Tag Archives: blog

#endofblog

Ever get the feeling you took a wrong turn?

 

It’s possibly a little over dramatic, but today is the day I stop blogging. Maybe forever, maybe just for a while. Sme friends have been kind enough to ask why, so here goes.

 

A couple of years ago, I was blogging under the banner “The Great Canadian Adventure.” Here was me and my family doing something brave and unusual, throwing all our possessions into a container and moving to a different continent. We were leaving behind family and friends, and blogging seemed a good way to keep everyone updated on our progress and news.

But after a year or more, it wasn’t so important. We were skyping, we were on Facebook, and folks had adjusted to us not turning up to visit. Some had even been out to visit us. I went to a seminar on blogging and how it was an essential tool for the modern writer and took a long look at my own blog. Did it do the job? I bought Kristen Lamb’s book, “We Are Not Alone” and put some of her ideas into proctice. I took her online course, making a bunch of great friends along the way, and yes, I raised the visitor stats on my blog too.

And over the last year I have checked those stats with an obsessive fervour, worrying about making my daily, weekly and monthly quota, trying to find the mystic subject that would ignite the net and get me Freshly Pressed. Should I add video clips? Should I link more per page? Am I mentioning my e-book enough?

On the other side of the Atlantic, one of my writing partners was being just as obsessive about our sales. He sends me regular updates on a spreadsheet, which showed that, while they were still healthy, in most cases sales were falling. We were selling less, despite my impressive readership. The fabled “Word of mouth” recommendation I had been chasing has not materialised.

 

That’s not to say I don’t believe what Kristen has been teaching. I KNOW that her methods work, that a platform is essential for an author, certainly more so now than ever. It may be entirely my fault, but the blog has not improved my situation. In fact, it may have made it worse.

 

Since we hooked up with our publisher all those years ago, TLC Creative have maintained a healthy market share. We produce a new panto each year, and I added to the stock of one act plays on a semi-regular basis. Sketches appeared more often than not, and we’ve even come up with a couple of full-length pieces. But not this year.

This year the only writing I have managed has been the scenes I was tasked with for our pantomime. They were late, the latest I’ve ever produced work for TLC, and far from writing more than I was asked, I scraped the bare minimum.

 

Since I finished my full length play “Merely Players” over a year ago, I have not written a single thing. Other than my blog.

 

Some of you may be sitting at your computers saying “Well, that’s just writer’s block, everyone gets that.”

I would agree, except it’s not that I haven’t had ideas. I have. I’ve had quite a few ideas trot through my brain, but I have not given them the time that I have dedicated to chasing another ten views on my blog, and that has to be wrong. The blog is supposed to be a way of connecting with people so they can be interested in what I write. It’s not supposed to BE all I write.

So the logical thing, the obvious thing, the right thing to do is stop blogging. Stop pouring my available writing time into building castles online and go back to building worlds on other people’s stages. People still find me, and the people who have been in touch most recently did not come to me via my blog. They found the TLC website and contacted me through that.

I’ll still follow with interest the blogs of my friends, and I’ll still use my wordpress id to comment and encourage. But perhaps some time away from staring at the visitor stats will allow me to make some new, imaginary friends and write about their adventures.

 

After all, it’s what I get paid for.

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The Inconstant Gardener

Removing another barrow-load of weasels from the garden....

Everybody’s blogging. There’s hardly any room left in the blogosphere. Whatever subject you can think of, someone’s already doing a blog on it. There’s probably a blog on that and how it affects several other subjects you’ve been considering too. You want to blog about Underwater strip mining? There’s probably one out there already.*

The point is, if you want to succeed with your blog, it’s not going to be as easy you thought. Everybody wants to start a blog, set down their words of wisdom and have crowds flock to them. Surely, just the right tags and my genius will be passed organically person to person around the entire international-world-wide-multiweb? Unfortunately, the true secret of blogging is that it’s just as much work as any other bloody thing you want to try.

Take the other day. Time, circumstance and exploding computers had reduced my regular blogging to once in a fortnight. Thus the stats for the day were at six. Only six visitors? The shame! Devoting an hour to reading my subscriptions (the blogs I follow, if you like) I commented (and commented relevantly – very important!) and followed the trail of other commentors. If they read the same blogs as me, they share some of the same tastes. I read THEIR blogs and commented there too.

Just an hour, and hardly an hour’s work…If I had tried to explain to someone else that reading and commenting was work, they’d have laughed in my face. But over the next few hours, as I checked (yes, I’m that obsessive) I saw my visitor stats rise. That solitary hour, engaging with other people, taking an interest in what they had to say, had brought more people back to read my words than all the tags I had posted previously. It WAS work, reading, writing, thinking, revising, trying desperately to spellcheck each comment even though you KNOW there’s going to be one error you only spot as you press “send”.

