Archive for writing

Getting better at getting better at doing stuff

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on January 2, 2014 by idnami

2013 was the year maturity finally descended on me, like a heavy blanket. I don’t know what it was, but on my 36th birthday I felt that I left childhood behind, or that adulthood caught up with me, or something. Anyway, I started to feel like it’s about time to take some shit seriously.

I’ve never been a terribly methodical person. I tend to accomplish big, audacious things in fits of blazing inspiration, intuitively dancing my way through a project, never exactly knowing what I’m doing, just that I have a vision that demands to be manifested. And I’m damn good at doing things that way. I’m good at leaps of faith, problem solving on the fly, dodging obstacles that loom directly ahead with Jedi-like reflexes. I’m good at daring creativity, tempting fate, getting my way.

Maybe more like Cat Woman. Yeah, that’s me right there.

What I have not been very good at is building things that last, being consistent, thinking ahead and making long-term plans. This is the shift in thinking that has begun to signal my emergence into grown-upedness, in that I’m actually starting to gravitate towards long-term goalmaking rather than my usual spectacular flash-in-the-pan style.

Of course, it occurs to me that this shift may itself be a flash in the pan, another of my big ideas that will become a momentary obsession until I get sidetracked by another big idea and let it fizzle out. Give me another month and I may be writing that I am selling off all my stuff and moving to a third world country to help build roads or something. But, for the time being, I am toying with and meditating upon adopting some better thinking and planning habits. I read this article on goals vs systems, and I think it is a good approach to what I’m trying to do.

So, everyone gets all retrospective and self-examinatory at this time of year. I tend to avoid that kind of thinking, and never make New Years resolutions because they are really made to be broken so what’s the point? But, having had the benefit of a nine day vacation with a pretty even mix of socializing and total solitude, drunken partying and quiet contemplation, some basic changes to the way I operate have started to appeal to me. So, here is a list of my intentions for the upcoming year. Not resolutions, not goals, but intentions. As I will, so mote it be.

#1. Stay focused on education. 

Discovering that university-level education on pretty much any damn thing I could want to learn is available for free online  absolutely blew my goddamn mind. I’ve always wanted to study English Literature, and I found a major course of study on it. But here’s the kicker: it costs nothing, and therefore if I’m flighty and uncommitted I lose nothing. Don’t get me wrong, this is great! But the problem with a butterfly like me being handed an absolute mind-boggling smorgasbord of free, open education could mean I do nothing but dabble and never get anywhere. I started English, and then realised that I could also take French, which has been a goal of mine for years since I wasted my high school opportunities in that direction by paying no attention whatsoever and flunking spectacularly. But wait! If I take Philosophy as well then I can have WAY better arguments with my friends who study it. But… holy shit! Business Admin! that’d be useful wouldn’t it? And… and… and…

Dude, you’re a writer. Stick to English. And French. And just do the Philosophy minor maybe. There are only so many hours in a day and you still have to sleep. I will commit to at least 1 hour of study, at least 5 days a week. Yeah I know it’s not much but some of us have jobs, and other stuff we want to do, like…

#2. Commit to better nutrition and fitness.

This sounds dangerously close to a resolution but I tend to go in cycles. In the summer I’m extremely active. I bike at least 2 hours most days, eat fresh, healthy foods, drink lots of water, etc. In the winter I become a lazy, self indulgent bastard. I cannot (will not!) tell you how much butter I’ve managed to go through in the last week alone, never mind all the cookies, roast fowl, heavy desserts and cheese. God, so much cheese. I’m not sure when I last ate a vegetable that wasn’t cooked in duck fat or a fruit that wasn’t encased in cake or pastry. Or bacon. Bacon wrapped apples are amazing. And so is chocolate covered bacon. Mmmm, bacon.

I love you, too.

I generally wind up spending the first half of the summer working off the previous winter’s pudge, and this year is going to be more challenging than most if my current waistline is any indication. The snow won’t be melting anytime soon. So, not with the goal of losing weight, but of incorporating better habits as a lifelong lifestyle, I’m going to simply look for ways of moving more and eating better. The goal being that if I still want to eat an occasional bag of chips I won’t see the evidence accumulating to an unmanageable degree. I will dance more, walk further, swing the goddamn kettle bell until I can go up to a heavier weight, eat salad, drink water and so on. And I won’t push too hard to place undue pressure on myself to achieve, since whenever I do that I always burn out and wind up backlashing by sitting around for a week and a half with a bunch of cookies in one hand and a glass of wine in the other.

#3. Write more.

If you scan through my blog it illustrates really nicely how flighty and inconsistent I can be. I’ll write things in clusters, lose my motivation for a month or two, then write again on wildly varying subjects. Impressively, I appear to have gained a following somehow. When I look at my site traffic it has increased a lot in the last year, steadily except for the massive spike when one post went viral, which would have been neat had I thought the writing was actually any good. But now I average about 40 hits a day when I haven’t written anything new lately and a couple hundred when I have. Not bad! But I want more. Lots more. So I have to hone my craft, write every day even if I don’t post it, keep on with my English studies to improve my skills and give me new ideas, and publish a new post at least every two weeks without fail, every week if possible. And shamelessly self-promote, which means getting better at using social media besides Facebook.

