Weekend Coffee Share: The Hard Year

If we were having coffee, I’d tell you I’ve missed these chats over the past couple of months. I’ve missed lots of other blogging things, too, but the #weekendcoffeeshare is my favorite regular blogging activity, and I feel as though I’ve been away too long.

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And I’d tell you I’m terribly out of practice. It’s amazing how quickly I get rusty when I stop doing a particular type of writing. So today, I’m just putting one word after another until I’m done, because I need to publish something before the weekend is out.

I’d tell you 2015 was one of the hardest years of my life. It was harder than the year I spent in Central Texas working for minimum wage plus tips and living like a monk because I didn’t have any friends there. Harder than the year I lost a good public sector job due to budget cuts — the only time I’ve ever been terminated from a job, and it took a toll.

The only year that was worse was the year Vicki broke her ankle, then was allowed to develop pneumonia due to poor medical care and spent 17 days at death’s door in ICU. That experience was so traumatic I ended up in therapy for PTSD for almost two years.

There are four things that are sure to disrupt the normal rhythm of a person’s life and bring on a ton of stress.

Getty stock image.

Getty stock image.

  1. Major lifestyle changes, especially when they’re involuntary.
  2. Loved ones dealing with life-threatening medical situations.
  3. Changes in professional responsibilities.
  4. Financial pressures.

I spent most of last year dealing with all of those at once. Since I’m a hypersensitive, anxiety- and depression-prone person, what I ended up with was a mental and emotional shitstorm that turned me into a functional basket case. I got to the point where I had to let go of something just to get through to the holiday break, and blogging turned out to be the thing I had to let go of. And not just the blogging. I pretty much left the entire Internet and withdrew from every part of social life except work and my immediate family.

I don’t even know when I last published a blog post, but I went from Oct. 20 to Dec. 15 without so much as posting a Facebook update. At one point Diana had to email me to get my attention and make sure I was ok. That should give you a clue as to what a bad way I was in.

In late November, I started thinking about how and when to come back, but I was overwhelmed trying to catch up on all the stuff I’d missed, beating myself up over several blogging commitments that I just didn’t show up for,  and the holidays were just around the corner. I was paralyzed. I felt like I had nothing to say and little to offer. And then, the week of Thanksgiving, this little girl showed up. Her name is Diesel.

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She’s probably got genes from a dozen or more breeds of dog. Here mother is a Golden Retriever mix and her father is a Lab mix, but we know she has some Chow in her ancestry several generations back and she seems to think she’s a German Shepherd. Having to care for her somewhat jarred me out of the funk I had fallen into, but she was only two months old when we got her, so taking care of her has pretty much been a full-time job until the last week or so.

Then on New Years’ Eve, this fella showed up. We found him on our back porch hiding from the fireworks. We fed him and gave him a blanket, and he’s barely left the yard since. He’s a big dog, but he’s less than 8 months old because he doesn’t have all his adult teeth yet. He’s much less work — hardly any trouble, really. He’s an outside dog who likes to come in after school and play with the boy and the little puppy.

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Anyway I’m somewhat better now, thanks in part to the doggies. I’m trying to figure out what I can do, blogging-wise, through the spring. I simply don’t have the time or the energy to get Sourcerer busy again right now, and that pains me. I put two years of my life into building that blog and dozens — if not scores — of people supported it, so it’s not something I can let go lightly.

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I’m publishing this here today because I don’t want to post over at Sourcerer until I decide what to do with it — I don’t just want to post a couple of times there and then have it go silent for two or three more weeks. And I’m not ready to shut it down, so silence is the best option until I figure out what I want to do with it.

I’m pretty much in a bind with the blogging. Keeping a blog humming the way Sourcerer was when it was firing on all cylinders last spring requires two things.

  1. The person who’s running it has to produce a lot of content and spend time on the blog at least every other day; and
  2. Posts have to be planned at least a week or two in advance, even if they are written at the last minute.

I’m not in a position to do either of those things at the moment. I’ve not been able to predict my schedule more than three days in advance since I started packing my apartment the last week of May, and that seems to be the “new normal” for me. But at the same time, I really must blog. So, I’m setting what I feel is a reasonable goal for myself for February and March, and I’ll re-evaluate the situation the week of spring break.

My blogging goal for the next couple of months is to produce a blog post per week, not counting the coffee share posts, which I’ll do here as often as I can. I’ll offer the one post per week to other bloggers. I have to give Part Time Monster and Comparative Geeks priority, because I doubt I would even be attempting this comeback if not for the support of Diana, David, and Holly. But I’m pretty much writing whatever I feel like writing, so it’s entirely possible that I’ll come up with some things to offer other friends, as well.