Blogging is like gardening, in that you have to put things in to get things out. Sometimes what you put in is the regular effort of composition, setting out the thoughts in your head on the computer screen in a way that will engage the interest of others. The rest of the time what you put in is your own interest. Find other blogs that touch you, and tell their authors so. You’ll be amazed how quickly a comment you leave can become a dialogue, then a conversation, and sometimes a friendship.

For more information on improving the greenness of your blogging fingers, take a look at Kristen Lamb’s blog. Read back through her previous posts, and be brave enough to comment. Then follow the trail through Kristen’s commenters. She attracts a good crowd, and there are many interesting blogs out there. But one word of warning : Set a timer, or you could lose yourself in the blogosphere all day….

Each week I blog and forget to mention that I’m actually a playwright. I write plays, pantomimes and sketches and they are published by Lazy Bee Scripts. I have also written a neat little book in PDF form about writing plays for Community Theatre and you can buy and download it here.

*Ok, there isn’t, I checked. But you get some really weird stuff if you type ‘Underwater strip mining blog” into Google. Some people have waaaay too much time on their hands.

My fellow students:

Nothing to do with the post, but it's St Patrick's Day!

Just taking a quick moment to acknowledge my fellow students on the Write it Forward course run by Kristen Lamb. They’re a great bunch, filling my in-box with interesting and thought-provoking questions and making me think FAR TOO HARD about where I’m going with my own author platform. The best revenge I could think of was posting their blog addresses here to let you all see why I’m in awe of these people! (And, my fellow students, if I’ve missed your blog off the roll, send me a rocket by email or comment, and I’ll apologise profusely and and add you in! It’s still early over here in Vancouver, you know…)

Amy Shojai: http://www.redroom.com/blog/amy-d-shojai/

The Survival Mama: http://thesurvivalmama.com/

Brave Blue Words: http://daniellemeitiv.com/

Sweet Dreams and Flying Machines: http://sweetdreamsflyingmachines.wordpress.com/

 Pamela Mason:  writermason.blogspot.com

Please bear in mind, we’re all learning and changing, so if any of these links break down, please let me know and I’ll sort it out! These blogs are worth a look, in fact they’re worth a read, so pour yourself a healthy mugful of your favourite beverage, put on some cool music and settle back*.

I’ll be back to post on my job success (or otherwise) tomorrow.

*Bearing in mind my last post, I would also recommend adjusting your seat to ensure a decent posture.

Don’t tell me about it….

Firstly, an apology. This entry will sound arrogant and dismissive. Sorry.

Nearly two years ago I started writing this blog because I wanted to have a record of the emigration I was making with my family. Don’t tell me I should’ve kept a diary, because I know I wouldn’t have. Tried that, didn’t work. Blogging involves the computer (score!) and the chance to regularly appeal for other people’s attention (score!) as well as the opportunity to check statistics and combine endless hope with depressing reality (score!).

Along the way, it’s naturally evolved to take into account my writing efforts. I’ve talked about the production of my e-book, my occasional frustration with projects that haven’t worked out well, and of course, having to give up full-time writing to go and get a proper job. I like to think that these are as much part of the emigration process as buying a house and learning about the school system – a change of life we’ve made as a result of coming to Canada. But, because I blog about writing, I’ve been reading OTHER blogs about writing. Many, like the previously mentioned Mr James Moran, or Jane Espenson, or Lucy V Hay, are fantastically good. Not just because they are ‘proper’ writers, but because they write their blogs well. They are interesting. The ones that make me groan are the ones that say “I am writing my first novel, and am going to use this blog to chronicle my progress.”

Now, by all means, write your first novel. Please. Writing is wonderful, and your first novel may turn out to be THE book of the decade. By all means, write a blog. It’s useful to have a place to vent your feelings, and an idea is never fully realised until it is expressed. But before you combine the two, please think carefully. What is it, exactly, that you will be chronicling? If you are not careful, you’ll end up sounding like Ernie Macmillan from “Harry Potter and the Order of The Phoenix”, boring everyone with his recitation of how many hours of revision he has done each day. When you’re writing a novel, word count per day is important to you, obviously. You want to feel you’re making progress, that the number of pages to go are getting fewer. But would you want to read a blog that goes “Wrote another fifteen thousand words today! Started just after breakfast, had a break around ten thirty when I walked the dog, but then got straight back into it and reached a real cliffhanger moment just as I broke off for lunch!” Who, honestly, will care?

What your readers would like to know is what’s going on in the story. Yes, if you’re writing your novel, it would be more interesting to tell us about the developments in the plot as you go along, but you know what? No one ever will because then by the time the blog is complete, who needs to read the novel? We’ve been spoon-fed the whole thing! And what about re-writes? Assuming you get someone reading your blog, aren’t they going to use the comments section to tell you exactly where you’re going wrong?

