more about the visual images than the written word. I’m not sure that’s such a good thing. Surely Freshly Pressed should be promoting good and interesting writing as well as lovely images?

How important is writing well? I pride myself on being well written, well structured with a decent vocab and an interesting hook, as well as nice touches of humour and humility. (I trust I’m not deluded!!) But other blogs with considerably greater following than mine are not all that well written. I am not in the least bothered by this, but find it intriguing as it seems to fly in the face of the advice on most blogging sites.

Posting often seems to be central to creating more traffic or visits. I’ve tried to up my posts to 2-3 times a week, with usually a poem mid-week; one from years gone by, that only needs a quick polish and can be out there. I like this mix, my followers seem to too. Weekends do attract the most visits but Tuesdays and mid-week is not without attention.

The more posts you have the more likely you are to have visitors who stumble on your blog through search terms attached to your posts. Using tags helps, using direct headings also helps too: get your topic out there cleanly and obviously. Obscurity doesn’t cut it in the blog-sphere.

My wisdomosity on reaching 100 blogs is that you blog because you want to, because you love to write and you want to find your audience, build your following, engage with your readers. You may be building a platform for your novel, or your poetry collection, etc but don’t do it just to sell something. I think that’s cheap and dishonest.

Blog because it brings you joy, because it makes you feel good. If you love it, it will show and your readers will come. Think Kevin Costner and his field of dreams. (For previous blogs on blogging see Find Your Own Voice and You Will Find Your Audience (Oct 4, 2011), Blogstar, Twitterati – Helping or Hindering Your Writing (Sept 2011), Hunting the Purpose (Oct 3, 2010) (Images courtesy Google Images)

Find Your Own Voice and You Will Find Your Audience

October 4, 2011

You can’t write if you don’t read. You can’t write if you have nothing to say. Well, you shouldn’t, but many do. You know how burdened the internet is with millions of words but, the crucial question is: how many of these words are being read?

If, as is claimed, so few bloggers are actually being read why keep writing? It is the Communication Age’s 64 thousand dollar/pound question. If you’re writing and nobody is reading what’s it all about?

Web wisdom has it that the more single purpose your blog is the easier it is to attract and keep your readership. This is makes eloquent sense. If your speciality is 80s Rock n Roll then you simply write about that, nothing else. Easy. You blog often, make the necessary links to create traffic and your readers should find you and stay with you, providing you are presenting something that maintains their interest.

The problematic issue in terms of readership seems to be the all purpose writer, who is not a single issue blogger. But why should this be a problem? A lot of us want to share our wisdom on a range of matters. Does it matter that it takes time to build a following – either blogging or tweeting? I think one of the joys of blogging into nothingness for a while, as most bloggers do, is that it gives you the chance to find your topics, your areas of interest or expertise and, importantly, your voice. Remember that most novels don’t see the light of day until they have been through a rigorous drafting and editing regime. Most popular writers don’t attract a big readership with their first novel. JK Rowling was onto the third Harry Potter when she struck it big.

Take your time in the void of nothingness, enjoy it and consider the following –

Finding your voice – how? There’s nothing wrong with being a general blogger. This is a highly democratic environment and the freedom to express yourself never more true than in this domain. Use that freedom wisely and well in the early days of audience free blogging to develop your skills, play with topics, find your passion and you will find you voice.

The more you write the better you write – providing you are paying attention to Purpose, Audience and Language – the Why, Who-for and How of your writing, then you will improve your skills with every piece. This means crafting and editing. The more you do this the better writer you will become. Don’t be casual about what you send into e-space, you never know who will be reading.

The more you write the more you will find your areas of passion – a lot of blogs are general purpose blogs, like newspaper opinion columnists such as Caitlin Moran, or India Knight, which seems just fine to me. Blogging often will refine your areas of interest and passion. Feel free to set up sub-categories on your page. Over time – say 6 months to a year – I bet you’ll find you are writing about only a handful of issues/topics again and again. My own observations say I write about mostly Writing, Education & Lifestyle Matters. Certainly these are the blogs that gain the biggest readership. But I didn’t know this when I started and I don’t think many of us do. Nor do I think this is a bad thing. If a novel takes anything from 1 to 3 years to write, why shouldn’t bloggers take some time to find their area of passion?

The more you write about what you want, the easier you will find your voice. Style is a highly individual thing, be it in fashion, Art or Writing. Are you formal and precise, more conversational and cosy? It doesn’t matter, what matters is that you develop your own way of writing about topics. It doesn’t matter that a hundred other people write about this very thing, they won’t be saying it in the way I am. Your voice is unique: it is what will keep your readers coming back, your unique way of expressing yourself.