I also plan to get back to reading and sharing blogs at least one evening a week.

That’s all I’ve got for today. I’m back, but it will be awhile before I’m able to be all over the internet the way I was in 2014 and 2015. Honestly, I don’t know how I kept that up as long as I did. But it was fun, and it made me a lot of friends, so I hope I can get back there eventually.

Emanuel_Wynne

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Weekend Coffee Share: Goodbye and Good Riddance to an Awful Month

If we were having coffee, I’d tell you I’ve not been this glad to see the end of a month in years. It’s been absolutely brutal, both financially and emotionally. I’ll not give you the list of horrors; suffice it to say that June started off bad and got progressively worse as the month wore on.

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I fell completely off the internet for a good two weeks. I lost my blogging momentum, things began to pile up, and before I knew it I was so wracked with anxiety I could barely open the computer in the little bit of free time I had. At one point, I allowed Sourcerer to go two weekdays in a row without a post, and that almost never happens.

The anxiety has mostly subsided and I am back in the rhythm. We have plenty of posts scheduled at Sourcerer for the next month or so and I am thinking about where to go with my blogging from here. I’m thankful to have such awesome and supportive friends in the blogosphere.

The month was not without its bright spots, though. The house is great, though we’ve not made as much progress getting it setup and ironing out the minor annoyances that come with any new place as I’d like. My grandson is loving it — he’s much more active than he was a month ago, and he’s better-behaved, too. And somehow in all the madness of moving chaos, acute anxiety, and several problems I haven’t mentioned, I produced 25 pages of fiction.

Those of you who have been following for a long time will recall that I have a fantasy worldbuilding & fiction project which I’ve been working on in fits and starts for most of my life. The last significant progress I made on it was in the spring and summer of 2013 — the months before Diana and I started blogging together. I put it on hold to get our blogs off the ground and study the social media, which has taken longer than I’d hoped. I’ve been planning for awhile to get back to the fiction this fall, so I’m ahead of schedule on that, and it’s encouraging.coffee

If we were having coffee, I’d also tell you that I am thinking about where to go with this blog. My traffic here is abysmal. Even on days when I post, and the post is good, I see fewer total views than Sourcerer gets just from search engines. It doesn’t make good sense to spend much time publishing here. The problem is that the things I post here are necessary, and they don’t fit at Sourcerer.

I need a place to archive project links, to serve as my personal website, and to publish #WeekendCoffeeShare posts. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a wordpress.com site, though. I get a lot of pleasure out of blogging, and I’m a firm believer in keeping it fun. I also value the friendships I’ve formed through blogging and clowning around on the social media. I’ll just say this anyway: I want a website with better analytics, and I want to monetize it.

I’ve never talked about this part of my Grand Internet Plan in public, and I’ve only ever shared it with a few people. I don’t see myself ever getting wealthy off the Internet. But I would like to have a website that generates enough revenue to pay for its own overhead and give me a little money for marketing and apps. Even $20 a month would be helpful.

I went with the free WordPress blog because when I started, I didn’t even know if I’d be blogging beyond the first year and I knew very little about online marketing. WordPress.com offers advantages to people who don’t know much about building audience and who are starting from zero. I’m wondering if I’m better off having my personal website elsewhere, though, and since Diana’s mentioned moving Part Time Monster to a self-hosted site a couple of times on her front page now, I don’t see any reason I shouldn’t talk about this.

Getty stock image.

Getty stock image.

Lots of reasons it would be a bad idea for Sourcerer to go self-hosted. Here’s a quick list of a few of them.

  • Not a well-constructed brand for anything other than a non-commercial, just-for-fun blog. Just go and google Sourcerer, and you’ll see why.
  • Too much work to clean up the archives, which would have to be done before ads could be placed. Just based on the amount of time it took to re-vamp the categories during the last redesign, this would take weeks, if not months. Sourcerer will have 1,000 published posts in its archive by mid-July.
  • It was built by WordPress.com bloggers for WordPress.com. It thrives on contributions and thread chatter. It aspires to becoming a community. Severing it from the WordPress.com reader and asking contributors to use a different interface would damage it so badly, we’d be just as well off to start over from square one.
  • I love WordPress.com and don’t want to leave it entirely — I’ve had more success with Sourcerer than with any other online thing I’ve ever tried.