I think these are the reasons that the blogs I’ve read seem to peter out shortly after they begin. Writing doesn’t seem to be something you can blog about. A writer’s life may be, but only if you have something to say about that: Being a single mum who’s working on a novel – if you have time to blog about that and still be writing the novel then I not only take off my hat to you, but I’ll comb my hair and bow too.

Why should I blog about the failures of other blogs? Well, because this week has seen me wrestling with my rock musical screenplay again, and I’m conscious that the writing projects I talk about tend to be the ones that work, or the ones that fall flat. I don’t, as Felicia Day says so sweetly in “Commentary”, discuss my process. The reason I don’t is that it would be at best dull, at worst, incomprehensible. I talked about the mechanics of writing in the entry on collaboration, and even I struggled to stay awake during that one. So, today’s moral is this: Forge ahead with your writing, but forge a more interesting subject for your blog.

The Great Canadian Adventure – the Mad Week (originally posted Mar 6/09)

 

The whole family, just before we left the country

Still life with weasels....

The GREAT CANADIAN ADVENTURE is a true-life story that follows Dim and his family (Mrs Dim and the Tiny Weasels) as they embark on their epic move from the UK to Canada. After three and a half years, the Visas have come through, the flights are booked, and now it’s the week when they move out of their Bournemouth house.

I used to have a theory that if your life was really interesting enough to blog about, you wouldn’t have enough time to blog about it…. After this week, I’m even more inclined to agree. They say a week’s a long time in politics, but God knows what it’s like for a politician who’s emigrating to Canada….

The Tiny Weasels went off to school as usual on Thursday (the 26th Feb) and removals guys really got stuck in. There were four of them, and the most amazing thing about them was that all four of them were actually working at the same time. Some on our previous moves have featured guys who took it in turns to do the work while the others smoked. Our problem was that we weren’t just able to stand back and let them pack everything – we have this week and a bit travelling around the country catching up with friends and family. So we needed some bags packed for the coming week and bigger bags packed for the first month in Canada before the container catches up with us. Mrs Dim worked her socks off grabbing clothes and entertainment articles from around the house. I made coffee, loaded up the car for several runs to the tip, took bagloads to the charity shops in the village.

It was like some weird kind of optical illusion. These four busy guys, wrapping, shifting and carrying all day, and yet each time I returned to the house, there didn’t seem to be any less stuff in it. The master bedroom was a bombsite, with clothes strewn around and the guy who had packed the kitchen kept shuffling in, asking if he could start packing it up yet.

Mrs Dim and I shared the onerous task of collecting the kids from school for the last time. There were tears all round (except from me – I’m carved from granite and have a heart of teak. I also have a liver of pvc and a foot that turns green in hot weather, but that’s neither here nor there. It’s on the end of my leg.) We headed back to the Wonkey House for the kids to use the loo before the long trek to the Aged Parent’s new house, but Oldest Weasel, still sniffling, didn’t want to go in. I couldn’t blame her. Goodbyes are miserable things.

We made good time on the road and reached the Aged Parents abode. I hadn’t seen it before, since they only moved in the previous week. It’s a smaller place than their last one, and they hadn’t had much luck with the downsizing either. I offloaded the weasels, had the tour and got back in the car to go back to Bournemouth. Mrs Dim had stayed to oversee the removal guys and get more packing done, so she was asleep on her feet when I got back. Luckily we’d booked a room in a nearby hotel (since we now had no bed, and no bedding) and we were taking a friend out to dinner so there was no cooking to do in the kitchen we hadn’t got anymore. It was a good way to round off the day, chatting over good food and good drink, hearing about daring plans that weren’t our own for a change. We were tired but happy when we stumbled into the lovely hotel room later that night.

Friday: We had a hearty breakfast, since we didn’t have to cook it or wash up afterwards. The plan for the day was another round of packing, a clean down and run away to join the weasels at the AP’s. Sadly one of the removers had tipped off Mrs Dim that the Canadians don’t let you import mud, and the bikes and roller blades had to be cleaned. First time I’ve done that job, and I’ve had my bike four years. Anyway, the removers were fewer on the ground than the day before, but they worked twice as hard and were finished on time. We weren’t though. We’d packed clothes into every suitcase we had, we’d thrown away clothes we didn’t even know we owned and still there wasn’t enough room to take them all to Mum and Dad’s. The only sensible answer was to come back on Saturday and collect the other suitcases and bags. It was particularly galling because we’d previously booked Saturday morning for staying in bed and refusing to get up in the vain hope we could regain some sleep. But no.