So these are my plans, not only for the coming year, but forever. This is a scary proposition for a commitophobe like me, but I think I can handle it. Eventually I will finish English and be fluent in French. Then maybe I’ll learn Spanish or piano or winemaking. But my biggest intention is to avoid becoming distracted by every shiny thing that twinkles by. There will be days when I say “fuck it” and watch cartoons instead of working out or go dancing instead of study, cuz dammit I’m not that grown up, and never plan on being. This is not commitment to some boring old concept of self-improvement so much as focusing on the things I love (books, writing, getting read, looking good in a short skirt) and getting what I want out of life. Not what I’ve been told I should do or have but what I want. And I’ll do it on my own terms. They’ll just be better, smarter terms. I’ll keep you all posted on how that goes. Weekly, or close to.

Unless I move to Australia and take up surfing.

Fuck it. Yeah. Totally surfing.

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If you like this, share it. If you don’t share it, don’t “like” it.

Posted in Rants with tags , , on August 24, 2013 by idnami

If a writer publishes and no one reads it, did they make an impact?

Hi! My name is Mandi and I’m a writer.

I recently had the mixed blessing of my first viral post! I’m not linking it here. Go find it. Or better yet, find something better to read.

See, I’ve learned a few things since I ill-advisedly posted my rantings about a particular subject of public outcry. They are:

1) Anger sells, even more than sex.

2) The “like” button is a cheap and easy way for people to acknowledge that you’ve spoken while not addressing what you said. It’s the social media equivalent of saying, “uhuh” when your friend is telling you about their day.

3) When your best work is getting 2 hits a day and your worst is getting thousands, it really sucks.

Discovering blogging was one of the best things to ever happened to me as a writer. My first crappy post was probably read by 5 people. And that was amazing!

For a budding writer, the feedback of even one reader was a breathtaking experience. The idea that I had the audacity to publish my words in a public forum instead of just a journal was exhilarating. Someone actually reading it and saying so, even better. Which made writing a viral post so awesome!

This was before Facebook was a thing so sharing meant people actually checking for new posts and emailing the link to their friends. Every post was an adventure! People debated the posts at the site of the topic itself rather than on social media unrelated to the actual source of content.

Facebook is a blessing and a curse to bloggers like me. On the one hand I have 500+ “subscribers” I can boast. On the other, who cares? 10-20 people click the Like button and there may be some discussion but the greatest thrill of a writer’s life – new readers – is as hard as ever to achieve.

So I wrote the worst, most careless, least well thought out post I ever tossed off first thing in the morning in response to a story already well documented by other media sources. And so far in 72 hours it has over 55 thousand hits. Out of those I have 20 new followers.

This happened because my Facebook friends, in similar outrage, shared the hell out of it. The link to that post on my wall was shared 57 times by my friends and exponentially thenceforth by thousands of strangers. And now I feel a bit like Robert Plant does (I imagine) every time someone calls Stairway to Heaven the greatest song ever written.

Only way less cool and rich.

Because really, why that one? When I have informative or insightful or amusing or stupidly hilarious things you can read and share with your friends, and they with their friends, why is that the only post on my blog that ever got more than 70 hits?

So let’s be clear; I don’t care or benefit in any way if you “like” my post. I care if you read it and what you thought of it. If it isn’t good enough to share, don’t click Like. Instead, tell me why it wasn’t. Because the feedback of my friends is what will help me become a better writer, so that one day I can get eaten alive by critical strangers who don’t love me too much to hurt my feelings. This is my greatest dream.

Tell me it’s too long, boring, stupid, insipid, offensive, conceited or you just don’t like my face. This will make me much happier than a like. Or tell me it’s awesome and pass it on so I can break through the Red Rover line of my own friends into the greater world. And if it never gets farther than that I know I still have work to do. But I’ll never know if it goes no further than my wall.

We click the share button all the time on idiotic, misspelled memes that probably took a minute and a half to create. Why not make that click mean something to a person that you know and interact with who may have spent hours creating their piece? Critique if it’s not good, share if it is and remember that a person taking the time to write is probably passionate about writing and being read, because otherwise these would all be private journal entries.

 SHEHR MEHR GEHRDDAM BLEHRG!!! | Ermahgerd

This meme actually took me five minutes to create because I was waffling between Ermehgerd and Grumpy Cat.

I know I’m not the only online writer who has this problem. Share this so they know they’re not alone and so their friends will realise they could use the support. Share it for the embedded link to the awesome Cracked.com article above.

Or just share it for the stupid meme. But don’t like it unless you do.