So, since I can’t move Sourcerer and wouldn’t want to if I could, that leaves this blog. I’m not even concerned about moving the archives. I’m thinking that at some point during the late fall, I might just build a better blog, make it a free-standing website with proper policies, and start all over with my personal site.

I could rebuild the traffic here if I wanted to — all it would require is for me to post more frequently and think about what sorts of headlines and articles I could get into Google searches. But since I have one permanently non-commercial blog already, and it’s a much better blog than this one, I am not sure I see the point.

Have an awesome weekend, and keep blogging. Don’t forget to add your coffee post to the linky at Part Time Monster, and share it with #WeekendCoffeeShare on Twitter.

Taking Stock of my Writing Career

I’m happy with the level of skill and the versatility I’ve achieved, but I wish I’d gotten here 10 years ago.

I am very happy with what I’ve produced for the blogs since November.  When we decided to start blogging, I went into it knowing it would require me to put aside everything but paid work and blogging for six months to get us off to a good start. I think we’re off to a good start already, but I’m sticking with my commitment to focus solely on blogging and paid work until May. Diana and our contributors have played a huge part in the success we’ve had, but I am pleasantly surprised at both the quality and the consistency I’ve managed to maintain.

When I started writing this on Monday, I had drafts for daily posts in Sourcerer’s queue to take us through Friday (including one of my own), and a post for Monday in my inbox. That left me a lot of time to write, network, and talk with contributors this week. It was a fabulous position to be in.

What I am not happy with, as far as my career is concerned, is this: I’ve never submitted a piece of writing, aside from newspaper stories, for academic or commercial publication. I wasn’t even comfortable calling myself a professional writer until I had an epiphany a few months ago and realized that every job I’ve ever had, with a couple of short-term exceptions, has required me to write every day to get paid. Maybe I’ve been more mercenary than artist with my writing career up to this point, but I do have a writing career, and I need to start thinking about it as such.

This latest foray into blogging has given me some confidence as a writer I didn’t have when I started. It’s improved my revision skills and it’s helping me overcome my perfectionism. I’ve had a few professional experiences lately that have given me confidence, as well. Honestly, if you will permit me a gaming metaphor, I feel like I’ve gained a level.

When I decided to go public on the Internet to support these blogs, I was o.k. billing myself as an editor and a scholar; but I felt a little silly calling myself writer, organizer, and promoter. I don’t feel silly at all about that now.

Even if we’re  as successful with these blogs as we’re ever going to be, I feel validated. I made a commitment back in the Fall to a fairly large and diverse group of people. I’ve held up my end, and they’ve all supported me. So have a lot of people I never would have met if not for these blogs. I’m grateful, and I’m always alert to opportunities to pay that support forward. For once in my life, I took a leap of faith and it worked out well enough to exceed my expectations.

I’ve been discussing, for a while,  submitting a guest post to a blog that I read often and sometimes comment on. Over the weekend I gave them a commitment. I’m planning to sit down and  write the first draft sometime in March (after I get my A-to-Z writing done) and submit it in April. At some point during that discussion, I made a pitch and said:

“I’ll give you the first read, and if it’s not what you’re looking for, I’ll publish it someplace else.”

I’ve been thinking about that conversation for a couple of weeks now, and I’ve realized I had absolutely no anxiety about rejection when I made the statement. If what I submit isn’t right for the blog I submit it to, we’ll still be friends. I’ll make another pitch at some point and try again. That’s a new experience for me. I’ve always been anxious about rejection, and about the quality of my work in general, but I appear to have made real progress on that. I have the personal friends who support these blogs, and the readers and bloggers I’ve chatted with over the past three months, to thank for that progress.

Which brings me back to taking stock of my career. I do not really know where this confidence and emotional maturity I’m experiencing lately is coming from, but the “new” has worn off and it’s starting to feel like a breakthrough. It’s happened since November. It is a gift, and I’m old enough to realize that I need to make the most of every day I have left on this little blue planet.

So maybe instead of making a New Year’s Resolution to produce a certain amount of draft fiction this year, I should have resolved to produce two short pieces of writing (any type), have some trustworthy critic-types read them with an eye to improving them, and submit the finished pieces to publishers until I find somebody who likes one well enough to run it.

The idea is to do the thinking while I get the blogs through the spring and be ready to sit down and write the first piece over the summer. The minute it’s finished, I’d send it out and start the next one.

What do you think of that resolution, friends?