Heh. Mum and Dad’s place is lovely, but it is, to coin a phrase, compact and bijou. To use the beds in the spare room, Mrs Dim and I put the youngest weasels to sleep in there early on, then when we were all done in the living room, we brought down the sleeping weasels and tucked them under duvets on the sofas, then took their beds for the rest of the night. It was a tough system, but it worked. The pair of us cleaned the Wonkey house until the grime gleamed and packed the last of the suitcases and rubbish into the long-suffering car. We hauled it back to Andover and threw ourselves into helping the AP’s make the most of their place. We Feng Shui’d the place, helped with putting up shelves and cupboards and introduced Dad to his new laptop (he has facial recognition software on it, and it cracked me up that the third time he started it up, it still didn’t recognise him…Is he going to have to get a chaperone to introduce him every day?)

We didn’t get any rest on Sunday either. We went visiting old friends in THEIR new house. This one is not compact and bijou, mostly because they’re bumping their conservatory into a dining room. We forced ourselves to go down to another pub and suffer more great company and wonderful food before returning to our sheltered nook.

So far we had been keeping busy enough to avoid too much thought about the fact that we were homeless and unemployed, but Mrs Dim admitted she has dreamed about her old job every night since she left. I was getting remarkably twitchy about the fact that I hadn’t had an internet connection for days. To combat this, we went travelling again, launching off to Cheltenham to catch up with my brother and his family. Easier said than done, since we arrived mid afternoon to be met by my Sister-in-law and her youngest, because the elder nephew was still at school and my brother was at work. Still, we had coffee and walked to collect Nephew from school, and the Squadron Leader himself pitched up in the early evening. We were only staying overnight, so we made the most of a convivial atmosphere and more good food, staying up late to talk our way through a bottle of wine and several beers. They’re a lovely couple who have battled enormous difficulties in the last two years, but now there’s light at the end of the tunnel, and a fair chance they’ll be out to see us in the Great Beyond.

Since everyone had late nights, when we hit the road the next day everyone but me took the chance to nap. Because I was relying on the Sat Nav, we took a different route to the one nominated by Mrs Dim. I had just remarked that I was hungry and we were going to stop at the next pub we saw, when one came in to view. The Green Dragon inn, it was, somewhere between the A345 and the A417. The food was fantastic and the pub itself everything an old pub should be without the smokey atmosphere and locals made of whisky and compost. We were supposed to have a light Bar Snack, but the plates were enormous. Oh dear. Shame I won’t see the inside of a gym for at least another month…(Or longer, if I can manage it…)

So that gets us back to the AP’s house and ready for Wednesday. What the hell happened on Wednesday? (I’m writing this on Friday morning, having written most of the previous account on Thursday, hence the title – it’d been a week since we left the Wonkey House. My memory is not top-notch at the best of times, and these, as has been mentioned, are not the best of times.) Ah yes. Mrs Dim has just reminded me that we hosted my Aunt Kathleen at the AP’s for lunch on Weds. She’s an amazing person who, at Eighty-odd (it’s not polite to give a lady’s age, you know) has got a hard-drive recorder, mobile phone, laptop and broadband connection, and has just bought a DVDR/Hard-drive combi as a backup recording system. I used to drop round to help sort out cables and fix the odd glitch. She’s a little apprehensive about us being so far away, even now she’s on e-mail. Anyway, she arrived in style, just an hour late, but moving fast, and we had a fun-filled lunch together… I think that was the third official “Final Goodbye” to Kathleen.

Before we knew it we were back in the car (with my Dad following along with more suitcases in his boot – still haven’t got those sorted!) and heading for Mrs Dim’s Parents. I wanted to call them the Other Aged Parents, but that makes the acronym OAPs…Oh well, if the cap fits…. The OAPs made us welcome, despite the fact that we filled their living room with suitcases. The weasels relaxed and we rejoiced in the fact that we would be sleeping in a bed that would still be our bed no matter what time of day it was. I got to grips with the computer we’d given the OAPs, trying to connect it up to the BT Home Hub they’d ordered. Now, I won’t say a word against BT. They’re a fine company, with many highly trained employees who work very hard. I’m just saying they wouldn’t come first in a backside finding competition if you gave them a map and a flashlight. On the plus side, the computer is connected to the internet. Most of the time. On the downside, despite every ADSL filter known to man, the phones don’t work anymore, and my laptop can’t pick up the wireless signal if it’s not in the same room as the Hub. Luckily for me, the guy down the road from the OAP’s house doesn’t believe in password protecting his wireless broadband. Bless him.

On Thursday we strode into the village and achieved many things, but the main point of the day was unwinding. The weasels played outside and took naps, and we drank more tea than was good for us and went to visit Great Gran. We’re starting to get that Holiday Feeling, the one we hoped we’d get as soon as the removers left.

Next Blog: The run up to the FLIGHT!