Be who you want to be. Write what you want to – but do it well. Eventually your ability will shine out. If you’re blogging to gain a following, people who will buy your novels, short stories or non-fiction, then be true to how you write, to who you are. Readers respond to real writers, people they feel they know and come to care about. If they like your blog they should want to read more of you and so buy your books.

Some issues to consider. 1. How do your readers know how to find you? 2. Does your blog name and topics tell them anything? 3. Are you giving readers value for money?

Cheap Advice. 1. Be patient, hone your skills. 2. Read other blogs like yours. 3. Consider the advice out there, but judiciously apply it to your own needs. 4. Blog because you want to, not because you feel you have to.

Through your writing shall you be known.

Blogstar, Twitterati – helping or hindering your writing?

September 28, 2011

What I wonder is: do the different forms of writing that these two particular social media require, eg the 140 characters for Twitter and the informal self directing nature of a blog, help to improve your ‘real’ writing? To wit, is your novel, or short story collection better served by honing skills in Blogs-ville and Twitter-village? Or are you simply wasting too much time in non-productive writing pursuits?

The attraction of social media.

Twittering keeps you in touch in a quick and immediate way with a whole range of people you’d never get to meet. So, you can be connected to literary agents, writers and celebrities. You can feel special being connected to all that. FB is also an attractive way of keeping tabs on your friends and other acquaintances across the world. In both cases you can publicise your writing.

Linkedin and similar places connect you to a community of like-minded people where you can share ideas, tips and successes. It is a positive and professional community that adds to your writing life.

Blogging is great because there are no rules, you can write what you want, when you want. It is democracy in action. No agents or publishers required. It’s why so many of us are here!

The downside of social media. 

Is it mostly about self promotion as Lorraine Devon Wilke said on Linkedin? It certainly seems that way.

Twitter does seem to be more about celebrities than ordinary people. They are up on the stage and we mortals remain in the audience while hoping that our tweets will get us onto the stage. But the modern mantra about getting yourself out there means being connected all over the place, so what are we to do? Fingers crossed, hope for the best…

Blogging can feel extremely isolated if no-one is reading or responding. If you don’t have an audience what are you doing? True it takes a while to get connections, to have followers and enough hits to feel validated, but are you developing as a writer while you wait?

The fact of the matter is that it is all terribly distracting – checking in to see who’s visited your latest blog, following all the tweeting an in-box full of up-dates from Linkedin.

Perhaps writers are spending too much time being distracted, but telling themselves, actually I am working now, because I have to build my on-line profile. Perhaps we should concentrate on building our skills and writing better stuff to get out there?

How does Blogging and Twittering help you up-skill your writing? First of all, we acknowledge there is a lot of crap out there – democratising the writing world is wonderful but it means there is more rubbish to wade through, so you do need to be producing well written stuff, and good content. Yes, loads of others have said this. But get out there and look around – there are some atrocious blogs, boring and poorly written. Ditto Twitter. My good, how banal can some people be?

Twittering should give you the chance to hone your vocab skills, to write something well shaped and interesting. It should be a way to perfect a great sentence. Go for the ‘less is more’ maxim. Only tweet good stuff. Be funny, be profound – don’t waste your time or others by writing about breakfast.

Blogging gives you freedom, but you still need to have form and content. That is the basics of good writing. Blogs can be as brief as a tweet, or as long as a decent essay. Most people seem to find their size and style within a few months of blogging. But you need to craft and shape your piece, it needs to follow logically, make sense, show some insight, add to the discussions on relevant topics.  A good blog should engender a response in the reader. If not, then what are you doing??

Write often, write well.  The best way to become a better writer is to write more, try out different things, different forms, different ways of expressing yourself. Bloggers and Twitterers, by and large, don’t simply restrict themselves to these forms. To my mind, Tweeting and Blogging should help you edit and revise better, know what is essential to your piece, to the point you are making. This vital skill should then transfer to your main writing. A well written sentence within a crafted paragraph is the bedrock of good writing. Get that right, add in compelling content and you’re a winner.

Here’s the analogy. Years ago when I was Rowing, a new national coach arrived on the scene and turned selection for national squads, especially the Open 8’s upside down by looking at how athletes performed in pairs, not from state senior 8 crews. His reasoning was this: it’s so much easier to see the skills or flaws of an individual rower when there’s only two in a boat. When there are 8, you can hide a flaw, because it’s harder to watch 8 rowers than 2.

Thus writing shorter pieces, a short story for example, which is usually between 3-5000 words, means every word counts. The same is true of an essay or article. This skill needs to transfer to the novel, so you don’t get slow passages of irrelevant detail that simply doesn’t add to the story.

Blog well. Tweet well. Hone your writing skills (through using social media) and then social media will really be helping you deliver what you want – a novel that is stunning, that your many followers can’t wait to read.